Photo: BBC America

TCA 2015-6: BBC America, AMC, Starz, And IFC Throw Fake Documentaries, Zombies, Douglas Adams, And A Time Lord Into A Cable Jambalaya

Eat up!

The really exciting announcement today? BBC America is working on an anthology series, to be written by Chronicle's Max Landis, called Dirk Gently, based on Douglas Adams's Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. If you don't know that one, you've probably heard of Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. And if you don't know of that one, there's really no hope for you.

Here's the rest in what turned out to be a real cable potpourri! First up: BBC America.

The Last Kingdom

7

Okay, I'm not sure how many more series I can take with broadswords and actors who look like they only wash once a month. I mean, I'm devoted to a few of them, but I just wonder if I'm risking oversaturation. I also like to look at pretty people who bathe sometimes. When the inevitable Game Of Thrones comparison got lobbed at the panel, executive producer Gareth Neame said, "I'm a huge admirer of Game Of Thrones, but that's a different genre. There are no dragons in this show. What it has in common is the action and the battles and the look of the show, but this is a much more documentary feel to it."

"It's much less classy, grittier," says star Alexander Dreymon. "What makes it difficult is you don't want to repeat what's out there." Less-classy, dirtier people? Way to sell it.

Anyway, there are some reasons to be curious about this show about dirty people with cleavers. If you like Downton Abbey, this has the same executive producers. It's adapted from The Saxon Stories, a bestselling book franchise. And it's historical and stuff. Though Neame swears that doesn't mean it's boring: "This is the true story of how England came to be. The historical facts are correct, but the journey we go on is a fictional story interwoven into that. Downton was about taking a much-loved genre and rebooting it for the twenty-first century. For audiences in the United States, England is thought of as this place that's always been there, but there was a time it wasn't...I was very inspired by The Tudors. Stories from the past can be great fun; they can be exciting. You don't have to learn anything if you don't want to." So there will not be a quiz. Or dragons.

Doctor Who

10

I am a million times excited for Season 9. While Steven Moffat couldn't tell us...well, anything, Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman showed up via satellite and we got a trailer, too. It was not enough, but it's never enough. Until Sep. 19, when we get new episodes. And those will be over too soon.

The trailer confirmed that it's going to be more battling between Missy (aka The Master) and the Doctor, a whole city of Daleks (!!!!), some mercenaries called the Mire, plus some other creepy-looking monsters. Clara is back, and Maisie Williams (Game Of Thrones) will have a role as well. Which no one could talk about. Of course.

Moffat could hint a little, though: "I think once you see what she's up to, you'll see what a clever idea it was to [cast her]. It's a significant role. She's not playing a returning character. She's not from the Doctor's past. Unless I'm lying." Which he could be, because apparently he can lie just like the Doctor.

Everyone did wax rhapsodic about Michelle Gomez (Missy), because how can you not; Moffat pointed out, "I like the fact the Doctor and the Master are both Scottish now." Oh, and Jenna Coleman said that the formerly Impossible Girl is going to be even more balls-out this season: "Post-Danny [Pink], she's no longer torn between life and a Tardis life....There's a fearlessness and reckless abandon as she throws herself into adventures head-first."

And because everyone always wonders, someone asked how long Capaldi will play the Doctor. "Peter is going to play this part for the rest of time," Moffat responded. And this season will be "the glory days of those two having such a great time being so happy, racing around. They're having the best time ever; what could possibly go wrong? That would be the theme." So, yes, lying, lying, lying.

Then came Starz!

Blunt Talk

6

As someone who wanted to like Bored To Death and everything from Seth MacFarlane more than I ever did, I'm not 100 on this new series from MacFarlane and Bored's Jonathan Ames. However, even if the idea of a drug-addicted, heavy-drinking, womanizing (yawn) newscaster is soooo tired, Patrick Stewart is fun to watch. "His heart is in the right place...but every now and then there might be a lapse in judgement," says Ames. Isn't that what we say about every famous person who has a great onscreen persona but ends up in jail for doing bad stuff? Blunt also has a British manservant, Harry (played by Adrian Scarborough of The King's Speech), so there is the expected buffoonery and minion abuse that they're already doing so much better on Another Period.

Still, Richard Lewis reading the phone book would be enough to get me to tune in, and he plays Walter Blunt's therapist, which is all kinds of brilliant. Better yet, he's going to be a continuing character. As Stewart says, "Richard Lewis's character will probably be the last one standing when this show is over."

There was some babble about how much the cast loves one another, and then Ames got up to do something called the Harry Call, which sounded sort of like a warbler monkey caught in a blender. And that alone was just weird enough for me to tune in for more of this than I had previously planned to watch.

Survivor's Remorse

6

For the same reason I'm not watching Ballers on HBO, I'm probably not watching the second season of this show either (but if you are, it returns August 22).

That being said, Survivor's Remorse gets points for strong female characters who are not strippers (ahem), and some actual thinking about stuff other than money -- namely, lesbian issues, the natural-hair conundrum for African-American women, and even domestic abuse.

Mike O'Malley is the showrunner and executive producer, so it's a little weird to hear Kurt's dad from Glee talk about big ideas on a show with an all-black cast, but he summed up the series pretty nicely: "I think what we were trying to go for and what we're trying to do in the season is the obstacles for these characters are the seven deadly sins. Cam's pride, M-Chuck's anger, the mistakes they're making in their own lives are preventing them from their own happiness....They don't realize they're out front and center for an issue like this." Oh, and LeBron James shows up, because he's everywhere you want to be.

Ash vs. Evil Dead

2

If you loved the Evil Dead movies, it seems pretty clear you'll love this ten-episode series. "The last Evil Dead was twenty-four years ago, and the fans haven't shut up since," says Bruce Campbell. "No matter what we give them, it will never be enough, and we're very grateful for that."

And never fear: your gore jones will be appeased. "If this came out as a movie, it would be unrated. Our criteria [in finding a network] was, who will let us do what we want to do? We wouldn't want to rip off the fans by doing a diluted version of the movies," Campbell says. "They have certain expectations. They want particular things, so it was very important we found a network that would let us go anywhere we wanted with the humor, the crazy amounts of gore, because we had an obligation to the fans," says director Sam Raimi.

Beyond that, you'll just have to tune in this fall. "You ask us to reveal some really sensitive shit and we can't do that!" Campbell bellowed. When the crowd ran out of questions, he raised his hand with a comment. "People ask how much blood there's going to be. I went blind the other day. Imagine sticking your face into the shower. I've been gagged once and I've been blind. Anyone looking for a lot of blood, it's coming your way." You've been warned.

Flesh And Bone

9

This may be a ballet-centric show about a ballerina, but it's not Bunheads. Breaking Bad meets Bunheads? Sure: showrunner Moira Walley-Beckett did win an Emmy for her writing on Bad. Ballet, but gritty ballet. It looks a little bit like Smash smudged in grease and cigarette ash. And according to Walley-Beckett, "the first two episodes are lightest" before the whole thing "plunges into darkness."

The main character, Claire, is an "emotionally wounded, sexually damaged" dancer, and Walley-Beckett mentioned that she wants everyone to binge-watch (which will be possible: it will all go up online at once). If you dig dark-dark-dark, and a messed-up ballerina who locks herself in her apartment and is apparently thoroughly self-destructive, this is for you.

Moving on: IFC!

Documentary Now!

9

If you love documentaries (and I do), and like funny twists on documentaries (ditto), this is pretty great. The Grey Gardens parody is all that. Bill Hader is Little Edie (here, Little Livvie), and it's spooky to see the extent to which he nails it. Of course, it helps to have seen Grey Gardens to appreciate just how much this show gets right. "We're hoping everyone has seen everything," said Seth Meyers, who writes the show when he isn't busy doing the talk show thing. "Documentaries are having a moment. If you've seen Grey Gardens, you'll enjoy Sandy Passages more, but we hope that if you haven't, you'll seek it out."

While most of these parodies tend toward subtle humor instead of slapstick, that doesn't mean there wasn't room for wacky. "I had a conversation [about that] that was, it would be great if we got a possum," said Meyers. "It's great to be on a television show where that's a conversation." But this is IFC, so there's not a lot of room for, um, anything. "The answer to the possum was, we can't afford it."

Oh, and Fred Armisen sang and played guitar in the lobby, in character, as '70s musician Blue Jean. "We just love soft rock," he said on the panel. "It's so bold to play softly." I'm not sure if he was joking or not.

Benders

1

Hockey is the setting here. Denis Leary is executive producing, which is something, but still: hockey. The clip we saw was about a hockey player bitching about his girlfriend who won't shut up. He won't break up with her because the sex is too good, so he's going to get a cat for thirty days (I did not know rescues had a return policy) so she'll sleep at her own apartment, presumably after the sex.

That was at the beginning, and honesty, I just stopped listening. Oh wait, the creators spoke about how much they appreciate "snappy banter," which is awfully ironic.

Gigi Does It

8

So David Krumholtz (Numbers) plays Gigi, a Jewish grandma who has discovered the secret millions her husband left behind when he died, so there's lots of shopping and whooping it up. "There's no body that can embody an old Jewish woman like his body can," says executive producer Tim Gibbons.

In inheriting all this money, Gigi wants to do stuff like collect art and pose nude for an art class. "I have the same body as a seventy-year-old woman, so all they did was paint bigger nipples on me," said Krumholtz. Hold that image in your brain until it explodes.

This is sort of funny, but mostly weird.

Let's finish up with some AMC!

Fear The Walking Dead

8

This is a prequel to The Walking Dead, which means it's going to be really stressful and people are going to die and not really understand what is going on and OH MY GOD this show is going to give me a heart attack. It's stressful and pretty much everyone is going to die. It's like watching the Los Angeles riots live, with zombies. I can't. I probably will, but I can't.

And yes, the whole world is going to crap. "We'll get to a place where wardrobe options will become limited, yes," says showrunner Dave Erickson.

Into The Badlands

8

This is very Tarantino-esque: lots of swords, lots of blood, lots of choreographed fight scenes, a character named "The Widow" who is a killing machine in skin-tight latex, stripper heels, and a low-cut bustier. Because that's how girls fight. And why is everyone a widow? Anyway, the story is about a ruthless warrior named Sunny (Daniel Wu) and a young boy named M.K. (Aramis Knight) and there are these Southern gothic mansions that look positively nineteenth-century mashed up with really modern strip clubs and this martial arts fighting (by guys called clippers), and it probably all makes a strange kind of sense when you're watching it.

But what do you care? This is about the fighting. The fighting is crazy-gorgeous, if you like acrobatic, totally illogical-but-beautiful fighting. "These fights are like big dance numbers," said showrunner Alfred Gough. "It's an organic process with a lot of prep." "If you forward through the [rest] to get to the action, it becomes like pornography," says star Danny Wu. "We wanted the storyline to be just as good as the action." So, you know, watch the story stuff, too. Or just watch Wu, who said he tried to find someone else to play his role because he was afraid he was too old at forty. Forty or not, he looks foine.