Friday’s portion of the Television Critics Association press day got political, thanks to projects like a Hillary Clinton documentary coming to Hulu and National Geographic’s powerful film The Cave. Other news out of the day included the iffy future of Hulu projects Veronica Mars and Castle Rock, as well as Zoë Kravitz dishing on her new Hulu show High Fidelity.
Hulu’s High Fidelity hits just in time for Valentine’s Day, serving up a gender-flipped rom-com re-do of the 2000 film starring John Cusack and Lisa Bonet, who happens to be the mother of series star Kravitz.
Kravitz is having an excellent year so far, between celebrating a Golden Globe nomination for season 2 of Big Little Lies, her recently announced role as DC Universe’s new Catwoman in Matt Reeves’ 2021 film The Batman, and this promising Hulu series from executive producers Sarah Kucserka, Veronica West, Scott Rosenberg, and Kravitz herself. The show, which tackles lead character Rob’s love life and a theme of gentrification, relocates from England (in Nick Hornby’s book) and Chicago (in the movie) to the Crown Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn.
“We watch a lot of romantic comedies with female leads,” West told the TCA gathering, “and the problem always seems to be you can’t find the right man, or you’re desperate to get married, or you’re self-destructive in some way. And like, when a man gets to be the lead, the problems are internal and it’s just like — it was interesting for us to put that in a woman’s point of view and let her issues with romance really just be about learning how to figure out herself and not finding Mr. Right. You know, there’s lots of Mr. Rights in the show, which is part of what makes it so much fun.”
For Kravitz’s part, the actress pulled some strings as executive producer to make the comedy happen.
“We had Colleen Atwood do the costumes, who is a legend. I had worked with her on Fantastic Beasts, and we were having a really hard time finding someone to do the costumes and that was a really important element to the story and the show to me. And I had called Colleen asking her if she knew someone that would do it because I knew she wouldn’t do it because she’s — she did f—ing Silence of the Lambs. Like, you know, it’s not happening. And I called her and said, ‘Do you know someone?’ and that we need someone and it was starting really soon. And she said, ‘I love High Fidelity. I love you. I’ll do it.’ And we were all in shock … I called [executive producer Scott Rosenberg], and I said, ‘I think I found someone that you’ll be happy with’ — because he wasn’t happy with anybody — and he said, ‘Who?’ And I said, ‘Colleen Atwood. She wants to do it.’ And it got really quiet. And then he went, ‘Why?'”
Kravitz said she and Atwood found costumes for her character at vintage stores.
“I stole a lot of s—. I have a lot of the clothes from High Fidelity,” she confessed. “I’m really into the Hawaiian shirts. We did a lot of really cool Hawaiian shirts, and Colleen designed this really great leather jacket that was kind of an homage to the jacket that Cusack wears in the film. We did a Hawaiian shirt with a leather jacket with a kind of pleated school skirt, and that was really cool.”
Music posed a different kind of challenge for the rom-com TV reboot.
“We spent a lot of money on music,” Kravitz said. “Every song that we really wanted, we got. And every song we couldn’t get that was replaced, the song that it was replaced with ended up being the perfect song. We were really lucky. And we had amazing support from ABC and Hulu in terms of everyone knew how important the music — music is a character on the show. So she needs like a trailer and a makeup office –”
A reporter couldn’t help noticing that Kravitz’s short pixie cut was a much different look than the long braids her character wears in the series.
“I cut my hair for Batman, so it’s short now,” Kravitz explained, insisting that her hair in the series was definitely not a wig.
Earlier in the week, Kravitz appeared on Ellen DeGeneres’ show, where she talked about training for her Batman role and meeting with a famous former Catwoman while sitting with the Big Little Lies talent at the Golden Globes earlier this month.
“I was sitting at the Globes with David Kelley — because he writes our show — and [his wife] Michelle Pfeiffer. And I was bowing to the queen. I’m nervous to be in her presence now,” she told DeGeneres, who asked her about costume fittings. “We’ve had many. It’s going really well. It’s very exciting. And I’ve been training a ton, too, which has been great and hard…I come home just limping every day. It’s actually kind of pathetic.”
The Mandalorian creator Jon Favreau shared a photo of Star Wars creator George Lucas holding series phenomenon The Child, and the internet shed tears of Baby Yoda joy…
— Jon Favreau (@Jon_Favreau) January 17, 2020
Hulu’s summer release of a fourth season of Veronica Mars five years after the Kristen Bell drama got a film version and even longer after the series left The CW caused a strong fan reaction — both because of a shocking ending and the decision to drop the episodes several days before its intended release date, thus screwing up rewatch plans for fans were binging old episodes on Hulu. Nevertheless, there was almost immediate talk as to whether there would be another season.
Hulu senior v.p. of scripted originals Craig Erwich had a non-answer to this question when asked during his TCA executive session.
“I think for fans of the show, who have been lifelong fans, the opportunity to check back in with Veronica Mars and see where she is in her life was really exciting [and] it generated a lot of social conversation,” he said. “You know, what’s interesting is that collection, that kind of journey of Veronica Mars in terms of the television episodes and in terms of her life as a character, exists on Hulu now and will exist for a long time. So there’s still a lot of Veronica Mars for people to check out. We’re encouraging people to continue to watch it. People are continuing to discover it and and right now, we think that’s a really satisfying, narrative experience for them.”
“We have not made any further decisions on Castle Rock. Again, that show recently launched. People are still continuing to discover it,” he said, adding that “I thought that Lizzy Caplan [who joined the show in season 2] was revelatory in her portrayal of Annie Wilkes. It was a whole new take on that character, and I thought very brave of her given what Kathy Bates had done [in the movie Misery]. You know, Lizzy was really able to find her own way into that.”
In more positive news, Erwich said that he’s “really excited” after having seen “quite a few” episodes of animated series Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K., which stands for “Mobile Organism Designed Only for Killing.” The character is described by Marvel as “a massive-headed being possessing superhuman intelligence and extraordinary psionic powers.” He’s an egomaniacal supervillain trying to retain control over both his evil organization and his demanding family.
Erwich added that star, executive producer, and co-writer “Patton Oswalt is a lifelong Marvel fan and was obsessed with the character of M.O.D.O.K., so for him to finally get his hands on that character and for he and [co-writer and fellow executive producer] Jordan Blum to do what they’ve always wanted to do with it, has been great to see. They are taking a whole new perspective, and a very funny one, on what it means to be a comic book villain, which is really special.”
At last winter’s press tour, Hulu announced that M.O.D.O.K. would be part of an animated lineup that also includes Marvel’s Hit-Monkey, Marvel’s Tigra & Dazzler Show, and Marvel’s Howard The Duck. The four originals will culminate in a special, Marvel’s The Offenders.
Erwich also said he’s seen the first four hours of upcoming Marvel series Helstrom and, “I’m really excited about it. It is a definitely a different corner of the Marvel universe in terms of its horror.”
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was also at Hulu’s TCA press day, joining filmmaker Nanette Burstein to promote their four-part documentary, Hillary. The former presidential hopeful was unflinching when asked what she hopes voters will take away from her documentary when it premieres March 6 — which, she noted, was after Super Tuesday and may mean we’ll have a clearer vision of who will be the Democratic nominee for president in November.
“I think the most important message is, we are — and I say ‘we,’ because that’s the side that I’m on … I am on the side of an inclusive, generous, open-hearted country that faces up to the future, tries to bring people together to make difficult choices, of which we have many facing us, and that we’re in a real struggle with a form of politics that is incredibly negative, exclusive, mean-spirited. It’s going to be up to every voter, not only people who vote in Democratic primaries, to recognize this is no ordinary time,” she said. “This is an election that will have such profound impact. So take your vote seriously, and for the Democratic voters, try to vote for the person you think is most likely to win because at the end of the day, that is what will matter. And not just the popular vote, but the Electoral College, as we’ve learned.”
An untitled comedy starring Steve Martin and Martin Short. has gotten a straight-to-series order from Hulu. The series is co-created by Martin and John Hoffman. They both will executive produce along with This is Us creator Dan Fogelman, Jess Rosenthal, and Short.
National Geographic announced partnerships with superhero superstars Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman) for a six-part series called #impact, featuring global stories of extraordinary young women, and with Chris Hemsworth (Thor) for Limitless, a series that “will explore the frontiers of the human body.”
Freeform has given a green light to Last Summer, which is described as an unconventional thriller that takes place over three summers in the mid-’90s. Executive producers are Bert V. Royal, Jessica Biel and Michelle Purple. The pilot is executive produced and directed by Max Winkler.
Apple TV+ has ordered the docu-series Dear… from The September Issue’s R.J. Cutler. It will premiere this spring and, according to the logline, it’s inspired by Apple’s “Dear Apple” spots and promises to take “an inventive and cinematic approach to biographies of the most iconic figures in society today by using letters written by those whose lives have been changed through their work.”
Hulu has announced that its Golden Globe-winning Ramy will premiere its second season on May 29 with Mahershala Ali joining as a guest star. New series The Great and Solar Opposites will premiere May 15 and May 8 respectively.
Genius: Aretha, starring 2020 Oscar nominee Cynthia Erivo (Harriet), will launch on National Geographic as a four-night event series beginning Memorial Day, Monday, May 25. It is the third season of the networks anthology series. The network also announced the March 9 premiere date for COSMOS: Possible Worlds, hosted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.
New Freeform show Motherland: Fort Salem starts March 18 while Siren starts Season 3 on April 2.
National Geographic hosted a panel for The Cave, a powerful Syrian-Danish documentary film that focuses on Amani Ballour, a female doctor working out of a makeshift hospital in an actual cave during the Syrian Civil War. The film airs on the network on January 25, and director Feras Fayyad was scheduled to attend, but was unable to, according to a statement provided by the film’s producer Sigrid Dyekjær.
“We were hoping that Feras Fayyad could be here with us today,” Dyekjær wrote. “As has been widely reported, in December Feras was denied an extended U.S. visa by the U.S. Embassy in Copenhagen and has missed several industry events, including the IDA Awards and Cinema Eye Awards.”
While he has waited to meet with the embassy, Fayyad found out that “his aunt’s house was bombed and his parents’ and childhood home was in the line of fire in Syria.” The director traveled to Turkey to be near his family, but was arrested by immigration police in Copenhagen when he attempted to return, Dyekjær wrote.
“Feras is a filmmaker, but first and foremost he’s a Syrian. The Cave is a very personal film. It is dedicated to his seven sisters. To his daughter. To the unnamed women he witnessed being jailed and tortured in Syrian prisons because they’re women,” Dyekjær wrote. “His voice is important and it deserves to be heard, now more than ever. After all, we are talking about a brilliant filmmaker who is now a two-time Academy Award nominee — and my dear friend.”
Multi-Emmy winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus has signed a multi-year overall deal with Apple where she will develop new projects exclusively for Apple TV+ — both an executive producer and star.
“I am thrilled about this new partnership with my friends at Apple,” Louis-Dreyfus said in a statement. “Also, many thanks and kudos to my representatives for structuring the deal in such a way that I am paid in AirPods.”
Hulu has also signed a multi-year streaming deal with DreamWorks Animation. Hulu announced the first three premieres to be Hulu Originals in 2020: Madagascar: A Little Wild based on the film franchise, TrollsTopia from the Trolls universe, and The Mighty Ones, featuring a twig, a pebble, a leaf, and a strawberry that live in an unkempt backyard where the humans are gods.