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TV Talk at TCA: FX keeps the quality shows coming

PASADENA, Calif. – The summer 2024 edition of the Television Critics Association press tour kicked off Wednesday at the Langham Huntington Hotel with Disney-owned properties ABC, FX and Hulu/Onyx presenting panels with the stars, writers and producers of upcoming programs.

FX, home to “Shogun” and “Fargo” and producer of “The Bear” (for Hulu), remains the most consistent brand producing quality programs on cable and streaming. That streak seems likely to continue this fall with the return of “The Old Man” (10 p.m. Sept. 12, FX); the latest Ryan Murphy true-story production “American Sports Story: Aaron Hernandez” (10 p.m. Sept. 17, FX), about the New England Patriots tight end convicted of murder; and the debut of a promising new comedy, “English Teacher” (10 p.m. Sept. 2, FX).

X/Twitter, Instagram and TikTok comic actor Brian Jordan Alvarez (Estefan on the “Will Grace” reboot) created, wrote, directed and stars in “English Teacher” as Austin, Texas, high school teacher Evan Marquez as he navigates life with students, their parents and fellow faculty in a politically polarized environment where he’s left to wonder, can you be your full self at your job?

Jonathan Krisel (“Portlandia”) and Paul Simms (“What We Do in the Shadows”) executive produce “English Teacher,” which hilariously explores questions of what’s appropriate and what’s inappropriate speech and behavior today.

In the pilot, the school’s gregarious gym teacher calls Evan “Fruit Loop.” Evan, who is openly gay, objects, but the gym teacher says it’s just a nickname.

“Then why not Cheerios?” Evan asks.

“Because there’s nothing gay about Cheerios!” the gym teacher declares happily and without concern.

“The show lives on the edge,” said Alvarez, who is also openly gay. “We have fun where we play in that gray area very specifically. We’re talking actively in the writers’ room, what can we say, what can we not say? If we get in the editing room and it feels over the edge, then you just don’t put that into the show.”

Alvarez said he grew up in “the sticks of Tennessee,” which influenced his approach in “English Teacher.”

“There were a lot of really wonderful people but there is homophobia present,” Alvarez said, noting the school setting was also important. “I thought it would be interesting to set it in a non-homogeneous environment. It’s a place where people from every (background) are forced to work together for a common goal of educating these students.”

‘Kingstown’ rates

For the first time, Paramount+’s filmed-in-Pittsburgh drama “Mayor of Kingstown” appeared this week on Nielsen’s most-watched original streaming series chart, ranking No. 10 the week of June 3 when the show’s third season debuted. It’s also the first time I know of that a series filmed in Pittsburgh has landed on Nielsen’s streaming TV Top 10.

New ‘Dance Moms’

Hulu is reviving Lifetime’s “Dance Moms” with a new series, set at an Ashburn, Va., dance studio, debuting on the streaming service Aug. 7.

The original “Dance Moms,” which aired 2011-19, filmed its early seasons at the now-shuttered Abby Lee Dance Company in Penn Hills.

Paramount-Skydance

With news last weekend of the deal for Skydance to merge with Paramount, it’s unclear whether the new company will retain its owned-and-operated stations, including Pittsburgh’s KDKA-TV and WPKD-TV.

But a report at Variety.com Tuesday suggests the merged company may keep its stations rather than sell them off. When the deal closes, likely next year, incoming executives David Ellison and Jeff Shell maintain that CBS will be part of their long-term strategy.

“We’re really happy about not just CBS, but the whole ecosystem, the stations and the affiliates and everything that gives us that reach,” Shell said. “And our plan is to continue to … fuel that because it will drive our content for decades in front of us.”

Premiere dates

Hulu’s Onyx legal drama “Reasonable Doubt” returns for its second season Aug. 22.

“Agatha All Along,” the sequel series to Disney+’s early critical hit “WandaVision,” debuts with a two-episode premiere Sept. 18.

The final season of Netflix’s “Heartstopper” will premiere Oct. 3.

“Landman,” the latest series from writer Taylor Sheridan (“Yellowstone,” “Mayor of Kingstown”), debuts Nov. 17 on Paramount+, telling an “Upstairs, Downstairs”-style story of oil billionaires and roughnecks.

Apple TV+’s “Severance” will be back for its second season Jan. 17.

Channel surfing

Former Central Catholic High School student, 2020 University of Pittsburgh grad and current Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin will be among the presenters on “The 2024 ESPYS” (8 tonight, ESPN). … Cable channel SportsNet Pittsburgh launched a new website this week, SportsNetPittsburgh.com, its first site to feature editorial coverage of Pittsburgh sports teams. … CNN will launch a new subscription product on CNN.com by the end of 2024 and also plans two free, ad-supported digital streamers, one based on CNN original series and the other based on its Spanish-language service. … Ellen Pompeo will return to star in at least seven episodes of “Grey’s Anatomy” in the ABC drama’s 2024-25 TV season. … Amazon canceled “Outer Range” after two seasons. … On Aug. 28 Hulu will debut a four-part docu-series about the 1989-2001 TV show “Baywatch” called “After Baywatch: Moment in the Sun.”

You can reach TV writer Rob Owen at [email protected] or 412-380-8559. Follow @RobOwenTV on Threads, X, Bluesky and Facebook. Ask TV questions by email or phone. Please include your first name and location.

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