Chicago gets TV spotlight with new comedy, drama
Posted January 10
PASADENA, Calif. — A roundup of news Monday from the Television Critics Association winter meeting, at which TV networks and streaming services are presenting details on upcoming programs.
TALES OF THE CITY
Chicago is grabbing the TV spotlight with two new series, the comedy "Superior Donuts" and the drama "The Chi."
The CBS sitcom, based on a Tracy Letts play, stars Judd Hirsch as a doughnut shop owner who refuses to change along with his gentrifying neighborhood. Jermaine Fowler plays the young employee who tries to help him modernize.
Showtime's "The Chi," announced Monday, is described as a timely coming-of-age story set in Chicago's South Side, with Jason Mitchell ("Straight Outta Compton") in the cast.
While the goal of "Superior Donuts" is to entertain, its producers said Monday, it will touch on urban problems.
"To extent we're going to look at cultural issues and issues in the news, it will be through the lens of the characters," said producer Garrett Donovan. One episode about guns will examine the effect a weapon has on the characters' lives, he said, instead of being a "political kind of thing."
"Although if we were to incite a tweet war with the president of the United States, we probably would not turn down the free publicity," said fellow producer Bob Daily.
The series, which debuts Feb. 2, also stars Katey Sagal as a Chicago police officer. In a clip, her character lightly tells Fowler's Franco, who is African-American, that he doesn't have to worry about her shooting him in the back because she's wearing a body camera.
Fowler, also a producer for the series, said it would be wrong to ignore the realities of race and other issues.
"You just can't. It would be a disservice to comedy. ... You can't gloss that over. Otherwise, it just kind of feels like a fake show to me," he said.
"The Chi" follows Brandon (Mitchell) as he tries to balance his business dreams with his ties to his mother and younger brother in his old neighborhood.
Showtime Networks chief executive David Nevins said the series will go beyond the sadness of the "constant drumbeat of violence in Chicago" to explores the lives of South Side residents.
Series creator and executive producer Lena Waithe is drawing on her experience growing up in Chicago, Nevins said. Common, another native of the city, also is serving as executive producer.
NBC has a trio of Chicago-set dramas.
When he first moved to California, Jim Carrey landed a crucial stand-up slot on Johnny Carson's "Tonight" show, then saw it canceled after he had a lukewarm appearance at a comedy club.
"It almost destroyed me," Carrey said Monday, recalling Carson's importance to up-and-coming comics. Carrey is producing an upcoming show for Showtime, "I'm Dying Up Here," about the 1970s comedy scene.
Six months later, he made it to the show and he hasn't done too badly since.
"It's amazing how important it was back then, how important it was to comics because they respected Johnny," he said.
David Letterman had the same power.
"He could slaughter you if he wanted to — in a moment, in a word," he said.
Carrey recalled having a pleasant on-camera interview with Letterman and then, during a commercial break, being excoriated because it had been a few years since he had appeared on the show.
Working on the Showtime series hasn't given Carrey any nostalgic urges to take a stand-up act on the road, however.
"I'm in the process of shedding layers of persona," he said, "and that's not in my life."
James Corden presides over his late-night show's "Carpool Karaoke" segment, but the series spin-off will have a succession of hosts.
Celebrity pairs including Alicia Keys and John Legend, Ariana Grande and Seth MacFarlane, and Blake Shelton and Chelsea Handler will be featured on the 16-episode series to be released weekly on Apple Music. A debut date has yet to be announced.
Corden, who will appear with Will Smith on one episode, said he was proud "The Late Late Show" has created a segment that works so well it will stand on its own. Make that two bits: A project based on his "Drop the Mic" rap battle segment is set for TBS this year.
"I'm incredibly proud we have a late-night talk show that 18 months ago a majority of the room were going, 'Who the hell is this guy?'" Corden told a meeting Monday of the Television Critics Association.
The British Corden was a U.S. TV newcomer when he took over as host of CBS' "Late Late Show" in 2015, but he'd already won a 2012 Tony Award for Broadway's "One Man, Two Guvnors."
His karaoke segments, in which Corden drives while a pop-star passenger joins him in song, has become a viral sensation. Does he have advice to those who will take the wheel for the new series?
"This is only a waste of time if you don't enjoy it," he said. "That enjoyment, that joy, that sort of unbridled freedom of singing in a car, is the glue that holds it all together."
Driving and singing aren't an issue, he said: The rule is head in a straight line.
"I'd rather do it here than in London. That's much harder," Corden said.
AP Television Writer David Bauder contributed to this report.