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►  TV confidential: Signs of season to come at critics’ meeting

The stardust has settled from the just-ended Television Critics Association’s annual summer meeting, revealing a lot, if not everything, about the 2017-18 TV season. With a posh hotel as staging center, a two-week parade of actors, producers and executives dished in Q&A sessions about their projects and TV in general.

Should we be excited about what’s in store for the next chapter of the current golden age of TV, as brought to us by cable, streaming platforms and, on rare occasion, broadcast networks (read: “This Is Us”)? The players and concepts tell the tale, absent the final word from the most influential critics of all, the viewers.

NEW FACES

— In ABC’s “The Mayor,” Brandon Micheal Hall plays a young rapper whose run for mayor is intended solely to garner publicity for his music, but then he’s elected. Hall won the role after a series of auditions and a screen test, proving he could hold his own with TV veterans Yvette Nicole Brown (“Community”), who plays his mother, and Lea Michele (“Glee,” ″Scream Queens”) as his campaign manager.

— Alice Englert is working for her real-life mom, Oscar-winning filmmaker Jane Campion (“The Piano”), and opposite powerhouse actors Elisabeth Moss and Nicole Kidman in “Top of the Lake: China Girl,” SundanceTV’s follow-up to “Top of the Lake.” Kidman warmly vouched for Englert, whom she’s known from birth, saying she handles her role “beautifully” and noting the ingrained ease and affection they share.

— Iain Armitage, who stars as the title character in CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” prequel “Young Sheldon,” is eat-him-with-a-spoon cute and so poised that it’s easy to see why producers are banking on the 9-year-old. Asked about his favorite shows, he politely said he doesn’t watch much TV and spends most of his time reading, playing — not video games — and being around people. He’s already got a role in a buzzy movie, “The Glass Castle.”

OLD FACES

— Will and Grace and Larry David are returning to TV after absences of various lengths. “Will & Grace” stars Debra Messing, Eric McCormack, Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally, who reunited last year for a video supporting their presidential candidate of choice (hint: she lost), decided to keep the fun going and advance the 1998-2006 sitcom’s groundbreaking treatment of sexuality. NBC has already ordered a second season.

David, whose last “Curb Your Enthusiasm” aired new episodes in 2011 on HBO, explained why he’s back as “TV Larry” in matching “real Larry” blunt fashion: “I was missing it (the show), and I was missing these idiots,” he said, indicating his co-stars including Jeff Garlin and Susie Essman. The charm is intact!

— Freddie Highmore, 25, is undeniably fresh-faced. But he’s a veteran actor, from last decade’s “Finding Neverland” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” to his recent TV work on “Bates Motel” as Norman “Psycho” Bates in his formative years. With “The Good Doctor,” Highmore has the chance to plumb new depths of his talent as a surgeon with autism and savant syndrome, which prove both a gift and a challenge.

MISSING FACES

— Streaming platforms Amazon and Netflix go their own way with publicity as well as content. They skipped the TV critics’ meeting that networks and cable outlets rely on as a promotional opportunity. Granted, the idea of a making a splash with new fall programming is outside streaming’s business model, but that approach also is diminishing with traditional outlets as they seek audiences year-round. Bottom line: Network and cable executives were willing to field questions about their businesses and shows; streaming services weren’t.

— Speaking of broadcast, which includes ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox, it appears largely intent on avoiding the creative vibrancy and daring of cable and streaming as exemplified by the likes of FX’s “Atlanta,” Netflix’s “Master of None” and Amazon’s “Transparent.” Instead, networks are mostly bringing forth a multiplex-style crop of comic book-based series, rote procedurals and reboots of “Roseanne,” ″Dynasty” and, yes, “Will & Grace.” Will audiences and sponsors keep buying it?

— People of color and especially women continue to find it hard to break into the top ranks of CBS stardom, and this fall isn’t making much of a dent with shows including “SEAL Team” starring David Boreanaz and sitcom “9JKL” with Mark Feuerstein. Network executives said they tried, with six shows in development starring women that didn’t turn out as expected. They chalked it up to the “cycle of business.” Recycling is more like it — how about a fresh approach from the ground up, including writers and directors?


►  We’re all in the same boat’ _ Michael Moore preaches unity

Michael Moore showed his patriotism by marching down the Avenue of the Americas with a drum and fife corps after making his Broadway debut.

“I say this to the people who disagree with me, we’re all Americans. We’re all in the same boat, and we’re going to sink or swim together. I prefer not to sink. So let’s find a way, if we can, to work together to save this country,” Moore said Thursday night.

The Oscar-winning filmmaker starred in the one-man show “The Terms of My Surrender” and then walked arm-in-arm to a party afterward with a variety of celebrities, including Christie Brinkley, Rosie O’Donnell, and Gloria Steinem.

The 63-year commentator and liberal activist made it clear that his show is aimed at his supporters, and not an attempt to open a dialogue with Donald Trump supporters.

“I’m here to preach to the choir, because the choir needs a song to sing. The choir has been severely depressed since November, and it’s time to rise up and get out of it. Snap out of it. We’re the majority. This is our country. We hold the reins, now we want the power back,” Moore said.

While Moore’s nightly 90-minute tirade puts his disdain for the president front and center, he also tackles other hot-button topics such as the Flint water crisis, race relations, and the latest restrictions from the Transportation Security Administration. Moore tweaks each performance to address the headlines of the day.

He feels humor is the best way to tackle worrisome issues. “It is scary and sometimes satire is our only way to get through the horror and find a solution to make things better,” he said.


►  James Cameron says ‘Terminator 2’ as ‘timely as it ever was’

James Cameron has taken time out from crafting the upcoming four “Avatar” sequels to return to one of his old films, one he says is as up-to-the-minute as ever — “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.”

Cameron converted the 26-year-old film — in which one robot with artificial intelligence battles another to stop nuclear annihilation — into a 3D format that hits movie theaters August 25. It arrives just as escalating tensions over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions are in the headlines.

“I think the film is as timely as it ever was, probably more so less on the nuclear side and more on the AI side and dealing with our relationship with our own technology,” Cameron said Thursday. “And how we do really stand the possibility of making ourselves obsolete?”

The 1991 release — a sequel to the 1984 original — starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, Edward Furlong, Linda Hamilton and Robert Patrick. It followed Sarah Connor and her 10-year-old son John fleeing an advanced shapeshifting Terminator sent back in time to kill them. Schwarzenegger’s less advanced Terminator was also sent back in time to protect the pair. The film featured a scene in which Sarah Connor imagines a nuclear blast consuming Los Angeles.

“I tend to be kind of an apocalyptic kind of guy. I look at all the worst case outcomes,” said Cameron, who said he started writing the film before the Berlin Wall came down and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“I think that it’s we have to be on guard and constantly aware. So whether it’s climate change, or whether it’s the threat of an AI potentially replacing us or rapidly altering our word in a negative outcome for humans or weather it’s nuclear warfare — these are things we need to be constantly vigilant about.”

As for any film reboot of the series, Cameron said the idea was being discussed but he wanted to make sure it had “fresh imagery, fresh characters” and wasn’t “mired in the past.” The director said any reboot must “feel like a new, 21st-century version of a “Terminator” story but still stay true to what that means.”


►  Leaked email shows HBO negotiating with hackers

Hackers released an email from HBO in which the company expressed willingness to pay them $250,000 as part of a negotiation over electronic data swiped from HBO’s servers.

The July 27 email was sent by an HBO executive who thanked the hackers for “making us aware” of previously unknown security vulnerabilities. The executive asked for a 1-week delay and said HBO was willing to make a “good faith” payment of $250,000, calling it a “bug bounty” reward for IT professionals rather than a ransom.

HBO declined to comment. A person close to the investigation confirmed the authenticity of the email, but said it was an attempt to buy time and assess the situation.

The same hackers have subsequently released two dumps of HBO material and demanded a multi-million dollar ransom.

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