This week in TV, we traveled to Austin’s SXSW festival to see what’s cooking on the small screen. Only in its second year, the SXSW Episodics screening program is proving a hot commodity at the annual gigantic exposition of new media content in Austin — and everyone’s invited to the party. The highlights from this year’s innovative new work included Yahoo! Screen’s revamped Community, a TBS half-hour comedy Angie Tribeca from Steve and Nancy Carell, The CW’s hour-long iZombie, and USA Network’s hacker drama Mr. Robot!
USA Network shared its newest drama on Tuesday, Mr. Robot, starring Rami Malek and Christian Slater. As it turns out, the creator of Mr. Robot used to be a hacker. He phished and used keystroke logging to get into friends’ and colleagues’ emails because “I was incredibly neurotic and I always care about what people think about me,” said Sam Esmail. “I didn’t believe that people were honest with me — and by the way, they weren’t [as I found out when I hacked them]. It was a weird, insecure, selfish thing.” Cut to two decades later and Esmail has a series about a socially awkward genius Elliot (Malek) and the world of hacking. The show impressed audiences at SXSW and is hopefully poised to intrigue us non-hacker-geniuses and please the real ones when it debuts on USA this summer.
Just as Arrested Development was resurrected by Netflix, now Community has its second coming via Yahoo. New episodes started airing this week, and, thanks to their new home, they’re going to be more outrageous. At least that’s what the cast hinted at on the red carpet at SXSW for their sneak peak of the first episode. “Working with Yahoo [we don’t have] the FCC rules anymore and there’s no time constraints,” said Joel McHale. “That doesn’t mean there’s just strippers and cage fighters and it’s 45 minutes long; it means there’s a little more elbow room to do what we want. If we want to show a beer bottle on camera that doesn’t just say ‘Cerveza’ and it actually says ‘Corona,’ we can. It’s bizarre, but there’s a lot less hangups.” Season one of Community is currently Certified Fresh; see reviews here.
If you’re going to watch Angie Tribeca — a new TBS comedy written and produced by Steve and Nancy Carell airing this fall — then you better suspend your judgment. The show, which stars Rashida Jones and Hayes MacArthur (with cameos from high-profile stars like James Franco, Lisa Kudrow, Adam Scott, and even Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti), is a throwback to The Naked Gun and other slapstick comedies from the 1970s and 80s. After reading the script, Jones said there was no way she wasn’t going to do this show — a half-hour cop procedural set in a world where everyone can be holding hot dogs, a crime scene photographer can photograph a model in the background of an actual crime scene, and the side of the cop car can say, “To protect and serve and do some other things.” Producer Jeffrey Astrof said at the SXSW panel after they premiered the first two 30-minute episodes that it was the Marx brothers, Monty Python, and The Black Adder that he loved and influenced him for this show. “It’s really, really stupid,” added Carell. “It’s not about having heart. We wanted something irreverent and silly.”
Post Buffy and Veronica, The CW might just have found their new badass-slash-sweetheart in Liv Moore. In fact, director Rob Thomas is going so far as to say that Liv (played by Australian actress Rose McIver, most recently known for her role in Masters of Sex) “is the next great CW heroine.” In iZombie, Liv is a driven and adorable doctor who attends a party on a boat that just happens to be the epicenter of the Zombie Apocalypse. But Liv gets all the best parts of being a zombie and when she eats peoples brains and has a psychic ability to help solve their crimes. Thomas was too busy with the Veronica Mars movie when The CW came to him with the idea to adapt the DC Comics Vertigo comic book, but he to them that if he could get Veronica Mars‘ EP Diane Ruggiero on board, he’d do it. They’d seen about 100 actresses before McIver went in and stole the show. “You want to find someone who America is going to fall in love with, but you also need them to have chops. We needed someone who could deliver on all counts,” Thomas said. Season one of iZombie is currently Certified Fresh at 90 percent.