‘MacGyver’ update won’t be gun-free zone; more Colbert live


BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) — A roundup of news from the Television Critics Association summer meeting, at which TV networks and streaming services are presenting details on upcoming programs.

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21ST CENTURY MACGYVER

One of the hallmarks of the 1980s series “MacGyver,” starring Richard Dean Anderson, was his avoidance of gun and reliance on his wits to disarm or keep the bad guys at bay.

MacGyver hasn’t changed his outlook in the CBS reboot starring Lucas Till, but that doesn’t mean it will be a gun-free show.

“It will be unrealistic to do this type of show and not have anybody have any type of gun,” executive producer Peter Lenkov said. “Macgyver’s a guy if he needs a weapon he will build it.”

Someone who will use them, however, is the Jack Dalton character, now played by George Eads, who has a military background.

“He sees the value in a gun, in a defensive weapon,” Lenkov said.

“Macgyver” premieres Friday, Sept. 23 at 8 p.m. EDT on CBS.

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THE DEBATES, THEN COLBERT

Stephen Colbert, who capitalized on the political conventions with live airings of his late-night show, will do the same for the presidential and vice presidential debates.

“The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” will air live on CBS after two of the scheduled debates between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, on Sept. 26 and Oct. 19, and following the Tim Kaine-Mike Pence debate Oct. 4, the network said.

Colbert, who is in his first-season transition from his Comedy Central series “The Colbert Report,” clearly reveled in making his CBS show more topical with convention comedy.

It also yielded what the network called his “biggest viral clips to date,” a measure beyond ratings of how much attention a show is attracting. Those popular bits: fellow Comedy Central alumnus Jon Stewart’s guest appearance and Broadway star Laura Benanti’s impersonation of Melania Trump.

The host also has introduced a version of the faux Colbert he played on “Colbert Report,” using him to crack biting political jokes. Colbert told viewers that lawyers from his old company said the blowhard cable news host he had played was not his intellectual property — so he introduced “Stephen Colbert’s identical cousin.”

CBS entertainment chief Glenn Geller was asked if negotiations were underway to allow Colbert to use more of his old character. He ducked the question, saying that Colbert addressed it on his show and that he would let him speak for himself.

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JONBENET MURDER, RE-EXAMINED

Twenty years after the murder of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey, three networks are dedicating programming to the unsolved case.

CBS will air a six-part docuseries, “The Case of: JonBenet Ramsey,” the network said. Original investigators will team up with new experts to re-examine the evidence using today’s technology and forensics. They will also rebuild the crime scene, conduct interviews and offer new theories.

“The Case of: JonBenet Ramsey” premieres Sept. 18 (8:30 p.m. EDT).

Lifetime also announced Wednesday that it has started production on “Who Killed JonBenet?” The film will premiere later this fall.

Investigation Discovery announced earlier this month that it will air a three-night series, “JonBenet: An American Murder Mystery,” beginning Sept. 12 (10 p.m. EDT).

JonBenet, a child beauty queen, was found beaten and strangled in the basement of her family’s home in Boulder, Colorado, on Dec. 26, 1996.

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HOMETOWN HERO

Kevin James is happy to be back on TV and equally glad to be filming on Long Island, New York, where he grew up.

James stars in CBS’ new sitcom “Kevin Can Wait” as a police officer whose retirement brings unexpected challenges as he gets closer to his three children and fills his time with a variety of jobs. Erinn Hayes (“Childrens Hospital”) stars as his wife.

“I wanted to have something special” as a follow-up to “The King of Queens,” he said, the sitcom that aired from 1998 to 2007. He’s spent the intervening years making movies, including “Mall Cop” and “Grown Ups”.

Producing “Kevin Can Wait” at a Long Island soundstage is expensive but makes the show distinctive among the typical Los Angeles-set comedies, James said. It’s gotten a warm welcome from the community, he said.

“There’s a buzz about it that I’ve never felt before, and it’s really exciting,” he told a TV critics meeting Wednesday.

James, a Long Island-native, said the comedy makes an effort to be authentic to its location, which he said “plays like a character in the show.”

The production is using mom-and-pop pizza places that are part of his youth for location scenes and recreates some telling elements found in the homes of local police officers, James said. The set design for the family’s house includes a “little memorial” honoring victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The set also includes a cross displayed upon a wall, reflecting that many officers “rely on their faith,” he said.

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A WEATHERLY CHANGE

Michael Weatherly said playing a character based on Dr. Phil in the upcoming CBS series “Bull” was just what the doctor ordered.

Weatherly was a regular cast member on CBS’ procedural, “NCIS,” and left at the end of last season.

“I really felt happy with the resolution of the character and my time on the show,” he said. “I wasn’t burnt out (by ‘NCIS’) but I was ready for a new challenge. Sometimes a change is as good as a rest,” Weatherly said.

“Michael is a star and I think we’ve created a star part for him,” said executive producer Paul Attanasio.

“He’s just really good with dialogue and writers inherently like actors who can do lines and Michael can really do lines. He’s just got fantastic comic timing,” he said.

In “Bull,” Weatherly is Dr. Jason Bull, who works for a trial consulting firm. McGraw himself worked in that field before he became a TV personality. He advised Oprah Winfrey on her legal case when she was sued by Texas cattle ranchers for defamation. Winfrey liked his no nonsense attitude, and she put him on her show.

“Bull” premieres Sept. 20 at 9 p.m. EDT on CBS.

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MORE ‘BANG’ FOR THE BUCK

The universe is likely to keep expanding for TV’s top-rated comedy, “The Big Bang Theory.”

With cast contracts up for renewal, CBS Entertainment President Glenn Geller was asked at a TV critics meeting Wednesday whether he’s optimistic the show will continue.

“We are very confident that everyone involved wants more ‘Big Bang’ past year 10, and I know (producer) Warner Bros. will make those deals,” Geller replied.

The series about brainiacs and those who love them has an ensemble cast lead by Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki,, Kaley Cuoco and Mayim Bialik. It begins its 10th season at 8 p.m. EDT Monday, Sept. 19, then moves to its airing regular 8 p.m. EDT Thursday slot on Oct. 27.

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MORE PARENTHOOD?

Executive producer Jason Katims said he’s still open to revisiting “Parenthood,” but just not yet.

“I would see picking it up after much time has passed,” he said Wednesday following a press event to promote his upcoming CBS medical drama “Pure Genius.”

“It’s got to start with a story you’re burning to tell. When I get to that point where I say, ‘I want to tell this story about the Bravermans.’ … then I’ll go about the work of calling Peter Krause or Lauren (Graham) and everybody else and say, ‘Are you up for this?'”

When he is ready, Katims said he has “no idea” where that story will live, whether it’s Netflix or Hulu or some other streaming service or site.

“The landscape is so rapidly changing, so at that time it would be like, ‘OK, what would be the right place to do this?'”

“Parenthood” ended its six-season run on NBC in 2015. The show followed a large, close family living in the San Francisco Bay area and became known for its emotional storylines like breakups, fertility struggles, PTSD and cancer.

Stock up on tissues because Katims said “Pure Genius” will also tug at the heart.

“I like accessing the emotional center of stories and it’s become the vocabulary of how I think about story,” he said.

Katims has a track record of making television that viewers get very attached to, like his former series “Friday Night Lights.” After some initial talk of reviving that story he now says it’s not in the cards.

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LEBLANC IN GEAR

Matt LeBlanc says he’s not sure whether he will be back for more “Top Gear.”

Speaking to TV critics Wednesday at an annual summer event, LeBlanc said of returning to the heart-pumping car show, “I don’t know. I’d like to. There’s nothing officially happening yet. Follow the BBC.”

He said his favorite part about appearing on the series was “probably the travel,” adding that he traveled to places like South Africa, Morocco and Ireland.

Last month, LeBlanc’s “Top Gear” co-host, Chris Evans, quit the show after a one-season revamped format and a drop in ratings after three previous hosts left the series.

“That show has a pretty broad demographic. Everybody can relate to an automobile,” said LeBlanc, who is promoting his new CBS sitcom, “Man with a Plan,” which premieres Oct 24.

He said working on the Showtime single-camera comedy “Episodes” had “wet my appetite, and I wanted to work more. I wanted to be a part of something bigger.” He also said he likes the work schedule of a multicamera show.

In “Man with a Plan,” LeBlanc plays a dad who cares for his kids after his wife takes a full-time job.

“This is a new thing, a new character for me, a whole new side of me and I’m looking forward to it,” he said.

LeBlanc said working on the enormously popular TV sitcom “Friends” made him critical of what’s funny in TV.

“I’m a joke snob. I don’t love what you call low-hanging fruit. I don’t like that kind of stuff…. I’d rather do jokes that take a little bit of thought.”

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CBS SO WHITE?

CBS’ entertainment president defended his network’s efforts to air more inclusive series even as it introduces a fall slate of new sitcoms and dramas with white male stars.

Glen Geller, fielding a barrage of diversity-related questions at a news conference, repeatedly said the network must improve “and we know it.”

“In terms of leads, we’re definitely less diverse this year than last year, and we need to do better,” Geller said. But a number of actors of color are part of series ensembles, he said, and progress is being made in other areas.

“We also need to look behind the camera as well,” he said, with diversity at CBS to be found, for example, among more than half the directors on “Madam Secretary” and “The Odd Couple.”

Asked why the executive producers or “showrunners” on new CBS series are all white, Geller responded that the network “picked up the best shows from the pilots we made.”

CBS’ freshman shows, including an update of “MacGyver” and a show inspired by the early career of Phil McGraw, feature Michael Weatherly, Kevin James, Joel McHale and Dermot Mulroney among other white stars.

Minority characters are joining returning series. Among them: African-American actor Nelsan Ellis joining the cast of “Elementary,” Latino actor Wilmer Valderrama coming on board as an agent on “NCIS” and black actress-comedian Aisha Tyler becoming a series regular on “Criminal Minds.'”

At midseason, CBS will debut “Doubt,” starring African-American transgender actress Laverne Cox (“Orange is the New Black”) alongside Katherine Heigl, and “Training Day” with black actor Justin Cornwell starring opposite Bill Paxton.

Last year, The Associated Press did an analysis of the ethnic diversity of cast members on prime-time comedies and dramas on the major broadcast networks, comparing the results to 2000 when civil rights groups protested new programming slates nearly devoid of minorities.

CBS, the nation’s most popular network, had the most diversity 15 years ago but the least in 2015, the AP found

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CORDEN-SPEARS DUET

One day before she releases her new album later this month, Britney Spears will join James Corden for a round of Carpool Karaoke on “The Late Late Show.”

Corden’s Carpool Karaoke segments where he drives around with celebrities singing to music have become a cornerstone piece of his CBS show, with many going viral. Spears will take the passenger seat on Aug. 25, the network said Wednesday.

Past participants include first lady Michelle Obama, Justin Bieber, Jennifer Lopez and Gwen Stefani.

Spears’ new album, “Glory,” will be released Aug. 26.

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