Top talent and a certain team of teenage turtles were out in full force at Viacom Media Networks’ panel presentation at the 2012 Summer Television Critics Association press tour in L.A. The critics were given a glimpse into the fall lineup, which includes a British import (MTV’s The Inbetweeners), a new original late-night series (BET’s Don’t Sleep!) and Nickelodeon’s highly anticipated animated reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Centric started the morning with some serious star power, courtesy of Apollo Live, a new reality series that puts a fresh spin on the classic variety show. Academy Award winner and Apollo Live executive producer Jamie Foxx shared stories of getting booed off the stage back in the day at the iconic Harlem venue. The Grammy-winning “Empress of Soul” herself, Gladys Knight, joined Foxx on stage, along with fellow Apollo Live judges Doug E. Fresh and Michael Bivins. Knight spoke passionately about the series: “It’s raw, it’s live and you’ve got to have enough heart to step on that stage.”
Next up was the new late-night series Don’t Sleep!, premiering Oct. 1 on BET. Host T.J. Holmes promised the audience that no topic or guest is off limits – as long as it resonates with BET’s core audience. For example, the former CNN anchor is up for talking politics with Mitt Romney but also pop culture with a real housewife of Atlanta.
The mood took an emotional turn during Logo’s The Baby Wait panel. This docu-series from veteran producers Tony DiSanto and Liz Gateley explores the heart-wrenching process behind childbirth and adoption, as captured through the eyes of birth mother Genavieve Diggs and adoptive parents Mark Krieger and Paul Siebold.
VH1 then offered a welcome pick-me-up with upcoming comedy series Miss You Much, which taps into 90s and early 00s nostalgia. Host Catherine Reitman — of the Reitman clan that includes father Ivan and brother Jason — brings the perfect mix of humor and, by her own admission, “steady creepiness” as she tracks down and catches up with TV, movie and pop stars from the last 20 years. EVP of Original Programming and Development Jeff Olde said it’s a perfect fit for VH1’s audience of “adultsters” who grew up on Beverly Hills 90201, Saved by the Bell and Full House. What did happen to Kimmy Gibbler anyway?
MTV brought the muscle with four panels, beginning with new scripted comedy series The Inbetweeners. Based on the critically acclaimed British series of the same name, the show centers on four high school buddies hanging from neither the top nor button rung of the social ladder, but somewhere in the middle. Head of Programming David Janollari has high hopes for the show’s “universal relatability and heart.” It helps that most of the cast members were self-described “inbetweeners” themselves in high school.
Next up was Catfish: The TV Show, based on filmmaker Yaniv “Nev” Schulman’s 2010 documentary about falling in love online. Schulman returns for MTV’s small screen adaptation with fellow filmmaker Max Joseph to quest around the country telling stories of what happens when online daters pursue their relationships IRL. (That’s “in real life,” for those of us who don’t live their lives online.) Executive Producer Tom Forman promises that Catfish is “as close to a pure documentary as reality TV is.” Also coming to MTV is Underemployed, a new scripted comedic drama from Emmy-nominated producer Craig Wright. Wright was joined on-stage by the beautiful young cast who portray a group of post-college grads as they grapple with real jobs, real mistakes and real consequences in their newfound adult lives. Last up was the recently premiered reality series WakeBrothers, which combines the drama of two extreme sports: wakeboarding and sibling rivalry. Professionally and personally competitive brothers Phil and Bob Soven took the stage to talk about, well, wakeboarding and sibling rivalry.
Nick at Nite previewed upcoming comedy series See Dad Run, starring and executive produced by former teen idol and veteran sitcom actor Scott Baio. Fun fact: See Dad Run shoots on the original Happy Days set.
Nickelodeon wrapped the three-and-a-half-hour VMN session by paneling the upcoming reboot of the beloved Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise. The show’s voice actors — who were accompanied onstage by their costumed characters — talked about revamping the show for today’s audience while remaining true to its roots. The critics kept the questions coming for the cast: Jason Biggs as Leonardo, Sean Astin as Raphael, Rob Paulsen (the original voice of Raphael) as Donatello, Greg Cipes as Michelangelo and Mae Whitman as April. While Paulsen described the new TMNT as “fans of the show making the show for fans,” it was Nickelodeon’s President of Animation Brown Johnson who summed things up best: It’s “ninj-awesome.”