As the virtual Television Critics Association 2022 winter press tour nears its end, the news is good – yay, “Atlanta” is finally coming back! And a little bittersweet – darn, “Atlanta” will end with Season 4.
And there’s more to report, as Donald Glover and other members of the “Atlanta” team discussed the show; stars of “This Is Us” sang each other’s praises as that hit airs its final season; and newcomers and veterans of “Law & Order” discussed reviving the series that launched a franchise.
Here are some highlights from recent TCA sessions.
“Atlanta” returns: One of TV’s most imaginative, artful series last aired a new episode in May 2018. After that looooong absence, caused in part by COVID-19-related production delays, the show will return with Season 3 March 24 on FX. For the first time, episodes from the current season will be available to stream the following day on Hulu. There’s even more “Atlanta” heading our way, as Season 4 will premiere this fall.
Season 3 of the show will take place almost entirely in Europe, with Earn (Donald Glover), Alfred/”Paper Boi” (Brian Tyree Henry), Darius (LaKeith Stanfield), and Van (Zazie Beetz) navigating the spotlight of being on tour while also feeling like outsiders.
A virtual TCA panel brought together Glover (who created the show, and is a writer, director and executive producer), his brother Stephen Glover (executive producer and writer), Hiro Murai (executive producer and director), Stefani Robinson (executive producer and writer), and actors Brian Tyree Henry and Zazie Beetz.
Asked about the gap between the past season and the upcoming one, both Donald and Stephen Glover referred to the real-world events that have occurred, and have heightened awareness of racial issues.
“We wrote Season 3 in what? The fall of 2019. And we were super excited about it,” said Stephen Glover. “And I remember we thought we were going to start shooting it, and COVID happened right as we were about to. So, time went on, but I mean, you know, it was crazy. There was so much stuff that we had talked about that was happening in the world.”
Donald Glover said he’s going to try to get FX to put a disclaimer before the Season 3 episodes, indicating they were written in 2019. “A lot of this stuff is going to seem like a parody of stuff that happened, but we actually prophesied most of this…Like, the world is extremely predictable. We…really just knew how a lot of this stuff was going to pan out, so I just want people to know.”
Glover said that filming in Europe “with COVID happening,” and no tourists around, left the “Atlanta” crew feeling “completely by ourselves, and you don’t really get to get that a lot. We really had a blast being alone,” including being able to film in locations that ordinarily might have been difficult to access, including museums.
The panelists also recalled an experience in London that was less likely to show up in a tourism magazine, and which demonstrated how Black people, no matter how successful they may be, encounter negative stereotypes.
Stephen Glover recalled an experience early in the “Atlanta” cast and crew stay in London. “We were like, ‘We’ll grab a drink around the corner.’ We walked to this bar right around the corner from the house. They are closed. We were like, ‘Oh, man. We missed this,’ or whatever.”
Then, Glover went on, a group of people approached and “maybe one of them kind of noticed Donald, or recognizes him.” After a bit of conversation, Glover said, one of the men in the group at first made a comment about, “Oh, is this bar open?” and then says, “‘You guys can get in, because you guys all carry hammers.’ Mind you, all of the writers on ‘Atlanta’ are Black. So, he’s making a reference that we all have hammers, and we can just break into that place, which we kind of ignored.”
It took a few minutes to register how insulting the comment was, Robinson said. Stephen Glover went on to say that one of the women in the group was talking to the “Atlanta” crew, and, after a minute, one of the men in the London group “just runs back down the street, and grabs her, and throws her over his shoulder, and he’s like, ‘Run. They are going to rape you.’”
Donald Glover said, “And we are just, like, standing there, like, ‘What just happened?’”
Sterling K. Brown as Randall and Susan Kelechi Watson as Beth in “This Is Us.” (Photo: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)Ron Batzdorff/NBC
“This Is Us” brings the warmth: The TV series ” This Is Us” is known for evoking emotion, and that was true of the virtual TCA panel for the show’s sixth and final season. The participants — Milo Ventimiglia (who plays Jack Pearson), Mandy Moore (Rebecca Pearon), Sterling K. Brown (Randall Pearson), Justin Hartley (Kevin Pearson), Susan Kelechi Watson (Beth Pearson), Jon Huertas (Miguel Rivas) and creator and executive producer Dan Fogelman – went out of their way to praise each other.
Asked if he knew from the beginning that “This Is Us” would be so popular, Ventimiglia said, “Yes, I knew. I had a lot of confidence in this group of fine and talented actors. I had a lot of confidence in Dan Fogelman and the fine and talented writers that he assembled. We’ve got a wonderful crew, and we have wonderful people who are incredibly talented, that are doing their best in coming together.”
Then Fogelman and fellow castmates singled out Moore for her performance of a monologue in Season 6, in which Rebecca talks about her children, and the future.
Moore, Brown said, has played the same character “from about 16 to, you know, 80-something, and without batting an eyelash, being the youngest member of our cast, but seamlessly going through time over the past six years. She’s a killer, man, and that scene really, really touched me.”
“Law & Order” returns after more than 10 years away: Don’t call it a comeback, just a continuation. “Law & Order,” the procedural that launched such spinoffs as “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” was canceled in 2010. When it returns on Thursday, Feb. 24, the show is beginning Season 21, not premiering as some fancy, newfangled reboot.
That’s not to say the show won’t have new characters, however. Joining returning veterans Sam Waterston and Anthony Anderson are Hugh Dancy, Camryn Manheim, Jeffrey Donovan and Odelya Halevi.
“Law & Order” will still begin with a crime, and an investigation, followed by the prosecution. But the show will also take into account evolving attitudes about crime, punishment, policing and the legal system, according to Rick Eid, executive producer, writer and showrunner.
“I think we’re going to try our best to reflect the world we live in now,” Eid said. “I mean, ‘Law & Order’s been around for a long time, but 2022 is a unique moment in time, and our stories reflect what’s happening in society.”
“Law & Order” will return at 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 24, on NBC.
More of our coverage:
‘Sanditon’ returns, Ken Burns takes on Ben Franklin, and more news from the 2022 winter TV press tour
A ‘Happy Face Killer’ series, ‘1883,’ ‘Frasier’ revival: News from the 2022 winter TV press tour
‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ Jimmy Kimmel, ‘Black-ish,’ ‘Pam & Tommy’: Updates from the 2022 winter TV press tour
— Kristi Turnquist