Female Superheroes on TCA Day One

harley-quinn-animated-series-dc-universe-trailer-1179625-1280x0-696x390BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — She spent 12 seasons in a show about comic book-crazy nerds, so maybe it’s no surprise that the first project for Kaley Cuoco after “The Big Bang Theory” is an adult animated show about Joker henchwoman.

Cuoco produces and provides the voice for “Harley Quinn,” coming this fall for DC Universe, and maybe it was emblematic of a superhero-obsessed entertainment industry that it was the first session of the 17-day TV Critics Association summer press tour on Tuesday.

As the nation burned with the summer’s excess heat, the temperature in the Beverly Hilton ballroom plummeted as the semi-annual confab of networks and TV writers began. And over the course of the first day, with presentations also from A&E, Lifetime, Viceland, ATT’s Audience network and National Geographic, there were two different panels with distracting dogs, announcements of ambitious programming and two performances of country classics.

The day ended with an anticipated screening Damon Lindelof’s upcoming adaptation of “Watchmen” starring Don Johnson, Regina King, Jeremy Irons and Tim Blake Nelson which HBO expressly asked writers not to write about (it was only prep for their Wednesday afternoon session).

So comics and graphic novels bookended the day.

But maybe not in the way they had previously been presented.

“Batman, over here, is a real buzzkill. Just a wet blanket,” says executive producer Patrick Schumacher, referring to Diedrich Bader, who voices the Caped Crusader. “And Superman is a guy who tells dad jokes.”

The series, which debuts this fall, also features the voices of Lake Bell, Alan Tudyk, Tony Hale, Ron Funches, J.B. Smoove and Wanda Sykes.

Of the canine series, A&E’s “America’s Top Dog” will recruit K9 “fan favorites” from its “Live PD” alongside “civilian dogs” on an “American Ninja Warrior”-style obstacle course. The network also said it would present a four-part documentary on Garth Brooks. But it will also add to the paranormal glut by reviving its “Ghost Hunters” and “Psychic Kids” Aug. 21.

There was bigger news from its sister network Lifetime, which will follow its consequential “Surviving R. Kelly” series with the followup “Surviving R. Kelly” as well as shifting its target to the recently indicted financier in “Surviving Jeffrey Epstein.”

Not that they’re entirely taking the moral high ground, they’re bringing out a handful of movie adaptations of V.C. Andrews’ incest series this summer, starting with “Heaven” July 27.

The morning’s high point was a Lifetime session for the fall bio film “Patsy & Loretta” starring Broadway stars Megan Hilty and Jesse Mueller (“Beautiful”) as the country legends Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn respectively.

It’s directed by Callie Khouri of “Nashville” and features the vocals of both stars. Hilly says she still recalls fondly on her old NBC series “Smash” — “I miss it every day.” But, she added, “it is a breath of fresh air to work on something that shows the wonderful aspects of female friendship.”

She closed the session using her lower range to sing Cline’s “Walking After Midnight”; Mueller handled Lynn’s “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl.”

Lifetime also announced it would have a bio-pic (and documentary) about talk show host Wendy Williams, and a ripped-from-the-headlines movie with the working title “College Admissions Scandal.”

But National Geographic’s barrage of panels at the day’s end was capped by some news about a previous generation’s female superhero, when renown explorer Robert Ballard,who previously found the Titanic, announced his next project – finding the remains and plane wreckage of Amelia Earhart,  the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, who went missing in 1937 while attempting to circumnavigate the Earth.

“I’m not in the business of failing,” said Ballard, who also found the Bismarck, the USS Yorktown and PT-109. “I’ve been at this 60 years, 156 expeditions under my belt.”

In addition he will be aided by advances in technology.  “Compared to the technology I had when I found the Titanic, it was like two cans and a string compared to what we have right now.”

They will focus on Nikumaroro Island in the western Pacific Ocean. While there is no guarantee of what they’ll find in the month-long investigation, there is an airdate for the ensuing two-hour special, “Expedition Amelia,” on Oct. 20.

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