'Chicago P.D.' to focus on police shootings, producer says

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Posted: Jan 14, 2016 2:19 AM
'Chicago P.D.' to focus on police shootings, producer says

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

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CHICAGO DRAMA:

Police shootings will be dramatic fodder for the NBC drama "Chicago P.D.," executive producer Dick Wolf said.

But the stories won't mirror specific cases, said Wolf, who became known for "ripped-from-the- headlines" episodes with his "Law & Order" shows.

"We steal the headlines, not the (story) body copy," he told a TV critics' meeting Wednesday. "Will there be an examination of police shootings under perhaps a variety of circumstances? Absolutely. We do not steer away from anything, but I am not a mouthpiece for the Chicago P.D. or any police department."

Chicago has been roiled by police shootings, including one that led to the death of a black teenager, Laquan McDonald, shot 16 times by a white officer.

Wolf said the demands and risks faced by officers working in areas with gangs or high crime rates should be appreciated.

"It's a very, very dangerous job, and mistakes are going to get made. But I defy anybody to think that in rollouts across this country that there are cops ... who sit there and say, 'I think I'm going to go out and shoot an unarmed black teenager tonight.'"

He said police departments should be "answerable to civilians on some level."

"Chicago P.D." is part of a new Wolf franchise that includes NBC's "Chicago Med" and "Chicago Fire."

"I don't think there is any way that you can overuse a city that exemplifies the best and at times the worst of America. It's an incredible canvas," he said.

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HE'S GOT FRIENDS:

A tribute to veteran director James Burrows will include stars from the many hit sitcoms he's worked on, including "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," ''Cheers," ''Frasier" and "Friends."

Burrows, who recently directed his 1,000th TV episode, will be honored in a NBC special airing Feb. 21, the network said Wednesday.

How many of the "Friends" cast will take part is uncertain, NBC executives told a TV critics' meeting.

"I'm hoping that all six of them will be in the same room at the same time, but I'm not sure of that. I'm not sure if we can logistically pull that off," NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt said.

A blockbuster comedy for NBC in its 1994 to 2004 run, "Friends" starred Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer.

Greenblatt started to say that all six would be on hand when he was interrupted by fellow NBC Entertainment executive Paul Telegdy, who said it would be "the majority."

"They will be there, in one form or another," Telegdy added.

Sean Hayes, who worked with Burrows on "Will & Grace," is the special's executive producer.

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REALITY TV

Jennifer Lopez and America Ferrera agree: Television is embracing diversity, finally.

"It's been coming for many years," Lopez, promoting her new NBC police drama "Shades of Blue," told a TV critics' meeting Wednesday. "There's no denying what society is right now. It's not just race, it's gender, it's all kind of diversity being showcased."

She cited the ethnically diverse cast of producer Shonda Rhimes' "Grey's Anatomy," the ABC drama that debuted in 2005, as the "turning point."

"There's no getting away from it anymore," Lopez said.

Ferrera, who stars in NBC's freshman comedy "Superstore," lauded the inclusiveness of her show in particular and NBC in general.

"This is the first time I've been offered a role that wasn't written" for a Latino, the former "Ugly Betty" star said at a separate Q&A session with reporters.

She was struck by the fact that the pilot script for "Superstore" didn't specify races for the series' other characters as well, she said. Her co-stars include Nico Santos, a native of the Philippines, and Colton Dunn, who is African-American.

Ferrera also praised NBC's new trio of Latina-led shows — hers, Lopez's and Eva Longoria's "Telenovela" — as "ground-breaking and history."

Perhaps it will encourage other broadcasters to "enrich their storytelling by reflecting the world we live," she said.

Her castmate, Canadian native Mark McKinney, couldn't resist adding a punchline. He said he applauded NBC and producers for "taking the great step of casting two Canadians," indicating co-star Lauren Ash.

Speaking to reporters later, Longoria said diversity needs to extend to those in decision-making jobs.

"There's a lot to be done to have more diversity in front of the camera, but it starts behind the camera."

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J-LO THROWS A PUNCH

As "American Idol" winds down in its final season, Jennifer Lopez has plenty on her plate to replace the reality singing competition.

She's playing a New York police officer on the new NBC series "Shades of Blue," and begins her Las Vegas residency at Planet Hollywood on Jan. 20. To prepare, Lopez cut back on her gym visits so her character looked more like a regular person. But she kept the eyeliner.

"Women in New York wear eyeliner," the Bronx native said.

Lopez gets to box in the series on which she serves as an executive producer.

"It's always been a good workout," she said.

Director Barry Levinson was surprised Lopez knew how to throw a punch.

"We did a number of takes because I was just fascinated, her hands were flying," he told a gathering of TV critics Wednesday.

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CUE THE MUSIC

A live production of the stage musical "Hairspray" may be coming to NBC this year.

The network hopes to air the musical in December, NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt told a TV critics' meeting Wednesday.

NBC has made something of a cottage industry with live musicals, including "The Sound of Music," ''Peter Pan" and "The Wiz."

Greenblatt, who cautioned that contracts remain to be signed for "Hairspray," said NBC has started a musical trend for other networks. Fox is airing a live production of "Grease" on Jan. 31, and ABC plans a TV movie of the big-screen film "Dirty Dancing."

Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, executive producers for NBC's previous musicals, will have the same jobs for "Hairspray," the Tony Award-winning musical from composer Marc Shaiman and his co-lyricist, Scott Wittman.

The network has scored hits — "The Wiz" and Carrie Underwood in "The Sound of Music" — and a miss with "Peter Pan."

"I don't think there's an infinite number of these that can be done, but we're still doing it," Greenblatt said.

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MORE MEYERS

Seth Meyers has a secure late-night seat at NBC for another five years.

The network announced Wednesday that the "Saturday Night Live" veteran has extended his contract to remain host of "Late Night" through February 2021.

NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt told a TV critics' meeting that Meyers' political commentary would be especially welcome in "a crazy election year."

In the ratings, Meyers' "Late Night" bests CBS' "Late Late Show" and ABC's "Nightline" in direct competition, NBC said. He took over as host of "Late Night" in February 2014.

NBC also announced that Meyers will host a 2016 New Year's Eve "Late Night" prime-time special that will highlight the year's news.

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AP Television Writer Lynn Elber and AP Writer Beth Harris contributed to this report.