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TCA16: Veteran Actors: TV Golden Age Not All Bright

Pasadena, Calif. -- Television may be in its Golden Age given the multitude of quality programming, but veteran actors speaking Tuesday at the Television Critics Association Winter tour said content on the small screen is far from perfect.

Cable TV outlets  -- and to a certain extent digital streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon – have opened up numerous opportunities for writers with diverse backgrounds and stories to create more quality shows and series than ever before, according to veteran producer Norman Lear.

Lear, the producer of such classic series as All In The Family and The Jeffersons, who will make a guest appearance on Ovation’s new talk show Rough Draft with Reza Aslan, added that he has a hard time keeping up with all the great shows.

“I live a life, and probably you all do, where people are constantly saying, `You mean you haven’t seen …?’ and they mention a show that’s been on for 10 years,” he said.

But Lear also cautioned that today’s TV environment is too politically correct to fully grasp the complexities of today’s world. “I don’t think the narrow point of view serves the American people well,” he said. “I don’t think the bumper sticker quality of news and discussion helps us understand.”

Roles for women in today’s TV environment have also expanded to include superheroes like CBS’ Supergirl, but Lindsay Wagner -- star of the 1970s series The Bionic Woman -- says she’s concerned about whether those characters are sending the right message.

“I am concerned when I see … that a lot of the modern day ideas of a female superhero is just yesterday’s male hero in some tights and maybe a pushup bra,” said Wagner, who is starring in UP network’s original movie Love Finds You In Valentine.

“The whole point of having a woman in a leadership position of any kind is to hopefully bring the feminine wisdom to whatever they are attempting to do, the feminine aspect of intelligence,” she added.

Other highlights from Tuesday’s TCA panel sessions:

--ESPN will ramp up its 30 For 30 series of documentaries with an five- part series chronicling the life and ultimate downfall of O.J. Simpson, according to ESPN senior vice president and executive producer Connor Schell. The development of the series -- which will air on ESPN in June after first airing later this month at the Sundance Film Festival -- comes amid FX’s February scripted series about the Simpson’s murder trial dubbed The People V. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.

Schell said OJ: Made In America provides additional context about what outside racial and social-economic issues impacted Simpson's life as well as his infamous murder trial.

“One of the things that [producer Ezra Edelman] does masterfully here is give you context with this story,” he said. “Over the five parts, you really understand the social history of the City of Los Angeles in the period that we’re talking about, the relationship between the black community in L.A. and the police department. The context that Ezra is able to provide allows you to view the events of 1994 through an entirely new lens, and I think it’s what makes this film that he’s created really extraordinary.”

--Outdoor Sportsman Group networks CEO Jim Liberatore defended the network’s hunting-themed programming from critics who questioned whether the network glorifies the killing of animals. The network last month debuted Carter’s W.A.R., which follows hunter/conservationist Ivan Carter as he looks to protect Africa’s wildlife from poachers.

“Hunters and poachers are two completely different animals ... but hunting and conservation are the same. If you understand the principles of game management, you understand what is going to happen if there isn’t hunting managing the number of animals versus the number of people in these African nations,” Liberatore said. “It’s easy to think that we’re killing endangered species. Hunters are not killing endangered species.”

Keep up with all the happenings from the TCA tour at our TCA news site.