The Watchman: truTV Tackles Student Loans, Hulu’s ‘Harlots’ Hits on High Society

Paid Off With Michael Torpey, a game show with humor, sees contestants compete to see who gets their student loans paid off. Three college grads, saddled with serious debt, play the game. It debuts July 10 on truTV.

Student loans are a profound issue for host Torpey. He did not have to take out college loans, which enabled him to study theater, and pursue acting after college, without crippling debt to contend with. “All I had to worry about was rent and eating,” he said.

Torpey landed a major commercial, for Hanes, where he discussed underwear with Michael Jordan. Its windfall enabled him to help pay off his girlfriend’s student debt, which brought tears to her eyes. “That experience stuck with me,” Torpey said.

His acting career moved onto a stint as corrections officer Thomas Humphrey on Orange Is the New Black (“an absolute piece of shit,” Torpey said of his character), before he landed the host role on Paid Off. “I’ve gained a ton of respect for people who host game shows,” he said.

On July 11, season two of Harlots starts on Hulu. Executive producer Moira Buffini said she’s “absolutely thrilled” with how the first season landed. “It being a British costume drama about the sex trade, I had no idea how it would go down at all,” she said. “People totally got it.”

Harlots is set in Georgian London. Harris’s List of Covent Garden Ladies, essentially a guide book about local prostitutes, inspired the series. “We said, let’s tell the stories of society through the eyes of harlots,” Buffini said.

The “outrageous” Georgians almost write their own lines, Buffini said. “They’re fantastically good characters to write because they don’t hold back.”

Liv Tyler comes on board as aristocrat Lady Isabella Fitzwilliam.

The Georgian-era yarns are timely these days. “We tell stories about now,” Buffini said, “through the lens of the 18th century.”

On a lighter note, Fancy Nancy starts on Disney Junior July 13. Six-year-old Nancy Clancy is the show’s centerpiece. “She has a very specific vision of what she wants the world to be,” Krista Tucker, who developed the series, said. “She wants the world to be fancy.”

Fancy Nancy has big names in the cast. George Wendt plays Nancy’s grandfather, Alyson Hannigan voices her mother and Christine Baranski is her neighbor, Mrs. Devine. Mia Sinclair Jenness voices Nancy.

Tucker said the relatable nature of the Fancy Nancy stories appealed to the cast. “They read the scripts and it resonated with them,” she said.

One memorable scene sees Nancy get a vanity from her deceased grandmother. She looks in its mirror — and glimpses her potential. “It’s a very heartfelt moment,” Tucker said.

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.