TCA: CBS’s ‘Battle Creek’ Q&A Creates Its Own Drama

Vince Gilligan wrote the pilot for CBS’s new cop drama Battle Creek so long ago – 12 years – that he can’t remember why he decided to call it Battle Creek. Star Josh Duhamel reminded Gilligan he’d told him that when he was a kid he was eating breakfast cereal and saw the name on the side of the box.

Gilligan let it stand, adding, “I’m fascinated by the name — it’s got ‘Battle’ and yet it’s cereal.”

Duhamel plays FBI agent Milton Chamberlain, who teams up in the series with Detective Russ Agnew (Dean Winters) to clean up the semi-mean streets of Battle Creek, Mich.

TCA New Logo GridCBS is selling Battle Creek to viewers as the Next Big Series from the creator of Breaking Bad. Gilligan is selling it as the pilot he wrote 12 years ago and does not have time to bring to series at CBS because of his commitment on his AMC Breaking Bad spinoff, Better Call Saul. He said as much last week when he appeared at the tour to plug the spinoff.  Today’s version went like this: “I’m sorry I’m not a bigger part of [Battle Creek] as I would like to be because of my duties on Better Call Saul,” adding, “I’m lucky to be up here on this stage” with the cast and exec producers, “who do a great job.”

Critics seemed disappointed too, which, in turn, seemed to gnaw at David Shore during the show’s Q&A. Shore, creator of Fox hit House, is Battle Creek’s showrunner.

When one TV critic attempted to draw Shore into a discussion of his process, writer to writer, complimenting him for creating characters whose work relation seemed “not forced” though “mutually complicated,” and asked Shore to elaborate,  Shore responded, “I hear that question and go, ‘Are you going to write it well or write it poorly?’” adding, “I will do my best to make it natural.”

Someone finally asked Gilligan how it came about that he got hooked up with Shore on this project. “I was visiting a castle in Scotland last year,” he began.

“It happened to be my castle,” Shore interrupted. Critics laughed.

Anyway, as Gilligan tells it, someone told him, “You remember Battle Creek you wrote 12 year ago? CBS is interested in revisiting and David Shore is interested in working on it. And I said ‘Oh, my God’ because House is a great show and David is a great writer!”

But Shore said it went like this: “Sony called up and said, ‘Vince Gilligan desperately wants to work with you…I read it. Loved the character and was flattered Vince was interesting in having me.”

When one critic said he liked that “no one”  decided to “change the Magnum reference” in the pilot which, the critic said,  makes it a “show that feels somewhat out of time,” Shore responded the original pilot script felt like it was 30 years old, and added, “There’s a nostalgia in Vince that comes through.”

Another TV critic asked how he intended to “keep that Vince Gilligan vibe” of the pilot on the series.

“I think that’s a fool’s errand,  to try to replicate Breaking Bad,” Shore responded pointedly. “House is very different than Breaking Bad, but I think we have a similar sensibility. But I think for me to replicate his voice would be foolish.”

Later, when Winters was asked how he came to be part of the show, despite being a diehard New Yorker, he responded that when he heard it was a Gilligan and Shore project, and included other exec producers and cast whose work he admired, he signed on.

“It’s just not true,” Shore said. According to Shore, Winters told him he really liked the script and was excited about working with the cast and exec producers “but you were hesitant.”

“I was hesitant about leaving New York,” Winters said.

“You were hesitant about doing a network show,” Shore corrected. Critics sat up and paid attention, being unused to a showrunner contradicting his star — twice.

“I had a terrible experience” in the past, Winters admitted.

Later, the other actors on stage were asked to elaborate how thrilled they were at being on a Gilligan and Shore show, and did it not seem like they’d won the lottery.

“I want to hear the answer,” Shore said, before talking about the casting process.

The actors said they were thrilled.

“Now I feel like an asshole,” said Shore.



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