Beverly Hills, Calif. • Six months after an appearance before the Television Critics Association that was, um, difficult, BYUtv returned to the scene of the, um, difficulties.
And things went considerably better.
Back in February, BYUtv executives as well as the cast and producers of “Dwight in Shining Armor” were grilled by members of the TCA — and some of those critics used words like “homophobic,” “racist” and “sexist” to describe the the channel’s owner, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And, by extension, the people appearing before them.
(It seemed lost on at least some of those in that room that the stars of “Dwight” are not Latter-day Saints.)
And on Twitter, things were even more confrontational, with one critic tweeting out anti-LDS screeds that would have been unacceptable had the target been, say, Jews or Muslims. That particular critic was not in attendance at BYUtv’s summer press tour session, instead tweeting that “someone else will have to ask BYUTV the tough questions in my absence! GOOD LUCK, FRIENDOS!”
But it didn’t happen. No questions about the church’s policies toward LGBTQ people. No questions about racism or sexism.
The closest we came to snark on Twitter was one TCA member who seemed to relish the prospect of more controversy. “Wonder how contentious we’re feeling today?” he tweeted before the session; during the session, he tweeted, “The cast of BYUtv’s #StudioC says their comedy is ‘inclusive.’ Which is ... an interesting word to use.”
But not an inaccurate word. BYUtv introduced seven members of the new cast of its sketch comedy show “Studio C,” including four people of color and three women.
Hey, if we’re going to criticize BYUtv when it’s not diverse, then we have to give it credit when it is, right?
Rather than attack panelists for the church’s policies, critics asked questions about “Studio C,” which BYUtv managing director Michael Dunn called “our marquee franchise series.”
(Season 10, which features an entirely new cast and a new showrunner, is scheduled to premiere on Sept. 30. BYUtv has already ordered an 11th season.)
Which is not to say that there wasn’t a certain degree of skepticism in the questions. For example, the “Studio C” actors and new executive producer Jim O’Doherty were asked what subjects are “banned because you want to stay on the nice side of comedy.” But they were also asked if, because they have “to work within a box of what was allowable,” they found “creative ways” around that, which “ended up with a funnier way of doing something.”
The execs and the cast and producers of “Dwight in Shining Armor” weren’t served up any softballs like that back in February.
Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t like a lovefest between television critics and BYUtv suddenly broke out. I heard snarky comments in the room from people who didn’t grab a microphone and ask snarky questions.
But compared to that, um, difficult session at the Winter Press Tour, the Summer Press Tour session was a walk in the park for BYUtv. And the channel’s executives were visibly relieved after it ended.
The channel is never going to be in the middle of the entertainment mainstream. There are always going to be questions about its owners.
But it’s easier to answer questions when you’re not being asked to answer for the church’s long history of antagonism toward the LGBTQ community.