ABC and Freeform at TCA: Betty the Chihuahua of "Will Trent" Steals the Show

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Cover image for  article: ABC and Freeform at TCA: Betty the Chihuahua of "Will Trent" Steals the Show

Pasadena, CA: It was a content-packed third day for critics at the Television Critics Association Winter 2023 Press Tour, as DGE and Disney+ presented the first of its three days, starting with panels for ABC and Freeform. On the ABC side of the day, DGE President Craig Erwich was pleased to address a crowded room for his opening remarks, praising the network's Tuesday-night line-up. "We launched our new two-hour block of The Rookie and The Rookie: Feds, followed by the premiere of our new drama Will Trent," he said. "I'm proud to say ABC was No.1 for the night, with The Rookie and The Rookie: Feds each delivering season highs.

"Will Trent is ABC's highest-rated new drama premiere this season," he continued. "It's hard to stand out in a world of procedurals, but you know when you have something special, and this show is it. The storytelling stands shoulder-to-shoulder with anything that's on television, and we're happy to see it get the credit it deserves. It has an incredible writing and producing team with an excellent cast, and let's not forget our star Betty the Chihuahua! I just got a selfie with her backstage, so, finally, my kids will be impressed." (More on Betty later).

Erwich was then interrupted by a special announcement from Lisa Ann Walter, in character as Melissa Schemmenti of Abbott Elementary, whose voice boomed through the room exclaiming her disappointment for not being invited. "I heard there was a room full of people gathering," she said. "So, what, I don't get an invite? Freaking unbelievable!" She then announced the show's season three renewal as an army of pages entered the room armed with school snack goodie bags.

Next up was a panel for The Company You Keep, a new drama executive produced by Jon Chu, premiering Sunday, Feb 19. This Is Us star Milo Ventimiglia plays Charlie, a con man who becomes involved with CIA officer Emma (Catherine Haena Kim). "This one rose to the top very fast," he said of quickly accepting the series after This Is Us ended. "It was an early piece of development for my company that we got on board by invitation of Jon Chu. I wasn't so concerned with what my next project was. For me, it was a haircut and a shave, and here I go."

Cast members of General Hospital were on hand to celebrate its landmark 60th anniversary on April 1. After producing over 15 thousand episodes (that's roughly 250 episodes per year) and amassing 15 Daytime Emmy wins for Outstanding Daytime Drama, the celebration is well-deserved. The panel, which included a spectrum of cast members, gave star Genie Francis a chance to reflect on her longtime association with the show and how the "Luke and Laura" wedding storyline from 1981 resonates with her some 40-plus years later. "It’s still sinking in how big that was," she reflected. "And that we are still talking about it now and celebrating the show's 60th anniversary. Physically [the wedding day] was an uncomfortable day with heels and veil, but then I started to have fun." She also reflected on her character's journey on the show. "I'm very fortunate to have the Laura of today," she said. "She was a victim, and now she is empowered and a good role model for women. I love my Laura of today." (At present, Laura is mayor of the city she calls home.) Watch for more past familiar faces dropping into Port Charles the week of April 3, as they attend the Annual Nurses Ball.

Will Trent star Ramón Rodríguez stole the day by appearing on stage with his canine co-star Betty, who proved a big hit with critics. Sitting on his lap throughout the proceedings, she promptly curled up and took a nap. "She is a bonafide pro!" he beamed. "She is like this on set, and we lucked out as she is amazing." More amazing was the fact that Betty (real Name Belly) was on hand for photo ops with anyone that wanted one, where she remained the consummate professional.

Not Dead Yet, set to premiere on Wednesday, February 8, is a delightful new single-camera comedy starring and executive produced by former Jane the Virgin star Gina Rodriguez. Lauren Ash of Superstore, who also stars, was flattered that her make-over to portray Lexi, the owner of a newspaper and Nell's (Rodriguez) boss, made her unrecognizable. "I was in khaki pants that were very ill-fitting for six years," she laughed. "It was time to get out the Dolce & Gabbana." The obvious bond the cast has formed was evident, as after praising one another, they all broke into song with The Golden Girls theme "Thank-you for Being a Friend" to close their lively panel.

Select cast members from A Million Little Things, which draws to its close after five years of tears and trauma, were there to bid farewell. The show comes full circle in its final season, as Gary (James Roday Rodriguez) has his friends rally around him during his cancer journey, as opposed to him rallying around each of them following the suicide of their friend John (Ron Livingston) in the show's pilot.

Closing the day was Freeform. Tara Duncan, President Freeform and ONYX Collective opened their session by admitting she was pleased to be there in person, "after joining the network two years ago and doing everything from my living room." A message from producer Ryan Seacrest (from the set of American Idol ) announced the new Hitchcockian thriller The Watchful Eye. While the show appears skewed to the Pretty Little Liars demographic, series star Mariel Molino explained why the Hitchcock reference was apt. "I think that it's the suspense, the eeriness and the cinematic aspect of the show," she shared. "Hitchcockian thrillers are usually very cinematic, full of suspense and crime-driven."

Finally, the panel for the second season of Freeform's highest-rated series in its history, Cruel Summer took to the stage. With a whole new cast, and a whole new mystery, it was revealed that show will now be an anthology series and would also be taking place over three timelines. "We found it hard using characters from the first season," revealed series executive producer Jessica Biel of the format amendment. "We told a complete story in the first season, and people loved those characters, so an anthology just made sense." Viewers should look for an homage to season one, as this new installment contains easter eggs pertaining to the first.

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