Mueller, Mueller and more Mueller...
Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Wednesday, July 24th, 2019. I'm writing this from the Twin Cities, where AllYourScreens HQ is running on stale coffee & English muffins.
It's not hyperbole to say that today will bring one of the pivotal political moments of 2019. Former special counsel Robert Mueller is testifying in front of two Congressional committees on Wednesday, 124 days after he turned his official report to the Department of Justice.
The morning session is in front of the House Judiciary Committee and is set to begin at 8:30 a.m. ET. The session is expected to last about three hours. The afternoon session is in front of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. That session is set to being at Noon and is expected to last somewhere between two and three hours.
As you might expect, these hearings are garnering extensive television coverage. CSPAN will have four cameras in the hearings and on the cable news channel side, CNN, Fox News and MSNBC will all have day-long live coverage. But the broadcast networks are also blowing out their normal daytime schedule in order to provide their own coverage.
George Stephanopoulous will anchor ABC's coverage, which begins at 8:30. David Muir will be at the Capitol providing additional coverage. CBS begins its coverage at about 8:15, with Norah O'Donnell anchoring. Fox stations will coverage provided by Fox News Channel and NBC's coverage begins at 8:15, anchored by the team of Lester Holt, Savannah Guthrie and Chuck Todd.
SO WHAT SHOULD YOU EXPECT?
In his brief press conference, Mueller stated that if he were called in front of Congress to testify, he planned on sticking to the four corners of what was included in his team's report to the DOJ. And while both Democrats and Republicans will be asking questions they hope will encourage him to talk about matters outside the report, most observers seem to think that's unlikely.
WHAT'S THE UPSIDE FOR BOTH SIDES?
The Democrats seem to have developed a two-pronged approach to Mueller's testimony. They'll ask some questions they hope will provide a bit more clarity about things such as other investigations of the President and his team that were mentioned, but not included in the final report. But the bottom line is that if all Mueller does is reiterate what’s in his report, it will provide some camera-ready moments that Democrats can use to persuade the public that an impeachment investigation is warranted.
The Republicans have a tougher challenge. For the most part, they seem to be targeting their questions on efforts to prove Mueller and his team were "out to get" President Trump. And many of Trump's biggest supporters want Republican legislators to press Mueller on a number of their pet theories. Sean Hannity spent a fair amount of his television show on Tuesday going over the list of questions he'd ask and they cover a wide range of topics, none of which are covered in the so-called "Mueller Report":
"When did you become aware that your team was only made up of big-time Democratic supporters and zero Republicans?"
"Is it fair to say, Mr. Mueller, that you’re friends with, Jim Comey? Were you angry at his firing, Mr. Mueller?"
"If Russia collusion was your mandate, how is it possible you didn’t investigate campaign opp research bought and paid for by Hillary Clinton, filled with Russian lies?… Why not at least refer to another office for further investigation, like you did with Cohen and taxi medallions?"
"If you have classified top secret information on a private server, does that violate the Espionage Act?"
"Does the president have the authority under article two to fire an FBI director? Or even you? Did he not have the constitutional authority to fire you, Mr. Mueller, if he decided to do so?"
"Mr. Mueller, when did you first hear about the phony Clinton bought and paid for Russian dossier full of Russian lies? When did you first hear about it it?"
"What about your treatment and your team’s treatment of lieutenant general Michael Flynn? Well, General Flynn served this country. He was a combat veteran. 33 years. Apparently he has been cooperating with your office for a period of time. Is that correct, sir? He pled guilty to lying, but the FBI agents interviewing him, he didn’t think they lied. Right?… Do you believe in Miranda rights? Do you think it’s a right way to treat a 33-year veteran of this country, sir? Would you treat a veteran like that?"
The problem for Republicans is that even in the best of circumstances, Mueller is unlikely to answer a number of these "when did you stop beating your wife?" type questions. So the public reaction to this type of questioning should be key to how impeachment efforts will proceed in the coming weeks.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Other than the obvious "holy crap, he just revealed something outside the scopes of the Report!" moments, there are a lot of places where everyone could be surprised. Mueller is reading a statement ahead of his testimony to both committees and he hasn't shared the contents with either the committees or the Department of Justice ahead of time. What he says in those statements will likely set the tone for the remainder of the hearings.
While Mueller has stated that he won't testify to anything that isn't in the report itself, Democrats hope to push him on one specific exception. In numerous interviews, Attorney General Barr has argued the Special Counsel could have recommended an indictment of President Trump if he felt it was warranted. Which is a very different take of the issue than the way it's outlined in Mueller's report. Democrats plan to push Mueller on his reaction to Barr's comments and hope to convince him the Attorney General's public proclamations open up the door for Mueller to talk about his thoughts on the same subject.
If Republicans do press Mueller on a range on non-Trump related subjects, it's difficult to see what they accomplish other than getting some footage of the ex-special counsel refusing to answer their off-topic questions. And the worst case scenario is that one of the Republicans asks the Hannity-suggested question "At what point in your investigation did you realize there was no collusion or conspiracy? Why did the investigation continue after you learned the fundamental truth of what you are investigating?" Only to have Mueller respond with some variation of "No, the report did not find there was no collusion or conspiracy. In fact, it found the opposite."
The last thing to watch for is the role played by Aaron Zebley, Robert Mueller's chief of staff at the FBI and the number two man in the special counsel investigation. Late Tuesday evening it was announced Zebley would be part of both hearings on Wednesday and while his exact role isn't clear, it appears he will be advising Mueller in some role in the morning judiciary hearing. But he'll apparently be sworn in to testify in the afternoon hearing in front of the House Intelligence Committee. What does all of this mean? Like just about every detail of Wednesday's hearings, no one outside Mueller and his close associates seem to know for sure.
And we'll back with regular television news in tomorrow's newsletter....
TOO MUCH TV REALLY IS A THING
This newsletter is called "Too Much TV" because....well, it's hard to keep track of all the new television premiering everyday. To help you prioritize your viewing, click here to see our list of more than 400 upcoming television premieres, movies and finales. You'll find listings from more than 70 networks, as well as streaming services and web shows.
And if you're a glutton for punishment (or just want to know what you've missed), check out this list of all the shows that have premiered so far in 2019.
WHAT'S NEW ON TV TONIGHT:
Here's a rundown of the modest amount of television premiering tonight:
1) Ancient Skies (PBS)
In three, hour-long episodes, "Ancient Skies" will provide a tantalizing look at humankind’s understanding of our place in the cosmos, including when imagination alone allowed us to slip to the surly bonds of Earth, until the advent of telescopes and eventually a space rocket opened new windows into the universe and beyond. Through artifacts, stunning locations and expert contributions, the series showcases the engineering brilliance of the ancients and discovers how they combined centuries of knowledge and experimentation to explore the skies above: vast clocks, intricate calendars and enormous structures aligned with celestial events, and the first computer, all following the movements of the cosmos with extraordinary accuracy.
2) Nova: The Planets (PBS)
In five one-hour episodes, "The Planets" combines dazzling CGI imagery, the latest planetary science research, and extraordinary footage captured by orbiters, landers, and rovers to reveal the beauty and grandeur of each planet like never before. The series treats viewers to an unimaginable, up-close look at awe-inspiring sights across the solar system--from haunting landscapes, to colossal weather systems, to strange environments of fantastic scale. Each planet has a fascinating story; from the rocky inner worlds--Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars; to the massive gas giant, Jupiter; to the mysterious, ringed Saturn; to the cold, remote ice worlds--Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, and beyond. What can their extreme features tell us about how our solar system formed? Can they provide clues about the possibility of life on other worlds?
3) Sex. Scandals. Crime (Reelz)
Nancy O’Dell has been an entertainment journalist for more than 20 years and in that time has covered many stories of alleged sexual misconduct among the Hollywood elite. In the past those stories came and went with little lasting impact but times have changed. Lately, every day it seems as though there’s a new accusation of inappropriate behavior ranging from groping to rape being leveled against someone in a position of power. In Sex.Scandals.Crime. Nancy O’Dell takes an in-depth look at accusations that rocked some of the biggest names in the industry and led to the downfalls of respected and formerly beloved public figures and galvanized a social movement.
5) South Side Series Premiere (Comedy Central)
South Side is an aspirational, scripted comedy set in and around the working class neighborhood of Englewood on the South Side of Chicago. The show follows two friends who just graduated community college...so now they're ready to take over the world! But until they do they're stuck at Rent-T-Own, a retail-rental crossroads where the South Side's vast ensemble of characters come together. Despite the obstacles of inner-city life, these friends and their co-workers all strive to achieve their entrepreneurial dreams. Brought to life by local Chicagoans, both in front of and behind the camera, this show gives viewers an authentic portrayal of what life on the South Side is all about. It's evidence that what you see on the news is only a small piece of the city. It's written by Bashir Salahuddin (Glow) and Diallo Riddle (Marlon). Salahuddin, Riddle, and Michael Blieden - all Late Night with Jimmy Fallon alumni — are executive producers.
6) The Great Hack (Netflix)
Updated from its Sundance debut in a new cut featuring additional interviews and footage, "The Great Hack" uncovers the dark world of data exploitation, offering astounding access to the personal journeys of key players in the explosive Cambridge Analytica/Facebook data scandal. Award-winning filmmakers Karim Amer and Jehane Noujaim (The Square, Control Room, Startup.com) continue their tradition of exploring the seismic ripples of social media with this riveting, complex film.
Data has surpassed oil as the world’s most valuable asset. It’s being weaponized to wage cultural and political warfare. People everywhere are in a battle for control of our most intimate personal details. “The Great Hack” forces us to question the origin of the information we consume daily. What do we give up when we tap that phone or keyboard and share ourselves in the digital age?
7) The Last Cowboy Series Premiere (Paramount)
"The Last Cowboy" chronicles the lives of eight men and women who compete on the regular reining circuit, a western-based competition where riders guide horses through a precise pattern of circles, spins and stops. These horsemen are determined to elevate and preserve the cowboy tradition as they train and engage in the exclusive ultra-competitive sport. The series was created by Academy Award®-nominee Taylor Sheridan, writer of Hell or High Water and Sicario, writer/director of Wind River and co-creator of the hit Paramount Network original scripted drama series "Yellowstone."
For a rundown of all the new episodes of television premiering tonight, click here.
And because we could all use a laugh today, here's an image from the Phineas & Ferb spoof of "Star Wars." If you haven't seen it, I guarantee it will make you laugh, especially if you're a "Star Wars" fan. The special was written with the approval of LucasFilm and it is everything you'd want in a parody.