PASADENA -- Notes and quotes from the Television Critics Association winter press tour:
Chris Hardwick has a message for all "The Walking Dead" fans worried over the abrupt departure of the zombie saga's showrunner: Chill out.
"I know a lot of people are mad and disappointed," he says. "But you've got to hang in there and keep the faith."
Hardwick is the effusive host of "Talking Dead," the live "after-show" that follows each episode of the AMC drama. He says he was just as stunned as everyone else when showrunner Glen Mazzara announced that he was leaving due to a "difference of opinion" with AMC over the direction of the series.
It marked the second change at the top for "The Walking Dead" in just three seasons. Frank Darabont, who adapted the series from Robert Kirkman's comic books, was abruptly forced out as showrunner midway through Season 2.
Mazzara's departure was particularly startling, as it came in the middle of a season in which "The Walking Dead" became prime time's most popular show among viewers ages 18 to 49. Many fans thought the show became more tense and fast-paced under Mazzara's guidance.
Still, Hardwick says there's no need to panic.
"A lot of people freaked out when Glen came aboard, saying, 'Omigod, it's going to be the death of the show!' " he recalls. "And then, after half a season, people were saying, 'Oh wait, this is amazing.' People are afraid of change."
One thing that hasn't changed is the involvement of Kirkman, who remains on board.
"I think people need to credit him," Hardwick says. "He's the creator of the show. He's managed to keep the comic book series fresh for 10 years. If he's still on the show, it's going to be OK."
Of course, Hardwick has a stake in things. His after-show, which offers fans a discussion forum, expands from 30 minutes to an hour when "The Walking Dead" returns with fresh episodes Feb. 10. Will it be difficult to fill the extra time?
"Oh, not at all," he says. "We were rushed for time in the half-hour format. Now the conversations will have more room to breathe, and we'll have more opportunity for fan reaction."
WORKING ON A DREAM: When growing up as best pals in Concord, Blake Anderson and Kyle Newacheck, star and director of the Comedy Central series "Workaholics," sensed that a showbiz career was in their future. So soon after they graduated from Clayton Valley High School, they bolted for Los Angeles.
"There was just something in my soul saying that you can't settle in at home," Anderson recalls. "We had bigger dreams. And you're never, never going to attain that dream sitting on your mom's couch."
Now they're part of one of Comedy Central's biggest hits. Just days ago, they were surprised to learn that the cable channel renewed "Workaholics" for not one, but two more seasons. The irreverent and edgy series about a trio of slacker buddies who work and party together averaged 2 million viewers this past summer.
The show does especially well with young male viewers, but Anderson says he's always amazed by the vast range of their fans.
"It's surprising. You just never know," he says. "We've heard from little kids whose parents probably shouldn't be letting them watch and older people that you worry about having a heart attack while watching."
Meanwhile, the success of "Workaholics" has been a big calling card for Newacheck, who has been hired to direct episodes of major network sitcoms such as "Happy Endings," "Parks and Recreation" and "Community."
Still, his heart remains with "Workaholics," which he helped create and write.
"I was real excited to work on those shows. It's a cool experience," he says. "But it kind of feels like baby-sitting. I always want to get back to my own baby."
Anderson, who is one of the show's main cast members -- along with Adam Devine and Anders Holm -- foresees a day when they all branch out into movies. But for now, he's counting his blessings and looking back gratefully on the day he left home behind.
"That was a big key," Anderson says. "So many parents these days are totally cool with their kids living on the couch the whole time. It's like a new thing with families. But you've got to leave the nest and get out there."
Season 3 of "Workaholics" begins at 10 p.m. Jan. 16
THIS 'N' THAT: Fox entertainment chief Kevin Reilly would like Britney Spears to return to "The X Factor," even though critics panned her performance. "I think she did a really good job," he says. "People remain fascinated with her and always will. ... Maybe (they) were waiting for more drastic displays that never came." ... On the other hand, don't count on Steve Carell to return to "The Office" when it leaves the air with an hourlong finale in May. Network chairman Robert Greenblatt says it's "doubtful" Carell will be back. ... Fox has renewed "Bones" for a ninth season.
Contact Chuck Barney at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his TV blog at http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei/category/tv and follow him at Twitter.com/chuckbarney, and Facebook.com/BayAreaNewsGroup.ChuckBarney.