The TCA tour lasts for about two weeks. That’s two weeks away from your family where you’re spending the majority of your time sitting in a hotel ballroom, listening to panel after panel about upcoming TV shows. Don’t get me wrong: I’m enough of a TV geek that I enjoy it from start to finish, but at a certain point, you find that your enjoyment begins to be regularly supplanted by the desire to just grab your shit and go the hell home. As a professional, I do my best to rise above this, which is why I invariably stick it out ’til the very last panel of the tour, but when you start considering the shit-grabbing and home-going more often than you find yourself thinking, “Say, this show sounds pretty good / awful,” this is what is known in TV critic parlance as “hitting the wall.”
And, baby, I have hit it.
When I woke up on the morning of Day 10 of the tour, I had a headache. It was the first time I’d had one since arriving in Pasadena, and, of course, I took it for what it was: a sign that both my body and mind were ready to return to Virginia. Little did I realize that it was really more of a portent of the evil that would cross my path on this day…but we’ll get to that. With a job to do, I popped a couple of Motrin, swigged some coffee, and entered into the day’s panels, which consisted of shows from the CBS family of networks, which includes, of course, CBS (“Chaos,” “Mad Love,” “The Good Wife”), but also Showtime (“The Borgias,” “Shameless,” “Californication,” “Episodes”) and The CW (“Shedding for the Wedding”). There were also executive sessions for the various networks, as well as one for the “Kick Ass Women of The CW,” featuring stars from “Hellcats,” “The Vampire Diaries,” “Nikita,” and “Smallville.”
Looking at the talent list for the various panels, there were certainly people I wanted to chat with, but I’ve always had trouble picking up interviews for Showtime series, a fact which all but killed my chances with many of the most interesting actors in attendance, including Jeremy Irons, William H. Macy, David Duchovny, and Matt LeBlanc. Heck, I couldn’t even pull a one-on-one with Colm Feore, although I did end up chatting with him later in the evening while pretending to be Canadian. (Don’t ask.) But I did at least make it into post-panel scrums for Irons, Macy, and the ever-gorgeous Carla Gugino, so there’s that, at least. And amongst the cast of CBS’s “Mad Love” is the always amiable Tyler Labine, who I’ve been interviewing at TCA since my first tour, when “Reaper” debuted, so he and I got in a good one-on-one.
Most of my afternoon, however, was spent in a funk. Maybe it’s because I’d hit the wall, but I found myself getting progressively grumpier about the way various actors’ personal publicists were acting. One assured me that I could do a walk-and-talk with their client, who was in a rush to get to another appointment, only to promise the same thing to another writer moments later and leave me in the dust. Another deigned to let me do a one-on-one with her client, then – outside of her client’s line of vision – starting tapping her watch ferociously before I’d even had two minutes of conversation. (This was particularly infuriating because the writers before and after me had neither a time limit nor been “chaperoned” during their interviews.) It was also a major bummer that the evening event was an hour-long cocktail party where the attendees were limited to the shows on The CW which were represented on the network’s panels.
Despite my relatively grouchy attitude throughout the day, there were still some highlights on the panels that are worth mentioning, so here they are…
1. Q: Given Charlie Sheen’s antics over the weekend, how would you characterize your level of concern about him, and what is the network doing to help him?
Nina Tassler (with all due sarcasm): Well, I really didn’t expect that question this morning. So I’m just…I’m really taken by surprise. Look, obviously, we’ve thought, and I personally have thought, a lot about this, and we have a high level of concern. How could we not? But I have to speak to this personally first. On a very basic, human level, concern, of course. This man is a father. He’s got children. He has a family. So, obviously, there’s concern on a personal level. But you can’t look at it simplistically. Charlie is a professional. He comes to work. He does his job extremely well. We are taping tonight, and it’s…it’s very complicated, but we have a very good relationship with Warner Bros. I have a tremendous trust and respect in the way they are managing the situation. So, on a personal level, obviously concerned. On a professional level, he does his job, he does it well, the show is a hit, and…that’s really all I have to say.
2. Question: Jason, what about your character (in “Mad Love”)?
Jason Biggs: Without giving too much away, obviously, I have sex with a sheet cake in the second episode.
Sarah Chalke: We weren’t going to reveal that!
Judy Greer: Way to go.
Jason Biggs: I don’t know if that’s a spoiler alert. Sorry, guys.
Judy Greer: That’s the cake we used for what’s her name’s birthday? Just kidding.
Jason Biggs: Yes. Yes, it was.
Judy Greer: I had a piece of that!
Jason Biggs: No. There are some situations. I wouldn’t say they are exactly, you know, akin to some of the I mean, let’s be honest. Those were very R rated, and some pushing NC 17 scenarios.
Matt Tarses: He loses his pants in Staten Island.
Jason Biggs: But I do lose my pants in Staten Island. So you do see me pantsless, which I think is what my fans demand of me in general and but yeah, there are some I mean, Matt has written, for all of us, some kinds of crazy situations. I mean, it’s inherent to this format, I think, is to create situations that are quite comical and kind of crazy. And for someone who can the person that does it right, they are funny, but they are also grounded in reality somehow, and they are with characters that you like and all that good stuff. And I feel like that’s what’s happening here. So, among those situations, which I believe there are some in every episode, one of them I lose my pants in Staten Island. The other one I have sex with a sheet cake.
3. Q: Freddy, describe what happens when you read a script that says, “Next, Rick eats a scorpion.” What was that like? And when you filmed it…I’m sure you didn’t eat a scorpion, but whatever you were holding…
Freddy Rodriquez: How are you so sure?
Q: It looked realistic. You were holding something that was wiggly and scary. Just describe what it was like when you heard you were going to do it and what it was like to do that scene.
Freddy Rodriquez: Well, to be honest, I wasn’t sure what it was going to be when I got there. And when I got there, if you remember, Tom…
Tom Spezialy: Oh, I remember.
Freddy Rodriguez: …it was a real scorpion. I had a slight anxiety attack, to be honest, right? And then I got over it. And then I asked Brett Ratner to hold it. I would do it if he would hold it, and he refused, and we had an exchange. And after a while I got over it, and it was fun. I mean, when I read the script, there were so many great things that my character was doing in the pilot that I had to be involved even if it had to do with holding a scorpion. It was a real scorpion. I think they put Krazy Glue on the stinger, (but), yeah, it was real.
Q: What does it look like to see that thing wiggling in front of your eyes?
Freddy Rodriguez: Scary. It’s scary.
Tom Spezialy: It peed on him.
Freddy Rodriguez: Oh, yeah, it did. At one point in the night, it just…I didn’t enjoy the experience…it started peeing on me. And I didn’t know what it was. I just thought it was, like, spraying me with some sort of poison or…I wasn’t sure what it was, but it was urine.
Eric Close: Are you sure it was urine?
Freddy Rodriguez: Yeah, it was urine. Gave me golden sunshine, I guess.
4. “Thank you for coming out, and thank you for showing the interest in the show. Michelle (King’s) and my moms keep sending us emails linking to great complimentary articles and reviews of (‘The Good Wife’). So we’re very aware of what support we get from the critical community…and our moms are very aware of it, too.” – Robert King, “The Good Wife” (CBS)
5. “I wouldn’t say they (CBS) ever ask us to make things more morally clear. I mean, sometimes cases need to be made clear. And in terms of what we can do on broadcast versus cable, I think we can pretty much do it all except say ‘fuck.’” – Michelle King, “The Good Wife” (CBS)
6. “(The title) ‘The Good Wife’ was always meant ironically. I think it’s actually very descriptive. I think the comment I made was it would have been nice to be ironic and call it ‘The Sexy Wife’ or ‘The Sexy Wife Whose Husband Goes Down On Her’ or something like that. That might have brought in more people.” – Robert King, “The Good Wife” (CBS)
7. I read something about Pope John the Pope John Paul, is it, the Polish Pope. And it was from a Catholic theologian who said he wrote, actually, ‘Habet duos testiculos et bene pendentes.’ He said, ‘This man is well hung. That’s why he deserved to be Pope.’ Now, certain things the Vatican will not reveal to all of us, but there is a chair, apparently, a Porphyry Chair, with a large circular hole in it to so these examinations can be made. Now, many people will deny that, but I’ve read I read reputable historians who says it happens, okay? Perhaps no longer, but then it did.” – Neil Jordan, “The Borgias” (Showtime)
8. “I think (Rodrigo Borgia) is a pretty good guy just doing the best he can. I mean, power corrupts, you know. It was a time quite unlike the time we live in today. There were murders in Rome every night, poisonings most weekends. There was incest here and sodomy there. You know, it was a good old rolling, rollicking society. And if you’ve got to try and run that, which the Pope attempts to do, then, of course, you’ve got to play by some of the games, by some of the rules that society follows. I didn’t judge him at all. I just tried to hang on by the hang onto the position and do what he wanted too. I think it’s up to the audience to say what is good, what is wrong, what is right, and then think how much wonder how much has changed as you look at present day Italy or present day almost anywhere of power. I think there are huge parallels about what people get up to in order to hang on to power and in order to get their way. I don’t think anything has changed, and perhaps those thoughts will go through our minds when we judge these people. I played him. I thought I was quite a good guy. But George Bush probably thought he was quite a good guy, too.” – Jeremy Irons, “The Borgias” (Showtime)
9. “As a director, (‘The Borgias’) is a nightmare because (the actors) all come with the books about their character. ‘Hang on, I didn’t do that. Look, it says here he did this. It says here he did that.’ Stop, please.” – Neil Jordan, “The Borgias” (Showtime)
10. Tom Kapinos: You know, I think we’ve always had great luck, first and foremost, (getting guest stars for ‘Californication.’) But as we go along, it seems we attract more people. You know, we get a lot of calls of, like, ‘So and so would love to do the show.’ This year that didn’t happen. We had to actually go out and aggressively find people. But we had Carla (Gugino), who I told her when we first met that I was a fan for a long time. And I don’t know if she believed me, but that was very true. And it was so awesome to get her. Rob Lowe was a complete accident. We went after him. His agent told us he was unavailable. Then David’s hairstylist somehow made it happen.
Carla Gugino: That’s Hollywood for you.
David Duchovny: It’s a long story, but my hairstylist can make a lot of shit happen.
Tom Kapinos: It’s really more of a hair ninja.
11. “It sure is fun to play someone who is toasted all the time. In my whole career, I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time speaking for the little guy, the disenfranchised. And whether you like it or not at this moment, perhaps in this room, but certainly all across the country, a lot of people are really toasted right now, drunk as skunks, and I speak for them. I am the spokesperson for people who like to start the day with a couple of brewskies.” – William H. Macy, “Shameless” (Showtime)