As I start this write-up of the final day of the Winter 2011 TCA Press Tour, it actually still is the final day of the Winter 2011 TCA Press Tour. Normally, I don’t start these things until the next day, after everything that’s going to happen has happened, but the last panel of the tour wrapped at around 2 PM PST, so as far as I’m concerned, I’m officially off-duty. The only thing left for me to do is pack my bags, grab some food, have a few drinks with friends, and catch my shuttle to LAX…and, yet, I thought about it and decided, “Since I’ve actually got the time to do it, maybe I should go ahead and write up the last few panels before I ever leave Pasadena.”
Makes sense, right? That way, there’ll be nothing hanging over my head to finish when I get home, and I can enjoy at least a day or two of much-needed downtime.
Unfortunately, none of the transcripts are online yet, so you won’t be getting any exact quotes unless the fine folks in the transcription department manage to get them knocked out between now and 2:00 AM (that’s when I have to head down to the lobby), so you’ll just have to make do with a few random recollections for now, and I’ll play catch-up when I’m home, rested, and ready to write again.
Even before John Landgraf took the time to do a teleconference with TV critics to explain why FX had to cancel “Terriers,” I’ve thought he was one of the nicest and most approachable network presidents. Mind you, I blame this really just on one experience with him, when he made good on a promise to reveal the producer who was working on a rewrite of FX’s “Powers” pilot (Kevin Falls, who may or may not still be involved at this point), but the “Terriers” move was a classy one that just helped to underline how I already felt. He sounds hopeful that “Lights Out” won’t follow the same path in the ratings as “Terriers,” and, boy, so do I. I’ve seen the first five episodes of the show already, and I’m loving it.
Next up was Louis CK, who couldn’t have sounded more grateful about the way the critics have embraced his series…but, then, he was probably already beaming from the praise that had just been heaped on him by Landgraf in his introduction. We didn’t really get much of an idea what to expect from Season 2, which stands to reason, since he hasn’t even started production yet. The funniest moment came when FX exec John Solsberg invited all of the critics in the audience to visit the set, something which clearly hadn’t been mention to Louie, who shot him a tremendous “what the fuck?” look.
Even after talking to Elijah Wood at the Fox party the other night, I still couldn’t quite wrap my head around what to expect from his new sitcom, “Wilfred,” about a man who, when he looks at his neighbor’s dog, sees a man in a dog suit who talks in an Australian accent. (It’s based on an Australian series, with the same actor – Jason Gann – playing the dog in both.) Having now seen the pilot, though, I was rather surprised to find myself laughing a lot. It’s absolutely as ridiculous as it sounds, but Gann is hysterical, so I’m now curious to see if it’s going to be more than just a one-off. Of the panel, I really just have one immediate observation: Fiona Gubelmann is cute as a button and has legs that go on for miles.
The last of FX’s panels was for “Justified,” but even with a huge panel, I couldn’t help but notice one face missing: Elmore Leonard, the author responsible for creating the character of Marshall Raylan Givens. As it turns out, he’s been so inspired by the show that he’s now in the middle of writing a brand new novel entitled…you guessed it…Raylan. In his absence, though, Leonard offered a statement in which he raved about the show, particularly the performance of Timothy Olyphant as Raylan Givens. Funnily enough, though, Olyphant wasn’t asked a question until well into the proceedings, a fact which he noted with mock indignation. (“It’s like they got together and said, ‘Hey, nobody ask Walt (Goggins) or Tim a question. Fuck those guys. Fuck those guys. Nobody say anything to them.’”) I really need to finish catching up on this show before Season 2 kicks off, because I love all that I’ve seen thus far.
After FX’s panel, the network provided us with a free lunch, along with the opportunity to chat with several stars of the shows. I had ridiculously bad timing whenever it came to trying to grab members of the “Wilfred” cast for interviews, but I was pleasantly surprised to see Holt McCallany, who plays Patrick “Lights” Leary on “Lights Out.” Fantastic guy, and we had a really nice conversation about the show and how his character develops over the course of the episodes I’ve seen thus far. He swears the best is yet to come.
Okay, kids, I’m tired of waiting for the transcripts to come in, so I’m…
Dammit! That’s what I get for checking: they all just came in at once. Okay, fine, I’ll offer up a few quotes to close up my coverage. I hope you’ve enjoyed getting my perceptions of this strange event known as the TCA Press Tour. Stay tuned for my final wrap-up sometime soon…and look for further adventures during the 2011 Summer TCA Press Tour!
“What I felt about ‘Terriers’ was that the audience that was watching it, which included many of you and hundreds of thousands, actually, ultimately, in total viewers, millions of people at home, I knew they were going to be really disappointed it wasn’t moving forward, and I thought that they deserved as clear an explanation I could give them as to why it wasn’t, and a chance for you, as their representatives, to sort of have at me and ask why isn’t it coming back and for me to explain myself. I don’t know why networks haven’t done that before. I’ve never done it before. And I guess maybe it’s just that I’m now coming up on seven years in this job. And in seven years, you have some great successes and moments of exultation, and you have bragging rights, and then you have some failures. And I think you just get used to the rhythms of both in your work and eventually you get to the point where you’re capable of embracing your failures, learning from them, and talking about them. I think most programming executives are just fundamentally too insecure or too defensive to get to that point. And maybe I’m just old enough and I’ve been doing it long enough that I can take that tag.
“I think there’s always been a disconnect, unfortunately, between audience taste and critical acclaim. I think in those rare circumstances where you all have near unanimity and are willing to stand up on a table and shout, ‘This is the greatest show of all time,’ I think you guys can move the needle. But I think the reality is that you disagree with each other most of the time. Unanimity is rare, and most of you don’t feel you want to stand up on a table and shout even if you like a show, so you have to raise a huge din. You did raise a huge din on ‘Mad Men,’ and what that did — ‘Mad Men’ has become, by our analysis, literally the most critically acclaimed series in the history of television. (You have) taken it from a dismal ratings failure to ratings mediocrity.” – John Landgraf
“When you get divorced in your forties, you don’t have a role anymore on the earth. Roles make it easy for people to just sort of follow a template. I mean, so many people get divorced that there ought to be a template, but there isn’t. So I think it’s fun to watch frustration, too. So, like, the rule, sort of, that I have is Louie gets laid, but he never comes. That’s basically the way it works. I’ll probably stay that way. Nobody wants to see me come. That’s awful.” – Louis CK, “Louie”
“I get really, really fucking sick of my own face working on this show. I start to hate the sound of my voice. Once I’m editing episodes, I really want to vomit into a big basket with my face on it. I mean, baskets aren’t good for vomiting because it comes out the (holes). It’s actually great that I do all of it because it’s economical. I don’t have to argue with anybody, and also everything I’m doing I know, like, when I’m writing something, I don’t worry so much about how perfect the script might be because I know I’ll be on the set looking after it. So sometimes I’ll put in lines that don’t seem like such a good idea, but I don’t have to I know that, when I’m on set, I’ll remember that I didn’t really love that anyway. I just won’t say it. Then, when I’m shooting it, I know because I’m going to edit it, that I can just delete certain stuff or shoot extra stuff. It’s all kind of happening in my brain. Once I get a few episodes deep, it starts to get really hard. The acting probably suffers more than anything else because I give the least shit about it. So when I’m like producing a scene and directing it and setting up a shot and doing all this stuff, and then I sit in my role, and I go, ‘Oh, God, I have to say this stuff. This is me,’ and I usually don’t know my lines. It takes me the first two takes are worthless, and then I start to remember what I wrote. But I wrote it. So it’s not that hard.” – Louis CK, “Louie”
“I never actually used ‘Fight Club’ in the pitch meetings, but I knew that we had succeeded in communicating what we wanted when, after I pitched the story to John Landgraf and the other executives, one of the executives who hadn’t been involved at all said, ‘Oh, it’s ‘Fight Club.’’ And I was like, oh, perfect, along with other things. I mean, I kind of thought of it as ‘Harvey’ meets ‘Son of Sam,’ the takeoff.” – David Zuckerman, “Wilfred”
Q: There was, obviously, a point (on ‘Justified’) where you decided Boyd has to live. That’s integral to the series. What was that conversation like with Elmore? Was there a moment where you had to really steel yourself and say, “We’ve decided that he’s going to live”?
Graham Yost: No. Elmore was far more concerned about the hat. Right? I mean, we had things going back and forth and different hats and this and what kind of hat he should wear. Finally, Elmore said, ‘Okay. You do what you want.’
Timothy Olyphant: He didn’t like it.
Graham Yost: You know what, I think he understands, since we had to find the hat that looked good on Tim and looked good for the show I can’t believe we’re talking about the freaking hat after all this time but in terms of Boyd, no, because he saw the pilot, saw Walton and said, ‘Oh, God, yeah, that would be great.’
Q: So it wasn’t even a speed bump?
Graham Yost: No. We’ve mangled his work in far worse ways than keeping Boyd.