Winter 2011 TCA Press Tour: Day 10 – or – The Day Will Hit the Wall

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.

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TV in the 2000s: 15 Shows Canceled After Appearing in Bullz-Eye’s TV Power Rankings*

*Probably Coincidentally

Back in 2005, Bullz-Eye kicked off a regularly-recurring feature that’s become a staple of our site: the TV Power Rankings, which gives us a chance to offer up our opinions once every six months on the best that television has to offer. Now that we’re looking back at the entire decade in our TV in the 2000s feature, however, it gave us an opportunity to look back at all of the shows that have appeared within the Rankings over the course of its history, and when we did, it was a little eyebrow-raising to see how many of our favorite programs bit the dust almost immediately after receiving accolades from us. We’re pretty sure their cancellations weren’t our fault…or, at least, not entirely. Anyway, take a look back through the list with us, won’t you? If nothing else, it shows that we’ve got good taste, even if the average viewer doesn’t always share our opinions.

1. Arrested Development (Fox, 2003 – 2006) – “Even if this is indeed the end for one of Fox’s all time greatest shows, it is better to have loved and lost…oh, the hell with that, Fox is freaking nuts if they cancel this show.” So said David Medsker in February 2006. But did they listen to him? They did not. “We’re not ones to buy into the whole dumbing-down-of-society thing,” Medsker added, “but if this show gets canned while ‘According to Jim’ lives on, maybe there’s something to it after all.” Oh, yeah, there’s definitely something to it: “According to Jim” stayed on the air until June 2009.

2. Deadwood (HBO, 2004 – 2006) – When it was announced that Season 3 would be the last for the semi-historical look at the wild west, there was really only one name that John Paulsen could call the folks at HBO. We probably shouldn’t use it here, but if you need a hint, it starts with a “C” and rhymes with “sock pluckers.” “Everything about the show – the language, the acting, the story, the sets and the costumes – is colorful,” Paulsen observed in February 2007, “and whether or not HBO wants to admit it, they’re going to miss ‘Deadwood’ once it’s gone for good.” They must’ve been in some serious denial, then: creator David Milch reportedly agreed to do a proper wrap-up of the series through a pair of “Deadwood” movies” for the network, but things never really got beyond the discussion stage.

3. Invasion (ABC, 2005 – 2006) – The fall of 2005 was a good time in prime time for sci-fi fans, with each of the big three networks offering up an entry from the genre, but by the spring of 2006, their cheers had turned to tears. NBC’s “Surface” was permanently submerged after 15 episodes, while CBS’s “Threshold” crossed the point of no return after only nine episodes had aired. Give ABC some credit, however, for at least sticking with their entry for the full 22. “’Invasion’ started slowly, but has steadily ramped up the creepiness,” said John Paulsen in February ’06, acknowledging that, although it gave its audience lots of questions, at least it was providing them with more answers than “Lost” was. Unfortunately, there was still plenty to be answered when the show was canceled, and things got even more depressing when Tyler Labine talked to Bullz-Eye about what might’ve been. “(Creator Shaun Cassidy) had written this bible for the show, and he had written this amazing five-season arc,” said Labine. “We were just floored. Our jaws were literally on the floor after he explained it to us. We were, like, ‘Wow, we’re on for a really great ride!’” What a shame for us all that the ride ended as quickly as it did.

4. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (NBC, 2005 – 2006) – Well, you can’t say that we weren’t honest about offering up both the pros and the cons of Aaron Sorkin’s behind-the-scenes look into a late-night comedy series. “The show is pompous, unrealistic and ridiculously left-wing,” admitted Jason Zingale in February 2007, “but it also makes for some damn good television.” Unfortunately, with an awful lead-in – seriously, who thought that pairing the show with “Heroes” was a good idea? – “Studio 60” didn’t develop enough of a following to earn a second season.

5. Rome (HBO, 2005 – 2007) – In its first season, “Rome” turned up at #18 in the Power Rankings, but by the time Season 2 aired, it had leapt to #6. Not that such success earned the show a third season (it was apparently ridiculously expensive to produce, which you can absolutely believe if you’ve ever seen it, but at least the news of its cancellation came in time for John Paulsen to register his annoyance within the February 2007 Rankings. “As it turns out, ‘Rome’ isn’t the heir to the throne of ‘The Sopranos,’” he wrote. “Instead, sadly, it’s a bastard stepchild, just like ‘Deadwood.’” Creator Bruno Heller was probably even more pissed than Paulsen, having mapped out his vision of the series all the way through its fifth season, but as recently as December 2008, Heller was still sounding optimistic about the chances for a “Rome” movie. “I would love to round that show off,” he told the Hollywood Reporter. Hey, we’re behind you 100%, Bruno.

6. Four Kings (NBC, 2006) – If you don’t remember this sitcom, you’re forgiven, as it premiered in January 2006 and was gone by March. Still, it made enough of an impression to earn Honorable Mention status in the February 2006 rankings. “Four Kings” was created by David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, the duo behind “Will and Grace,” and featured Seth Green as one of its cast members, so you might think it surprising that it was off the air within seven episodes (and with a remaining six episodes still unaired). Looking back, however, the fact that the greatest praise Jason Zingale could heap upon the show in his write-up was that “it’s a worthy quick-fix until NBC finds a better alternative” should’ve given us a clue that it wasn’t long for this world.

7. Jericho (CBS, 2006 – 2008) – It was the little show that could, our “Jericho.” It started with an awesomely dark premise – a nuclear bomb goes off in the U.S., and we view the repercussions through the eyes of a small town in Kansas – and, after figuring out its direction (the attempts to meld some “Little House on the Prairie” aspects to the show were soon phased out), the series found its footing, kicked some creative ass, and was promptly canceled. But what’s this…? The show’s diehard fanbase made enough noise (and sent enough nuts) to get the show a 7-episode second season which lived up to everyone’s expectations and then some. Too bad the same couldn’t be said for the ratings, but those who actually tuned in for Season 2 know how many twists, turns, and outright shocks it included. There’s still talk of a possible “Jericho” movie. We can only hope.

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As promised: A Chat with Bret Harrison and Tyler Labine of “Reaper”

“Reaper” is dead. Well, probably, anyway. As of this writing, the show’s fate is technically still in flux, and it certainly can’t hurt for fans to continue to show the series the same support they always have, but to read the comments by two of the show’s stars – Bret Harrison (Sam Oliver) and Tyler Labine (Bert “Sock” Wysocki) – about the future of “Reaper,” it’s fair to say that neither actor is overly optimistic about seeing a Season 3. That’s not to say, however, that they wouldn’t be up for the idea of returning to their characters if they were given the opportunity to do a proper two-hour “Reaper” film. As you’ll soon read, the guys were mostly pleased with Season 2 of the series – now available on DVD from Lionsgate – and would be excited to further explore the events which were set up in the finale. Just as long as there’s no further exploration of Sock’s stepsister…

Just click here or on the icon below, dear readers, to check out the chat in full, and don’t forget to pop back by to leave your comments…

  

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Bret Harrison and Tyler Labine speak out on “Reaper” finale

I recently had a chance to do a joint phoner with Bret Harrison and Tyler Labine in connection with Season 2 of “Reaper” being released on DVD, though it will probably come as no surprise that a sizable chunk of the conversation ended up being about the likely demise of the series. Rest assured, I pointed out that the general tone of the comments from Premium Hollywood about the season finale…well, at least those of John Paulsen, anyway (though it’s clear others share his opinion, too)…were along the lines of, “Oh, my God, this is the biggest gyp I’ve ever seen in my life!”

“Yeah, I’ve heard a lot of that, too,” laughed Labine. “All in all, maybe it could’ve been a better ending for the season, regardless of whether it was the wrap-up or not, but you have to understand that there were a lot of cooks in the kitchen by the end with, like, where you have to leave it. There were a lot of notes coming down from on high, and I think things just get a little bit scrambled at the end of a show that’s on the bubble, technically. I think we have to give the writers a little bit more credit, but, yeah, I think we were all…well, I guess we can speak freely. The show’s canceled. We weren’t super happy with the ending of the show, I feel. But that’s just me. I don’t know. What about you, Bret?”

“No, no, I wasn’t happy,” admitted Harrison. “But I was excited that I got to play Quarters.

“Oh, yeah,” agreed Labine. “We all were.”

The full interview will appear on Bullz-Eye on Wednesday, but to tease you until then, here are a few more choice quotes from the conversation:

“All in all, for a second season, I thought it went well. We introduced some cool characters. But I can officially go on record now as saying that I was not happy with the storyline with me trying to fuck my stepsister.”Tyler Labine

“I think they were planning on leading (Alan Townsend, played by Sean Patrick Thomas) to be kind of part of the finale, from the little bit I heard them talking about it, but deals don’t work out all the time, and I don’t really want to get into too much detail, but…it just didn’t work out, for whatever reason.”Bret Harrison

“If we’d been able to come back and tell the story in Season 3, Andi would’ve been a Reaper, there could’ve been a whole new rebellion with Michael Ian Black as Sam’s guardian angel now, basically, and a full-scale battle between Heaven and Hell might’ve actually started to go on. It would’ve taken a whole new turn.”Tyler Labine

Admit it: you’re already chomping at the bit for the interview, aren’t you? Stay tuned, “Reaper” fans!

  

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Really? This is how they’re going to end “Reaper”? Ugh.

** SPOILER ALERT **

“Reaper” fans have known for several weeks now that the show probably wasn’t going to return in the fall, but we kept watching in the hopes that the series would at least wrap up with some sense of closure.

“Reaper” has been pretty good this season though with the late premiere date it was obvious that it was on the cutting block. Let’s just hope that [Michele] Fazekas and [Tara] Butters can wrap up the series properly instead of letting “Reaper” simply go dark. No one wants that.

Denied.

For most of the season/series finale, “The Devil & Sam Oliver,” it looked like we might get some sort of a satisfying ending. Sam had discovered a way to get out of his deal with the Devil and had picked a contest — “Quarters” — that would give him a legitimate shot of succeeding. (No pun intended.) Even when Steve showed up and broke his right hand, I still held out hope that he’d manage to beat the Devil with his left hand.

Nope.

Instead, with the souls of both Sam and now Andi owned by the Devil, we are treated to a scene of Steve (sort of) explaining that his orders came from “up above.” He shows off his wings and joins a bunch of other angels in the night sky. Cut to Sam and Andi looking up in wonderment. Fade to black.

WTF?

This should be filed under “How Not to Handle a Finale.” The series was on the chopping block for the last couple of months, and even if producers Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters wrapped up production a while ago, they (or the network) should have had the foresight to shoot an alternate ending or two to give them the option of going in another direction if the show were canceled.

How hard would it have been to shoot a scene of Sam knocking a couple of quarters in with his left hand? Or what about cutting the scene where Steve breaks his hand and have the Devil figure out to cover his eyes after the first miss and force Sam to make all five shots with his right hand? Sam gets his soul back, Andi is safe and the series can end with some sense of closure.

Instead, the series is sent spinning off into another direction, and we’ll never really know how how the story of Sam, Andi, Sock, Ben and the Devil really ends. If we had some closure, I might recommend that my friends watch the show on DVD. But why would I subject them to this painful ending?

Shame on the CW for not insisting that multiple endings be shot. Shame on Butters and Fazekas for the same thing, and for jumping ship even before the fate of “Reaper” was sealed. This finale is a slap in the face of all the fans who stuck with the show for its entire run. Say what you will about ABC’s decision to cancel “Life On Mars,” at least the network and the producers were on the same page in that both sides wanted to give the series an appropriate ending.

More commentary on the “Reaper” finale:

Hitflix
The Star Ledger

  

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