Winter 2011 TCA Press Tour: Top 5 Quotes from Day 5 (+ 1 Great Anecdote)

Day 5 of the Winter 2001 TCA Press Tour felt mildly anticlimactic after the previous day, with its strong focus on entertainment-related panels. I still maintain my “PBS rocks” mantra, but all things being equal, it might’ve been nice if they’d mixed up the proceedings a bit more, maybe putting Jeff Bridges and the “Best of ‘Laugh-In'” panels on different days.

Instead, we started with a panel for “PBS Newshour,” moved into a via-satellite appearance by Placido Domingo for his “Great Performances” special, and then slid into several panels in a row which, God bless them, simply weren’t as scintillating overall as one would’ve liked them to be. “Black in Latin America” did had Wyclef Jean on hand, which was kind of cool, and I’m very intrigued by the concept of “NOVA: Smartest Machine on Earth,” about a computer that’s going to compete on an episode of “Jeopardy,” but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that either kept me riveted from start to finish. Ironically, though, a panel I’d planned on skipping – “American Experience: Freedom Riders” – turned out to be so fascinating that I stayed ’til the bitter end, thrilling to every word. From there, we got a few sneak previews of future PBS projects, most notably Ken Burns’ look into Prohibition, and had a long-winded but still entertaining panel from highly underrated talk show host Tavis Smiley, but after that, the triple-threat of “Frontline: Are We Safer,” “Where Soldiers Come From,” and “StoryCorps” was more than sufficient to leave me wishing and hoping for the evening event to arrive sooner than later.

Finally, the event did arrive, and, boy, was it worth the wait. “Great Performances: Hitman Returns – David Foster & Friends” features the imminent songwriter performing his songs with vocal help from several other artists, and we’d been forewarned that at least one of them would be turning up and joining him onstage for his TCA performance, but believe me when I tell you this: it’s one thing to know that Donna Summer’s going to be in the house, but it’s quite another to actually have her belting out “Last Dance” only a few feet away from you. The woman turned the Langham’s Venetian Ballroom into a discotheque, and it was fucking spectacular.

Best moment of the tour…? Try one of the best moments of any TCA tour ever.

And, now, on to our quotes…

1. “The world of conventional television recording has pressed down the length of a report from three minutes to two and a half minutes, to two, to one and a half, to now one minute and 10 seconds, becoming more like a radio spot on a lot of the network news, there are actually stories that need telling that can’t be told in a minute and 10. Sorry. You just can’t. You could be a clever journalist. You could be a good writer. You just can’t do it.

The (PBS) Newshour is a great place to do that, but also, because of the new online opportunities, a place to bring the tremendous cargo that you come back from the rest of the world with in your reporter’s notebook, in your camera, and find another way to tell ancillary stories, to tell stories that didn’t make it into the main report, to start a dialogue with viewers, and really to do the other part of coverage that you can’t necessarily do on television. And also because a flight from Maputo, Mozambique, takes 31 hours, you’ve got a lot of time to work on your reporter’s notebook on the way back.” – Ray Suarez, PBS Newshour

2. “You live almost a life of tragedy constantly on the stage and you are rehearsing those big dramas, but, of course, you concentrate at the performance and even in the rehearsals, but doesn’t have to touch you. I know many people, many actresses, that were having problems after playing ‘A Streetcar Named Desire,’ for instance. And I believe that, after all, you are acting. You cannot let yourself in the suffering. That’s the reason I am a happy person.

Of course you have your sad moments in life, like we all have, like tragedies, losing dear people, dear relatives, parents, friends. But you live optimistically a life, which I like to live. But as I say, I love to be happy, but I love to suffer on the stage. On the stage it’s wonderful, the suffering. I like also the comedy, but I am better at suffering.” – Placido Domingo, “Great Performances: Placido Domingo – My Favorite Roles”

3. “As Watson’s developed over the years, it’s had a lot of silly answers. There’s quite a variety of them. I guess one of my favorites is we asked it what do grasshoppers eat and the answer was ‘kosher.'” – David Ferucci, “NOVA: Smartest Machine on the Planet – Can A Computer Win on ‘Jeopardy’?”

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Red Carpet Chatter: Mike Nichols Gets His AFI Lifetime Achievement Award

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Born in 1931 in what was very soon to become Hitler’s Germany, young Michael Peschkowsky was living in Manhattan by 1939. It was great luck both for the future Mike Nichols and for the country that accepted him.

Nichols is, of course, one of the most respected directors in Hollywood, and for good reason. He’s the original, craftsmanlike, and emotionally astute directorial voice responsible for such sixties and seventies classics as “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,”  “Carnal Knowledge” and, of course, “The Graduate” (the source of his only directorial Oscar so far) as well as such eighties, nineties, and oughts successes as “Silkwood,” “Working Girl,” “The Birdcage,” and “Closer.” Even if some of the later films are not on the same level of quality as his earlier films — and several, especially his 1988 box office hit, “Working Girl,” stray into mediocrity — it’s still one of the most impressive and diverse careers of any living director in Hollywood.

That’s just on the big screen. On television, Nichols has rebounded in the eyes of many critics, directing two of the most acclaimed television productions of the last decade, 2001’s “Wit” with Emma Thompson, and the outstanding 2005 miniseries adaptation of Tony Kushner’s brilliant and mammoth epic play, “Angels in America.” With his 80th birthday just a year and a half away, he’s still working hard with two thrillers movies planned, including an I’ll-believe-it-when-I-see-it remake of Akira Kurosawa’s “High and Low” currently being rewritten by the decidedly counter-intuitive choice of Chris Rock.

Before he directed his first foot of film, Mike Nichols was a noted theater director. That in itself is not so unusual a root for directors to travel. What is different is that, before he was a noted theater director, he was half of one of the most influential comedy teams in show business history, Nichols and May. (His comedy partner, Elaine May, went on to become an important, if less commercially successful, writer and director in her own right.)

Still, from the moment he directed his first major play, Neil Simon’s “Barefoot in the Park,” Nichols mostly abandoned performing. Today, his highly regarded early work is mostly known only to fairly hardcore comedy aficionados.

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