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.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

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24 7.23-24: Make decisions that you can live with

Man, I saw more trailers for upcoming movies in tonight’s season finale of “24” than I did during the Super Bowl. Seriously, weren’t there ads for seven or eight movies? And do you know how many I stopped fast-forwarding through the commercials to watch? One: “Public Enemies.” Just sayin’, it does not look like a promising summer at the googoplex.

Maybe it’s just me, but I liked the second hour of tonight’s show more than the first one, which is odd, because they usually wait until the final minutes before fucking everything up. Remember the oil rig? The secret recording of President Logan? The last time the final seconds of “24” were truly nerve-wracking was when Jack hacked off Chase’s arm. (The best endings, of course, were the death of Teri Bauer and the poisoning of David Palmer by Mandy the bisexual assassin.) Tonight’s ending didn’t pack that kind of punch, but I like that they left us to wonder what Jacqueline Bauer did to Alan Wilson in the interrogation room (too late to give him a nickname, though I lean toward Coach Yoast, his character from “Remember the Titans”), and even having Jack end the season in a coma. Yes, we all know that he will be back for an eighth day, but perhaps Kim will die from complications while donating the stem cells that ultimately save his life. Hey, a guy can dream.

Having said that, Kim did not spend these two hours playing the damsel in distress, and in fact performed very admirably under the circumstances. She stabbed the girl in the leg and gave the cops a clean shot at her, and she saved the laptop that led the Feds to the location of Jack and Tony (more on that in a minute). No bear traps or Kwik-E-Mart holdups for our little Kimmy! Wow, maybe she isn’t as helpless as I made her out to be, but that’s no excuse for recycling a plot thread from the show’s first season, when Jack had to shoot Senator Palmer in order to save Kim and Teri. Silly, silly, silly, and that is the only reason I want her to go away. She brings out the worst in the writers.

As for that first hour…

Man oh man, I can’t tell you how many times I either laughed out loud or said, “You’ve gotta be kidding me.” Jack is doing the bidding of Mystery Girl (real name Cara) against his will, and tells Jackie that they’re threatening to kill Kim if he doesn’t cooperate. Seconds later, he tells Cara that he’s awaiting her next instruction…and she gives it to him, without a word of protest. I’m shouting, “Didn’t she just hear what he told them?” Those words should automatically trigger Kim’s death, yes? The only way around this that I see is that Cara would never actually have Kim killed before getting Tony, so it was an empty threat. Which is smart, because if Jack thinks that Kim’s dead, he kills Tony, then he kills Cara, then he hunts down every relative of Cara’s and kills them, their loved ones, their loved one’s neighbords, and their pets. Hell, Jack had a clean shot at her from inside the paddy wagon. He could have just killed her right there. I’m frankly surprised he didn’t.

“So what’s it like being the second-hottest woman on this show?” “That’s funny, I was about to ask you the same thing.”

And speaking of Jack taking shots, dude had pretty good aim when he shot Tony in the hand. This despite the fact that he’s suffering from a biological agent that attacks the nervous system. Funny how composed Jack could be when the moment called for it, and vice versa.

Then comes Tony’s big push to meet Alan Wilson. Ho, ho, and indeed ho, as our colleague Will Harris would say. Just like that, his motives became so transparent. He wants to take the big guy out! Could he be on the side of good after all? Well, no, as it turns out, but as retrofitted motives go, it could have been worse, especially when we discovered that…Michelle was pregnant when she was killed. Holy shit. As a father of two, I have to say that I would have elaborate revenge fantasies as well, had I been in his shoes. Kill my wife, and you only, only, have hell to pay. Kill my wife and son, well, you’re gonna wish the Devil was looking for you instead. I feel for you, Tony, I really do. But I still want to kick your ass for killing Dudley Do-Right.

Now back to that raid on the bad guy lair: Tony is about to hatch his evil scheme to blow up Jack and Alan Wilson with a bunch of C4, when the FBI not only finds them – last I remember, Chloe and Janis were still trying to crack the encryption on Bad Actor’s laptop – but they’re actually able to sneak up on them…by helicopter? Aren’t those things audible from a mile away? Classic moviemaking technique, that. If you don’t see it, then you can’t hear it. I also loved Jacqueline’s side saddle bit on the SUV, followed with the jump and roll. I’d love to see the real-life version of that. Jackie: Pew pew! Bad guys: Pip pip pip pip pip! Jackie: Dead.

But in the end, I’m not sure that anyone found themselves in a more difficult position than Madame President herself. After Kanin checkmated Hillary Clinton with the whole memory chip thing (which we all saw coming), I was surprised that Hillary actually showed genuine remorse and human emotion when confessing everything to her parents. I even felt a little sorry for her, which is something I never thought I’d say a week ago. But thank God that Hillary’s teary confession wasn’t enough to sway Madame Prez from doing the right thing and sending her sorry excuse for a daughter to the slammer. When she walked away from the First Man at the end, I was half-expecting her to have the First Dude escorted from the premises. After all, it’s not as though her marriage is going to survive a decision like that. On an unrelated note, I hope they bring Secret Service Agent Tim Woods back for another season. Not sure how you write him in, but he seems to be playing for the right team.

My hopes are not high that we will see our beloved Jacqueline Bauer again – odds are, she’s getting 20 years in the hole for whatever she was about to do to Wilson – and that makes me sad. I quite liked her character, and she can do Hell-hath-no-fury scorn like no other. Tony, of course, is still alive, but he may as well be dead since he’s just pissed all over the carcass of the Good Tony Almeida that we thought was killed years ago. I hated seeing them bring him back like this. Good people do bad things, yes, but they are still good at their core. I might be capable of committing unspeakable acts against anyone responsible for harming my family, but I wouldn’t kill half a dozen FBI agents to get to that person. I don’t know, maybe I’m just not hardcore enough. I can live with that, I guess.

So there you have it, another 24 hours of our lives, gone. I’m not sure if this show is ever going to give me what I want. Does it sound morbid to want more death and destruction? I don’t have bloodlust; I just want a show that doesn’t cry ‘Wolf!’ nine times out of ten. I think that all serial writers, the “24” writers in particular, should take a good long look at “The Dark Knight,” and how they mercilessly ratcheted up the tension until the very end, and none of it felt like a bluff or a false promise. There is a reason that movie made half a billion dollars at the box office, you know.

It is now three in the morning, and I have to take my son to day care in five hours. Time to head to bed. Thanks to all you wonderful 24-philes for reading my column, and I’ll see you all in seven months.

  

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24 7.22: If you build it, Kim Bauer will fall into it

Previously, on the “24” Blog:

Now watch us find out next week that it was Hillary’s contract killer that blew up the car. Wouldn’t that suck? I mean really, how boring, how logical.

Damn, damn, damn. I work up this super-fun conspiracy theory, only to discover that the reason they kept Janis around is for one last catfight with Chloe. Ugh. Even after Janis had won the battle, I pumped my fist in the air when Chloe told her that she’s not the person you come to for validation. God, I could kiss her. I’d still like to know why Janis was the one helping in Jonas Brother’s transfer, though. Was it just to get her some additional screen time? Or to mess with bloggers like me? I’m still holding out hope that there is still a chance that she’s a mole, but I realize that it’s not very likely.

I am amused, though, at how completely and totally fucked Hillary Clinton is at this point. There is practically a trail of bodies that follows her wherever she goes. Even Old Yeller is susipcious of her – which surely began the moment he shared an elevator with her after she’d just had sex, as one Mr. Codding astutely observed – to the point where he called Warden Norton to see if the digital recorder stashed in the office was still running. How awesome was Norton’s response: “I’ll be there within the half-hour.” It’s SIX IN THE MORNING, but Warden is both ready and willing to exact his revenge. How about that, the system works after all.

I was glad to see the whole canister thing get resolved – man, how about that beatdown Jack gave Tony? – but as Jibraan locates the bomb and begins to scramble out of the station, I’m thinking to myself, “Leave the bomb inside the subway car and tell the authorities to close the goddamn doors.” It wouldn’t be airtight, but once you’ve scared everyone off, it wouldn’t matter. Hell, John McClane would have thrown it down the subway tunnel, then shot it to pieces. Dunno, it just seemed like overkill to me.

“And Iiiiiiiiii-eeeeee-iiiiiiiiii-eeeee-iiiiiiiii will always, love youuuu-hooooooooo-ohhhhhhhhh…”

All right, Kim Bauer fans, it is time for you to come to Jesus. Why is it, exactly, that you like her so much? Because she’s cute? No question, Elisha Cuthbert is a lovely woman, but Kim Bauer is death incarnate. Look at how they handled those scenes of her at the airport. It was both clumsy and convenient at the same time. She’s suspicious of the federal agent – here’s an idea: have the agent walk up to Kim and tell her that Jack asked him to look after her, and get Daddy on the phone if she’s unsure – and then she just happens to befriend the two people assigned to abduct her? Meanwhile, the male goon, who’s the worst actor ever, kills the agent in the bathroom without anyone walking in on them, which is ridiculous on two levels. For one, that agent had a gun. Grab it and shoot the guy! The other problem with that scene is that it’s rush hour at a DC airport. Those bathrooms aren’t empty that time of day, ever. So now Jack has to break Tony (his smirk once Jack hopped in the van is some of the finest acting Carlos Bernard’s ever done) out of FBI custody again in order to save Danger-prone Daphne for the seventeenth time in the show’s history.

Kim Bauer is not worth this much trouble.

Remember, the girl of a thousand disguises can only hear Jack, which means she can’t see him speak to someone else using sign language or write a note saying “HELP ME!” Ugh. So much conflict, so little need. The only way they can make up for this is if the bad actor goon is strangled to death by a cougar trap, then shot by a guy who just held a standoff at a Kwik-E-Mart. Seriously, resolving the bomb attack two hours early was a severe tactical mistake. Now we have to pretend to care whether Kim Bauer lives to see the final clock tick, and I gotta be honest, I don’t care what happens to her. The rest of the time will be spent covering the downfall of either Hillary Clinton, Madame Prez, or possibly both of them, which would be a gross injustice to the show’s finest President since David Palmer. Can’t say that either of those prospects excites me. Sigh.

  

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24 7.20: Baby did a bad, bad thing

I just realized something: “24” has been liberal in the past with product placement shots of Ford F150s barreling through the streets of Los Angeles, but not once can I recall anyone on the show drinking anything that would either help with either hydration or the fact that it’s four in the morning and all concerned have to be freaking exhausted. No coffee, no soda, no Red Bull…no way, dude. All I know is that if I’m Chloe, I’ve got a Big Gulp filled with Diet Pepsi next to my keyboard (and a flask of Jack Daniel’s in my top drawer to slip into it once the situation is officially under control). It’s a natural fit in terms of realistic product placement. The Red Bull, that is, not the Jack.

It was a rather atypical “24” episode in that only one man died, but that man was the man. Godspeed, Jonas Brother. You will be missed. (Loved his line about his new alias of Robert Tippett: “Sounds like a breed of dog.”) Of course, I knew that he was going to bite it even after Hillary Clinton realized the limits of her self-absorbed righteousness, because that’s just what happens on this show. But here’s my working theory on this, and I don’t think this is a stretch: Hillary’s contract killer didn’t do the job. Let’s face it, they don’t kill people pro bono. It’s too risky. No, I think the shadowy company with whom Jonas was in league orchestrated that hit, but for them to pull it off, there must be one more person on the inside that could have provided them with Jonas’ travel arrangements.

Janis.

“I worked at a box factory? Really, that’s my new back story? Man, you guys suck at this. Oh well, it doesn’t matter, because I’ll be dead in five minutes anyway.”

Let’s examine the circumstantial evidence. She can monitor everything the Feds are doing to find the weapon. (This would also explain why she was so paranoid about Billy Walsh earlier in the day.) She whines about racial profiling and Big Brother, which is a great cover for a military contractor’s informant. She knew Jonas Brother’s itinerary, because we saw her in his room shortly before he was released. But most importantly, from a storytelling perspective, her character has nothing else to offer at this point. Chloe’s doing all the tech work. Janis’ role for the last two hours has been to impede the investigation with her righteous bleating. Hello, mole!

Now watch us find out next week that it was Hillary’s contract killer that blew up the car. Wouldn’t that suck? I mean really, how boring, how logical.

I was impressed with the way the brother of the framed Muslim shattered the mirror and dispatched the hostile in about 9.8 milliseconds. That was a pretty dope move for a civilian. Hmmm…

It’s clear to me that Hillary Clinton is going to get her ass handed to her before all is said and done. The only question is for which one of the many offenses she committed today. There is a quote from her in the scenes for next week’s episode (cover your eyes, Mr. Paulsen) about how the Justice Department is inquiring about her whereabouts, but if that’s true, then it must be looking into time she spent outside of the White House. Does the camera phone sex video come back into play? And maybe they’ll seize the opportunity to portray a leaked sex tape as a bad thing? (Seriously, sex tapes are calculated career moves for C-list celebrities these days. How fucked up is that? End of rant.) Can’t wait to see the look on Madame Prez’s face when she’s forced to watch that puppy. The only way that scene would be better is if afterward, she bends Hillary over her knee and spanks her like the insolent child that she is. Hey, a blogger can dream.

  

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24 7.20: Synchronize your watches, there’s still time to kill

Hi everyone, I’m back. So, what did I miss? (*thinks about using emoticon, decides to move on*)

Thanks to the many people that sent in quotes for the captions. They were all quite entertaining, though the one of Jack and Senator Dumbass supposedly looking at a woman with a horse was easily my favorite. It was crude, yes, but smartly written. Nicely done, Jay. And now, back to the blog…

The people that write Entertainment Weekly’s “In the Bullseye” section love Sprague Grayden and her Hillary Clinton character. I want whatever drugs they’re taking, because she makes me craaaaaaaaaaazy. When is someone going to finally grab her by the scruff of her neck and say, “This isn’t about you, Olivia”? Nothing about her character rings true to me. She’s a clock killer, a device the writers have installed when they need to manufacture a little conflict. Jonas Brother may be a sociopath, but he’s a hell of a lot more fun to watch. She’s both a pain and a bore. Kill her now, please.

On the plus side, we get Chloe back, and not a moment too soon. Not even Janis’ own people seem thrilled to have her on staff at this point, as she took verbal dress-downs from both Bauers Jack and Jacqueline (Chloe resorted to her usual passive-aggressive snide remark). I pictured GiantGary waving his arms in the air like he was at a Sunday revival in the deep south when Jack laid into Janis. Even though he said David Palmer instead of Allison Taylor, he still PWND her. I guess I don’t understand Janis’ reluctance to use CTU’s server. It’s a government database, and they need to find a bioweapon. What’s the problem?

“Can I count on you to do the right thing?” “If by that you mean completely fuck up everything you put in motion for my own selfish interests, then I’m your girl, Mom.”

Lastly, we must discuss Tony Almeida’s sudden transformation into Woody Harrelson from “Natural Born Killers.” Dude popped three people this week alone, which has to be a record for him. With his official Dead Feds count at three (*pours out a 40 for Dudley Do-Right*), I think it’s safe to say that there is no way that Tony is still undercover as the dude playing the dude disguised as a bad dude, if that makes any sense. He has to be bad and nothing but bad. Otherwise, he would have wounded those agents tonight and only knocked Larry out. The only question is just how far Jack shoves his foot up Tony’s ass in the final minutes. After Kim saves Jack from the Howard Hughes bioweapon, of course. “It’s the way of the future, the way of the future…”

All right, one more thought. I found it very curious that that shots were fired in Tony’s Sleaz-E Motel room, and yet that did not arouse the suspicion of management. You have to think that at least one guest at that hotel is not a wanted fugitive and would be spooked, right? Maybe they’re all sound sleepers. It is three in the morning, after all.

  

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