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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2010 Year End TV Review: Will Harris

You’d think it’d be easy for me to pull together a “Best TV of 2010” list, given that I’ve attended two TCA press tours (one in the winter, one in the summer), participated in two editions of Bullz-Eye’s TV Power Rankings (one in the spring, one in the fall), and pulled together the site’s annual Fall TV Preview, but damned if that doesn’t somehow make the task harder. Nobody likes to feel like they’re repeating themselves, and given that there’s going to be some inevitable content crossover between all of these various pieces, I often find myself bouncing back and forth between all of these features, wondering if I’m subconsciously recycling a particularly nice choice of phrase. Hopefully, I’ve managed to make this sound at least somewhat original, but if for some reason you feel I’ve failed at that endeavor, please, for God’s sake, don’t take it out on the shows. It’s not their fault, and they shouldn’t be held accountable for my lack of creativity.

Oh, and one other note: in a further effort to avoid conceptual duplication, I’ve only written about each show once, so if you see a show’s title without anything written beside it, look back and you’ll find where I’ve already written about it. That, or I screwed up. Either’s possible, really. (I’m only human, after all.)

Best Shows to Come and Go within 2010

1. Terriers (FX) – It’s a testament to the quality of “Terriers” that FX president John Landgraf held a teleconference with journalists after breaking the news of the series’ cancellation in order to explain his actions, but I don’t think anyone really blamed the guy, anyway: the show’s ratings were as deplorable as the writing was phenomenal. Between the awful ad campaign for the show (no, it wasn’t about dogs) and the fact that many of the viewers who did tune in were kind of bummed out by too-real character traits and developments like alcoholism, infidelity, divorce, and mental illness, it’s not a surprise that it wasn’t a huge hit. But that doesn’t make it any less depressing.
2. Lone Star (Fox) – I’d like to think that this “Dallas”-esque series about a con man leading two lives would’ve been battling with “Terriers” for the top spot if only Fox hadn’t canceled it after only two episodes…but, then, if they can’t canceled it after only two episodes, then maybe viewers might’ve embraced “Lone Star” enough that it wouldn’t have been canceled at all. Oh, wait, never mind, I forgot: it was on Fox, so it probably still would’ve been canceled, anyway. Even so, Kyle Killen provided an intriguing concept and delivered it with the help of a top-notch cast. It’s just a shame we didn’t get to see more of it.

3. Warren the Ape (MTV) – So falls another network effort by one of our favorite fabricated Americans. Greg the Bunny couldn’t keep a show alive on either Fox or IFC, but it really seemed like a given that the shenanigans of Warren the Ape were tailor-made for MTV viewers. Not so, apparently. Frankly, the whole thing smacks of anti-puppetism. Warren himself has conceded that “fabricated Americans still have a very long way to go in this country, and I think it’s always going to be an uphill battle.” How right he was.
4. Happy Town (ABC) – Note to ABC’s publicity department: while I appreciate your intentions when you underlined the comparisons between “Happy Town” and “Twin Peaks” with a giant Magic Marker, you have to expect that “Twin Peaks” fans are going to offer up their equivalent of the old “I knew Jack Kennedy” line. Yeah, I know, you only meant it as a point of reference, and you never intended to imply that the two series were on even creative footing, but try telling them that. For my part, I thought it was a creepy little sleeper of a show…but, unfortunately, the other five people who agreed with me weren’t enough to keep it on the air.

5. Sons of Tucson (Fox) – I’m still not quite sure what Fox was thinking by trying to slot this poor live-action sitcom into the midst of their otherwise-animated Sunday night line-up. Maybe they’d hoped it would instill viewers with a bit of nostalgia for the days of “Malcolm in the Middle,” given the similarity in feel between that show and “Tucson.” If so, the plan failed miserably. In a perfect world, the network would raise the series from the dead and team it with “Raising Hope.” Now that’s a double bill I could get behind.

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The CW: What’s New for Fall 2010

WEDNESDAY

Hellcats (Wed., Sept. 8 @ 9:00 PM, The CW)

* The competition: “Modern Family” and “Cougar Town” (ABC), “Criminal Minds” (CBS), “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (NBC), “Hell’s Kitchen” (Fox)

Starring: Aly Michalka, Ashley Tisdale, Gail O’Grady, Heather Hemmens, Robbie Jones, Matt Barr, Sharon Leal, Jeff Hephner, D.B. Woodside, Elena Esovolova

Producers: Tom Welling (“Smallville”), Kevin Murphy (“Desperate Housewives”), Allan Arkush (“Heroes”)

Network’s Description: a pumped-up drama about a young pre-law student whose world is turned upside-down when she loses her scholarship and has to join the college’s competitive cheerleading squad. This fun, energetic series is a behind-the-scenes look at the drama, politics and pressure surrounding the football program at a Southern university.

The Buzz: This isn’t a show for critics. It’s a show for CW viewers. Rarely do these two demographics meet. Granted, the slot behind “America’s Next Top Model” has killed many a newcomer, but they’ve got a lot of spirit, these Hellcats, so you never know what stunts they might be able to pull off.

Pilot Highlight: It’s a tie between Marti’s audition for the cheering squad and – spoiler alert! – her first practice after making the squad. Both offer awesome choreography and, yes, you lechers, lots of sexy cheerleaders dancing their asses off.

Bottom Line: At the very least, there’s more to it than the average non-female viewer will probably want to admit – yes, that’s right, sir, I’m speaking to you – but your appreciation of it will depend heavily on how you approach the material. This ain’t Shakespeare, people. It’s an hourlong TV series about cheerleaders. Set your standards appropriately, and you might just enjoy it…and if you don’t, then you almost certainly know someone who will.

THURSDAY

Nikita (Thurs., Sept. 9 @ 9:00 PM, The CW)

* The competition: “Grey’s Anatomy” (ABC), “CSI: Crime Scene Investigations” (CBS), “The Office” and “Outsourced” (NBC), “Fringe” (Fox)

Starring: Maggie Q, Lyndsy Fonseca, Shane West, Aaron Stanford, Ashton Holmes, Tiffany Hines, Melinda Clarke, Xander Berkeley

Producers: Craig Silverstein (“Bones”), Danny Cannon (“CSI,” “The Forgotten,” “Dark Blue”), McG and Peter Johnson (“Human Target”)

Network’s Description: a spy and assassin for a top secret U.S. government agency rebels against the system that created her and will stop at nothing to bring their powerful operation to an end.

The Buzz: There are a lot of folks muttering about how it hasn’t been all that long since the USA Network’s “La Femme Nikita” series, but a lot of them have walked away surprisingly impressed with the action delivered by the pilot.

Pilot Highlight: The sequence where Nikita sports a very impressive red bathing suit, slips into a hot tub with her target, and takes him down.

Bottom Line: It’s not the perfect pairing for “The Vampire Diaries,” but when you consider the fact that the women who swoon over the undead might also enjoy seeing other members of their gender doing a little well-choreographed ass-kicking, it’s not the craziest match-up in the world. Given the relatively low ratings standards of The CW, the established fans of the “Nikita” franchise might manage to make it into a success for the network.

  

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A Close Encounter with a Couple of Hellcats (and an Olympian to boot)

Recently, Premium Hollywood was pitched the opportunity to attend the so-called SuperGirl Jam 2010, an event which, if we’re to be completely honest, we’d never heard of before we received our invitation.

Why the invite…? Because a couple of the stars of The CW’s new cheerleading drama, “Hellcats,” were going to be in attendance – Robbie Jones and Aly Michalka – and we’d been told that we’d have a chance to chat with them about the series. As a bit of pop culture gravy, we’d been told that we’d also be getting the opportunity to speak with an honest-to-goodness Olympian: Nastia Liukin, who’s also managed to turn up on such series as “Gossip Girl” and “Make It Or Break It.”

So off we went to SuperGirl Jam 2010…and $17 dollars in parking fees later, we did indeed get to to talk to all three of these individuals. That’s the good news. The bad news, however, is that the sum total of time spent with the trio – we talked to each of them separately – barely topped out at the 10-minute mark. Note to self: next time, get a guarantee of at least five minutes per person.

And possibly parking validation.

– Robbie Jones –

Premium Hollywood: Hi, I’m Bob Westal from Premium Hollywood/Bullz-Eye.com.

Robbie Jones: Nice to meet you.

PH: I’m not usually a TV guy and I was researching you. You’re kind of a mystery man.

RJ: Am I?

PH: There’s not a lot about you on the Internet. For example, your age.

RJ: It’s crazy.

PH: Your age is unknown. Are you like 50 years old?

RJ: 57. I have 16 kids.

PH: In five different states.

RJ: It’s crazy. The math is all off but it’s true.

PH: Okay, I know you were on “One Tree Hill” and they kind of killed you.

RJ: It was sad. Sad. Q. [Quentin Fields] was just turning the corner to be a positive guy and — life cut short. Tragic end.

PH: “Tragic end.” Okay. Let’s get a little background [before we move on to “Hellcats”]. Where are you from originally? How did you get started?

RJ: I’m from Sacramento, California and I’ve been in L.A. for about five years and I’ve been acting pretty much since I got out here.

PH: How did you get the “One Tree Hill” gig?

RJ: Well, it was the audition process. I’m sure a ton of guys auditioned for the role. I went in, just like everybody else. [Series creator] Mark Schwahn, I’m telling you, he changed my life, he gave me a shot, believed in me, [CBS Television President] Peter Roth believed in me, and the rest is kind of history. It’s really a blessing from God, honestly.

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Greetings to the New Series: “Hellcats”

As someone who grew up preferring reading to playing sports and had more success as a comic book collector and Trekkie than a ladies man, it will probably come as no surprise to you that my years in public school didn’t exactly find me traveling in the same circles as the cheerleaders. For many years, I perceived cheerleaders as goddesses who deigned to walk among us mere humans, a breed of woman who existed so far above me in the school social structure that I considered it a major end-of-the-year coup if could get any of them to sign my yearbook…and I maintained that impression right up until my little sister became a cheerleader, at which point several things happened semi-simultaneously:

1) I was put in a position where I was forced to acknowledge that if this gaggle of hot girls in short skirts had allowed my sister into their ranks, then she too must be considered hot by the masses. Not cool. Nobody likes the idea that other guys are thinking of their sister like that.

2) I was also forced to acknowledge something which I’d long suspected but hadn’t wanted to admit: that my little sister was far more popular than I was. Even less cool.

3) Less important from a social standpoint but arguably most germane to this discussion, a steady stream of cheerleading videos went into rotation on the VCR in our living room. Whether the girls are hot or not, a guy can only stand to watch so many routines in a row before losing his mind, and I hit my maximum threshold pretty quickly.

The end result of these three things was that I quickly lost my interest in watching cheerleaders in action…and the effect was long-lasting: long after high school, I found little interest in films like “Bring It On” and “Sugar and Spice” because, frankly, I’d had enough cheerleading to last me a lifetime. As such, when it was announced that The CW’s fall line-up would featuring a full-fledged cheerleading drama, I reasonably presumed that I’d still be just as uninterested as I’d ever been.

This time around, though, I had a slightly different reaction to watching the cheerleaders. Sure, as a straight male, my instinct was still to unabashedly ogle the hot girls in the short skirts…but as a 40-year-old male, I realized that my daughter is closer in age to the girls than I am, and I felt – quite appropriately – like a dirty old man.

But, c’mon, man, have you seen the star of this show?

I think even the most chaste amongst our readership can concede that Aly Michalka is, quite simply, smokin’, but as history has shown us time and time again, it takes more than a hot girl…more, even, than a squad of hot girls…to make a quality television show.

Is there more to “Hellcats” than just a bunch of pretty faces?

Well, at the very least, there’s more to it than the average non-female viewer will probably want to admit – yes, that’s right, sir, I’m speaking to you – but your appreciation of it will depend heavily on how you approach the material.

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