TCA Press Tour, Summer 2010: Day 5

Mercifully, there were no panels to attend on Day 5 of the TCA Press Tour, thereby allowing me a brief chance to breathe…and, more importantly, to spend some time with my lovely wife Jenn, who arrived from Virginia in the wee hours of Day 4. Although I ducked out to attend the TCA business meeting that morning, I passed on a chance to visit the set of “Big Brother” in order for Jenn and I to have lunch at the South Beverly Grill with my friend Dileep Rao, who I knew way back when he was just a member of the Trashcan Sinatras mailing list. Now, of course, he’s a big shot movie actor who can’t even finish his lunch without having someone come up and say, “I loved you in ‘Inception.'” Either way, it was still good to see him again.

After that, it was back to the hotel to get ready for the TCA Awards, an evening which always proves to be one of the most enjoyable evenings of the tour. It’s the opportunity for the members of the organization to pay tribute to our favorite programs and performances of the previous year, and it’s also a chance for us to interact with the individuals responsible, but we do so with our tape recorders put away for the evening. There’s no red carpet. There’s no video document of the proceedings. It’s just us, the stars, and the night…or does that sound too pretentious? Yeah, it probably does, especially when you’re talking about a night that’s hosted by Dax Shepherd.

Given that the first two TCA Awards ceremonies that I attended were hosted by John Oliver (“The Daily Show”) and the Smothers Brothers, respectively, you’d think that Dax Shepherd would feel like a step down…but then you factor in how awful Chelsea Handler was as last year’s host, and darned if Dax doesn’t seem like a decent choice. Indeed, he proved to be extremely funny, much funnier than I think a lot of us were expecting him to be. He kicked things off by pretending he was addressing a group of HerbalLife salespeople, claimed that he was only hosting because Dog the Bounty Hunter dropped out, then acknowledged he was a little hurt by the fact that just about every review of “Parenthood” that mentioned his performance invariably began with some semblance of the phrase, “You’re never going to believe this, but he’s actually pretty good.” There was also a funny story about how he’s a god at CostCo, thanks to having co-starred in “Employee of the Month” with Dane Cook, and he did a spot-on impression of Owen Wilson calling his brother Luke and mocking him for his telephone commercials. Really, the only disappointing thing about Dax’s appearance was that I didn’t realize he’d brought his fiancee, Kristen Bell, until after she’d already gone. DAMN!

From there, we entered the awards portion of the evening.

PROGRAM OF THE YEAR: “Glee” (FOX)
OUTSTANDING NEW PROGRAM: “Glee” (FOX).
INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENT IN COMEDY: Jane Lynch, “Glee” (FOX).

Alas, Jane Lynch was suffering from laryngitis and was unable to attend, but Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan accepted the award in her stead, offering as solace a list of four things we’ll hear Sue Sylvester say in Season 2.

4. “A female football coach is like a male nurse, Will: it’s a sin against nature.”
3. “I secretly hope you’re in the middle of a midlife crisis, William, as that means you’re halfway to an early death, affording me a blissful demented convalescence spent peeing on your grave.”
2. “Don’t go soft on me, Will. I realize you’re mourning the loss of that bony little redhead you’re in love with, and I understand. It’s not just a loss for you. As she appears to be the link between early hominids and man, it’s also a loss for science.”
1. “Should’ve taken the poop cookies, Will.”

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The 2010 Primetime Emmy nominations are in!

Bright and early this morning…by which we mean 8:40 AM EST / 5:40 AM PST…the nominees for the 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards were announced by Joel McHale (“Community,” “The Soup”) and Sofia Vergara (“Modern Family”). It ended up being a worthwhile gig for one of them, at least, with Vergara pulling in a Supporting Actress nod for “Modern Family.” Maybe that’s why McHale seemed so stone-faced. (Seriously, did someone tell McHale that he wasn’t getting paid if he didn’t keep his smart-assery in line ’til after the nominees were read? The only time he cracked anything approaching a joke was when he preempted Vergara’s mangling of Mariska Hargitay’s last name.) Anyway, here’s a list of who got the glory…and, in the case of Best Actress in a Drama, who got the shaft.

Outstanding Comedy Series:

* Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)
* Glee (Fox)
* Modern Family (ABC)
* Nurse Jackie (Showtime)
* The Office (NBC)
* 30 Rock (NBC)

My Pick: “Modern Family.” There’s no question that “Glee” is award-worthy, but not necessarily as a comedy, which is also where “Nurse Jackie” falters in this category. I feel like “The Office” and “30 Rock” coasted in on their past merits this year, but “Curb” got a huge boost from the “Seinfeld” storyline, so it’s the only real competition here. Still, the buzz on “Modern Family” is all over the place. I can’t imagine it won’t bring home the glory.

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Fox: What’s New for Fall 2009

Glee (Wed., Sept. 9 @ 9:00 PM, Fox)

The competition: “Modern Family” and “Cougar Town” (ABC), “Criminal Minds” (CBS), “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” (NBC), “The Beautiful Life” (The CW)

Starring: Jane Lynch, Jayma Mays, Corey Monteith, Lea Michele, Dianna Agron, Matthew Morrison, Jessalyn Gilsig, Chris Colfer, Patrick Gallagher, Kevin McHale, Jenna Ushkowitz, Amber Riley, Mark Salling
Producers: Bradley Buecker, Brad Falchuk, and Ryan Murphy (“Nip/Tuck”), Zachary Woodlee (“Eli Stone”)
Network’s Description: A one-hour musical comedy that follows an optimistic high school teacher as he tries to transform the school’s Glee Club and inspire a group of ragtag performers to make it to the biggest competition of them all: Nationals. McKinley High School’s Glee Club used to be at the top of the show choir world, but years later, a series of scandals have turned it into a haven for misfits and social outcasts. Will Schuester, a young optimistic teacher, has offered to take on the Herculean task of restoring McKinley’s Glee Club to its former glory with the help of fellow teacher Emma Pillsbury. It’s a tall order when the brightest stars of the pitch-imperfect club include Kurt, a nerdy soprano with a flair for the dramatic; Mercedes, a dynamic diva-in-training who refuses to sing back-up; Artie, a geeky guitarist who spends more time avoiding bullies than chasing girls; and Tina, an awkward girl who needs to suppress her stutter before she can take center stage. Will’s only hope lies with two true talents: Rachel Berry, a perfectionist firecracker who is convinced that show choir is her ticket to stardom; and Finn Hudson, the popular high school quarterback with movie star looks and a Motown voice who must protect his reputation with his holier-than-thou girlfriend, Quinn, and his arrogant teammate, Puck. Driven by his secret past, Will is determined to do whatever it takes to make Glee great again, even though everyone around him thinks he’s nuts. He’s out to prove them all wrong – from his tough-as-nails wife Terri Schuester to McKinley’s cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester to an über-hip world that thinks jazz hands and sequined tuxedos litter the road to infamy rather than pave the way to Hollywood dreams.
The Buzz: Crazy insane. (Insane? Crazy?) Fox’s decision to air the pilot for the show back in May and let it simmer for the summer was one of the strongest marketing moves in recent television history, as evidenced by the ridiculous amount of iTunes downloads of the songs from the show, and while having the cast turn up at Comic-Con might’ve seemed out of place at first, given how close the lines for “glee club members” and “comic book and sci-fi aficionados” lie on the geek flowchart, it shouldn’t have. And now they’re preparing to tour the malls of America…? The buzz buzz buzz you’re hearing in the drum of your ear is the sound of “Glee.”
Pilot Highlight: If you didn’t want to leap to your feet and applaud at the end of their performance of “Don’t Stop Believin’,” you are dead inside. Dead, I say.
Bottom Line: It’s going to be like having a new volume of “High School Musical” airing every single week, except with sensibilities falling closer to “Freaks and Geeks.” If it isn’t a huge hit, and if the soundtrack to the show isn’t one of the biggest selling albums of the holiday season, I will be shocked…and crestfallen, too, as I’m totally in the “Glee” club as well.

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“Basterds” at the box office

There are actually four new major releases coming out this weekend, but only one you’ll likely be hearing much about…and you’ve already been hearing about it, and hearing about it, and hearing about it, and we (mostly me) here at Premium Hollywood have been as guilty as anyone.

Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” is set to make upwards of $25 million says jolly Carl DiOrio of THR and The Wrap’s Lucas Shaw. Those of you who have been following this know that the film’s take has been given more attention than a lot of movies because many suspect it will be crucial to the fortunes of Harvey and Bob Weinstein, formerly of Miramax and now of The Weinstein Company. (They say that they’re actually doing okay.) Harvey Weinstein is such a well known character that all the makers of “Entourage” had to do was hire similarly proportioned character actor Maury Chaykin and call him “Harvey” and 1/3 of the audience probably knew who was referenced. The Weinsteins have always been something of a throwback to the movie moguls of old times with their seat of the pants judgments and risk taking, so that lends a bit drama to the matter.

As for the critical reception, it’s about as good as Tarantino and the Weinsteins could have asked for, especially given that the film’s Cannes premier was greeted with a chorus that some have described as negative but was really all over the place; some proclaimed instant love, others expressed varying degrees of disappointment, and others were baffled. Now, after some apparently very effective tinkering on Tarantino’s part, the U.S. chorus at is singing mostly in harmony with an 88% “Fresh” at Rotten Tomatoes.  Though there has been a smattering of controversy over the film’s “once upon a time in Nazi occupied France” tone/plot no-longer-surprises, it’s a far cry even from the debates over violence that raged over “Kill Bill, Volume 1.” Oh well, one less source of free publicity.

Inglourious Basterds There is an additional lure this time. For once, Tarantino isn’t reviving the career of his lead actor but is actually benefiting from the presence of an A-lister in no particular need of a comeback in Brad Pitt. The possible fly in the ointment is that we critics are different from other people: we see more films. No director on the planet so makes movies for movie fans as Tarantino and, as with his other films, there’s always the chance that viewers who aren’t fully steeped in cinema might be lost at sea. As Anne Thompson wrote a couple of weeks back after seeing what she thought was a greatly improved cut of the film:

“Inglourious Basterds” is great fun—for cinephiles. It’s not a mainstream movie. If it gets to $50 million domestic there will be cheers through the corridors of Universal and Weinstein Co. And it should easily do better than that overseas.

That second part of Thompson’s prophesy has already begun to be proven, with Variety‘s Pamela McClintock reporting Tarantino’s strongest opening yet in France, Belgium, and Francophone Switzerland. As for the reaction of regular ol’ Americans, only time will tell. Still, everybody seems to be expecting it to defeat the similarly male-leaning and violent “District 9” and at least match the $25.1 million opening weekend of “Kill Bill, Volume 2.

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TCA Tour: “Glee”

During his executive session at the TCA Press Tour, Fox President of Entertainment Kevin Reilly announced that they’ve finished 13 episodes of “Glee,” assuring us that “the show delivers. It’s fantastic.” While this is exactly the sort of thing you’d expect a network president to say, those of us who caught the pilot episode of the series when it aired earlier this year couldn’t be much more hopeful that Reilly isn’t just talking out of his arse.

It was an interesting experiment for Fox to air the series pilot months before the series was to make its proper debut, but it created the kind of buzz that makes network executives giddy.

“We didn’t really think that a one-time-only play was going to be about ratings,” said Reilly. “It was really a marketing stunt to a certain extent, and it’s something that has ended up being very successful. In fact, it could be the marker for something we’re going to employ more frequently, because our marketing effort in these things get wedged into such a narrow window from the time they’re ready to put out there to the time they air. We wanted people to talk about it and take time to get their heads around it. It did a 4.3 rating ultimately in the Live-Plus-Seven. It’s been sampled by 25 million people between TV, the online site, and Hulu, which has been unbelievably strong. We’re going to repeat it again. We’ve heard the chatter, and the talk continues to get more and more positive.

“We were at Comic-Con last week, which was a stretch for this show,” he admitted. “We were nervous nobody was going to show up. It wasn’t even in the main venue. There were thousands of people out the door, and it was like The Beatles were there. There’s something happening with the show. With that said, we’re both very confident there is a core audience for this show that is going to be there and it will be successful. How much the upside is…? I don’t think we’re looking for this to be necessarily the biggest phenomenon of the fall. It is a little bit of an offbeat show, but we’d certainly love to have it in that square success category. We know it’s a creative success because we’ve now seen the work. So all in all, we like that strategy. It worked very well.”

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