Bullz-Eye’s TCA 2011 Winter Press Tour Wrap-Up: Kneel Before Oprah!

The TCA Winter Press Tour is an event which never quite seems to live up to the TCA Summer Press Tour…but, then, that stands to reason, as the mid-season series rarely match the ones which hit the airwaves in the fall, right? Still, the experience never fails to be one which I enjoy, mostly because you never know what’s going to be around the corner, and Day 1 really set the stage for that: during the course of 12 hours, I interviewed Betty White, Henry Rollins, and Bruce Jenner, and, thanks to National Geographic, I wore a giant snake around my neck. Not a bad way to begin things…

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Winter 2011 TCA Press Tour: Top 10 Quotes from Day 2

The first half of the second day of the Winter 2011 TCA Press Tour belonged solely to the Turner networks, who had been notably MIA from the summer tour. Although there were unconfirmed reports that they were not entirely thrilled with the dates that had been set for that tour, as most of their summer programming had already premiered by the time the tour kicked off, but during the opening remarks, we were assured that “we ask for time on the critics tour schedule when we can make it worth your while.” Fair enough, then.

After an “Adventure Time”-themed breakfast from Cartoon Network, Adult Swim brought on a plethora of panelists for “Childrens Hospital” (everyone in the above photo was in attendance, plus executive producers Jonathan Stern and David Wain), TNT followed with “Franklin & Bash,” “Falling Skies,” and “Men of a Certain Age,” then HLN and CNN wrapped things up by getting real and presenting the new talk shows from Dr. Drew Pinsky and Piers Morgan, respectively. Given that I ended up pulling one-on-one interviews with Malcolm McDowell, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Breckin Meyer, Garcelle Beauvais, Ray Romano (and Jon Manfrellotti), Scott Bakula, and Henry Winkler, I am hard pressed to have an unkind word to say about the Turner experience…except, that is, the fact that I diligently and politely contacted publicists for both networks and studios in an effort to nail down interviews in advance but was still ultimately left to fly by the seat of my pants and spend the morning in catch-as-catch-can mode.

Our working lunch was brought to us by the unlikely tag-team of BET (“The Game,” “Let’s Stay Together”) and Playboy TV (“Brooklyn Kinda Love,” “Swing”), and from there it was on to the Discovery family of networks: Animal Planet (“Taking on Tyson,” a look into Mike Tyson’s love of pigeons…yes, seriously), Science Channel (“An Idiot Abroad,” with Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant, and title character Karl Pilkington), Investigation Discovery (“The Injustice Files”), and the mothership, the Discovery Channel (“Gold Rush – Alaska” and “Kidnap & Rescue”).

By then, the excitement / cynicism in the room was palpable: it was time for the OWN Network presentations. We’d been promised a welcome from Oprah, but we didn’t get one. Instead, we got an introduction from network CEO Christina Norman. She’s a very nice lady, but it wasn’t quite the same, and she admitted as much when she came onstage after a lengthy series of clips featuring Ms. Winfrey, saying, “I know: after all that Oprah, I am a massive disappointment to all of you.” Her Majesty did indeed deign to participate in a Q&A with us, but not until after we sat through panels for “Your OWN Show” (10 finalists compete to get their own series on the network), “The Gayle King Show,” and “Our America with Lisa Ling.” After Oprah held court, using what my esteemed colleague Bill Harris of the Toronto Sun referred to as the George W. Bush Technique, which involved offering incredibly lengthy answers in order to minimize the number of questions actually asked.

After the Q&A came to a close (and you can believe that it only ended when Oprah wanted it to end), we were all invited to attend the evening event which, although it was ostensibly brought to us by the OWN Network, nonetheless featured attendees from shows throughout the Discovery family of networks. This resulted in my having close encounters with Mike Tyson, author James Ellroy, and…well, I didn’t actually get to talk to Oprah, but I did stand very close to her (along with Carson Kressley and Nancy O’Dell, hosts of “Your OWN Show”) and breathe the same air as Oprah, so my understanding is that I will now never get cancer…which is nice, of course, but, damn, I really could’ve used a new car.

I know, you wish I’d gotten a new car, too. Don’t be sad, though, as I’m already sad enough for both of us. Besides, I’d much rather you read my selections for the top 10 quotes of Day 2 and leave me wallowing in my own car-less misery. No, don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine…just as long as you don’t forget to come back for my coverage of Day 3.

1. “The one note we did get (for ‘Children’s Hospital’), it was from Warner Brothers…I hesitate to even tell you this, but when we turned in our first script for the web series, Warner Brothers called us up and said, ‘Um, do you think you could cut the shot where we actually see the Twin Towers burning?’ And we were like, ‘Yeah, do you know what? That’s a great note.’” – Rob Corddry, “Children’s Hospital” (Adult Swim)

2. “I actually improvise all my own parts. I don’t know why they hire writers. I enjoy ad-libbing greatly, because I…basically, I can’t remember what the hell I’m doing. What’s the show called?” – Malcolm McDowell, “Franklin & Bash” (TNT)

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Watch “The Ricky Gervais Show”

This should go without saying for fans of the original version of “The Office” or “Extras,” but Ricky Gervais is back on HBO in “The Ricky Gervais Show.” The show is based on a series of podcasts that Gervais and Stephen Merchant (co-creator of “The Office” and “Extras”) did with Karl Pilkington, a weird little man with a round head and a bunch of strange ideas.

The show premiered on Friday, and I was laughing so hard I was literally crying during the opening segment, where Karl explains his idea for how death and birth should proceed. Check out this clip from “The Late Show.”

  

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What Elsa Ya Got? “The Invention of Lying”

For a movie that didn’t exactly perform well at the box office, Warner Bros. has put together a pretty strong collection of extras for the Blu-ray release of “The Invention of Lying.” You’ll get all of the same material on the DVD version, though, so unless you care about the added incentive of a digital copy, you might be better off just saving a few bucks on what isn’t exactly a must-own film.

Prequel: The Dawn of Lying

Originally conceived as a pre-credits sequence, this alternate opening details evidence of the very first lie in history. Narrated by Patrick Stewart and starring the film’s principal cast as their prehistoric counterparts (including Ricky Gervais, Rob Lowe and Jeffrey Tambor), the scene is mildly entertaining, but was rightfully cut during post-production. It might sound great on paper, but it just doesn’t work tonally.

Meet Karl Pilkington

Anyone who’s ever listened to the Ricky Gervais podcasts is already familiar with his friend/punching bag, Karl Pilkington. This 18-minute video diary documents Pilkington’s trip from England to Boston to serve as an extra on the film. It’s not exactly the most economical thing to do, but if nothing else, it proves just how far Gervais is willing to go for his own personal amusement. The fact that Pilkington’s scene just so happens to be the one that was cut (see above) only makes the investment seem that much more senseless. Hey, at least they got a funny extra out of it.

A Truly ‘Honest’ Making of Featurette

It’s not quite as advertised, but this short 7-minute featurette does offer interviews with the cast and crew about working on the film, as well as a few exclusive outtakes and a behind-the-scenes look at the many variations of Gervais’ infectious laugh.

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TCA Tour: The Ricky Gervais Show

If you’ve never listened to the podcast that Ricky Gervais does with his writing partner, Stephen Merchant, then you’ve been missing out on one of the funniest things that’s available for download. Part of it comes, obviously, because of the well-established quick wits of the aforementioned two gentlemen, but the show’s X-factor, if you will, comes from the third man in the recording studio: Karl Pilkington. Although he’s still pretty much a non-entity in the States, you can count on him achieving – at the very least – full-fledged cult status when HBO debuts their new animated series, “The Ricky Gervais Show,” which, despite its title, easily features Pilkington as heavily as Gervais.

There’s no real way to make sense of the way Pilkington’s mind works; we can but marvel at the way he perceives the world and the comments that he makes about it. Here are five moments from the panel which demonstrate what I’m talking about:

1. When asked about Pilkington’s absence from the panel, Gervais explained, “He’s on his way to Rio, I think, to do a documentary called ‘Seven Wonders,’ which we have arranged. We send him around the world to see what he thinks of the seven wonders, and he’s not impressed so far. He thinks the pyramids are overrated. I said, ‘Why?’ He said, ‘It’s a bad design. It’s a bad design.’ He said, ‘The lounge is going to be huge, but the bedroom is going to be tiny.'”

2. “Some of the things that Karl has come up with are incredible,” said Gervais. “I mean, he thought Anne Frank was just avoiding paying rent.”

3. “His serious understanding of evolution,” said Merchant, “is that…he went, ‘Yeah, I know evolution. It starts germ, fish, mermaid, man.'” Said Gervais, “I was trying to get the rudimentaries of evolution to him, and I was explaining to him that we are closer to chimps than chimps are to the gorillas. He was going, ‘No, we are not.’ I go, ‘No. We are.’ I said, ‘We are 98.6 percent genetically identical to a chimpanzee.’ I said, ‘That’s 1.4 percent difference between us and a chimp.’ And he went, ‘That’s got to be the ass.’”

4. “I call him every day, three or four times a day, just to find out what he’s doing,” revealed Gervais. “I called him the other day, and I said, ‘What are you doing?’ And he went, ‘Just walking in the park.’ I went, ‘All right.’ We went, ‘Oh.’ I said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘A worm just fell from the sky.’ And I went, ‘What do you mean?’ He went, ‘He just fell out of the sky.’ I said, ‘Well, a bird probably dropped it.’ And he went, ‘Oh, yeah, there is a bird.’”

5. “We did one podcast,” said Gervais, “I think it was in December 2006, and I said, ‘What was the highlight of the year? Looking back at this year, what will stand out for you?’” And he said, ‘Probably that time I saw a grub eating a biscuit.’ I go, ‘What do you mean?’ He went, ‘Well, I was eating a biscuit. I put the rest on the windowsill. I looked around, and there was a grub eating it.’ I went, ‘Why is that an event?’ He went, ‘I never thought I would see that that year. It made me think, ‘We couldn’t be more different, us and the grub, but we both like a biscuit.'”

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