Winter 2011 TCA Press Tour: 9 Memorable Moments from Day 9

For all of the panels that NBC-Universal offered us yesterday, none of them were really chock full of memorable quotes, so I thought I’d go a slightly different route with today’s retrospective and just cite some of my favorite moments from throughout the course of the day…and if you think this is mostly just a way for me to avoid having to trudge through the transcripts, give yourself a hearty pat on the back. Give me a break: it’s Day 9, and I’m very tired from arguing with Kara DioGuardi fans.

And on that note…

1. Bravo’s “Platinum Hit” session

You’ve hopefully already read my open letter to Ms. DioGuardi about my disappointment with the way she handled the inevitable question about her departure from “American Idol,” but that wasn’t the only part about the panel that grated on my nerves. One of the other judges on this songwriting-competition series is Jewel, and…okay, first of all, let me acknowledge that I’m not really a Jewel fan and under threat of death wouldn’t be able to come up with a more recent Jewel song than 2001’s “Standing Still,” but even when it comes to artists I do actively like, I don’t enjoy it when they slip into braggadocio. After Jewel dropped these lines during the panel…

* “I was talking to Steven Spielberg…”

* “I bought my house from all my hits.”

* “Bob Dylan took me under his wing when I was about 20. My first record was considered a failure, but he liked it and he was like, ‘Don’t sell out, don’t change, don’t start doing grunge, just do what you do, stay on the road, stay solo acoustic.’ And I did because he believed in me. And Neil Young was the same way.”

…I pretty much tuned out. I’m sure Jewel’s a very talented songwriter, but as I walked away from the panel, it was more with the feeling that she’s much more talented at namedropping.

2. Oxygen’s session for “The Glee Project.”

Actually, I couldn’t tell you a thing that was said during the session. I was too busy looking at the mike girls – they bring you the microphones to ask questions, then take them to the next person when you’re done – who were dressed in cheerleader outfits for the panel. Yeah, it’s definitely time for me to get home to my wife…

3. Keith David talking about the development of his awesome voice during the panel for “The Cape.”

“I was always a second tenor,” said David. “I was never, you know, Alfalfa. But when about 13, and I was a singer before I was an actor, and all I could sing was loud, and certainly I came into this I came into that Alfalfa transition where all I could do…”

At this point, he switched into a wobbly voice… “is talk like that all the time.”

Back to his regular voice. “And then something began to switch, and now I sound like I sound, you know. I’m grateful to be here because I do get a chance to use all you know, in the first episode, I say I’m using my stage voice. Well, you know, I mean, that was one of the when I read the script, that was one of the funniest moments for me because it’s, like, when I’m auditioning for things, many times I’m told, ‘Can you tone that down a little bit? Can you bring that back?’ So this is one of the few times I’m not always told that. That’s kind of nice.”

4. The “Harry’s Law” panel discussing the age of the show’s star.

By the time someone asked about the fact that Kathy Bates is 60 years old, which is pretty elderly when you consider the demos that the broadcast networks tend to look for, she’d pretty well charmed most of the audience. First, she said she decided on doing the show because, in her character’s first scene, “she had her feet up on the desk, she was smoking pot, and watching ‘Bugs Bunny.’ After that, I was in.” Then, when asked if it was hard to sustain her character’s grumpiness, she admitted, “I come naturally to that. Not to be flip, but I can be a naturally grumpy person…and adjusting to the long hours on the set helped that right along!”

When the topic of age was addressed, which series creator David E. Kelley took it in stride. “Not many networks have come to me recently and said, ‘Can you give me a series with a 60-year-old lead?'” he admitted. “But I have to believe that, given the universe of 500-plus channels, there has to be room on the landscape for one. When we landed Kathy to play the character, (NBC) were beyond thrilled. You can say it’s one thing to have a 60-year-old lead. It’s quite another to have Kathy Bates as your lead. So they probably, with a grain of salt, said, ‘Gee, do we want a series with an older actor?’ But once it became Kathy, there was no hesitation whatsoever.”

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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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Fangirls give fanboys a run for their money as “New Moon” hits the record books

New Moon Even more than before, studio development executives will be combing through scripts looking for something about female humans in love with handsome young monsters whose unspeakable urges can only be controlled if they immediately remove their shirts. “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” earned an estimated $140.7 million this weekend for mini-major Summit Entertainment, which is now a bit more major and a bit less mini. As both jolly Carl DiOrio and Nikki Finke remind us, that puts it right behind the opening weekends of “The Dark Knight” and “Spider-Man 3,” displacing, as per Finke, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” with its pitiful $135.6 million.

“New Moon” enjoyed a spectacular Friday performance of $72.7 million, an all-time record one-day take, but dropped by what DiOrio describes as a “manageable” 41% to earn a still terrific $43.2 million on Saturday. (Finke, plays the baseball statistician and mentions that the two-day total $115.9 million makes for the biggest two-day gross of all time, and also gets into other November openings, if you think that stuff is important.) Still, by the end of this weekend, most of the really hardcore “Twilight” fans will have seen “New Moon.” The question remaining is how many casual viewers, plus repeat hardcore fans, will return for the big Thanksgiving day weekend.

There was another surprise this weekend: I was right about one of my casual box office prognostications! Based on the true story of the NFL’s Michael Oher, “The Blind Side” starring Sandra Bullock and newcomer Quinton Aaron supported by country singer Tim McGraw and Kathy Bates,  proved the sturdiness of the inspirational sports film genre. The sub-genre goes back at least as far back as 1940’s “Knute Rockne All American” and in this case won an estimated $34.5 million for the gipper and Warner Brothers, pretty much in line with what I wrote on Thursday. Astonishing.

According to Finke, the prognosticaters had only pegged this one for a maximum of $20 million, but they didn’t reckon, I suppose, with the cross gender and generational appeal of the story as well as its cross-cultural/ethnic impact which spans the inner-city and red state America, and both conservative and liberal perspectives common in Obama’s America. Lou Loumenick quotes this line uttered by country star Tim McGraw in the role of Bullock’s husband: “Who ever thought we would have a black son before we knew a Democrat?”

Woody H. in In the #3 spot this week was the big holdover from last weekend, Roland Emmerich’s “2012” which dropped a not-so-great 59% in its second week — spurred on, perhaps, by bad word of mouth from people  like the 20-something male checker at the Walgreen’s next door to me who volunteered his views to me a couple of nights back. The mega-disaster flick earned a relatively modest estimated $25 million for Sony on it’s second weekend for a total so far of $108 million. That’s still well short of it’s $200 million budget, which I find a bit obscene, but it’s current foreign total is $341.1 milion. Ah, the international language of blowing-shit-up.

Bringing up the rear of the new releases is the poorly reviewed “Planet 51,” which apparently shows that even CGI animated family comedies can be hurt by poor buzz if that buzz is bad enough.  Also, while our own Jason Zingale was unimpressed, “Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire” continued its unusually strong performance as it expanded this week. As explicated via table at Box Office Mojo, the downbeat tale of inner city dysfunction earned an impressive $11 million in only 629 theaters (as compared to 3,035 for “Planet 51”).

Of the two films debuting from undisputed world class directors and huge international stars, German man-of-the-world/universe Werner Herzog’s critically embraced “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” starring Nicolas Cage had a disappointing debut of only $257,000 in 27 theaters despite great reviews and considerable buzz. On the other hand, Spain’s brilliant twosome of Pedro Aldomovar and Penelope Cruz earned back some of that lost “Planet 51” cred for their nation by taking in the week’s highest per screen average ($54,000) with their latest, “Broken Embraces.” That’s on only two screens, but it’s a start.

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