Winter 2011 TCA Press Tour: Top 10 Quotes from Day 3

Day 3 of the Winter 2011 TCA Press Tour ran me ragged, moreso than any day which preceded it and, I feel rather certain, than any day to follow. Very rarely has it ever come to pass that I schedule a day full of one-on-one interviews and have every single of them go off without a hitch, and you can probably already guess that yesterday wasn’t an exception to that rule. I should probably just be happy that I got some of them, though: the way things were looking, I wasn’t entirely convinced that I was going to get any of them.

The last day of the cable portion of the tour began with breakfast with the members of the Rainbow Networks: WEtv (“Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best” and “Braxton Family Values”), IFC (“Onion News Network” and “Portlandia”), and AMC (“The Killing”). Shifting ballrooms, we next listened to A&E (“Breakout Kings”) and Lifetime (“Seriously Funny Kids” and “Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy”), but…do you detect a trend here?…we soon moved back to the other ballroom to get the scoop on stuff from Hallmark (“Goodnight for Justice”) and Starz (“Camelot,” “Spartacus: Gods of the Arena,” and “Torchwood: Miracle Day”). Lastly, it was – oh, dear – back to the other ballroom again. This time, however, HBO kept us sitting still for the duration of the afternoon, giving us looks into “Mildred Pierce,” “The Pee-Wee Herman Show on Broadway,” “Cinema Verite,” “Game of Thrones,” “Too Big to Fail,” and “The Sunset Limited.”

My problem, however, was this: I had to keep bowing out of this panel and that in order to participate in various roundtables and one-on-one interviews. Worse, one of the roundtables – stand up, please, Tommy Lee Jones – was shifted from a perfect location on the schedule into a spot which utterly disrupted almost all of the interviews that followed. In the end, though, I did manage to participate in two roundtables for “Game of Thrones,” including one with author George R.R. Martin, I and two other writers sparred with Mr. Jones (surviving the encounter without having any of my questions ridiculed or dismissed outright has earned me some sort of entertainment journalism merit badge, I feel certain), and still managed to chat one-on-one with the too-sweet-for-words Eve Myles (“Torchwood: Miracle Day”) as well as John Hannah and Peter Mensah (“Spartacus: Gods of the Arena”).

The evening event was brought to us by Hallmark, and it took place at the Tournament House…as in the Tournament of Roses…in Pasadena. It was a pleasantly low-key event which began with cocktails and featured a classy sit-down dinner. What I’m saying, basically, is that it was old-school in all the right ways, including familiar TV faces like Doris Roberts, Marion Ross, and Marilu Henner, who regularly found herself holding court about her superior autobiographical memory. I also had an opportunity to sit down and chat with 11-year-old Kiernan Shipka, who plays Sally Draper on “Mad Men.” What a little sweetheart.

Okay, that’s it for the Day 3 wrap-up. Time for your daily dose of my favorite quotes…

1. “I knew that I was doing a lot of plastic surgery, because Melissa, one time, called me when (my grandson) Cooper was four years old and they had ‘Return of the Mummy,’ and he ran to the TV and went, ‘Grandma, Grandma.’ But I think plastic surgery come on, guys. You know. How many people have you interviewed…if you had a stitch for every if you had a dollar for every stitch in the face of someone you’ve interviewed, you wouldn’t be sitting here. You know what I mean? It’s part of our business.” – Joan Rivers, “Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best” (WEtv)

2. “It is literally impossible to be more ridiculous than Fox News or MSNBC. It’s actually impossible. It’s happened multiple times that we’ll be kind of talking and brainstorming a joke in the writers’ room, we’ll get excited about it, and then it’s literally on the FoxNews.com website. So I think we have to kind of embrace that closeness. And the excitement for us is not being a parody of 24-hour news, but we are real news. Those are our competitors in a kind of slightly different world, and I think that believability is also part of what’s exciting about it. We’ve had online cases where, for example, last year there was a case where we published a story about Neil Armstrong now saying that the moon landing was a hoax, and all these papers in Bangladesh picked it up. There was a story about the Make-A-Wish Foundation being bankrupted by a child who wishes for unlimited wishes, which is pretty out there. It went on MySpace, which is kind of the Internet hub for morons, and we got this letter from the Make-A-Wish Foundation that was, like, ‘We’re getting hundreds of e-mails every hour, people who are concerned.’ So how ridiculous those things are, I think, really kind of opens up a lot of doors for us.” – Will Graham, “Onion News Network” (IFC)

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2010 Year End TV Review: Jason Zingale

It was an especially transformative year of television, at least for me, as my TV viewing diet underwent a bit of restructuring. Once-favorite shows began collecting dust on the DVR (sorry “Burn Notice,” but you’re losing your sizzle), and in the case of a few (like “Chuck”), were deleted altogether. Consequently, NBC’s “Community,” which spent most of its freshman season on the fringe of receiving similar treatment, is now the highlight of my Thursday nights. That’s because while shows like “Burn Notice” and “Chuck” are pretty much running on dead fumes at this point, “Community” has just begun to hit its groove. “How I Met Your Mother” also bounced back from an off-year with some of its funniest episodes to date, “Glee” and “Castle” continue to be as guilty as they are pleasurable, and the new season of “Top Chef” might just be the best yet. But none were able to crack my Top 5, which goes to prove that while there might have been a few misses this year, the hits were a lot more memorable.

year_end_terriers

1. Terriers

Clever, funny, dark and provocative, “Terriers” may have wowed critics with its flawed characters and rich storytelling, but that didn’t change John Landgraf’s recent decision not to renew it for a second season. I don’t blame the FX President for the low ratings (most networks would have given up after only a few weeks), but I do blame the rest of America for failing to tune in to the best new show of the season. Yes, you heard right. Although I enjoyed “The Walking Dead” and the overrated “Boardwalk Empire,” the buddy detective drama delivered better acting and writing week in and week out. Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James had unparalleled chemistry as the scrappy private investigators (the titular terriers, if you will) caught in the middle of the case of a lifetime, so it’s a shame that we won’t get to tag along on any of their further adventures – especially since the season finale left things wide open. Another brilliant but cancelled television show that, ten years from now, will still be missed.

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2. Modern Family

It hasn’t even completed its second season, but “Modern Family” already seems destined to become a comedy classic. It’s that good, and anyone who says otherwise should get an X-ray to see if their funny bone is broken. Of course, considering that it’s one of the most-watched shows on TV, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t agree. But for those who still haven’t experienced the funniest half-hour of television, it’s about time that you do, because there isn’t a single show that even comes close to matching the number of laughs in an average episode. And although the writing staff certainly deserves some credit, it’s cast members like Ty Burrell, Ed O’Neill and Sofia Vergara who make every joke that much funnier. Even the kids are funny, and that’s saying a lot from someone who isn’t particularly fond of child actors. It’s almost unbelievable the way the show fires on all cylinders so consistently, but that’s what separates a great show from a good one, and “Modern Family” is nothing if not that.

year_end_sons_of_anarchy

3. Sons of Anarchy

The third season of FX’s outlaw biker drama may not have been its best, but after a sluggish start, the series redeemed itself by getting back to the kind of top-notch storytelling that fans have come to expect. Many of those fans were quick to criticize the ambitious Ireland subplot that dominated most of the season, but along with fleshing out some of the club’s back story, it also set the stage for what turned out to be a killer finale. Many of the supporting players got lost in the background this year, but Charlie Hunnam gave the performance of his career, guest stars Paula Malcomson and James Cosmo proved themselves worthy additions to the cast, and Ally Walker put the finishing touches on what might just be the best TV villain in quite some time. The show may have stumbled a bit along the way, but no matter how you felt about the season as a whole, those who stuck around for the long haul were given plenty of incentive to come back next fall.

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Mad Men 4.5 – “How does she not fall over?”

I don’t want to say that Don’s gotten himself the secretary he deserves, but…I don’t know how else to finish that sentence. Although you could easily argue that she’s almost more of a comedic device than an actual character, at least she serves a definitive statement: this is definitely a woman who Don is not going to be sleeping with. Mind you, given her performance in the first few minutes of the episode, there’s really no reason to believe that she’s going to be around for the long haul, anyway. Still, you don’t really hear Don complaining very much when she interrupts the scintillating meeting about the stats behind America’s typical cough-drop users to tell him that he’s got a phone call from Walter Hoffman from The New York Times, though it’s possible that his feelings on the matter changed after he discovered the reason for the call.

Hoffman’s found out that Clearasil’s been signed to another firm, and he’s nosing around about a possible trend with companies jumping ship from Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Don claims to not be thinking about it, but Ted Shaw has claimed, “Every time Don Draper looks in his rear view mirror, he sees me.” Don’s only on-the-record comment on the matter is to claims that he’s never heard of Ted Shaw.

It’s time for a meeting of the partners, one prefaced by a brief conversation about the state of civil rights in America. (I’ve noticed that real-world goings-on seem to only be referenced offhandedly this season. I don’t know that it’s a better-or-worse situation. I’m just saying that I’ve noticed it.) When Don arrives, however, things get down to business, with Pete announcing that he’s convinced the folks at Secor Laxatives to produce a TV commercial and test market it. Cue Roger making a few inevitable jokes on the matter, which are quickly poo-pooed by Bertram Cooper.

Yes, that’s right: I went there.

Better still, Pete’s looking toward a possible relationship between the firm and Honda, which was still very much an up-and-coming company as far as American audiences were concerned. Look at Pryce, making with the funny. He’s really loosened up since his night on the town with Don, eh? Too bad Roger’s being such a hard-ass about the situation, still battling some demons which have apparently been haunting him since World War II. I was somewhat surprised with the way everyone immediately decided to bypass Roger and move forward with the Honda meeting, but I guess it’s hard to argue with the possibility of that kind of money.

Be honest, though: how many of you had ever heard of “The Sword and the Chrysanthemum“? I mean, I’m sure plenty of you have probably read it, but I’m not going to pretend that I’m one of them.

And, seriously, who the hell is Dr. Lyle Evans?

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Mad Men 3.3 – The young folks roll on the little cabin floor

Hi, I’m Bob and I’ll be your guest “Mad Men” blogger for today — and what a day it is. We have work masquerading as parties and parties pretending to be work. (Guess which turns out to be more interesting?) We see the hidden talents and proclivities of the ladies and gents of Sterling Cooper as mind altering substances, liquid and herbal, and good and bad behavior of all sorts rules Derby Day, 1963.

“My Old Kentucky Home” opens with a call back to last week‘s totemization of the hotness that was early sixties Ann Margaret, as Peggy Olson supervises an audition with a red-maned lass who claims to have acted in a production of Tartuffe but who sounds like she’s answering the $64,000 question when she says it was written by “Moliere?”  Harry Crane smiles like a loon and tries to ask more about her, but Peggy makes short work of him.

And it’s Peggy we’re going to be spending a good chunk of tonight learning to admire ever more as she realizes that she is a skilled creative, even if Sterling Cooper “hates creatives.” The cause of all that is a last minute assignment to put together material for a new Bacardi campaign, forcing her, pretentious Paul Kinsey and turtlenecked hipster Smitty to work over the weekend as the higher ups, which now include both Pete Campbell and Ken Cosgrove, all attend a swank Derby-themed shindig hosted by Roger Sterling and his new young wife, Jane.

Meanwhile, things aren’t easy on the home front. Not yet retired secretary Joan Harris, nee  Holloway, and her new husband, who, er, raped her last season are getting ready for a dinner party for his MD colleagues. The good news is that not even this psychotic can keep Joan under his thumb. As he fearfully tries to bully her — over table settings — he says angrily that he doesn’t want to have a fight, her answer is succinct: “Then stop talking.”

Joan Holloway

Joan is a survivor, no doubt. But before the night is over we learn that her husband may have some potentially serious career problems on top of his obvious violent tendencies — which nevertheless seem under control, just for the present.

Things are only a little less fraught at the home of Don and the now very pregnant Betty Draper. The Drapers are dealing with Betty’s dad, whose slide into dementia seems to be manifesting itself this week as something more like eccentricity, having young Sally read to him from The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (which, perhaps fortunately, she doesn’t seem to quite understand).

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