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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Movie news and commentary…lots of it: “The Hobbit” is cast but <sigh> Mel Gibson exists and must be dealt with, somehow (updated)

Tonight’s box office preview has been moved to tomorrow because of a couple of a films news items that just can’t quite wait. The first can be dispensed with in a second. Casting has been announced on “The Hobbit,” short, snub-nosed and talented Martin Freeman will face his inevitable hobbity destiny as Bilbo Baggins, as Peter Jackson again casts a bunch of people I’ve mostly never heard of in smaller roles who’ll probably all be great.

And then there’s this news of Mel Gibson being let go from “The Hangover 2 just a day after it was announced he’d been hired to play a supporting role. Oy.

US-CINEMA-EDGE OF DARKNESS

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Midweek movie news — the fatigue edition!

I’m overtired and miles from home in a West L.A. Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and I probably should have just thrown up another embed and gone for home and some sleep, but the movie news is just not waiting tonight…

* Johnny Depp is apparently wanting to star in a new version of Dashiell Hammett’s “The Thin Man,” or perhaps the series of really fun movies starring the great William Powell and Myrna Loy that the original 1934 movie adaptation spawned. I’ve no particular clue why he’d want Rob Marshall — not a bad director at all, but also not a great one and prone to ADHD editing — when he could have his pick. Of course, selecting a Nora Charles to go with his Nick will be half the fun — the possibilities are pretty endless though for some reason the only person I can think of right now is Cate Blanchett. She’s great, but don’t ask me why she comes to mind. It’s probably the fatigue. One big problem: Nick and Nora are a couple of merry alcoholics — or at least huge problem drinkers. It’ll be interesting to see how they handle that aspect of the property in today’s more abstemious world, although I suppose Nick Charles isn’t that far removed from Jack Sparrow or Keith Richard.

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* They worked mostly in other media, but they all had their moments in the movie sun: RIP Barbara Billingsley, Tom Bosley and, er, Bob Guccione.

* Cinephile’s cinephile uber-blogger David Hudson, who is based in Germany, gives us a fascinating post-mortem look at a writer and filmmaker I’ve never heard of until now, Thomas Harlan. The key fact here: Harlan’s father directed “Jew Suss,” the most notorious narrative antisemitic film produced by Joseph Goebbel’s Nazi UFA, and had been actively dealing with the legacy.

* Sometimes an actor blends so seamlessly into a part you wonder whether she is really even acting at all.

* In the battle of Hobbit-man Peter Jackson versus the NZ/Oz/U.S. unions, it sure looks like the unions blinked. This is probably the first such battle where I’m glad of it.

* “Giallo” is the name for the subgenre of bloody horror flicks from Italy that predated American slasher films with more mature characters and a heck of a lot more style from directors like Mario Bava and Dario Argento. Apparently wanting to get in on the whole self-awareness thing, Argento, who unbelievably is only just turning 70, made a movie actually called “Giallo” starring Adrien Brody. Brody says the producers didn’t pay him and is suing them and blocking the release of the movie for the time being. That’s always a mistake — not paying your star, I mean.

* Ben Affleck is considering switching from character-driven crime fiction adaptations to a character-driven fantasy-drama adaptation, “Replay.” I gather the book by the late Ken Groomwood is an old favorite of my highly esteemed colleague Will Harris and won a World Fantasy Award in 1987. Why have I never heard of it before?

* “Heckraiser“?

* Today’s tie for the “is this really news” prize: Robert Downey, Jr. “eyes” playing a really intense guy who gets involved in paranoid wackiness. Also, crazed lunatic Mel Gibson follows the path of reformed ear-biter Mike Tyson and will appear in “The Hangover 2” according to the totally awesome-in-my-book Jodie Foster, who seems to be doing whatever she can to try and salvage her widely discussed movie, “The Beaver” by trying to help repair his insanely in-shambles image. Talk about strange bedfellows.

  

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Entourage 7.5 – Bottoms Up

Take a look at the title of tonight’s episode and then think about it for a few seconds. Get that little giggle out of your system? Great, let’s move on. Of course, that might be hard to do considering both references in the title – namely, anal sex and tequila shots – played a big part in several of the storylines this week. The most entertaining one involved Vince hooking up with porn star (and supposed anal specialist) Sasha Grey at a club, only to surprise the guys with her smarts, sophistication and sense of humor.

Sasha may be classier than she looks, but Drama and Scotty Lavin most certainly are not, launching into a discussion about anal sex that results in Eric confessing he’s never tried it. Scotty claims that Eric needs to do it at least once before he gets married, and Drama agrees (“You kidding? Vagina’s my third favorite hole.”), but when Eric mentions the idea to Sloan, she reminds him that they did try it once… unsuccessfully. That didn’t stop them from trying again, however, but just as Eric suspected, he likes her vagina. It was a rare comedic twist in the relationship that was sorely needed, because up until now, the writers have made Eric’s decision to marry Sloan seem like a bad thing. And if you’ve seen her recently (or heard the actress that plays her talk about all of her awesome qualities in that promo HBO has been airing recently), then you know that it’s not.

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Getting back to Vince, while it may have seemed a bit unprofessional to bring Sasha with him to his meeting with Stan Lee and Randall Wallace, I don’t think it should have had anything to do with the fact that she was a porn star. Granted, I can understand their caution about working with young actors who turn out to be the latest fuck-up of the month, but if they hadn’t been so prudish about Sasha’s career, then Vince probably wouldn’t have acted like a giggly little child. The fact that he mixed some of Turtle’s tequila with a Vicodin certainly didn’t help, but I’d be more concerned about him getting addicted to pain meds (or looking like an ass as the face of some tequila) than losing out on a job because he’s dating a porn star. And from the looks of things, Vince is about to go 2-for-2 in that area.

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