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 13 Quotes from Day 8

No proper panels today, but we did a heck of a lot of driving around. It was TCA Day, which meant that we went to this studio and that, visiting the sets of various shows and meeting their casts and creators. It started bright and early with trips to “Lopez Tonight” and “Conan,” then it was over to 20th Century Fox, where we were treated to panels featuring stars from “Glee,” “How I Met Your Mother,” “Raising Hope,” and “Modern Family,” divided up into men and women, with Jimmy Kimmel moderating the panel for the guys. After that, we hit the sets of “Cougar Town,” “Parks & Recreation,” and “Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior.” Good times all around, especially for someone like me, who lives in Virginia and rarely gets to enjoy these kinds of experiences. After that, I headed over to the Vanguard for the taping of two episodes of Season 2 of “The Green Room with Paul Provenza,” which was phenomenal. How can you go wrong with an evening that includes appearances from Ron White, Kathleen Madigan, Lewis Black, Margaret Cho, Richard Lewis, Jeffrey Ross, and others? Can’t wait to see the final cut of the episode. (They run 30 minutes, but the taping’s more like an hour and a half.)

But I know, you’re wondering, “Why 13 quotes?” It’s a weird number, so it’s a valid question. Originally, it was going to be 15 quotes, but for reasons unknown to me, we have yet to receive a transcription from our trip to the “Parks & Recreation” set, which contained at least two more solid quotes. Oh, well.

1. “I’ve said it before and I sincerely mean it, in the modern landscape of television there is only a few ways to stay on TV, and one of them is to be, you know, lucky as shit and have a huge giant hit, and everybody in the world watches you, and the other is to cultivate a loyal and hopefully intelligent audience that follows you around, and that is in no great part due to people that champion the show if they like it. First and foremost, I wanted to say that for those of you that don’t like the show, fuck you guys. But those of you who have really taken the time to champion the show and write about it and say nice things, I’m grateful. It’s not just for ego reasons, in this day and age it really means something.” – Bill Lawrence, “Cougar Town” (ABC)

2. “On April Fools’, I was talking to Usher, and I said, ‘You have three kids.’ He said, ‘No, I don’t.’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ He goes, ‘No, I don’t. Don’t you have research people that tell you?’ I mean, and he looks at the audience, and he says, ‘You would think that a host would do his research and know facts about a guest before he asks a question.’ And then he said, ‘April Fool’s.’ He got me, yeah.” – George Lopez, “Lopez Tonight” (TBS)

3. “I’ve never considered myself particularly interested in media. I mean, I’m someone who likes to come in and do my job, and then I like to go home and play with my kids. I wasn’t used to being a media story. It was never a goal of mine. So the strangest thing about immediately after the (end of ‘The Tonight Show’) was my wife decided the next morning, early on, we should just drive up to Santa Barbara and check into a hotel and decompress for three days because she thought this guy needs to decompress. He needs to. So we got up really early in the morning. We got in our car, and we pulled out of our house, and two cars followed right in behind us and followed us all the way to Santa Barbara and then just hung outside the hotel for three days. And, you know, I’m not Brad Pitt. I’m not George Clooney. You know, I’ve been blessed with their DNA, but I just thought, ‘Who are they following?’ So that was weird.

“And there were a lot of highs. I walked into a restaurant that day, and everybody in the restaurant applauded. And I thought, ‘Well, that’s nice. This is weird. And, also, this isn’t a living. I don’t see how to do this as a job, walk around and get applauded in restaurants.’ So there was an initial sort of high, but then I went back to my house, and we had a lot of stuff to figure out. And one of the first things I did was…you know, this show and these shows have been the organizing principle of my life for such a long time that I thought, ‘I’ve got to call my assistant and get to work.’ So I called my assistant, Sona, and I said, ‘We should get together and go over all of the things we need to do.’ And she said, ‘Okay. Where?’ And my wife wanted me out of the house, and so I said, ‘Okay,’ and we decided to meet at a Marie Callender’s pie restaurant.

“I’m not kidding. I hosted ‘The Tonight Show.’ I think the last show was a Friday. I hosted that ‘Tonight Show’ on a Friday, and on Monday, I’m in a Marie Callender’s pie restaurant, and my assistant has a laptop, and we are sitting there. And there’s two other customers in the place, you know, stabbing at a pie at 11:00 in the morning, and this was now my new headquarters. And I pass this Marie Callender’s a lot, and I think about that shocking…I mean, it was just the juxtaposition of these insane images of ‘Tonight Show,’ iconic, Marie Callender’s restaurant, meeting / office. This is where I work now. And that kind of summed up the madness, I think, a little bit of that time.” – Conan O’Brien, “Conan” (TBS)

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Winter 2011 TCA Press Tour: No Quotes from Day 6? (Well, not many, anyway…)

The greatest mystery surrounding ABC’s day of the TCA press tour is why they chose to make so little of it. Given that they had ABC, ABC Family, Disney Channel, DisneyXD, the outgoing SOAPNet, and the incoming Disney Junior to work with, it’s absolutely unforgivable that there were only five panels the entire damned day.

Day 6 began on a decidedly solemn note, as the giant screens in the ballroom aired the national moment of silence to commemorate the tragedy in Tucson, and, perhaps appropriately, things shifted directly into the introduction of new ABC News president Ben Sherwood. Next up, Paul Lee, the president of ABC Entertainment, took the stage for his executive session. After that, we had a “Winter Wipeout”-themed cocoa break, then came back into the ballroom for two more panels: one for the return of ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars,” the next for the new ABC medical drama, “Off the Map.” Then came lunch revolving around the new Disney Junior animated series “Jake and the Never Land Pirates,” followed by a panel for the new Disney Channel movie, “Lemonade Mouth,” which – beyond the music playing during the trailer – only held my interest when the very cute and very British actress Naomi Scott opened her mouth.

And that’s it.

Well, it wasn’t quite it. We had a cocktail party at 5 PM which was ostensibly “Off the Map”-themed (they offered a trio of tropical cocktails, but I am hard pressed to recall any hors d’oeuvres that had any particular South American flair), but it only featured stars from ABC’s mid-season shows, and even then there were several notable names missing from the guest list, the two most notable being Matthew Perry from “Mr. Sunshine” and Dana Delaney from “Body of Evidence.” Now, admittedly, my experiences with Mr. Perry during the summer tour make his absence neither surprising nor overly upsetting, but it was kind of a bummer that Ms. Delaney wasn’t there, as she’s always been a real sweetheart.

What I want to know is, why didn’t ABC offer panels for one or two of their existing shows, like CBS and NBC are doing with “The Good Wife” and “Community,” respectively?

I’ll give us them credit for setting up a “Cougar Town” set visit for us – that’s happening on the 12th – but I would’ve loved a panel for “Castle,” “The Middle,” or any number of current ABC series.

And why not have an evening function featuring folks from all of their series rather than just their midseason material? I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy the fleeting chance to speak with Allison Janney about “Mr. Sunshine.” I’m just saying that the whole day felt like one big missed opportunity.

You know, I was originally going to try and offer up the top 6 quotes from Day 6’s panels, but it would feel forced, so I’m not going to waste your time or mine. I will, however, offer at least one which made me laugh…

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A roundtable chat with actor Danny Trejo, aka “Machete”

Danny Trejo is More than a few tough guy actors have been, to one degree or another, actual tough guys — soldiers, cops, even petty, and not so petty, criminals. Still, Danny Trejo earned those intimidating facial lines with perhaps the toughest real-life background of anyone to ever transition from a life of crime to a successful life in the fantasy factory of Hollywood.

Of course, it’s that authenticity that’s attracted casting directors since the start of Trejo’s career in the mid-80s. His early small roles eventually led to Trejo’s association with Robert Rodriquez, who coincidentally turned out to be his second cousin as well as the filmmaker who would finally give him his first starring role. Starting with “From Dusk ‘Till Dawn” through the “Spy Kids” trilogy, it was a long path that first led to the funniest fake trailer in “Grindhouse” and then the ultra-violent yet entirely tongue-in-cheek Mexploitation action-fest, “Machete,” now available on Blu-ray and DVD. In his mid-60s, Danny Trejo is now a movie star.

A Los Angeles native with an astonishing 201 roles to his credit, the actor grew up within a half-hour’s drive of the film studios in Burbank, but his tough neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley might as well have been in Tierra del Fuego. He was a heroin addict by age 12 and, way-too-shortly thereafter, an armed robber on a supersonic path to jail or the grave. Fortunately, as depicted in the biographical documentary “Champion” (available via streaming video on Netflix), jail got Trejo first. He eventually found his way to a 12 step program that allowed him to turn his life around to the poing where he could stop being a hard case and, with the benefit of a fortuitous encounter with the late ex-con author and “Reservoir Dogs” actor, Eddie Bunker, start playing them instead.

A voluble gentlemen, Trejo enjoys talking to the press and is not a difficult interview by any means. The roundtable nevertheless started with a slightly awkward moment of silence when a writer who had been patched in via telephone for some reason didn’t come up with the first question and was never heard from again.

Eventually I chimed in with a query, perhaps a bit serious for an opener. I mentioned “Champion” and how, in the film, Trejo discusses how criminals, both inside and outside of prison, are forced to present their natural fear as anger in order to survive in a brutal environment. I wondered if Trejo considered that world of false but convincing bravado to be his first acting class.

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2010 Year End TV Review: Will Harris

You’d think it’d be easy for me to pull together a “Best TV of 2010” list, given that I’ve attended two TCA press tours (one in the winter, one in the summer), participated in two editions of Bullz-Eye’s TV Power Rankings (one in the spring, one in the fall), and pulled together the site’s annual Fall TV Preview, but damned if that doesn’t somehow make the task harder. Nobody likes to feel like they’re repeating themselves, and given that there’s going to be some inevitable content crossover between all of these various pieces, I often find myself bouncing back and forth between all of these features, wondering if I’m subconsciously recycling a particularly nice choice of phrase. Hopefully, I’ve managed to make this sound at least somewhat original, but if for some reason you feel I’ve failed at that endeavor, please, for God’s sake, don’t take it out on the shows. It’s not their fault, and they shouldn’t be held accountable for my lack of creativity.

Oh, and one other note: in a further effort to avoid conceptual duplication, I’ve only written about each show once, so if you see a show’s title without anything written beside it, look back and you’ll find where I’ve already written about it. That, or I screwed up. Either’s possible, really. (I’m only human, after all.)

Best Shows to Come and Go within 2010

1. Terriers (FX) – It’s a testament to the quality of “Terriers” that FX president John Landgraf held a teleconference with journalists after breaking the news of the series’ cancellation in order to explain his actions, but I don’t think anyone really blamed the guy, anyway: the show’s ratings were as deplorable as the writing was phenomenal. Between the awful ad campaign for the show (no, it wasn’t about dogs) and the fact that many of the viewers who did tune in were kind of bummed out by too-real character traits and developments like alcoholism, infidelity, divorce, and mental illness, it’s not a surprise that it wasn’t a huge hit. But that doesn’t make it any less depressing.
2. Lone Star (Fox) – I’d like to think that this “Dallas”-esque series about a con man leading two lives would’ve been battling with “Terriers” for the top spot if only Fox hadn’t canceled it after only two episodes…but, then, if they can’t canceled it after only two episodes, then maybe viewers might’ve embraced “Lone Star” enough that it wouldn’t have been canceled at all. Oh, wait, never mind, I forgot: it was on Fox, so it probably still would’ve been canceled, anyway. Even so, Kyle Killen provided an intriguing concept and delivered it with the help of a top-notch cast. It’s just a shame we didn’t get to see more of it.

3. Warren the Ape (MTV) – So falls another network effort by one of our favorite fabricated Americans. Greg the Bunny couldn’t keep a show alive on either Fox or IFC, but it really seemed like a given that the shenanigans of Warren the Ape were tailor-made for MTV viewers. Not so, apparently. Frankly, the whole thing smacks of anti-puppetism. Warren himself has conceded that “fabricated Americans still have a very long way to go in this country, and I think it’s always going to be an uphill battle.” How right he was.
4. Happy Town (ABC) – Note to ABC’s publicity department: while I appreciate your intentions when you underlined the comparisons between “Happy Town” and “Twin Peaks” with a giant Magic Marker, you have to expect that “Twin Peaks” fans are going to offer up their equivalent of the old “I knew Jack Kennedy” line. Yeah, I know, you only meant it as a point of reference, and you never intended to imply that the two series were on even creative footing, but try telling them that. For my part, I thought it was a creepy little sleeper of a show…but, unfortunately, the other five people who agreed with me weren’t enough to keep it on the air.

5. Sons of Tucson (Fox) – I’m still not quite sure what Fox was thinking by trying to slot this poor live-action sitcom into the midst of their otherwise-animated Sunday night line-up. Maybe they’d hoped it would instill viewers with a bit of nostalgia for the days of “Malcolm in the Middle,” given the similarity in feel between that show and “Tucson.” If so, the plan failed miserably. In a perfect world, the network would raise the series from the dead and team it with “Raising Hope.” Now that’s a double bill I could get behind.

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