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: 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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An Open Letter to Kara DioGuardi

Dear Ms. DioGuardi:

I realize that, by virtue of our longtime Facebook friendship, I could probably go out on a limb and address you by your first name, but I wouldn’t want to lean on that too heavily.

Besides, this is a serious matter.

I’m sure you’ve been following my coverage of the 2011 Winter TCA Press Tour here in Pasadena, so it won’t surprise you that I was in attendance for your panel for Bravo’s new reality competition, “Platinum Hit.” Given your experiences with us TV critic folk on previous tours (not to mention all of the interviews you’ve done outside of the tours), you surely must have known what to expect when you sat down in front of us…

But I’m being rude to the other readers. Since this is an open letter, I should offer my readers a quick blurb about the show you were there to promote.

Here’s what it has to say about “Platinum Hit” on the NBC-Universal website:

Bravo’s new music competition series “Platinum Hit” showcases emerging singer-songwriters on their quest to become the next big hitmaker. The series will give viewers a front row seat to experience the journey and aspirations of these gifted songwriters and an inside look at this unique creative process for the first time. The series will follow 12 musicians as they battle through innovative songwriting challenges that will test their creativity, patience and drive. From dance track to love ballad, every episode will feature a different theme that will require the contestants to write and perform lyrics from multiple genres. Their intimate life stories and personal drama will unfold within the show and in their lyrics as they compete and live together. In the end, only one will be crowned the ultimate hit-maker and walk away with a $100,000 cash prize, a publishing deal with Sony and BMI Songwriters and The Writing Camp, and a recording deal with RCA/Jive.

So there you go.

I know you’re the head judge on “Platinum Hit,” Ms. DioGuardi, and I know that’s what you were there to talk about. I get that. But with that said, you sat before an audience of TV critics, one of whom asked you to offer us some insight into your departure from the show you had previously been here to talk about, “American Idol.”

It was a perfectly reasonable question, one which you and the executive producers of “Platinum Hit,” Evan Bogart and Glenda Hersh, had to know was coming. Instead of answering the question, though, your feathers seemed instantly ruffled. You didn’t want to talk about anything but “Platinum Hit,” and after a throwaway one-liner (“it was an incredible experience, it really was”), the onstage conversation suddenly descended into a defense of your accomplishments as a songwriter…which, of course, we already know all about from all of the pieces we wrote about you when you were on “American Idol.” Worse, when the critic who’d asked the question tried to press the issue to get something of substance on the subject, you said that you’d address it later, but when you were approached after the panel…well, my close friend and Canadian equivalent Bill Harris, man on the scene for the Toronto Sun, wrote it best in his article:

Then afterward in a small scrum, DioGuardi literally scooted away from reporters before cornering herself at the side of the stage. She was asked, “So you really have nothing to say about your memories of Idol, good or bad?”

“You know what? There’s going to be a time when you’ll know all about that,” DioGuardi said.

She then was asked, “When? In a book?” That was when DioGuardi’s personal publicist stepped in and revealed DioGuardi has a book coming out in the spring.

Wow.

Ms. DioGuardi, I don’t even know what to say. You’re certainly within your right to keep the focus on “Platinum Hit,” and you’re also within your right to save the juicy “American Idol” stuff in order to sell copies of your book, but I just have to believe that you could’ve handled that situation better. I mean, you got booed. Better you should’ve put on a happy face, offered some token tidbit, and then teasingly said, “If you want more, you’ll have to read my book!” Admittedly, that would’ve been frustrating, too, but it still would’ve been better than acting like it was some sort of affront that we should’ve dared to ask you about a legitimate credit on your resume.

Actually, I realize I’m using “we” a whole lot. In truth, I’m really only speaking for myself. But I’m pretty sure that if I performed an informal poll among the critics in the room with me at the moment, the majority of them would agree that you didn’t exactly endear yourself amongst the populace.

Sorry for the tough love, Ms. DioGuardi, but I thought you needed to hear it. Maybe you disagree with what I have to say. If so, keep an eye out for me at the NBC-Universal all-star party this evening. I’d love to hear your take on the situation. But that’s mine, for what it’s worth.

Best,

WILL HARRIS

Bullz-Eye.com

  

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