Winter 2011 TCA Press Tour: Day 10 – or – The Day Will Hit the Wall

The TCA tour lasts for about two weeks. That’s two weeks away from your family where you’re spending the majority of your time sitting in a hotel ballroom, listening to panel after panel about upcoming TV shows. Don’t get me wrong: I’m enough of a TV geek that I enjoy it from start to finish, but at a certain point, you find that your enjoyment begins to be regularly supplanted by the desire to just grab your shit and go the hell home. As a professional, I do my best to rise above this, which is why I invariably stick it out ’til the very last panel of the tour, but when you start considering the shit-grabbing and home-going more often than you find yourself thinking, “Say, this show sounds pretty good / awful,” this is what is known in TV critic parlance as “hitting the wall.”

And, baby, I have hit it.

When I woke up on the morning of Day 10 of the tour, I had a headache. It was the first time I’d had one since arriving in Pasadena, and, of course, I took it for what it was: a sign that both my body and mind were ready to return to Virginia. Little did I realize that it was really more of a portent of the evil that would cross my path on this day…but we’ll get to that. With a job to do, I popped a couple of Motrin, swigged some coffee, and entered into the day’s panels, which consisted of shows from the CBS family of networks, which includes, of course, CBS (“Chaos,” “Mad Love,” “The Good Wife”), but also Showtime (“The Borgias,” “Shameless,” “Californication,” “Episodes”) and The CW (“Shedding for the Wedding”). There were also executive sessions for the various networks, as well as one for the “Kick Ass Women of The CW,” featuring stars from “Hellcats,” “The Vampire Diaries,” “Nikita,” and “Smallville.”

Looking at the talent list for the various panels, there were certainly people I wanted to chat with, but I’ve always had trouble picking up interviews for Showtime series, a fact which all but killed my chances with many of the most interesting actors in attendance, including Jeremy Irons, William H. Macy, David Duchovny, and Matt LeBlanc. Heck, I couldn’t even pull a one-on-one with Colm Feore, although I did end up chatting with him later in the evening while pretending to be Canadian. (Don’t ask.) But I did at least make it into post-panel scrums for Irons, Macy, and the ever-gorgeous Carla Gugino, so there’s that, at least. And amongst the cast of CBS’s “Mad Love” is the always amiable Tyler Labine, who I’ve been interviewing at TCA since my first tour, when “Reaper” debuted, so he and I got in a good one-on-one.

Most of my afternoon, however, was spent in a funk. Maybe it’s because I’d hit the wall, but I found myself getting progressively grumpier about the way various actors’ personal publicists were acting. One assured me that I could do a walk-and-talk with their client, who was in a rush to get to another appointment, only to promise the same thing to another writer moments later and leave me in the dust. Another deigned to let me do a one-on-one with her client, then – outside of her client’s line of vision – starting tapping her watch ferociously before I’d even had two minutes of conversation. (This was particularly infuriating because the writers before and after me had neither a time limit nor been “chaperoned” during their interviews.) It was also a major bummer that the evening event was an hour-long cocktail party where the attendees were limited to the shows on The CW which were represented on the network’s panels.

Despite my relatively grouchy attitude throughout the day, there were still some highlights on the panels that are worth mentioning, so here they are…

1. Q: Given Charlie Sheen’s antics over the weekend, how would you characterize your level of concern about him, and what is the network doing to help him?
Nina Tassler (with all due sarcasm): Well, I really didn’t expect that question this morning. So I’m just…I’m really taken by surprise. Look, obviously, we’ve thought, and I personally have thought, a lot about this, and we have a high level of concern. How could we not? But I have to speak to this personally first. On a very basic, human level, concern, of course. This man is a father. He’s got children. He has a family. So, obviously, there’s concern on a personal level. But you can’t look at it simplistically. Charlie is a professional. He comes to work. He does his job extremely well. We are taping tonight, and it’s…it’s very complicated, but we have a very good relationship with Warner Bros. I have a tremendous trust and respect in the way they are managing the situation. So, on a personal level, obviously concerned. On a professional level, he does his job, he does it well, the show is a hit, and…that’s really all I have to say.

2. Question: Jason, what about your character (in “Mad Love”)?
Jason Biggs: Without giving too much away, obviously, I have sex with a sheet cake in the second episode.
Sarah Chalke: We weren’t going to reveal that!
Judy Greer: Way to go.
Jason Biggs: I don’t know if that’s a spoiler alert. Sorry, guys.
Judy Greer: That’s the cake we used for what’s her name’s birthday? Just kidding.
Jason Biggs: Yes. Yes, it was.
Judy Greer: I had a piece of that!
Jason Biggs: No. There are some situations. I wouldn’t say they are exactly, you know, akin to some of the I mean, let’s be honest. Those were very R rated, and some pushing NC 17 scenarios.
Matt Tarses: He loses his pants in Staten Island.
Jason Biggs: But I do lose my pants in Staten Island. So you do see me pantsless, which I think is what my fans demand of me in general and but yeah, there are some I mean, Matt has written, for all of us, some kinds of crazy situations. I mean, it’s inherent to this format, I think, is to create situations that are quite comical and kind of crazy. And for someone who can the person that does it right, they are funny, but they are also grounded in reality somehow, and they are with characters that you like and all that good stuff. And I feel like that’s what’s happening here. So, among those situations, which I believe there are some in every episode, one of them I lose my pants in Staten Island. The other one I have sex with a sheet cake.

3. Q: Freddy, describe what happens when you read a script that says, “Next, Rick eats a scorpion.” What was that like? And when you filmed it…I’m sure you didn’t eat a scorpion, but whatever you were holding…
Freddy Rodriquez: How are you so sure?
Q: It looked realistic. You were holding something that was wiggly and scary. Just describe what it was like when you heard you were going to do it and what it was like to do that scene.
Freddy Rodriquez: Well, to be honest, I wasn’t sure what it was going to be when I got there. And when I got there, if you remember, Tom…
Tom Spezialy: Oh, I remember.

Freddy Rodriguez: …it was a real scorpion. I had a slight anxiety attack, to be honest, right? And then I got over it. And then I asked Brett Ratner to hold it. I would do it if he would hold it, and he refused, and we had an exchange. And after a while I got over it, and it was fun. I mean, when I read the script, there were so many great things that my character was doing in the pilot that I had to be involved even if it had to do with holding a scorpion. It was a real scorpion. I think they put Krazy Glue on the stinger, (but), yeah, it was real.
Q: What does it look like to see that thing wiggling in front of your eyes?
Freddy Rodriguez: Scary. It’s scary.
Tom Spezialy: It peed on him.
Freddy Rodriguez: Oh, yeah, it did. At one point in the night, it just…I didn’t enjoy the experience…it started peeing on me. And I didn’t know what it was. I just thought it was, like, spraying me with some sort of poison or…I wasn’t sure what it was, but it was urine.
Eric Close: Are you sure it was urine?
Freddy Rodriguez: Yeah, it was urine. Gave me golden sunshine, I guess.

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Old Show, New Season: “Scrubs”

When “Scrubs” wrapped its eighth season earlier this year, it did so with the presumption that it was offering viewers a final farewell to its characters. J.D. (Zach Braff) and Elliott (Sarah Chalke) spent the season finally settling into a groove as a couple, and in the 2-part finale, we watched J.D. make the most mature decision of his life: to leave Sacred Heart in order to take a job which would allow him to live closer to his son. If you followed the show throughout its run, it’s hard to imagine that you didn’t get misty as he took his final stroll down the hospital’s corridors, revisiting the memories of former friends, lovers, colleagues, and patients, and even if you did somehow make it through without dry eyes, the combination of having Peter Gabriel’s cover of the Magnetic Fields’ “The Book of Love” play over a montage of J.D.’s possible future was enough to kickstart anyone’s tear ducts.

It was, most fans agreed, the perfect way to close out the “Scrubs” story.

As such, when it was announced that 1) ABC had offered Bill Lawrence the chance to continue “Scrubs” for a 9th season, and 2) he had accepted their offer, fans immediately split into two camps: those who felt that Lawrence was betraying the legacy of the series by not leaving well enough alone and leaving them with their perfect ending, and those who were excited at the prospect of seeing the series continue. The phrase “legacy shmegacy” quickly became a staple of Lawrence’s interviews (such as, for instance, this one), and he soon revealed that Season 9 of the show would feel almost like a spin-off, taking Drs. Cox (John C. McGinley) and Turk (Donald Faison), turning them into med school professors, and exploring the world of first-year medical students…or, as he said to Michael Ausiello when the announcement was first made, “It’ll be a lot like ‘The Paper Chase’ as a comedy.” But while that’s a great reference to endear TV critics to its premise, is the concept enough to bring back those who were quite happy with the show reaching its logical conclusion at the end of Season 8?

If it isn’t, then maybe Zach Braff will be.

At first, it was implied that Braff would only be returning for a few episodes, with rumors abounding that ABC was pushing for the show to add a “big name” to its cast to keep the ratings momentum moving along; instead, he will actually appear in half of the episodes this season, with Lawrence rationalizing that, all things considered, Braff is a pretty big name in his own right. At the very least, his presence will surely inspire some of the on-the-fence fans to give the new version of the show a shot, and the same goes for Sarah Chalke, who will be turning up on a semi-regular basis as well. Although we saw Dr. Kelso (Ken Jenkins) drive off into the sunset at the end of Season 8, he must have turned around at some point, since he’ll also be teaching a class at the medical school, and as the ever-abrasive Denise (Eliza Coupe) was deemed way too good a character to leave behind, she’ll be working with Professors Cox, Dorian, Kelso, and Turk as a teaching assistant.

But, wait, now you’re wondering about everyone else, too, so I’d better get them out of the way, too.

What of Carla? Well, since Judy Reyes was reportedly only interested in reprising her role in a full-time capacity, we apparently won’t be seeing her for the foreseeable future, but we were given the impression that Carla was probably going to be transitioning from nurse to homemaker, anyway, so it’s easy enough to buy that. Christa Miller’s pretty busy over on “Cougar Town,” so there’s no sign of Jordan at the moment, but given that she works for the same network and that she’s married to the man behind both shows, let’s just say that it wouldn’t be impossible that she could turn up. (In fact, the word probable might even be appropriate, but you didn’t hear that from me.) Neil Flynn’s gig on “The Middle” is keeping him hopping, too, but The Janitor will rear his head briefly tonight, and Ted the Lawyer (Sam Lloyd) will turn up in the near future, with his significant other, The Gooch (Kate Micucci), in tow.

Okay, now you know that there’ll be plenty of old faces around to make you feel at home. So how about the new faces? ABC kicks off the return of the series with two new episodes, but if you can’t wait ’til then to find out if “Scrubs: Med School” – yes, Lawrence won his fight with ABC to add an era-differentiating subtitle to the series – will permanently taint your memories of the preceding eight seasons, then you’ll probably want to read on. Be forewarned, however, that there are SPOILERS in your immediate future, so those who wish to remain blissfully ignorant until 9 PM should bail out now. Just be sure to come back later to offer your thoughts about the show’s return.

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Professors Cox and Turk, at your service

Over at EW.com, the great and powerful Michael Ausiello managed to score the scoop from Bill Lawrence on what’s going on with “Scrubs” come its return for its semi-unexpected ninth season. (I’d be sad that he got the exclusive and I didn’t, but, frankly, I’m still riding on the high from a past interview with Mr. Lawrence where he actually said, “I can’t remember if it was you or Mike Ausiello that I said this to before.”) The talk had always been that the show was going to reinvent itself if and when it came back to the airwaves, and so it will: Dr. Cox (John C. McGinley) and Dr. Turk (Donald Faison) are going to become med-school professors.

Said Lawrence to Ausiello:

“It’ll be a lot like Paper Chase as a comedy. It’s going to be a different show. It’ll still be life-and-death stakes, but if the show is just ‘Scrubs’ again in the hospital with a different person’s voiceover, it would be a disaster and people would be mad. Med students in their first three years have to spend anywhere from 10 to 50 percent of their time at a hospital. And that’s when you’ll see some of the [original cast members]. Continuity-wise, Sacred Heart will still exist with those people still working there.”

Ausiello also confirms that Zach Braff, Sarah Chalke, Judy Reyes and Ken Jenkins will be making guest appearances, and that Neil Flynn, a.k.a. The Janitor, will not be popping up for the foreseeable future, due to his commitments on his own new series (“The Middle”). Beyond McGinley and Faison, however, the majority of the cast will consist of freshman folk, though Lawrence teases in the article that the network is putting the screws to the show to hire a semi-big name as one of the new faces. Who will it be? Time will tell…

  

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A Chat with Bill Lawrence: The “Scrubs” Exit Interview

By the time you read this, “Scrubs” will have completed its eight-season run. Or not. That’s kind of still being decided, actually. But for all practical purposes, the series has still come to some sort of a conclusion, since even the rumored continuation of the show – which is still under discussion by ABC – would almost certainly be a new permutation that might or might not resemble the existing series. As such, we decided we’d check in with “Scrubs” creator Bill Lawrence and chat with him not only about this season but, indeed, to offer a few random questions about the series as a whole. Mind you, it took for-freaking-EVER to finally get him on the phone, but we decided to let him slide. After all, the dude’s got a broken leg and he created the best blend of comedy, drama, and medicine this side of “M*A*S*H.” That kind of thing tends to earn you a little slack from TV critics.

Bill Lawrence: Hey, Will! How’re you doin’, man?

Premium Hollywood: I’m good, man. How are you doing?

BL: I’m good. Sorry to keep you waiting.

PH: Not a big deal. The beauty of working at home: I’m always busy. So how did you break your leg, and why didn’t it make it into the gossip rags?

BL: I know, right? I was just playing basketball. It’s kind of a drag.

PH: Recovery going all right?

BL: Yeah, I’m just doing rehab for a couple of months. I can’t tell you how boring having a broken bone as an adult is. (Laughs)

PH: Well, I dared to ask my Facebook friends for questions, and the predominant one seemed to be, more or less, “Why does my favorite show have to end?” But, then, at last report, it was still undecided if it actually was ending.

BL: Well, you know, we’ll see, right? Yeah, it’s definitely a “we’ll see.” It’s 50/50. But either way, Will, even if the show goes on past this, it won’t be the same show. And to me, the thing is, after nine years, there’s no way that we wouldn’t get repetitive next year, so even if it does go on, this’ll feel like the end of “Scrubs.” To me, it’s the end of “Scrubs” as we know it either way.

PH: So have you been happy with the show’s performance on ABC? I presume, at the very least, ABC has been happy with it.

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