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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TCA Press Tour, Summer 2010: Day 3

Day 3 of the TCA Press Tour continued with the CBS family of networks, offering us a split day between Showtime and The CW…and if I’m to be honest, my enthusiasm was decidedly higher for the former. I’ve made this comment before, but The CW so unabashedly caters to an audience that’s far younger and prettier than myself (or, really, almost anyone I interact with on a regular basis) that it’s hard for me to get but so excited about their shows…but, of course, that doesn’t mean I won’t be reporting on them, anyway. First up, though, is Showtime, which I am excited about. Seriously, it’s reached the point where I’m pretty sure I prefer Showtime to HBO.

There, I said it…and it feels good.

Showtime Introductory Remarks

Matthew C. Blank, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Showtime, took the stage to welcome the assembled throng, then launched immediately into a series of announcements and remarks, including the following:

“Weeds” guest stars: Richard Dreyfuss, Alanis Morrissette, Jennifer Jason-Leigh, Mark Paul Gosselaar, Peter Stormare, and Linda Hamilton.

“Dexter” guest stars: Julia Stiles, Peter Weller, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Shawn Hatosy, and Jonny Lee Miller.

“Californication” guest stars: Carla Gugino, Rob Lowe, Tommy Lee, Zoe Kravitz, Michael Ealy, and Callie Thorne.

Liam Neeson will be joining his former “Kinsey” co-star Laura Linney for an episode of her new Showtime series, “The Big C.” Also guesting on the show: Cynthia Nixon and Idris Elba.

The network has committed to ten episodes of “Web Therapy,” a comedy developed by and starring Lisa Kudrow.

“Nurse Jackie” and “United States of Tara” will be both be returning for third seasons, as will “Secret Diary of a Call Girl” for Season 4.

Producer John Wells is premiering his new Showtime series, “Shameless,” starring William H. Macy and Emmy Rossum, on January 9th. Also coming in 2011 is “The Borgias,” starring Jeremy Irons and created and executive-produced by Neil Jordan, who’s directing the series’ first two episodes as well. The trailer for “Shameless” looks like the start of another great dysfunctional-family drama for Showtime, and…well, actually, I guess you could say the same of “The Borgias,” although they haven’t really filmed enough of it yet for us to get much of a feel for it. Most of what we were shown was interview clips with Irons and Jordan and footage from the photo sessions for the series, so all I can really confirm is that it looks awesome…but, then, what else would you expect from the network that brought you the gorgeousness of “The Tudors”?

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Greetings to the New Season: The CW – UPDATED

And so we come to the last of the big network upfronts…if, that is, you consider The CW to be a big network. I’m not saying I don’t, you understand. I just mean that there are still some people out there who haven’t yet accepted Fox as being a real network, so you can only imagine what they think of The CW.

But I digress.

Sort of.

It probably is worth noting that, unlike ABC, CBS, NBC, and, yes, even Fox, The CW held their upfront without providing photos, let alone videos, to accompany their new fall series…and since there are only two of them, you’d think they could’ve at least managed to throw together logos for them to serve as preliminary artwork. Instead, I’m stuck falling back on the tried and true network logo.

Yawn.

Okay, sorry, that really was a digression…and, as it turned out, a mostly unnecessary one, since the photos had appeared on The CW’s press site by 10:30 AM EST. Still, that was well after the press release about the fall schedule went out…a press release which, FYI, required two revisions due to various accidental omissions. I’m just saying.

Anyway, on with the show(s)…

MONDAY

8 – 9 PM: 90210

9 – 10 PM: Gossip Girl

TUESDAY

8 – 9 PM: One Tree Hill

9 – 10 PM: Life Unexpected

WEDNESDAY

8 – 9 PM: America’s Next Top Model

9 – 10 PM: Hellcats: a coming-of-age story about Marti Perkins, a young, pre-law student at Lancer University in Memphis, Tennessee. Marti is cool, hip and alt, but her world flips upside down, literally and figuratively, when she loses her scholarship, and realizes the only way she can stay in school is by reigniting her dormant teen gymnastic skills to win a place on Lancer’s legendary cheerleading team, The Hellcats. Against her every instinct, Marti goes for it and makes the squad, and is thrust into a world of camaraderie, backstabbing and the intersection of sports, backroom academia and big money.

Marti’s new roommate, Savannah Monroe, a petite, peppy Texan, is among the diverse cast of athletes, undergrads, family and friends, all set on the sprawling campus of a powerhouse college football program in the deep South. The series stars Aly Michalka as Marti Perkins, Ashley Tisdale as Savannah Monroe, Heather Hemmens as Alice Verdura, Robbie Jones as Lewis Flynn, Matt Barr as Dan Patch, with Sharon Leal as Vanessa Lodge and Gail O’Grady as Wanda Perkins. “Hellcats” is executive produced by Kevin Murphy (“Desperate Housewives”), Tom Welling (“Smallville”), and Allan Arkush (“Heroes,” “Crossing Jordan”). The pilot was directed by Arkush.

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Smallville: Season 8

As the creators of “Smallville” prepared for Season 8, they were faced with a difficult question — how does the show move forward without Lex Luthor? Michael Rosenbaum left the series at the end of Season 7, and the Clark-Lex dynamic has always been the show’s backbone, so replacing Clark’s nemesis was a difficult task indeed. The creators compensated by adding Tess Mercer (Cassidy Freeman) as the new head of LuthorCorp, and she’s almost as devious and ruthless as her predecessor. The season also amps up the romance between Clark Kent (Tom Welling) and Lois Lane (Erica Durance) while flirting with the prospect that Clark will someday soon fulfill his destiny and become Superman. Lastly, Clark learns that there’s another Kryptonian on Earth — and it’s Doomsday. These storylines, combined with appearances by Lana Lang, Plastique, Winslow Schott, Zatanna and the Legion of Super Heroes make for a fast-paced 22 episodes with little filler. Fans of Lex Luthor will certainly miss his presence, but there’s enough in Season 8 to keep things moving, especially with the prospects that Rosenbaum is rumored to be returning as a guest star in Season 9. Special features include commentary tracks for two episodes and several unaired scenes. There are also two featurettes — one focuses on director Allison Mack while the other investigates the making of Doomsday.

Click to buy “Smallville: Season 8”

  

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TCA Tour: The CW Executive Session

Dawn Ostroff, President of Entertainment for The CW, just took the stage for her executive session, during which time she had these things to say:

* After a year which found some pretty impressive increases in the number of young women viewers (77 percent on Mondays, 26 percent on Tuesdays), they’re going to try and build on that momentum and make their schedule more cohesive. They’re viewing themselves less as a network and more as a magazine, where people come to see what’s going on in the world. That perhaps would explain why I always feel so horribly out of touch whenever I tune in.

* The CW has stepped away from sitcoms at the moment because they can’t seem to find any which are “loud enough or noisy enough to get the attention that we get from our drama and reality shows.” In fact, they didn’t have a single sitcom in the running this season.

* Why the move of “Smallville” to Friday nights? “We felt it was the best way to open up the night,” she said, since Fridays had previously been more of a standalone night for the network. Is this the last season for the show? “I hope it isn’t. Zod is going to be the big villain this season, and Clark has to save the world, or we’re all going to be kneeling before Zod.” She says the cast and producers are excited, and she has high hopes that the show will stay on the air for awhile.

* What about seeing Michael Rosenbaum return as Lex Luthor, since he’s still talked about constantly? “I don’t know if we really had a conversation with Michael, but I think the talk was to keep the character alive and make his presence felt.” She I don’t know if (a return) will happen this season.”

* Similarly, the hope is that “Supernatural” will also continue. “Eric Kripke has done a great job creatively, and the show’s gotten better every year.”

* What does she say to a 35-year-old guy who wants to know what he can find on the network? Her response was to reel off most of The CW’s lineup and suggest that guys watch almost all of them, even “America’s Next Top Model,” even if they don’t necessarily want to admit it. But with that said, she also defended their decision to be specific about the demographic they’re courting…which is good, because, wow, talk about a total cop-out of an answer. (A 35-year-old guy can find something to watch anywhere if he doesn’t want to admit that he watches it!)

* The much-hyped “Gossip Girl” spin-off that never got off the group has now officially been given the status of “not likely.”

* “Body Politic,” the pilot which took a look at Washington politics through the eyes of up-and-coming staffers, is officially dead.

* How about a “90210” crossover? “Technically, we could do that,” she said, “because both shows are shot in L.A. I think down the road, after ‘Melrose’ gets up and running, we would consider that. It would be a big event for us.”

* As far as Mischa Barton’s health, the only real concern was that she was ready for production…and she was. “We’re happy that she’s better,” said Ostroff, “and what went on in her personal life is her business.” A question about the fact that she looks heavier in current photos than she did in the original presentation we saw for “The Beautiful Life,” asked in the context about whether re-shoots would be required, was met simply with assurances that “she looks great.”

  

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