TCA Press Tour, Summer 2010: Day 2

CBS’s big day of TCA panels kicked off with an Executive Session from the one and only Nina Tassler, the network’s President of Entertainment, who brought us the following tidbits and newsbriefs:

“The Big Bang Theory”: The show is moving to Thursdays. “Certainly, it was difficult, but not in the sense that you don’t have complete faith and belief in the show,” said Tassler. “The time felt right. The show is certainly enjoying an extraordinary amount of support and love, and this was a great opportunity for us to really move it into a strategic place and open the night.”

“Survivor”: The new season of the popular reality series will find the castaways divided into Young vs. Old. The members of the La Flor Tribe will all be aged 30 or younger, while those in the Espada Tribe will all be 40 or older.

“Undercover Boss”: Four of the companies which will appear in the show’s second season have been revealed: NASCAR, DirecTV, Chiquita Brands, Inc., and Great Wolf Resorts.

“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation”: Justin Bieber will be playing a character in the season premiere, playing a character that is “quite different from his wholesome real-life persona.”

“CSI: Miami” and “CSI: NY” timeslot changes: “Going into this season, we had very strong development, we really wanted to get a number of those new dramas on the air, and both ‘Miami’ and ‘New York’ are still strong players for us, so we said, ‘Look, we can use them to improve the time periods they’re going into, as well as support new shows that they’re launching side by side with.’”

“Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior”: Janeane Garofalo has been added to the cast.

New gay characters: GLAAD will no doubt be pleased to hear that, according to Tassler, there are three on the horizon for the new season. “You’re going to meet Alicia’s brother in ‘The Good Wife,’ a gay character. We’re also going to be adding a new character to ‘Rules of Engagement.’ Jeff and Audrey’s surrogate will be a member of Jeff’s softball team, and she’s a lesbian. We’re also going to be recurring a character in ‘$#*! My Dad Says,’ the character Tim Bagley played.” I’m particularly happy to hear about that last one, mostly because the scenes between Bagley and William Shatner are arguably the funniest in the pilot.

After Tassler’s remarks and Q&A were completed, she evacuated the stage in order for the day’s show panels to begin, starting with…

“The Big Bang Theory”

At first glance, the fact that “The Big Bang Theory” is the only pre-existing CBS show to get its own panel on the network’s TCA day would lead one to deduce that it’s because it’s so popular. In reality, though, it’s much more likely that the series got the spotlight because they want to make sure it’s still a major player when it returns on Sept. 28th and shifts on the CBS schedule from Mondays to Thursdays. Ah, but who cares why they’re here? It’s just good to see the gang again. Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco, Simon Helberg, and Kunal Nayyar were all in attendance, along with creators / executive producers Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady, and, as usual, they gave us some great, fun stuff.

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The 2010 Primetime Emmy nominations are in!

Bright and early this morning…by which we mean 8:40 AM EST / 5:40 AM PST…the nominees for the 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards were announced by Joel McHale (“Community,” “The Soup”) and Sofia Vergara (“Modern Family”). It ended up being a worthwhile gig for one of them, at least, with Vergara pulling in a Supporting Actress nod for “Modern Family.” Maybe that’s why McHale seemed so stone-faced. (Seriously, did someone tell McHale that he wasn’t getting paid if he didn’t keep his smart-assery in line ’til after the nominees were read? The only time he cracked anything approaching a joke was when he preempted Vergara’s mangling of Mariska Hargitay’s last name.) Anyway, here’s a list of who got the glory…and, in the case of Best Actress in a Drama, who got the shaft.

Outstanding Comedy Series:

* Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)
* Glee (Fox)
* Modern Family (ABC)
* Nurse Jackie (Showtime)
* The Office (NBC)
* 30 Rock (NBC)

My Pick: “Modern Family.” There’s no question that “Glee” is award-worthy, but not necessarily as a comedy, which is also where “Nurse Jackie” falters in this category. I feel like “The Office” and “30 Rock” coasted in on their past merits this year, but “Curb” got a huge boost from the “Seinfeld” storyline, so it’s the only real competition here. Still, the buzz on “Modern Family” is all over the place. I can’t imagine it won’t bring home the glory.

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Greetings to the New Season: CBS – UPDATED

Finally, things are starting to get interesting. CBS has released its schedule for Fall 2010, and, wow, talk about shaking things up. Thursday nights were already wreaking havoc on my viewing schedule, and now it’s only going to get worse. Check out what the network has done, see what they’ve added to their line-up (including behind-the-scenes videos), and be sure to leave your comments below!

MONDAY

8 – 8:30 PM: How I Met Your Mother

8:30 – 9 PM: Rules of Engagement

9 – 9:30 PM: Two and a Half Men

9:30 – 10 PM: Mike & Molly: a comedy from Chuck Lorre (“Two and a Half Men,” and “The Big Bang Theory”) about a working class Chicago couple who find love at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting. Officer Mike Biggs (Billy Gardell) is a good-hearted cop who sincerely wants to lose weight. Mike’s partner, Officer Carl McMillan (Reno Wilson), is a thin, fast-talking wise-guy, who despite his teasing encourages Mike on his road to slimness and romance. While speaking at an O.A. meeting, Mike meets Molly Flynn (Melissa McCarthy), an instantly likeable fourth-grade teacher with a healthy sense of humor about her curves.

For Molly, focusing on smart choices isn’t easy because she lives with her sexy older sister, Victoria (Katy Mixon), and their mother, Joyce (Swoosie Kurtz), both of whom flaunt their healthy appetites and slender figures. Mike also faces temptation at the diner he and Carl frequent, where they’ve become friends with the Senegalese waiter, Samuel (Nyambi Nyambi), who finds trying to eat less a foreign concept. For Mike and Molly, thanks to their mutual love of pie and the desire to resist it, finding each other may have been worth the “weight.” Chuck Lorre and Mark Roberts are executive producers.

10 – 11 PM: Hawaii Five-0: a contemporary take on the classic series about a new elite federalized task force whose mission is to wipe out the crime that washes up on the Islands’ sun-drenched beaches. Detective Steve McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin), a decorated Naval officer turned cop, returns to Oahu to investigate his father’s murder and stays after Hawaii’s governor persuades him to head up the new team: his rules, her backing, no red tape and full blanket immunity to hunt down the biggest “game” in town.

Joining McGarrett is Detective Danny “Danno” Williams (Scott Caan), a newly relocated ex-New Jersey cop who prefers skyscrapers to the coastline but is committed to keeping the Islands safe for his 8-year-old daughter; and Chin Ho Kelly (Daniel Dae Kim), an ex-Honolulu Police Detective wrongly accused of corruption and relegated to a federal security patrol, who is also a former protégé of McGarrett’s father. Chin’s cousin, Kono (Grace Park), is a beautiful and fearless native, fresh out of the academy and eager to establish herself among the department’s elite. McGarrett vows to bring closure to his father’s case while the state’s brash new FIVE-0 unit, who may spar and jest among themselves, is determined to eliminate the seedy elements from the 50th state. Peter Lenkov, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci are executive producers.

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Bullz-Eye’s TCA 2010 Winter Press Tour Wrap-Up: Simon Signs, Conan Conquers, and Patrick Stewart Just Plain Rules

The 2010 winter press tour of the Television Critics Association took place at the Langham Huntington Hotel and Spa from January 8th – 18th, which you probably already know from the various postings which were done during and have continued since my attendance at the event. It’s a regular tradition, however, that I do a wrap-up piece which summarizes my experiences during the tour, and since I invariably seem to get a positive response from those pieces, I always try to make it as entertaining a read as possible. Here’s hoping I’ve succeeded as well this time as I have in the past…but if I haven’t, I feel certain you’ll let me know.

Most enjoyable panel by a broadcast network: “Great Performances: Macbeth,” PBS.

I’ll freely admit that I was predisposed to enjoy the panel due to the fact that it featured the newly-knighted Sir Patrick Stewart, but I spoke to others afterwards who declared it to have been the best panel of the tour up to that point. Partial credit for the success goes to the critics in the audience, who consistently offered up intelligent questions about the subject matter at hand…and let me assure you that this is not always the case. Even on an occasion when an attempt at going in a unique direction fell flat, such as when one writer asked Stewart if he was familiar with FX’s “Sons of Anarchy” (it’s been called a Shakespearean saga on motorcycles), it led to the revelation that Ron Perlman has played an interesting place in Stewart’s life. “I was having dinner with Ron Perlman the day that I was offered Jean-Luc Picard in ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation,’” he said, ‘so I have always looked on Ron as being a lucky omen. So you mentioning his name today, I hope, means that the rest of the day is going to be brighter than it begin.” At the very least, Sir Patrick’s remarks during the panel brightened mine.

Most interactive panel by a cable network: “The Choir,” BBC America.

Gareth Malone is a man on a mission to bring music to those who may not think that they have an interest in it, creating choirs in various schools in England and helping the youth of today raise their voices in song. We soon discovered that this extended to television critics as well. “In England, everyone knows that when I enter a room, everyone’s going to sing,” Malone began ominously, “so I would like to invite you to leave your Apples and come up onto stage, and we’re going to have a little singsong.” The immediate reaction was less than enthusiastic, with at least one person piping up, “It’s against the bylaws!” Malone would not be denied, however. “It will be very brief,” he assured us. “I’ll be very, very, kind. I promise not to do opera. Honestly, it’s going to be very, very gentle. I promise. Risk it. There won’t be very much. Typists, abandon your typing!” In the end, he managed to get a couple of dozen of us up there…yes, I was among the huddled masses…to perform a not-as-bad-as-it-could’ve-been chorus of “Barbara Ann.” As there is neither an audio recording nor a YouTube clip to prove otherwise, you may feel free to believe that I personally sounded fantastic.

Best intro to a panel from a cable network: “Dance Your Ass Off,” Oxygen.

All I know about this show is what I’ve learned from watching clips on “The Soup,” but when a panel starts off by having its panelists literally dancing their way down the aisles and onto the stage, at the very least, it gets your attention.

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TV in the 2000s: The Shows that Defined the Decade

A recent issue of Time magazine has the phrase “The Decade from Hell” emblazoned across its front cover. It’s referring to everything America has gone through in the past ten years, and it’s difficult to argue such an assertion: it’s been a shitty decade on a national level. During such times of stress, people inevitably turn to entertainment as a form of release, and although the methods in which we’ve distracted ourselves over the last ten years have unquestionably diversified, television remains the most easily accessible outlet for most Americans.

Within the format itself, the whole concept of reality TV must surely have been the biggest revolution of the decade. It’s really easy to bag on reality TV – mostly because the bulk of it is so damned unreal – but anybody who spends any time in front of the tube has surely had at least a couple of reality series they consider appointment TV. The two concepts that paved the way for everything else are undoubtedly “Survivor” and “American Idol.” The former, of course, opened the floodgates for the genre, and while it’s seen a considerable dip in the ratings department over the years, 12 million viewers isn’t a viewing figure to sneeze at. The latter, despite all the bitching and moaning and cries of “it’s not as good as it used to be” that accompany each new season, remains one of the most watched shows on the tube, likely due to the fact that it’s strictly a talent competition.

On “American Idol,” the only backstabbers are the judges, and since they aren’t part of the competition, their amusing duplicity is championed. The contestants, on the other hand, are innocents, and once the competition is underway, we’re given no peek into any possible backstage drama, which is a good thing, because by the time the audition rounds are over, we’ve had enough drama to last the whole season. Everything that comes after is all about who can best transfix us for three minutes a week via one pop ditty. It actually says something positive about the U.S. that “American Idol” remains our #1 form of reality entertainment, even if the actual reality is that the vast majority of Americans couldn’t care less about buying the winner’s album six months after they’re crowned.

You might think reality TV is a bunch of crap, and in most cases you’d be right, but the whole idea of it, to my mind, led to an important revolution, and that is serialized nighttime television (the classic “soap” formula notwithstanding). Reality shows taught viewers how to become invested in characters, how to be concerned for their eventual fate, and, most importantly, how to pay attention to an ongoing storyline, and the need to tune in every week. It didn’t take long for the networks to figure out that there was an audience for shows that didn’t continually hit the reset button. “24” must have been the first successful show of the decade to embrace the serial formula, and it embraced it whole hog. It required you to tune in for every episode, because each installment was another hour of a single day in the life of Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer. That “24” premiered less than two months after the terrorist attacks on 9/11 was pure happenstance. That it became enormously popular with viewers? Probably not so much. America needed some fictitious reassurance that there were folks on the job who could get shit done, and “24” filled the prescription.

Strangely, “24” didn’t open the network floodgates for more such programming right away. It took a few years, and then “Lost” made its mark. The number of “Lost” episodes I’ve seen could be counted on two hands, but that’s not because I didn’t like it, but because real life got in the way of it being appointment TV. Yet I viewed the pilot for “Lost” several months before its 2004 premiere, and when it ended I was convinced that I’d seen the second best TV pilot ever made. (“Twin Peaks” stills sits at #1.) The fact that a show as intricate as “Lost” still has a hardcore, central audience is perhaps a testament to that pilot. “24” started a new story with each new season; “Lost” required that you tune in for every episode of every season.

Another sci-fi series that did just that was “Battlestar Galactica,” a show that, due it being on a niche network (Syfy), never amassed a huge audience yet snagged boatloads of publicity and awareness nonetheless. It was no small feat to take an utterly laughable short-lived series from the late ‘70s and re-envision it for modern audiences, but Ron Moore and company did just that…and they did it far more successfully that anyone ever guessed possible. Most amazingly, the show taught us a lot about ourselves, by thoroughly defining what it means to be human, and as the damaged ‘00s dragged on, there may not have been a more important lesson to be learned.

On the same day I saw the “Lost” pilot, I saw another pilot for a completely different kind of series. While I didn’t rank it as one of the greats, there was one thing I was sure of: it would be a massive hit…and it was. “Desperate Housewives” was precisely the sort of vapid, soapy fare that had been absent for far too long on American TV. It clued into the seemingly bland suburban construct which surrounds so many Americans, via the Lynchian notion that “all is not what it seems.” Most anyone who lives a suburban life can no doubt relate to that idea, because wherever there are groups of people, there are bound to be some of them that are fucked up. “Housewives” is littered with fucked up suburbanites of all shapes, sizes and types, but they’re kooky and funny and there’s always some twinkly music playing in the background that in the end makes everything OK. It is not great television, but over the years it has, for the most part, been immensely watchable in the most disposable sort of way.

Around the same time period as “Housewives,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” made some major waves. It’s a series I have never watched and never plan to, but I’d be foolish to omit it from discussion since it brought two annoyingly obnoxious terms to the TV table: McDreamy and McSteamy. I haven’t heard either in a few years, but there was a time when they seemed to define everything that was wrong with television. I assume “Grey’s” fans have grown out of it…or maybe the show killed one of those guys off? I’ve no idea and can’t be motivated to investigate. Presently, there’s a brand new version of it going around, through cinema, via Camp Edward and Camp Nimrod. People can be so easily distracted it makes you wonder why some shows actually try harder.

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