Winter 2011 TCA Press Tour: Top 10 Quotes from Day 2

The first half of the second day of the Winter 2011 TCA Press Tour belonged solely to the Turner networks, who had been notably MIA from the summer tour. Although there were unconfirmed reports that they were not entirely thrilled with the dates that had been set for that tour, as most of their summer programming had already premiered by the time the tour kicked off, but during the opening remarks, we were assured that “we ask for time on the critics tour schedule when we can make it worth your while.” Fair enough, then.

After an “Adventure Time”-themed breakfast from Cartoon Network, Adult Swim brought on a plethora of panelists for “Childrens Hospital” (everyone in the above photo was in attendance, plus executive producers Jonathan Stern and David Wain), TNT followed with “Franklin & Bash,” “Falling Skies,” and “Men of a Certain Age,” then HLN and CNN wrapped things up by getting real and presenting the new talk shows from Dr. Drew Pinsky and Piers Morgan, respectively. Given that I ended up pulling one-on-one interviews with Malcolm McDowell, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Breckin Meyer, Garcelle Beauvais, Ray Romano (and Jon Manfrellotti), Scott Bakula, and Henry Winkler, I am hard pressed to have an unkind word to say about the Turner experience…except, that is, the fact that I diligently and politely contacted publicists for both networks and studios in an effort to nail down interviews in advance but was still ultimately left to fly by the seat of my pants and spend the morning in catch-as-catch-can mode.

Our working lunch was brought to us by the unlikely tag-team of BET (“The Game,” “Let’s Stay Together”) and Playboy TV (“Brooklyn Kinda Love,” “Swing”), and from there it was on to the Discovery family of networks: Animal Planet (“Taking on Tyson,” a look into Mike Tyson’s love of pigeons…yes, seriously), Science Channel (“An Idiot Abroad,” with Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant, and title character Karl Pilkington), Investigation Discovery (“The Injustice Files”), and the mothership, the Discovery Channel (“Gold Rush – Alaska” and “Kidnap & Rescue”).

By then, the excitement / cynicism in the room was palpable: it was time for the OWN Network presentations. We’d been promised a welcome from Oprah, but we didn’t get one. Instead, we got an introduction from network CEO Christina Norman. She’s a very nice lady, but it wasn’t quite the same, and she admitted as much when she came onstage after a lengthy series of clips featuring Ms. Winfrey, saying, “I know: after all that Oprah, I am a massive disappointment to all of you.” Her Majesty did indeed deign to participate in a Q&A with us, but not until after we sat through panels for “Your OWN Show” (10 finalists compete to get their own series on the network), “The Gayle King Show,” and “Our America with Lisa Ling.” After Oprah held court, using what my esteemed colleague Bill Harris of the Toronto Sun referred to as the George W. Bush Technique, which involved offering incredibly lengthy answers in order to minimize the number of questions actually asked.

After the Q&A came to a close (and you can believe that it only ended when Oprah wanted it to end), we were all invited to attend the evening event which, although it was ostensibly brought to us by the OWN Network, nonetheless featured attendees from shows throughout the Discovery family of networks. This resulted in my having close encounters with Mike Tyson, author James Ellroy, and…well, I didn’t actually get to talk to Oprah, but I did stand very close to her (along with Carson Kressley and Nancy O’Dell, hosts of “Your OWN Show”) and breathe the same air as Oprah, so my understanding is that I will now never get cancer…which is nice, of course, but, damn, I really could’ve used a new car.

I know, you wish I’d gotten a new car, too. Don’t be sad, though, as I’m already sad enough for both of us. Besides, I’d much rather you read my selections for the top 10 quotes of Day 2 and leave me wallowing in my own car-less misery. No, don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine…just as long as you don’t forget to come back for my coverage of Day 3.

1. “The one note we did get (for ‘Children’s Hospital’), it was from Warner Brothers…I hesitate to even tell you this, but when we turned in our first script for the web series, Warner Brothers called us up and said, ‘Um, do you think you could cut the shot where we actually see the Twin Towers burning?’ And we were like, ‘Yeah, do you know what? That’s a great note.’” – Rob Corddry, “Children’s Hospital” (Adult Swim)

2. “I actually improvise all my own parts. I don’t know why they hire writers. I enjoy ad-libbing greatly, because I…basically, I can’t remember what the hell I’m doing. What’s the show called?” – Malcolm McDowell, “Franklin & Bash” (TNT)

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A Chat with Linda Gray (“Expecting Mary,” “Dallas”)

This weekend marks the opening of “Expecting Mary,” a film about a young pregnant girl who ends up having to leave home to truly find a family. (I just made that up. Just now. I clearly should be writing taglines for a living.) The actress playing Mary – Olesya Rulin – is perhaps best described as an up-and-comer, since her highest profile roles to date have been “High School Musical 3” and a 6-episode stint on ABC Family’s “Greek,” but the same certainly cannot be said for many others in the cast: among those who turn up in the film include Elliott Gould, Lainie Kazan, Cloris Leachman, Della Reese, Cybill Shepherd, Gene Simmons, Fred Willard, and…yes, the title of this piece has given it away, but we’re going for the dramatic pause, anyway…Linda Gray, who was kind enough to take a bit of time to tell me about the film as well as to answer quite a few questions about the experience of playing the iconic role of Sue Ellen Ewing on “Dallas.”

Linda Gray: Hello, Will Harris! I was expecting your call!

Bullz-Eye: (Laughs) Well, I’m glad to hear that! It’s a pleasure to speak with you.

LG: Thank you very much!

BE: I must admit that I have yet to see “Expecting Mary,” but based on the cast alone, I’m certainly interested in doing so.

LG: (Laughs) Well, I think it’ll be one of those delightful movies where you laugh and maybe cry, and, you know, you’ll be entertained, for sure.

BE: Well, first off, let me ask you how you came to be involved in the film.

LG: It was because of the writer, Dan Gordon. Dan is an extraordinarily wonderful writer, and if you Google him… (Laughs) …you’ll find out all kinds of wonderful things that he’s written. But Dan Gordon had come to see me in London when I was doing “The Graduate,” and when he saw the play, he gave me a video – at that time, there weren’t all that many DVDs – of “Terms of Endearment,” and he asked, “Would you like to do this as a play?” And I took a deep breath, because I’d already stepped into an Anne Bancroft piece, and I thought, “Oh, boy, how do you go into an Academy Award winning role by Shirley MacLaine? But I said, “Yes, let’s do it.” So he got the rights from Paramount and Larry McMurtry to do it as a play, and we toured it in the provinces of England. It was kind of an off-off-off-off-Broadway kind of a thing… (Laughs) …just to kind of see how it worked, how the scenes played together and how the characters worked. So we did that, and I did it for almost six months, eight shows a week, and cried my eyes out every show, until I came to him and said, “Look, I love your writing, but…can you write me something lighter? This is too heavy for me!” (Laughs) So, anyway, we sat down and started throwing around ideas, and…I didn’t want to have a J.R. guy in my life. I said, “Okay, here’s my wish list: I don’t want her to be the wife of someone like that. I want her to be a little bit zany.” I wanted her to be a little Lucille Ball, a little bit of something that people hadn’t ever really seen me do. I wanted her to have a big heart, and…well, anyway, we hashed it around, and he came up with a former Las Vegas showgirl, and I said, “Yes!” And we kept going, and it was, like, “What if we did this? How about that?” And it was a lovely, lovely collaboration. But he’s the genius with writing. We just bounced ideas around, and he took them in and molded them into the script, which was, well, genius.

Nothing really good happens unless you have a good script, and he orchestrated it beautifully, so that…when you see it, you’ll see that each character has their moment, and they all shine in their scenes. And that’s what attracted all of these wonderful actors. Actors vibe to a script like that, so here comes Cloris Leachman and Della Reese and Lainie Kazan and Cybill Shepherd and Elliott Gould… (Laughs) I was, like, “Oh, my gosh, look at this cast!” Everybody kept saying, “Yes!” Nobody said “no.” It was just all about arranging their schedules. It was an 18-day shoot, which may surprise you when you see the film. It surprised us! (Laughs) And it was just…charming. I think what happens when you get professionals together, really good actors that have been in the business for a long time, and they know there’s an 18-day shoot…Dan Gordon was a first-time feature film director, which was an interesting thing, but the good news is that, as a director / writer, there weren’t many scenes that he had to tweak on the set then and there, but when there were, you didn’t have to wait to find the writer and say, “What do you think of this?” It was instant.

We benefited hugely by that, because…there’s one scene you’ll see where I’m holding this baby pig, walking, and Olyesa Rulin, whom I love and adore…she’s the young girl in the film, and I want to adopt her, but I haven’t told her parents yet. (Laughs) But we’re walking, I’m holding this pig, and she looks at me and says, “I thought we were supposed to walk this pig.” Well, the reality was that the ground was 134 degrees. It was so hot. We shot it last summer, at the end of July and the beginning of August, and the ground was so hot that they wouldn’t let us put the pig’s feet down on the ground! So I had to hold the pig, and it makes my character, Darnella, even more zany. I’m holding this pig as I’m taking her for a walk, and Olyesa says, rightfully, “I thought you were walking the pig,” so I say, “Oh, he hurt his little foot!” That was Dan. He wrote instantly that the pig had a hurt foot, but he likes to be out and about, so I had to hold him and carry him. (Laughs) So there are those kinds of little things that nobody would ever notice, but they’re there because Dan was there to write them on the spot!

BE: I’m suddenly reminded of W.C. Fields’ line about never working with children and animals…

LG: (Laughs) Oh, I think it’s absolutely true! I mean, I’ve worked with a lot of animals, and I agree. It’s, like, “Oh, my gosh, this is crazy!” Because they get all the focus. Everybody that I’ve talked to about the movie, they talk about the pig…and the pig isn’t even in the film very much! (Laughs) But, yes, everybody was just enamored, and they washed him in lavender soap. Actually, it was a girl, but in the film, it’s a male pig. But, yes, they washed him in lavender, and he smelled beautifully, and he was adorable.

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Greetings to the New Show: “Men of a Certain Age”

As I settled in to watch TNT’s new series, “Men of a Certain Age,” starring Ray Romano, Andre Braugher, and Scott Bakula, I was struck by a thought: when’s the last time TV offered us an hour-long about guys that was just about guys? The last one that leaps immediately to my mind is ABC’s “Big Shots,” which came and went within the span of a few months in the fall of 2007, but that series springboarded off the premise that all four guys were CEOs. Not bad a concept, perhaps, but by upping the income bracket of the characters, you’re significantly cutting into the number of people who can relate to it. How about a series that’s just about average guys doing average guy things? When was the last time we got one of those?

Beats me, but we’ve got one now…and it’s good.

The press release for “Men of a Certain Age” kicks off with the classic John Lennon lyric, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans,” and although it’s been quoted plenty of times, it’s decidedly apropos for this series, which explores the lives of three guys in their 40s – one single, one married, one separated and likely headed for divorce – as they begin to examine who they are, how they got where they are, how the future looks, and what they can do to change it. If the acknowledgment that there are indeed things in their lives that need changing sounds like a spoiler, think about your own life and consider whether or not there’s anything you might like to change about. If there isn’t, then I envy you, but I can’t say the same, and I seriously doubt if I know anyone who can. At the very least, none of these men of a certain age can’t.

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“Southland” has been saved

In a delightful screw-you to the programming powers that be at NBC, TNT has saved the day and picked up “Southland.” Although I must, as ever, remind you that I have never claimed to be Nostradamus, I am pleased to say that I did predict that this would be the case when I originally posted about the show’s cancellation by NBC, so it’s nice to see that I can get something right once in awhile. (I’m still smarting over the fact that, in Bullz-Eye’s Fall TV Preview that “Trauma” has been canceled, but I stand by my position: based on their pilots, I can’t imagine anyone would’ve expected “Mercy” to last longer.)

Here’s the official word from TNT on the latest addition to their line-up:

TNT has picked up the critically acclaimed series “Southland,” closing a deal with Warner Bros. Television that will bring the drama from Emmy-winning producer John Wells (“ER,” “The West Wing”) to the network in January. TNT has obtained exclusive rights to air all six episodes that have been shot for the second season, as well as the seven episodes from the series’ first season. “Southland” will air on TNT Tuesdays at 10 p.m. (ET/PT), beginning with the first episode of the series on Jan. 12.

“This is a great win for fans of ‘Southland’ and a perfect opportunity to introduce the series to new viewers,” said Steve Koonin, president of Turner Entertainment Networks. “It’s also another outstanding example of how TNT has established itself as the go-to place for the best dramas on television.”

“We are extremely pleased that TNT has acquired all 13 episodes of ‘Southland,’ giving devoted fans the opportunity to watch a show that they passionately support,” said Peter Roth, president of Warner Bros. Television.

“We’re delighted that TNT has stepped forward to pick up ‘Southland.’ We are all extremely proud of the show,” Wells said.

Of course, if you’ve been following the Twitter feed of “Southland” star Michael Cudlitz since he started making with the obscenities over NBC’s treatment of the series, then this is old news to you, anyway. He reacted to the news minutes after the story broke, thanking everyone in Twitterland and saying, “The reason this happened was because of you. They never would have picked this show up if they didn’t think it had an audience.”

But will the audience make it over to TNT come January…?

  

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TCA Tour, Day 1: “Dark Blue”

There was a certain amount of exasperation amongst the critics about Turner’s decision to offer up a panel for a show that’s already been on the air for a few weeks (“Dark Blue”) rather than one for an upcoming series that we’re all rather excited about (“Men of a Certain Age,” starring Ray Romano, Scott Bakula, and Andre Braugher), and to be fair, I was feeling it myself a little bit. I get that, when you’ve got a Jerry Bruckheimer production amongst your stable of shows, you want to be sure that you’re promoting it as much as possible, but…it’s already on the air. Worse, it was like pouring salt in the wound to show us a clip from “Men of a Certain Age” that piqued our interest even further about that series.

Oh, well. So be it.

If you haven’t caught “Dark Blue” yet…well, it only made its debut on July 15th, so it’s not too late to get onboard. I was so busy trying to get ready for the TCA tour that I never had a chance to write it up for Premium Hollywood, but here’s the trailer for the series, to give you an idea what it’s all about:

“Dark Blue” was created by Doug Jung, who had previously worked on “Big Love.” It’s a bit of a change of pace, obviously, but as he admitted, “You could say that about polygamy for everyone.”

Still, the two series have more in common than one might immediately think.

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