Winter 2011 TCA Press Tour: Top 10 Quotes from Day 3

Day 3 of the Winter 2011 TCA Press Tour ran me ragged, moreso than any day which preceded it and, I feel rather certain, than any day to follow. Very rarely has it ever come to pass that I schedule a day full of one-on-one interviews and have every single of them go off without a hitch, and you can probably already guess that yesterday wasn’t an exception to that rule. I should probably just be happy that I got some of them, though: the way things were looking, I wasn’t entirely convinced that I was going to get any of them.

The last day of the cable portion of the tour began with breakfast with the members of the Rainbow Networks: WEtv (“Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best” and “Braxton Family Values”), IFC (“Onion News Network” and “Portlandia”), and AMC (“The Killing”). Shifting ballrooms, we next listened to A&E (“Breakout Kings”) and Lifetime (“Seriously Funny Kids” and “Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy”), but…do you detect a trend here?…we soon moved back to the other ballroom to get the scoop on stuff from Hallmark (“Goodnight for Justice”) and Starz (“Camelot,” “Spartacus: Gods of the Arena,” and “Torchwood: Miracle Day”). Lastly, it was – oh, dear – back to the other ballroom again. This time, however, HBO kept us sitting still for the duration of the afternoon, giving us looks into “Mildred Pierce,” “The Pee-Wee Herman Show on Broadway,” “Cinema Verite,” “Game of Thrones,” “Too Big to Fail,” and “The Sunset Limited.”

My problem, however, was this: I had to keep bowing out of this panel and that in order to participate in various roundtables and one-on-one interviews. Worse, one of the roundtables – stand up, please, Tommy Lee Jones – was shifted from a perfect location on the schedule into a spot which utterly disrupted almost all of the interviews that followed. In the end, though, I did manage to participate in two roundtables for “Game of Thrones,” including one with author George R.R. Martin, I and two other writers sparred with Mr. Jones (surviving the encounter without having any of my questions ridiculed or dismissed outright has earned me some sort of entertainment journalism merit badge, I feel certain), and still managed to chat one-on-one with the too-sweet-for-words Eve Myles (“Torchwood: Miracle Day”) as well as John Hannah and Peter Mensah (“Spartacus: Gods of the Arena”).

The evening event was brought to us by Hallmark, and it took place at the Tournament House…as in the Tournament of Roses…in Pasadena. It was a pleasantly low-key event which began with cocktails and featured a classy sit-down dinner. What I’m saying, basically, is that it was old-school in all the right ways, including familiar TV faces like Doris Roberts, Marion Ross, and Marilu Henner, who regularly found herself holding court about her superior autobiographical memory. I also had an opportunity to sit down and chat with 11-year-old Kiernan Shipka, who plays Sally Draper on “Mad Men.” What a little sweetheart.

Okay, that’s it for the Day 3 wrap-up. Time for your daily dose of my favorite quotes…

1. “I knew that I was doing a lot of plastic surgery, because Melissa, one time, called me when (my grandson) Cooper was four years old and they had ‘Return of the Mummy,’ and he ran to the TV and went, ‘Grandma, Grandma.’ But I think plastic surgery come on, guys. You know. How many people have you interviewed…if you had a stitch for every if you had a dollar for every stitch in the face of someone you’ve interviewed, you wouldn’t be sitting here. You know what I mean? It’s part of our business.” – Joan Rivers, “Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best” (WEtv)

2. “It is literally impossible to be more ridiculous than Fox News or MSNBC. It’s actually impossible. It’s happened multiple times that we’ll be kind of talking and brainstorming a joke in the writers’ room, we’ll get excited about it, and then it’s literally on the FoxNews.com website. So I think we have to kind of embrace that closeness. And the excitement for us is not being a parody of 24-hour news, but we are real news. Those are our competitors in a kind of slightly different world, and I think that believability is also part of what’s exciting about it. We’ve had online cases where, for example, last year there was a case where we published a story about Neil Armstrong now saying that the moon landing was a hoax, and all these papers in Bangladesh picked it up. There was a story about the Make-A-Wish Foundation being bankrupted by a child who wishes for unlimited wishes, which is pretty out there. It went on MySpace, which is kind of the Internet hub for morons, and we got this letter from the Make-A-Wish Foundation that was, like, ‘We’re getting hundreds of e-mails every hour, people who are concerned.’ So how ridiculous those things are, I think, really kind of opens up a lot of doors for us.” – Will Graham, “Onion News Network” (IFC)

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TV of the 2000s: The Top 10 “Doctor Who” Stories of the Decade

There has been no better decade to be a fan of “Doctor Who” than the ‘00s. The show, once considered a punchline for jokes made by Trekkies, has risen from the ashes of the ‘80s and been reborn as a serious sci-fi/fantasy force with which to be reckoned. It’s managed to generate two spinoffs in the form of “Torchwood” and “The Sarah Jane Adventures,” as well as open up the entire 26 previous seasons to a whole new generation of fans. Yeah, it’s a good time to be a “Doctor Who” fan, because more than ever, people are less than likely to look at you “that” way when you tell them it’s your favorite series. With that in mind, here’s an entirely subjective list of its crowning achievements since the new series started in 2005; it’s just a shame I’ve not yet seen David Tennant’s two-part finale, “The End of Time,” so it could warrant possible inclusion. In any case, here’s to, at the very least, another full decade of time and space travels inside the TARDIS.

10. “School Reunion” – There are other stories that from a plot standpoint are much better written than this one, and thus more deserving of being in this Top 10, but I’ve an enormous fondness for this outing simply because it not only brought Lis Sladen’s Sarah Jane Smith back into my life, but it did it in such a way that left me a sobbing mess. If, like me, you grew up watching Doctor #4 (Tom Baker) and Sarah Jane battle the evil Morbius on Karn, defeat the diabolical Sutekh on Mars, and kill the giant Krynoid at the estate of Harrison Chase, then seeing her character – as well as her relationship with the Doctor – hit a poignant and dramatic high note of finality was most definitely a strong cup of tea. It’s a bit of a shame Sarah Jane has her own series now, because everything about her that’s come since has somewhat eroded what was beautiful about this story in the first place.

9. “The Waters of Mars” – It’s entirely possible I’m riding a “Who” high at the moment, and that in time “Mars” won’t seem quite as perfect as it does at present. Further, since it won’t play on BBC America until Dec. 19th, it would be wrong to discuss it in any great detail. Nevertheless, it’s got an intricate premise from Russell T. Davies and Phil Ford, deft direction from Graeme Harper, creepy monsters, outstanding set design, and one helluva complex performance from David Tennant, that’s clearly aimed at setting up “The End of Time.” The last 20 minutes are frenzied and game-changing; this is Davies pulling the rug out from under the Time Lord and redefining everything we thought we learned about him over the past four seasons. It’s fucking glorious, and even if the big finish doesn’t quite live up to the buildup, I’ll know they made a damn good go of it.

8. “The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit” – Here’s another story that might leave a reader or two scratching their heads, but it’s a tale that holds an immense amount of nostalgia for me. See, my kid was 13 at the time it premiered, as were his friends. For the second season of new “Who,” the fates conspired so that he and his buds gathered at the house nearly every weekend to watch the latest episode with me, and the otherworldly goings-on at Sanctuary Base in particular had all of us riveted. “Don’t Turn Around!” became the catchphrase for a good long while around my casa, and further, this was the story where Tennant “became” the Doctor for me. The scene where he was being lowered into the Satan Pit, talking of how the specifics of the creature didn’t fit his “rules” was the defining moment. If I’d had even a vague vibe that he might not be precisely the right actor for the role before this, any such thoughts were dashed immediately after viewing that scene. Beside, the Doctor meets Satan? Hot diggity damn! This two-parter also unleashed the Ood, who have clearly become one of the defining alien races of the new series; they returned for the aptly named “Planet of the Ood” in Season Four, and will be returning again for Tennant’s finale.

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The Return of Bullz-Eye’s TV Power Rankings

Ever since the writers’ strike, the television industry has been in a state of flux. Most networks still can’t figure out what works from what doesn’t, while the current economic climate has forced others to simply give up. Whether or not “The Jay Leno Show” is a success for NBC is debatable, but by surrendering the 10 p.m. time slot, they’ve greatly decreased their chances of bringing in new viewers. We would be exaggerating if we said the decision affected Bullz-Eye’s latest edition of the TV Power Rankings, but our Winter 2009 list does seem suspiciously familiar. Still, it isn’t without its surprises, as a longtime favorite returned from an extended hiatus to claim the top spot, while buzzworthy rookies like “Glee” and “FlashForward” also made impressive Top 10 debuts. At the end of the day, however, the real winner is HBO, who walked away with three of the four top spots, thus reestablishing themselves as the best network around.

A few examples from the piece:


5. Glee (Fox): There isn’t a show on this list that we love and hate with the same enthusiasm that we have for “Glee.” It contains some of the best-drawn characters in Fox’s history (aspiring diva Rachel Berry, adorable germaphobe Emma Pillsbury, cantankerous alpha female Sue Sylvester), and the iTunes chart-burning musical numbers, lip synching aside, are deliriously fun. Imagine, then, if they didn’t make these characters jump through such ridiculous hoops. Will’s wife is actually going to take her fake pregnancy to term? Emma agrees to marry Ken, but only as long as they never tell a soul? (Those plot threads brought to you by Bad Idea Jeans.) Yet for each blunder the show makes, they come up with something as brilliantly funny as Finn’s technique for not climaxing (he thinks about the time when he hit the mailman with his car), or the drama queen freak show that is Sandy Ryerson (a pitch-perfect Stephen Tobolowsky). Getting Josh Groban to do a cameo as a horndog version of himself, meanwhile – and hit on Will’s drunk mother – was a moment of “Arrested Development”-style genius. Yes, it’s made mistakes, but “Glee” gets a spot in our Top Five because no other show on TV sports dialogue like “mentally ill ginger pygmy with eyes like a bush baby.” But man, it would be a wonderful world if they did.David Medsker

15. Dexter (Showtime): Like “The Sopranos,” Dexter always has a theme that is explored within a season as a backdrop to the episodic progression of the show. Last season, it examined friendship within the context of Dexter’s secret world, and Jimmy Smits was brilliant as his first and only pal. This year explores the facets of intimate relationships, and balancing work and the rest of your life as it relates to it. Dexter (played with brilliant sincerity and conviction by Michael C. Hall) is struggling to find balance between his work as a blood splatter analyst, a new dad of an infant, stepfather to his wife’s kids, and his hobby of killing and dismembering other bad guys, while his entertainingly foul-mouthed sister Deb implodes the most stable relationship of her life when she sleeps with returning lover and retired FBI agent Frank Lundy. John Lithgow is also scary good as the Trinity Killer, the latest object of Dexter’s attention. When Trinity kills Lundy and wounds Deb while making it look like another killer’s signature, Dex is commanded by the ghost of Harry to seek revenge, making this season as entertaining as any in the past – no easy feat considering how consistently good this show has been.R. David Smola

Honorable MentionCougar Town (ABC): Yeah, yeah, we know: the title’s a bit dodgy. But Bill Lawrence, who co-created the show with Kevin Biegel, has said, “The roll of the dice I’ve made is that the title is noisy and that people will be aware of this show.” True enough, though the fact that the series stars Courtney Cox would’ve probably done a pretty decent job of putting it on people’s radar, anyway. The pilot alone was strong enough to suggest that “Cougar Town” could prove to be the perfect series for female viewers who’ve outgrown “Sex and the City,” but with enough of a dysfunctional family element to fit perfectly into the closing slot in ABC’s new Wednesday night comedy line-up. Although the show continues to hone its comedic formula, the trio of Cox, Christa Miller and Busy Philipps clicked immediately (particularly the latter two, with their characters’ diametrically opposed personalities), and the relationship between the teenaged Travis and his man-child of a father rings true with its blend of unconditional love and complete embarrassment. Now that Jules’s fling with Josh is over, however, we’re curious to see who’ll be next on her slate to date — and how long this one will last.Will Harris

Returning in 2010Lost (ABC): Here we are, folks. After five seasons of confusing viewers with one of the most elaborate mythologies on television, “Lost” is finally in the home stretch. Want to know what the heck that smoke monster really is? How about the weird statue? Heck, what about the Dharma Initiative itself? All will supposedly be revealed in the sixth and final season of one of the smartest, most fearless shows network television has ever bothered to offer. Of course, this being “Lost,” we still have something to bitch about – namely, that the goddamn Olympics will interrupt the show’s final 18 episodes – but if we’ve waited this long to determine the ultimate fate of our favorite island castaways, what’s a few weeks of curling and cross-country skiing? We’ve all had our issues with the way “Lost” has unfolded over the years, and the show isn’t the phenomenon it was in its first couple of seasons. To cop one of the fall’s most popular phrases, though, this is it – and if there’s ever been a serialized drama with the guts to stick the landing and make its finale truly count, we’re betting it’s “Lost.”Jeff Giles

Check out Bullz-Eye’s TV Power Rankings in their entirety by clicking here or on the big-arse graphic you see before you. Also, be sure to check out the accompanying interviews with folks associated with the various shows, including David Goyer (“FlashForward”), Kurt Sutter (“Sons of Anarchy”), Jonathan Ames (“Bored to Death”), and Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”).

Did any of your favorite shows miss the cut? Let us know by replying below!

  

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A Chat with Aidan Turner, Russell Tovey, and Lenora Crichlow of “Being Human”

One of the most consistent pleasures of the TCA Press Tour for an Anglophile such as myself is the opportunity to get the scoop on the latest UK imports to arrive on BBC America. In 2007, I was introduced to “Jekyll” and “Torchwood,” and in 2008, I very quickly fell in love with “Gavin and Stacey” and “Primeval.” This time around, the picks to click were “The InBetweeners” and “Being Human,” and although I’ll be waiting a bit to offer up my conversation with the folks from the former, I’m running a bit late in posting my chat with the cast of the latter. “Being Human” actually made its BBC America debut when I was still in Pasadena, but now that I’m playing catch-up, I wanted to share with you the lovely courtyard conversation that I had with the show’s trio of stars: Aidan Turner, Russell Tovey, and Lenora Crichlow.

Join us now as we embark upon…

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TCA Tour, Day 2: “Doctor Who”

There are no two ways about it: it’s a great time to be a fan of the “Who”-niverse. Not only did the awesome “Torchwood: Children of Earth” miniseries blow away BBC America ratings records, thereby almost certainly insuring that we will see more of Captain Jack and company in the future, but we’ve just been witness to another great “Doctor Who” saga (“Planet of the Dead”) and will have two more coming up in the next few months, with “The Waters of Mars” premiering in the fall and the inevitable Christmas episode arriving…well, you know, somewhere around Christmas, probably. In fact, there’s really only one thing to be sad about: the imminent departure of The Tenth Doctor, otherwise known as David Tennant.

Oh, dear, I’m already starting to get sad about it. Let’s switch gears, then, and talk about how Tennant came to be The Doctor in the first place.

“I first met David when we did ‘Casanova’ together for the BBC,” said “Who” reinvigorator Russell T. Davies. “I remember doing rehearsals, and we used to make ‘Doctor Who’ jokes, which amused us. So he was already there in a way. When you work with these great actors, when you find a great actor, you just cling to them. They’re just so limitless and inspiring. So when it came to putting it together and writing it, we talked surprisingly little about it, really, didn’t we?”

“You just wrote it,” confirmed Tennant. “That was it, really. I just got the script and did it.”

So what was Tennant doing that was different from the other actors who were under consideration?

“He’s a great kisser,” replied Davies, before getting serious. “Actually, I’ll tell you what: it was the ‘Casanova’ audition, because that’s when I sort of thought, ‘Oh, my lord, that’s someone I want to spend many years working with.’ He had auditioned for ‘Casanova,’ and, you know, playing the world’s greatest lover, everyone came in and gave us very heavy and very serious would-be romantic portrayals. And David could just dance over dialogue like…”

At this point, Davies turned and addressed David directly. “I think you’re one of the few actors who understands that dialogue is sort of irrelevant,” he said. “You throw it away and you rattle across it with real speed, and it’s all going on underneath. You get the humor and the comedy, and there’s not many actors who do that. They take it very seriously. And I like stuff on the lighter end, no matter how dark the actual stuff is. It has that throw-away quality to it, and I love that.”

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