Winter 2011 TCA Press Tour: Top 10 Quotes from Day 1

The death march with cocktails begins anew!

The Winter 2011 TCA Press Tour kicked off on January 5th with the MTV family of networks offering up panels from TV Land (“Retired at 35” and “Hot in Cleveland”), CMT (“Working Class”), Spike (“Coal”), and Comedy Central (“Onion SportsDome” and “Tosh.0”). From there, it was on to a working lunch, where we learned of the TV Guide Channel’s new reality series, “The Nail Files,” while indulging in a grilled chicken salad and, to ruin any possible health benefits, followed it with a cupcake. With our bellies full, we moved on to the National Geographic sessions: “Beast Hunter,” “Explorer,” “Alien Invasion” and “Area 51 Declassified,” and “WILD on Snakes.” Next, we got a look at two new TV One shows, “Love That Girl!” and “Way Black When,” took a gander of Peter Lik’s new series for The Weather Channel, and the whole thing wrapped up with ESPN’s presentations for “Year of the Quarterback” and the BCS title game.

No, wait, I forgot: after all of the panels had concluded, the Comcast networks threw us a cocktail party which was attended by folks from E!, G4, and Style series. By then, though, I was running on fumes, so all I really did was enjoy the food (petite filets, buttermilk mashed potatoes, turkey sliders, and deep-fried mac & cheese balls…mmmmmmm), throw back a few bourbons, listen to Chris Gore rant about how awful “Tron: Legacy” was, and talk to Bruce Jenner for 15 minutes about his acting work, including “Can’t Stop the Music.” Indeed, the only time “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” came up was when one of his daughters called to tell him that they’d won Favorite TV Guilty Pleasure at the People’s Choice Awards. (He applauded me for “going retro” with my questions.)

Also, somewhere in between all of those panels, I had a chance to ask Betty White a couple of questions, share an interview with Jane Leeves, and do one-on-ones with Wendie Malick, Henry Rollins, Phil Morris, and the anchors and executive producer of “Onion SportsDome.” Arguably my most impressive accomplishment, however, was talking to Jerry Rice, asking a question provided to me by David Medsker (and tightened up slightly by Anthony Stalter), and having him seemingly believe that I know something about sports when I absolutely do not.

I’ll be revisiting some of the individual panels on a case-by-case basis as time allows, but in the meantime, here are the top 10 quotes from Day 1 of the tour. Hope you enjoy them, and see you after Day 2!

1. “What is this Betty White business? This is silly. Really, it is very silly. You’ve had such an overdose of me lately. Trust me. I think I’m going to go away for a while. It’s hard for me to say no to a job because you spend your career thinking if you say no, they’ll never ask you again, and if you don’t take the job, you know, that may be the end of it, but my mother taught me to say no when I was a girl, but that wasn’t about show business. So the result is I’m trying to cut down. I really am.” – Betty White, “Hot in Cleveland” (TV Land)

2. “Betty White is in the building. Did you hear that? I hope I get to touch her. I just had cataracts, and I’m still adjusting, but what I see is looking pretty good.” – Ed Asner, “Working Class” (CMT)

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Red Carpet Chatter: Mike Nichols Gets His AFI Lifetime Achievement Award

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Born in 1931 in what was very soon to become Hitler’s Germany, young Michael Peschkowsky was living in Manhattan by 1939. It was great luck both for the future Mike Nichols and for the country that accepted him.

Nichols is, of course, one of the most respected directors in Hollywood, and for good reason. He’s the original, craftsmanlike, and emotionally astute directorial voice responsible for such sixties and seventies classics as “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,”  “Carnal Knowledge” and, of course, “The Graduate” (the source of his only directorial Oscar so far) as well as such eighties, nineties, and oughts successes as “Silkwood,” “Working Girl,” “The Birdcage,” and “Closer.” Even if some of the later films are not on the same level of quality as his earlier films — and several, especially his 1988 box office hit, “Working Girl,” stray into mediocrity — it’s still one of the most impressive and diverse careers of any living director in Hollywood.

That’s just on the big screen. On television, Nichols has rebounded in the eyes of many critics, directing two of the most acclaimed television productions of the last decade, 2001’s “Wit” with Emma Thompson, and the outstanding 2005 miniseries adaptation of Tony Kushner’s brilliant and mammoth epic play, “Angels in America.” With his 80th birthday just a year and a half away, he’s still working hard with two thrillers movies planned, including an I’ll-believe-it-when-I-see-it remake of Akira Kurosawa’s “High and Low” currently being rewritten by the decidedly counter-intuitive choice of Chris Rock.

Before he directed his first foot of film, Mike Nichols was a noted theater director. That in itself is not so unusual a root for directors to travel. What is different is that, before he was a noted theater director, he was half of one of the most influential comedy teams in show business history, Nichols and May. (His comedy partner, Elaine May, went on to become an important, if less commercially successful, writer and director in her own right.)

Still, from the moment he directed his first major play, Neil Simon’s “Barefoot in the Park,” Nichols mostly abandoned performing. Today, his highly regarded early work is mostly known only to fairly hardcore comedy aficionados.

elaine-may-006-500x375

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It’s your end of week late movie news dump

No time to waste and, fortunately, it’s a bit slower than usual tonight.

* I admit it, a lot of the financial/stock market terminology used in Carl Icahn’s letter to Lionsgate stockholders, as carried by Nikki Finke and summarized by THR, eludes me. However, the gist seems to be that it’s all out war now.

* I was out covering the red carpet at the Mike Nichols AFI tribute last night — you’ll be seeing something about it here closer to when the show will actually air in a couple of weeks. Although I had the opportunity to speak very briefly with some genuinely great people, I was a bit disappointed there was no opportunity to watch the presentation on CCTV while I was there. Still, looks like the show that’ll air on TV Land should be something.

George Segal and Elizabeth Taylor in

* As an English major and someone who has actually read Cervantes, Joel Silver’s apparent approach to “Don Quixote” — which is not to be confused with Terry Gilliam’s ever-dicey “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” — makes me want to slash my wrists just a little.

* Some better news, also from the Playlist, which is that uninhobbited Guillermo del Toro is going back to his vampiric roots and doing a Van Helsing film that will, it safe to say, be much better than the last one, if it ever happens.

* Speaking of good directors who could use a gig, the Vulture claims that Sam Raimi has been offered the gig on the “Wizard of Oz” prequel, “Oz, the Great and Powerful.” I’ve no idea if it’s true, of course, but I’m reasonably sure he’d do a better and more imaginative job than either Sam Mendes or Adam Shankman, which is not really a knock on them.

* Re: talk of a “Taken” sequel. I know the movie did well, but I have a feeling that Liam Neeson just wants to keep working right now.

* Jim Emerson examines the notion of the movies that killed the movies, in the sense that sometimes the success of a particular film, or a type of film, you personally dislike a great deal can make a person actually loose interest in all films that come after, to some degree or another. For Francois Truffuat, it was 1962’s “Dr. No.” Yes, the first James Bond flick. Of course, his own career was really just still starting.

  

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A day at the TV Land Awards

Cast Of The Love Boat

The TV Land Awards are not an “and the winner is…” kind of award show extravaganza. They’re more a series of honorary nods to the very popular shows of television’s illustrious, time-killing past with an emphasis on glitz. And so a bunch of us media types were invited to add to the hub-bub at the Sony Studios back lot on a breezy April, waiting on a red carpet for whichever celebrity was escorted to our assigned spots, with those from famed print and broadcast outlets obviously getting the first dibs. In the case of this lowly pixel stained wretch, I felt honored to chat with a few really terrific performers who, each in their own way, had made quite an impression on me personally.

That most definitely applies to Jane Leeves, the comedically gifted actress best known as Daphne, Niles Crane’s Manchester-born one-true-crush and eventual wife from “Frasier.” After confessing that I’d had a crush of my own on her since before her famed “Seinfeld” turn as “Marla, the Virgin” her response was typically blunt-yet-charming. “I’m not that old!”

“Neither am I!,” I blurted. (I later learned that Ms. Leeves birthday was the following day. My own birthday was two days prior. I guess age was on both of our minds.)

Aside from being no non-TV star herself, Ms. Leeves was there to promote her now show, coincidentally to be aired on TV Land in a rare foray into original programming, “Hot in Cleveland.” The show teams Leeves with Wendy Malick (“Just Shoot Me”) and Valerie Bertinelli (“One Day at a Time”). The three play “very L.A.” career women with show business-related backgrounds of various types. (Leeves plays an “eyebrow plucker to the stars.”) Feeling a bit aged out of the L.A. game, they attempt a trip to Paris, but instead find themselves marooned at the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They quickly realize that beautiful, middle-aged women who can refer to celebrities by their first name are actually in fairly short supply in the midwestern metropolis and they decide to stay and be big fish in a smaller glamor pond. Betty White costars as a neighbor, perhaps a wacky one. Cue the glib comparisons calling this a “younger ‘Golden Girls.'”

Nevertheless, fans of Ms. Leeves should rest assured that her character is no retread of Daphne Moon. “She’s focused her whole life on her career and has forgotten to have a life. She’s the sort of smart aleck, wise-ass of the group, so it’s very different.”

janeleeves2

Then, perhaps feeling a bit star-struck, I went with the fallback question I frequently steal from our esteemed Will Harris. What project has she done that she doesn’t feel has gotten enough attention.

“It’s my cooking, quite frankly.”

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A chat with Ted Lange…? You got it!

On Sunday, April 25th, TV Land will be airing its annual celebration of classic television known as the TV Land Awards. Our man Bob Westal was walking the red carpet for us, star-spotting and chatting with the occasional celebrity passerby, but as I’m ensconced here in Virginia, I have to make do with phoners. It was hardly settling, however, to have the opportunity to chat with an iconic figure of ’70s and ’80 s television like Ted Lange. Although he’s arguably best known for his role as bartender Isaac Washington on “The Love Boat,” it’s far from the only item on his resume, so I made sure to brush up on his list of credits on IMDb before getting on the phone with him. This proved to be a wise move, as it resulted in stories of a Shakespearean production and tales of working on “Wattstax,” “Friday Foster,” “Record City,” “Mr. T and Tina,” and, yes, “That’s My Mama,” too. But, of course, there was still plenty of “Love Boat” banter as well, since it was that very show which led Lange to attend the TV Land Awards and reunite with his former crewmates…sorry, I meant castmates.

Come aboard as we set sail for…

Ted Lange: Hi, Will!

Bullz-Eye: Hey, Ted, how’s it going?

TL: Good! How are you doing?

BE: I’m doing well. It’s a pleasure to talk with you.

TL: What city are you in?

BE: I’m in Norfolk, Virginia. Where are you? Somewhere on the east coast, I guess, given how early it is.

TL:West coast, actually!

BE: Wow, then it’s really, really early there. Are you in California?

TL: Yessir. Los Angeles, California, city of the angels! (Laughs)

BE: Well, one of our writers here at Bullz-Eye was actually at the TV Land Awards the other night…

TL: Oh, really?

BE: He did the red carpet thing, and then he headed into the bloggers’ room, so he wasn’t in there with the action, per se, but he said it was a good time.

TL: It was a good time. It was a lot of fun.

BE: So was the entire cast there for the reunion?

TL: Well, Gavin MacLeod (Captain Stubing) had a back operation – he hurt himself, hurt a couple of his discs – so he wasn’t able to be there. We really missed him, because, you know, he’s the anchor of the show as the captain. So I called him up and talked to him to see how he was doing, and he was a little weak, but he was recuperating well. But everybody else was there, and they all brought their kids. Fred Grandy (Gopher) brought his daughter, I brought my son…it was a lot of fun.

BE: I was talking to Bob, our man who was there, and he was quite pleased that he’d gotten to talk to Bernie Kopell (Doc) on the carpet. So do you guys keep in touch aside from these occasional public reunions?

TL: Oh, yeah, absolutely. We’re friends. The great thing about the show was that we made friendships, you know? We were acting buddies and everything, but off-camera…I mean, I learned how to play tennis on Bernie’s tennis court. I wasn’t really into tennis ‘til I met Bernie. He’s been a good pal, and Fred I see all the time whenever I’m out on the east coast, and Tewes…we’re all friends, and that was the wonderful ancillary benefit of the show: that we made some really lasting friendships.

BE: So how did you first come onto “The Love Boat”? Obviously, you were pretty well established on television already, thanks to “That’s My Mama.”

TL: Yeah, actually, I did two series. I did “That’s My Mama,” and I did another series called “Mr. T and Tina,” with Pat Morita. The network was aware of me, and they had done a pilot and…they had used the guy who played the postman on “That’s My Mama,” Teddy Wilson, on the first “Love Boat” pilot, and they didn’t like the chemistry of the crew, so when they did the second pilot, they kind of threw everybody out that wasn’t working and brought in some new guys…and they stuck with the “That’s My Mama” cast by bringing me in to play the bartender. (Laughs) So I was very fortunate!

BE: Had you worked with Aaron Spelling before “Love Boat”?

TL: No, I hadn’t, actually. Jimmy Komack was the producer of “Mr. T and Tina,” and he sat me down and said, “You’re going to go work for Aaron Spelling, so let me just tell you that he’s really a great guy.” And, of course, he was correct.

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