Bullz-Eye's 2010 Winter TCA Press Tour Blog
Damian Kulash

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When I first joined the Television Critics Association in 2007, I attended the summer press tour in July, but when the time rolled around for the annual winter tour in January 2008, I was met with disappointment when the event became one of many pieces of collateral damage suffered during the lengthy writer’s strike. Fortunately, fences were soon mended (more or less), and the tour was back in action come the following January.

Here we are now, then, in 2010, and the timing for this TCA tour couldn’t be more perfect. On the docket: prime time failures, series stalwarts making departures, and…oh, right, some new shows, too. As ever, I’m making the rounds throughout the tour, getting as much TV news as I can absorb, chatting with various actors, directors, producers, writers and reality-show stars, and generally trying not to pass out from the combination of hard work, long hours and free drinks.  And why do I do it…?

I do it for you, the Bullz-Eye readers, of course. And you’re welcome.

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...), 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 .

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!

"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." - , "Hot in Cleveland" (TV Land)

"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." -

"That mine (in Westchester, West Virginia) is a very complicated mine. It's not as easy as it looks on TV. It's 40,000 tons of steel, and it can run over you, and it can be on you in a heartbeat. Because I've been mashed by one before. And you really got to know what you're doin' working a coal mine. I mean, seriously, you really gotta know what you're doing to be a coal miner. That's the biggest thing. People think we're ignorant. 'They've got to work the coal mines because they can't do nothing else.' Well, me, I can do about anything. I can weld. I can...you know, I can do anything. But we're not ignorant. We choose that life because we like to live in an area, and we want to make good money for our family, and that's the reason we're there." -

"I don't know why I get away with some things. But I'm not a misogynistic, racist person. Yet I do find those jokes funny, so I say them. And I try to say everything kind of in a good spirit. I'm not up there preaching, by any means. They're not my beliefs. So...I don't know. I've done standup solidly for 15 years, and I've always kind of said whatever I wanted on stage. And the audiences have been pretty receptive. My goal certainly has never been to offend people, but I just...I'm not going to hold back because I think, 'Oh, that might upset somebody.' There was...the transgender group was upset with us for a joke we did for a while, but then I gained them back by...I don't know what I did. I did something that made them love me, because I love transgender people in general. I think that's a good organization. Are they here? Which table are they at?" - , "Tosh 2.0" (Comedy Central)

"The whole thing about (the man in New Jersey who was eaten by his pet Nile monitor lizards), if you know kind of the 'behind the scenes' on that, it’s actually still thought that he had a heart attack. And those animals were left without food, and they will feed on carrion, and then they depredated him as a food source as a last resort. So my thoughts on that are you should probably keep those animals locked up. But dead is dead, so if he died from a heart attack and then he was consumed, I think Disney would say that’s the circle of life." - , "Python Hunters" (Nat Geo WILD)

"Hollywood’s getting it wrong. There’s a lot of waste, not that I want to undercut anybody’s check, but there is a lot of fat that could be trimmed that brings these projects to market a little bit more economically, a little bit better creatively because you don’t have so many hands in the pie telling you what your vision can’t be. And I think that’s why the cable outlets are jumping on board. People want this. The audience aren’t the ones that didn’t want sitcoms. I think it was just the networks, and their paradigm was no longer appropriate for the dynamic, but audiences, especially African-American audiences, they want the whole ride. They want to laugh, cry, scream, shout, love. And shows like our show give them an opportunity to see themselves and feel that way. -

"That is a total guy question (to ask if celebrities actually notice each other’s fingernails and toenails). Not to like point you out in the room, but it’s the guy in the middle right there, waving around his unmanicured hand. But it’s true. People are saying, 'Oh, what is this? Is this going to be like a show where you just watch people’s nails dry?' I’m, like, 'It’s not like that.' Nails are an accessory. It’s a six-and-a-half-billion-dollar-a-year industry, and it’s looked at like the black eye. And this is L.A., and I’m, like, 'Why can’t it be fabulous? Why can’t it be like the hair salons, the boutiques, the restaurants? Why is the nail salon like the little dump in the corner where you just run in and you pay your 20 bucks and get yelled at, and then you’re kicked out?' I think I can change that, and it’s definitely been working, and now we do have men. I mean, men aren’t afraid to come in. Granted, we do have free Jack Daniels. So if you’re going to have a free glass of whiskey, you’ll come in and get your feet rubbed for 20 bucks." - , "The Nail Files" (TV Guide Channel)

"Speaking specifically first and foremost to the TV One audience, parts of ('Way Black When') were, like, really cool. Sometimes you did have guests that that everyone don’t know who they are, (but) black folks know. On our 'New Jack City' program, we had...and his name escapes me for the moment, I apologize...we had the dude that shot Nino Brown at the end (Bill Cobb). Every black person knows who that is. 'You’re that dude that shot Nino Brown!' Come to find out, this dude’s been in, like, 100 movies. You’ve seen him in a gang of things. So we get to celebrate. It wasn’t like it was huge part of the film, but very, very memorable and something that I know the TV One audience will really gravitate towards. 'That’s that dude that shot Nino!'" -

"I was in diapers collecting jars filled with bees and getting stung over and over because I wanted to see what they felt like. I raised venomous snakes in my basement and lied to my mom about what they were. Yeah, it’s every mom’s dream, right? She expertly handles calls from the hospital." - , "Beast Hunter" (National Geographic)

"Do you guys ask questions for a profession? You’re pretty good. You don’t look like much as a group, but...good questions." -

A Chat with Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss ("Sherlock")

Bullz-Eye's TCA 2010 Summer Press Tour Wrap-Up: From the Big Bang to the Jersey Shore

That's right, the summer 2010 press tour of the Television Critics Association - that's TCA to you, see? - has come and gone, leaving in its wake a piece that I love to compile but hate to finish. It's just that kind of experience: there's always something else to write about.

I know I say this every time, so you'd think my mindset on the tour would've changed by now, but I still continue to get excited when I fly to California and spend the better part of two weeks ensconced in a hotel, watching and listening as closely as possible (which, admittedly, isn't often as closely as I'd like) to various stars, directors, producers, and writers as they do a dog and pony show to promote their program. I know they get sick of it sometimes, but for my part, I still haven't. I spend the better part of 48 weeks of the year in Chesapeake, VA, a place where I do regularly cross paths with the people that you see on your TV screen. As such, I remain excited about the opportunity to participate in these ridiculously cool opportunities, and I still feel like I have to share the experience with you, the reader, lest they begin to seem normal to me.

It's normal.

It's the TCA press tour.

And trust me, unless you're actually show business, life doesn't much less normal than this.

: Given the subject matter of the series - yes, it really about the circus, specifically what it's like to be part of a traveling circus in 2010 - it wasn't entirely surprising that the panel kicked off with acrobat Christian Stoinev demonstrating some of his gymnastic abilities, but that didn't make his performance any less impressive.

Plus, he earned bonus points for incorporating a cute little dog named Scooby into the act, who jumped onto Stoinev's butt, strolled down his back, sat on his feet, and looked as calm as possible as Stoinev balanced semi-precariously on his parallel bars.

: . When I walked into the ballroom and found that we'd all received autographed DVDs of the Kids' latest endeavor, I thought, "Can it get any better than this?" (I'm a sucker for anything autographed.) Indeed, it could, as the Kids - minus Mark McKinney, who'd been called back to Canada because of a family emergency - held court and kept us in stitches.

Some of my favorite moments:

: How long had it been since you had cross-dressed professionally before ("Death Comes to Town"), and was that sort of a difficult readjustment for any of you? : Define “professionally.” : With a large crew. : Oh. : Not just exchange of money. : So if you shoot porn with a crew, that wouldn’t count...? : That’s not cross-dressing professionally. : Yeah. If you put on a nice shirt and give a handjob at the bus station, that still is professional. : Yes, it is. : And by “handjob,” we mean "Bible reading," as we like The Bible.

* Dave Foley on the audience response to Scott Thompson's cancer being in remission: "I’m getting a sense that a lot of these people are on the cancer side. Well, I hope you are proud of yourselves. 'Oh, dammit, not another one beating cancer. Poor cancer. When will people learn to love cancer?'"

* Scott Thompson: "I had a much easier time making ('Death Comes to Town'), even though I was fighting cancer, than I did with 'Brain Candy,' honestly. It was tougher to fight Paramount. Because, at least with cancer, you can win."

: Do you find that people, when they see you, wanted to just squash your head? Because, like, I’m sitting here, like, resisting. : Yeah, a lot of time it has no reference to that gesture. It’s people actually want to crush our heads. : The first apartment I ever moved to in Los Angeles, 1996, I was in bed the first night, and a couple were having a fight in the floor above me. And he was crying, “I’m going to crush your head,” and I thought they were fans, but it turned out they weren’t. : Yeah, it was a bloody homicide. : It was a bloody homicide, yes. : But still, you felt flattered. : But still, I felt flattered.

* When asked about their current relationship with Lorne Michaels, who introduced them to the U.S., McCulloch said, "I watch him get a haircut once a year when I go to 'Saturday Night Live,'" while Foley claimed, "I chill his Amstel Light." ("And drink it," added McDonald.)

* Kevin McDonald made the bold choice of using the word "guff" at one point, receiving no end of ridicule from his fellow Kids. "It’s a tough word," said McCulloch,"I know it’s tough to hear." Thompson gasped and shrieked, "You said ''!" Foley, however, offered a practical solution to the assembled journalists. "You can put asterisks in that. Just G-asterisk-asterisk-asterisk for your print," he said, adding, "Of course, you online media people can just change it to 'fuck.'”

* "Death Comes to Town" was filmed in North Bay, ON, but Foley said that it was a rarity for locals to come up and acknowledge their recognition of the Kids. "Canadians don't do that," explained Thompson. "Yeah," agreed Foley. "They'd just come up and start talking to you like they knew you. You know, you would be in the grocery store, and somebody would just come up behind you and say, 'Special K is marked down today. I’m getting the Special K as well. What are you doing later, Dave?' And that was how you knew they recognized you."

* The miniseries features Foley playing "the kindly old town abortionist," which made it a bit difficult to scout for locations. Foley said that they had to keep making up stuff to tell the people of North Bay, saying things like, “Yeah, this scene, it’s a gynecologist’s office," or "Oh, it’s an obstetrician’s office.” Or, as Scott Thompson claimed, "It's a very bad day care." At this, the crowd of critics erupted with a mixture of boos and laughs. "That was good," Thompson assured us. "That was bad," Foley assured him. At this, Thompson nodded, grinned, and admitted, " bad."

: . I'm not going to pretend that I didn't laugh really hard at Cloris Leachman's antics as she wrestled control of the panel away not only from her co-stars but, indeed, from the assembled critics as well, demanding that her chair be moved from one end of the stage to the other and requesting that those asking questions stand up and/or sit down.

At some point, though, I think most of us were left wondering how much of the chaos we were witnessing was intentional and how much was a woman not knowing when to stop trying to be funny. About halfway through, Leachman finally calmed down, going almost completely quiet and giving the others a chance to answer a few questions. By that point, it was very much appreciated.

: . Last time, Gordon Ramsay had the assembled critics compete to see who could whip up the best topping for Baked Alaska.

This time, he tested our palates by passing out little cups of gazpacho to everyone and asking us to determine the ingredients contained within. The critic who determined the final of the 15 ingredients won a free dinner from one of his restaurants. Sadly, that critic was not me.

: . Love them or hate them, the "Jersey Shore" gang are ubiquitous in any discussion of 2010 pop culture, so it was nigh on impossible not to at least be when MTV quietly added a "Jersey Shore 2" panel to their proceedings. But who, we wondered, would be in attendance? The answer: every last (CENSORED) one of 'em.

I felt so bad for the guy who'd asked the question, who - once he could get a word in edgewise - explained, "Okay, I did not mean to be racist nor sexist, and I don’t know where whorehouses got into this conversation, but when my dad passed away, my mom wanted to go live in Florida, and it’s just...people grieve differently." Yoko halfheartedly tried to backpedal, saying, "I was being a little bit facetious, I’m sorry," and she probably was. But, wow, talk about lashing out...

: , who plays Merlin in "Camelot," Starz's new take on the classic Arthurian legends. Fiennes said of his character, "I think of Merlin as a sort of cross between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Donald Rumsfeld." This, of course, resulted in an immediate follow-up question, requesting a bit more clarification on the resemblance to Rumsfeld. "Well, I don’t want to draw too many parallels and be boxed in a corner too much," Fiennes replied, "but I just think it’s really about political agenda." Toward the end of the panel, the matter was brought up again, leading him to muse that he'd basically shot himself in the face by having made the comparison in the first place. Muttered executive producer Chris Chibnall, "I that was going to get us in trouble..."

: I'm sure it was mostly because she wasn't looking forward to people quizzing her about her health, but she looked perpetually like she was going to burst into this song:

: . Any music fan worth their salt would be intrigued by a show which, according to the network’s description, “delves into the minds of musicians, the eccentricities, the world view, the influences of some of the major artists in the world and connects them to their artistic contributions to the groundbreaking music that they create.” We’re sitting around thinking about the possibilities: Syd Barrett, Roky Erickson, Peter Green, Brian Wilson, and the like. Who does Fuse cite among the show’s subjects? Britney Spears and Li’l Wayne. Wow. Just…wow.

: During the “$#*! My Dad Says” panel, executive producer Max Mutchnick had a moment of uncertainty about the proper verb to describe the process of sending out a message through Twitter and accidentally referred to “Dad” creator Justin Halpern’s “beautiful Twat.” Realizing his slip of the tongue, Mutchnick stammered, “I don’t know how you say it,” but not before William Shatner shook his head with mock dismay, saying, “That’s twisted.”

Later, Shatner used the phrase “people who Twit,” after which executive producer David Kohan smirked and countered, “I think it’s Twat.” A chagrined Mutchnick suggested that the proper verb was “Tweet.” Shatner snapped back, “Well, I know it isn’t ‘’!”

: It's not like his cohort Denis Leary was supposed to be there for the lunchtime "Rescue Me" session, but the fact that he wasn't gave Tolan the opportunity to relish the solitude of the stage. "I’m so glad to be here by myself and not with Denis Leary," he said, "because he is an attention hog, and the secondhand smoke, really, I’m lucky to be alive, frankly, at this point. It’s been seven seasons, and of course “The Job,” the show we did before, which was my idea, as was 'Rescue Me.' I am really lucky to be alive. I’m sure there are tumors just waiting to take me pretty much after this lunch."

: . Turns out it's being executive-produced by Jeff Davis, the man behind "Criminal Minds," so suffice to say that it's darker than the original film. Bonus: the pilot was directed by Russell Mulcahy, who's had an affiliation with MTV since the day the network began..., since he directed this video:

: "My Generation," ABC. It always takes me forever to check out ABC's new series, as I hate watching screeners on my computer (the network stopped sending out DVDs of its programs long ago), so I hadn't investigated "My Generation." Turns out it's a look back at a high school class from 2000 and how they've changed since they graduated. As I said to a compatriot during the panel, "I'm pretty sure the only thing that's going to make me want to tune into this show is if a killer starts picking off the twentysomethings one by one." Mind you, I haven't seen the pilot yet, but the trailer pretty well served to cement my theory.

: Actually, it was less a scrum than an impromptu roundtable, but after PBS’s “Pioneers of Television” panel, my esteemed peer Marc Allan invited me to grab a chair and join the conversation he was having with Martin Landau, and others soon had their recorders out as well. It was Marc, however, who asked the two big-money questions.

First, Marc asked Landau if he had ever had the opportunity to meet Bela Lugosi, who he portrayed (and won an Oscar for doing so) in Tim Burton’s “Ed Wood.”

“No, I never met Lugosi,” replied Landau. “But I met Karloff…and had tea with him! I was doing some post-synching on a television show, and we both left our respective studios at the same time and met in the hall. At the time, Jack Nicholson was actually my student. Jack studied with me for three years, and Jack had just finished a picture for Roger Corman with Karloff. Jack wasn’t very good in it. He was much too contemporary. But, anyway, I saw Karloff in the hall, and we greeted each other. I said, ‘You just worked with a friend of mine.’ And he said, ‘And who might that be?’ And I said, ‘Jack Nicholson.’ And he said, ‘Oh, yes. Poor boy. Where are going now?’ I said, ‘Home.’ He said, ‘Would you like some tea?’ I said ‘yes,’ and we went to the commissary and had tea and little sandwiches, and I got to spend a little time with him.”

Then, as if psychic, Allan asked Landau about the one project I’d been chomping at the bit to hear his recollections about: “The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island.”

“I had a good time doing that!” said Landau, offering surprising enthusiasm as he reminisced about working with “Chick Hearn and a bunch of robots, noting that it was the last time he’d worked with ex-wife Barbara Bain, who’d been his co-star on “Mission: Impossible” and “Space: 1999.” “People say that it was the worst moment in my career,” he said, with a laugh, “but I actually had fun on that show. The first day I was on it, though, was the day that Reagan was shot, so when we got to the set, everyone was…well, you know. So I told about three or four jokes and loosened everyone up, and from that point on, we had a good time.”

Really, I could go on about the conversation for several more paragraphs, since the next topic of conversation was how he was offered the role of Mr. Spock on “Star Trek” before Leonard Nimoy. Suffice it to say that I hope to get a one-on-one with Mr. Landau one of these days…but if it never happens, sitting in on this one was still pretty damned cool.

: . I'd been trying to confirm or deny the possibility of talking to Tom about his new CBS series, "Blue Bloods," but it was all very sketchy about how long he'd be at the CBS evening event. I therefore set up camp near the front door of the function, waiting for him to arrival. When he did, I followed behind him and his publicist, and once they reached their table, his publicist turned, saw my nametag and recognized my name, and waved me over to him. Tom smiled at me beneath his mustache and said, "No one will sit with me. Will sit with me?" So I sat with him...and he was just as nice a guy as you'd want him to be.

: . I've been a fan of Brad's thrillers for several years, and when he made the jump into writing comic books, by God, I was right there with him. I've even traded the occasional E-mail with the guy. This, however, was the first time I'd ever actually met him. It was worth the wait.

: . Spike seems like someone who could be a prickly pear if you don't know what you're talking about, so I blew off a concert by Vinyl Candy (sorry, guys) in order to make sure I'd seen his new HBO documentary, "If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise," before our conversation. Fortunately, it paid off: Spike was great.

: . These guys almost always take home the gold. Not only does lots of their talent show up, but they always hold them somewhere that you can actually move around without feeling like you're bumping into someone or on the verge of knocking someone down.

: . It was a tremendous turnout of talent, so much so that in another locale it might've ended up being cited as the party, but it was so freaking packed that you could barely move and rarely hear anyone well enough to do a decent interview.

: . They like to use their "American Idol" money to rent the Santa Monta Pier for the night and let us and their talent go nuts with the food, the drinks, and the rides. Normally, I complain about how it's not terribly conducive to doing interviews, what with the loud music and the noise of the rides. This time, my wife was there with me. I still didn't do many interviews...but I did get to ride the Ferris Wheel with the woman I love. Yeah, yeah, we're disgustingly cute. Get over it.


Yes, my wife was standing right there. (So was Jayma's husband, Adam Campbell, for that matter.) But even my wife thinks she's cute. . Hopefully, there are "Mr. Show" fans out there who will appreciate this accomplishment as much as I did. . This was the third time I'd met my generation's Jimmy Stewart, and each time I'd told myself that I was going to bring up the classic TV movie from early in his career, but when my fellow Bullz-Eye buddy Ross Ruediger broached the subject of "Splash!" and got five minutes worth of stories about working on the film, I decided that this was my time to shine. All I got for my trouble was a smirk, followed by a look that may or may not have been pity.

In retrospect, I probably should have just stuck with my Hanks encounter from earlier in the evening, when he'd been telling some story or other and, since I was closest to him, used me to illustrate how the person in his story kept poking someone in the chest. Anyone who tells you that I was considering getting a tattoo of the resulting bruise is a dirty liar. (That was just drunk talk.) . I've lost track of how many times I've talked to Bill Lawrence on the phone and in person, but my wife had never had the pleasure. At the ABC party, however, she spotted him holding court and decided to approach his assistant just to see if she could slip in long enough to introduce herself. She hadn't gotten past the words "my husband is Will" before she was informed that "we Will" and quickly hustled over to Bill for introductions, where the good Mr. Lawrence echoed his assistant's statements. I should clarify that it's not the compliment itself that made for the cheap thrill but, rather, the fact that Bill Lawrence made my wife feel good about her lot in life. I mean, she's married to a TV critic, fer crissakes. She needs all the reassurances she can get. Ah, it wasn't going that well, anyway. And, besides, who cares?

: I don’t know what it is about Michael Weatherly and Pauley Perrette, but I always end up finding myself on the verge of breaking some rule or other when I’m around them.

With Michael, he loves to tell stories when he knows you’re not recording him, and they’re invariably filled with some tidbit or other where you’d feel guilty running them intact. As such, I can’t tell you about what happened when he gave Robert Wagner’s E-mail address to Roger Moore…but if you ever meet Michael, ask him about the time he and Jessica Alba met Elvis Costello and Peter O’Toole. It’s a good’un.

As for Pauley, it’s become a TCA tradition that we take a picture together whenever we see each other: she holds the camera in front of us and takes the picture herself, and heaven help anyone who tries to take it for us. Unfortunately, as I learned after my first tour of duty with the TCA, it’s a no-no for members of the organization to take pictures with the stars. Pauley knows this. She just doesn’t care. This time, she assured me, “It’s seven years bad luck if we don’t take one every tour!” I’m pretty sure she didn’t have any documentation to back this up, but she took the picture anyway. Seriously, the woman’s a force of nature. Fortunately, I think everyone in the TCA knows this about Pauley, so I think they’d probably see her as an exception to the rule…but, just in case, I’m keeping the picture to myself.

: "Friends." Don't get me wrong, visiting Wisteria Lane is cool whether you watch "Desperate Housewives" or not, and the intricacies of the "Parenthood" set were remarkable to behold, but the power of pure sentimentality trumped them both. No, it's not where the show actually filmed, but it's all of the original items, and they look exactly like they did when they originally filmed the show. What I'm saying to you is that I stood in the middle of Central Perk. It doesn't get much better than that.

: "Undercovers." This new NBC series has a certain amount of potential, and in fairness, the sets - one of which is a working kitchen - look pretty cool, but the fact that none of the cast nor the producers could be bothered to make it to our visit ultimately made it feel like a bust.

: A month or so ago, I interviewed Nate Torrence in conjunction with “She’s Out of Your League” hitting DVD, and when he mentioned that he was in the cast of ABC’s “Mr. Sunshine,” I said, “Well, then, I’ll look for you when I’m at the TCA tour.” Flash-forward to ABC’s post-panel party, where I see Nate and go up to introduce myself, but before I can finish reminding him who I am, he quickly lets me know that he needs no reminder. “I get up there for the panel,” he said, “and I’m, like, ‘No one is going to ask me anything. I’m just going to sit here.’ But then I go, ‘Hey, wait a minute, what about the guy from Bullz-Eye? I think he said he was going to be here! Maybe he’ll ask me a question!’” Of course, when he said this, I immediately felt awful that I hadn’t actually asked him a question…

: Chandler was always my favorite Friend, I really liked “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” and unlike some of my peers, I laughed pretty hard at the pilot for “Mr. Sunshine,” but I can’t say that I’m as thrilled with Matthew Perry as I used to be.

I tried to be as polite as possible while waiting to chat with Perry during the ABC party, but on two separate occasions, although he clearly knew I was loitering in his vicinity for that purpose (the recorder in my hand was, to my way of thinking, kind of a dead giveaway), he pointedly opted to continue conversations with co-stars and friends rather than acknowledge me. One of my peers stopped by during my lengthy loiter and told me that I had the patience of a saint to wait the guy out, but in the end, even Francis of Assisi would’ve given up on Perry: once he finished the conversation, he turned to try and leave without turning toward me. Before I could stop him, though, the writer standing next to me snared him, then kindly gestured in my direction and said, “I was waiting for you, but he’s been waiting even longer.” Perry endured questions from both of us for a few minutes, but then he said, “I’m going to walk away now.” And he did.

I know the guy’s dealt with plenty of these TCA parties during the years that he was part of the NBC family, but given that he’s not only the male lead in “Mr. Sunshine” but also the creator and one of the show’s writers, I really expected him to be more enthused about the chance to promote the series.

I should add, though, that my wife – simply by speaking the truth – ended up kind of getting the last laugh on Perry. At the Sony party, she was talking to Megyn Price (“Rules of Engagement”) when Perry came up and started talking to Pryce. My wife waited politely for Perry to finish, but when he did, he turned to my wife and, with a decidedly dejected look on his face, said, “I suppose you want to interview me.” She looked right back at him and said, “Oh, God, no!”

Admittedly, all she meant was that she was just a guest at the party and therefore wasn’t doing interviews with anyone, but I am assured that the look on Perry’s face was priceless nonetheless.

: Michael Feinstein jazzing it up and occasionally even kicking out the jams with his 17-piece band as part of a dinner-and-a-show performance to promote his upcoming three-part PBS miniseries, “Michael Feinstein’s American Songbook.” I’ve respected Feinstein’s work since I heard him cover “Both Sides Now” on an Elektra Records compilation entitled , and somewhere around here I’m pretty sure I still have a copy of his album on cassette, so I figured I’d get a polite but somewhat easy-listening performance that would make for a nice wrap-up to the evening.

My bad.

My jaw was left on the floor by how much energy the man put into the seven songs he played for us, which began with “The Lady Is a Tramp” and ended with “For Once in My Life.” Suffice it to say that I became the proud owner of Feinstein’s the next time I visited a record store…which, as it happens, occurred only a few days later.

: . I usually make a point of swinging by my favorite Hollywood record store whenever I make it into town, but my schedule in January didn't lend itself to a visit, so it'd been a year since my last dig through Amoeba's always-awesome bargain bins.

Unfortunately, when I arrived, I found that what would've otherwise been a pretty cool coincidence - Elijah Wood was doing a DJ set for the store - totally screwed up my fun, as they'd set up a barrier to keep people from getting too close to Elijah as well as to keep too many people from rushing the DJ booth...and it was right in front of the store's fabled $1 bins. So if you happened to be there that day and heard a bearded and bespectacled gentleman grumbling, "Fuckin' Frodo," now you know why.

: . I think this is actually the third flask I’ve gotten in the last year: The CW gave them out last summer with the “Melrose Place” reboot, possibly because I needed a lot of alcohol to make the show endurable, and then Fox sent one out in conjunction with “Family Guy” not terribly long ago. What made this one so special? It was all in the presentation. Everyone was presented with a copy of ...and when you opened it, you found a flask-shaped hole carved into the pages which housed our gift. How awesome is ?


In fairness, CBS and Fox were fantastic with their respective families of networks, dividing their presentations into two days. Not so NBC-Universal, who forced us to endure a single day of panels and even between-panel events in order to cover series from NBC, SyFy, USA, Oxygen, Bravo, and MSNBC. And as an FYI to the Discovery Networks, if you’ve got things scheduled so that, after two questions, the moderator has to say, “We’ve got time for one last question,” you’ve got things scheduled way too tightly.

It makes sense, given the tight quarters on the schedule, but it's no less disappointing. CBS gave us a "Big Bang Theory" panel, The CW offered "Gossip Girl," and Fox gave us "Glee," but for the most part, existing series were relegated to between-panel events in the lobby of the ballroom. Sure, it's nice to have coffee with the cast of "Modern Family" in , but the end result is lots of scrums and limited opportunities for one-on-one questions. I'm not saying I'm the most gregarious when it comes to asking questions during the panels, but it sucks to not even have that chance.

AMC made a major splash at Comic-Con with “The Walking Dead,” and, hey, fair enough, the show’s based on a comic book. Similarly, Matthew Weiner seems to be pretty pissed at the press right now, so that’d probably explain the lack of a “Mad Men” panel.” But given that other members of Rainbow Media family of networks were in attendance (IFC and WeTV), it felt like a slap across the face that we didn’t even get a state of the union address from an AMC exec, especially when they announced their new series, “The Killing,” a mere three days after the tour wrapped. And wherefore art thou, Turner? All of those new series on TBS, TNT, Cartoon Network, and the like, and we don’t get a single panel for any of them? I know Conan doesn’t really need more promo for his new show, but it sure seemed like an opportunity missed.

And, as ever, we wrap things up with a bitch session...


Now, granted, this came through channels rather than directly from the rep, and I can't imagine that Tony Danza himself has anything to do with declining the interview, but that’s the reason that was cited in the E-mail from A&E, home of Danza's new reality series, "Tony Danza: Teach."

As someone who's the son of a retired teacher and the husband of a woman who works with autistic students, I'm well aware of the importance of education and how students affect the lives of teachers just as much as teachers affect the lives of students, so I was immediately intrigued by the concept of the series. Additionally, one of my friends had once had dinner with Danza and had nothing but nice things to say about the guy. No surprise here: I put in for an interview.

Now, please understand that I’ve been turned down for more than a few interviews in my time, and I’ve come to accept the heartbreak of rejection when it comes to an actor’s busy schedule, even when it’s patently clear that “busy” translates into “he only talks to the bigger, better-known outlets, and, frankly, I’ve never even heard of your site.” In the end, it really all comes down to this: I’m someone who needs closure on things, and if a rep is going to tell me that their client is opting out of talking to me because “this isn’t his kind of interview,” then I don't think it's too much to ask it isn't his kind of interview. I mean, maybe it's something I can change, y'know? So I asked. But I never got an answer.

Do know why? If so, drop me a line...or, better yet, if you're already that deep into the Danza camp, anyway, then go ahead and tell Tony that I'd still really like to talk to him. After hearing him talk during his panel, there's absolutely no doubt in my mind that this teaching gig was a full-fledged life-changing experience for the guy. As such, I'd like to do whatever I can to help promote "Tony Danza: Teach"...and, yes, even after all of this whining, I still think you should watch it when it premieres on A&E on October 1st.

TCA Press Tour, Summer 2010: Days 9 and 10

TCA Press Tour, Summer 2010: Day 8

Much as the CBS family of networks split their efforts into two days worth of panels - one for CBS, the other for Showtime and The CW - so did Fox give us some breathing room by placing their presentations for FX's slate of new programming on a separate day. (I wish to God NBC / Universal would take a cue from their peers. I'm so sick of being rushed through a mishmosh of NBC, USA, Bravo, and SyFy series in one long can't-stop-won't-stop day.)

Your personal mileage may vary, but for my money, John Landgraf is one of the nicest network heads currently in the game. He's very low-key, but he's always ready to give you a quote when you're looking for one. Today, he offered up the following bits and pieces about the future of FX.

* "Louie" has been renewed for a second season of 13 episodes.

* Ben Garant and Tom Lennon, late of "Reno 911!," are going to do a pilot for FX called "The USS Alabama." It's another partially-scripted, partially-improvised series, and, according to Landgraf, "It takes place in space on the USS Alabama with a crew of spacefarers who might not be too much brighter than the cops in 'Reno 911!'”

* There are two other pilots in the works as well, the first being "Outlaw Country," which will star Mary Steenburgen. "Some really talented young actors have joined that cast," said Landgraf. "That goes into production in, I think, six weeks. It’s a fantastic script. Something we’re really, really excited about." The other is "Wilfred," a comedy pilot based on an Australian comedy series, which completed principal photography last week.

* The "Damages" deal done with DirecTV is different from the one that was done with "Friday Night Lights" in that FX will not be offering up the episodes after they've run on DirecTV. "The season that has aired, which was the third season of 'Damages,' is the last season it will air on FX," said Landgraf. "For us, we’re also producers on 'Damages.' We’ve been co-owners and co-producers through FX Productions, and DirectTV felt very strongly. They were willing to underwrite it, and to a very substantial amount financially, they enabled it to move forward. That was the deal that Sony worked on very aggressively, but they wanted it exclusively, so this was really the best and only way for 'Damages' to move forward. So we stepped aside as a network entity, and we’re still involved as a production entity."

I don't know that there's any series currently on the air that I feel worse about not watching than "Sons of Anarchy." Everyone tells me it's fantastic, I have every reason to believe that those people are right, and yet I just haven't had the time to go back and revisit the show's first two seasons. But that won't stop me from bringing you the info that creator Kurt Sutter and his cast provided to us during the show's panel, of course.

As far as the "big bad" for Season 3, as it were, Sutter says, "We have a couple dual storylines going in Charming and as well as in Belfast, but I guess if you had to pin it down to one specific adversary, I would say that it’s probably the Titus Welliver character, Jimmy O."

What of the of the new season? "I don’t know if there’s one specific overriding theme," said Sutter. "I think the theme is always about family and Jax sort of defining his role as a father and as a partner and as a son and as a member of this club, and the Abel storyline drives us through pretty much the entire season, and...I don’t want to give anything away in terms of what that means and where that takes us, but, you know, the thing is our seasons, the actual span of time within our seasons is very short. It’s potentially a couple, two or three weeks. So there isn’t a lot of time that passes where you can have a lot of things unfold organically. So it is a very concentrated period of time which I think helps feed, I think, the sense of urgency for the tasks that they have at hand this season."

Sutter also tackled the question of where Chief Unser would be heading this season. "I think we’ve defined this relationship between Unser and the club as being...you know, it’s not so much that Unser is in Clay’s pocket, it’s that they’ve made this deal a long time ago where they would each would do their part to keep Charming safe," he said. "I think what happens is that gets turned on its head a little bit this season and the nature of the violence that happens is perhaps what neither the club or Unser had in mind. I think that relationship will be tested in a very heated way this season."

"I’m in a bit of a pickle is the way the season goes," clarified Dayton Callie, with a grin.

Maggie Siff, meanwhile, addressed the future of her character. "Tara's decided to stay, and she’s decided to be in this relationship and be a part of this family," she said. "And yet everything sort of just when she makes that decision, everything falls apart. So there’s a kind of chaotic commitment to being there. And it’s been very satisfying as an actor, actually, because it’s a lot more fierce, you know. It feels like she’s taking a stand in the world, and yet the world has completely fallen apart around her, and she has very little to hold onto. It’s just a fierce chaos."

That's really all that was said about Season 3, but I'll close with the decidedly entertaining comments made by Sutter and the cast when they were asked about the dearth of Emmy nods received by the show.

"Can I first say that — and not just to kiss all your asses because we’re out here, but — I so appreciated and it was so important to me to get the TCA nomination for the show and for Katey," said Sutter. "It was just one of those moments where I said, 'Okay, I’m not fucking crazy,” you know, that we are actually doing good work, that there is some recognition to that. And, you know, all I’ll say about the Emmys — and clearly I’ve had a very specific opinion – is that every year when the Emmys are announced, the stories that come out...half the stories are about the nominations, and the other half of the stories are about the absurdity of the nominations and the snubs. So to me, perhaps that suggests that the system is somewhat flawed. And that’s all I’ll say.

"I would just say that it’s the reaction of the people," said Mark Boone Junior. "When I hit the streets, you know, it’s amazing, the reaction. Emmy or no Emmy.

"Yeah," agreed Tommy Flanagan. "Emmy-shmemmy."

"Fuck ‘em," said Ron Perlman.

Charlie Hunnam's mindset was clearly in line with Perlman's. "I would just like to say, honestly, and this is kind of controversial, and I’m sure I’ll garner a little bit of disappointment or confusion from colleagues, but I personally was really happy," he said. "I don’t subscribe to Emmys or awards or any of that shit. I think it’s all a crock of shit. And I think it’s corrupting. And I was happy that we weren’t on the receiving end of a force that could change the dynamic that we have, because I think it’s working, and it’s an environment where we’re able to do good work and feel fulfilled as artists. And all of that crap, I just think, is secondary and completely unimportant...but it does have the potential to ruin a good thing. So like he said, fuck ‘em.

"Fuck 'em," repeated Perlman.

Katey Sagal, meanwhile, merely shrugged, smiled, and said, "You ."

There are so many reasons to like this show that it's hard to know where to begin, but since we've got to start somewhere, let's go with Donal Logue first. If I listed off all of the projects he's worked on over the years that I've loved, we'd be here all day, but just the trio of "The Tao of Steve," "Grounded for Life," and "The Knights of Prosperity" are enough to keep him my good graces for the long haul. Put him into a series created by Shawn Ryan ("The Shield") and Ted Griffin ("Ocean's Eleven," "Matchstick Men"), and you've got my attention, but then you throw into the mix that Logue met his co-star, Michael Raymond-James, when they both appeared on NBC's late, lamented cop drama, "Life," and, baby, I am .

"Michael did an episode (of 'Life'), and it was one of those all-night-shoot-til-6-in-the-morning things where by the end of it, it’s, like, 'I’ve met a new best friend for life,'" said Logue.

"He was walking around carrying a copy of Kerouac’s 'Big Sur,'" said Raymond-James.

"That’s how we started talking: about Jack Kerouac," said Logue. "Michael and I became kind of good friends over the course of that night, and then I came in to meet Ted and Shawn and Craig Brewer, who directed the pilot, and was lucky enough to be asked to be part of this thing. So I became part of the casting sessions for the show, and, of course, you know, the really tricky one was who was gonna be Britt, and then I remember going in for the first set of auditions with a bunch of guys sitting around waiting to go in, and I saw Michael, we gave each other a hug. And then...you could see the deflation (in the room). 'Oh, great, man. They’re fucking ! I you this kind of crap would happen.' But then when Michael and I did the show, we ended up renting a house together in San Diego, so it was kind of on 24/7 the whole time. I actually think that our friendship and just even the amount of work we did kind of when we weren’t working on the show...I don’t know, it really helped the kind of endeavor we had."

"My big concern when they told me they were going to live together during the entire shoot...I was, like, 'Please don’t hate each other by the end,'" said Ryan. "In fact, it seems like it brought you guys closer together. It’s such a great story that these guys would work 13 hours a day. There’s barely a scene in the entire series that doesn’t include at least one of them, and oftentimes both of them. We work them really, really hard, and then for them to sort of drive back to the same house..."

"It really made it a lot better," said Logue.

"A better," said Raymond-James. "It also helps that we shared an addiction to carne asada burritos."

"San Diego was fantastic, too, by the way," Logue added. "And I think it was such a great idea these guys had to go down there, because there’s something about San Diego that is quite different than Los Angeles, and something specifically about Ocean Beach’s community that we shot in, that it’s still this kind of working-class enclave that’s right on the beach that really fought hard against having big, kind of corporate condo development, no-Starbucks-type stuff, and it’s really — it really gave us this kind of foothold to create this universe in."

Although Logue is ostensibly best known for his work in comedic roles, he explained that it was a career direction that had less to do with personal desire as it did the luck of the draw with what projects proved to be the most successful.

"To be honest, when you’re young and when you watch 'The Deer Hunter' for the first time, that’s when you’re, like, ' what I want to do,'” said Logue. "To be that guy to slap Robert De Niro...? That’s what I meant. But what happens is all of a sudden you have some success in comedy. I ended up doing these weird MTV shorts with my friend improvising this cab driver thing, and then at that point, you’re kind of like, well, that’s what this guy does. And you always want to do everything. I think, though, that I’ve been lucky enough to kind of go back and forth, and there was something about this, though. There was something about that form of comedy that...it’s just difficult. It never really felt like you could just fully commit to just all the kind of colors that you carry with you. I did a pilot for HBO called “1 Percent” that they didn’t end up picking up, but it was a pretty intense and dramatic piece, and there was just something about it that felt really right at that time in life. I feel more comfortable in this milieu."

"I love doing comedy," Logue continued. "I think our show’s quite funny in a lot of ways, but I love not feeling this hydraulic pressure that you have to create this kind of comic moment within every scene. You can just play it as it is. This is kind of where I vibrated towards for a while. I don’t know where else it will go, but I feel actually quite blessed that I can actually balance between the two worlds, that I can do 'Grounded for Life' and then do 'Zodiac,' because I think a lot of really talented actors I know, they end up getting set in a certain category, and no one will ever buy that they can exist outside that category, even though you know full well that they can, but it’s just difficult for people to be able to cross those fences, so I feel pretty blessed that I’ve been able to."

Although Ryan certainly has a solid history on FX, it wasn't necessarily where he first envisioned the show ending up.

"When Ted first talked about the idea of doing a PI show, dollar signs started ringing in my head," he said. "'Man, I got the guy from ‘Ocean’s Eleven.’ We’re going to be able to go out on the town and sort of sell this PI show, and ABC’s gonna want that. NBC’s gonna want that. We’re going to make a killing.' He was like, 'I really want to do it at FX. I don’t really want to do it anywhere else.' And which was fine by me. But then I said, 'How is it going to be different? How is it going to be different than the USA stuff? How is it different than that?' And he went away and came back with these pages that I read, and was like, 'Oh. how it’s different.' And so for me, it was the joy sort of accepting the idea of how to do a PI show that isn’t going to seem like it could be anywhere else other than FX."

I'm not a sports guy and never have been, but for some reason, I still enjoy films and television series sports. Go figure. Less easily swayed by the genre, however, is my wife, but she nonetheless found herself caught up in the pilot for "Lights Out," which revolves around a former heavyweight boxer who finds his financial opportunities drying up, leaving him to pursue slightly unscrupulous options to make ends meet and support his family. "It's kind of like 'Rocky,'" said my wife, and there were indeed some similarities to the more desperate times in Mr. Balboa's career, but what's particularly interesting about "Lights Out" is that, rather than existing in a vacuum, it acknowledges the existence of boxing in popular culture.

"There have been a lot of movies about boxing," admitted executive producer Warren Leight, "but I don’t know that there have been that many TV shows about it. So when we prepped, we watched, I’d say, dozens of mediocre and maybe a dozen great boxing movies and just tried to understand. And, also, there’s not just great boxing movies. There’s great boxing . It’s been one of the places writers have gone to prove themselves in a way. So we tried to draw on all of that, and what the advantage we have is almost every boxing movie – except for 'Rocky,' which kind of went on and on and on — it’s a one-off. And to serialize a story about the life of a boxer and what it’s like to try to put food on your family’s table when times have changed, to serialize that story over time really allowed us to open it up. The great challenge was to avoid the cliches and make the world come to life. And, of course, there’s usually some truth to the cliche. I hope and think we pulled it off, but we were aware we were walking where others had walked before."

Indeed, a member of the cast is one of those who'd done some of that walking: Stacy Keach, who starred as a boxer in John Huston's "Fat City," which he described to us as having been released "some years before you were all born." (He was close: it was only 2 in 1972.)

"Jose Torres was my trainer at the time," said Keach, "and it was a great eye-opener for me because I had never had this kind of close-hand experience with the boxing community, and my respect for boxers and what they go through in order to perform what they have to perform in the ring just grew enormously. I had no idea what kind of emotional and physical stamina is required in order to sustain the beating that you take when you go into the ring. I was in the best shape of my life in those days, and it was thanks to Jose Torres, mainly, because he drove me. He pushed me, and I think that one of the most important things about successful fighting is the will to win. You’ve got to be able to survive and sustain the tremendous amount of punishment and still come back and do your job."

So that's one cast member with boxing street cred. Plus, Holt McCallany - who plays Patrick “Lights” Leary, the aforementioned boxer with financial woes - played a boxing in "Tyson," and his brother was a former Golden Gloves champion, both of which ought to count for something. In fact, Leight said that he was shocked at how easy it was to find people for the show who could both act box.

"Actors will always rise to the occasion," said Leight. "Holt was a gift, and I think Holt is the reason the series was picked up, but Holt has a nemesis in this show played by Billy Brown who plays ‘Death Row’ Reynolds, and that guy is a terrific actor and was not an experienced boxer when the show began but became a terrific boxer. It was an odd experience for us because we stage fights in the course of the season, and to find people with that physical skill set who can deliver emotional truth at the same time would seem to be daunting, but I guess if you can box, you have the nerve to act, and if you can act, you have the nerve to box. It worked out. I think Holt can speak to some of the guys he got in the ring with."

"Yeah, you know, we definitely wanted guys who were going to be able to deliver on the physical side of things as well," said McCallany. "Warren was very adept. When I first come in the room to audition, it’s a bit like asking actors, 'Have you ever ridden a horse?' A hundred percent of them will say, 'Of , I rode horses all my life as a boy. Did I box? , I boxed, yes, back in summer camp when I was 14.'”

"They all lie to your face telling you they box," admitted Leight. "And I'm thinking, 'You’re going to have to go in the ring with Holt!'”

We weren't expecting to get a "Rescue Me" panel this tour, and, really, we only just barely got one as it was, since it was thrown into the mix as part of our lunchtime and therefore didn't last as long as most panels. Don't worry, though: series co-creator Peter Tolan is a man who knows how to make the most of his time.

"I have nothing really to say," began Tolan, "except I’m so glad to be here by myself and not with Denis Leary, because he is an attention hog, and the secondhand smoke, really, I’m lucky to be alive, frankly, at this point. It’s been seven seasons...and, of course, 'The Job,” the show we did before, which was my idea, as was 'Rescue Me.' I am really lucky to be alive. I’m sure there are tumors just waiting to take me pretty much after this lunch."

The reason for the panel was to give Tolan the chance to discuss the impending final season of "Rescue Me," which is set to end at approximately the same time as the 10th anniversary of 9/11. He took full advantage of the opportunity, so if you're a fan of the show, you're going to love reading this stuff.

"Denis and I had talked about how the series would end," said Tolan. "Initially, around...let’s say, the fourth season or fifth season...when we had those conversations, they would sometimes go to a dark place where Denis was saying, 'I think Tommy goes and he gets in a fire, and I think he just sort of sits down in the middle of a room on fire, sits in a chair, and that’s how it ends.' I’m like, 'I don’t know if that’s going to really work. I don’t think that’s going to work for us.' Because, obviously, you create a series that lasts this long, there’s gotta be some reason at the end why people watched it. Otherwise, they will feel like they’re maybe watching 'The Sopranos' again. I’m just kidding, of course. That was very, in its own way, an inappropriate finale.

"So we kept thinking about that, and we thought about...you know, we thought at one time that he was going to end up with Maura Tierney’s character and find some sort of happiness, and she had a house by the beach, and then one day he sort of takes his clothes off, goes down to the water’s edge, and just keeps swimming out. And that’s the end of the series, like he’s going to commit suicide. That’s probably not going to do it either. And in the end, what we came to right around the time we started the sixth season was something that would justify the reason that people had sort of stuck with the series all that time. And we actually found a hopeful place for that character, and I think sort of a positive message in terms of...the idea of the entire series is will a person succumb to the pressures created by living through a life-changing experience. I mean, is that going to destroy them or are they going to overcome it? And I think at the end Tommy does overcome it.

"You’re actually seeing now, just in terms of where the show is right now, because the fifth episode of the sixth season...the fifth episode was the turning point for everything that happens from this point on. People always wondered if Tommy Gavin was going to hit bottom, and last week was it when he loses his daughter after a night of drinking, the two of them, and that really gave us sort of a starting point almost for the end. So I think all of the episodes, from 605 all the way to 709 follow a really strong line that ends in a very hopeful place. And actually, in a much lighter place than I had imagined. Even in writing it, I thought, 'Oh, it’s 9/11, and it’s the end of this era for these characters, and it’s gonna be very profound,' and we wrote a version that was that. But in the end, it didn’t turn out to be there. It turned out to be much lighter, and actually much more life-affirming and about the resiliency of people in the face of a tragedy. So maybe all those things don’t sound like 'Rescue Me,' but that’s what it turned out to be."

This lengthy speech inevitably led to someone asking Tolan if the show's relatively kinder and gentler conclusion proved creatively problematic for him, given everything that has come before.

"It was not a problem, but it really was a surprise," he admitted. "The way we wrote the show was there were really only three writers. It was Denis, myself, and Evan Reilly. Those were the only three guys who wrote that show. And many times, especially in the later seasons, you know, the day would come where you’d have pages that you were going to shoot, and we’d go, 'Are we really going to say this? What’s the quicker way, or what’s the funnier way, or what’s the way that’s a left turn that people won’t expect?' And I think I went into the finale thinking, oh, this is very important now. If you love the show and you love the characters, you want that thing to be a great experience for you, forgetting about your viewing audience. You want it to be good for you and you want to do right by the characters and the cast and the crew and everybody, really. You wanted to have it be a good experience. And like I said, there was some writing in that finale that was just was a little bit more momentous. You know, it was more like, 'Look at this moment and the time and how we’ve survived this and how this series is coming to an end.' And the day came and we threw it out, and what replaced it was much lighter and much more life goes on. And I had a moment. I really had a moment, because I directed the episode, where I was like, 'Boy, this is so not what we wrote,' and I went, 'But it’s right. It’s . Let’s get off the soapbox and let’s not make a big speech about it.' It was right, but it was a little daunting in the moment.'"

You'll be able to see what Tolan is talking about next year, when the nine episodes of the seventh and final season of "Rescue Me" premiere.

Although it's never been must-see TV for me, "Sunny" is definitely one of those sitcoms I can always count on for a laugh when I need one, so it's good news that, even though the series is heading into its sixth season, the cast still seems to be enjoying themselves.

"The good news is we actually still like each other," said Glenn Howerton. "So even though it is a ton of work, we actually enjoy each other’s company throughout the process, for the most part."

"It seems that our audience is growing at such an accelerated rate for the past few years and so many people are new viewers," said Rob McElhenney, "and it’s sort of coinciding with us, I think, crescendoing in with our greatest creative season, and feel like, as long as new viewers keep showing up to watch, we’ll keep doing it."

And how much longer will that be?

: Ooohhh. : It’s hard to say. : Tough to say. We’ll take it year by year. : Yeah. : We’ve got at least one more year for sure after this.

As far as what to expect from this season, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard of the Phillies, along with Tom Sizemore, are guest-starring in an episode where the gang dares to go on an adventure outside the city...to the wonderful state of New Jersey!

I have to admit to you, however, that for as funny as "Sunny" is, the panel for the show was somewhat of a letdown. One of my peers commented that it's amazing just how seriously comedians take their art, and I have to agree: I'd even suggested to my wife that she might want to stick around, figuring it would be non-stop hilarity. It was pleasant enough, but I definitely wouldn't say it was more than that.

Still, there was a lengthy but interesting discussion that arose from someone asking how the group felt about the fact that, although "Sunny" began as somewhat of an envelope-pushing comedy, it now feels almost tame when compared to a show like, say, FX's own "Louie."

"Well, it was never our intention necessarily to push the envelope," said McElhenney. "Our goal is always to do what’s not being done elsewhere. And something that we’re really proud of and something that I think that the true fans of the show really understand that a lot of people don’t know is that we are not simply just going out and trying to push the envelope for pushing the envelope’s sake. We’re trying to introduce into comedy a part of the national conversation that we hear and see people talking about behind closed doors, but aren’t doing in public. I’ve never seen an episode of any show that deals with gay marriage, and we decided that that was something that we wanted to do. And we’re going to do an episode about that this year. We felt like we could have a very distinct and different take than any other show on television. And sometimes we do dick jokes. And, honestly, I feel like there’s a happy medium in there, and I think that if you do just go out and go for the low-brow or you are just pushing the envelope for pushing the envelope’s sake, that ultimately people are going to get bored with it and they’re going to move on. I think if you are building a foundation of a show that is a part of the national conversation and then you also can bring in some base humor, I think it cannot only appeal to a larger audience, but also can have some sort of setting in real life."

"Yeah, and has a certain social relevance," said Howerton. "That’s not to say that all those other FX shows are doing that. I mean, I happen to be a fan of 'Louie' also. I mean, I think that show is really smart, and I think it’s really funny. And I think with our show and with that show, if something happens to be shocking or, you know, crossing a line, so to speak, it’s not ever good if it’s just for the sake of crossing the line.

"It’s based in something else that’s smart," said Kaitlin Olson.

"Also," added McElhenney, "if you remember, the pilot of 'The Shield,' which was done many years before us, a cop kills another cop. I mean, that’s pushing the boundaries...and that’s your main character. And Vic Mackey’s one of the greatest characters in television."

"But it’s like Rob said: we’re just trying to do something different that we haven’t seen, that we aren’t seeing, something that we would want to watch as viewers," said Howerton. "And then oftentimes that happens to be something that pushes the limit or crosses a line or whatever it happens to be. But I mean, personally I think that’s just what makes something good."

"You haven’t seen it before, a lot of times," said Olson.

"It needs to be surprising," said Howerton. "It needs to be shocking a little bit. That's why I watch television, to see something I’ve never seen, to watch something unfold that surprises me and shocks me. And whether it makes me laugh or it makes me cry, that’s what is effective in telling a story, I think. So we’re always coming at it from the standpoint of telling an interesting story that you haven’t seen."

When I first heard about "The League," I thought, "I know the cast of this show is funny, but...how much of it am I going to appreciate if I'm not into sports?" It didn't take very long into the panel for the series before creators Jeff Schaffer and Jackie Marcus Schaffer thoughtfully provided me with an answer to my question.

"The first thing is - and this is one of the challenges of the show - telling someone else about your Fantasy league is like telling them about your dreams: people just don’t care," said Jeff. "That was an original challenge of the show. But as we started to write the show and we started to shoot the show with these guys, the audience and us loved hanging out with them so much that the Fantasy Football is just a prism through which we see their lives. It’s all really about how they interact with each other."

"Also, people that do tune in to watch the show, we want to make sure that we don’t disappoint the Fantasy fans as well," said Jackie. "If we naturally feel like it makes sense to have our characters sort of go “Crimson Tide” and start speaking submarine-talk version of Fantasy, we let them do it, and that we just let it feel natural and hope that the audience enjoys that and catches up and feels like it’s authentic."

"The other thing about that is it’s Fantasy Football, not Fantasy j’ai lai," added Jeff. "It’s, like, 30 million people do play Fantasy sports, so while we don’t want to drown people in it, and while it’s not the sort of focus of the show- I think the focus is the dynamics - we’re never afraid of doing it, because I think a lot of people in our audience has said, even if you’ve never been in a Fantasy Football league, 'Oh, my God. I know someone like that. I know someone who acts that insane on Sundays,' and I think the other thing that we always say is to enjoy the show, you don’t have to know anything about sports. You don’t have to know anything about Fantasy Football. You just have to have friends that you hate."

"It’s such a fun world, because really, you know, the language is just part of it," said Jackie, "but it really is sort of the social structure for so many men and women of how they get together on a regular basis. Jeff used to say that my book club had nothing to do with the book, that basically the book was a coaster."

"For the wine glass," said Jeff, with a smirk.

"It’s the same thing in Fantasy sports," said Jackie. "Yes, people are very passionate about the sports. They’re very passionate about following the games, but they’re as equally passionate about using it as a time to get together and crush one another. So we would like to think we just are giving people an opportunity to sort of see great comedic talent in our cast sort of as an example of the kind of league that either they’re in or find entertaining to watch."

"And I think for us, the question is, 'How can we do a show about Fantasy Football?' Well, we couldn’t believe there hadn’t one. There are shows about people who make wedding cakes and there are shows about people who drive trucks on icy roads, and I don’t know anybody who drives a truck in the Yukon, but I know a lot of people who just lose their minds every Sunday in the fall."

If you've watched "Archer," then you already know that, although it's animated, it's definitely for kids...but just because it has a tendency to be filthy doesn't mean it can't be intelligent, too.

"I read about three pages of the pilot for this show and said yes because it was so funny and it was so filthy," said Aisha Tyler, who voices Lana Kane on the show. "I felt as if the heavens had opened and a pony had fallen into my lap, and then the pony was a script for this show. Do you know what I mean? It’s a dream show for me, and it has that combination of what we used to call when I did talks, sort of 'the thinky and the stinky.' It’s an intellectual show, and it’s also really, really dirty, and it’s for grownups. And I think it’s about time that you have a show that’s sophisticated and elegant and smart and referential and also, you know, really saucy and bawdy, and I think, you know, it’s really rare to be surprised by anything in television ever. Ever. So the fact that we get these scripts that are surprising and shocking and wonderful and terrible, and they make you cringe and make you laugh and make you call your friends and go, 'You have to watch this.' I’m really, really, really, really proud of it, and I’m not saying this because I’d like to be written more lines."

"And I invariably have to look up a word or several words in the script because I don’t know what they are," said Chris Parnell, who voices Cyrill Figgis. "Adam (Reed)’s a lot smarter than I am."

"You don’t get a lot of farrier jokes in regular TV shows," said Matt Thompson, executive producer.

"We had a long conversation about the Stuven reference last night at dinner," said Tyler. "It’s a really smart show. It’s rare that you learn from a show. There’s also referencing statutory rape in a really bold way, and then you learn something, and don’t we all?"

"I think there’s a joke that you guys just recorded," said Thompson. "There was an argument between the difference between ledger domain and bailiwick."

"We did," agreed Tyler.

"And, you know, in the next sentence, it’s like, 'Hey, you really shouldn’t be raping that 16-year-old girl,'" said Thompson.

"And, boom, magic unfolds immediately afterward," said Tyler.

Unlike a lot of ostensibly "adult" animated series, "Archer" has and will continue to have an over-arcing storyline.

"God bless it, you know, I love the shows like 'The Simpsons' and 'Family Guy' and stuff, but that’s not this show," said Thompson. "I hope that you won’t come back a year later and say, 'I am completely bored by Archer. He’s just doing the same thing over and over again.' So there has to be change that goes along into it. For example, for Judy’s character, how much further can we go with her getting off on being choked while she’s having sex? Only so much. So it does have to kind of constantly evolve, and what it fits in best with is an over-arcing plot line."

So what sort of storylines can we expect to see this season?

"There’s a couple," said Thompson. "One of them is Archer gets an illegitimate baby. And also finding out about Archer’s father. And, lastly, it hasn’t been written yet, but it’s been talked about a greatdeal with the FX executives and such, is a huge love interest for Archer with a femme fatale Russian spy. And as far as Cyril and Lana going, it’s kind of open-ended, you know. Adam is up to the sixth script, kind of playing around with it. Right now, we’re focusing on Cyril having sexual addiction and Lana being completely mad at him and wanting to punch him in the nuts."

"She's ," said Tyler.

"One of the cool things about the newseason for us is we have more people in our staff of drawers," said Thompson, "and stuff has gotten better. So I think it’s actually going to be a better-looking show, and we’re going to be able to see a lot and do a lot more action. The show that we showed at Comic-Con had a third act, which was entirely a snowmobile chase. And this isn’t a large-budget show, and we’re going to have to watch what we’re doing. And I think this season is going to look...well, I think it’s going to look awesome, at least according to me, unless somebody can tell me and hurt my feelings."

"It looked amazing," confirmed Tyler.

"It...it wasn't great," said H. Jon Benjamin, to much laughter.

To close, I'll just offer up the cast's response to being asked to compare their first TCA experience - which took place back in January - to their first Comic-Con experience, which took place last month.

: You guys are a lot more handsome. A lot more handsome. : The first TCA was just Jon and Adam and I. So we talked amongst ourselves on a podium while people ate croissants with chicken salad inside. : Most people left. They didn’t stick around. : And people slowly streamed out, checking their watches. : Yeah. : And then we went to Comic-Con, and there was, like, a thousand nerds crying and screaming, a lady who was pregnant and is naming her baby Archer, right? Stormtroopers who threw money at us and one white lady who looks alarmingly more like Lana than I do. It was awesome. It was great. And it was so nice to watch the show in front of a crowd, because I think the show is hilarious. I mean, I really love this show, and I would watch it even if I wasn’t on it. But, you know, you’re watching it with your friends or whatever. You’re watching it with your husband over and over again and making him pick out your favorite line. To see it in front of a crowd of fans, I think we heard about a third of the jokes because they were laughing so hard that, like, only every third joke landed. : In fairness, there’s at least 300 nerds here.

Well, when he's right, he's right.

TCA Press Tour, Summer 2010: Day 7

TCA Press Tour, Summer 2010: Day 6

Day 6 of the TCA Press Tour was all about the American Broadcasting Company - that's ABC to you and me - presenting their slate of programming for Fall 2010, along with a couple of new entries that are technically midseason entries but will likely find themselves slotted into the schedule sooner than that. (You know how it goes: there's always a show or two that gets the boot within a couple of episodes, thereby giving one of the relief squad a chance to go in early.)

Give Kevin Brockman, ABC's head of publicity, full credit for getting the first big laugh of the day: he walked onto the stage holding a giant stuffed pink elephant named Binky, allowing him to be flanked by the elephant in the room while addressing the metaphorical one, which was the somewhat unexpected departure of Steve McPherson, the network's former President of Entertainment.

"On Tuesday, we issued a statement announcing Steve McPherson’s resignation from ABC Entertainment Group," said Brockman. "I realize you all may have questions, obviously. That is what you do for a living. But to save us some time and hopefully make this as productive as possible, I just want to say that Tuesday’s statement still holds. It is literally all we are going to say on the subject. So you may ask, but you will get the same answer. So I’m just saying please know that is the statement. We have given it. We will give it again if we need to. But in the spirit of trying to make things as productive today, just realize that that’s where we are. We really have nothing more to add."

And, indeed, they did not. Someone tried a bit later in the morning to get Paul Lee, McPherson's hastily arranged replacement, to say something on the matter, but...well, we'll get to that in a moment. First, let's talk about the panel that preceded Mr. Lee's executive session.

Can it really be possible that "Detroit 1-8-7" is the first police drama to be set within the city of Detroit? That would seem to be the case, and yet it seems like such an incredible oversight that it's never been done before. More impressive, however, is the fact that the show is actually being in Detroit.

"There are a lot of benefits to shooting in Detroit," said producer David Zabel. "Included in that is that there is a bit of an infrastructure forming of crew. We are filling out our crew with a lot of locals. A lot of locals are working on the show, and hopefully in the long run what will then happen is that a lot of the locals who are working at mid-level positions are going to get better at these jobs and rise up and be doing more of the key department-head work as well. Overall, they’ve been doing quite a bit of feature work in Detroit, so there’s some aspects there that are well in place, but there are some things that are a little bit of a learning curve, and we’re sort of going through that together. A lot of the key department heads are from Los Angeles for now, but the vast numbers of the crew are largely local hires. In certain key departments we had to bring from L.A. in order to have qualified people so that we could deliver the show. Also, they are shooting seven features right now in Detroit, so even the talent pool that exists locally in Detroit is spread a little thin right now. But as the series goes on, I think we’re going to get more and more people that are local working on the show."

As happy as I am for Detroit that they've got this series filming in their fine city, I must say that I got more than a little bored with the plethora of questions about that particular aspect. I was much more interested in the fact that the original conceit of the series as seen in the pilot which was screened for us in advance of the TCA tour - the detectives were being filmed as part of a documentary - has been thrown out the window due to the fact that, as a result of an unfortunate event in Detroit, the city has banned documentary filmmakers from following police officers around. With that having been put into play, they couldn't exactly show such a thing going on within "Detroit 1-8-7," now, could they?

Fortunately, Zabel is convinced that the show can rise above this change in format.

"We have this tremendous cast, and hopefully we’re going to have great writing and great directing," he said. "We have it so far, and we hope we’re going to having it. In some ways, while the documentary conceit was very interesting and compelling as a pilot, in the ongoing series in the long run, we were actually going to feel a little hampered by that and hemmed in, and it certainly was going to limit the ability that we had to sort of send characters into different directions and explore different character arcs and emotional lives and what the actors were going to be able to do. So it freed us up as storytellers, writers, directors, and actors to explore a lot more than, I think, in the long run we would have been able to do had we stuck with the conceit of the overt documentary."

They're now in the process of doing the re-shoots for the pilot which were necessitated by the change in format. Zabel estimates that they only needed to adjust 15% of the show, but in some cases they had to rewrite, redirect, and re-shoot an entire scene just to eliminate one little moment where somebody looked at a camera. Ugh.

Given that Michael Imperioli is in the cast, the question was posed as to whether he would be forced to hide his decidedly New York tendencies in favor of going a bit more Detroit-ian with his vocabulary. "My character was in New York before he was in Detroit," explained Imperioli. (Hey, what luck!) "He has been on Detroit homicide for 10 years, and he spent time working as a detective in New York, and something happened there that hasn’t been really specified. I just read Episode 3, and I learned a little bit more. I learn a little bit more about this character every two weeks as the scripts come in, but something happened that is obviously dark, and it brought him to Detroit, and either he’s escaping something, or it propelled him to go, but he’s not necessarily native."

Although he's played both cops and criminals, Imperioli hesitated at the suggestion that there are similar motivations behind following both occupations, though he admitted that their origins may be related.

"In New York, which is the city that I know the best, and where I grew up in New York, which is very close to the Bronx, Mt. Vernon, New York, people who lived in the same neighborhood could have gone in either direction," he said. "You know, they might have been brought up with the same traditions. And in my neighborhood it was Italian-American. And they may have had similar...you know, they went to the same schools, maybe economically they were on the same level, and socially they were on a very similar level, but because of certain influences and causes and conditions, one goes this way, one goes that. I think the motivation to be a police officer is very different than the motivation to be a criminal. I mean, what I’ve noticed, doing research into police and detectives, is that they really believe in what they do and they want to make their city a safer place to live for the citizens."

To bring this thing full circle, I've got to close by mentioning the jab one of the critics made at poor James McDaniel regarding one of the previous occasions in which he played a cop. Perhaps you're familiar with a little show called..."Cop Rock"? McDaniel grinned at the reference to the series, but it sounded like he might be getting serious for a moment when he first began to talk.

"A lot of people talk about Detroit, and they haven’t been there, yet they have a negative impression of it," he said. "I’m from Harlem. I moved to Harlem in 1985, and people would say, 'Oh, you live in Harlem. You know, I can’t go above 110th Street.' They’ve never been there. Well, a lot of people talk about 'Cop Rock'..."

That's when we knew he was teasing us.

"They talk about 'Cop Rock' and they tear it apart, but a lot of them have never seen it," said McDaniel. "It’s the Detroit of series. But i’s the little engine that could...and my heart will always be with 'Cop Rock.'"

Normally, the reason I write about a network's executive session is because there's a series of random comments and announcements about various programs within their roster, be it upcoming guest stars, special events, or even new programming for the midseason, but in the case of ABC's executive session, all anyone really wanted to know was what Paul Lee, a.k.a. the new guy, was going to be bringing to the network. The problem was that the poor fellow had only been in his new position for all of 36 hours and simply didn't have a great deal to offer in the way of specifics insofar as what's coming up for his reign at the top of the network food chain.

Make no mistake, though: Lee to be here.

"I was on vacation with my wife," he began, and I shaved off the vacation beard this morning, because I’ve been, I think, about 12 years in the U.S., and I’ve done probably more than 20 TCAs, and I do have to say that I really don’t think the success of either BBC America or ABC Family would have been anything that they were without sort of the debate and the controversies and the buzz and the interest that comes out of this room. So I wanted to thank you guys all for that.

"I’m clearly very excited with this opportunity," Lee continued. "As far as I’m concerned — and you can probably tell from my accent — at least 12 years ago I was an outsider. This is one, in my view, of the premier, iconic American storytelling brands. I grew up watching this on far-off shores, and it’s a great honor to be a part of that. So I am, as you can probably guess, super unprepared. I’ve been in the job for 36 hours. I apologize in advance if I don’t have all the answers to all the questions. I’m looking forward to rolling my sleeves up and getting those answers over the next few weeks."

Unfortunately, he didn't actually have answers...and, really, why would he? But since the remainder of the panel was really just a lot of hypothetical questions followed by best-guess answers with no assurances of accuracy, there's little point in wasting any further time here, except to wish Mr. Lee the best of luck with his new gig...because - all together now - .

It's a good time to be a former member of the "Friends" cast: Courtney Cox has a hit series with "Cougar Town," Matt LeBlanc and Lisa Kudrow both have series coming to Showtime, and Jennifer Aniston...well, her movies might not be great, but you can't say she isn't keeping busy. If Matthew Perry's of a mind to make a comeback, now's certainly as good a time as any...and since he's actually the one who came up with the idea for "Mr. Sunshine," one would presume that he is recovered from the disappointing showing of his last series, "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," and ready to take on television once more.

"One of the things that I came away from that show and watching Aaron (Sorkin) and all those brilliant people writing it is that I thought I wanted to take maybe a shot at writing something," said Perry. "Actually, the reason that my character is selfish and has only thought about himself is because I know somebody, you know, who that was the case for for a long time. So to take a comedic look at that, I thought, was interesting."

As the panel progressed, Perry eventually clarified that the character was, for all practical purposes, based on the man he used to be.

"I like to say that this character is me, like, five years ago before any possible enlightenment could have come into my life," Perry said. "But, you know, I’m very in touch with that kind of drive. You know, a selfish guy trying to have a better life and how confused a selfish person would get if he were told that the way to have a better life was to just be nicer to people and care about people. You know, that kind of person is confused when the answer is, like, 'Be really nice to Nate, and ultimately you’ll be happier.' I don’t know that that’s for all people. So that’s a character that I thought would be fun to explore in a sea of sort of dysfunctional people and a fun arena in which for it to take place."

So you're really nice these days, huh?

"Me?" asked Perry. "I'm nicer."

In "Mr. Sunshine," Perry's character runs a sports arena, a job we haven't really seen before on television. In order to get a feel for the position, Perry spent a day with the gentleman who does the same job for the Staples center. ("I will continue to bother this guy throughout the process," he assured us.)

"You know, what drove us to want to do a show at this place was, if you have sort of a dysfunctional family working in such a huge venue, what if we had cameras on how crazy some of these people who are, but they have to get it together every night because 18,000 people are showing up. As a kid, I was just real excited and thrilled to go to any of those places. When I was a kid, it was The Forum, and I just had this feeling of just sort of excitement, and the people work there must feel that, too. We were just trying to think of a place where kind of the most interesting, insane things can come in. So, you know, the first few that we’re talking about is...you know, there’s a Bruce Springsteen concert, but the next night, there’s a lingerie football game, and that’s actually an episode that I’m very much looking forward to shooting. Because they’re women. And they’re wearing lingerie. And they’re playing football...which gives a whole new meaning to the term 'illegal use of the hands.'"

After a charity laugh from the crowd, a dejected Perry claimed, "I worked on that all the way here."

I promise you, the show's funnier than that. Or, at least, I thought it was, anyway.

It seems all too easy to look at the visions of gorgeousness that are Dana Delaney and Jeri Ryan and make a joke about how they put the "body" in "Body of Proof," and yet throughout the panel it was all I could think of. So let's just pretend that I've made the joke, and that way we can just move on with our lives, okay?

Dana Delaney is coming off a pretty decent couple of years, having spent some time on Wisteria Drive as a cast member of "Desperate Housewives," then turning in a great guest appearance on "Castle." Frankly, it's about time she got her own show, and from what I've seen of the pilot of "Body of Proof," it seems to have the potential to succeed as a Friday night series. But, then again, I thought sure that "Women's Murder Club" would pull an audience then, too, and that thing sank like a stone, so you might not be able to trust me on this. Either way, though, she's excited about playing the role of Megan Hunt, a former neurosurgeon who, after being injured in an accident, becomes a coroner.

"She’s complicated, she’s smart, and she’s definitely complex," said Delaney. "I just met and had dinner with a female neurosurgeon, and she said she watched the pilot with trepidation because nobody ever gets it right, but she was really pleased. It’s very rare for a woman, especially at my age, to become a neurosurgeon. It’s a lot of years of work, a lot of years of school, and you’re not really allowed to have a personal life, so I kind of see her as an addict that was addicted to the job, addicted to the power, addicted to all that kind of thing, and then she lost it all. She lost her husband. She lost her child, and lost her job. It’s almost like she’s now needing to redeem herself. It’s basically like the character Charon, where the River Styx and carrying the bodies over. I think she sees this now as her redemption. That that’s what she’s doing."

As far as Kate Murphy, Jeri Ryan's character in the series...well, actually, I wasn't really even going to talk about her, since Dana's really the thrust of the pilot, but why miss an opportunity to offer up a picture of Jeri Ryan, y'know? Besides, the producers talked about her character, anyway, so we might as well.

"We actually wrote the role for Jeri," said executive producer Matthew Gross. "Originally, the character was of Indian descent. But when, you know, she came across our eye, we felt that we had to have her in the show because she does add another element to the chemistry, as you put out, and what’s interesting about the show and the dynamic between the two is that Jeri’s character, Kate, is basically going on the same track that Megan went on in terms of putting career first, about identifying herself through her job, and Megan’s going to try and impart and imbue in her the mistakes that she made in the past, and of course, she’s not going to listen."

"At first," added executive producer Christopher Murphey. "The pilot is so centered on Megan’s character, and the rest of the characters in the pilot seem basically there to service her, but I think it’s our obligation in telling our stories that are multilayered and complicated that we open up the universe in which Megan is the center of. Peter (Dunlop, played by Nicholas Bishop) is her right-hand man medical investigator. Kate is her titular boss, but they will all be part of Megan’s journey, and they will have journeys of their own as well. I think the idea is to have a rich, fully sort of fleshed-out world and the characters that lived in it."

When I first watched the trailer for this series, which takes a faux documentary format as it takes a look at a high school class ten years after its graduation to see where the students are today, my first reaction was to lean over to one of my fellow critics and say, "The only way I want to watch a show about this bunch of twentysomethings is if it involves them getting picked off one by one." Unfortunately, that doesn't happen...although it looks like at least one of them bites it, so, y'know, you take your solace where you can find it.

"My Generation" comes to us from Noah Hawley, whose previous series, "The Unusuals," I liked better than this one...although, yes, I know, it's a little early to start throwing stones at a show when its pilot technically still isn't even intended for review purposes yet. Fair enough: I'll put a moratorium on making any further comments and just let Hawley tell us the origins of his new series.

"The show was born in Sweden, as all great shows are," explained Hawley. "There was a half-hour program in Sweden called 'On God’s Highway,' which Warren Littlefield found and brought to ABC, and they brought it to me. It was a half-hour. It was more of a mockumentary, basically following these three guys in high school and then coming back, in their case, 15 years later and just seeing what that gap was. It was a really funny show, but there was also a poignancy to it because of the time gap and what they thought they would be when they grew up and sort of how they turned out, and it seemed like a really fascinating premise to me, the 'Seven Up!' series premise with a lot of inherent drama in it, but also comedy as well.

"In terms of why you would make it an hour," Hawley continued, "what justified turning it into a drama instead of just a comedy, there were two things in the coming up with the American version of it. One was that we would use the documentary format in a different way. Instead of making it a classic mockumentary, which is basically just some verité-style filmmaking with some interviews, we would make an investigative documentary. We would use a lot of the tools of great documentaries, 'Capturing the Friedmans' to be one of them, where you really are investigating who these people were and what their journeys are, sometimes pushing these characters further than they want to go. There’s a feeling that you’re invading their privacy a little bit and that, as a viewer, you’re seeing stuff that they don’t necessarily want you to see. And then the other element of it was in shortening the time frame between the year 2000 and the present day and making it 10 years, we sort of looked at the sea change that had occurred around the world in the last 10 years. And that seemed like really fertile ground as well to tell stories not just about these characters’ personal lives, but putting it in the context of the larger world around them."

Additionally, the documentary style gives Hawley the flexibility to move around chronologically with a little bit more freedom as the series progresses.

"Hopefully you’ll see the show for a few years," he said. "We had to decide, in going forward in the series, what the present is versus the past because the past is that this documentary film crew shot for a year in the year 2000 and followed the senior class of the high school. Now coming back 10 years later, we’re saying that the first season takes place over three months, basically from April 2010 to June 2010. And what this allows us to do is not only contextualize the past in terms of real-world events, but also to tie the episodes in the present to sort of real days, you know, and to real events so that we can tie it in. This also allows us, at the end of the first season going forward to the next season, to jump ahead a year.

"Let’s say that we hypothetically with two characters who are going to be getting a divorce at the end of Season 1," said Hawley. "But then you could come back in Season 2, it’s a year later, and maybe they have a child. And you’re like, 'Well, what happened?' Because this show is kind of based on the idea of character mysteries. How did the overachiever in high school turn into the surf bum 10 years later? And how did the woman who was going to go off to Hollywood and be famous end up as sort of the real housewife of Austin, Texas? By jumping ahead a year, you know, we’re able to sort of refill that well. What it also allows us to do is hopefully, by Season 3, we don’t really have to tell high school stories anymore because where the past is kind of moving forward. So really in a 'Seven Up!' kind of way, we’re watching these characters grow up."

In truth, I do like the idea of this show. It may just be a generational thing, where I'm looking at these twentysomethings with the eye of a 39-year-old, thinking, "These kids are going to be complaining about how bad they've got it, and they have no freaking idea how much worse it may yet get for them." Hopefully, the show will rise above that, though. We'll just have to wait and see.

Now this is what I'm about! Yeah, I know, selling me on a superhero show is like shooting fish in a barrel, but I watched the pilot, and I just thought it was loads of fun. There's no attempt to set a dark tone, a la "Heroes." Instead, it offers a look at how a real family might deal with suddenly finding themselves in possession of superhuman abilities. Yes, there's a slight resemblance to "Heroes" just by virtue of its subject matter, but there's arguably even more similarity to "The Incredibles," which might be why creator Greg Berlanti views "No Ordinary Family" as being - shocker! - a show. At the very least, he's not afraid to acknowledge that it might hold echoes of other existing properties.

"I’m not sure I would say it's a total original as much as it’s kind of, in some ways, a fun throwback to some of the action adventure series that I used to love and watch as a kid, blended with, hopefully, a great family show," said Berlanti. "I think as audiences get more and more sophisticated, you look for ways to sort of blend genres, so with this, we tried to sort of blend all the fun of a show, a big action show, with a real fun, intimate family show and see what happens. I think that distinction is not something that everybody can find everywhere else on the dial. I think, in addition to that, there’s a real broad appeal. There’s something for everyone, you know, different ages. These days more and more it seems like shows are structured towards this niche or that niche, the show’s for men or the show’s for women above 30. And it seems like with this, we wanted to make something that the whole family could watch together...and, unfortunately, those shows, I think, are fewer and fewer."

Star Michael Chiklis, however, prefers to make a musical analogy. "Everything comes from somewhere, from some influence, and if you look at any great musician, they have influences throughout their lives growing up," he said. "They listen to all these different musicians, and they take and they borrow from all of them, and that sort of amalgam of different influences manifests itself in them being an individual artist. That’s the way I kind of feel about this show. It borrows from a lot of different things that we’ve loved, and because it’s an amalgam of all those things, it ends up being something completely unique and different."

Chiklis's co-star, Romany Malco, earned some serious bonus points from me when it was his turn to chime in on the situation, successfully convincing me that his guy may be almost as big a TV geek as I am!

"I grew up watching 'Man From Atlantis' and 'Greatest American Hero' and, you know, 'The Fall Guy' and 'Superman' and 'Batman,' but they all seem to have gone away," said Malco. "As Greg mentioned, the times have changed. The audiences have become a lot more sophisticated. One of the things that I think is really interesting about this particular show is you actually see these superpowers being used rather than necessarily to save the world, but to save a family. Also, I notice in Michael’s character, particularly, this newly found independence, this sense of purpose, and it’s interesting seeing like a regular human being going through the process of identifying what his purpose on the planet is gonna be, and then Jimmy’s character and the way he keeps his superpowers a secret to basically make a mockery of the teachers. So it’s, like, comedic, but it’s very heartfelt and inspiring. It’s just like a really nice balance for what I consider to be more sophisticated audience."

"I really don’t think of this show as a sci-fi show," said Chiklis. "'The Fantastic Four' is a superhero movie. It’s sci-fi 100 percent. Yes, there’s that element of the superhero thing, but what we’re trying to do is meld different genres together and make a new thing. And this is really at its core — I can’t emphasize this enough — a family show. It’s a family drama about a family that’s somewhat dysfunctional and is trying to work through all manner of different problems that all families face in this day and age. The superhero element or the super-power element, rather, really just creates such a broad palette for us to paint on and have fun with and be that much more entertaining, so this has great appeal to people who might not be interested at all in sci-fi. Some people’s heads turn off when you say sci-fi. They just go, 'Oh, that’s not for me.' I submit that people who aren’t really particularly interested in sci-fi would be interested in this show because it’s innately relatable on a familial level. Yet, people who are into sci-fi will be into the show too, because it has that element. So again, like a musician who borrows from all these different great musicians, their own style comes out of it, and this is something entirely new."

"In the writers’ room, when we come in, it’s always, 'What do we want to say with these characters this week?'” said Berlanti. "And that’s the same rule that it’s sort of been in any of the character shows I’ve ever worked on. If we’re fortunate enough to go many, many years, it would all lead up to...the end of the show would be the comic book. You know, the end of the show would be how the family finally all got together and did whatever they did in the sci-fi world. But to me, there’s a billion stories to tell before that moment."

"One last little caveat," said Chiklis. "This isn’t 'Heroes.' It isn’t 'The Incredibles.' This is 'No Ordinary Family.'”

Hey, in.

Maura Tierney could not have looked or sounded less thrilled to be part of the panel for "The Whole Truth," and it made me very, very sad. She's one of my favorite actresses, but, man, you would've thought that the proceedings were to be followed by the arrival of a firing squad. I'm sure it was predominantly because she was dreading the idea of having to answer a steady stream of questions about her cancer, which - hallelujah! - is now in remission, but even so, she was starting to drag down with her lack of enthusiasm.

Prior to her diagnosis, Tierney was originally set to take on the role on "Parenthood" that ultimately went to Lauren Graham. In the case of "The Whole Truth," however, the role was originally written for her by series creator Tom Donaghy, given to someone else because they didn't think she was available, but, due to the ever-changing circumstances of Hollywood, ended up back in her lap after all.

"I wasn’t really thinking about doing another show," Tierney admitted. "But I really responded to the character that Tom wrote, I guess, because (he) wrote it for me. My ego’s not involved there at all. But I thought it was a really, really appealing character, it’s funny, and I thought it was interesting to find a character that had such sort of a great sense of humor, yet was so driven."

When asked if her health scare had affected her perspective on the importance her work in any way, Tierney hesitated for a moment at the immensity of the question, then said, "I probably have a new perspective on everything, in general. It’s a really wonderful feeling to know that people are caring about something that you do, that I’ve been doing for 20 years. I think it’s a blanket statement that my perspective has, and probably should change more than it has, quite honestly, but as far as work goes, well, yeah, partially. You know, Tom and I are friends, like actual real friends, not Hollywood friends. We went to college together. We’ve known each other for over 20 years, and it’s a priority for me now to be able to work with people who I really like and trust. So that will be a factor because I feel like, yeah, it’s too much time involved of your life to not enjoy it. So I guess that’s somewhat adjusted."

Although I must admit that "Better With You," with its heavy-handed laugh track and often groan-worthy punchlines, is probably my least favorite of ABC's sitcom offerings this season, there are still a couple of pretty decent reasons to give it a shot, the first being JoAnna Garcia, who's as super-cute as ever and, at one point, delivers a line so perfectly that I had to hit the "rewind" button so that I could hear her deliver it again. What I didn't expect, however, was that the premise of the show - a young couple gets engaged after dating for only two months, which causes her sister and her parents to reevaluate their own relationships - would result in a moment in the panel that was arguably funnier than anything in the pilot.

The question was addressed to Garcia and her co-star, Jennifer Finnigan, and it started out like this:

"How would you react in real life if someone had that quick of a marriage proposal in two months? Jennifer, you were engaged for a couple years, I think, before you were married. And, JoAnna, you’ve been engaged a couple times..."

As the laughter started, Garcia held up her hand. "I just want you to know," she began, "that is going to go down in record books. I might tell the story on the talk show at some point, so we’re going to need to talk later, and I’m going to need a little bit more about you so we can make this whole thing work."

Then, as she attempted to answer the question seriously, she started to stumble. "I got engaged after...well, my current engagement that I’m actually going to follow through with..." She stopped. "This is an absolute nightmare. I just want you guys to know that I have started to sweat."

Eventually, Garcia confirmed that she and her fiancee got engaged after dating for 10 months...but later in the panel, she admitted, "I'm sweating."

Hey, look: it's another heart-warming reality series that I'll probably never watch! This one, however, didn't originate on ABC. You may remember "Secret Millionaire" from when it made its debut back in 2008 as part of Fox's lineup. Now it's moved over to ABC for its second season, and...what a surprise...it's supposed to be even better now than it was then!

"The FOX show was successful when it aired and won four of its time slots," said Natalka Znak, executive producer. "As producers, we’re delighted, though, that it’s now on ABC because it feels like a totally natural home for it. It’s also been produced in the U.K. for a number of series, and I have to say I love the U.K. show, I thought the FOX show was good, but I think this show is , and it’s impossible not to watch it without getting to the end and, you know, feeling like you need to go and do something, feeling that, you know, something extraordinary has happened while you’ve watched the show. It’s an incredible show. It really is."

James Malinchak, one of the show's millionaire participants, admitted to skepticism when first pitched the idea of doing the show. "I’ve dedicated my life to helping to serve people and uplift people," he said, "and I was nervous about folks on the show being hurt in some way. And when (the producers) and I were talking at my house, I could just see it in their eyes that they really wanted to do something good and try to bring a positive awareness to America and put more hope back into not just folks on the show and into us, but into America as a whole. Leslie really wanted us to have a life-transformational moment. I think when we’re successful in a certain aspect, I think we start to drink our own Kool-Aid, and we seem to forget some tough times that maybe we had. And for me personally, it was one of the greatest experiences I ever went through. And I went on the show, thinking I was going to be some guy writing some checks to some deserving people, and by, like, the second day, I mean, I didn’t really worry about my business. I didn’t care about any of it. And I met some of the most amazing human beings I’ve ever met in my life. And it just...it brought me back down to earth, let’s put it that way, and put my feet back on the ground. So I’m very grateful that I had this opportunity, because it changed me more than I think I changed them with the money."

Tony Branch, one of the recipients of the money, was completely dumbfounded when he learned the true identity of his new friend James. "When you watch television and you hear things like this or read it in the newspaper, it’s always happening to someone else in someone else’s state or country or city," said Branch. "When Mr. Malinchak told me, I literally looked him in the eye and said, 'No, you’re not. Me and you was just sweeping floors and passing out basketballs. What are you talking about?' Then I realized, looking at Leslie and a couple of the camera crew, and there was tears coming out of their face; and at that point in time, I was out on my feet. I’ve been knocked out before, but now I know what it feels like. The only thing I heard was 'Waa-waa waa-waa-waa.'”

Another one of the millionaires, Gary Heavin, made a very interesting comment about how much can be accomplished by tackling poverty and financial woes on the grassroots level and by having good people just help out other good people

"Going out into the community and hands-on and being immersed in that poverty, we saw good being done in extraordinary ways by amazing people, I’m an entrepreneur. Diane and I are the founders of Curves, the women’s fitness franchise. So we know what it takes to care for people. The solutions that we have in our country, they’re going to come from good people like these guys who get up every day and give it their all...and it restored our faith in humanity, to tell you the truth."

I've been writing up today's panels for so long that I'm no longer sure exactly when I started, so I'm glad that ABC ordered their day so that I'd know I'd reached the conclusion of their coverage. Sure, it's kind on the nose for the network to have ended the day with a show called "Happy Endings," but at least it's funny...which was a pleasant surprise, actually. I have to say that I wasn't entirely sure about a sitcom starring Elisha Cuthbert, given that "The Girl Next Door" did far more to show off her assets than it did her gifts as a comedienne, but given that the ensemble includes Eliza Coupe (late of "Scrubs"), Casey Wilson ("Saturday Night Live"), and Damon Wayans, Jr. (who's very much his father's son) and is produced by Jonathan Groff ("Andy Barker, P.I."), it's easy to give it a little bit of room to grow.

Plus, for what it's worth, Cuthbert is willing to admit that she has room to grow.

"I wish I could say this is what I was looking for and it came about and it was all perfect," she said. "I just knew that if I was going to come back to TV, I really wanted to be a part of something that I felt passionate about and that I was excited to go to work to do every day. And at that time, this script came, and I read it, and I just felt like it would be different. It was a little daunting, but I kind of got excited about that, and these guys have been helping me, and I’ve just been really excited about it all. When it came my way, I went, "Wow, this actually might be the right next step.' This is so great because we all get to bounce off one another and find the relationships between one another. We’re all so different, but it’s been really comfortable. I mean, it’s been just a lot of fun. Honestly, sometimes we have too much fun. We have to zone it in and go, 'Wait, we have a scene to shoot!'"

The premise of the show involves Alex (Cuthbert) abandoning Dave (Zachary Knighton, late of "FlashForward") at the altar, an event which seriously throws a wrench into a group of friends who, at their own admission, haven't met any friends in more than a decade. When the question was raised as to whether "Happy Endings" would follow a plot arc or stick to more of a traditional sitcom format, Groff seemed indicated that they'd try to do a bit of both.

"I think we dealt ourselves a pretty hefty hand at the end of the pilot, which is this huge seismic issue which is going to affect this group of friends," said Groff. "So we want to respect that and explore that as far as it’s really interesting. On the other hand, you do want to be able to have every episode stand alone, and the reality that sometimes they’ll want to change the air order for various reasons or people will just watch things out of order these days...you want to make sure everything is not completely reliant on what came before it. So it’s sort of an in-between answer, honestly.

"Dave and Alex have a lot to work on and a lot to deal with to really live up to the promise of the pilot, which is that we’re going to try to not break up this group because of what happened to us, so we’re going to sort of back up and dig in deeper and see how they actually manage to do that. And then we’re also just going to do lots of stories that maybe deal with the impact of some of this. Alex might need a new roommate. That’s Elisha’s character. Or are Jane (Coupe) and Brad (Wayans) going to move to the suburbs? What’s it like for Dave and Max to live together? But a lot of it is just also telling stories about friends in their late 20s and what that’s like and when a couple of them are married, a few of them have different career trajectories, and sister relationships and all that stuff.

"I think the main thing we’re going for, to some extent, is a funny reality where people talk to each other," Groff explained. "It’s not a lot of hugging and telling each other that they love each other. It’s people who deal with issues, and when somebody bugs them, they deflect it through humor or sarcasm or whatever. So there will be a lot of that, I think, where the characters are just interacting with each other in a way where they have their shorthand that will be entertaining to watch as they kind of go through their lives."

Steven Moffat discusses 2010 "Doctor Who" Christmas special...but not very much

TCA Press Tour, Summer 2010: Day 5

Mercifully, there were no panels to attend on Day 5 of the TCA Press Tour, thereby allowing me a brief chance to breathe...and, more importantly, to spend some time with my lovely wife Jenn, who arrived from Virginia in the wee hours of Day 4. Although I ducked out to attend the TCA business meeting that morning, I passed on a chance to visit the set of "Big Brother" in order for Jenn and I to have lunch at the South Beverly Grill with my friend Dileep Rao, who I knew way back when he was just a member of the Trashcan Sinatras mailing list. Now, of course, he's a big shot movie actor who can't even finish his lunch without having someone come up and say, "I loved you in 'Inception.'" Either way, it was still good to see him again.

After that, it was back to the hotel to get ready for the TCA Awards, an evening which always proves to be one of the most enjoyable evenings of the tour. It's the opportunity for the members of the organization to pay tribute to our favorite programs and performances of the previous year, and it's also a chance for us to interact with the individuals responsible, but we do so with our tape recorders put away for the evening. There's no red carpet. There's no video document of the proceedings. It's just us, the stars, and the night...or does that sound too pretentious? Yeah, it probably does, especially when you're talking about a night that's hosted by Dax Shepherd.

Given that the first two TCA Awards ceremonies that I attended were hosted by John Oliver ("The Daily Show") and the Smothers Brothers, respectively, you'd think that Dax Shepherd would feel like a step down...but then you factor in how awful Chelsea Handler was as last year's host, and darned if Dax doesn't seem like a decent choice. Indeed, he proved to be extremely funny, much funnier than I think a lot of us were expecting him to be. He kicked things off by pretending he was addressing a group of HerbalLife salespeople, claimed that he was only hosting because Dog the Bounty Hunter dropped out, then acknowledged he was a little hurt by the fact that just about every review of "Parenthood" that mentioned his performance invariably began with some semblance of the phrase, "You're never going to believe this, but he's actually pretty good." There was also a funny story about how he's a god at CostCo, thanks to having co-starred in "Employee of the Month" with Dane Cook, and he did a spot-on impression of Owen Wilson calling his brother Luke and mocking him for his telephone commercials. Really, the only disappointing thing about Dax's appearance was that I didn't realize he'd brought his fiancee, Kristen Bell, until after she'd already gone.

From there, we entered the awards portion of the evening.

: : . : .

Alas, Jane Lynch was suffering from laryngitis and was unable to attend, but Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan accepted the award in her stead, offering as solace a list of four things we'll hear Sue Sylvester say in Season 2.

. "A female football coach is like a male nurse, Will: it's a sin against nature." . "I secretly hope you're in the middle of a midlife crisis, William, as that means you're halfway to an early death, affording me a blissful demented convalescence spent peeing on your grave." . "Don't go soft on me, Will. I realize you're mourning the loss of that bony little redhead you're in love with, and I understand. It's not just a loss for you. As she appears to be the link between early hominids and man, it's also a loss for science." . "Should've taken the poop cookies, Will."

: .

Steve Levitan accepted his award by admitting that he'd written his speech last week and hadn't had a chance to rewrite it. That would explain the reference to Steve McPherson.

: .

Vince Gilligan, God bless him, gave a heartfelt speech wherein he thanked us for all of our praise. Damon Lindelof, however, took a slightly different tactic, offering up some of his favorite Tweets that he received in the wake of the final episode of "Lost."

* "My very first tweet! I started this account just to let you know how disappointed I am in you!"

* "Has anyone accused you of being an emotional terrorist yet? And research these words: closure and actual explanations."

* "Hey, douche! Instead of backpacking in Europe or whatever the fuck you're doing, how about you just give me six years of my life back?"

* "Please don't ruin Star Trek by ending it in Klingon purgatory."

* "'You're a dirty liar. You never knew, you made it all up, you betrayed us all. You betrayed me and I hope you rot, motherfucker.' And that was from Mr. J.J. Abrams!"


Margulies wasn't able to attend, due to filming commitments, but she did send a video thank-you, though it received a lot of probably unintended laughs when it ended with her cutting her eyes to the side, which looked for all the world as if she was about to say, "Are we done with this fucking thing now?" But she probably wasn't.



Best. Acceptance. EVER.


Executive producer Tom Hanks took the stage, acknowledged the strange creatures who'd taken the stage immediately before him, and declared, "This is the last fucking time I'm dressing up for you people." (This was his fifth appearance at the TCA Awards.)


Producers Burt Metcalfe and Gene Reynolds were in attendance, as were Mike Farrell (B.J. Hunnicutt) and William Christopher (Father Mulcahy).

: James Garner

Sadly, no Jim Garner...but we were assured that, as grateful as he was for the award, he didn't necessarily believe that he deserved it, anyway.

If it's been six months, it must be time for another "Powers" update from FX

TCA Press Tour, Summer 2010: Day 4

The 4th day of the TCA tour started out not with a panel but with a poolside breakfast with the cast of USA's new series, "Covert Affairs." Like several of my fellow critics, I'm not a huge fan of events where the network publicists divide with the cast members and conquer the room by bringing the actors by the various tables and saying, "Oh, have you met (INSERT ACTOR'S NAME HERE) yet?" I'm not saying it isn't kind of cool to be finishing up your danish and have Peter Gallagher and Keri Matchett stroll up...which, as you might've guessed, is exactly what happened to me...but at the same time, my concentration is on my breakfast, not on whatever questions I might have for them, so it's kind of a stilted conversation. I mean, c'mon, man, I haven't even finished my coffee yet! I did manage to ask Keri if this new gig meant that we wouldn't be seeing her pop up on "Leverage" again anytime soon, and, alas, she sighed and admitted that it probably did. Damn.

Before I headed back upstairs to the ballroom to get ready for the first proper panel of the day, I waited around for a few minutes in hopes of chatting with Sendhil Ramamurthy and Anne Dudek, but after loitering for 10+ minutes as they talked with someone from TV Guide, I could see no signs of their conversation abating. I finally gave up and decided that I'd just try to grab them at the NBC party that evening...which, FYI, I successfully ended up doing.

When I watched the pilot for "The Event," a new sci-fi / action series that will immediately remind viewers of "Lost," "Fringe," and possibly even "24," I was instantly captivated and loved every minute of it. Even as I watched it, though, I knew that my wife would be far less thrilled, owing to the fact that there is a tendency for the proceedings to bounce back and forth in time...and she that. Clearly, she's not the only one, since the topic was addressed almost immediately during the show's panel, but the show's executive producers - Nick Wauters, Steve Stark, Evan Katz, and Jeffrey Reiner - reassured us as much as possible.

"It’s definitely something that we’re going to keep using, at least in the near future, as long as it serves character and story," said Wauters. "But you may not see as much of it as we go along."

"Also, I think if you look at the pilot, the pilot was about 50 percent flashbacks, believe it or not," said Stark. "A little over that, actually. That’s not going to be the idea moving forward. In episode 4, there’s a whole series of just getting to know Sean and Leila from a character standpoint, but it’s just that."

"Time will move forward from episode 2 on," said Katz. "It will be a more linear approach, and there will be flashbacks, but the story will continue to thrust forward."

I don't know if that'll make my wife feel a heck of a lot better, but it's something, anyway. It also serves as a reminder that, although "The Event" has a tremendous cast, one which includes Zeljko Ivanek, Laura Innes, Jason Ritter, Sarah Roemer, Scott Patterson, and Blair Underwood (as the President of the United States), as a serialized drama, it's the producers who hold the answers to all of the truly important questions. Heck, the actors don't really know ...and they're not afraid to admit it!

"Before we each shot the pilot, we each got these character dossiers that explained to us who we were so that we weren’t just blindly going into it and not knowing anything, so that’s what we knew when we first started," said Ritter. "Now, as the episodes come out, we learn more about who they are. But generally we don’t know a whole heck of a lot!

This begs another question for the producers, then: how quickly will start to get answers to the questions that are posed in the pilot?

"I’ve been a big fan of '24' and 'Lost' and 'Battlestar (Galactica),' all those shows for years and since I was a kid, so that definitely influenced my writing and I’m very conscious of that, which is why we’re going to try and reveal as many answers as we can as we go and then set up new mysteries," said Wauters. "So in a way, you will have more immediate answers to your questions, but you still have to kind of go on faith that we know what we’re doing. I came in with this bible, and all the characters were really developed from the beginning, even though that’s not really shown in the pilot because the pilot had so many characters and so many things going on. The pilot is kind of an invitation to the series, really. It’s an appetizer. I think as a viewer myself and a fan of 'Lost,' I think I’d ask for people’s trust."

"We’re not waiting till episode 4 to find out more about these people," confirmed Katz. "The pilot is very unique and very fragmented and really, really good at keeping things moving forward. I mean, it’s terrific, but, yes, you don’t know a terrible amount about these people. Starting in episode 2, episode 3, episode 4, you will not only find out about their backstories and more about, literally, their biography, but in how they react to the dilemmas, you will learn who they are as well. I think it’s about what you emotionally connect with. I think the pilot is emotionally affecting. I think you connect with the people. People, I think, connect to their dilemmas, and frankly, it’s whether or not you’re posing questions that you want to come back next week to see answered. And, you know, right now the show is really designed with a lot of cliffhangers at the end of episodes and a lot of, you know, what I call 'holy-crap' moments...although I use a different word."

"Before NBC bought the pilot, I think the bible that we developed was longer than the script," said Stark. "They were very clear where we’re going. So we have sort of tent-pole benchmarks we’re going to hit as the series progresses into even season 3. The dance of intrigue and satisfaction is what we’re going to be doing all the time, but ultimately we have these sort of benchmarks plotted out."

"We would hope that the pilot elicits some trust," said Reiner, reiterating Wauters' point. "We would hope that it’s a good enough hook. That’s what we all set out to do. You know, in television sometimes the pilot is the hook, you know, because you’re 22 episodes. So I would hope that the pilot has served that purpose."

"In my opinion," said Katz, "the pilot speaks for itself."

As far as I'm concerned, it does. I'm not yet willing to go out on a limb and declare that it's my favorite pilot of the new season, just because we haven't gotten final versions of all of the series yet, but I will say that it's the one that I find most intriguing. When it premieres, I'll be there...and I'll definitely be sticking around to see what happens.

You've probably already read my comments about how disappointed I was by the "Undercovers" set visit on the first day of the TCA tour, since none of the cast members were in attendance. That wasn't a problem with the panel for the show, thankfully, although I couldn't help but notice that series co-creator J.J. Abrams was once again MIA...though given that I don't get a whole lot of the Abrams feel from the pilot beyond the premise (a husband and wife who have been retired from the spy game for half a decade are asked to return to their former profession), maybe that's not a coincidence.

One element of "Undercovers" that stands out - even though, obviously, it - is the fact that its lead actors, Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, are both African-American. According to executive producer and co-creator Josh Reims, it's a development that came about organically during the casting process.

"When J.J. and I wrote the script originally, we decided we wanted to write it like 'The Philadelphia Story,'" said Reims. "You know, Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn? But they’re dead, so we didn’t hire them. So when we finished the script and went into the casting process, we started out by saying, 'Let’s just see every possible incarnation of a person. We don’t want to see the same people we’ve seen on TV 10 million times because it will look like many other shows that are on TV, which are perfectly good, but we want it to look different.' And so we saw a bunch of people. And when Boris and Gugu came in, which was much later in the process, we sort of knew immediately, like, 'OK, these are them.' We didn’t go out of our way to say, you know, we’re hiring two black people to be the leads of the show, but we certainly did not ignore the fact that it would be great if we could do that and if we found actors who were great enough. And luckily, we found one of them in Gugu, and then we hired Boris, too."

A fair enough answer, perhaps, but it was one which was accused of being somewhat disingenuous, resulting in a follow-up question wherein Reims was asked what he thinks the decision to cast two African-American actors .

"We don’t consider that we’re revolutionizing TV, but at the same time, we do realize it is a big deal," said Reims. "Yes, we all wish it wasn’t such a big deal at this point in time that there are two black characters who are the leads on a major TV show on a major network, but unfortunately that’s the way it is right now. And, you know, even since the casting of this show was announced, we’ve seen other shows have cast black leads that maybe, who knows, wouldn’t have happened. So if we can do that and other people realize, you know, 'Oh, look, this is working well,' then that’s great. But our plan was not, like, 'Let’s, you know, revolutionize all the history of TV and cast black actors.' It’s, 'OK, if we can cast black actors who are great, it will be great.' And it worked out. We’re already writing episode 7 or something, and they’re already shooting episode 4. It’s much more important now that we’re just trying to figure out who the characters are than worrying about how we cast at this point."

Kodjoe agreed with Reims but also wanted to offer his two cents worth. "I think it’s important to recognize the fact that it is somewhat...I don’t know if you want to call it revolutionary, but it’s not the norm," he said. "Although it be the norm, because that’s what the world looks like. The world is diverse, and we come in all kinds of different shapes, sizes, and shades, but as you mentioned correctly, traditionally in TV it been the case, and therefore it needs to be commented on. So I want to make a point that it is important that we get a chance to, I don’t know, be trailblazers or door openers or whatever you want to call it. On the other hand, let’s keep in mind or let’s inspire people to regard it as normal, so that more and more people don’t consider it taking a chance but just being creative. And at the end of the day, that’s what we all try to be. Even though it’s a corporate industry and even though it’s show business, to have that freedom is something that we aspire to. So Josh and J.J. have, I think, led the way, and hopefully the world will open up to it."

As far as what we can expect from the series itself...since, really, isn't that more important?...Reims said that we can expect the proceedings to be far easier to follow that Abrams' spy series, with episodes that are more self-contained.

"The idea is, certainly, that every week you will have a case come to a conclusion," said Reims. "That’s happening no matter what. As far as over-reaching stuff, you know, they are married, they do have their own business, there will be certain secrets that will be coming out that will be hinted at, so there will be some stuff that is carried throughout the season. Some of it will not be revealed until much later. Some of it will be revealed earlier. The great thing about the concept of the relationship is that they didn’t tell each other anything about their pasts. So they can find out stuff about each other the same way the audience can find out stuff about them because they don’t know anything from the past five years, you know, before that. So we will be laying certain things in there that will then play out, but there is no big, over-riding arc, though there will certainly be twinges here and there of stuff."

The last time we saw Jeff Gaspin, Chairman of NBC Universal Television Entertainment, and Angela Bromstad, NBC's President of Prime-Time Entertainment, it was in the midst of the great "Tonight Show" wars, so you can imagine that the duo were breathing a little easier this time around, if only because there wasn't such a pressing agenda on the table. They still had plenty of new information to impart, however, and here are the highlights:

* There will be plenty of special premieres this season. First, "Parenthood" will be returning on Sept. 14, placed behind the next-to-last episode of "America's Got Talent" in order to give it the greatest possible chance for strong ratings; similarly, after the "America's Got Talent" season finale on the 21st, "Outlaw" will get a sneak-preview airing. Then, on the 23rd, "The Apprentice" - now with 100% less celebrities! - will have a two-hour premiere from 9:00 - 10:00 PM before settling into its regular 10 PM timeslot. Lastly, "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" will also kick off on Sept. 22 with a two-hour premiere, s 9 PM slot the following week.

* "30 Rock" will be doing a live episode on Oct. 14, not from their usual set but, rather, from the famed Studio 8H, home to "Saturday Night Live."

* "Law & Order: Los Angeles" has added Terrence Howard and Alfred Molina to the cast as district attorneys. Molina's character is Deputy District Attorney Morales, the name of Howard's character has yet to be revealed, but the actors will be alternating episodes.

* Rob Lowe's status on "Parks and Recreation" - he plays state auditor Chris Traeger - has been upped from guest star to series regular. Series co-creator / executive producer Mike Schur said in a statement, "I am beyond thrilled that Rob will be joining the cast for more episodes. I have truly come to value his fashion sense, grooming habits, and workout tips. Also, he is hilarious and adds a wonderful dimension to the cast. But, really, it's the workout tips."

* On the guest-star front, Drew Carey will be appearing on "Community," Kathy Bates is returning to "The Office," and "Law & Order: SVU" is providing roles to Henry Ian Cusick, Joan Cusack, and Maria Bello,

* Speaking of "The Office," Bromstadt said of Steve Carell's impending departure that "Greg Daniels and Paul Lieberstein do have a plan in terms of who’s going to replace Michael, and so there will be a lot of storylines leading up to that, and there will be some mystery as to who that will be."

* When asked about the differences between "Heroes" and NBC's upcoming midseason superhero series, "The Cape," Bromstad was predictably diplomatic on the subject of the lessons she may have learned from the network's experience with the former. "I think that 'Heroes' was a great show, we had four tremendous years with that, and it was a very good business for us," she said. "So if we could replicate that, we absolutely would. 'Heroes' was so much about the discovery of their powers. This is really more of a procedural, and this character in 'The Cape' doesn’t have super powers. He’s trained in a way that he just is able to manipulate things, but he doesn’t actually have super powers the way that the 'Heroes' characters did."

* Other midseason series include "Love Bites," "Harry's Law" (the David Kelley series starring Kathy Bates), "The Paul Reiser Show," "Perfect Couples," and "Friends with Benefits."

* Peter Berg and his production team will be taking on the long-promised adaptation of the BBC series, "Prime Suspect." It’s being written by Alex Cunningham, late of "Desperate Housewives" and “NYPD Blue.” According to Bromstad, there's a story outline which is planned as a two-hour pilot, and having heard that outline, the network is very excited about it.

Although Dick Wolf began his appearance at the TCA Press Tour by saying, "We are here today to talk about the future, and basically the past is the past," no one has ever accused TV critics of being able to take a hint, which is why the very first question unabashedly went against his explicit statement:

Even though I think most of us were resigned to its demise, you could nonetheless hear a slight rumbling in the crowd as Wolf replied, "I can confirm that it has moved into the history books." Damn. I'd really been hoping that someone might save the day.

Oh, well, at least we won't be without "Law & Order" series. In fact, technically, we'll still have the same number. Since nature abhors a vacuum, in addition to "SVU" and "Criminal Intent," we'll now have "Law & Order: Los Angeles," starring Skeet Ulrich, a man who, by his own admission, has seen almost no episodes of entry in the "Law & Order" franchise. (The only exceptions, apparently, were a few episodes of "Criminal Intent," and only then because it stars his friend Vincent D'Onofrio.)

"Basically," said Ulrich, "we had a meeting, we talked about what the show was going to be, and fortunately Dick felt like I fit into that mold. I’m just grateful to be here."

Ulrich admitted that, having only read one script thus far, he couldn't really offer up much about his character, but he gave us as much as he could. "He’s a second-generation LAPD," said Ulrich. "I imagine there’s a lot to come, obviously, in terms of the character development, but he’s sort of a brass-tacks kind of guy. I mean, he’s to the point. I think one of the descriptions given is whereas it takes (Corey Stoll) many, many words to say something, I can sum it up rather quickly. So he’s pretty much an all-business kind of guy in terms of what he sees in his time at work."

Stoll knows even less about his character, but, like Ulrich, he did the best he could to tell us about him. "I think our characters really play off each other in a great way," he said. "I’m a second-generation American, and my father was a DP, and so I come from the entertainment industry. And there’s just sort of a skepticism and a street smartness within the entertainment industry that I think I bring."

"I’ve never played a cop," admitted Ulrich, "and as I’ve started to delve into this lifestyle — I have friends who are on LAPD and are on the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department and stuff - and it’s fascinating. I can tell you, living here, I’m extremely grateful for these guys, having gone on a homicide scene recently and seeing what they do. And we are very fortunate to have the police department we have here. And I hope to live up to what it is they do on a daily basis because it is honorable to the nth degree."

Rene Balcer balked at the suggestion that Los Angeles, in addition to having been done to death on cop shows over the years, simply isn't nearly as interesting a setting as New York. "As far as divide between rich and poor, I don’t think you get any more dramatic a divide between East L.A. and West L.A.," said Balcer. "The essential difference between New York and L.A. is New York is a big stew of people. It really is the melting pot. And it’s also been the site of innumerable TV shows, like 'The Naked City.' So I could argue that New York has been mined as much as L.A. has. L.A. is a mosaic of communities, and I think that’s going to be part of the fun of these shows is each episode can focus on a separate community, a separate piece of that mosaic. And though New York has Central Park, we have the beach, which is the great equalizer. It’s where everybody goes to. We even have an episode about surfers and the beach and how that played a part in the mythos of Los Angeles. So I think there’s all kinds of territory that has not been mined by a lot of shows. We have an episode on an oil rig, for example. So, you know, a lot of things, we can do here that have not been done by other shows."

"One other thing to put to that is that, overall, the shows that have been in L.A., most of them show you one facet," said executive producer Blake Masters. "More often than not, if they’re a cop show, they’re in one specific area of L.A.: 'The Shield,' 'Southland,' etc. The beauty of our HD is they cover all of L.A. County so that we can go and show very specific areas, and we only have to be there for one episode. We can go to Koreatown for an episode. We can go to East L.A. for an episode. Then we can go to the beach for an episode. So the idea is you’ll actually get a much wider variety of socioeconomic places."

I'm always embarrassed to go into a panel without having seen the show that it's dedicated to, but in my defense, it's not like we were provided with an advance screener. Our only option to watch the pilot was on the Beverly Hilton's TCA channels, but although the networks kindly provide us with the opportunity to watch their shows' pilots, they only show them late at night and early in the morning, and...well, I tend to be asleep at both those points, frankly.

Here, however, is what they have to say about "Facing Kate" on the USA Network's website:

Executive producer Michael Sardo went into a little more detail on Kate's profession, for those of us who aren't legal scholars.

"A mediator can be someone who’s just trained to resolve conflicts, or lawyers can resign from the bar, which is what Kate has done, to become a full-time mediator," he explained. "In mediation, you basically bring people into a room who are in a conflict, and you resolve it according to the way that they want to resolve it. Mediation is exploding in this country. It’s exploding all over the world. In China last year there were 7 million mediations. In Florida, you can’t get divorced in a court until you’ve gone through a mediation. And what it requires is simply sitting down face-to-face with the person you’re having a conflict with and talking it out. In courts, on a regular law show, you have all this artifice around, and you have someone speaking for you and speaking instead of you, whereas we just get right to the heart of it and do our little anti-law law show where you put two people in a room in conflict, send in Kate, and things happen."

Shahi was cast for the role of Kate because, unlike those who auditioned before her, she impressed Sardo with the way she reacted to a moment within her scene: she's waiting in line for coffee, a guy comes in to rob the store and pulls out a gun, and another guy pulls out a bat.

"The reason we cast Sarah, in addition to her loveliness and her acting ability, is that we had looked at 100 women, and in that scene, whenever someone pulled out a gun...and there was no gun, it was just someone saying, 'Give me the money'...100 people backed up, and Sarah was the only one who moved toward it and went, 'Whoa, whoa, whoa!'" said Sardo. "Because you can’t solve conflicts from a distance...and in life, I think (Sarah is) a little bit of a conflict divining rod. Kate is someone who’s very comfortable with conflict and moves toward it and solves it, and if she walks into a room where there is none, she stirs some up."

"Except in her own life," added Shahi. "She doesn’t have as much gumption in her own life as she does in the work force to confront some of her own issues."

As far as what we can expect from the series, Sardo says that cases will come to Kate in different ways.

"Each one, in the writers’ room, we discuss in terms of a question," he said. "'What is your identity?' 'What is a life worth?' 'What is a hero?' The episode after the pilot involves Kate negotiating a settlement between the City of San Francisco and the lawyer for a man who was wrongly imprisoned for 22 years for a crime he didn’t commit, and though initially it’s about the settlement, what it becomes for Kate is about healing this man who hasn’t dealt with this 22-year lapse who wants to go right back to where he was when he was 19. The show we just shot is 'Who is a hero?' and 'What is a hero?' and involves a woman who served two tours of duty in Afghanistan, but not until high school did she find out that she wasn’t a legal citizen of the United States. So she bought a Social Security number from a woman she believed to be dead and served two tours in Afghanistan as a hero, and it wasn’t until she came back to the States and tried to get a credit card that she found out the woman was alive. That gets reported to immigration, and Kate, in trying to clear up the credit problem, winds up with a woman in jail in immigration who’s going to be there for nine months and sent back to a country where the language spoken is not one she’s ever spoken because her parents raised her to be the all-American girl. So each one deals with a fundamental precept of the human behavior."

I'm not a news junkie, so the name "Lawrence O'Donnell" doesn't mean anything to me personally, but if you're a regular MSNBC viewer, you almost certainly know him, since - as Phil Griffin, President of MSNBC, noted in his opening remarks - he's been with the network since the very beginning.

"We debuted July 15th, 1996," said Griffin, "and Lawrence was the first guest in the first hour, at 9 AM. Now, here we are 14 years later, and he has a show at 10 PM."

"Yeah, I’ve said it before: I’ve been working part-time there for 14 years, and we’ve finally gotten to know each other well enough for me to go full-time," said O'Donnell, laughing.

As for the title of the show, it came to him on a flight. "I just started thinking about, 'What should I call this thing?' And I started thinking about, 'Well, it’s going to be the last word of the day,' and I realized there was a title in the concept that I started thinking about, which is the last word. For people who have been following what’s been going on from 'Morning Joe' maybe through the day through our primetime schedule, at 10 o’clock we’ll be able to deliver a succinct and real last word on that subject or where a particular news story stands at the close of our news cycle. And I think what we’ll also have in the show is my last word on certain things: 'This is what I think you need to know about this. This is what it comes down to.'

"There will be nights when I’m handing the last word on a subject to a guest, and it could be someone who I agree with. That will be very likely. It could also be someone who I’m not sure of or who I might not agree with. It’s conceivable to me, for example, that somewhere in the hundred days of the BP coverage, I might have given the last word to a BP executive on whatever their tactic was on that particular day that they thought was going to be the new advance on how to solve this problem. That doesn’t mean that what that person is saying is the final truth on something, but it might be the most important point to know as of this point in the development of a story.

"I’m at the beginning...or maybe it’s the middle...of the creative process of coming up with this show," O'Donnell said. "It’s an interesting experience for me since I’ve only done this on the entertainment side and the drama side, creating television. And I’m finding that...at first I thought there were no translatable skills from that side of the TV box to this side, but it’s been a great few weeks now sitting around with Phil and others, trying to figure out how to deliver what it is I think we want to get delivered at 10 o’clock. And so we’re in the middle of that. I think some of the questions you might have about what this show is going to be like...? The truth is I don’t know yet. Some of it I do. Some of it is in my head in a way that I can’t really articulate. But it will be broadcast quality by September 27th."

Most controversial series of the new season? Possibly, though having seen the pilot for "Outsourced," it strikes me as little more than a tempest in a teacup. Not being in any way Indian, perhaps my perception of what is or isn't offensive to Indians shouldn't be considered the definitive barometer of good taste, but I just saw the show as a culture-clash comedy which is more about poking fun at clueless Americans. Again, though, that's me, ever a possible poster boy for Very White Americans everywhere.

"I think where we approach this is certainly not a mean-spirited place," said executive producer Robert Borden. "A lot of us have a life experience that’s relevant, and a third of the writing staff is Indian, so we’re not going to be wallowing in (Indian stereotypes), but we going to have a lot of fun with characters who behave like relatable characters in a workplace comedy. For example, Parvesh, his character is modeled after that guy that everyone works with that will not stop talking to you. If you talk to them in the break room, they’re going to follow you out and talk to you on the floor, so you can’t get rid of the person. That’s neither American nor Indian. That’s how we’re approaching the show.

"We’re going to deal with culture clashes," Borden continued, "and both sides of view will be represented. For example, down the road we’re going to have one character, Asha, starting an arranged marriage, something that the Western characters perhaps don’t understand and disagree with. And she’s going to represent her point of view by questioning Western marriages. 'You know, 50 percent of your marriages end in divorce,' and our character here, at a loss for words, will say, 'Well, we crushed you in the Olympics.' Like, he has no response for that. So we’re going to be dealing with cultural clashes in that way."

Diedrich Bader is particularly excited about his character, Charlie, one of the resident Americans on the show, because it gives him a chance to be the guy who says what everybody else is thinking.

"It’s not exclusively American," said Bader. "You know, like a Frenchman will want to go and hang out in the French community when they go to, say, Germany or something like that. I remember when I was a kid in France, there’d be a Mickey D’s there, and I would think, 'Why would an American come all the way here and go to Mickey D’s?' Well, a guy like Charlie would be that guy. He would be that guy that would be at McDonald’s going, 'I just want what I want. Give it to me. I want it hot.' He just tries to replicate his world wherever he goes, and for him, it’s really just a job, but it’s not without interest, you know. But the interest is mostly that he gets paid."

For what it's worth, the Indians amongst the cast don't seem to be terribly offended by the show. Yeah, I know, they're getting paid, so there's an to not be offended...but, dammit, for some reason, I believe them.

"I think a lot of people are commenting on the East, the Indian side," said cast member Sacha Dawan. "I think with 'Outsourced' it’s very much about the West as it is the East. I think people assume that the gap between the East and West is so huge. I think what 'Outsourced' is doing is kind of making that gap very small and making loads of comparisons and similarities. Like my character, Manmeet, or 'Man Meat,' is, you know, very close to Todd. You know, they’re kind of roughly the same age, and they have a lot in common even though they’re from different sides of the world."

"I’m Indian, or that’s what my parents told me," said Rizwan Manji, "and my friends and family, they’ve seen the trailer, some of them have seen the show, and surprisingly, they are very supportive and find it hilarious and quite accurate."

"Also, a call-center job back in India is a really, highly prestigious job," said Parvesh Cheena. "My mom was back in India when I found out, just visiting, and I called right before I got on the plane, and the whole family at the wedding just freaked out and erupted, and they’re excited."

"I think all my family and friends are just really excited to see such a large Indian contingent on television," said Anisha Nagarajan. "They’re just really excited that that’s happening and that we’re getting out there."

"Outlaw" may be the fastest moving and most preposterously plotted drama of the new season, with Jimmy Smiths playing a conservative Supreme Court Justice who decides to throw caution to the wind and quit the Court in favor of traveling the country trying cases, some of which go against everything he's ever believed in his legal career. So why is it that I walked away from it, thinking, "Ah, maybe I'll give it a chance, anyway"?

Behold the power of Jimmy Smits.

"One of the joys about doing this show with Jimmy in the part is that he has a body of work that I think the public feels is virtuous and liberal," said executive producer John Eisendrath, "and he’s going to play a character filled with vices who is conservative, so I feel like we will have a great deal of leeway to lean into the vices, to let Garza do and say things and be certain ways that we might not otherwise be able to do without someone with Jimmy’s persona playing Garza. I think that there will be many instances where he will play with fire, and he will risk a great deal in order to seek the justice that he’s set out to do. And I wouldn’t suggest that it’s just in his professional life that he’s going to toe that line. I think there will be many instances in his personal life too where he will do things that the audience will be like, 'Oh, wait, he can’t do that. Oh, but I love Jimmy Smits. He’s got to be doing it in a way that we like.' So I think that we will have him pay a price sometimes, but I think part of the joy will be to see him toe that line and find a way around the barriers that other lawyers and other judges live by. The whole point is that he’s going to not stop at the line that everyone else stops at in his quest for justice. He’s going to find a way around the barriers."

There's another thing that's kind of ridiculous about this show, and that's that the character of Garza is about 100x more in-your-face than any Supreme Court Justice we've seen in many moons: he's a gambler, he employs a sexy private investigator who wears leather and flirts up a storm whenever an opportunity to do so presents itself...in short, he couldn't be less private if he tried.

"I would say that the point-of-view character on this show is unlike any point-of-view character on another legal show you’ll ever see," said Eisendrath. "It is about, yes, a Supreme Court Justice. None of them ever leave that way, so is it a heightened reality? I would say that it is in some ways a little bit of a fantasy. Every week they are going to go to a different city, taking up a different cause. One week it will be Detroit, Miami, Los Angeles. And wherever the case is that Garza thinks needs the most attention, looking out for the little guy, fighting against the system, this group will parachute in. Wouldn’t you want this lawyer and this legal team to come to your city to represent you in the case that matters the most to you? "

"There’s a certain amount of license," admitted executive producer David Kissinger. "But, you know, the reality is there were colorful Supreme Court Justices. I’d say the current group is probably, given the process that they have to go through, a little bit tamer. But people like William O. Douglas, who we talked a lot about in the development of this, had some very Garza-like qualities. So it’s not as far-fetched as I think you’re suggesting."

"For me, the bottom line is what’s on the page," said Smits, "and I think it was an opportunity to deal with legal matters and hot-button issues that are substantive in terms of a legal show but, at the same time, have a character that is outside the box in a lot of different ways. And since we’re at a point where we’re logger-jammed in terms of the political right and left, the fact that, because of what happens to him in the pilot, has made such a radical switch and then surrounds himself with a team of people that have different types of political viewpoints, it does give an opportunity for us to tackle these hot-button issues in a new and kind of fresh way."

I hate to break it you folks, but I found this to be the least interesting pilot amongst NBC's crop of new series for the fall. Sure, it's full of action, but by the time the closing credits rolled, I couldn't tell you a single thing about a single character...and it's an ensemble show! Some of my fellow critics have shrugged and said, "Well, that's what you expect from a Jerry Bruckheimer produced series," but, look, I most of Bruckheimer's productions and I think this is a big ol' bore...and the fact that NBC could only spare 20 minutes for the panel for "Chase" made me suspect that perhaps the network felt the same way.

Apparently not, though...or, at least, that's what executive producer Jennifer Johnson thinks. "NBC has been so incredibly supportive," she said. "I believe them when they tell us that it’s their favorite show. We are to be with NBC."

Maybe NBC feel that way. After listening to "Chase" star Kelli Giddish talk about the series, I'm beginning to think I might've missed something. I mean, I'm pretty sure I didn't, but, damn, she's just so ...

If Giddish looks familiar to you, then you must've been one of the few people who saw her as the star of Fox's short-lived midseason series "Past Life." Obviously, she managed to land on her feet, but if you go back and check the dates between when "Past Life" was canceled and when she was picked up for "Chase," you'll see that she barely left the ground in the first place.

"I think Fox had made the call after a couple of episodes it aired, and thank goodness they did and let me go, and Warner Bros. as well, because they're the studio that did the show. They let me come over here, and I got it," said Giddish.

Giddish launched into her new endeavor with all due enthusiasm, proving from the moment she stepped foot on the set that she was ready for anything. "It’s called 'Chase,' baby," she said, laughing. "I show up on set the first day of filming, and they say 'All right. You signed on. Go.' So I did, and I was sprinting the entire first day."

Prior to moving to Texas to film "Chase," Giddish was in decent enough shape, but there's more to playing a U.S. Marshal than just being fit. "I went down to train with the U.S. Marshals because...I mean, I’m from Georgia, I’ve been around guns, but, you know, I hadn’t gone and actually trained," she said. "I got to do five days with them, riding around for 15-hour days, hearing the stories, serving warrants, and going out and really getting with the guys. A whole day of firearm training with five different types of firearms. It was absolutely awesome."

That's as may be, but I'm still not convinced that "Chase" is absolutely awesome. Still, Johnson's assurances about what we can expect from the series good, anyway.

"We hope to keep the audience on their toes with very unexpected moments with the fugitives," said Johnson. "With my background on “Lost” and “Cold Case,” a big difference of this show is we are really going to get to know the fugitives and then really get to know our U.S. Marshals, so the two points of view really make the show stand out."

We'll see about that.

I won't be spending long on this show...not because it doesn't sound interesting, but because it serves to remind me of how, when Sci-Fi changed their name to SyFy, they did so with the comment that they could therefore open up their programming and not limit it solely to science-fiction-related series. That really pissed me off. I mean, what, like there's not enough room on the cable dial for a network that's 100% science fiction...? Instead, they've taken to putting shows like this on their schedule...which, annoyingly, I would probably watch if it was on another network. I just don't want to encourage SyFy.

Still, you deserve the right to watch it if you so desire, so here's the deal with "Hunting Hollywood." Treasure hunter Joe Maddalena tracks down some of the most sought-after showbiz and pop-culture memorabilia, ranging anywhere from Margaret Hamilton's original Wicked Witch of the West hat from "The Wizard of Oz" to Mary Poppins' carpet bag to original art from issue #12 of "The Fantastic Four" (first crossover with the Incredible Hulk), featuring Stan Lee's original notes in the margins.

See what I mean? It's an awesome concept...dammit.

Executive producer Jerry Shevick swears that SyFy was always his first choice for the show. "We had several offers for the show," he said, "but we thought Syfy was perfect for us for two simple reasons. One, obviously, all the sci-fi, fantasy, horror stuff — that’s a big portion of Joe’s business in the memorabilia and collectible market, so, you know, we had a good overlap on Syfy’s core audience. The second big reason is...what we liked a great deal is with Syfy’s expanded branding now with 'Imagine Greater' and everything, all of these kinds of objects that Joe and his team are going to be tracking down really are so much more relatable to a broader audience, and so again, we thought that with where they’re going, it fit our show just perfectly. We really have the best of both worlds."

Make no mistake: Maddalena's got some terrific tales to tell, including one about a client who found an original poster for "Frankenstein" - valued at a million dollars, the most expensive movie poster in the world - in a trunk at a yard sale...and they'd gotten the trunk for free! Great story. I just wish "Hunting Hollywood" was airing somewhere else, so that I'd have more of a desire to watch it.

I have to admit that I don't regularly watch the show, but I do at least know that it's at least an appropriate show for the network, so it gets a pass. (I know, I'm sounding ridiculously hard-ass about this. But I feel very strongly about it.)

According to host / executive producer Josh Gates, "New episodes come back on September 9th, and we’re going to be in the Pacific and Micronesia, the world’s very first overnight at Angkor Wat in Cambodia. They’ve never allowed cameras in there before. So we’re really excited about that. Our season premiere is going to be in Pompeii in Italy which is a really terrific episode, and then a bunch of stuff in various countries in Africa. So it’s a big season."

Cue Will's inevitable comment about not being a huge fan of reality shows, but even if I probably won't watch this one, it certainly has its heart in the right place. From executive producers Cheryl Hines and Denise Cramsey, “School Pride” is described by NBC as "a pro-active, alternative series that tells the stories of communities coming together to renovate their aging and broken public schools."

Hines got involved in the series as a result of her daughter...sort of. "Don’t ask me why, but I was inspired to reach out to schools," she said, "and my first thought was to reach out to schools in other countries that were in need. And my friend said, 'Well, what about our country? What about our schools?' And I foolishly said, 'Oh, I think we’re OK.' And he said, 'No, we’re not OK.' And at the time, I was volunteering with Read Across America, a reading program. And I was volunteering at this school in Compton. And I literally just picked up the phone and cold-called the principal there, a woman named Dr. Jackie Sanderlin. I said, 'I don’t even know why I’m calling. Do you guys need help there?' And she said, 'Yes, we do. When can you be here?' And I got in my car; I drove over. And Jackie and I started working together. We started renovating her school. And my friend said, 'This should be a TV show. You should show the country what you’re doing and how to do it.' And I said, 'That sounds really hard.' And then Denise Cramsey and I met, and she made it seem easy. It’s not easy, but she makes it seem easy."

"The whole idea of 'School Pride' is to bring the community together, to empower the community to make changes in the school," she said. "We’re not going in and changing the infrastructure of schools. We’re going in and saying to that school, 'Reach out to your community, to local businesses. Everybody join together with the district. Work together and show the kids that you care about their school.'”

"And we’ve had great cooperation from the cities and the towns that we’ve been in," said Cramsey, "so that, you know, everyone gets behind the idea of the school project, and they just help us get it done."

"When people in their own community get together and say, 'Regardless of what what’s going on in the world, we’re going take care of our community and we’re going to take care of the people around us,' I think you can make changes because it doesn’t seem like we have to change the world," said Hines. "It seems like we just have to take care of our community and each other. And I think when you break it down...you know, I was calling one other person. I wasn’t going to Capitol Hill and banging down their door, not to say that I wouldn’t do that because it’s probably in my future, but...what you can say is, 'What can I, as an individual, do to make one tiny bit of difference?' And you find out, actually, you can do a lot. And even if it’s just on one Saturday out of the year, it could really mean a lot to those 600 kids that walk through the door of that school. It doesn’t feel so overwhelming, and it feels doable. That’s what we’re trying to do with 'School Pride.' We’re trying to show people what can do."

The last time we saw Jimmy Fallon at a TCA event, he was just preparing to start his talk show and seemed more than a little bit nervous at the prospect of stepping into Conan O'Brien's shoes as the host of NBC's "Late Night." These days, he's had enough to success to earn himself a pretty high profile side gig, too: serving as emcee for the 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards. But don't expect to see too much crossover between the two shows.

"The Emmys, I think, is not 'Late Night with Jimmy Fallon' hosting," said Fallon. "It’s hosting. So I don’t want to push too hard. I want the Academy to be happy, and I want Don Mischer to be happy, and I want NBC to be happy. You know, it’s not really about me. It’s more about celebrating television and getting all of those face time."

Fallon took a few minutes to step into the Wayback Machine and reminisce about his very first show, which featured an interview which he's able to admit wasn't exactly the best of all possible starts.

"First of all, I just want to say how cool Robert De Niro was to come on the show," began Fallon. "He had nothing to promote. He just did it because he’s a New Yorker and I’ve worked in the past and he did me a favor. That being said, he does like to talk. It’s a lot of head-bobbing and one-word answers. But I figured, 'Baptism by fire. Jump into the fire, baby, let’s see what it’s going to be.' And there’s so many things that I wish I could have done. I wish I could have made the temperature cooler, because I was sweating so much flop sweat during that first show. It was like I just came off a water slide. Oh, my God, I was so dewy during that interview. And I was like, 'Whaaaaaaa...' And, of course, it’s your first show, which...I don’t know why anyone does this, but my mom and dad want to come to the first show. And I go, 'Can’t you come to the tenth show? Can’t you come to anything, but not the first.' There’s so much pressure, you know. And I’m worried about if my mom. Is she going to sit in her seat? What if she has to go to the bathroom? Who’s going to take her? I got to worry about these things. I gotta worry about the show!

"I just remember going, like, 'Well, now, this is it.' I was behind the curtain, you know, just standing there. Higgins was announcing. If you go back and listen to it...oh, my God, Higgins is even off. He’s, like, 'Live from Studio from 6H…NBC…Jimmy...' It’s like the worst intro ever. And I was just standing, like, all right. And it’s almost like when the curtain opens, like you’ve seen that shot in movies before where, like, the curtain opens and you just see the silhouette of the comedian walking out like a gladiator. And I was, like, 'It’s on. This is it.' It’s, like. game on. And I think I had a good first joke. I forget what it was. I think someone was...was Rush Limbaugh rooting for me to fail? I think that was the first joke, I think. He just said it about Obama. It's a dated reference now. But I remember going out there, and I go, like, 'This is just it. You just have to do it.' And I was so nervous about time cues and going out to commercial and, like, OK and just the story’s getting good, I cut him off and go like, 'Thank you. We’ll be right back, bye. Thank you, bye.' And it’s like...now, a year later, I know to just keep going, or if it’s not working, to go to commercial. I’m much more calm, and I kind of understand it better now. It’s, like, 'Oh, we don’t have anything to worry about.' But the best way to learn is that you have to just do it."

Okay, back to the Emmys to bring this thing home. What we expect from Fallon as the host of the show?

"Personally, as a fan of the Emmys and a fan of awards shows in general, you just want them to move along," said Fallon. "You just want to keep them moving and keep it fast and tight. And so I think...I mean, we’re all with the same goal in mind. I mean, even the people in the crowd. I mean, there’s just like, 'OK. I already lost. Let’s get this over with. I mean, I want to keep it moving and keep it fresh and fun and respectful, too. We’re going to do something with Twitter. We haven’t figured that out yet, but we have a couple of ideas for that just so maybe the people at home can somehow get involved with the award show somehow, make it a little bit interactive."

TCA Press Tour, Summer 2010: Day 3

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 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.” : 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.

: 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.

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

: “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.’"

: Janeane Garofalo has been added to the cast.

: 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...

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.

Jim Parsons commented on his occasional difficulties in mastering the slight variations of his famous knock (which, for the record, was the idea of executive producer Lee Aronsohn), admitting, “It’s easy to get tripped up, and I have to do it a few times to figure out, ‘Well, where the hell is the rhythm of this new one?’”

Parsons and his co-stars also regaled the crowd with the story of filming the scene with Sheldon diving around in the ball pit.

“That was a blast,” said Parsons.

“Once they cleaned the balls, it was fun,” said Galecki. “They were filthy.”

“Every single one of those balls was Purell’d,” said Helberg.

“(Jim) came in from rehearsal from that,” said Cuoco, “and he’s looking at me, and I’m, like, ‘Have you showered today?’ It was like a film of black across his face.”

“It was awful,” admitted Parsons.

“Dirty balls,” Cuoco sighed.

“I washed my hands, and the sink was black water,” said Parsons. “Then I wiped my clean hands on a towel, and it would be damp, and I brushed it over my face, and there would be this swath of pink and gray.”

“And we had disinfectant spray for one another,” said Galecki.

“It was good for my hair, though,” said Parsons. “I realized that I need a drier product. I don't need to use a gel or something.”

“Ball pits are kind of on the way out,” explained Prady. “They don't really make them anymore. And we're looking at the set, and we kept saying, ‘More balls!’ They said, ‘This is all the balls in Southern California!’”

“I think we emptied every bin at every Chuck E. Cheese’s in Los Angeles,” said Lorre.

Possible guest star in the new season: Steve Wozniak. Definite guest star in the new season: Mayim Bialik.

When asked point blank if Sheldon would “finally get it on this season,” Parsons’ first reaction was to scoff and say, “Oh, come on.” Pressed to consider the possibility that he might get close, he admitted that he didn’t know but added, “I wouldn’t hold it past anybody at this point. I think I might’ve said ‘no’ for sure six months ago, but now…? I never thought we’d even stumble upon a female that communicated with, but we did that.”

“He’ll have a very specific relationship with Mayim Bialik,” said Lorre. “A unique relationship.”

Lorre’s dream guest star: Neil Gaiman.

“Neil deGrasse Tyson is a big fan, and he passed along a comment that he got on the Hayden Planetarium website, which was a suggestion as to how he might appear on the show,” said Prady. “He’s famous as the fellow who demoted Pluto from planet status…and, actually, that does sound kind of fun. There are some other things we want to do, but we're just, at this point, talking to people, and it's a matter of scheduling, so it's a little too soon to talk about.”

Galecki and Cuoco are in agreement that the time was right for Leonard and Penny to break up.

“I thought it said natural to where they’re at in their lives right now,” said Galecki. “They have a whole lot to learn in the ways of love.”

“I think it was super realistic, actually,” said Cuoco. “I mean, relationships are up and down, and people get together, and they break up, and they're not friends, and they're friends. I mean, you know, this stuff happens all the time. So I think it actually was perfect timing…and you never know what's going to happen with them.”

On a romance-related note, Melissa Rauch will be returning this season to reprise her role as Howard’s girlfriend, Bernadette.

Lorre admitted to being surprised when he got the news that the powers that be at CBS were moving the show to Thursday nights, but while not entirely thrilled with the move, he also doesn’t have a real problem with it, either.

“One assumes they've given it a lot of thought and that it's a good thing for the show,” said Lorre. “Given where we are now after three seasons, I'd be crazy to argue with the choices that CBS has made along the way because it's been…just look at this. This is wonderful. So if they think this is a good call, then that's great. Our job is to make a good show. It's not to program the show. You know, we grow the crops. We don't have the truck that brings it to market. With the time slot moved to 8:00 on Thursday night, it's almost like a re-launch of the show, establishing it. It feels like a do-over in a way, so we are really doing everything we can to make it everything we believe it should be.”

I don’t know if you’ve seen the previews for this new sitcom from the Chuck Lorre camp, but it’s about a man and a woman who cross paths at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting and fall for each other. Having seen the pilot, I’ll be the first to stand up and applaud the instant chemistry between the two leads, Melissa McCarthy and Billy Gardell, but, man, they’ve really got to cut back on the fat jokes. This should be a sitcom about a cute couple, with the weight class of the stars something that’s acknowledged but not constantly dwelled upon.

When someone suggested to Lorre that he might be tackling a politically incorrect subject with the series, he claimed otherwise.

“It’s about real people with real issues trying to have a relationship,” said Lorre. “Television would normally have cast Chris O'Donnell and Courteney Cox as the people who meet at Overeaters Anonymous, but in this case we had the courage and, I think, the wisdom to just cast people that are just…you know, they're trying to make their lives better and find someone that they can love and be loved by. It may be odd for television, but I hope it's reflective of some kind of reality that people will experience.”

“I think it's good just to have something a little more realistic so people aren't always, like, ‘Oh, I could never be that perfect,’” said McCarthy. “Guess what? No one is, except in this little set somewhere in Hollywood. I think anytime a show kind of bridges into the real world…I don't know, I think it just takes the pressure off some people, so maybe subconsciously it will make people take it a little easy on themselves.”

When asked if he was comfortable with his weight or if he felt he should lose a few pounds for health reasons, Gardell couldn’t resist first mentioning that he actually has a better cholesterol level than his wife, who’s smaller than he is.

“Of course, I think I'd like to lose some weight,” he said. “I mean, everybody'd like to be a little bit better than they are, you know, but everybody has a different tick, man. Mine just happens to be pizza.”

When there was a moment’s silence from the audience, Gardell said, “It's okay, you can laugh at that. I've got a mirror. Lighten up.”

Continuing, Gardell explained that wanting to lose weight doesn’t always make it easy to do so. “When you're not great at coping with all your emotions, sometimes you push 'em down with a piece of cake. That's just how it works. Some people do it with booze. Some people do it with gambling. Some people do it with other things, and that is a part of this. But make no mistake. This is a love story. And the great thing about this love story is, this is a show people can look at and go, ‘You know what? I'm like that,’ or ‘I look better than that,’ instead of looking at the show and going, ‘God, I'm never gonna look like that.’"

Gardell admitted that he's had his troubles getting good parts in Hollywood because of his weight. "I don't know how your experience has been," he said to McCarthy, "but when you're a fat guy in Hollywood, you're the bad guy, the cop, or the neighbor. That's what you're doing. 'Bring them to me!' 'You kids get out of here!' 'She's going to kill us both!' That's what you're doing. To be at this weight and this age in Hollywood and to be one of the leads of a show of this caliber, with this team...? I'm absolutely humbled. It's like I got the Willy Wonka ticket, you know? 'Run, Charlie! Run home as fast as you can!' That's how I feel. I can't wait to go to work. This is unbelievable, and...I think it has a lot to do with my age, too. I'm 40. You know, if I'd have got this at 20, I wouldn't have been able to handle this. I'm looking so forward to this. Man, I've been a road comic for 20 years. I'm not in a Holiday Inn this weekend. You understand? I'm ."

McCarthy agreed wholeheartedly with Gardell's sentiments. "I'm thrilled," she said. "I always think back to when I was 22 in New York, and I was somewhere between a size four and a size six, and she said, 'First of all, you're never going to work at that weight.' I wish I remembered the agent's name. I would love to call her in her studio right now and tell her, 'Oh, ?' I just feel like I got hit with the lucky stick."

Fair warning: I'm not going to spend a heck of a lot of time discussing this new CBS daytime talk show. I'll admit that I'm intrigued by the blend of individuals they've selected to serve as the six (!) hosts of the show - Julie Chen, Leah Remini, Sara Gilbert, Sharon Osbourne, Holly Robinson Peete, and Marissa Jaret Winokur - but I can't tell you that it's something I'm chomping at the bit to watch, and I rather expect that the majority of Bullz-Eye's predominantly-male readership will probably feel the same way.

The idea for the series – all of the hosts are mothers – came from Gilbert, who does double duty as one of the show’s executive producers. “I was a new mom when I thought of it,” she explained. “I was feeling overwhelmed. Was I giving the baby enough? Was I giving my son enough attention? And literally, I started going to this mom group, and I thought, ‘Wow, people need this kind of support,’ and it was just sort of like a light bulb. I thought, ‘What if there were a show where a bunch of women sat together and talked about the world through that perspective?’”

So there you go. That's what the show is. I don't know that anything else really needs to be said.

Oh, okay, one more thing: the most entertaining part of the panel came when someone asked the ladies to reveal the most annoying pet peeve they have about their significant other, so I'll close by sharing their answers with you.

- "My husband is just a procrastinator. Basically, I'm the one who's, like, 'I want to buy the carpet. Let's buy the carpet,' and he'd rather sit around and go through 20 different stores and find the perfect carpet."

- "He's a really bad snorer. I mean, he just got really bad. I tried to put on one of those Breathe Right strips in his sleep. He doesn't want to wear them. So picture me sort of straddled over him trying to press it down. And I ran out of his size, so I had to go to the kids and get the small size. I put one on each nostril, and it just didn't work. You know, that's something that we would be talking about if we were on the air this morning and the New York Times had a story about one in four couples are sleeping in separate bedrooms, and I'm not lying. Last night, I was thinking about, you know, it might be time. 15 years, I love the man, but we are on different schedules. I had to get up early this morning. He's snoring. It doesn't work for me. I think it's by year 2015 the New York Times said something about 60 percent of houses are going to have double masters. I'm okay with this."

- "There is nothing. He's perfect. Let me tell you something: he doesn't even know I am doing this show. I am here today, and he thinks I've gone to 'America's Got Talent.' He has no idea. He gives me all the freedom in the world that I want. He's just a perfect partner for me. He does his thing. I do mine. We have the best family. We adore each other. You know, yeah, my husband snores. He farts. He pisses on the seat. On the toilet seat, that is. But, hey, that's life. That's what we all do. It doesn't annoy me. It would annoy me if he was sleeping with a room full of women. That would annoy me. But if he throws food on the floor and he's messy, it doesn't bother me. So he's perfect."

- "Ali is much taller than I am. So if we get dressed, I just think that clothes always look better on her, and I think that that can be kind of annoying."

- "When I got married, I said to my husband, 'One of the reasons that I know this is going to work is because you're the first person in my life who doesn't annoy me,' and when someone gets on my nerves, there's very little turning back, if at all. But...my baby is ten months old, and my husband works very hard. Quite often he leaves in the morning when the baby is just waking up or is still sleeping, so he doesn't have a lot of time to bond with the baby. We put the baby down hopefully by 7:00, and he doesn't always make it home by 7:00, but when he does make it home, it doesn't matter if we just put him down, he wants to go look at the baby. And to make sure that everything is okay, I'll go with him, and if we can see him breathing, I'm like, 'Okay, don't touch him.' And one day we went in...and he still does this now...and we could see the baby, he moved around, and he touched him. And I said, 'What are you doing?' And the baby woke up. I said, 'What are you touching him for?' He's like, 'That's how we connect.' I said, 'You're not connecting. You just woke him up. You pissed him off!' But he has this thing. Even though I made him promise me, 'If you see him breathing, don't touch him,' he still touches him!"

- "There's so many things, but for me the most annoying thing would be that for every holiday or every birthday, I go, 'What do you want?' 'Sex.' 'I have a headache.' 'What can I get you?' 'Sex.' It's like that's all that's on his mind. Everything that he does like on a daily basis that's sweet is to have sex. And I guess that's the most annoying thing to me. I guess I should be happy that my husband wants to have sex with me. But when you know that everything he does is because of that, you're like, 'Just stop. It's not going to happen tonight. Just be you.'"

Although "Hawaii Five-O" is a reboot of the classic CBS series that ran for 12 seasons, neither Alex O'Loughlin nor Scott Caan - who play Steve McGarrett and Danny "Danno" Williams, respectively - have gone out of their way to revisit the original in order to get inspiration on how to play their parts.

“I purposely didn't go back and look at too much of the old show,” said Caan. “I wanted to start fresh, and I didn't want to have any old ideas, so, no, I didn't do any of that.”

O’Loughlin remembers the old show from his childhood, but he’s extremely conscious of how far things have come since then.

“There's been a lot of changes in television and in the way we act stylistically and with technology and with what we can do with the money that we have with special effects and stunts and all the rest of it,” said O’Loughlin. “So it's not a remake. We're not kind of picking up where they left off. It's a reboot, and the characters are very different. My character, Steve McGarrett, in the old show, you didn't know much about the character that Jack Lord played, whereas in the pilot on our new show, you learn a lot about my Steve McGarrett. I didn't look to that to make decisions. I just did my character work based on the script that these guys wrote.”

As for the show's chances of success, it's clear that O'Loughlin is pretty well putting all of his remaining eggs in this basket.

"I don't want to take anything away from the other shows I've done," he said. "I've worked with some incredible people and some wonderful showrunners and...well, 'Moonlight,' I don't know if I ever met the showrunners. There were about 17 of them. But the other shows were great in their own ways. The thing is, there's a reason things either work or don't work in television, and I don't know what the answer is. I just sort of keep blundering along to the next thing and hoping. But the team behind this, the two men here who are at the helm of this show, Peter (Lenkov) and Alex (Kurtzman), and the writing staff that we have, everyone feels so capable. I read the pilot, I did the pilot, and I saw what they did with it, and...there's something special about it. So, I mean, if this one doesn't go, I'm completely bewildered. I have no idea how television works at all."

First of all, if you're old enough to remember the original "Defenders" series with E.G. Marshall and Robert Reed, I hate to disappoint you, but this "Defenders," while also about a pair of attorneys, is in no way connected to it. Then again, maybe it a disappointment. I guess it really all depends on how you feel about Jim Belushi and Jerry O'Connell.

As it happens, the show was originally going to be a reality series based on a pair of real-life Las Vegas attorneys, but although it eventually evolved into a dramatic series, Belushi and O'Connell still ended up meeting with their real-world counterparts, Michael Cristalli and Marc Saggese, in order to get some insight into their characters.

"They're great," said Belushi. "We hang out with these guys. They were on the set the whole time. We went to Piero's in Vegas and drank those big martinis. They can hold their liquor, these guys."

"They're fascinating," said O'Connell. "And from a professional standpoint, they represent a lot of people that I'm not even sure public defenders would represent."

"There was one case where a guy goes into a liquor store, holds up the liquor store, 'Give me all your money,'" said Belushi. "The guy gives him all the money, and the guy says, 'Now, give me that handle of vodka, that Johnnie Walker scotch, and that Jack Daniels.' And the guy said, "Oh, sir, I'm sorry. I can't give you the alcohol.' And he said, 'No, give me the alcohol. I want it.' He says, 'No, no. It's obvious you're underage.' And the guy goes, 'I am not underage.' 'No, sir, it's obvious. I'll get in a lot of trouble with the state. They'll lose their license here.' He goes, 'I am not underage!' And he pulls out his ID. I mean, they get some stupid people..."

Despite being set in Vegas, much of "The Defenders" is actually filmed in California...not that the show's stars are so terribly heartbroken about that.

"My relationship with Vegas has switched from being a person going to enjoy the weekend to an employee of Vegas: I have a band, and I do a lot of corporate work with my band in Vegas," said Belushi. "It changes the whole chemistry of the town. So what I do is I go there, and I perform with my band and have a nice dinner and play roulette for 20 minutes and go home. I'm kind of a boring guy."

"I used to go to Vegas with about 20 or 30 friends, and we'd share one hotel room," said O'Connell. "There would be 30 of us sharing two single beds. So that's how I remember Vegas, but now that I'm married, look, I go there with my wife. A lot of shopping is done. To be honest, my credit card maxed out the last time we went there. I had a call, and I'm glad it maxed out, because then the bleeding stopped at some point. But, really, for my wife and I, we left the kids with my parents when we worked up there for close to a week when we did 'The Defenders' thing. We saw shows. The dining is great. It's just a really fun grownup experience...and I don't have to share a room with 20 other male friends and get passed-out drunk."

Tom Selleck certainly hasn't been hurting for work over the past several years, what with the success of his "Jesse Stone" series of films for CBS, so it's a little surprising to see him make the decision to settle into a regular series role. Given that he's done so, however, it surprising to find that the resulting program - "Blue Bloods" - is a top-notch drama. Indeed, when asked what brought him back to series television, he admitted that there were two reasons: 1) the show was good, and 2) it was an ensemble piece that would require talented actors to fill the parts.

"Having done a lead, as I did in 'Magnum, PI,' I was in every shot," said Selleck. "And I wasn't complaining, but it's a tough road. And 'Magnum' was never canceled: I kind of left it after eight years because I was tired it, not tired

Donnie Wahlberg, who co-stars as Selleck's son in the series (it's about a family filled with cops and law-enforcement types), was also impressed by the ensemble nature of the show, particularly during the family-dinner scene in the pilot episode.

"A lot of people try procedural shows - there are many successful procedurals - and some people try character-driven shows," said Wahlberg. "And a lot of times when people try to do both, they don't really work because there's not a sort of a consistent element that ties the two together. I don't know if it was by design, but the dinner scene (in the pilot) almost serves as that. It's really a place where the work and the procedural stuff comes into the character stuff directly, and you see how everyone is connected. Tom plays the chief of police, and I play his son, who is a detective, and if I'm on a major case, he's going to deal with it. So all the characters ultimately are intertwined somehow, so it makes it much easier. If one was a baseball player and one was a fireman and one was a doctor, it would be probably difficult to follow all the storylines. But we all work in the same thing. We all work within the law to uphold the law."

By the way, if you're wondering, Selleck's role on "Blue Bloods" will not prevent him from making further "Jesse Stone" films...indeed, that was one thing he made sure to confirm before he ever took on the series...and if the reason you wondering is because you think those films are for old folks, well, Mr. Selleck would just like to point out that "Jesse Stone: No Remorse" is, as of this writing, #2 in video sales, behind only the "Clash of the Titans" remake.

"I don't see any conflicts in the two guys because they're so different," said Selleck, "but it's my job to make these two characters, I think, different enough where the audience enjoys both. I hope people want to keep watching him because I love playing that guy, enough to make sure I could do him if I took this role."

All hail the Shatman...if not necessarily his new series. Despite being based on a consistently hilarious Twitter feed by Justin Halpern, what we've seen of the show thus far - which is, to be fair, a pilot which has since had one of its characters recast and one of its major plotlines dropped - has in no way lived up to its source material. Still, it's William Shatner, so I'm still going to give it a chance and see if it manages to get any better.

In regards to the changes that are taking place with the series, executive producer David Kohan said, ""You know, it really came down to a question of...we feel like we have a great concept and a great brand and a great star, and we just wanted it to be perfect. It just came down to the question of, 'How do we make this as good as it can possibly be?' The character (of Henry) isn't going to be changing that much except inasmuch as that there this kind of alchemy that goes on. You cast an actor, and the role necessarily changes because the person inhabiting that character changes. And you end up writing to who that actor is to a certain degree, but the dynamic also changes."

"We're telling the same story, and all of the things that we thought were great about the pilot that we first shot will be in the second take," said executive producer Max Mutchnick. "The same team is in place. Jim Burrows will be directing. And we just kind of...we're streamlining the first paths of the pilot, and this love story that we had threaded into the first pilot, we've taken out because we saw that there was so much fun in just writing this buddy-buddy comedy. At least that's the way Henry sees it. So that's what we're going for."

For his part, Shatner seems beside himself with excitement about doing the show, even though he admits that he wasn't familiar with the Twitter feed that inspires it when he got the pitch. Instead, it was the creative team behind the series that caught his eye. " I was aware of the limitless talents that were attached to the whole thing, and the people that are connected with this show are the top-talented people in the business," he said. "I didn't want to do another series, but I wanted to be connected with these talented people."

Shatner was also intrigued by the opportunity to play a part that is - relatively speaking - somewhat low-key. "I'm trying to get another dynamic as an actor and make a character that comes from a different place," he said. "There's a stillness, and yet there's an anger, a passion, perhaps better than anger, that's inside that we don't yet know. We're all fumbling for what this character is because the character emerges out of the writer's imagination. Then I flesh that out, and exactly what the facets are will come about as we do it. And it won't become known to any of us until several shows go by as to what exactly it is."

In addition, Shatner admitted that he has been attempting to capture the warmth of Halpern's father that, while often sometimes hard to find in the Tweets, is evident when one reads the book based on Halpern's life and times with his father. "To sustain a character like that over weeks to make it palatable so people will watch and learn to love the character even through his idiosyncrasies, you've got to be careful that you are not overbearing, overwhelming people. And so I'm sure that was a writing choice, although we never discussed it as specifically as we are now. But it was certainly an acting choice, realizing this isn't just one moment. We are aiming at wanting all of you to listen in every week, to look in every week and see the evolution of this relationship between the sons and the father, and to condemn hardly all the time is unpalatable."

The best moment of the panel came when the topic of the show's title came into play. Mr. Shatner, it seems, is growing more than a little bit tired of the whole controversy.

"Do you know what I wish?" he asked. "I wish they would call it 'Shit.' What's wrong with 'Shit'? I've got grandchildren. I brought up three girls. They've all got kids. Okay? You say 'boopy doo-doo, you've got to make poo-poo. Come on, make poo-poo in the toilet.' Eventually, 'poo-poo' becomes 'shit.' 'Go take a shit, and you'll feel better.' You say that to your kids. The word 'shit' is around us. It isn't a terrible term. It's a natural function. Why are we pussyfooting?"

And that, my friends, is why William Shatner is a legend.

TCA Press Tour, Summer 2010: Day 1

A Chat with Adrian Hodges ("Survivors," "Primeval")

: Wow, look at your recorder. I used to do a bit of journalism when I first started out, but my tape recorder was… () That’s technology for you!

: Thank you! Cool!

: Yeah, I was, in that kind of general way we are when we’re kids and we watch TV. I was maybe 15 or 16, something like that, and I remember very clearly the impact of the first episode. If I’m honest, I’m hazy about some of the other, later episodes, but I do remember the extraordinary shock of the imagery of a husband dying, of things that were stand-out images in my head, and you carry that through the years. It was something I remembered very well, so it was really kind of great to be asked to have another look at it, you know?

: They did. What happened was that I’d done “Primeval,” as you know, and I was very actively looking for a genre show that I could do in a slightly…well, in Britain, it’s in a later timeslot. Something that was a bit more…I don’t want to say more adult, because I think that “Primeval” is adult, but not a family show in the same way. However you define “family.” () So “Survivors” was perfect. BBC had had this great success with reviving “Doctor Who,” so they were looking at some of their old shows and saying, “Well, that one wouldn’t work, but maybe this one would.” And “Survivors” was one they thought might work again, so they basically came to me and said, “What do you think?” And I thought it was great, not so much because of the set-up, not just because of the post-apocalyptic thing, which is fascinating, but it’s kind of not the point. The point is what happens afterwards, and that’s the fun of it for me as a writer, ‘cause you don’t often get a chance to write about people in the most extreme situation. So that’s why I wanted to do it.

: I don’t think it was, really. In terms of being a success at the time, it was, but it wasn’t, like, a thing like with “Doctor Who,” where you carry that memory with you, and so that when it was revived, there was this huge desire to like it. It was one of those shows where…people didn’t want to not like “Doctor Who.” They wanted to like it. It was a nice thing to happen, and it doesn’t often happen. There aren’t many shows that people are so fond of that they can go with that attitude to them. Usually, as you know, when you remake or re-imagine a show, you get the opposite reaction, which is that people don’t really want you to do it, because they liked it the first time. And, now, there’s been such an acceleration of remaking of formats. It’s a very dangerous area. I thought “Survivors” was a good one because it was a success at the time, which proved that it was a strong idea, but it wasn’t so well known that it would be something that everybody would be saying, “Oh, but you didn’t do that scene, you didn’t do it like this, you didn’t do that.” The truth is, it was the best part of 40 years ago, and it’s not a classic. It’s a very good show. The first episode of the original is a model of brilliant series set-up writing, and, indeed, much of the rest of it. But it is fundamentally a show which was well-liked but probably not as well-remembered as some. Not everything can be a classic, you know. That’s the way it is. I couldn’t believe that “Edge of Darkness” was being remade. It’s amazing, after all these years, to suddenly see it. So stuff comes around.

: I watched the whole of the first series before I started writing, and I don’t usually do that with things where there’s existing material. I mean, in a completely different genre, I’ve just done a new version of a film called “The Go Between.” I’ve adapted the L.P. Hartley novel, and I didn’t look at the film of that, because I deliberately didn’t want to be influenced by it. I’ve only looked at it relatively recently, and it’s interesting to see what they did and what I did, and that’s fine. But with “Survivors,” I thought that it was…well, because I was basing some of my material on that original material, it seemed respectful and sensible to look at the way they’d done it, and also to remind myself what they’d done well and maybe what they hadn’t done quite so well, just to see how it would go. I always knew I was going to move away from that version quite quickly, but I wanted to make sure that whatever was good…I mean, I’m not crazy: if it’s good, I’m going to do it again. ()

: There’s a little bit of that. I mean, because of the way television works, as you know, there’s a certain pressure to use a certain profile of actor in certain roles. We knew we needed a leading lady that meant something to the British audience, and that’s, in truth, not that big a pool of people. It’s tough to find exactly the right person, particularly a woman who’s grown up, a woman with children who’s believable as an ordinary woman. So Julie (Graham) was actually pretty straightforward, because she was one of only one or two who really fit the bill…and, luckily, she wanted to do it! So at that point, we closed that. That was done. The other guys…it’s an interest process. Paterson (Joseph), funnily enough, was a very early choice, and then we went ‘round the houses looking at other people and then came all the way back to Paterson. And that sometimes happens, ‘cause it’s a bit like when you get something right first time, and you think, “Have I really got it right?” And you go and try prove it sixteen other different ways, but you still come back to the right answer, so that was Paterson. The others…it’s just a question of trying to find the right faces for the roles, the right talent and the right look, and that’s hopefully what we did.

: Well, Freema was…you’ve seen the first episode?

: As you know, we do something with Freema where…I was very keen that we make it clear to people that nobody was safe, and that was the thinking behind that. The decision to actually approach Freema wasn’t mine. That was the BBC who thought that would be a cool thing to do. I wanted to do something both to the original fan base and to the people watching the show now, and…the character that Freema plays – Jenny – was one of the ones who did survive in the original. I wanted to make sure that people didn’t think they knew where it was all going. In the original, Jenny goes to see the doctor, and the next morning, the doctor’s dead and Jenny goes off to London. But in this, the doctor survives and Jenny dies. So, y’know, it’s kind of funny, that. ()

: I hope so.

: And he may be dead. We’ll just have to see! It’s very important that you believe it, I think. And I think the thing there that I find so moving is tha,t if you knew he was dead, you could either commit suicide or begin living again. If you don’t know, you’re in a state of suspended animation. You are forced to hope. As I say more than once in the show, and it’s a phrase that other people have used, it’s not despair that kills you, it’s hope.

: Yes, pretty much, I do. I have a very clear idea of where I want the characters to be...if I keep the same group of characters. And some of that depends on actors wanting to do it. I really would like to get three years of the show, so if I could do that, I would think that it’s up to me to give a satisfying ending. If we then found that people wanted more, then we’d regenerate it and keep doing different things. There’s plenty of options. It’s just that I think, for this group of characters, three years would be about right. At that point, you’d probably begin to see where they were going. And you want to settle them. I don’t like stories where you’re left in mid-air at the end of a season.

: I think that’s an easy one, in some ways. I think that Tom Price, played by Max Beasley, is a constant source of surprise even to himself.

: He was great, and he was the only actor we approached for that role. I should’ve mentioned that at the beginning. He was literally the only one that we saw, and he liked it, so that was easy.

: No, not really. () And he’s…I was kind of anxious to avoid the word “redemption,” but…there is a journey to go on, but it’s a complicated one, and it’s certainly one towards levels of feeling that he didn’t know he had. But whether that makes him a good man, I kind of doubt.

: Yeah, there is a process that goes on there. I think one of the things about writing a series that’s such a wonderful challenge all the time is that you keep on developing the series right up to the point where you shoot a scene. There was a quality, for example, about Philip Rhys as Aal that I found…there’s a kind of sweetness about him, a softness, a gentleness, that’s very appealing, and as soon as he was in that role, Aal’s character became clearer and clearer to me. I mean, I had a starting point for Aal, but writing is sometimes a bit of a mystery. You don’t always know why you go somewhere with a character. It just seems like a good idea. And I think that the interaction between Philip and Aal was just so interesting that…with another actor, it might’ve gone in a different way, but Philip’s a really masculine man who, at the same time, seems soft and gentle as well. He found something in himself that I really liked. So Aal’s journey towards a kind of uneasy but paternal relationship with Najid is very touching, I think. That could’ve gone in a different way, but as soon as I saw Phil, it began to make sense.

: I’d consider it, but…is there any one thing in particular? No. That’s tricky. There are books that I’d like to do that I don’t think I’ll ever get the chance to do. There’s a book called “The Magus,” by John Fowles, which is a massive obsession of mine, but the rights are held by United Artists or something, and it’s impossible to get them. Um…are there any other series? Let me think about that. () In this genre, possibly not, because there aren’t that many that have the ability to be of their time and also timeless, which I think is the appeal of “Survivors.” “Blake’s 7” is the other one that people often talk about redoing, and I know that somebody’s trying to do that. That seems to me to be…in a way, other shows have come along and done the same thing and done it well, and in a way, what would you be adding if you went back to “Blake’s 7”? You have to see where the changes are that make it interesting. So off the top of my head, no. But that isn’t to say that I wouldn’t if the right thing came along.

: Hmmm. Okay, I’m trying to place that one…

: It’s funny, somebody mentioned another show to me today, and I’m struggling to remember that one as well. When I was kid, time travel was absolutely my #1 fun thing, and I still love it. There’s no time travel in “Survivors,” obviously, but there’s lot of it in “Primeval”…and even more of it in the next series! () It’s just something so endlessly appealing about the notion of time and history being rearranged, you know? It’s just very attractive.

: Sure!

: Two years ago, yeah.

: Oh, thank you.

: Well, what happened was…Tim (Haines) is really a scientist, anyway. That’s his background. He comes from a science background and a journalism background. Before he was a drama guy, he was a documentary guy, so the expertise that he brings to the show, apart from his storytelling ability, is in that area. And because he did “Walking with Dinosaurs,” he really made himself an expert in the special effects area. I think Tim is probably ahead of anybody in England in terms of appreciation of what special effects and CGI can do. I mean, he knows about animatronics, too, but those are slightly out of fashion because of cost, and CGI is obviously in, and Tim is brilliant with CGI. I’ll be the first to admit that that’s his thing…and it’s not mine! () So we…yeah, obviously, we kind of muck about with the creatures and things, but their starting premise is always more or less true.

: Yeah, well, it was to be! () One of the things that can happen with a show like “Primeval” is that, because you’re dancing with death every week and being saved by the skin of your teeth, the audience begins to get lazy about thinking that there’s no real danger, that it won’t actually be real. And it was particularly kind of shocking to me that he would die at the end of a gun, because…it’s not a dinosaur in the end, it’s his crazy ex-wife with a gun. And that worked. That was always the ending I imagined for him. I always knew that Helen would be the end of him. It was not intended to be so early in that season, however, but unfortunately that was how it worked out with Douglas, because he wanted to go on and do different things, so we brought it in early in the series.

: He was great about it. He wanted the character to die. He didn’t want to just step through the anomaly and maybe reappear one day. He wanted it, so he was fully behind it and was okay with that. When he told us that he was going to move on, it was a big shock, because I thought that he was going to do the whole series, and it was very late in the day and we’d done a lot of storylining at that point, so we had to really reconsider everything pretty sharpish. But he was cool, and I said, “Look, you know, I think Cutter’s going to have to die, because it’s better from a storytelling point of view. I’ve got to give him that, because I can use that legacy in the drama for the rest of the series.” And he was absolutely on the side of that. He was cool about it.


: I hope there’ll be both! There will be another series, yeah. There’s going to be 13 more episodes, which we start shooting in March, so I’m right in the middle of that when I get home. We’ll start…I imagine they’ll start transmitting in the UK early next year, so it’s probably right about the same in America. It’s a longer gap than I would’ve wanted, but unfortunately there was a problem with ITV, and it took us awhile to get it sorted out. The film, I’m afraid, is just endless. It’s… () Man, you know, my whole life is ticking by during these negotiations! () There is still every intention of doing it, but we are still not completely finished with the deal with Warner Brothers, and the guy who’s writing it…oh, now it’s gone out of my head for a second, but…oh, Akiva Goldsman! He’s absolutely cool, he wants to do it, he’s very, very keen. We talk to him on a fairly regular basis. But it has been a living nightmare trying to get a deal sorted out. But I think we’re nearly there.

: Yeah, it will be a different tale, but that’s going to be an interesting question, because what we have to do with Akiva when the deal is finally signed is sort out the parameters of where he can go with it and where we can’t let him go because it would ruin the franchise. So, clearly, we don’t expect him to follow the storyline of the TV show particularly, but we do expect him to make it possible for us to come back to the TV show intact. He can’t do something with the big-screen version that would make ours completely wrong, you know? So we have a three-month option with him at the outset whereby he comes to us with his story ideas, and Tim and I have the right to say “no” if that doesn’t fit with what we want to do with the show. I mean, I hope we won’t have to say “no,” but Akiva understands that, and he’s known that from the beginning, so it would be pretty silly if he came and said, “Oh, we’re going to do it completely differently.”

: I did, yeah!

: No, that was a weird one. It’s a long time ago now, so I’ll have to stop and think about it… () …but the guy who produced it, Andrew Bendel, absolutely was crazy about the book. I think he really identified with it – he was kind of from that part of London – and he just kept showing it to me and kept saying, “Look, we should do this.” And I hadn’t been writing very long at that point, and I wasn’t sure of it, because it was a pretty hard book to adapt. It was in three separate parts, and it’s very hard to make that work in a movie. But he kept on saying, “Come on, come on, come on, there’s something good in it, we can do it,” so in the end, I did. And I’m glad I did.

: () From the critics? Or from the audience?

: Let me think about that for just a minute. I’ve been very lucky, to tell you the truth. Things find their own level. But let me think about my CV for just a minute. () I did a two-part thriller a couple of years…no, more than that, more like seven or eight years ago…called “Heaven on Earth,” which probably hasn’t been seen here, but it’s about a young couple who end up in a religious community because she came from one of those communities. It’s not exactly Amish, but that kind of community, of which there are more in England than people realize. That was sort of a thriller, because basically the guy’s crazy when he goes in, and he takes it over. It did okay, but it never quite clicked, you know? And I kind of wish something had clicked for that show. I don’t know why it didn’t. So that’s one that I kind of regret not doing better. In America…not in Britain, where it won the BAFTA…I did a show called “Charles II: The Power and the Passion,” which was called “The Last King” over here for reasons that I still don’t know. That didn’t really click over here particularly, and that is a real shame. The reason that A&E showed was much shorter than the one that I wrote and the one that was seen here. It was an hour shorter than the one that was shown in the UK, and that was a horrible thing to do to it. They wanted to show it as one three-hour show, and…that was the worst of both worlds, because it was too long at three hours for anyone in their right mind to watch in one go, but it was too short for the story to make any sense, because it had lost an hour! That was a source of great upset to me, and to this day, I won’t watch the three-hour version. It’s…it’s crazy. So in this country, that would be a source of real regret, because it’s a show I’m hugely proud of. It was Joe Wright’s first big television series, and he went on to do “Pride and Predjudice” afterwards. And it’s brilliantly directed. So I remain very passionate about “Charles II” and I kind of regret that no one in America has seen the proper version.

: Oh, really? I’d like to think that they’d do it. I think that A&E obviously still owns the DVD rights, but it would be nice to think that it could be seen properly.

: Yes, I did watch “Jericho,” and to me, that’s a compliment, because I think “Jericho” is a very good show, particularly in its first season. I was aware of “Jericho,” as I say, but…it’s not so much a similarity to that show in particular, although the premise is obviously not all that different. But there’s been such a kind of confident upsurge in really good American sci-fi, fantasy, or whatever you want to call it shows in the last few years. It was more a general appreciation on my part of the incredible surge of creativity in that area in recent years. There is no point of comparison between “Survivors” and “Battlestar Galactica,” but I was very inspired by “Battlestar” because it showed what you can do when you look at an older series in a fresh way. Just like “Primeval” is in no way like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” but was very inspired by it. So it’s that kind of thing. The great work that’s being done in America, the really good stuff, is very inspiring.

: It’s been a pleasure.

TCA Tour: A Chat with Temple Grandin

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 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.

: .

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 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.

: .

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 .

: .

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.

: In order to keep the rumors in check about Simon Cowell's reported departure from "American Idol," the network's executive session kicked off with Cowell coming onto the stage, announcing that he would be leaving "Idol" in favor of an American version of his hit British series, "The X Factor," then proceeding to sign the paperwork to seal the deal right in front of us.

You know, I don't watch "American Idol," and I probably won't watch "The X Factor," either, but I have to admit: watching Simon sign those documents was one of those moments where I felt like I was witnessing TV history in the making. Granted, it's because people will look back at it as the moment that most of America said, "Oh, man, now the show is going to suck," but, hey, it's still history.

: The panel in question was for a three-part miniseries which explores why some people are driven to bring dangerous, wild creatures like chimpanzees, big cats, and venomous reptiles right into their homes. The trailer for the program was decidedly disconcerting to just about everyone, I think, but it was Jonathan Storm of the Philadelphia Inquirer – the man who once kicked off a “Kardashians” panel by asking, “Who are you and why should we care about you?” – who got the mike first, and, boy, did he let his feelings show. “Where does this end?” he asked. “Here you have crazy people who take dangerous animals into their homes, and you’re going to present and tell their interesting stories…? Is there a point at which the behavior of the people that you are glorifying in these reality shows becomes so ridiculous that you will refuse to put it on, or is it simply a question of keeping your digital channel and making a little bit of money off of it?” Marjorie Kaplan, the President and General Manager of Animal Planet, looked like she’d had the wind knocked out of her, responding at first only with a flustered “My !” She quickly recovered, however, arguing that “we are not trying to present outrageous things; we are telling stories that happen in the world.” Methinks, however, that Jonathan remained unconvinced.

: Simon's departure from "American Idol" was one thing, but it couldn't touch the evolving Conan vs. Jay saga. The anticipation for NBC's executive session was such that even Showtime's Bob Greenblatt admitted in his opening remarks, "I’d love to get my temporary TCA card so that I could sit in," so it was no surprise when Jeff Gaspin, chairman of NBC-Universal Television Entertainment, kicked things off by saying, "I see we have a full house. I heard there were some scalpers outside..."

While it was fun to watch Gaspin squirm (though, in fairness, he held his own pretty well), it became a full-fledged sport to see what kind of comments we could get from others about the late-night fracas, particularly folks on the same network.

* Greg Daniels, producer of "The Office" and "Parks and Recreation," has been friends with Conan since their days on "The Simpsons," so it stood to reason that someone would ask if he'd talked to his old buddy. "I spoke to Conan yesterday," he said, "and he and I agreed that the 'Parks and Rec' panel at the TCA would be the most appropriate time and place to announce his plans." He was kidding, of course...though I swear I heard some exasperated grunts when he admitted as much.

* Jerry Seinfeld was in the house to promote his new production, "The Marriage Ref," and although he clearly has a long history in stand-up with Leno, I think it still surprised a lot of people when he asked rhetorically, "What did the network do to him? I don’t think anyone is people from watching Conan. There’s no rules. Once they give you the cameras, it’s on you, so I can’t blame NBC for having to move things around."

* “Oh, I hope to God he stays,” said NBC News' Brian Williams, when I brought up the subject during the network's all-star party. “We feel, I think, like east coast Irish-Catholic brothers. We came up and followed prominent people into our jobs and kind of came up at the same time. We talked about it a lot on the air. Conan’s got a great New England, almost blue-collar for a Harvard kid, work ethic. He drives himself hard, and I have just always found us to be kindred spirits. I love his sense of humor.”

* In a press scrum later during the aforementioned party, Chevy Chase - himself a veteran of the talk show wars (albeit one with a decidedly shorter period of service) - was typically outspoken, indicating that Conan was getting the shaft from NBC. "I think he's too good for 'The Tonight Show' in terms of intellect," he said, "and maybe too bad for it because of that, too. the way I look at it, from where I stand, Conan is getting screwed and it's because of (NBC's) long life relationship with Jay. I'm not saying screwing him, because I wouldn't deign to do that. I'm just saying, I don't think he's getting much respect, so it wouldn't surprise me if he were gone. I think he's too intelligent and too bright and funny and will find whatever he needs to find so he can do his sort of humor."

A few days later, the shit hit the fan...and, man, you cannot the electricity that was coursing through the room when Conan dropped his hell-no-we-won't-go letter bomb. (I swear, Bill Carter of The New York Times was literally .) Bill Lawrence, producer of "Scrubs" and "Cougar Town," was grinning from ear to ear when he brought it up during the ABC comedy show-runners panel, describing it as "ballsy."

"I love it, man," said Lawrence. "It's just the way that I hoped it would go. What a talented dude, and I’m sure it’s going to lead to good things for him. It made me happy."

Dude, you're preaching to the choir.

: .

In my defense, however, knew much about “Code 58” beyond the fact that it was going to star Bradley Whitford and Colin Hanks as an old-school cop and a modern-day detective…and we didn’t even know that much until the panel was being introduced. Even then, the series was presented with a parenthetical reminder that it’s in possession of a working title, which means that we don’t even know for sure that it going to be called “Code 58.”

Fortunately, in a move reminiscent of NBC’s pre-premiere “Parks and Recreation” panel from the last January tour, Fox opted to pass out the script for the pilot to all attendees. Not only does the script make it seem as though the show has potential, but Whitford and Hanks were on fire during the panel, thanks in no small part to the amount of riffing opportunities provided by Whitford’s new ‘stache. “My growing this mustache,” mused Whitford, “I gotta say, it reminds me of a lot of the work DeNiro did in ‘Raging Bull.’’) Alas, we won’t know ‘til May how the end result will turn out, but my fingers are crossed.

: . When asked if doing an HBO movie felt any different than doing a theatrical release, Pacino replied, "Well, it’s television. It’s HBO, and so HBO is television. And television is you have to do a lot in a short period of time so that’s the difference, the only difference. Otherwise, it’s the same." Oh, okay.

Then, on the matter of the film's title, he said, "I don’t think a lot of people know really say that they know Jack Kevorkian, especially when you get to know him or you get to get his read on things and get to know more about him. When you see the image that was portrayed of Jack Kevorkian during his time, and you get you get a sense of someone quite different than the personality that I got to know. Not that I got to know him personally, mind you, but just to the research I did and the work I did, in order to get closer to who I could sort of interpret. I think the title is apt because you don’t know this guy. And, hopefully, in the movie you don’t."

Al, I love you, but sometimes you make my head spin.


His new FX sitcom, “Louie,” offers a look into the stand-up comedian’s life as a divorced dad, showing both his interactions with his kids and his attempts to reenter the world of dating. During the course of the panel, he proceeded to tell a worst-case scenario situation from each side, and they were both pretty awesome.

On the topic of his worst date, Louis hemmed and hawed at first, explaining that pretty much all of his dates have been pretty bad. “Dating is horrible,” he said. “It’s awful. I don’t get it. It’s just…you’re standing there, going, ‘Hi, do you want to have sex and later wish you hadn’t?’ It’s horrible. And it’s awkward at 42 because I don’t have the body or the drive. I don’t have sex drive. I have sex sit-in-the-car-and-hope-somebody-gets-in. And I’m amongst young people, because most people my age aren’t dating unless there’s something wrong with them…like me.”

Finally, however, he conceded that maybe one of dates did kind of stand out. “I went out with a woman once,” he said, “and I flew her to New York City. I was living in Boston. I said, ‘Hey, I’m not going to tell you where we’re going,’ and I had this romantic image that we would get on the shuttle and go to New York and go to Tavern on the Green and then fly back, but it was just a debacle. The flights were delayed – y’know, security problems – and we got to New York really late, sat in a cab in Queens for about two hours, and Tavern on the Green…you can’t just walk in there. I’m an idiot. We got turned away. And I stand outside Tavern on the Green with her, going, ‘“I’m sorry, I guess I didn’t plan this well,’ and a pigeon shat directly on top of my head. Just a huge amount of shit. White pigeon shit. With black streaks.

“That one,” he admitted, “was pretty bad.”

Insofar as his kids were concerned, Louis focused on a moment with his daughter, and although you’ll soon see that the subject matter was, in general, about as unfunny as it gets, I couldn’t help but laugh, because as the father of a 4-year-old daughter, I’ve had to battle back from similar bouts of speechlessness in order to come up with a halfway intelligent answer to a very serious subject.

“I was on the subway with my daughter,” he said, “and she said to me that her friend in school told her that his grandparents were put in an oven during a war. And, I mean, this is the kind of high wire act parenting is, because you don’t get warned that you’re going to have this conversation. I’m just holding onto a strap, and she says (this), and I was like, ‘What the fuck?’ And she says, ‘Daddy, does that happen? Do people put each other in ovens?’ And what do you say, because you can’t just go, ‘No, your friend’s a liar.’ And you also can’t go, ‘Oh, yeah. That was Hitler, and just,” you know. And you also can’t just go, ‘Yeah, that happens sometimes. You never know. Sometimes somebody will grab you and shove you in an oven.’ So she’s standing there, waiting, and you have to come up with the thing. And what I ended up saying was…like, to me, with my daughter, it’s always the truth. I try to tell her the truth. And so I told her the truth, which was, ‘I don’t know what to say to you about this right now.’ I said, ‘I’m not sure you should know about it. If you really want to know, I’ll tell you.’ I was just buying time while my brain was working behind me. But she said, ‘Yeah, don’t tell me yet.’ She’s smart, but she doesn’t need to know about Hitler yet. She was six years old when this happened. How do you take a kid from Santa Claus to the evil of Hitler and Stalin and all that shit? I don’t know.”

I don't know, either, of course, but I know that Louis should be very proud of his daughter: not every little girl would allow their father to retain his dignity in such a manner, let alone give him a story that he can use during the TCA tour.

: Surely the network knew full well that the cast of this upcoming WWII miniseries weren’t going to be asked nearly as many questions as its producers, Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, but it was a pleasant surprise to find Hanks taking the reins of the panel as often as not. He tackled the first question – about the differences between this program and its predecessor, “Band of Brothers” – with the seriousness it warranted, but when the second question was posed, he began, “If I can be so bold to continue talking and not let anybody else have a moment…”

Spielberg soon managed to find his way into the conversation with some frequency as well, though he and Hanks often slipped into Abbott and Costello mode when trying to determine who was going to get to answer a question.

: Go ahead. : You go. : No, no, no. Go ahead, because I’ll pontificate for an hour and a half. I’m going to sound like Ricky Gervais in 20 minutes. : Now I can’t follow up, because I was going to get really serious here : Oh, please.

When Spielberg cracked a joke about how they maintained their relationship with HBO because the network gave them a lot of money, Hanks added, “I’m going to assume that all you cracked members of the fourth estate can appreciate sarcasm when it comes your way.” With that assumption made, he then later claimed that the network had approached them about continuing their collaboration by saying, “We are more successful, we make more money than all the commercial networks combined, we’ve got $250 million to blow. Do you want to do anything with it?”

Eventually, fellow producer Gary Goetzman acknowledged that he and his fellow panelists knew their place in the proceedings and, as such, weren’t even trying to answer any of the questions. “Why would we?” he asked. “We’ve got Steven and Tom!”

: . I opened by telling him that I was a huge fan of his Robyn Hitchcock concert film, “Storefront Hitchcock.” His reply: “I love you very much.”

: . I hope to talk to him at greater length before his new MTV series premieres, but in the meantime, I'll always have these moments to treasure.

Even though there isn’t a single 100%absolute-must-see series for me anywhere within the Discovery family of networks, there was just way too much going on at this function for me to give the award to anyone else. There was barbeque and ribs from the guys from “BBQ Pitmasters,” cupcakes from the “Cake Boss,” and a huge cast of characters from the various series, including Ed Begley, Jr., Bill Nye, Stacey and Clinton from “What Not to Wear,” the Little Couple, and – courtesy of Animal Planet, of course – a baby giraffe who was quite happy to accept some leaves or even a pat on the nose.

On a side note, this was also the event which found me witnessing one of the funniest moments of the tour, but I’d feel guilty if I called out the person who was involved, as she’s such a complete sweetheart. As such, I will only say this: if you’re about to approach someone who you think is Adam Savage from “Mythbusters” but not you’re not 100% sure it’s them, be sure to lead by asking, “Are you the guy from ‘Mythbusters’?” Because if it turns out they’re actually Mikey from “American Chopper,” it could be really embarrassing.


I am assured by the network’s press release that it was the largest gathering of former “Survivor” contestants ever, but if I’m to be honest, I’ve only ever watched one episode of the show (the season finale of the first season), and the only person I had any real interest in meeting – Rudy Boesch – is from my area, anyway, so it’s not like I had to fly to California to accomplish that. Still, I did remember a buddy of mine telling me that Jonny Fairplay from Season 7 was from Danville, VA, where I went to college, so I approached him and told him that I’d attended Averett University. He replied, “Oh, so you paid too much for your education, huh?” He then proceeded to reply to my request for a photo with the following pose:

That’s right, Jonny, keep it classy. You’ve got a reputation to keep up, after all.

: . You know how you can tell Fox is #1? The open bar at their all-star party offered 18-year-old Scotch.

I wasn’t the only one impressed by this, either: by evening’s end, I was getting tips on the proper way to drink the beverage by Tyler Labine (soon to be starring in “Sons of Tucson”), a scenario made even more surreal by the fact that he was imparting me with this wisdom with Tim Roth sitting next to him. I’ve been led to understand that I might’ve been less impressed with the festivities if my goal had been to talk to the kids from “Glee,” since most of them were apparently in possession of personal publicists who were trying to shield them from conversations lasting longer than 60 seconds. Personally, though, I had a blast.

: . I might've been indifferent to the "Survivor" function, but CBS really came through for me by kicking off the first night of the tour with "Drinks with the DiNozzos," an "NCIS"-themed cocktail soiree which served to spotlight the then-upcoming 150th episode of the series.

The pluralization of Michael Weatherly's character's last name was due to the appearance of the man who played Tony's father in the episode: Robert Wagner. As someone who grew up worshiping at the altar of "Hart to Hart," just being able to meet RJ - it's totally cool to call him that, btw - was enough of a thrill for me, but as ever, it was wonderful to once again see my photo buddy, Pauley Perrette, who remains one of the sweetest people I've met during the course of my TCA tour experiences. I also had the opportunity to speak with Cote de Pablo (Ziva) for a few minutes, as well as to ask executive producer Shane Brennan about the challenges of making southern California look like the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, but the best bit definitely came when I was chatting with Wagner and Weatherly together.

When I told Weatherly that I hailed from Norfolk, he said, "I might've told you this one before, Will, but...hey, RJ, I've got a joke for you." He then launched into a joke which, rather than relate in full, I'll just tell you that the punchline was, indeed, "Norfolk, Virginia," with the second half of "Norfolk" pronounced with a decidedly obscene inflection. We all had a good laugh, I turned off my recorder, and as the conversation closed, Wagner and Weatherly decided to work out their golf plans for the next day.

"Now," said Wagner, "you should go home to your wife."

"What are you going to do, RJ?" asked Weatherly...and RJ, with a perfectly deadpan expression, told him rather what he was planning to go do. Immediately after doing so, however, he adopted a horrified look, and I watched his eyes move from Weatherly down to my recorder.

"Oh, no, don't worry," I said. "I turned that off back at 'Norfolk, Virginia.'"

RJ roared with laughter and clapped me on the shoulder. "You're a good man," he said, then strolled off to, I can only presume, do exactly what he'd he was going to do, the lucky bastard.

I should add that, while this was the first thing that I attended after arriving in Pasadena, it wasn't the event of the tour. It was actually the . I'd planned to attend all three, but...well, therein lies a tale.

: Since I live in Virginia and don’t always have the opportunities afforded by my L.A.-based peers, I’m always excited by the prospect of a visit to the set of a TV show. The idea of hitting the “FlashForward” set was intriguing, given that the show’s had some turmoil, but since I’d declared “Community” to be my favorite new series of the 2009 fall season, I was psyched at the thought of touring the campus of Greendale Community College. Heck, I’d even checked in with my Facebook friend Yvette Nicole Brown to tell her to keep an eye out for me! As such, when I arrived at the airport in Newport News and got word that my flight was delayed such that I would likely miss my connecting flight in Atlanta, you can probably guess how crestfallen I was. Still, I am a professional, so I sucked it up and only wept openly for about five or ten minutes. Later, one of my peers told me that the cast of “Community” made them laugh ‘til they cried, and I rationalized that I’d been given the opportunity to cut to the chase and avoid all of that time-consuming laughter.

: Although it’s tempting to include “Glee,” particularly since both Lea Michelle (Rachel) and Amber Riley (Mercedes) gave us phenomenal performances of “Maybe This Time” and “Don’t Make Me Over,” respectively, I cannot describe the trip to the set of “How I Met Your Mother” as anything but legen…wait for it, and I hope you’re not lactose-intolerant…. Not only we were treated to breakfast while sitting in McClaren’s (or, at least, on the set of it, anyway), but we were witness to the cast’s table read for an upcoming episode (“Hooked”), and although Carrie Underwood was unavailable to read her part (she plays Ted’s new girlfriend), Bob Saget turned up to read his narration in person.

: .

I’ve always been a sucker for a redhead, but, c’mon, this is a redhead who manages to be both cute as a button and sexy as hell…which is, for the record, why she’s one of very few actresses who could successfully play a kindergarten teacher who loves porn.

I was so caught up in my enjoyment of the table read…seriously, it’s one of the funniest episode this season…that I managed to resist blatantly staring at her, but when things wrapped up, even though we were being hustled back to the bus, I couldn’t resist going up to her to shake her hand, thank her, and tell her that I’d had a great time. I realize I’m reading between the lines here, since all she did was smile and say, “Oh, thanks,” but I’m pretty sure it was good for her, too.

: Chevy Chase doing a double-take when he turned around to do an interview with me.

: Nope, it's not the "Glee" kids here, either. It's , who turned up to help hype PBS’s upcoming airing of Rounder Records’ 40th Anniversary Concert.

Like the majority of her fans, I came aboard with the release of , so the fact that she opened with “The Hard Way” and closed with “Passionate Kisses” was enough to make the evening worthwhile for me, but he also threw in some songs from her more recent records, along with two tracks from a forthcoming release that were good enough to make me want to pre-order it the moment the house lights came up.

: . I can’t vouch for any other items on the menu, but if the goal of this Pasadena institution was to name themselves after two things that they make spectacularly well, then, by God, they succeeded in spades.

I actually ended up hitting this fabled joint on two occasions – first with one of my closest friends and her beau, then again with some of my compatriots from when, even after a delicious and filling Mexican dinner, my description of the pie proved far too tempting a lure to resist – but it was my initial trip which resulted in concrete proof that I can’t escape from the TCA even when I try.

Within five minutes of sitting down for a well-done cheeseburger and a piece of coconut meringue pie, Jorge Garcia, a.k.a. Hurley from “Lost,” strolled in. Guess I wasn’t the only one who was disappointed by ABC’s decision to take a pass on offering an evening event. Fortunately, we both found solace at the Pie ‘N’ Burger.

: . There is very possibly no way to make this funny to anyone who either wasn’t part of the original conversation or doesn’t enjoy zombie humor, but I'll give it a shot.

It all started with someone in the midst of the panel / performance for PBS’s “Rounder Records 40th Anniversary Concert” forgetting the name of the actual performer, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and asking if it was Harry Chapin playing. After explaining that Harry Chapin had been dead for almost 30 years, someone began to riff on the idea that we would soon be seeing a rare concert appearance by none other than Zombie Harry Chapin. Soon, we began to consider ZHC’s possible between-song patter (“Here… another… song… about… brains…”), and by the time the Golden Globes had rolled around, we were imagining how he might accept his award. (“Zombie… Harry… Chapin… not… know… where… to… begin…”).

Rather than ending with the tour, this strange one-note joke has since expanded to include a Facebook presence (), and with the recent announcement that AMC has greenlit a pilot based on Robert Kirkland's zombie comic, "The Walking Dead," I have every reason to believe that Zombie Harry Chapin is poised for global domination...but, then, what else would you a zombie to do?

: Right before I left, I had a copy of David Bianculli's new book, "Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour," sent to me at the hotel, but although it was scheduled to have arrived on the first Monday, it never made it to my room.

I went down to the front desk and asked about it, and they said that, yes, it had arrived, yet no one could seem to figure out where it had gone. I said, "Well, it's not in my room, and it's not in the TCA suite, so I'm pretty sure I can where it is." You see, there's a suspicious character in the TCA who goes by the name of Harris. He writes for the Toronto Sun and, owing to his encyclopedic knowledge of all things "Simpsons," he refers to me as "Senor Spielbergo," since I'm his non-union American equivalent. I told the concierge, "I guarantee it was accidentally delivered to his room."

Within a few minutes, there came a knock at my hotel room door, and it was a hotel employee holding the book in one hand and the press release and envelope in the other. "You were right, sir," he said. "It delivered to him. He wasn't in his room, so I just went ahead and picked it up. Unfortunately, he'd already opened it. I hope that's all right." Stifling a laugh, I thanked him, then sat down and composed an apologetic E-mail to Bill entitled "The Case of the Mysterious Disappearing Book," explaining that he could request a copy of the book from the publicist. He accepted the apology, but he admitted, "That's just not nearly as much fun as getting copy."

: . Okay, that sounds dirty, so let me clarify that a little bit. As a work-at-home writer who sits in front of his computer all day, it's somewhat of a given that I tend to frequent Facebook on a way-too-regular basis, but in order to feel a little less guilty about it, I tend to befriend folks I've interviewed, publicists that I regularly deal with, and, of course, my fellow TV critics. As a result, I felt more a part of the TCA tour than ever before, and it was awesome.

: . The problem with complaining about this issue, however, is that you don’t know for sure if the problem is really the publicist. It’s possible that the actor has simply given the publicist specific instructions to be the bad cop. I have heard through the grapevine, however, that the network publicists are generally no more thrilled with the personal publicists than we are. It doesn’t change anything, but, hey, at least we both get someone to commiserate with.

And on that note, allow me to close with...

: . After offering up an entertaining performance during the panel for NBC’s new reality show, “The Marriage Ref,” on which he’s serving as an executive producer, Jerry decided to take up residence in a little alcove within the area serving as the location of the network’s all-star party. Sounds great, except for one thing: he apparently decided from the get-go that he wasn’t going to be doing any interviews.

When I first spotted him, nestled in his little hideaway, he was having a bit of wine with Chevy Chase, but when Chevy departed to fulfill his own publicity duties, I approached the gentleman hovering on the fringes of Jerry’s private area and, as there were no other writers nearby at the moment, politely asked if I could just ask Jerry two questions. The gentleman said, “I don’t think so, but just a moment.” He leaned over and talked momentarily to a woman who I cannot definitively identify (but who others seemed to think was Seinfeld’s missus), then returned to me and said, “No, I’m afraid not. He’s very tired.”

, Jerry? Sorry, but at the risk of maintaining the status quo and never getting an interview, I really feel as though I have to ask: It’s not as though it was held as a social event. It was a working function for the television critics to chat with the cast and producers of NBC-Universal’s new series. If you wanted to have drinks with Chevy, then the least you could’ve done was go somewhere where your presence wasn’t serving solely to taunt the critics with the possibility of an interview that they were never gonna get.

Hear me and hear me well: the day will come...oh, yes, mark my words, Seinfeld...your day of reckoning is coming, when an evil wind will blow through your little play world and wipe that smug smile off your face, and I'll be there in all my glory, watching, watching as it all comes crumbling down!

By the way, I totally stole that last bit from the "Seinfeld" finale, but, oddly enough, I think the sentiment works just fine here, too.

TCA Tour: Spartacus: Blood and Sand

TCA Tour: Caprica

Although Syfy's "Caprica" is a prequel to "Battlestar Galactica," the fact that the series are separated by 58 years and an apocalypse (give or take) doesn't mean that the two don't share similar elements. Indeed, writer / executive producer Jane Espenson immediately offered up two words that link the shows: moral complexity.

"There’s no stark bad guys and good guys," she explained. "This is a world that is perceived by some of its residents as sort of sliding over the edge, there’s a whole bunch of people who think they’ve got the answer, and it’s not at all clear that of them have the answer. The guy who believes in technology thinks that’s the answer. The person who believes in religion thinks that’s the answer. And if everybody has moral shadings, we can tell very complex stories as a result.

Espenson's fellow writer / executive producer, David Eick, clarified another similarity: the two shows take their genre very seriously. "We really do try to involve depth of character, realism, grounded-terrestrial naturalism to a science fiction world," he said. "That sort of came from what we always admired about the greats and the classics, from Asimov to Heinlein to Philip K. Dick, this idea that science fiction was not just fun and games. We wanted to go sort of the opposite direction of George Lucas, if you will. We wanted to make it less about escapism and more about moral complexity, as Jane was saying, and great characters."

For those who have seen the pilot to the series, which will air again tonight on SyFy, you may be wondering if its tone and content will remain consistent when the series officially kicks off next week. Apparently, so were stars Eric Stoltz and Esai Morales. According to Eick, both actors wanted some reassurance that the pilot was not going to be a one-off, with the series going in a different direction altogether.

"I think, if anything, we go towards that even more rather than shying away from it," said Stoltz, "because that’s what interests all of us as actors: playing these ambiguous, conflicted people living not in a black-and-white world and trying to find their way in it. We wanted to be exactly like that, so we’re all striving to make it as good as possible."

"Also," added Morales, "the naturalism in what I see from my fellow actors and their acting, it’s very unlike anything I’ve seen on television. The atmosphere of the show as well. The planet feels like it has a presence, a consciousness, in a sense, that I think is taken from the pilot, and it moves. It's rooted in the pilot, but I think the show will from what you saw in the pilot."

Rest assured, however, that you don't have to have to know "Battlestar Galactica" to appreciate "Caprica." In fact, as Eick is quick to point out, the network's marketing strategy for the series involves a notable lack of the words "Battlestar" or "Galactica" in the title of the show. Still, it's not as though there's a single article that's been written about the show that doesn't mention the connection, so why should newbies join in the fun?

"The same reason they come to well-marketed and, hopefully, well-executed television show," replied Eick. "That it’s compelling in its own right, that it has ideas embedded in it and a visual style that looks inviting and exciting. On that front, I’m not terribly concerned. From the standpoint of the execution within the show once you’re in, new viewers will find that there’s virtually no tether to 'Battlestar Galactica' from a storytelling standpoint whatsoever. There are the occasional Easter eggs and nods and acknowledgments for the faithful to enjoy or maybe deepen some of their appreciation for it, but I think legitimately the show stands on its own. Other than the fact that, if you happen to know 'Battlestar Galactica,' you know that that show had its roots in some of the stories we’re telling now, there really is no relationship between the two shows whatsoever."

"Imagine you were watching a show that you knew nothing about and they were developing sentient robots," added Espenson. "You might very well get a glimmer that these sentient robots are going to be trouble down the road. You don’t need 'Battlestar Galactica' to tell you that. In a storytelling sense, () tells you that."

"I have a lot of friends who have never seen “Battlestar Galactica,” don’t like sci-fi, and they watch it because of me," admitted Magda Apanowicz. "But when they actually end up watching it, they love it. Like, they’re , and they’re, like, 'There’s so much that you can take away from it. There’s so many different storylines that you can relate to.'"

"We just have fun, guys," said Morales. "We hope you do, too."

Bendis's collaborator for FX's "Powers" pilot revealed

TCA Tour: Damages

I loved the first season of "Damages," but time constraints kept me from following the second season of the series as closely as I would've liked. Still, my dedication to the show was such that, when I heard there was going to be a panel for its season, I wanted to make sure that I'd checked out the screener of the season's first two episodes before it took place, so that I'd be fully prepared for the event. What I hadn't realized, though, was that I would be so caught up in those episodes that my first task upon returning home from the tour would be to immediately put Season 2 into the DVD player and watch it immediately. Yes, my love of "Damages" is back with a vengeance...which, given the theme of the series, is absolutely apropos.

There's only one problem when it comes to discussing Season 3 of "Damages" and it's this: a key event occurs in the season premiere that I can't possibly give away. As such, I'm forced to dance around it...which sucks, because, man, I reeeeeeeally want to talk about it with someone.

What we talk about, at least, is the general premise of the season, which revolves around a suspiciously-familiar concept: a high-profile financier who turns his wealth management business into a massive Ponzi scheme that defrauds thousands of investors of billions of dollars. But, c'mon, this panel took place before an audience of intelligent critics (and, no, that's not a contradiction in terms, thank you very much), so no one was going to ask, "So, is it a coincidence that this resembles the whole Bernie Madoff situation?" The better question, obviously, was whether or not any news stories were in competition for use as the thrust of Season 3.

"Well, I don’t know if I’d call it ," said executive producer Daniel Zelman, laughing. "But there were several stories we were looking at, not just the Madoff case. There was an attorney named Marc Dreier who fascinated us. You may have seen; he did an interview on “60 Minutes.” But he had perpetrated some $700 million con essentially. And also, a businessman named Allen Stanford had basically created a bank in Antigua that supposedly had billions of dollars in it, but had nothing in it. So we were really drawn to all of these stories, and we’re using elements of these stories in the story that we’re telling, although coming through the front door, it’s sort of more around the Madoff scenario."

Those who've been watching "Damages" regularly have seen unexpected casting choices like Ty Burrell ("Modern Family"), Ted Danson ("Cheers," "Becker"), and Darrell Hammond ("Saturday Night Live") pay off handsomely, but even so, it's a bit of a surprise to find both Martin Short and Lily Tomlin turning up in Season 3. For executive producer Todd A. Kessler, however, it makes perfect sense.

"One of the things that we try to strive for on 'Damages' is that nothing is as it seems," he says. "Starting in the first season, when we cast Ted as Arthur Frobisher, it continues to just amaze us to work with actors and performers who aren’t always given the opportunities to do something other than what they’re primarily known for. When the casting came up this season...Lily plays the matriarch of a family that Patty Hewes is going after, and Marty plays the family’s attorney...we just thought it would be an amazing opportunity to work with both of them and then also have them embody this sense of 'nothing is as it seems.' And while there’s a familiarity with both of them as actors and their career work, on our show I think they’re both giving pretty iconic performances that are thrilling us daily."

"I wouldn’t say I’ve done an endless amount of serious roles," admitted Short, appearing at the panel via satellite, "but I think of myself as a character actor, and you play characters in a sincere fashion. Even if you’re playing Franck from 'Father of the Bride,' if you’re to be funny as that character, you be. But if you sincerely play him as this eccentric person who exists in the world, then you’re basically acting the character, who happens to be an unusual character. So I don’t really look at it as a differentiation between comedy and serious. It, to me, is just what the role is, what it requires, how you can most effectively give the author what he had hoped to achieve."

Although Short never clarified whether or not he was a fan of the series, Tomlin - also appearing via satellite - couldn't stop gushing about her unadulterated "Damages" fandom.

"It’s the only show I’ve ever run home to see, no matter what," she said, excitedly. "If I were working on another show even, I’d say, 'I have to get out of here!' That first season, it was on Tuesday nights, and I’d say, 'I have to get home. I have to see it!' And I wanted to see the 7 o’clock feed. I didn’t want to see the 10 o’clock; I wanted to see it from the get-go. And when I’d see Glenn (Close) anyplace at an event or anything, I would just jump all over her, and I’d say, 'You’ve got to tell us. What’s going to happen? Why can’t you be on every night? Why can’t you be on all year? Why do I have to wait now?' But I think what got me a part was I ran into Todd Kessler at a photography show in L.A., and when someone told me who he was, I completely lost it. You know how women throw themselves, like, they’ll jump on a guy they know really well and put their arms around his neck and their legs around his waist...? I think when it came to do the third season, they thought, 'Remember that girl that jumped on you at that photography show? She really likes the show. Let’s see if she’s going to pass.” So I was thrilled to get it. I didn’t have a hesitation. I wanted to be on the show very, very much."

And Close, for the record, is quite glad to have her...and Short, too, for that matter.

"My first scene with Martin and Lily is when I was deposing Lily," Close said, "and I was sitting across from the two of them in our conference room on the set, and it was a very surreal experience, having watched them my whole career and loved them. I can’t tell you how invigorating, inspiring, it is. For me, it’s just pure fun. You get a well-written scene, and you have actors that can do anything that’s asked of them and have a million ideas. As Marty was saying the other day, because of the pace that we work at, in many ways it’s like an improv, because you have to be very quick on your feet. You have to be able to learn lines very fast and then to be able to kind of move around in those lines and make it authentic and believable. It’s just a great process. And to have that are just so much fun! You two are not even here, but I’m jealous because I don’t have a lot of scenes with these two. There was a scene with Lily and Martin and Campbell Scott, and one of the crew guys said it was a gift to watch them, not only when they were in the scene, but what they did between the takes. They said the comedy, just the flights of fancy..."

"They never say that about us," sighed Tate Donovan.

"No," admitted Close, "they don't. We're the boring ones."

We can't say too much about what goes on with Ellen Parsons this season, mostly because it's a given that she's going to be in the heart of happens, but without being too specific, we can at least acknowledge that, as a character, Ellen gets fleshed out a bit in Season 3.

"I think this season is exploring the theme of family," said Parsons. "You get to see Ellen with her parents and her sister, and I think it reveals a lot about where she’s come from. (It's) the polar opposite of the life with Patty and at the office, and I think it really reveals a lot of why she does what she does. When we meet her, she’s actually very different again this season from the last two seasons in that they’re actually quite separate when we first start. She hasn’t spoken to her for six months, and she’s really moved on in a real genuine kind of sense. Patty doesn’t get under her skin anymore, but the complexity of their relationship is definitely something that we still kind of end up exploring throughout the season."

"From the beginning of the show, in the pilot, we didn't want to give one specific label to Ellen," explained Todd A. Kessler, "that she went to this law school and so she must be great, or she had this experience, and so that explains why she seeks out someone like Patty. We wanted it to develop, and we don’t really believe that there’s ever one formulative experience that defines someone’s existence. So in this third season now, we’re going to really be exploring Ellen’s relationship with her family and get more of Ellen’s past, in addition to Patty’s past. But it’s something that’s been very intriguing to us to kind of give pieces of that without having it be a nicely wrapped-up package early on before you actually see the person interacting with other characters."

That's just about all I can offer up from the panel without delving into stuff that, frankly, you'd be better served by learning yourself while watching the season premiere of "Damages" on January 25th. I can, however, close with a highly appropriate bit where, playing off Ms. Tomlin's earlier comments, Ms. Close was asked if she ever relent when someone comes up to her and asks for spoilers.

"I never let the secrets out," Close confirmed. "And that’s very easy because I know they really don’t want to know. I’ve had people come up and say, 'What’s in the box? ' So, no, I never tell." Turning to Donovan, she asked, "Do tell?"

"All the time," he replied with a grin, before quickly clarifying that " don't even know."

"No, we don’t know," agreed Close."

"I tell," clarified Donovan, "but don’t even know. The secret is that we don’t the secrets."

"I don’t even know if Todd and Glenn and Dan (Zelman) know the secrets in advance," said Tomlin. "Maybe a few hours."

"But that’s kind of the liberating thing," said Donovan. "One of the liberating things about the show as an actor and anything else is that you don’t have time to judge yourself or your character or what’s happening or your scene partner because you don’t really know what’s going to happen and who you really are. I mean, I know that sounds terrible, and we as actor love to know our arc and stuff like that, but...I find it just so much fun to know."

TCA Tour: The Deep End

TCA Tour: A Chat with Chi McBride of "Human Target"

You know when Chi McBride is at one of Fox's TCA parties because you can him. Not him , but, rather, his omnipresent cigars. When he was at the tour in the summer of 2009 to preview the network's then-upcoming series, "Human Target," I ran into him smoking a stogie with Ron Perlman of "Sons of Anarchy." The scent stuck with me, so when I stepped into the Fox party at the winter tour and caught a whiff of cigar smoke, I immediately followed it to its source and soon sat down for...

: How are you?

: Yeah, you know what, I’ve got a couple with me, so… Is Perl here?

: When he gets here, I’ll make sure he gets one. ()

: Did you?

: That’s the way I looked at it, you know what I mean? I knew what I was doing, and I knew what I wasn’t doing, you know? People had to say whatever they had to say about it. You know, everybody thought my career was over but me. I said something that my old, wise aunt always told me: “Boy, this, too, shall pass.”

: Well, what happened was… You know, what’s funny about it is, it was the first thing I read during pilot season. But, you know, it was the first thing that I read, and what happened was, there wasn’t anything in it for me. Winston was this character, and the guy was kind of a nervous Nelly kind of guy. So I told my agent, I said, “Listen, there is nothing in this for , but if somebody does it right, this could be a good show for . Good luck to them.” And, you know, as time progresses during the pilot season, people’s names get bandied about on all different kinds of projects. And I started hearing that people wanted to talk to me about a variety of things. So one of the meetings that I took was with Jon Steinberg and Peter Johnson, the producer and creator of “Human Target." So we met and we talked about it, and I said, “Well, I’ve got to tell you: there doesn’t really seem like there is going to be a lot to do for me in this, so I don’t know that I’m that interested. And as far as the British accent...I mean, I can do it, but it just seems to be that for the sake of it.” And he agreed. And I told him, "You know, the way I would want to approach it is that I was a guy who was ex-law enforcement, you know, and there is something about my past on the force that I got into this business." But I didn’t want to, as an actor, be stuck behind a desk. But I wanted the character to feel like this was his chance to stuck behind a desk with a nice cushy job, getting plenty of money...and that’s . And that he would end up going out in the field in a sort of “just when I thought I was , they pull me back ” kind of thing. And that’s the attitude that Winston has toward going out in the field, but he goes out there and he definitely shows his skill set. You know, the thing about Winston that you’re going to learn is that his temperament is not what it seems. He’s a guy who doesn’t have an off switch. And that’s one of the other reasons why he wanted to get out of the chasing-guys-down business. So it’s going to be really interesting. And we agreed on all of these things, and they decided that they wanted us to work together. And you know, I’ve got a wonderful relationship with Warner Brothers Television, so they signed off on it, and here I am.


: It’s different. And you’ll see just that, about the whole getting back involved, and Winston’s whole involvement in terms of going in to the field. It’s going to be a lot of fun. It takes place on a plane, and it’s really a lot of action. Some good comedy, some great moments, a lot of drama and suspense. I think you’ll like it. In my opinion, it’s better than the pilot.

: Oh, yeah, man. I mean, it’s pretty intense, but it’s really entertaining, and we had a lot of fun doing it. And I’m just glad to have the opportunity to do this, because, you know, Hollywood is a town and a business where people will only let you do what they think you can do. And so I’ve gotten a chance to showcase a lot of different things and a lot of different characters, and hopefully that will be what helps me continue to survive in this business.

: Jackie kicks ass, man.

: Well, I mean, to the credit of the writers, the writers are very, very good. They come up with some great things. And they allow us to contribute in our own ways. You know, we certainly have conversations about dialogue, about character direction, about things of that nature, but they have given us a really great jumping off place in terms of the story is always really great, the dialogue is bang on, and the action is great. There are minor tweaks, but that’s why you hire people that you really trust. So that when they come up with something, it’s not just a lot of pretentious artist bullshit. So these are good guys to work with, all of them.

: Oh, yeah. I mean, I’m old enough to remember the Rick Springfield series. Somebody asked me a crazy question today, like, “I heard that there was a rumor that Rick Springfield was supposed to be doing this one." I was, like, 'What are you, ? The Human Target in a walker?" Do you know what I mean? But I remember that old show, and...that was pretty bad. But we’re the 2.0 version of that, and it will make you forget about that thing.

: Yeah, I mean, look, man, I’m a pretty fortunate guy as far as TV is concerned. I mean, I’ve been lucky enough to have been afforded some great opportunities to work with some wonderful people who have treated me well. I try to pay them back in kind by doing a good job and knowing my business and showing up on time. And not being a pain in the ass. And if you can do that, you know, people will remember you. I have a wonderful relationship with Warner Brothers. And having worked with people like Barry Sonnenfeld and Don Reo and Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen and a couple of Oscar winning producers, you know, if you give them what it is they need, then they remember you. And I’ve been very fortunate. And I’ve got a pretty good agent and a really good manager too, so that don’t hurt. ()

: () I . I really wish it .

: Because it was really good, especially the first two seasons. I really loved it then. I mean, I’m hopeful that at some point it will happen. I don’t know what the holdup is. But, you know, we’ll see. Time will tell. I hope so, though.

: Exactly. What’s funny about it is that I think that show might have been a little ahead of its time, you know? You couldn’t have made a “Modern Family” during the time that we were making "The John Larroquette Show." And “Modern Family” is brilliant. I’m just glad to see TV starting to turn back to its real roots of entertainment and really good writing and really good acting. And, I mean, they’ve got to compete. Networks have to compete, because when you’ve got shows like “Breaking Bad” on AMC, or “Damages” and shows like that on FX and on various cable outlets, people are turning to it, man. And you don’t have to have 15 million people watching “Breaking Bad." You can get a tenth of that and stay on the air. So they’ve got to compete if they want to continue to have their audience.

: Probably “Daisies,” because I had the most fun on it. Because I really got a chance to do comedy, and I really got a chance to just have a good time. I was really having a good time. I was having a ball when I was playing Emerson. But, you know, I mean, that’s life in show business man. I mean, you just can’t become so emotionally invested in any project, because you just never know what is going to happen, you know?

: And the audience is the audience ,and they are going to…my job is to do job. Their job is to love it or hate it. So there it is, man.

: I loved it. I had a great time doing that, too. I had a lot of fun doing that.

: Right.

: I think it was all the way. I think that what happened was this whole thing came up because people get emotional and somebody touched a hot button. Here comes Jesse Jackson, and the next thing you know, you’re in the middle of a fucking circus. So there are guys like that that just wait for opportunities to go and just basically advance their own agenda. So what can you do, you know what I mean? But it is what it is. It’s part of my television career. It didn’t kill my career. so all’s well that ends well.

TCA Tour: Breaking Bad

TCA Tour: Live from (the same state as) the Golden Globes!

Since I'm currently sitting in southern California with a bunch of TV critics and watching the Golden Globes, it seems a little ridiculous for me to do anything other than live blog the thing...well, the TV portion, anyway. I wouldn't dare take away anything from Mr. Westal's coverage of the film portion. With that said, however, I can't exactly ignore the show's host, Ricky Gervais, so I'm definitely planning to give him a shout-out whenever he offers up a great line.

I've never done this before, so be gentle with me...

: Gervais suggests that most people probably know him as the guy from the original British "Office," then shakes his head and says, "No, you don't, do you?" The highlight comes when Gervais suggests that "quality, not quantity" makes his version of "The Office" the better one, which results in Steve Carell's mouthing of "I will break you" to Gervais.

: "I'm not used to these sort of viewing figures. Then again, neither is NBC."

: "Actors: they're just better than ordinary people, aren't they?" Hugh Laurie seems amused by Gervais's remarks about he plays a doctor on television better than a real physician would, while Kiefer Sutherland is perhaps less so by the suggestion that some of the fights on "24" aren't scripted.

: "Let's get on with it before NBC replaces me with Jay Leno."

: Toni Collette, "United States of Tara." Although I'm a little surprised that Tina Fey didn't take home the award, I acknowledged in my nominations piece that I figured a lot of people might favor Collette. I guess it an easy pick. It just wasn't mine. I still think it's John Corbett and the kids who are the stars of that show.

: John Lithgow, "Dexter." I still haven't seen his performance yet, and yet I still picked it. That's how strong the buzz was. Glad to see it paid off.

: "We've seen some worthy winners...aaaaaaand we've seen some not so worthy winners."

: After observing that one can't officially buy a Golden Globe Award, Gervais concedes that he's probably never going to be allowed to do the show again.

: Michael C. Hall, "Dexter." I think that, at three (TV) awards in a row, you can officially begin to suggest that Showtime is dominating the proceedings. Given the acclaim that this season has received, I'm not surprised that Hall beat out my pick (Hugh Laurie), and once you've factored in the fact that he's battling back from lymphoma, who could complain, really?

: Julianna Marguiles, "The Good Wife." Holy crap! My dark horse pick took home the win! What an awesome line from Julianna about CBS keeping the faith by continuing to air quality drama at 10 PM. I announced to my fellow critics that I'd gotten this pick right, and I was accused of being Nostradamus. Somebody cue up "We Are The Champions," please. I'd like to enjoy this victory as long as possible.

: Gervais bashes Paul McCartney by claiming that he shared a flight with the former Beatle, with Gervais in first class and Macca in coach because he's "saving money." After receiving several boos for his trouble, Gervais assures the crowd, "Uh, I think he's still doing all right!"

: "Grey Gardens." No complaints. I picked "Taking Chance" for this category, but I picked Drew Barrymore for her performance in the film, so I can hardly argue with this selection.

: Gervais decries the boozing, brawling Irish stereotype, then introduces Colin Farrell. (Farrell admits, "When I heard Ricky Gervais was gonna be introducing me, I said, 'Oh, ...'")

: When Helen Mirren said, "Life," then paused, I was really hoping she was going to follow it by saying, "Don't talk to me about life." But she didn't.

: Kevin Bacon, "Taking Chance." Same situation as above. I wanted to see Chiwetel Ejiofor take it home for "Endgame," but given how much I loved "Taking Chance," I've no complaints.

: Drew Barrymore, "Grey Gardens." Exxxxxxxcellent. Someone here just referred to the performance as "her first acting award," and there's a certain amount of truth to that, as she offered up more in "Grey Gardens" than most people would've expected that she had in her. You know, I've watched "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" a lot of times, but that reference to "Jeff Spicoli's girlfriend" flew right over my head. Anyone...?

: Gervais notes how actors want to be ever-changing and constantly moving, then says, "Please welcome Rachel from 'Friends' and that bloke from '300.'"

: Alec Baldwin, "30 Rock." You can never go wrong with Alec Baldwin, I guess. But I still wanted Steve Carell to win it, if only to hear what Gervais had to say about it.

: God love Zachary Levi and Amy Poehler, but...really? were the best jokes you could provide for the stars of two of NBC's best shows? The network needs all the help it can get!

: "Mad Men." This is a category where there were no losers, but with that said, I really couldn't imagine any other series than this one taking home the win. Look at the beard on Jon Hamm..and the breasts on Christina Hendricks! I couldn't believe the music kicked in so quickly on Matthew Weiner, but as someone here said, it's a basic-cable network. That doesn't buy you much time, no matter how much acclaim your show gets.

: Chloe Sevigny, “Big Love." The only thing more upsetting than her win is her dress. I kid. Well, about the win, anyway. (I love Rose Byrne, but after seeing her today at the TCA panel for "Damages," I was beginning to wonder if she was even capable of smiling anymore.) Seriously, though, that dress is .

: Gervais sips from what is almost certainly a glass of real lager, then struggles to get a laugh from his "Catwoman" joke...which is probably almost as much of a struggle as it took to get Halle Berry into that dress she's wearing.

: Am I the only one who was just creeped out by DeNiro's bit about Scorcese having sex with film?

: clipfest for Scorcese. Methinks it might be time to go order a copy of "The King of Comedy" from Amazon.

: The lager's back, as Gervais admits, "I've had a couple, I'm not gonna lie to you." He then blames the alcohol for anyone he might've offended, after which he quickly offers up the most incredible introduction of the night: "I like a drink as much as the next man...unless the next man is Mel Gibson." And just like that, Ricky Gervais is officially the best host of the Golden Globes .

: James Cameron wins for "Avatar," and Dileep Rao's Golden Globes party suddenly gets kicked up a notch. I only mention this because he went to that party instead of having dinner with me. You got lucky, Rao!

: "Glee." That's going to be one happy set when I go visit it tomorrow. Nice shout-out from Ryan Murphy to Miss Barbra Streisand and the show's "fake sexy teen cast," as well as the dedication to everyone who ever got a wedgie in high school. Aw, that's so sweet of you to include me, Ryan...

Well, that's it for the TV awards, but I have to hang in there to see if Ricky Gervais has anything else left to say...or anyone else does, for that matter. Like, say, the governor of California...

: Damn, even Schwarzenegger can't resist getting in a jab at NBC!

: Gervais really must be scared of Mickey Rourke if the best he can offer up is, "I haven't gotten a bad word to say about him, mostly because he's got arms as big as my legs."

: I hope the kazillion ads they've shown for "Parenthood' actually earn the show some viewers. I really liked the pilot. I can't say the same for "The Marriage Ref," partially because they haven't produced a screener for us yet, but mostly because of my feud with Jerry Seinfeld. But that's a story for another time.

: Do you get the impression that, were it not for Chrysler, we might've been stuck listening to the Golden Globes on the radio?

: What? Straight into Julia Roberts and Best Motion Picture - Drama without a last appearance from Gervias? Oh, well, at least "Avatar" won. Congrats again, Mr. Rao. I just hope that party was worth it...

: Ah, there we go. "If I had one wish, it would be for peace on earth. No, wait, can I change that? It would be for everyone to watch 'The Ricky Gervais Show,' on HBO on Feb. 19th." Way to end on a plug, sir.

So there you go: my first-ever live blog. I hope it made for at least a semi-entertaining read, and stay tuned for Bob Westal's movie portion of the proceedings, coming soon!

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