Friday, July 30, 2010

Tales From a TCA Virgin...

This small-time blogger has finally hit it big! I may not have been accepted into the Television Critics' Association as a member, but starting Wednesday I began attending the 2010 Summer TCAs. Rubbing elbows with celebrities, random show swag, and parties, all without having to pay membership dues? Yes, please!

The TCAs are a week-long event that takes place at a hotel twice a year (usually in Pasadena but thankfully this time in Beverly Hills-- it's like they knew I was coming!). Each network has a day where they set up panels and parties for their new programming. Some of them even open some of their sets to the reporting "public," though admittedly those invitations have yet to be extended to the likes of me. Set visits took place on Tuesday, but I can't speak for what went on there since I started bright and early Wednesday morning with CBS-TV's day of shows.

Arriving at the Beverly Hilton, reporters were greeted by show girls and slot machines for a Las Vegas themed breakfast buffet to honor one of the shows we would get to see previewed later that afternoon. The Defenders stars Jerry O'Connell (hot off his weekend of geeking out at Comic Con) and Jim Belushi as Vegas lawyers, and young Jurnee Smollett (who I knew and loved as Michelle's sassy friend Denise on Full House) is their ex-exotic dancer paralegal. I initially ran past the buffet line to claim a good seat in the ballroom because I didn't want to have to use my big lens, if I could avoid it, but of course I went back for bacon!

CBS generously scheduled lots of "writing breaks" for those of us who file and post stories as they break. Not a lot of spoilers were given out about the shows because it's just not that kind of event, but there was a bit of controversy. Questions from reporters during the Mike & Molly session leaned quite heavily (no pun intended) toward borderline-offensive remarks about the two leads' weight. For the record, the show is a "love story" about two "regular" people who just happen to meet at Overeaters Anonymous. Series star Billy Gardell tried to keep the atmosphere as light as possible and deflect some of the heat off of his co-star Melissa McCarthy, who got one really rude question about "wherever would they get her wardrobe?" Ew.

There was also some tension during the new daytime talk show panel because the questions skewed heavily about executive producer Sara Gilbert's personal life and even co-host Leah Remini's "religious" beliefs (she's a Scientologist). For a show that claimed nothing would be off-limits around their roundtable once they're on air, they got pretty defensive about those things. Still, it was pretty freakin' awesome to see Sharon Osbourne on stage just a few feet away (she claimed Ozzy had no idea she was even doing this show), and Julie Chen won me over when she referred to herself as "The Chen-Bot" and even did a robot voice.

Of course William Shatner had everyone in stitches when taking the stage to show off his new sitcom $#*! My Dad Says, which, for the record, is being called "Bleep" My Dad Says when the title is said audibly. He had some amazing quotables, including that he knows Tweets aren't really called twats (inadvertant Kathy Griffin shout-out!) and that he wishes the show were just called "Shit." Justin Halperin is my hero for managing to have a best selling book turn into a TV show. I hope to attend a set visit and pick his brain for how I may finagle the same.

The eye-candy (in addition to humor) was abundant, too, with Donnie Wahlberg representing Blue Bloods and both Alex O'Louglin and Scott Caan on stage for the Hawaii Five-0 reboot. Hawaii Five-0 also gave out leis and free ringtones prior to the panel, so they immediately won me over as my fave. I like free stuff, okay!?

Speaking of free stuff, right around the three o'clock "crash" moment, CBS replenished our energy with a Carvel ice cream offering: flying saucers, chocolate dipped cones, mini sundaes...and oh yeah, yogurt and granola for the health conscious. It perfectly hit the spot, even though the ballroom was kept at a temperature that would only suit penguins.

The CBS party (which combined CBS, CW, and Showtime stars in a smorgasboard of attractiveness) was hoppin' with a grilled cheese station, a chicken and waffles station, a mini pizza station, and a gelato bar. I barely ate since a few blogger friends and I had made a Sprinkles run in between the gap between the last presentation and the party-- one in which we probably should have been writing, but oh well. It was way more fun to eat cupcakes in the lobby of the hotel and watch as the stars arrived. Although, admittedly running into Maggie Q in the bathroom was a bit disconcerting after wolfing down Sprinkles. She doesn't look unhealthy, but she is really skinny, and even the harsh fluorescent light doesn't attack her skin the way it does mine. Self-esteem blow!

I admit I was kind of bummed that Matt LeBlanc wasn't there, as I have a long-standing goal in life to meet all of the Friends, but I got to check three other fangirl moments off my list: chatting with the original Sookie (McCarthy), chatting with a New Kid (Wahlberg), and meeting Michael C Hall, even if it was brief. Other notable moments included telling Sera Gamble I "followed" Jensen since he was on a soap (oy), Ed Westwick and his chest hair (and red boots!), finding out Julie Plec is just as pretty boy crazy as I am, and did I mention the chicken and waffles??

But in all honesty, some of the best parts to TCAs are just getting to put faces to names with publicists who have been so gracious to allow me access to their shows, as well as to spend all day in a room with other writers, feeding off their energy and laughing with friends. Writing can be such a solitary thing, especially when one sits in her own apartment to do it (as I do). I admit that when I was a kid, I liked the introversion and the time to myself. I felt it granted me a much needed break after spending nine hours in school with kids I didn't particularly like (though I bumped into someone I knew from high school at CBS day, and that was quite a trip!). These days, though, I find the team environment really suits me.

Right after CBS was CW/Showtime day. Since CW only has two new fall shows, and SHO was bringing back old faves with new twists, they combined forces for a powerhouse day. It was also the day I had some one-on-one interviews scheduled (look for those soon!) so the stakes were a bit higher. As was the excitement.

Showtime only gave us a hot breakfast in terms of swag, but I guess quality programming is a gift within itself. They started the morning a bit late, but the cast of The Big C was a welcome fresh breath of air on a somewhat groggy morning. I even got to chat one on one with two of the writers, Darlene Hunt and Jenny Bicks, and that exclusive video will be edited and posted shortly. They are as quirky and funny as the material they create, and they really manage to breathe life into a fatal diagnosis! As I previously mentioned, I was a little unsure about how I would receive their show at first since I lost my mother to cancer a year ago Sunday. But the message in the show (to truly live your life doing what makes you happy in the now because we're all on borrowed time) was the message I took away from my mother's passing, and so far (after seeing the first three episodes), I feel the show helps to heal. It truly is, as Bicks and Hunt are promoting, the "perfect time" for such a candid comedy.

Next up was the cast of The Real L Word, with whom I wasn't familiar, but who were truly characters in the way only reality stars can be. I tried to pay attention, but admittedly I was squirming in my seat because Dexter was next, to be followed by Episodes. Michael C. Hall and Matt LeBlanc were going to be mere feet in front of me back-to-back, and I have loved them long time. Episodes, which has shot all seven episodes but not yet sent them to critics (or at least, me) for review looks super funny and even pokes jokes at LeBlanc's Friends fame. People call him Joey within the show and even walk up to him going 'How you doin?' I'm eager to read the first two episodes' scripts, which Showtime sent over with my Weeds* screener.

*The Weeds presentation was canceled a few weeks ago. Though stars mingled at the party, nothing official was shown/said.

During our very long lunch break (during which I stock-piled chocolate fudge cake), I also got to chat with a couple of the Dexter stars who are my personal faves. Those exclusive FlipVids will be edited and posted soon, too. Showtime was good to me, but now there's so much work still to do; so little time!!

Post lunch, Dawn Ostroff came out on stage for The CW presentation, which was louder and brighter (literally with audio and house lights levels bumped way up), probably to get reporters caught up in the spectacle. After all, when something is flashy, you're less likely to see there's not much meat on the bones.

Ostroff proved she doesn't watch many of her own shows when vaguely tip-toeing around questions about un-represented programs like Supernatural and Smallville. But Nikita star Maggie Q totally won me over, even if I was "iffy" on the pilot. She was so candid and animated on stage, and she didn't take any sh*t from dumb questions! And I have to say, some of the questions were really ridiculous, across the board! With all the scrutiny about who can even get into the TCAs (this was the first year I was allowed, for example, and NBC-Universal still rejected me from today's festivities. Boo; no Top Chef: Just Desserts samples for me!), they might want to consider screening/moderating questions.

During Hellcats, reporters started talking over each other again to get their questions asked. Sweet Aly Michalka actually listened to every one and answered the quieter, more respectful people first. Executive Producer Tom Welling was on stage with his leading ladies, and reporters managed to fight the urge to ask him Smallville questions. So I guess that shows improvement. Gossip Girl...not so much. Or I don't know; it was the last panel of the day, and I admit I was a bit checked out. I can see the show's appeal, but unfortunately it's still not for me.

There was no party on Thursday night since all three networks were present on Wednesday "opening" night, so I headed up during rush hour to write up full articles (in addition to all the live Tweeting I had already done) and resize photos. You can see all of my TCA photos exclusively on the My Life, Made Possible by Pop Culture Facebook fan page.

While I do have today and tomorrow "off" from the TCAs, early next week brings ABC and Fox/FX festivities. And considering some of the programming I am most excited about (My Generation, No Ordinary Family, Better With You) comes from that first network, it is safe to say that may be the day most anticipated over all!

Stay tuned for those aforementioned interviews and detailed show coverage!

1 comment:

Jim said...

Love your coverage, Danielle!! Keep it up...(I also love sharing my brownies with you...good for my own waistline, for sure!!)