It is that special time of year again that I affectionately call "Television Summer Camp" (which is totally something I would have wanted to go to as a child, rather than attending actual camp, by the way). Twice a year the Television Critics Association gather for two weeks in Los Angeles to see a parade of new shows presented by the various networks. It's a blur of panels, parties, and lately, photo booths, and it was one of the things I was most looking forward to attending when I first made the change to be a full-time television blogger.
Admittedly, over the last few years that excitement was slowly eroded away into stress. To be honest, sitting in a ballroom for eight to 10 hours a day, every day, for two weeks is quite taxing mentally, especially for someone who is used to working in pajamas, and sometimes by the pool, all day. But for someone who comes to TCA as a freelancer, often writing up stories for multiple outlets, it is also just a lot of work crammed into a short amount of time. There's something to be said for keeping busy and building momentum during a live-blog of a bunch of panels throughout the day, but when those panels are back-to-back, with only 10 minutes in between to polish, proofread, and publish...it's just a lot.
Thankfully, this summer TCA started with CTAM (aka cable), a compilation of networks that range from Discovery, to National Geographic, to AMC and BBC America, and let's be honest, I don't really cover a lot on those networks. So I was able to ease myself in.
The tour kicked off with an awesome "puppy party" from Nat Geo. Okay, that's not what it was really called, but that's what it was to me. Held the night before the sessions begin, I usually don't attend since I don't feel like driving over the hill to be at a hotel I will basically live at for the next two weeks. But this one promised puppies, and let's face it, next to free food, that is how you get me to your party (this one also had free food, but whatever).
It turned out that some of the puppies we were allowed to pet and pose for photos with were adoptable. I immediately fell in love with what they were calling the "small" one of the litter, though with part German Shepherd lineage, she was already Madison's size, and she was only a few months old. I didn't fall in love with the fact that the puppies were in a pen, rather than allowed to roam a bit more freely, nor the fact that when they went to the bathroom in the pen, no one felt it necessary to immediately bend down and pick up the papers, instead letting the other dogs step in the pee and track it all around first. I was so ready to train both the puppies and the people!
Anyway, the first "real" day began without bacon, which immediately signified that I was going to be in for a rough day. Thankfully, as they say, it did get better. Nat Geo's sessions were the first up, and continuing on their theme, they brought out some more dogs for The Secret Lives of Dogs (which I've always said needs an episode where there's just a Nanny Cam on Madison for a whole day because I'm convinced he just sleeps) and a teacup pig and hawk for Jobs That Bite, a new series in which Jeremy Brandt takes on various animal jobs for a day, not knowing what he's getting into (from beekeeping to veterinary work to ostrich wrangling) before he shows up. Full disclosure: I was in the room when Nat Geo was "rehearsing" with the animals and not only did I totally bond with a sweet little Boston Terrier, but I had the displeasure of watching a trainer try to walk a larger pig out on stage on a leash. It was squealing and resisting and whipping its head; even dogs need to be leash trained because to be led that way is not natural, and I just felt so bad for this animal. But not bad enough that I stopped wishing there was bacon that morning.
Hallmark also presented, leaving more talent to sit amongst us regular people and watch the sessions than they actually put on stage. I was two rows behind a mini Full House reunion of Lori Loughlin and Candace Cameron Bure, and I am not ashamed to admit I spent the whole time eavesdropping on them, rather than learning about Hallmark's programming. And considering they were delivering yet another original Christmas movie, which I am a complete sucker for, that should say something about my love of '90s nostalgia.
Along that line, James Brolin was on the panel for Christmas with Tucker, and I was very disappointed that no one in the room started his or her question to him by addressing him as "James, James Brolin." But I didn't want to be the one to do it either because half of the room would have gotten and appreciated the reference, and the other half would have grumbled under their breath about how letting in new, younger, online reporters is what is ruining TCA.
There was also ESPN and TV One News, but let's be honest, sports and "real" news = not my thing. I enjoyed the selection of finger sandwiches and cookies in the back of the room during their presentations.
Turner was last, with only Rick and Morty for Adult Swim on the roster. I'll take any chance I get to listen to Dan Harmon speak about creating TV, even if it is in a room of critics, most of whom hate him right now.
But then all momentum in the day halted, as there was a two and a half hour break before TNT's 25th Anniversary Party that evening. It should have been a time to catch up on work, but as I mentioned, I wanted this TCA to be lower key and much more relaxed. So it quickly became about sitting above the pool, watching the party set up, gossiping with friends, and drooling over the anniversary cake that was wheeled out too early to be safe from me.
TNT's party boasted pretty much every piece of talent from their parent company walking the red carpet, but not everyone stayed to actually mix and mingle. I went into it hoping for lobster corndogs (I haven't had that at a poolside party since MTV's TCA party about two years ago!) and needing to talk to someone from Falling Skies so I could write-up a pre-season finale post. I also, of course, wanted to be in ogling distance of Mark-Paul Gosselaar for as much of the night as possible. Food aside (instead of lobster corndogs, they had an amazing raw bar of oysters, mussels, crab, and shrimp, in addition to a burger station, a pizza station, and passing apps from pork chops to stuffed mushrooms), I got everything I needed and more. A highlight was definitely running into Bill Lawrence who I jokingly chastised for having too many shows to honor his ATX Pitch commitments, catching glimpses of pretty much the entire cast of Dallas including Mitch Pileggi who probably didn't remember me from our IBG event but was still very nice when I said hi to him anyway, and I also randomly ran into Shawn Ashmore who was there to support his wife, a producer on the upcoming drama Lost Angels for the network.
I'm just going to say this, though: recently TCA made a big stink about the "no photos" rule. When I first started coming here, not being a member, I didn't know that was a thing, so I did take photos and effectively break that rule. But no one said anything to me about it. Then when they started posting signs everywhere, I said 'Fine, this is a work event, and we want to be seen as professionals, I get it and I'll "obey"' despite still not being a member and therefore not responsible for representing their organization. But because of my history with Gosselaar I, of course, would love to get a picture with him someday. I've interviewed him a few times; he's always super nice; but eight-to-12 year old me would just be so fulfilled by the photo. I didn't ask him at the party. Again, it wasn't the time or place. But I *did* see a TCA member-- one of the perhaps founding members who definitely voted on approving the rule if not was a part of creating it-- taking a photo with him. And that kind of rubbed me the wrong way because there is no way the connection is the same or as strong as mine.
Oh, this is probably a good time to point out this is not a professional recap of TCA but just my personal thoughts, highlights, and observations. My professional coverage of this TCA is housed on my column at LA Examiner.
Before I got here, I also vowed to treat this TCA like my first. I'm not an actor so I couldn't fake the fresh-faced excitement from the very first days of attending and excitedly devouring bacon every morning and digging through swag bags every few sessions. But to fake it would be weird anyway. Instead, though, I decided just to step back and not freak out about getting a story up immediately after the panel ended, as well as to not constantly keep one eye on the revolving party behind whoever I was currently talking to, ensuring I didn't miss the next person I had to talk to. I hate when people do that, and I hate that that became a part of the job. "Not freaking out" is often much easier said than done, but I was willing to actively try to bring this TCA full circle. Because, honestly, depending on if I can find a full-time job or not in the next few months, this one may end up being my last.