Sunday, July 28, 2013

DanielleTBD's 2013 TCA Diary: Questionable Quotes, Returns of 'Parenthood' and 'The Voice', and a Rare 'Orange is the New Black' Reunion...

NBC is a network that seems like it should have the busiest day at TCA. After all, it canceled a ton of programming, and it has even more, but this particular TCA is for fall shows only, and a good amount of their offerings are actually mid-season. So that meant they managed to actually to fill out the day with a lot of random. Including sports. But interestingly the odd programming choices for the day wasn't the most notable thing about the day. Instead, that came at the very start, when Entertainment President Jennifer Salke's assistant probably failed to bring her coffee because she almost forgot to role the first panel's clip and then called one of her new actors by the wrong name. It's been a rough ride, Salke, we all get it.

But then Bob Greenblatt came out and started talking about how this past television season was actually a "Year of Improvement" for the network and that "flat is the new up" in the business trends. I didn't officially slam my laptop shut ala the great Golden Boy criticism of January TCA, but my eye-roll was as epic as Liz Lemon's. Yes, your ratings did tick up, and yes, with event programming like sports and The Voice, you managed to win some nights, but creatively, where I feel it counts most, this is not the "report card of all As except for one B+" and there is room for a lot more improvement.

I have always felt very strongly that (and still, despite her misspeak this morning) Salke's understanding of the creative as well as the business and her vision for the industry in general is not only more aligned with my personal taste but also a forward-thinking movement for the network. She has been a champion of shows like Community and Hannibal (saying today "I think it was critical to show we would support a show like that at 10 o'clock and we would support a creator that's little bit out there with content"). Today she had the unfortunate job of trying to smooth over a couple of comments Greenblatt made (especially about female centric programming) with a slightly flippant air that everyone knew would look terrible in print-- let alone headlines. They didn't always completely work as soundbytes either, but it was a clear look into how the dynamics work in the decision-making room, and I don't envy those who have to be there.

When it came to asking about the lack of female centric programming on NBC, by the way, Greenblatt thought it was enough that they "develop a lot [of it], but you just don't see it on the schedule." Salke then pointed to the best example she could of a strong female character with Betsy Brandy's new role on The Michael J. Fox Show. Though the show is named after him, as his wife, she is an equal lead, not a sidekick. 

NBC was running late, and they had already scheduled two sports panels right before lunch, when they were leaving the much anticipated Parenthood one for the very last thing (pre-party, of course) of the day, so Day 4 was a little bit like my own personal Vietnam. But the afternoon ticked along smoothly and quickly with drama and reality panels, including returning ones for Parenthood (for no real reason other than it has a key time slot move and oh by the way is awesome) and The Voice which has never (in my memory) delivered all four coaches at once to a TCA panel. This one had Adam Levine and the returning Christina Aguilera and CeeLo Green. 

Aguilera is a long-winded talker and has often spent six minutes (I've timed her) after a performance offering her thoughts and critiques, so clearly she filibustered the session a bit. I like The Voice, I do, but constantly bringing it back to TCA only prompts repeats of the same questions and ones that sound like they should be season one questions: How important is it for you to win? Is it fair that some of your talent has had past recording contracts? And the slightly newer, how do you feel about the show not churning out huge stars? Most reality shows are like that, but constantly seeing these people on panels (and honestly, every week when I covered the live show red carpets), just reinforces how repetitive the format is.

And I have to say, I don't know what Levine was thinking with his floral Hawaiian shirt an his "winter in Alaska" beard. The two looks were completely mismatched, hipster style, and that much pretty should never have been covered up in the first place.

I'll be honest and say that there really wasn't anything on NBC's fall line-up that I was super excited to get out there and write about, so rather than stress out over covering every other panel as I have in the past, I just listened to the sessions and saw what stuck out to me and seemed worth writing about-- even if later. Nothing on NBC's line-up is offensive, something I honestly can't say of even last season's, but none of it grabbed me strongly from just the pilot episode. There are certainly a few I am interested in seeing more from, and a few I probably won't give another thought. Indifference isn't great; it doesn't create discussion of any kind. But it does allow for a nice low-key party by the pool rather than hunting down talent, lead around by my recorder.

These parties always have a fun photobooth option for the critics, but TV Guide also sets up a special photo op for the talent. This time, though, The Hollywood Reporter also had a separate area for "portrait" photography of the talent. I don't know if it was a one-time thing or something they plan to implement at all of these network events going forward, but I have to say, if I was the talent, or a publicist of the talent, or even TCA specifically, I'd be annoyed. What's to stop five more photobooths from cropping up next year as other outlets want to get in on the action, too? The talent already takes photos on the red carpet and on the stage, and now they're being asked to make multiple stops around a party to do more of the same. It's too much. Personally I feel like TCA may have to step in and sponsor the photobooth and then share the images with select outlets, just to avoid increasing on-site competition. There will be no dark corners left for secret conversations if they're all crowded with photobooths!

Pablo Schreiber attended NBC's party to continue supporting his new regular role on Ironside, but the bonus came when Uzo Aduba showed up, too. She just happened to be at the hotel because she's partaking in an Orange is the New Black photo shoot tomorrow, and she heard he was there and wanted to say hi. It was seriously, too cute. Their reunion took place while I was talking to her, and the mutual gushing was too adorable for words, and when I said that he's awesome in every show ever, it prompted him to tell her about how one of the session questions directed at him was actually about not being able to appear on every show ever now that he has a regular gig on this new cop drama. 

I think Aduba was the most popular person at the party (so clearly NBC should hire her soon!). Not only did she have a line of reporters who wanted to talk to her formerly to report on Orange is the New Black (many out of towners who couldn't make it to the LA junket earlier this summer or those like me who needed follow ups after having seen the full season), but NBC's current stars were popping by to tell her how much they loved her and her show, too. Brent Sexton was probably my favorite example of that because he's just such an amazing caliber actor that watching him have a slight "fan" moment was very rare and special.

The only bummer was that I never ran into any of the Parenthood people I wanted to talk with at the party, nor did I get to adopt Tyree Brown or Savannah Paige Rae by the end of the evening. Oh well, that's what set visits are for!

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