Monday, August 5, 2013

DanielleTBD's 2013 TCA Diary: Comediennes, Superheroes, and a Return to 'Work It'!?...

I'm a terrible, lazy blogger. FX had their own designated TCA day with returning panels for favorites like American Horror Story (in which Kathy Bates totally ripped on NBC's treatment of Harry's Law, by the way) and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Sons of Anarchy (both of which are taking on gun fever in new seasons), and I didn't take notes for its own designated blog. In my defense, I wanted a day off. And I didn't even get a day off because I had a very important profile interview to conduct, transcribe, and turn around on Saturday anyway. So I would like to formally apologize to FX for not giving them the attention that they give their own showrunners and series. Of course, I covered their programming and panels on my LA Examiner column as I was credentialed to do, but I still feel like they deserve more.

TCA is technically ending with PBS this summer, but since I do not cover PBS, ABC is/was my final day at the Beverly Hilton for the year. Usually ABC-Disney presents their programming over two days, starting with the alphabet network and concluding with their cable channels like ABC Family. This year, though, they opted not to bring the cable portion, mostly because they felt that they weren't getting enough interest/stories about ABC Family to warrant bringing their talent. I, for one, was bummed to hear this because one of my favorite shows on right now (Switched at Birth) is on ABC Family, but since I was just on set, I couldn't complain too much. It's not like I don't have access to those kids. And I completely understood the network's point that a good amount of journalists in the room don't watch the show or even know what it's about, let alone what season it's in, so the questions are broad, basic, repetitive, and often times completely irrelevant. But not having the second day also meant that Sunday was jam-packed full of new programs, a special session for the syndication or anniversary or something (I wasn't totally paying attention here) of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, and a screening of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. There are only so many hours in the day so the latter had to happen during lunch. It was the one time I wished I had attended Comic Con-- just so I could have already seen the pilot and therefore had an actual lunch. Working ones irrationally annoy me.

And since breakfast was continental only (because you know, ABC has no money because they spent it all on that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot) we were all starting the day on a cranky foot. In truth, I had a nice breakfast down by the pool with some friends, even if I did have to pay for it myself. It was a moment to actually enjoy the company, something which we wished we had more time to do post-TCA, but things always just seem to keep popping up to prevent that, as well as to take a breath and relax before settling in for the marathon day.

 (I found a new TV boyfriend, and wouldn't you know 
it? This one also plays with guns!)

ABC started with my favorite comedy offering from them, Trophy Wife, where creator Sarah Haskins quickly won me over and made me anticipate her show even more, Claudia Lonow and How to Live with Your Parents style. She was so quick on her feet and so funny on stage, and who knew that not only is the show based on her own experiences marrying a man 20 years her senior who talks with her mom about Mary Tyler Moore all the time (because they're of that generation) but that her previous project looked at the media's targeting of the female demographic? Love. Looking up episodes online now!

Unfortunately, though, the panel for Rebel Wilson's Super Fun Night did nothing to assure me the show would be as witty as I want it to be going forward. Don't get me wrong, I still love Wilson herself, and the fact that she told a story about having Friday nights in with her sister that basically consisted of PJs, candy, and DVDs, I knew we were soul mates. But Wilson has her very specific style, and without someone to challenge it or inspire it to mature and evolve, I fear it will end up just being a lot more of the same we've already seen, just usually in small, supporting doses in movies, not as the center of a weekly series. The pilot itself really relies on social awkwardness of characters to draw the laughs, and much of that comes from Wilson's personal willingness but also insistence that that's what's funny. And her producers-- Conan O'Brien included-- want to let her run with those instincts, which is fine if you're a stand-up comic alone on a stage servicing only yourself. But we see on television all the time that collaboration is key because one person-- especially one who is being pulled in many different directions, like acting, writing, and producing-- can fail to see the bigger picture while focusing too much on too specific things.

The really amazing thing is that some of the writers behind Work It, the most offensive sitcom since I've been covering television and honestly perhaps ever, have a new show they were presenting, and it happens to star one of the Work It leads, Ben Koldyke. So while he was working on that show, realizing how poorly it was being received, he still had enough faith to continue his working relationship with these particular guys (the Cullen brothers) for the new project. Admittedly, the new half-hour comedy, Back in the Game, is not anything like Work It. Instead, it quite successfully mocks an older generation's bigotry in an All in the Family sort of way. Dads could learn from it in that regard. But I loved that TCA doesn't let anyone off the hook and of course Work It was brought up-- perhaps because we never did get a specific panel for that show, so our rage and outrage is still pent up. All three guys-- Koldyke and both Cullen brothers-- gave very thoughtful, respectful answers about what they learned from that show, all without staying PC enough to not piss off ABC (you know, by calling it a piece of crap that should have never made it on-air). 

Anyway, in a stroke of kind of spectacular luck, the Doctor Who announcement happened to fall in a pre-planned writing break, so a number of journalists gathered around a Slingbox live-stream of the special from London. Personally I had nothing at stake there since I have only seen a handful of episodes, but I got a kick out of watching so many gather around and make this piece of television news a communal experience. In truth, the whole thing was pretty anticlimactic since the name had leaked yesterday, and even though it was still phrased as a rumor, it was pretty clear it was actually fact. Plus, for a brief moment there the rumors were that the 12th doctor would actually be a woman, and that was much more unique and intriguing to me. I don't know if that's even really possible in the mythology of the series, but I'm all for story evolution and more strong female characters leading TV!

The afternoon was full of ABC's dramas, all of which delivered panels of producers and casts reluctant to talk about specifics of the shows for fear of spoilers, but for very different reasons. The producers of Betrayal kept drawing comparisons to Scandal but completely missed the point for failing to realize that Olivia Pope is not a married woman, so while she is engaging in a relationship with a man having an affair, she is not having one herself. It is a small detail that actually changes a lot when it comes to the perception of a flawed female at the center of a somewhat salacious drama. But then again these producers also kept calling the story "sophisticated" and comparing it to Shakespeare, and the only way I'll give them that is because Betrayal bored me now as much as Shakespeare did in junior high (the last time I attempted to read him). 

For a show like Lucky 7, it's hard to talk too much about plot because it's the characters that drive the story, and the events that occur week to week may be smaller in scale than an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in scope, but they will allow for big character developments. Similar to Sarah Haskins, Lorraine Bruce from Lucky 7 totally stole her panel (She noted that if she won the lottery in real life she'd totally just spend all the money on more Scratchers, which, less face it, is something I do as it is, just with significantly less money), and I really wanted to meet her at the party to begin the process of becoming her new best friend. I ran into neither woman, though, sadly. 

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was just under such intense security that men with earpieces were patrolling the ballroom during the screening to make sure we weren't recording the screens or Tweeting our reactions/plot points. But also, on the panel, they wanted to confirm nothing-- not guest stars, not the location of their standing sets, not even the ratio of "superhero of the week" or overall mythology. It worried me-- a lot-- because when you guard your secrets that closely, the hype always allows audience to imagine something amazing, and very rarely does the actual project live up. Besides, "what" happens shouldn't be the end all/be all-- you should still be able to have an emotional reaction from the hows and the whys and the way characters are affected by those whats-- and I worry that if you worry that if people will know what's happening before it does because you think it will ruin things then you don't have much going on under the surface of the what. And that's not a show in which I want to invest.

At the end of the day, though, lack of food, extremely long day, and hot temperature in the ballroom aside, taking a few minutes to enjoy the prettiness of Brett Dalton, Sam Palladio, and Barry Sloane at the cocktail reception made all the stress that came before it worthwhile.

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