Friday, August 2, 2013

DanielleTBD's 2013 TCA Diary: Kids and Cakes, Addiction and Racism...

This is another one of those "day and a half" type scenarios because Wednesday was the bi-annual set visit day for TCA. While there are a handful of offerings, this time starting with some panels from Hulu in the morning and completing with cocktails with Bethenny in the evening, I opted to only attend one-- The Mindy Project-- so I could spend the rest of the day catching up on transcribing and trying to line up interviews for the post-TCA crash that will be next week. It's only a few short days away, and yet there's so, so much to get through first.

At The Mindy Project I mingled with Beth Grant before attending the press conference and then took a tour of the sets that included Mindy's (Mindy Kaling) office and apartment. The production staff took care to place some key wardrobe from the first season on mannequins throughout the office set, too, and I was personally thrilled to see Mindy's church outfit-- completely with Aretha Franklin-esque hat-- among the group. We learned that Mindy (the character) has a picture of Tina Fey in her office-- a production still of Liz Lemon and Floyd (Jason Sudeikis) from 30 Rock because the backstory is that the character is obsessed with Tina Fey. Kaling said that originally the story was going to be that Liz Lemon was a client of Mindy's on the show, but that may have been too meta so instead, Mindy snuck on the 30 Rock set and snapped or swiped this one.

Then Thursday was FOX all day. They always start a little later in the morning which is respectful of those of us running on fumes by the time we get to this day in the tour, but also kind of hated at the same time because a later start means panels are usually crammed in closer together. And in this particular case, the chairs were also crammed in closer together. For some reason there were double the amounts of seats in every row from usual. It appeared FOX overestimated just how many people wanted to see the new X Factor judges panel live and in person this time around. I have a thing about needing space, so I put my bag on the seat next to me and made it look like it was taken. This allowed me to have elbow room but also to take the snacks that were left out for whoever would have normally sat there.

FOX is always a day of sweets and swag, as well as themed breaks periodically throughout the day. We started with a Brooklyn Nine-Nine breakfast, which basically means there were donuts alongside our usual eggs and bacon and breakfast potatoes. There were also chalk outlines and caution tape decorating the entrance of the ballroom. I admit I didn't love that pilot, but their panel, which came slightly after breakfast, did a lot to win me over and want to see more not just to give the show a second chance but because I genuinely think I will enjoy the show as a whole. What I respected the most was that series executive producer Mike Schur and series star Andy Samberg admitted they understood that Samberg's character could be seen as part buffoon and part jerk, and that's why they're going through lengths to show him successfully solving cases immediately off the bat. They felt it would make you care about him more if you realized he was actually good at his job and therefore his silliness wasn't glibness. Also, Samberg astutely pointed out that if he wasn't good at his job, you shouldn't care about him, and they shouldn't make a show about him (not in those exact words but you know).

Terry Crews completely woke us up on the same panel, too, first by bouncing his pecs at us when asked about his physique clearly not being photoshopped and then diverging into gems like "I'm an old football player, I should be in jail." He compared his career to a Plinko chip, just binging all over the place from the NFL to shows like Arrested Development and The Newsroom because he was called and invited on. He has a genuine energy that radiated off of the stage, and I would love to sit down and pick his brain, preferably on set, even if they are shooting in the parts of LA that Schur says can pass for Brooklyn and you all know how much I hate being reminded of Brooklyn (hmm, so maybe I was just prejudiced against the pilot for unfair reasons. I really should rewatch it...)

I live-blogged for the first time this TCA tour with FOX's two dramatic offerings Sleepy Hollow and Almost Human, both genre shows that have great production values, strong merits, and really long-winded producers. Specifically J.H. Wyman kind of broke my fingers as I attempted to get his quotes down verbatim. 

Network head Kevin Reilly gave a Powerpoint presentation about the network's ratings, while slipping in Connie Britton-toward-Nashville style digs at other networks in the process. He also talked a lot about glee and Cory Monteith's passing, which not only put me in Twitter jail for the first time all tour as I scrambled to get as much of his statement transcribed on social media as possible, but it also won me a lot of followers who will probably end up hating me after they see I never cover that show and usually snark on it in my private life.

Reilly wouldn't confirm whether the Finn character would OD on the show, though he did say that Ryan Murphy was "breaking" the third episode that deals directly with Finn's passing now, and that in it, the show would directly explore Monteith's struggles. The cast of glee would also shoot PSAs for addiction. I have to admit I'm not happy with the former: I really didn't want Finn to be turned into a teachable moment for glee. The character never even dabbled in drugs recreationally, so to suddenly say he had been using and hiding it this whole time or worse, used only once and ODed (I'm speculating here) would feel like it came out of nowhere. Murphy had no desire to tell the story of addiction troubles before it turned tragic, which is a shame. It feels a bit exploitative in theory, and I don't have a lot of faith the practice or execution won't be as well. I was personally hoping he'd get called back to active duty or something to lay his storyline in a little bit-- as much as can be after the fact-- and brace the audience for a demise. But I am really glad the cast will be speaking to their fans about addiction because it is a terrible disease that too many don't understand. Reilly pointed out that Monteith didn't resemble the typical addict, and he wasn't being as open with his current problems as he was with his past drug abuse. Both things are enough to let you forget he was struggling. And mostly, I loved the news that the proceeds from that very special episode would be going to a fund in Monteith's name. Hopefully it will be to open a special recovery center or give to an existing one, rather than to simply funnel to the family. I look at what Matthew Perry is doing with the sober house he opened in Malibu, and I see so much more need for things like that.

And then there was Dads, a show I feel really strongly about not giving much attention because it just didn't deserve to be picked up and seemed to only be so because of the caliber of name talent (i.e Seth MacFarlane) attached and not based on the actual concept or specific execution. A lot of critics in the room were harping on the offensive humor in the pilot-- humor that kept being called "irreverent" or "edgy" by the panel (the former, I would like to point out is not complimentary, and the latter is just not accurate here)-- but they were really narrowing their focus on one specific point of offensiveness, and to me that made the panel miss the point of our problem with the show. At one point an executive producer brought up All in the Family to talk about how an older generation's out-dated views could be depicted on television in a way that was still comedic, and that is absolutely true. But on All in the Family, it was clear Archie Bunker was a buffoon and a bigot. On Dads, the racist or otherwise off-color lines are the jokes and the punchlines. The show is ultimately asking us to laugh along with the characters expressing those points of view rather than being self-aware or ironic or even eye-rolling in that Shit My Dad Says sort of way. And furthermore, it's just not funny. I fully expect it to go the way of Work It, and if it doesn't, I will have lost a lot of respect for FOX's audience. And that's saying something.

The highlight of the day was certainly the kids on Masterchef Junior (or Junior Masterchef, depending on who at the network you asked), specifically one little blonde nine year old named Sarah who could give (and probably did in the season) Gordon Ramsay a run for his money. She was so self-aware, saying things like "When I was young" and then catching herself and making fun of herself for doing so, and she was so refreshing to just sit up there and be real. She'd roll her eyes at Ramsay or sometimes answer so swiftly (like when asked if she would consider being a journalist when she grew up), you just knew she was being honest. More honest than anyone ever on a TCA panel, I'm sure. The kids all had better bios than I do, and their signature dishes are things childhood palates usually don't want to eat, let alone slave over a stove to make. One kids talked about making his own pasta for raviolis, for crying out-loud! But they all noted loving desserts and baking and even gave us a little demo off-stage of homemade Twinkies, Sno Balls and cupcakes. I wanted to bring one of them home in my swag bag!

The party was at the Soho House again, and you already know how I feel about that. I mostly spent time catching up with friends. But on my way out I ran into the little girls who play Hope on Raising Hope, and they livened things up for me.

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