I'm back from 11 days at the Television Critics Association Press Tour.
Even though I love and live for TV, to be totally ensconced in the world of TV for that length of time is bizarre. I mean you really begin to lose all perspective and truly believe that the most important question our nation is facing right now is -- how will all these new serial dramas survive? And what will become of us if they don't? If I never find out what happens to Taye Diggs in "Day Break" will I ever recover?
Plus, living at a hotel for that length of time totally skews your perspective. Yesterday when I came back home I wondered why no one had made my bed, left me fresh towels or given me a new shampoo.
My sister came and visited me for one of the weekends and she got to meet John Krasinski from "The Office" (who by the way is just as charming and adorable in person). And let me tell you: Years from now when I do something she doesn't like -- like borrow her clothes without asking her -- I'm playing the John Krasinski trump card. I figure this will last me at least 10 years. If you want me to take a sibling of yours next year so you too can have this trump card, just let me know.
While in L.A., I also had a chance to stop by the grand gesture to save "Everwood," where the organizers at www.everwoodmusic.com rented a Ferris wheel (a la Amy and Ephram's final scene). How much do I love this show? I went on a Ferris wheel ride with one of the organizers, Ryan Kaplan, in 112-degree heat. And Debra Mooney (Edna) and executive producer Rina Mimoun also dropped by to thank everyone for their efforts. How great is that?
But enough about me -- let me tell you the best tidbits I gathered from my time at the Ritz Carlton in Pasadena, or as my friend Maureen Ryan at the Chicago Tribune likes to call it -- our version of "Jericho." Because remember, what happens at TCA Press Tour definitely doesn't stay at TCA Press Tour.
Warning: while I usually put spoilers at the end of my column for this one time only some mild spoilers are embedded in my report, so if you don't want to know anything, skip to the next section of my column.
Smart networks, smart choices: So everyone is finally taking a page from FOX's "24" and "Prison Break" playbook. "ER, "Lost" and "Veronica Mars" will run interrupted and then take a break before returning for the remainder of their seasons. And "Veronica Mars" will really make it easier for viewers by dividing the season into three separate mysteries that will run uninterrupted (in nine, seven and six episodes installments). Ms. Mars' first whodunit will involve solving the rapes at her college -- a storyline that began last season. The sassy detective will even go undercover at a sorority to try to crack the case. Executive producer Rob Thomas told me that he's hoping to get the "Arrested Development" kids back on the show this season but they are both so busy with other projects he's not sure they'll be able to make it. Thomas also confirmed that Teddy Dunn will not be back on the show -- all together now, "Booooooo." But Tina Majorino (Mac) is becoming a series regular -- all together now, "Yaaaaaay."
The body count is going to rise early and often on "Prison Break," which returns for a second season on Monday, Aug. 21 (ohmigod can you believe the new season starts this soon?). The premiere will pick up eight hours after last May's finale and will span three weeks with each episode covering about a day. The entire cast and crew has relocated from Joliet, Ill., to Dallas, a city more suited for the now-necessary outdoor scenes. Michael's elaborate tattoo will continue to play an integral part in the series. Also of note, John Billingsley, who played the vice president's brother (remember the whole teeth thing?), will not return to the series because he's staring in the new ABC series "The Nine" (still my favorite new show of the season). His part is being recast. The fate of Patricia Wettig -- who plays the nefarious now President -- is a little less clear. She told me she wouldn't be back because she's staring in the new ABC series "Brothers & Sisters" (which is produced by her husband Ken Olin). But executive producer Paul T. Scheuring thought that she would be back. Let's hope so because no one chops vegetables like Wettig.
Diane Farr currently stars in the CBS drama "Numb3rs," but previously had starring roles in two Denis Leary shows -- "The Job" on ABC and "Rescue Me" on FX. So, I just had to ask her what she thought of everything that's happening on "Rescue Me" this season. "I spent my TV adolescence under Leary and [executive producer Peter] Tolan's tutelage. They raised me and I can't kick them when they're down. They're getting their butt kicked on this one," she told me.
CBS must have been mortified at the disastrous Rachael Ray lunch. In an effort to promote her new daytime talk show, TV critics dined on Ray's signature "summertime recipes" including mini-burgers, Greek salad and French fries. But I politely declined a still-raw turkey burger. The woman next to me was served a hamburger that I swear was still mooing. But in a strange twist of events, ABC's lunch with Jimmy Kimmel flipping burgers and Uncle Frank, Cousin Sal, and pal Cleto serving the food was surprisingly delicious -- even better than FOX's "Hell's Kitchen" lunch. Even stranger, other critics report having opposite reactions: up with Ray, down with Kimmel. Thus ends my attempt at being a food critic.
Haylie Duff will join the cast of "7th Heaven" to reprise her role of Sandy. Except this season Sandy, who last season had a baby without being married (a "7th Heaven" scandal), will enter the seminary. But so far David Gallagher (Simon) and Mackenzie Roseman (Ruthie) have not signed on for the 11th season.
From its bright green color scheme to its "free to be" slogan, CW is desperately trying to be young and hip. They're stopping just short of holding a slumber party for every viewer and promising to braid their hair. But I guess better to have some personality than to be a personality-free network.
After much cajoling, the new executive producer of "Gilmore Girls," David Rosenthal, said cryptically that "a baby will be born" next season.
It looks like you all were right and that Grissom and Sara were together for a lot longer than we knew about on "CSI" (kind of rude to keep a secret from us, don't you think?)
Joe Keenan, the former executive producer of "Frasier" and "Out of Practice," has joined "Desperate Housewives." He revealed -- and again stop reading if you don't want to know -- that the third season of the ABC dramedy will pick up six months later with Mike (James Denton) in a coma, Bree (Marcia Cross) dealing with yet another marriage proposal (this time from Kyle MacLachlan) and Gabrielle (Eva Longoria) catering to Xiao-Mei (Gwendoline Yeo) on pregnancy bed rest. Also look for more deaths to befall Wisteria Lane. Oh, and skipping six months ahead does seem to be all the rage: "What About Brian," which has added Jason George to the cast, will do the same thing.
How secretive are things on the set of "Grey's Anatomy"? So secret that they're filming the second episode first so even the cast doesn't know what happens in the season premiere.
The executive producer of "How I Met Your Mother" (who was thrilled that Barney came in second in the Best Scene Stealer category of the Amy Awards) said the show is sticking by its original announcement that Robin and Ted are not together forever and that Robin is not the mother of Ted's children. When I asked if the mother was someone we already knew, he wouldn't confirm or deny, but my guess is that he's confirming.
And the award for the sitcom cast so much funnier than the sitcom they star in goes to FOX's "Happy Hour." May better series befall all of them in the future.
Quote of the Week
What I find so frustrating about this season of "Rescue Me" is how strong some of the storylines are amidst this weird, disturbing sex thing Tommy has going on. I don't need to approve or even relate to the behavior of television characters -- often when TV characters do very bad things it's often some of the best stuff the series has to offer (see Carrie's affair with Big on "Sex and the City"). My problem is that I simply don't believe in this aspect of "Rescue Me" anymore -- it rings false. But amid this bizarre tangent is some pretty fantastic stuff. Tommy's struggle with survivor's guilt. Sheila's speech about missing Jimmy. Janet's speech to Angie about being the one to break out of the neighborhood. Even Uncle Teddy's story line is cracking me up. It's been a long time since I've been this conflicted about a series. What do you guys think?
Highlights of the Week Ahead
All times listed are Eastern Time for July 31 to Aug. 6
It's not like I think TV is actively working against me -- really I don't. But you have to admit it's very suspicious that "Windfall" (Thursday, NBC, 10 p.m.) was not picked up for a second season, thus still thwarting my plans to actually meet Luke Perry in person. This week Peter begins to become suspicious about his wife's activities.
Don't miss the series premiere of the new ABC Family series "Three Moons Over Milford" Sunday at 8 p.m. The series stars Elizabeth McGovern and Nora Dunn. What more could you want? Okay, it's preceded by an eight-hour "Gilmore Girls" marathon.
That's all for today. I'll be back next Monday with a look at how "The 4400" is doing, a sneak peek at "Nip/Tuck," the return of "Weeds," and much, much more. Have a question, seen a familiar face, have an inside scoop or want to nominate a quote of the week? Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org .