News and Notes from Press Tour

Every July, the producers and stars of all the new fall TV series, and the network executives who greenlit them, descend on a hotel in Southern California to tell a roomful of ornery critics that this is gonna be their year. Sometimes, they're even right.

It's called press tour, and Zap2it will be on hand to cover both the big news (which appears elsewhere on the site) and the little asides from the nonstop parade of press conferences and parties in and around the Ritz-Carlton in Pasadena (which sounds glamorous, and is probably very nice for the out-of-town critics staying there. Unfortunately, we have to drive every day).

Check in early and often for the latest from what's known as "the Death March with cocktails."

Exclusive Photos:

  • FOX Party
  • NBC Party
  • CBS Party
  • CW Party
  • ABC Party Tuesday, July 25 AMW: America's Most Wacky "Now, I don't want to sound like a vigilante. That's something that I don't believe in..." Those words are spoken by John Walsh, whose "America's Most Wanted" series specifically urges viewers at home to take the law into their own hands in apprehending violent criminals. The vast majority of critics skip John Walsh's Tuesday panel, figuring that pool time would be more valuable than another session for a show that's been on the air forever and probably doesn't much rely on positive reviews to stir up its audience. One thing they didn't count on: John Walsh has become Batman, and not necessarily DC Comics' old school moody, but noble Batman. I'm talking Frank Miller-style Scary Batman, where you know the guy is probably on the side of moral righteousness, but it's hard not to be terrified anyway. Some choice quotes:
  • "I said I was kidding when I was talking to the Senate and I said they were talking about electronic monitoring, which is big and unwieldy for the sex offenders, and that some of these guys, no matter what the law in their state was, would have to wear one for 20 years or whatever. I said implant it in their anus and if they go outside the radius, explode it and that would send a big message. It was a joke. Nobody thought it was funny."
  • "I'm all for criminals doing their time, all for rehabilitation, all for a second chance." followed almost immediately by "I say put the pedophiles down in the yard. Put them in there. Let them do the time with the rest of the guys. Let them see what it's like to be terrorized by a 250-pound guy." Things got more heated, though, when a photographer under FOX's employee elected to get into an extended and rather intense conversation with Walsh about marking sexual offenders. They were on so much on the same page that when Walsh mentioned bracelets for perpetrators, the photographer replied, "Not bracelets, not bracelets. The bracelets bulls***. The bracelets bulls***, John, you know that. It's BS." Walsh then suggested putting embedded GPS chips, to which the photographer said, "I'll say bury it deep inside them, is what I say. I don't care how big it is," which earned Walsh's scary reply, "I love your attitude." The microphone was eventually removed from the photographer, a long-time freelancer for the network. He was later lectured by people both within the TCA and within the network and relieved of his duties. The Walsh session was, not surprisingly, cut short. -DF Monday, July 24 Steve Carell's Second Act It is not news, at this point, that "The Office" star Steve Carell is a funny man on his own. But he also has some good writers on his side. Six months after giving a Golden Globes acceptance speech he credited to his wife and fellow "Daily Show" alum, Nancy Walls, Carell was back on the podium again Sunday at the Television Critics Association Awards, where he won for individual achievement in comedy (an honor presented by our own Daniel Fienberg). Carell was gracious and happy to accept the award -- "particularly in light of this" -- a savage review of the very short-lived "Over the Top," which aired on ABC, as Carell noted, "from October 1997 to October 1997." (The bit eviscerating him specifically is about two-thirds of the way through.) "Over the Top" did not win any TCA Awards that year, as you may have guessed. We're glad, though, that Mr. Carell has put the character of Yorga Galfanikos behind him and continued to hone his craft. - RP Monday news: Saturday, July 22 Emmys: The Best of What They Gave Us The Emmys are supposed to represent the best of what's on TV in a given season, but the head of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences all but admitted Saturday that the nominations process doesn't necessarily allow for that. Dick Askin, the chairman of the academy, was at press tour Saturday to discuss the Emmy show, which will air on NBC Sunday, Aug. 27. He faced a number of steamed critics, who wondered why the nominations came out the way they did. In fact, one reporter asked straight out whether Askin thought the nominees represent the best work on television this year. "I belive the Emmy nominations really represent the best works that were submitted, that were evaluated from the season," Askin says. "In a couple of cases, I think because it is a new process and maybe some of the producers submitting the tapes didn't understand. In at least one or two instances, I think that better submissions ... would have changed some of the nominations." Which pretty well sums up the chief complaint of a lot of critics -- if the voters choosing the nominees don't at least have some sense of the totality of a given show or actor's work, how can they claim to be choosing the absolute best? To Askin's credit, he does say that the academy will evaluate the voting process, in which top 15 vote-getters for best comedy and drama and the top 10 for the lead acting categories went to smaller panels that selected the nominees. Part of that will include comparing the popular vote to what the panels picked. "You're never going to win in a situation like this," Askin says, "where you're talking about all these good shows and there are only five nominees." Maybe not, but setting up a process that takes into account more than a handful of episodes in the judging would certainly help. - RP Saturday news: Friday, July 21 Sorkin Cracks Us Up Aaron Sorkin is one of the best-known wordsmiths of our time, yet even he's capable of sticking his foot in his mouth. Case in point: The session for his new NBC show "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," in which he takes to task some of television's baser tendencies, such as eating various animal unmentionables on "Fear Factor." In response to a question about his thoughts on such things, he offered the following answer: "When [TV is] mean-spirited and voyeuristic, it's like bad crack in the schoolyard." The creator of "The West Wing," who's battled some drug problems in the past, paused a moment. "Why did I use that word?" And there was much rejoicing among the assembled critics, whom he later offered $100 each not to quote him (never mind that was already on about a dozen blogs). Better still was the response a few minutes later from "Studio 60" star Matthew Perry, who was asked about playing a fictionalized version of his boss. In the best quote of press tour so far, topping even "I'm Taye Diggs!," Perry deadpanned, "It's like bad Vicodin in the schoolyard." - RP Dear Moron: About This Fish Show For those people who got invested in NBC's shows "Surface" -- or as one critic calls it, "the fish show" -- and "Heist" last year, only to have them canceled, the peacock network hears you. "In the case of the fish show," Entertainment President Kevin Reilly responded to a query about the sudden yanking of series, "there were a lot of people that did want it to continue, but that did have closure. We did air a final episode. "And in the case of 'Heist' -- although I thought it was very promising -- it didn't take, and we wrote personal letters to the two viewers that were watching. So they were covered." Just because they can't make promises that any show will have a lengthy run and reach a satisfactory end, Reilly doesn't think fall offerings like "Heroes," which features a sprawling ensemble of characters who discover they have superpowers, will suffer because of skittish viewers burned once too often to give something new a chance. Reilly says, "These are our customers. OK? We take that very seriously, particularly in this day and age of competition. We don't like pissing off the customers. And, by the way, I get the e-mails. I wake up in the morning and I get, 'Dear Moron.' "Any show that gets canceled has had people who are upset or people who are angry who have invested in it. That's just the nature of what we do." - BB Friday News: Thursday, July 20 Sneaking 'The Shield' Today we experienced one of the real perks of being a TV critic, which is seeing a show a while before it hits the air. On the other hand, though, that can be sort of a drag, because what we saw -- the sixth-season premiere of "The Shield" -- was really, really good, and now I don't want to wait six months before FX puts in on the air. The episode picks up where season five ended, with the crew at the Barn dealing with the fallout from Lem's (Kenneth Johnson) murder at the hands of Shane (Walton Goggins), who mistakenly believed Lem had ratted out the other members of the Strike Team. I don't want to give away too much, but Michael Chiklis used the word "Shakespearean" to describe what's going on, and it's not too big a reach to say that. Shane, after finding out Lem hadn't turned, appears to have a death wish. And the tension between Chiklis' Vic Mackey and Forest Whitaker's (he'll be around for at least a couple of episodes) John Kavanaugh is even higher. And, oh yeah, the episode ends with a really, really awful crime. Six months is gonna seem like a long time. - RP Wednesday, July 19 Toothsome The things you learn in network biographies: Before she became an internationally recognized model and actress, Sofia Vergara was studying dentistry in her native Colombia. The bio says she was "glimpsed by a well-known photographer" while walking on the beach, which led to her modeling career. She puts it a bit more colorfully. "I went to three years of dental school in Colombia," she told us Wednesday during the session for ABC's comedy "The Knights of Prosperity," in which she stars. "But then all this voluptuousness didn't let me finish. You know, I had to take advantage, and here I am." Gotta love it when they're honest. - RP Thank You, Wendie Malick After a certain number of hours sitting in the same hotel ballroom at press tour, you can get a little punchy, which is rarely a good thing, especially when there are microphones at your disposal. It happened to me late Tuesday afternoon, during the session for ABC's new comedy "Big Day." It's "24" as romantic comedy, with minute details of a young couple's wedding -- salad choice plays a big part in the pilot -- played as potentially life-altering events. Wendie Malick, whom I've always liked, plays the mother of the bride, and it's she who sets off the salad war with her daughter (Marla Sokoloff), calling Caesar "a ridiculous salad." It was late in the afternoon, and I was a little tired, and so I went for a cheap question by asking her own opinions on Caesar. Not only did she answer my joke with a better one -- "I personally like Caesar salads. But when you put a Caesar up next to arugula, it doesn't really stand much of a chance" -- but she also went on to discuss, seriously and thoughtfully, the point of the salad scenes in the pilot. "For a lot of women, your wedding day is that day that you wait for your whole life where it's all about you, and there's this sort of misconception that it's going to be the most fabulous day of your life," she said. "And I would say almost without exception most of the women I know who had a big wedding were not present. They almost missed the whole thing because it was just so huge. ..." "I don't want to make this a heavy thing or anything, but I think what [another panelist] said before about it being this power struggle in this family is really what's going on here, that all this stuff is about these relationships that we all have and we're obviously a rather high-strung family, and the people that are going to be coming to this wedding, we all have different, odd sort of conflicts with." That was a far better answer than my half-assed query deserved. So I just wanted to say thanks to Ms. Malick for that. - RP Wednesday news: Tuesday, July 18 I'm Taye Diggs, B****! There are basic facts about Taye Diggs that aren't really in dispute: He's a good looking man. He's a fine singer. He's capable of being a solid and charismatic actor. However, if you look over his resume, there are causes for concern, entries like "New Best Friend," "House on Haunted Hill," "Basic," "Malibu's Most Wanted," the movie version of "Rent." Seeing Taye Diggs' name above the credits for a movie isn't necessarily an assurance of quality so much as an assurance of Taye Diggs' presence in said movie. That's why it was surprising to have Diggs launch into a lengthy rant directed at critics asking logistical questions about his "Groundhog Day Meets Training Day" new ABC late-fall series "Day Break." "You'll have to forgive us if we come off as a little sarcastic or maybe defensive," Diggs began, following one pointed query too many. "But we knew that we would be dealing with a lot of these questions. And I just need to remind you that this is something very special to us. We think it's very different, it's unique. But at the same time, it's still a television show. And everybody here, we all know what we're doing." I'm not sure that anybody meant any direct offense aimed at Diggs, but he should know that critics ask nitty-gritty questions even of creators and stars whose TV pedigrees are somewhat loftier than an arc on "Ally McBeal" and a season of "Kevin Hill." After some more rambling, Diggs continued, "All these questions that you are asking, I could ask, well, how does someone do that for 'Desperate Housewive's? It's a TV show, and we know what we're doing. Do you know what I'm saying?" Yes. You're saying that you know what you're doing. The funny thing is, I like Diggs and I like the "Day Break" pilot, but it isn't beyond reproach, or beyond discussion. After something about how the dog that appears in the pilot wouldn't be popping up in every episode with a shoe in his mouth ("That would be bad TV," Diggs explained), he reached the best part. "We're not dumb. "I'm Taye Diggs! I wouldn't sign on for that." And with that, a soon-to-be-legendary Press Tour catch phrase is born, a catch-all excuse to direct at any critic who has the nerve to question a logical gaffe, all-white ensemble cast or problematic creative decision. I'm Taye Diggs! Well, then, say no more. -DF Can't Stop Danson
    (With apologies to Bill Lawrence and "Nobody's Watching." I couldn't resist.) In his three decades in showbiz, Ted Danson hasn't had his talent or his comedic chops questioned too often. No, what people have always wondered about is ... his hair. Rumors about whether Danson, who stars in ABC's new comedy "Help Me Help You," wears or has worn a rug, have followed him since his "Cheers" heyday. He never really responded to the speculation, partly because it's kinda silly. But partly because -- here, let the man himself explain: "I used to color -- I had a bald spot about this big [he makes about a 50-cent piece-sized circle with his fingers] when I started 'Cheers,' and I'd surreptitiously put my little brown thing on it and comb my hair over it. And then the tabloids said that I'm wearing a huge hairpiece. And I couldn't go, 'No, no. I'm just -- I just color it in.' "Then about five years later, I indeed did have to wear a little divot hairpiece [hands now making a DVD-sized circle] for Sam Malone. So I put that in, and then one of the tabloids airbrushed my entire head and said that I'm one of the people who is totally bald. And I, once again, couldn't say, 'No, no, I just wear this little. ...'" The last couple of years, though, Danson has hid neither his thinning pate nor his natural hair color (a distinguished gray). As he says, "I'm out of the closet. It's very nice not to sit around with a bunch of ladies with silver things in my hair getting dye jobs. So I'm happy to be gray." - RP ABC: No, We're the Underdog A couple days ago, CBS executive Nina Tassler said her network's top-rated series, "CSI," would start the fall as an "underdog" against ABC's hit "Grey's Anatomy," which is moving to Thursdays. Tuesday her counterpart at ABC could only chuckle at that characterization. "I heard Nina was playing the rope-a-dope," ABC Entertainment chief Steve McPherson cracked. "I think it's kinda funny. ... They're the champs, no question, but we are coming in there with a strong contender." Like Tassler, McPherson thinks both shows can do well in the same timeslot. But he'd consider his show the underdog, not "CSI." "Listen, I think we are," he says. "To me, if you've got a network that's dominating the night, and we're coming in trying to do business on that night, yeah. ... It kind of speaks for itself." So we now have two underdogs, both of which draw 20 million-plus viewers in a given week. So, what then, "Supernatural" is now the favorite? You heard it here first, folks. - RP Tuesday news: Monday, July 17 Good Morning, Ladies and Germs One casualty of the UPN-WB merger, we weary critics feared, would be the elimination of one of the little things that makes press tour fun -- the semiannual comedy stylings of WB publicity guy Keith Marder. Keith has moved on to cable's CSTV, but he returned for one more (final? I hope not) command performance at the top of The CW's session Monday. After an introduction by WWE star Ken Kennedy, he opened with "Well, I told you UPN would never last. ... It feels like only yesterday that The WB was in business and '7th Heaven' was canceled." A couple of Dick Cheney jokes and the latest Shannen Doherty update -- "Shannen is one of the many people filling in as host on 'The View.' You have to hand it to the show. They even found a way to make Rosie O'Donnell look good" -- paved the way for the following gems:
  • "The only show with as much profanity as 'Deadwood' is 'Lucky Louie.' Sometimes if I close my eyes, I can't tell them apart, except for the fact that 'Deadwood' is funnier."
  • "You know what's exactly like 'The Sopranos'? World Cup soccer. The Italians won. Everybody watched. And now they'll go away for four years."
  • "What's the deal with MyNetwork Television? It's not mine. It's not a network. My Network. My a**." Thanks to the magic of 21st-century technology, you can hear Keith's entire routine here. - RP Godzilla Crushes Tokyo. Donnie Wahlberg Crushes 'Godzilla.' Whether we've been making Shannen Doherty cry for past indiscretions, begging for explanations for the cancellation of "Joan of Arcadia" or asking Mr. T why he still pities fools, much of this Press Tour has found us living in the past. Donnie Wahlberg is similarly unstuck in time -- or reality -- it would seem. The producers of The C-Dub's new "Everwood: Criminal Intent" family thriller "Runaway" are asked about the difficulties of making a show about fugitives fleeing authorities in this age of constant surveillance and Internet research. It's a good question. Wahlberg agrees. In fact, the issue of credibility in the digital age causes the former New Kid on the Block to reflect on another film that strained his ability to suspend disbelief ... "Godzilla." "That's what I thought when I watched the new Godzilla movie -- because I just kept saying, like, 'How could this giant thing be swimming around in the ocean and no radars are picking it up?' You know what I mean? And it's just, like, right off the coast of New York, and nobody -- I was like, 'This doesn't work in the year 2000 or whatever year 'Godzilla' came out." It was 1998, actually. And the logical flaws with "Godzilla" have been bugging Wahlberg ever since. We agree. The problem with "Godzilla" was entirely based around faulty use of sonar technology. -DF Monday news: Sunday, July 16 The Burger Queen Cometh As much as we try to dislike Rachael Ray we just can't. And by all rights we really, really should. Everyone should hate someone who's that perky all the time. But ... but ... she's just so nice ... and genuine. Even when you throw your most damning complaint in her face -- that her 30-Minute Meals take a good deal longer for the average at-home cook to prepare -- she cops to it. "When I go home -- if I open the wine before I start cooking -- it takes me a good 47," she says, before elaborating that the "30 minute" concept is supposed to be more of an encouragement: you can cook a meal in roughly the same amount of time it would take to get one delivered. Okay, fine. Ray is here to promote her new syndicated lifestyle show "Rachael Ray," premiering Monday, Sept. 18. With new news anchor Katie Couric in "serious" mode earlier in the morning, it's up to Ray to charm the getting-crankier-by-the-hour critics. Which she does, before sending them off to a hotel-prepared lunch of her recipes that is a welcome break from the cold cut spreads that are already getting old. Mini-burgers abound, whether they are spanakopita, turkey, tuna or bacon-bit with gouda. They're complimented by steak fries with fresh herbs and lemon rind and a greek salad. Ray, who admits to not being a baker, provides Sangria on a Stick and/or macadamia nut chocolate tarts for dessert. Tomorrow: back to processed meat and cheese. - BB The Incredible, Edible Network Promo CBS has invented what may be the most perishable form of advertising ever. Starting in September, the network will team up with a company called EggFusion to print adds for its fall schedule on eggshells. For real. The ads, which will become unreadable the moment consumers get hungry for breakfast (insert your own, "Hey, if you want ratings, you have to break a few eggs" joke here), will feature egg-related puns like "'CSI': Crack the Case on CBS" and "CBS Mondays: Funny Side Up." The marketing folks at CBS think the "egg-vertising" (their word) campaign is "a great way to reach [viewers] out of their homes and in their daily lives, but in a way that also brings the message back into their home." We think it would have been much cooler if the network had genetically engineered the eggs so that when cracked, the yolks come out in the shape of the CBS eye. Maybe next season. - RP Sunday news: Saturday, July 15 Are You There God? It's Us, the Critics There's a new Question That Won't Die at the CBS portion of the press tour. For a long time, not a tour went by where someone didn't ask a CBS executive -- usually top dog Les Moonves -- about the status of the network's proposed "Beverly Hillbillies" reality series. You might remember that project for being denounced on the floor of the House of Representatives for denigrating rural America, before it started even pre-production. We eventually got tired of the joke, and Moonves has now ceded the executive press conference to Nina Tassler, the president of CBS Entertainment. And once again this tour, more than a year after it was cancelled, she was asked what happened with "Joan of Arcadia" (that's star Amber Tamblyn over there). "You're kidding, right?" Tassler asked, echoing the sentiment of a lot of people in the room. "No. I only wish I were," was the response. Yes, "Joan" had a passionate audience, and they were peeved when CBS pulled it. Tassler answered a few questions about it last summer, when she was no doubt expecting them. And after her incredulous initial response, she recovered a little: "Well, there you go. That just it was a wonderful show. We were thrilled to have it on the air. It's nice that it's held in such high regard." Cheeky bunch that we are, we also asked joking questions about, yes, "The Beverly Hillbillies," as well as the Bob Newhart-Judd Hirsch sitcom "George & Leo." The answer on both fronts, you should know, is no. - RP Saturday news: Friday, July 14 Damon Wayans and the Unexpectedly Chatty Anatomy From the shocking first episode of "The Shield" to the shockingly profane "Sopranos" to the shockingly bad pilot for NBC's "Thick & Thin," TV critics have seen it all. It's tough to shock us. However, the threshold for some writers appears to be just a little ol' talking, um... Well, let's just say that Damon Wayans' Showtime sketch show "The Underground" features a skit called "The Real Vagina Monologues" and that the skit features exactly what you would expect it to. It's a skit shocking enough to produce this conversation between a respected veteran critic and Wayans. THE CRITICS: I want to ask this as delicately as I can. It's the one about the real "Vagina Monologues." DAMON WAYANS: Would you like your own copy? THE CRITIC: I've been doing this so long that I remember when Barbara Eden had to put makeup in her belly -- DAMON WAYANS: Vagina? THE CRITIC: -- button. And I'm just -- the question is that's going to be how that's going to be shown. I'm not as thrown by the talking performance as I am by the rest of the anatomic -- DAMON WAYANS: The surrounding area? THE CRITIC: -- correct, extraneous -- yes. DAMON WAYANS: Well, get some lotion and some toilet paper. It has teeth in it. You know, it's -- it's comedy. THE CRITIC: No, I know. I'm talking about the entire phrase -- I'm talking below the talking performance. DAMON WAYANS: Oh, the hind quarter. DAMON WAYANS, JR.: The chin. DAMON WAYANS: The buttocks. No. I think that might be taken away. I think you're seeing -- it's a rough cut is what you're seeing. We're going to -- I mean, but it's honest, you know. I don't want to shut the vagina down and take away from the actual look. You're not going to write -- that's funny. We're still blushing a little. -DF Hagrid's alter ego Robbie Coltrane has starred in four blockbuster movies in the past five years, but when he's out on the street, most of his biggest fans don't even recognize him. Such are the perks of acting behind a massive beard and long robes in the "Harry Potter" movies, as he's done in his role as gentle giant Hagrid. But because he's clean-shaven, short-haired and only about 6-foot-1 in real life, he's able to go about his business without being mobbed by young Muggles. "If a 10-year-old does come up to me, it's only because their parents tell them who I am," Coltrane told TV critics Friday at a panel for the revival of his decidedly more grown-up character Dr. Eddie "Fitz" Fitzgerald in "Cracker." The two-hour movie is scheduled to debut on BBC America in October. And he doesn't figure too many members of the under-12 set have seen "Cracker" or his performances as a "young lefty comedian" in the early 1980s. "The other stuff is all too scandalous for them, isn't it?" he says. - RP You don't hear that every day After attending press tour for a while, you develop an ear for the absurd. Consider the following phrases uttered at Friday's session for Lifetime:
    • "From the producers of 'Crash.'" You may have heard about the latest spat between the folks behind last year's best picture winner, who have gone at each other in court over who should get what credit. In the latest episode, writer-director Paul Haggis, co-writer Bobby Moresco and Mark R. Harris, who all have producer credits on the film, are suing Lifetime over its promotion of the new drama "Angela's Eyes."
    • Ads for the show have said it comes from "the producers of Academy Award winner 'Crash.'" And it's true that two of the show's executive producers, Cathy Schulman and Tom Nunan, are credited as a producer and exec producer, respectively, of the film. However, Haggis et al, who has nothing to do with the show, believe the ads imply that Haggis is somehow involved. Lifetime boss Susanne Daniels issued a no-comment on the suit at the start of the network's time -- which was followed a couple minutes later by a clip reel for "Angela's Eyes" that noted it was "from the producers of Academy Award winner 'Crash,'" with Schulman and Nunan's names below it.
    • "German telenovela." I'm trying to picture the Teutonic translation of "Betty La Fea," and I don't know what it looks like, but it's funny. I imagine, though, that Daniels was using the T-word to describe a type of serial drama, rather than the specific sorts of shows that dominate Spanish-language broadcasting. Specifically, she was talking about "Bianca: Journey to Paradise," which the network is adapting.
    • "Clairvoyant sensation." Daniels used this odd little phrase to describe a British medium who's developing a show for Lifetime. How, exactly, does one become a clairvoyant sensation? Did she upset a couple of higher-seeded psychics in a channeling tournament? Did Other Side Weekly put her on its cover? Or does she just have a really good agent?
    - RP Bogged Down in the Blogosphere Yes, we know it's perverse to blog about blogging, but indulge us for a minute. As more and more corporate taskmasters catch on to 2002's technology, the Press Tour has become thick with reporters charged with making their coverage as real-time as possible. There are -- at least -- 25 bloggers amongst us this time around dealing out everything from scathing party coverage to horrifically compelling daily weigh-ins. At times, the likes of Spike Lee, David Cross and John Stamos holding forth seems a bit wasted on the bowed heads typing furiously less than 20 feet away. And not all are happy with this new development. During the morning session for the new TBS' comedy "My Boys," about a woman sports journalist (Jordana Spiro) who spends both her professional and personal life surrounded by men, the cynicism seeped out. First, the producers were informed "there doesn't seem to be any 21-year-old, blonde, female sports reporters that are actually sports reporters." They were then asked if in the name of realism the character will blog. The sarcasm of the inquiry was lost on the panel as Spiro enthused, "We were talking about that, actually. When we went to the press box, there's this whole new wave of bloggers, aren't there? And there's all these, like, 20-something, like, little indie guys sitting in the back on their little computers with their little Vans sneakers and everything ... ." Executive producer Betsy Thomas concurred saying they do want to a do a blog from the character's perspective as an online companion for the show while it's airing. The natural follow-up question, ruefully delivered: "Do you know how much of her life it will eat up?" - BB Friday news: Thursday, July 13 The Demon as dad It's not the first time this subject matter has been broached, but A&E's upcoming rock star-as-family man show "Gene Simmons Family Jewels" may be worth a look. The show covers "Osbournes" territory as it examines the relationship between Simmons, a founding member of KISS, ex-Playmate and actress Shannon Tweed -- they've been together for 20-some years but have never married -- and their two kids, 17-year-old Nick and 14-year-old Sophie. How can you not be curious about a series in which dad tries to hook his son up with half the women who approach him? Like a lot of dads, though, Simmons is less than thrilled about his daughter dating. As Sophie notes at Thursday's press tour session, "I have no problem being a virgin for a long time." "Whatever my daughter wants," Simmons replies. Simmons, of course, became famous as the blood-spitting, groupie-devouring "Demon" in KISS, but "Family Jewels" shows him being, well, a pretty nice guy -- a trait his family was only too happy to point out, seeing as how it conflicts with his carefully constructed image. "I want to be the bad guy," he says. "Those things they're saying about me are not allowed." - RP A 'Fool's' paradise Here's why press tour, for the long slog it sometimes becomes, is great: We just spent a half-hour discussing what makes fool with Mr. T. The former "A-Team" star, who has ditched his gold chains in favor of sharp suits, was in Pasadena to talk about his new TV Land show "I Pity the Fool," in which Mr. T travels around the country, dispensing advice and helping those who need it. Appropriately, then, someone asked Mr. T why he pities the fool. "That's a good question," the enormously energetic Mr. T says. Pity, he believes, "is between sorry and mercy. ... You don't want to beat 'em up. You gotta give them another chance." Mr. T acknowledges that he's not any kind of therapist, but he says what he's doing is more practical in nature -- finding solutions to problems and getting people to abandon their foolishness. "My show isn't like 'Dr. Phil' where people go and cry, 'Dr. Phil, what's wrong with me, what's wrong with me,'" he says, rubbing his eyes as if he were fighting tears. "You're a fool, that's what wrong!" He also says that in the world of fools, there are no degrees of foolishness. "There's no big or small -- you're either a fool or you're not," Mr. T asserts. "If you're on my fool list, that's it." - RP Thursday news: Wednesday, July 12 The World Needs Steve Guttenberg Now More Than Ever It was only a year ago that a Press Tour party afforded the opportunity to chat with one of the greatest comic minds of our time, a writer, director, producer and star who needs no introduction, a man they call The Gutt. That conversation became the seminal story, "Finding Wisdom in Steve Guttenberg's Bible." With The Gutt in attendance at Wednesday (July 12) night's Hallmark Channel party, I got to renew acquaintances with Guttenberg, a man of obvious brilliance who will eventually learn to use his powers for good, rather than evil. I'm not exactly sure what Guttenberg is doing at the party, because when I inquire, he responds thusly: "I'm doing something, it's actually called 'Jew Fever.' It's this kind of a cool Hallmark show that I think is going to be sort of a... it's actually coming from the Right, but it's really cool. It's about this family, you know. They live in Ohio and they're farmers and pretty conservative, pretty right wing and this Jew comes in, actually comes in from space. I guess he lands on some sort of ... I don't know exactly what the story is. I just thumbed through it. I wasn't able to bring the script home. But I guess this Martian, sort of like 'Mork & Mindy,' he lands in their backyard, big like 'Superman' thing, and they run out there and they pop open this egg, and this little Jew jumps out. Now I don't know if you've noticed, but I'm not very Jew-y looking. I'm sort of semi-Jew-y looking. I could be maybe Italian? You know, in the right position? But I could be Jew-y too. So I come out and I look kind of Jew-y..." But he isn't done. In fact, it gets better. "I come out as a baby, you know, like a little baby and I come out and I do sort of a couple minutes with them and I grow up and I sort of jump and you see me doing incredible things like reading the Torah really fast and kissing the mezuzah like a thousand times, stuff like that. He's just a Jew, and he's just a nervous Jew. And he works in the yeshiva and puts out a yeshiva newsletter and there he meets Esther." The story continues for a bit, but that's when he confuses Esther (of Purim fame) with Lot's Wife (or Pillar of Salt fame) and that's when he temporarily begins musing on the penguins in attendance (see the item below). "I've seen nasty penguins. I've seen -- what shall I say? -- ill-mannered ... Nice ... There's Shirley Jones. Hey. Academy Award. Hey. That's my woman." Guttenberg's confidence hasn't dwindled in the past year, thanks in large part to a supporting role on UPN's "Veronica Mars." "I just think I was brilliant," he observes. "I would watch the tapes over and over and over. Have you seen them? Have you seen them? Have you watched them over and over and over? You'll see things that you can't believe. You'll look at me and you'll go, 'That's unbelievable' and that's what I say too. I looked at myself and I said, 'It's unbelievable.'" It's not often a man takes such pride in playing a character who turns out to be a child molester. Was he warned that the character was going in that direction when he was hired? "I wasn't hired," he says. "I was incurred for employment. I'm not for hire anymore. I'm too old." He adds, "You know, they said 'child fondler.' That actually seems kind of OK. 'Molester' is bad. I mean, anybody pretty much who's a molester, they go to jail and they stay in jail. A fondler? You know, I don't know if you get. ... Not touching, maybe. Maybe it's like in your mind. Not that I'm saying there's anything OK with it. There's Dick Van Dyke, wow." Asked if he takes any pride in the demise of the summer disaster bomb "Poseidon" so soon after his NBC telefilm remake of "The Poseidon Adventure," The Gutt becomes almost serious. "Bro! They paid $200 million and sucked. We spent like 15 and we were great. We had more people see our show than a $200 million Warner Bros. show. Bro! What else can I say." Until next time, thus endeth The Gutt. -DF Wednesday news: Coming Next Summer ... Samuel L. Jackson in ... "Penguins in a Swimming Pool" Yes. We know that the Hallmark Channel is really proud to have cable rights to the documentary smash "March of the Penguins." I'm a little less sure who thought the best way to celebrate that fact was by throwing a party that included what looked to be dead penguins floating in the swimming pool at the Ritz. Those yearning for something a little closer to the real thing needed only to wait for the Hallmark brass to introduce the flightless human star power -- Steve Guttenberg, Dick Van Dyke, Steve Guttenberg, Kellie Martin, Steve Guttenberg, Shirley Jones, Steve Guttenberg and Marion Ross were all there -- before the speakers began blaring "Ice, Ice, Baby." For most of the assembled TCA members, this produced memories of that glorious night when "Surreal Life" cast members Vanilla Ice and Trishelle performed a drunken duet of the rap classic. Instead, the song was a cue for the unleashing of two of the mangiest penguins I've ever seen. It's bad enough being a television critic on a hot Pasadena night, but the penguins looked miserable and refused to properly walk across the blue carpet. The penguins were later stuffed into two cages with colorful fishy covers and carted back to some venue with fewer people, fewer dead birds in the pool and much less available alcohol. -DF Tuesday, July 11 Are HBO's towels all wet? There's a blue towel in the HBO goodie bag. That, in and of itself, isn't particularly interesting, nor is the quality of the towel, which goes down as better than the towel FOX gave us for "Quintuplets" two years ago, but not as good as the bright red one TNT gave us at some point. The issue is, why a towel? Yes, the towel says "Entourage" on it and may relate back to the fact that "Entourage" is a summery show, like the televisual equivalent of a trip to the beach on a sunny warm day. It seems like somebody at HBO might have looked at the rest of the network's TCA slate and decided that maybe the gift might be misconstrued. After all, in addition to "Entourage," HBO's presentations include Spike Lee's Hurricane Katrina doc "When the Levees Broke" and the self-explanatory miniseries "Tsunami, the Aftermath." That's two different water-themed disaster epics, two situations in which a towel might be useful, but probably eventually superflous -- bandaid for a bullet-hole sort of stuff. - DF Tracks of her tears It's not unheard of that people onstage at press tour will shed a tear or two, usually from aggressive questioning on the part of the 100 or so critics in the room (Monica Lewinsky on an HBO panel and Ving Rhames for USA's "Kojak" come to mind). But what happened Tuesday has to be some kind of record. Not even one full day into the tour, someone -- to be exact, former "Beverly Hills, 90210" and "Charmed" star Shannen Doherty -- broke down. (An hour or so later, former CBS News anchor followed suit -- not a huge surprise, given that Rather has long been known to wear his heart on his sleeve.) Doherty was in Pasadena to promote a show on Oxygen called "Breaking Up with Shannen Doherty," in which -- no kidding -- she helps people end relationships. The bulk of the session proceeded normally, with Doherty and the show's producers even drawing a few laughs from the room. Toward the end, though, someone asked Doherty -- not in a badgering way, it should be noted -- if "Breaking Up" is maybe a way to change the way the media look at her. "You know, I'm not really trying to alter anything," she said, calmly. "I've answered this question so many different times, that the only thing I can do in my life is be myself and live it the way I want to live it, whether people accept it or not." As she went on, though, Doherty became visibly upset and finally broke down. "I'm not going to lie to you," she said. "It hurts a lot to read the stuff that I read about myself. And it hurts for me and, more importantly, that's my mom right there" -- she pointed out to the audience -- "it hurts my mom a lot." Fortunately, another critic stepped in and asked how many of the dumped guys on the show tried to hit on her. "I could actually get quite a few dates," she quipped. "And I'm single." - RP Tuesday news:
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