Saturday, January 31, 2009

Letterman, Hicks and the Healing Power of Redemption

With David Letterman you really do get all the great late night TV talk show hosts rolled into one. In the early '80s he started out all Steve Allen, smart and smart ass; somewhere around the time of Johnny Carson's death he assumed the stature and gravitas of Carson, and, as he did on Friday's extraordinary show, he demonstrated that, despite his intensely private nature, he is capable of giving himself up as intimately, fearlessly and completely as Jack Paar.
Friday's show, which I PVR'd (thanks to Denis McGrath's heads up) and finally had a chance to view today, was sweet, sad, gutsy and refreshingly unconventional. Letterman's guest was Mary Hicks, the mother of stand up comedian Bill Hicks, who died in 1994 at 32.
Letterman invited Mrs. Hicks--who reminded me a little of Letterman's own mom, Dorothy--on to apologise for cutting her son's Oct. 1, 1993 stand up routine. He then showed the never before seen comedy act in its entirety.
Without going into any detail, Letterman explained that he had some problem with the routine back in 1993. It is pretty edgy, but Letterman should have expected that—he’d had Hicks on 11 times before. Hicks’ casual, laid-back looks hid a secret storm. His routine took aim at the church, goofed on Jesus, joked about killing Billy Ray Cyrus and Michael Bolton, teased gays and lesbians and mocked pro-lifers. It is all stuff Bill Maher could get away with today on Real Time , but had to have been pretty out there in those very politically correct days of 1993.
The big surprise Friday night was how seamlessly the routine dropped 15 years into the future. It was remarkably contemporary, like something Lewis Black might perform today, only funny. See for yourselves:



It is important to remember that back in late 1993 Letterman was actually beating Jay Leno in the intense, early year of the great late night comedy war. He probably was never more conscious of aiming his show at what CBS saw as the widest possible audience. Letterman erred on the side of caution that night and canned Hicks' routine.
What he didn't know that night--what very few knew at the time, as Mary Hicks acknowledged Friday night--was that the comedian was dying. Hicks had just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He only lived a few more months.
Finding out that her son's last Letterman shot had been taken away that sad, horrible year was pretty hard on Hicks and her family, as she made Letterman feel on Friday's show. The host acknowledged his mistake and showed great remorse. Letterman was asking forgiveness from Hicks mother, on national television, fifteen years after the fact.
He got it, although Hicks made him earn it. She was a remarkable guest. Letterman made the point that, as a parent himself, he has more insight now than he did then as to how she must have felt.
Forgiveness, redemption, benediction, all in one unlikely late night bundle. It would have made Hicks laugh, no doubt. Letterman always has had great affection for his fellow comedians, but Friday night went to a place he has never shown us before.

Once Around the Geo-Block

Tina Fey joked last year that being on a network TV show today was "like being in vaudeville in the '60s." Being in on the new media shows, on the other hand, is like being in television in the '40s. It's new and it's cool.
At least one reader of this site has already suggested that I rename this sight "Media" Feeds My Family. He may be on to something.
Was able to spin a story about some of the hot new digital Internet sites in today's Toronto Star. The piece--"Point, click--and get geo-blocked," can be found on the front of the Entertainment section or you can read it here.
Geo-blocking is a big frustration if you're trying to see a clip from last night's Conan O'Brien or a SNL sketch or anything from NBC or Fox. Hulu, their big Internet streaming centre, is geo-blocked in Canada and that's not going to change anytime soon, according to Hulu content vp Andy Forssell. His quote off the press tour hit a nerve with every Canuck in the house. "We get a lot of angry emails from Canadians that consider what we were making available on-line to be their birthright," he said.
Forssell gets why we all feel that way. His wife is from Toronto.
He told me he doesn't expect Hulu to sort through all the Canadian content provider agreements for a long time, possibly years. He's not inclined to start letting some Hulu stuff cross the border and others not--he wants to wait until a total Hulu launch in Canada.
In the meantime, plenty of cool stuff is not geo-blocked in Canada, including the original content at Sony Pictures Television's Crackle.com. One little show I like at this site is Anytime with Bob Kushell, a five minute Internet talk show hosted by Kushell, a writer on shows like The Simpsons and Samantha Who. Kushell's little show takes place in his sister's garage at her house in completely uncool Van Nuys, Calif. You can see the Anytime band up against the wall, next to the rakes and the lawnmower. He tells one crummy monologue joke and then spends two or three minutes with a guest. Here's Kushell with Howie Mandel:

Crackle has several other originals, including a fairly impressive adult comic strip drama called Angel of Death and the raunchy antics of Dave Faustino (Bud Bundy on Married...with Children) in Star-ving. Watch shameless Faustino pulls down his own pants on his failed Hollywood career:

It's gross, stupid, and cheap--three things that are fueling this digital revolution.
Faustino told critics at press tour that Sony ponied up "mid six figures" for him to crank out 20 of these five-to-seven minute webisodes. Half a million is nothing in television but it can be stretched pretty far in the wild west of Internet content. Big names like Ed O'Neil and Katey Sagal don't come cheap unless they're a) friends and former co-stars of Faustino, which they are and b) into it because it is fun. That kept coming back at the press tour session, how the folks cranking out these cheapie shorts are having a blast doing it, how they're enjoying the freedom from network interference and notes.
Faustino and others insist people are still getting paid, that some union guidelines are being observed. Would love to see the accounting on that, but for now people seem willing to experiment and bend the rules--at least until somebody monitizes all of this and then things get ugly.
In the meantime it is fun to see it all take off--provided it ain't geo-blocked.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Even TV Can`t Scare This Human Guinea Pig

This morning I watched a man put a giant hook through his nose, clamp cow bells to his eye lids and chew a light bulb to bits.
No, it wasn't Leonard Asper. It wasn`t even the Canwest programming executive who just ordered more episodes of Howie Do It. It was Ryan Stock, the 26-year-old daredevil host of Discovery Channel's outrageous Guinea Pig.
Stock and his partner in crime, AmberLynn Walker, met with a few reporters this morning at a suitably creepy place--CTV's Masonic Temple on Yonge Street. These two kids were made for each other. Stock was performing magic tricks at an Edmonton festival several years ago when he spotted magician`s assistant Walker doing balloon tricks. She`s also a contortionist who can wiggle her way through a tennis racket. It was a love match.
They gave us a taste of the act they've been performing recently in Vegas and all over the world (including stops on The Hour, Adam Sandler`s The Gong Show and MTV Live). It was definitely extreme performance art of the "do not try this at home" variety.
First the dude lit a blowtorch and then put the flame out with his tongue. He used to do this with a cigarette, he told us, but then, well, cigarettes are bad for you.
He then stuck a hook in his nose and then curved it out of his mouth. Then a bigger hook. Then AmberLynn introduced a trick with what they call, in front of the kids anyway, "pocket balloons." Stock can stick a condom in one nostril, pull it out of another, pull it from his nose to his mouth, inflate it through his nostril, etc. He says he hasn't had a cold all winter. His nose is also STD free.
More horrifying was when he pointed a running drill at his face and inserted the bit deep inside his nose. Amber held up the X-Ray of the bit venturing that close to the part where his head connects to his spine. Talk about cordless!
He also ate a light bulb. Relax, it was one of the old kind, we don't want them any more anyway. First he breaks off the metal end, then he crunches the glass up in his mouth with his teeth and swallows it down. Calls it a light snack. Washes it down with Windex. (Really blue Gatorade; the guy isn`t completely off his nut).
Glass is just sand, he says, and he just reduces it back to sand. As painful as it is to watch, it is no longer painful for him to consume, although the painful part comes, he joked, the next morning. I think he was kidding.
Things got a bit sick when he hung a series of cow bells from his eyelids. `More cowbell,`he called out to AmberLynn. A bunch of other stuff went down the dudes ears, eyes, nose and throat, including a very long sword. "There are only 70 people left in the world today who still actually do this," he informed us. Doubt the other 69 go so far as to stick two swords down their throat, then juggle three of the biggest Ginsu knives you've ever seen. Just a little something Ryan cooked up out in the garage practicing.
AmberLynn usually sticks around to call 911 when he is working out a new trick. Sometimes things go wrong, like the time out in the backyard when he attempted to practice a little knife throwing with his feet. Damn handle of one of the knives caught the ground and Stock sliced his foot in half. The had to call a toe truck.
Back to the press session. A cordless electric chain saw was started. Buddy doesn't just juggle this sucker--it isn't weighted properly for that, we were informed--he sticks it in his mouth and holds it over his head. While it is running. Business end in his teeth.
He added two pieces of rubber to clamp down on, but still, as he suggested, one slip and he's playing The Joker in the next Batman movie.
The Edmonton native admits he was the kind of kid who was jumping off the roof of his parent`s house at an early age. His parents, he says, have always encouraged him to do all this stuff that would scare the crap out of anybody else`s parents. Maybe it helps that his dad is a Baptist minister, a man of prayer.
Guinea Pig, which is in its third season, airs Saturday nights at 11 p.m. on the Discovery Channel. On it, Stock makes Jesse James--the former Monster Garage dude whose series Jesse James is a Dead Man starts in May--look like Stephane Dion.
The series is part Mythbusters, part Mercer, part Evil Knevil, with Stock doing everything from experiencing a motorcycle crash to taking on a 300-pound wrestler to jumping out of an airplane at 30,000 feet. That one was a tad chilly, he says. The free fall part took well over two minutes. It still sounds less terrifying than half the stuff he made us watch him do this morning.
Stock has built his pain threshold up to an extreme level. He knows Kung Fu, for real, not in a Keanu Reeves way. We`re told he stretches his body to the breaking point--something to do with a 4000-pound car--to set a new Guinness World Record on the last episode this season. (There are 10 new episodes, which should take the show into March.) He also has several tattoos on his arms, including two pincushion dolls. They`re there to cover up the scars from all the real knife, sword and pin stabs he`s taken on his forearms over the years. He didn`t tell us if he`d ever been knifed in the back, but, then again, this is his third season on television.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Mercer Soars to Seasonal High

The Rick Mercer Report drew 1,262,000 viewers Tuesday night, it's biggest audience of the season. Tuesday night is fast becoming TV night in Canada, with high numbers across all three Canadian networks.
Mercer's show, which showed him skiing with Olympic champion-turned-senator Nancy Greene, came third in its 8 p.m. timeslot, behind CTV powerhouse American Idol (1,929,000) and Global's stealth hit, NCIS (1,556,000).
This Hour Has 22 Minutes, which found Geri Hall at the NHL All-Star game, followed Mercer with its biggest audience of the year, 944,000 viewers (all numbers BBM/NMR overnight estimates). That, too, is up against Idol and NCIS.
Viewership drops dramatically Tuesday at 9, however, at least on CBC (550,000 for the Calgary cowgirl drama Wild Roses) and especially over at Global (just 220,000 for 90210). CTV's sci-fi rookie drama Fringe pulled 1,304,000 out of Idol.
Tuesdays at 10, Global's Project Runway Canada tripped and fell down to 282,000 viewers. That was against close-to-a-million audiences on both CTV (Law & Order:SVU, 963,000) and the CBC National News (907,000).
Other numbers of note: Jeopardy! continues to own oldies, with 1,076,000 and 1,153,000 tuning in across Canada Monday and Tuesday. The Hour scored 207,000 at 11 Tuesday night.
The good news continued Wednesday for CBC with 1,019,000 tuning in for The Week The Women Went.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

See Those Spiked Super Bowl Spots Here

Super Bowl Sunday is as potent as ever as a TV draw. That's part of the radio talk this week with CHML's Scott Thompson. You can listen in here.
Scott brings up this whole deal about sponsors being booted off the NBC broadcast because their spots were deemed too steamy--only to cash in with all the press coverage sending the curious over to various web sites. It's a neat way to save the millions NBC charges for 30 seconds and reap all the exposure and added web traffic. I wish I had thought of it. Maybe it's not too late.
Go Daddy's been pulling this prank for years. It gets them splashed all over CNN, Fox News, etc. Here are the two ads they submitted for Sunday's Super Bowl broadcast, both featuring racy Danica Patrick:



Now PETA's pulled the same prank. Here's their fun and sexy ad rejected for going way beyond "wardrobe malfunction.":


null - Watch more free videos

Pass the veggies and dip! NBC did PETA a huge favour by deeming the ad as depicting "a level of sexuality exceeding our standards." They particularly objected to a scene they felt showed a woman "screwing herself with broccoli." Sure, go ahead, I'll wait here while you replay the video.
Now, here's an ad that will run on Super Bowl Sunday, although, as usual, Canadians won't see it. It is for SoBe Lifewater, a Pepsi product. The eye-popping spot will apparently be available in 3-D in the U.S.:


Find more videos like this on AdGabber


Dreamworks got in on this ad with all those Monsters vs. Aliens interacting with the SoBe lizard. Viewers are meant to pick up 3-D glasses at participating Pepsi retailers in the U.S. By the way, that's Patriots All-Pro offensive lineman Matt Light, New York Giants’s defensive end Justin Tuck, and Baltimore Ravens's tackle Ray Lewis in those white tights. The spot will air after the start of the second quarter. And, yes, there's even a making of the SoBe Super Bowl "Lizard Lake" spot, courtesy YouTube:



NBC still had four spots to sell four days before Super Bowl XLIII. That's four out of 67 spots, not bad in this economy. Ad experts predict that, at nearly $3 million US an ad, NBC will bring in slightly less than $200 million for its first Super Bowl broadcast in several years.
CTV, The Canadian Press reported Wednesday, still had several ad openings for its Canadian coverage of the game. Hey, PETA, we love broccoli!!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Being Erica is Being Tested

Being Erica is being stubborn about building an audience. The fourth week is usually when you settle into your season average and Erica sank to her lowest outing yet, 564,000 viewers.
So far, the CBC fantasy/drama, starring Erin Karpluk, is averaging 607,000 viewers across Canada (all figures BBM/NMR overnight estimates).
I'm finding that the show, at an hour, is a half hour too long. There are moments that sparkle and then moments that run out of gas. The new characters, including the dude from Wonderfalls (playing essentially the same character he played in that series), are slowing the show down. Erica needs to pick up the pace, a spark that Michael Riley as Dr. Tom provides.
Then again, maybe a stronger lead in would make all the difference on such a competitive night. Sophie at 8:30 drew just 270,000 last night, with a paltry 101,000 within the 25-54-year-old demo. That hurts Erica's demo numbers, which stood at 277,000 last night. If CBC figured Erica would grab all the young women at 9 vs. Charlie Sheen and Jack Bauer, they aren't; In the mix, too, is still The Bachelor on City.
Little Mosque, at 637,000/265,000, was competitive at 8.
CBC, which launched Erica against Canada's gold medal-winning hockey chanpionships, hasn't made it easy for fans to discover this show. Mondays at 9, the mid-season rookie has to battle CTV's Can-Am one-two of Two and a Half Men (1,594,000) and Corner Gas (1,117,000). Global had an even bigger Monday this week with new episodes of House (2,417,000) and 24 (1,314,000). Look for House to pull even bigger numbers next week when the 100th episode airs on Global/Fox.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Ed "Tanks" His Fans

Hot on the heels of that Battlestar Galactica auction comes word of another chance to own a piece of TV history--the hot tub from Ed & Red's Night Party.
The hot tub--affectionately known by Ed affectionatos as the "wank tank"--saw plenty of action on the long-running Ed the Sock City-TV series. Bikini clad models (some not so clad), the occasional porn star and even Ed's curvy co-host Liana K all took a dip in the TV tank.
The item has just been posted on eBay as item # 220351251499. The opening bid is $350CAN and you have until Feb. 5 to get in on the action. Winning bidder must pick the tank up in Toronto. Then, just add water and babes and "presto"--host your very own night party.
The tub was featured in five of Ed's 17 seasons. "I’d like to claim it’s been ‘gently-used," says Ed the Sock in today's release, "but people watched the show. They know there wasn’t much ‘gentle’ going on."
Proceeds from the sale will go to two charities: a homeless charity and an animal charity in the city of the winning bidder.
The sale of the tub doesn't mean Ed's washed up--just that he's cleaned up his act. Ed's right hand man Steve Kerzner reports that new Ed projects are in development. Stay tuned.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Trailer Park Boys Lands New U.S. Deal

Lock up your kitties, America. Trailer Park Boys is getting a second shot at a U.S. audience.
U.S. rights to the long running Canadian comedy about a hard drinkin' group of East Coast misfits have been acquired by the satellite television service DirecTV. The deal, reported online by Bill Carter in The New York Times Friday, is part of a move by DirecTV to create a HBO-like premium service. Seventeen million subscribers already have access to the channel, which previously carried soaps and game shows.
Kind of ironic that a U.S. satellite provider is reaching across the border for Trailer Park Boys after Canadian cable boss Jim Shaw kept holding it up as an example of all that was wrong with the Canadian cable and satellite television funding system.
Besides TPB, DirecTV will air Friday Night Lights (a series it helped to sustain through a second window deal with NBC) as well as reruns of the Showtime series Sleeper Cell plus the little seen ABC series Wonderland, which was set in a psychiatric hospital. The series was quickly canceled after it premiered in 2000. DirecTV plans to air several episodes that were never broadcast.
Trailer Park Boys tried to crack the U.S. market several years ago when BBC America carried it for a season. Seems the exploits of Ricky, Julian and Bubbles were either too much or simply a bad fit for BBC America's subscribers. After seven successful seasons on Showcase, the series is out of production in Canada. A second feature, however, tentatively titled "Countdown to Liquor Day," is expected to hit Canadian theatres later this year.
News of the TV deal follows a report in Variety that the first TPB film, Trailer Park Boys: The Big Dirty, has finally landed a U.S. distribution deal. It's due to be released this weekend in New York and L.A., with a wider U.S. release to follow in February.
But why wait for the films? You can catch John Paul Tremblay, Rob Wells and Mike Smith in person at the Ricky, Julian and Bubbles Community Service Variety Show tonight in Toronto at Massey Hall, part of their cross-country comedy tour. For tickets go here.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Boy Makes Good in United States

My CP piece up today is on Keir Gilchrist, the young lad from Toronto who landed a plum role on the Showtime drama United States of Tara. You can read the entire story here.
Gilchrist is an impressive 16-year-old who has already survived one U.S. series experience, working on Rob Corddry's short-lived Fox sitcom The Winner. He's guested on several Toronto and Vancouver-shot shows before, and shot a pilot for CBC that didn't get picked up called The Altar Boy Gang. Would love to have seen how that turned out. (UPDATE: Jeff Keay at CBC emailed to remind me that The Altar Boy Gang aired as a one-off a couple of summers ago at CBC--and was immediately crucified by various church groups. Guess it didn't have a prayer.)
He looks younger, but talking to him, Gilchrist seems older than his years. He responded cautiously when I suggested that most critics seem to love United States of Tara. "People are always going to hate your show," he said with a shrug. "Maybe Freaks and Geeks didn’t get hated." He did agree that "it's great being on a show you love."
And he was right about the uneven Tara reviews. More and more critics I spoke with at press tour had reservations about the series. Some thought the premise felt contrived, that the main characters multiple personality disorder was just an elaborate excuse for Toni Collette to leap in and out of the skin of several characters. Others thought it was ridiculous how the rest of her family just accepted her condition.
Me, I thought both of those things were pretty cool. Viewers seem able to look past the premise, too; United States of Tara drew HBO-like numbers for its debut on Showtime last Monday. It airs Monday nights in Canada on The Movie Network/Movie Central.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Lie To Me, Global Asks Nielsen

It`s no lie--Lie To Me did not bust out of the gate last night.
The critically acclaimed crime drama, starring Tim Roth (The Usual Suspects) as a police expert who can tell if somebody is lying just by reading their facial expression, drew just 601,000 on Global last night.
Mind you, it had to follow a rerun in Canada of over used House (678,000). In the U.S. on Fox, it had mighty American Idol as a lead in. That gave it twice the boost proportionally, goosing it to 13.19 million U.S. viewers. Still, as Mediaweek`s Marc Berman points out in today`s Programming Insider column, that was about half the U.S. audience that watched Idol at 8:30 (26.98 million).
In Canada, Idol did a little over 2 million last night. Still pretty good, but not quite as dominant as in year`s past.
The big surprise last night was over at CBC, where The Week The Women Went returned strong with 819,000 viewers--against Idol. This new Nova Scotia-based installment of the reality series opened above its already strong season average last season (around 775,000 per week).
CBC`s momentum continued into The National news hour at 10, when the visiting Dragon`s Den panel helped Peter Mansbridge to 959,000 viewers.

Grissom Has Left The Crime Scene

Tonight marks the debut of CSI: AWP--as is After William Petersen.
Petersen's iconic character Gil Grissom took his leave last Thursday, with audiences flocking back to wave bye-bye. Nearly 2.6 million Canadians (out of simulcast, as CTV`s PR machine points out) and 24.25 Americans watched CSI at 8 p.m. last Thursday night, the crime drama`s biggest audience since Sept., 2007.
Will the show and, indeed, the entire CSI franchise continue to flourish now that Laurence Fishburne is in charge of the Vegas detachment? Marc Berman, Mediweek's "Programming Insider," who was in Toronto this week, believes it will. Critics everywhere keep asking when it too much crime too much on CBS and the answer seems to be that we haven't reached that point yet.
Critics on press tour were treated to a CSI set visit last week, with Fishburne joined by several of the other cast members as well as the executive producers. That's me in the morgue with Robert David Hall, who plays CSI chief medical examiner Doc Robbins, above. Hall has just won a 2000 Neon.
A man of great humour who has enjoyed trips to Toronto in the past to promote the CSI board game, Hall is also a double amputee and proudly serves on the board of directors of the National Organization on Disability. And, no, those are not his legs on the table.
We were told by the producers that Petersen wanted no fuss on the set to mark his departure. He`s still associated with the show, cashing a fat cheque each week as an executive producer. He may be back as Grisson in the future, but not this season, insists executive producer Carol Mendelsohn.
The TV crime lab is very high tech and state of the art, with companies donating DNA and ballistics machinery valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to dress the set. (The shame of it is that real crime labs can't afford the goodies they see on CSI.)
Wallace Langham, the former Larry Sanders Show player, led the group I was in around the CSI set. He plays lab technician Hodges on the CBS drama. Another actor better known for comedy, Liz Vassey from The Tick, met us in the morgue. Vassey talked about last season's dream sequence episode where each of the regulars wound up as stiffs on the slab. Staying perfectly still and not breathing for three minutes at a time is tough work, says Vassey.
'Course, when I saw her I immediately pointed an accusing finger and said, "You killed the Immortal!`Yes, and I enjoyed every minute of it,`said Vassey, who clearly has had to deal with Tick fans like me all the time. As fans of the short-lived Fox comedy will recall, Vassey`s curvy Captain Liberty was simply too much for the so-called Immortal superhero in the sack. I can still see those two scorch marks on the ceiling where that last blast from his laser vision found their mark. Hilarious.
As much as many of us miss The Tick, Vassey has moved on. `Hey, it takes some of the sting away being on the No. 1 show on television,`she says.

The One Guy Who Will Miss George W

What will David Letterman do without George W. Bush to kick around anymore? Here is Letterman's goodbye to three years of comedy gold, otherwise known as "Great Moments in Presidential Speeches":

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Press Tour Postscript: How Others Saw It

Press tour ended days ago--already seems like weeks--but I've been writing like mad for people who pay and there is still so much info I wanted to shake out here.
One of the things I've always found interesting is how other reporters and critics cover this same event, often digging out nuggets I never knew about until I read their columns. Others seize a tid bit from a session and spin a whole column out of it, advancing it well past the original spark. Still others simply give the tour their wry eye and perspective, a glass half full or half emptier than my own.
Midway through the tour I had dinner with my 16mm film collecting pal Leonard Maltin who passed along some scuttle but from an Academy event he had attended--that Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner and Lionsgate were still far apart on a deal for him to return for a third season on the award-winning AMC series. The subject never came up at the AMC press tour session, raising further suspicions that Weiner was going to be forced off his own show.
So it was a great relief when Variety and others reported at the tail end of the tour that Weiner had a deal to remain as executive producer through seasons three and four. Occasionally in Hollywood, sanity prevails.
Alan Sepinwall was quick to turn this around on his must read TV blog, "What's Alan Watching." Sepinwall, who I hardly had a chance to speak with last week (everybody had their head down, nose in laptops this truncated tour), continues to deliver first rate reports for his readers at the New Jersey Star-Ledger, despite the uncertain future of that newspaper in this killer economic downturn.
Read Sepinwall's fly-on-the-wall take of ABC entertainment president Stephen McPherson's evasive press tour scrum. Seems McPherson, already known for his short fuse, was in no mood to address reports of cast and creative turmoil on the set of his most valuable property, Grey's Anatomy. You'll find the full report here.
Kansas City Star scribe Aaron Barnhart opened up a can of WTF when he asked Rescue Me cast member Daniel Sunjata about the show`s return to post-9/11 storylines. Sunjata told critics that not only does his character think the attack on the World Trade Center towers was an inside job, he does too. Read about that here.
Mr. TV Barn also dug out a cool little side story about sitcom kingpin Chuck Lorre`s latest--and most brazenly aggressive--rejected vanity card. Those are the two second shout out he posts at the end of Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory. Read what Barnhart calls the "best censored Chuck Lorre vanity card ever" here.
St. Petersburg Times TV/media critic Eric Deggans has one of the best BS detectors in the business. Check out how he deconstructs 24 and debunks Jack Bauer`s Gitmo goon tactics here in "Is 24 still relevant in an Obama-fied nation?"
Prickly TV columnist Lisa de Moraes rips everybody and everything in her press tour posts--including fellow critics--for The Washington Post. She smugly dubbed this the "Think I'll Just Take Some of these Dinner Rolls Home to Feed My Hungry Children" tour.
NBC's a pretty obvious target, and she takes dead aim here, especially for their lame executive session where they ducked the one question everybody wanted answered: Why Leno at 10?
Surviving Canadian TV critics all worked their tails off this tour as well. Sample tour reports from the Toronto Star's Rob Salem here, Canwest critic Alex Strachan here, Toronto Sun colleague Bill Harris here and Globe and Mail veteran Andy Ryan, who brings his cool and detached perspective to Fox's full day and night tour here.

Already With The Obama Jokes

The talk was mainly about yesterday`s swearing in of Barack Obama as the 44th U.S. president. Not just on the street or by the water cooler but on today's radio chat with CHML's Scott Thompson. You can listen in here.
Have to say it was fascinating to see how excited America was at the inauguration. On the flight home from Los Angeles on the weekend, the buzz was all about Barack. Several passengers from L.A. and from Minneapolis (where I made a stop-over and where the photo at right was taken) were heading to Washington for the ceremonies. At the airports, CNN was on TV screens everywhere, blaring wall-to-wall coverage of the event. There was also Obama gear in every store window and all over the streets of L.A. Yes we can lift American out of recession, 100 T-shirts at a time.
And, of course, the jokes have already hit the Internet:
Scott also wanted to know a few last press tour details. I also cued up tonight's premiere of the excellent new Tim Roth drama Lie To Me on Fox, as well as the three hour (a recap hour at 8, plus two new hours) of Lost on ABC. Critics screened the new episodes at press tour and there`s a pretty juicy reveal toward the end that should rock a few Lost fans back into following this series.
Thompson, by the way, has finally launched his own personal web site, http://www.scottthompontalk.com/. Check out his interviews with Cheech and Chong and two of the Sopranos stars, among other goodies on the site.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Lie to Me, Damned Lies and Statistics

Have a feature in today's Toronto Star on all the "frostbacks" on the January press tour. Read the full story here, or better yet, buy a paper. Please!
Frostbacks is an expression I'd never heard of until Star TV columnist Rob Salem spelled it out for me last July--Canadians working on U.S. network television. It is an expanding list, especially this winter, with a mix of familiar faces and a couple of promising rookies.
They include Toronto lad Keir Gilchrist (above), so good as the sexually confused teen in United States of Tara, and Corey Monteith, a 26-year-old Vancouver actor who had landed the plum role of All-American high school quarterback in the promising Fox musical Glee. That series probably won't surface until April or later but look out for it, the clip shown critics at press tour was a wow. Think High School Musical with an edge, provided by none other than Nip/Tuck showrunner Ryan Murphy.
I was singing the shows praises this morning at a Broadcast Executives Society seminar at the Four Seasons in downtown Toronto. Marc Berman, Mediaweek's "Programming Insider," flew up from New York to deliver his usual expert spin on networks and ratings. I was asked to chime in with observations off the press tour and some Canadian data.
Berman is the go-to guy for network numbers. He's been at it for years and his daily column is a must read if you are in the industry. Sign up for his daily email updates here. Canadian networks are lining up to get in on his expertise.
We both agree that Lie To Me, the new Fox drama which stars Tim Roth (above, middle at press tour) and starts tomorrow night (in Canada on Global), has breakout hit potential. That seemed to be the consensus at press tour, too. Roth plays an expert who has spent years studying how facial ticks and expressions as well as body posture gives away whether or not somebody is lying, which makes him valuable to the cops. It's all based on the real-life scientific discoveries of Dr. Paul Ekman, at press tour as a consultant on the series.
Ekman, an older gentleman, admitted it wasn't always fun for his family to have a lie detector dad in the house. "Well, apparently my kids try to see what they can get away with a lot," he said. "I have a book written about 20 years ago called 'Why Kids Lie.' It’s really all about my own experience with my children and their attempts to lie. I usually try to reassure people that I can only understand them if I can see them on video--which is a lie."
Roth, who is terrific as the human lie detector, says even he gets freaked out around Ekman. "I pretend I've left something in my jacket: 'I've got to go.' It's like traveling with a critic with the New York Times. Wherever you go, there's a guy going, 'No, I don't believe you. The performance was terrible.' 'But I only said I'm going to the toilet.' 'Well, I don't believe you. You betrayed the fact that you are completely urine free.'"
I asked the producer if it helpful to have an expert on lying on your side when you walk into a network meeting to pitch a series.
Executive producer David Nevins says too many TV deals are done over the phone these days. "I find it terrible because I absolutely –I want to sit in the room and see who I’m pitching to, whether they are getting it, whether they are understanding it. And the phone, there’s a lot of techniques that I’ve learned from the show and from reading about Dr. Ekman that you can learn things over the phone, but it’s far less effective than sitting face-to-face."
Added fellow executive producer Samuel Baum: "And that’s why my agents will only deal with me on the phone now."
Lie to Me premieres tomorrow night at 9 p.m. on Global and Fox.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Ticket To Ride Out The Press Tour

Fellow Beatle fan Bill Harris of The Toronto Sun always has something John Paul George and Ringo as his lap top wallpaper. You can almost hear his computer purr, "Go to the Windows."
Down on the floor of the press tour session rooms at the Universal Hilton, it was this black and white shot of the Fab Four circa 1965, around the time they were awarded their MBE’s from Her Majesty.
Looking at it during ABC’s morning session for the Jonas brothers last Friday I couldn’t help but think what Disney might have done to the Beatles today. The Jonas session went way past pre-Fab Four to Over Marketed Mop Tops. Read more about it at my press tour posting over at TV Guide.ca.

Critics were shown a clip from their new Disney Channel series Jonas (coming to Canada on Family Channel). It showed Kevin, Joe and Nick Jonas being chased around a school by a bunch of girls in school uniforms. At one point, one of the boys pivots away on a Segway scooter; it made me long for Micky Dolenz or Peter Tork on a unicycle.
So even though the Jonas producers were going for Hard Day’s Night or Monkee madness, they seemed to be stuck on autopilot, looking for mechanical shortcuts to speed past any kind of a personality short fall.
Now, to be fair, The Beatles were dismissed as Marx Bros. wannabees in their first two films, at least in some quarters. And the young girls who squeal at the mere mention of the Jonas won’t care that Kevin or Joe looks like they’re going slow motion even in a sped up Segway pivot. They loved Camp Rock (which actually was pretty entertaining, on a family viewing level), and they will love Jonas.
But, boy, that press conference was dull. I may be a cynical and suspicious old TV scribe, but I could swear the Disney puppet masters were making sure to keep the session microphones as far away as possible from anybody who might rock the Jonas boat.
But back to the Beatles. The four lads from Liverpool would have all their English teeth yanked out today, replaced with perfect porcelains. Forget pot—cigarettes would be a no-no in all those Beatle BOAC bags. Hell--they probably would have been forced to sport brushcuts.
As for the press conferences, those famous, cheeky quips would never have been allowed to slip out of their mouths. Instead of, “How did you find America?” “Turn left at Greenland,” John would have been programmed to retort: “Ì think we found a real home with Hollywood Records and our partnership with Disney"(an actual quote from Nick Jonas Friday).
From what I've read, The Beatles completely charmed and disarmed the press on that first North American visit in 1964. That didn't happen when the Jonas worked the press tour this week, but, then again, Disney didn't allow it to happen. Locking these guys up in vault Disney might be safer, but it sure is a lot duller, too.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Nothing Says "Festive" Like A Talking Ticket Taker

Every time I pulled into the underground parking garage at the Universal Hilton, this is what I heard. Someday, all press tour sessions will sound like this.
For a little more audio insight into the January press tour, here's my weekly radio report with CHML's Scott Thompson, recorded this past week in Los Angeles. There's talk of my encounter with the new Next Mrs. Brioux, Drew Barrymore, the post mortem on the Golden Globes and doing press tour on a brown bag budget. There's also talk about the one network who threw a good old fashioned star party, Fox, where The Osbournes and others held court. Bloody Hell! Listen in here.

Jerk of the Tour Award

Goes to one of the male stars from one of the big cable dramas premiering this month. This dude has been around long enough to know better, has starred in both network and cable shows before. Big hits, too.
Lately his star has cooled off a little, so you`d think he might try a little harder to make a good impression. But when one of the senior members of the TCA ranks approached him at an evening press event here and politely asked if he minded a few questions, said star blurted, "No. I don`t know who you are. Go talk to my publicist."
The dude was promptly told not to worry, the reporter didn`t need to talk to him that badly.
I observed this same hot shot haranguing his veteran publicist a few minutes later about something that was bugging him, not enough fizz in his designer water or something, just a regular star hissy fit.
Nobody says you have to be a decent person to work in Hollywood, but it is unfortunate that some idiots can`t see past their own egos that they've won the lottery. Shame, too—he`s good in this role and it is a terrific series. I hope his handlers and co-stars are paid well.

Do Our Bidding, Earthlings

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif.--Bit late with this but if you’re browsing here Sunday and a sci-fi fan pay attention: A live auction of costumes and props from Battlestar Galactica is currently underway. Fans from Canada and the U.S. can bid to own a piece of the show, out of production after four seasons.
Hundreds of items from the series are up for bid, including a few that were exhibited during NBC’s press tour session: Tricia Helfer’s “Number Six” red dress, Michael Hogan’s Colonel Saul Tigh’s Liquor bottle and Michael Trucco’s holsters and knifes.
The auction, which is taking place in Pasadena, Calif., will stream live at http://www.auctionnetwork.com/. A portion of the auction proceeds will benefit United Way as well as several other charities, some chosen by the cast members. Helfer’s causes include the Richmond Animal Protection Society, Kitten Rescue, the WWF and Peta.
Hogan is also helping some causes near his Vancouver home, including the Performing Arts Lodge (PAL).
There are some cool space ship models among the goodies. Two Hero metal dog tags worn by Nurse Kim just fetched $700USD; a prop Hero lighter went for $5500; a Viper pilot uniform fetched $5800; Starbuck's flight suit sold for $14,000! NBC expects some of the most sought after hardware to fetch in the thousands. Good luck, Earthlings!
UPDATE: Man did this thing pull in the space bucks. The Command Plotting Table--the most visible set piece on Battlestar Galactica--went for $16,000USD. Some of the cool helmets on the show sold for $4000-$6000. People! They're tricked out bike helmets! Head Six's backless red dress sold for $13,000 (you should also get Head Six for that) and the door to the Command Information Center fetched $9,000. Foolish Earthlings!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Ferguson Has Critics Eating Out of his Hand

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif.--Craig Ferguson came to the rescue as promised, treating critics to pizza today at the tail end of the press tour. The CBS late night talk show host was clearly touched by my urgent plea during his session the other Wednesday.

QUESTION: And one other thing. Could you send pizza Thursday/Friday? because NBC and ABC stopped feeding us.
CRAIG FERGUSON: They don’t send any pizza now?
QUESTION: They don’t send nothing.
CRAIG FERGUSON: They don’t send anything? I think they are confident that they are going to get such an easy write from you guys that they don’t feel they have to bribe you (laughter). I, however, am deeply insecure, and you can expect a feast come Thursday or Friday (laughter).

True to his word, Ferguson arranged for pizza to be delivered to the TCA press room at the hotel Friday night. (Sending it Thursday would have been too cheeky, what with late night NBC rivals Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Fallon busy working the tour.)
Ferguson has been sending over pizza ever since he hosted the TCA Awards four years ago. Pinched hard by the recession, some of the networks have been cutting back on their hotel food bills, leaving critics without cake, cookies or pie for several minutes at a time. This has led to light headedness and listlessness in the sessions, even hallucinations. Some critics swore they saw Ben Silverman at the NBC hall party Thursday night, for example.
Thanks to Ferguson, we can once again roll home at least 15 pounds heavier and just that much happier. Scottish pizzaman, the TCA salutes you!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Arrested Development in Development Say De Rossi, Hurwitz

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif.--“I’m really attracted to strong women. Let me rephrase that,” said Portia de Rossi, famously partnered in real life with Ellen DeGeneres. “I’m really attracted to strong female characters.”
De Rossi was speaking to TV critics today at the ABC portion of the network press tour. De Rossi is part of the cast of the new ABC series Better Off Ted, a workplace comedy about a heartless business conglomerate.
De Rossi says her part as a ballsy boss is her favourite role ever—even more fun than the vain Bluth daughter she played on every critic’s favourite show ever, Arrested Development.
As for those steady A.D. feature film rumours, de Rossi says the cast is excited about it and ready to go. “I don’t think it’s fully green lit,” she said, “but it’s definitely happening according to (A.D. executive producer) Mitchell Hurwitz.”
Of course, critics knew that already. Hurwitz himself told us that a few days ago when he was at the Fox portion of press tour promoting his new animated comedy Sit Down, Shut Up (which co-stars A.D.'s battling Bluth brothers Jason Bateman and Will Arnett). “We have a deal more or less in place from Fox Searchlight, and we’re kind of getting the actors on board,” he said. “We have a story which is basically Valkyrie meets Hotel for Dogs.”

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Ferguson: Give Fallon A Chance

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif.—If he is ever asked to host the Academy Awards, Craig Ferguson has a one word answer: “Never.”
I KNOW! In the press scrum following yesterday’s CBS press tour session, Ferguson was adamant about turning his back on any future Oscar hosting gig. Why? “Because the best you could hope for would be to be asked again,” he said. Sounds like he’s been talking to his boss, David Letterman, a former one-and-out Oscar host.
Earlier in the session, a reflective Ferguson asked critics to go easy on Jimmy Fallon, the former SNLer who takes over Conan O’Brien’s Late Night timeslot opposite Ferguson on March 2. “I challenge you all to this,” Ferguson said: “Give Jimmy a month before you review him.”
Ferguson’s point is that nobody knows for sure how Fallon will do—not Fallon’s mentor and executive producer Lorne Michaels, not NBC/Universal boss Jeff Zucker, not Fallon himself.
“Let’s be honest,” said Ferguson. “Who amongst you thought I’d be sitting here four years after the last time I talked to you?” Critics with longer memories will recall how Conan O’Brien was written off before he established himself to the point NBC risked it all to keep him in late night.
“I’d heard some negative stuff about Jimmy which I find a little surprising given the fact he hasn’t done anything yet,” said Ferguson. “He’s kind of like the reverse Obama—it’s like he hasn’t done anything yet, but everybody is commenting on his performance. Give him a chance.” Ferguson wisely handed off the “What about Leno at 10” question to his producer Peter Lassally, the humble Yoda of late night who has steered Johnny Carson and David Letterman to iconic late night status. Lassally raised the same concerns everyone else has, saying it’s both a brave choice and a big gamble. “If Jay Leno is a success at 10 o’clock, which is certainly a possibility, my concern would be will people go to sleep after that because they’ve had their late night ‘Jay Leno’ show?”
Ferguson spoke about his busy year, which included getting married, becoming an American citizen and hosting the Washington correspondent’s dinner. He spoke also about the passing of both his parents, who he saluted in moving, funny, generously personal moments on his show.
I asked him if part of him was glad he got the tough opportunity to say goodbye to loved ones on the air, even if it meant sharing that experience with millions of strangers. (I wish I had asked it that well.) His answer was illuminating: “I think if I have any discernible skills, it is communicating how I feel,” he said. “I think it helps me process stuff because this is, for better or worse, my art form, you know. This is how I express myself. So if I’m going through pain all human beings go through, this is how I express it.”
That essentially is key to Ferguson’s steadily growing appeal in late night. He’s an actor and an artist, rather than a stand up comedian. While he can throw on wigs and glasses and Benny Hill it up with the best of them, he can blow you away with insight and honesty. He did it yesterday at the press tour session.
“Did you ever see The Shawshank Redemption?” Ferguson asked. “When Morgan Freeman’s character is going up for parole, and he goes up for parole throughout the movie, and he tries to be good, and then he tries to be good, and he tries to be good, and they keep saying ‘You can’t have parole,’ and at the end, he says. ‘Look, I don’t give a rat’s ass. Write what you write, and then I’m just going to do – live the way I live,’ and then they let him out? That’s kind of like me in late night television.”
There it is--the truth shall make you free. Ferguson has found his voice, and he puts it to good use every single night on The Late, Late Show. Go Scotland.

Squirm

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif.--NBC has thrown so many monkey wrenches into television in the last few years critics have lost count. So the room was a tad testy as rookie programming executives Angela Bromstad (right) and Paul Telegdy sat up front today and took questions.
Bromstad and Telegdy were taking the heat for NBC execs further up the food chain. Ben Silverman and Marc Graboff have been steering this network from fourth to fourth place for about a year. Universal/NBC superboss/dark lord Jeff Zucker has been behind the scenes as the ultimate game changer, proclaiming that pilots are a thing of the past, scripted dramas at 8 are out, Jay Leno at 10 every night is in and just generally that the paradigm of this crazy business is constantly in play.
So Bromstad and Telegdy tried to bob and weave around questions their superiors should have been fielding. There was a lot of "Ben and Marc are around if you want to ask them" from the new kids, but so far that game of Where`s Waldo has led to no Ben and Marc sightings.
Spoke with Telegdy after the session about Deal Or No Deal, Howie Mandel's recent heart scare and any impact on the production of his NBC game show. Telegdy says he spoke with Howie yesterday, spoke with him again this morning and everything is fine. "Despite our best efforts to force him to take a day or two off," said Telegdy, "he is chomping at the bit to get back to work."
The NBC execs did have a few programming announcements: Three more episodes of ER have been ordered. The new finale date is April 2 with the entire evening turned over the the hospital drama (including a one hour retrospective at 8 followed by a two hour finale). NBC has picked up the new John Wells police drama Southland, it begins April 9. Amy Poehler's new project, entitled "Untitled Mocumentary About a Local Public Works Project" in the pilot script handed out to critics (penned by Greg Daniels), rolls April 9.
Speaking of Daniels, The Office has received a full season order, as has 30 Rock. NBC also announced a Don Cheadle production deal, a pick up for another season of The Biggest Loser, a new cooking reality show called The Chopping Block (starting March 11) and a start date for The Celebrity Apprentice: March 1. Just in time for Donald Trump to bellow, `You`re fired!`at Bromstad and Telegdy.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Osbournes Rock Fox Press Tour Party

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif.--You don't know pain until you have to transcribe an Ozzy Osbourne interview conducted at a crammed network party.
Ozzy and family--who headline the upcoming Fox comedy/variety show Osbournes Reloaded--were tucked in the hot corner of My House right off Hollywood Boulevard, around the corner from the famous Chinese Theatre.
I got past Ozzy's burly security dude and slid in the seat next to the dark rock lord. "Greeeaghyyyaaahhh mfpfyaaaaabababa," he said when asked about getting back on the telly.
Much easier to transcribe was wife Sharon, who indicated that the Osbournes will not be guesting on Jay Leno's new 10 p.m. talk show anytime soon.
"F--- Leno!" she said loud and clear. Seems Ozzy and the kids were always guesting with Jay, until, according to Sharon, Ozzy played a set on ABC rival Jimmy Kimmel's late night talk show.
In one of those payback bans you used to hear more about, Tonight apparently boycotted the Osbournes after that.
Fox packed the rambling, multi-level My House hot spot with many other stars from their main network as well as their cable station FX. New American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi held court, as did Bones stars David Boreanaz, Emily Deschanel and Tamara Taylor. The House cast made the scene early, with Hugh Laurie polishing off a plate of pasta next to Cuddy, a.k.a. Lisa Edelstein. The 100th episode of House airs Feb. 2 on Fox and Global.
Toronto-native Will Arnett was there with his Arrested Development producer Mitchel Hurwitz to promote their new animated comedy Sit Down, Shut Up. Arnett plays a jerk school teacher, as does his Arrested mate Jason Bateman. Former Pushing Daisies costar Khristin Chenoweth (who plays "Miracle Grohe," one of several funny names on the series) was also at the party, as was co-star Cheri Oteri (who voices "Helen Klench," a tightly wound librarian). The series debuts in April and presents animated characters in front of a real background. "We're the only animated series with a location scout," Hurwitz cracked at that afternoon's press session.
Arnett could not be further away in person from AR's edgy jerk GOB. He's thrilled to be a new dad, with young Archie--home with mom Amy Poehler--now three months old.
Also on the party list: Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly (pictured with Dollhouse star Eliza Dushku and Arnett) and 24 star Kiefer Sutherland and FX Rescue Me lead Denis Leary, two hockey players who've had a little luck on TV and film. Leary kept ragging on Sutherland earlier in the day at the Rescue Me cast session. He says Sutherland has "Shit loads of money, just fucking skating, skating in money." Plus he's won an Emmy, something Leary hasn't managed yet. "Fuckingunbelievable. But anyways, I’m not bitter."



They Like Us! They Really Like Us!

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif--Nothing gets Canadian scribes at press tour more excited than a Flashpoint reference. CBS entertainment president Nina Tassler (left) threw us a bone this morning. "Flashpoint has been a terrific experience for us," she said, adding that her network is looking at partnering with other “foreign countries” on future TV projects.
Not that she considers us furiniers. "Canada isn’t that foreign, really,” she said.
Tassler seemed equally happy with both the "business model" efficiencies as well as the creative aspects of Flashpoint, which is a CBS/CTV co-production. She added that, "as long as the creative quality is there, it gives us a great opportunity to scour, not only Canada, but other places to find other programming opportunities."
Which, you know, is good given how few good programming opportunities Canadian producers get from, well, Canadian networks...
Tassler also announced that a variety show deal is in the works for John Mayer. "We're actually pretty close to closing our deal," she said, describing the show as "a musical, variety, sketch show." Plans are also going forward at CBS for a NCIS spinoff, which itself was a spinoff of JAG.
She described the NCIS/The Mentalist combo as "the most watched two hour block on television."

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Producer: Canadian Idol Can Come Back

Maybe Canadian Idol is just "resting" after all. After today's Fox press tour session, American Idol executive producer Ken Warwick told me he had no idea Canadian Idol had been yanked off CTV's schedule.
"Oh really? I didn't know that," said Warwick, also surprised to learn the last Canadian Idol finale didn't even win its timeslot. "Really!"
Warwick (above, centre), who has overseen a number of Idol productions all over the world, believes the Canadian Idol karaoke machine could in fact be plugged back in at some point down the line. "There are some countries where the talent pool dries up pretty quickly," he said. "Germany gave it a rest for two years, and when it came back, it went straight to No. 1 again."
As American Idol heads into an eighth season this week, Warwick thinks the U.S. talent pool still hasn't bottomed out. "That hasn't happened yet," he says. "I'm quite surprised it hasn't happened, but it hasn't."

Reality Television

Wow. I knew hard times had impacted the press tour and that networks were through kissing out asses down here but I never knew it had come to this.

Golden Globes Less Bleepin' Fun in LA

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif.--Critics at press tour had their very own Golden Globes party Sunday night--although it was a pretty unglamourous event. It was a live screening of the 66th annual statue fest, held in a small empty room at the press tour hotel.
The not-so-special screening, beamed on a single Plasma screen, meant that we didn’t have to wait until 8 p.m. P.S.T. to see the awards, the way everybody else in Los Angeles did.
One interesting little benefit of that was being able to compare the east and west coast feeds. One steady reader to this site emailed his surprise when the language got rough by the end of the broadcast. Many critics who saw the east coast feed felt the same way, wondering if the censor was asleep at the switch. Best actor winner Mickey Rourke got away with a few blue epitaphs and his buddy in the audience was clearly shown giving him the finger.
Three hours later, though, when the finale was shown to west coast viewers, the one finger salute was blacked out and Roarke was bleeped, as was the F-bomb dropped by Slumdog Millionaire producer Anil Kapoor at the end of this clip:

Networks censors have been more reactive in recent years, especially after Bono dropped the F-bomb at the 2003 Golden Globe awards. Record FCC fines had all networks reaching a little faster for the delay button. But with a new president just days away from taking over in the White House, censors seem to be saying "yes we can" to allowing more liberal language on TV.
WTF. Anyway, critics at the screening gasped when something even more offensive was flashedon screen--the faces of NBC network bosses Jeff Zucker and Ben Silverman. Many scribes reflexively made crosses with their fingers as if warding off bloodsucking vampires. Yes, critics can be as catty and snippy as everyone else. Just like folks at home, we were disappointed when there were no drunken outbursts (although Irish actor Colin Farrell, who won for In Bruges, came close in his funny acceptance speech).
Also getting a laugh was when Maggie Gyllenhaal came out with Aron Eckhart to present an award in a dress that looked like something Carol Burnett once wore in a Gone With The Wind sketch. “How could she leave the house?” Asked one critic.
We also gasped when Seth Rogan came out to present looking leading man lean. The B.C. native has sure hi the gym since Pineapple Express. Guess he no longer has the munchies.
The first winner, Kate Winslet, seemed genuinely moved at her Best Actress award for The Reader. “I’m in shock,” said the five time Oscar nominee, suggesting she’s just not used to winning. She thanked the makeup people for making her look so old in the movie, which is something you don’t hear often in Hollywood. She won again later and went on and on as if she had won a real award instead of a glorified bowling trophy. ``I know they have champagne at every table but do they have barf bags?`` asked one critic.
The dude who directed Wall-E thanked his wife and kids, saying, “You inspire every motion I ever capture on screen.” This had the odd distinction of sounding heartfelt and extremely detached at the same time.
Critics jeered when Jeremy Piven was shown seated among the stars at the awards (he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in a TV show, but lost out to Tom Wilkinson from HBO’s Recounts). Piven was roasted recently for bailing out of Broadway`s Speed-the-Plough for his fishy excuse about having mercury poisoning. “How can he possibly be there? He’s dying!” shouted one smartass in the room.
Critics also went “Whaa?” when David Duchovny came on stage to present and made a point of saying that he just got a text from his wife (Tea Leoni). Like everyone watching at home, we all just assumed she wasn’t with him at the awards because she was still steamed at him for that sex addiction thing.
The two actors who play Kirk and Spock in the new Star Trek movie, Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto, came out to mention that they are the two actors who play the new Kirk and Spock in the new Star Trek movie. Then they gave an award to Anna Paquin for playing a vampire groupie in True Blood. “Awesome!” she says about five times.
Tracy Morgan drew laughs for thanking “Lorny Mikes” (executive producer Lorne Michaels) while accepting the Best Sitcom award for 30 Rock. “I’m the face of post-racial America—deal with it, Cate Blanchett!” he said. Also a hit was original Office star Ricky Gervais, who did not pick up a Golden Globe nomination this year. “Last time I sleep with 200 middle-aged journalists,” he quipped.
Joke of the night, according to the critics: when Borat star Sacha Baron Cohen started riffing on the economy. "Even Madonna has been forced to get rid of one of her personal assistants, "he said. "Our thoughts go out to you, Guy Ritchie."

Monday, January 12, 2009

Drew A Draw On TCA Marathon: Part Three

I saw photographer Barb Binstein snap this photo of Drew Barrymore while I was part of the mob surrounding the actress after her HBO session. I guess that's why I have that dumb smiley face thing happening. It's not the most flattering shot of either one of us, although that's not Barb's fault. It is hard enough to get a question or two in but to also have to focus, flash and shoot at these things is the seventh multi-task of Hercules.
The Barrymore scrum was a highlight of a long and winding afternoon of HBO presentations as the LPDE (Longest Press Day Ever) continued to unwind:

3:00-6:00 pm HBO
The Trials of Ted Haggard
Premieres January 29, 2009
Press tour pit bull Tom Jicha led with the big question: "Why are you doing this?" The disgraced televangelist is basically submitting himself and his family to the scrutiny of cameras for the purposes of a documentary. This after a two year cone of silence that, as he explained, was imposed on him through a deal with the "overseers."
Who were these mysterious overseers, we kept asking. Eventually, Haggert let slip that they were other pastors and church group leaders who continued to pay his salary two years past the day he was booted from the pulpit. Haggert joked that he even got to keep his truck.
This kind of undermined the down on his luck, reduced to selling life insurance facade he was selling as his new life in the doc clips. So while he was sitting up there telling us that "the truth shall set you free," he seemed to still be very involved in shining us all on.
Haggert said he was sorry for dabbling in drugs and man love. "I apologise to Mike Jones for the relationship we developed," he said.
Haggert was joined on stage by his stand-by-your-man wife Gayle and their two grown kids Christy and Marcus. Gayle seemed just fine with Ted's on-going struggle with his sexuality. The kids, however, looked like they had been stoned, in the old, Biblical sense of the word.

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency
Premieres March 2009
Seen as one of HBO's lighter and more promising up 'n' comers, the clip looked pretty cool. The series is based on Alexander McCall Smith’s best-selling books and stars Jill Scott as Precious Ramotswe, the proprietor of the only female-owned detective agency in Botswana. There is a sweetness to the stories reflecting the gentle nature of the people--a slice of life not usually explored on HBO.
Industry heavyweight Harvey Weinstein, an executive producer on the series, wanted critics to know that "they synagogue overseeers" did not pay him to be before us at press tour.
Writer Richard Curtis, who was via satellite from London, gave a shout out to Obama, congratulating critics for their "wonderful new choice of a president."

At this point in the session, there were whispers throughout certain corners of the room regarding news of the Globe & Mail cuts back home. Bad news travels e-fast, especially during press tour.
In the old days, reports would have copies of USA Today at their elbow in order to scan headlines for fresh information. Everyone now has a lap top up and running in front of them throughout the sessions. E-mails from home often bring breaking news of a more urgent nature than the event taking place live right in front of us.

Taking Chance
Premieres February 2009
Critics screened an incredibly moving and emotional clip about this HBO film. Kevin Bacon stars as Lieutenant Colonel Michael Strobl, USMC (Ret.), who chronicled his story about being a volunteer military escort assigned to accompany the body of 19-year-old Lance Corporal Chance Phelps, USMC, who was killed in action in Iraq, across America to his hometown of Dubois, Wyoming, in spring 2004.
Both Bacon and Strobl were on the panel. Strobl said he never knew the dead soldier. "All I knew was that he was a marine who died in combat," he said.

Grey Gardens
Premieres April 2009
This was the session that drew Drew Barrymore--along with Jessica Lang--to TCA. "Hello, critics!" Barrymore shouted upon taking the stage.
The movie is based on the 1976 documentary by Albert and David Maysles, the brothers who captured The Beatles first U.S. tour. This film looks at “Big Edie” and “Little Edie” Beale, two charming eccentrics who were relatives of Jacqueline Kennedy, yet who chose to live in squalor and almost total isolation their East Hampton estate, "Grey Gardens." Both actresses have to age 40 years over the course of the film, a process that often took four to six hours in a makeup chair. "At the end of the day, when we took off all the makeup, it was a tremendous relief," said Barrymore, who turns 34 this year.
"I've never laid it on the line$ or worked so hard for anything in my life," said Barrymore, who looked pretty in a yellow, red and black satin dress. "Let's face it--I'm a 30-something, obviously from The Valley," she said
She looks pretty mummified as the nearly 60-year-old "Little Edie" in the clip shown critics, sorta like Better Davis circa "Baby Jane." Barrymore said the the scrum later he real acting inspiration for this was early Katharine Hepburn.
The movie was shot in Toronto and plenty of Canadian actors were glimpsed in the clip, including Kenneth Walsh.

In Treatment
Second Season Premieres 2009
Series star Gabriel Byrne had to ditch this session at the last minute. The producers explained he was sick. Critics, who are notoriously suspicious about everything, were surprised to see a few nights later that he also skipped the Golden Globes. Maybe he really was sick!
New patients for the second season of this therapy drama include Hope David, who plays an attorney and former patient, Aaron Shaw, a tubby 11-year-old who manifests the stress brought on by his warring parents and John Mahoney as a CEO confronted by scandal and personal loss.

Big Love
Third Season Premieres January 18, 2009
As Big Love returns for its third season, we find home improvement store owner/polygamist Bill Henrickson (Bill Paxton) jones-ing for a fourth wife. What the hell is this guy thinking of?

Will Ferrell: You’re Welcome America. A Final Night with George W Bush
Premieres Spring 2009
Ferrel brought HBO's portion of press tour to a close with back-to-back sessions promoting two separate projects: his one man show from Broadway, which begins previews on Inauguration Day, January 20, and will open on February 5. The other project is called Eastbound & Down and it premieres February 15. The series stars Danny McBride (Pineapple Express) as Kenny Powers, a star pitcher whose self-destructive behavior knocks him out of major league baseball and back home to North Carolina, where he ends up teaching Phys Ed at the middle school he once attended. Ferrel is among the executive producers of the series and also appears as a car dealer with crazy long yellow hair. He appeared at press tour via satellite from New York, and seemed about as bored as many critics with the interview process after a long, crazy day.

6:00-8:00 pm
Discovery Networks/Working Dinner

The day closed with sessions covering several Discovery Network shows, including Out of the Wild: The Alaska Experiment, NASCAR Wives, a new TLC series featuring the babes of racing royalty; Dallas DNA, a new series on Investigation Discovery; Jockeys, a series on Animal Planet that has nothing to do with boxers or briefs and Walk the Lion, a series about big kitties from the African bush. One of them was brought out to meet critics, which got everyone down here ready for this week's network executive sessions.