HBO's TCA party: Happy days are here again - TCA Report
James Gandolfini joins the HBO family for one more bash -- poolside.
Call me cynical, but I'm not quite sure why HBO pulled out all the stops for a lavish gala at the W hotel in Westwood, Calif. when so many networks are cutting back. About 200 journalists plus assorted HBO personnel feasted on filet mignon, lobster tails and an open bar.
The hotel spa was on call in nearby cabanas to give free hand massages and (for the women) fingernail re-polishing.
We even got (another!) goody bag at the end of the evening. This one contained champagne and chocolates.
If all this is because the pay cable outlet got a new president in June (Bill Nelson succeeded Chris Albrecht), then all I can say is I hope HBO gets a new president every year.
I couldn't put my finger on the identity of the lavishly themed party so I asked the W's director of catering and convention services, Hector Rubio, who told me it was patterned after "a Hamptons' upscale and elegant barbeque."
A lit propane ring in the middle of the pool made it look like the water was aflame. "Just think of it like a huge bonfire," advised Rubio.
HBO actors from new and existing programs were on hand, too, to mingle and give quotes on their current and upcoming projects. Tell Me You Love Me is getting a lot of buzz -- mostly because of the outlandish and graphic sex scenes that are a big part of the show.
Series stars Tim DeKay (Carnivale) and Ally Walker (Profiler) play a married couple with intimacy issues. But the two actors came off more like brother and sister in person. When DeKay quipped that his real-life wife likes Walker, but that he didn't, Walker gave her TV mate a playful punch in the arm.
Throughout the evening, journalists kept eagle-eyes out for Gandolfini, who was on the RSVP list. He was his usual quiet self during the panel for his documentary project Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq, in which he interviewed ten U.S. soldiers, who were all seriously injured while serving in Iraq.
Jonathan Bartlett, a 22-year-old Corporal in the U.S. Army, who lost both of his legs during combat in August of 2004, says, "James used his talent and his name [to help make this show]."
Bartlett added he'd love to be a guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. "I love that man," Bartlett exclaims. "I want to get on that show. I really do."
Around 9:30 PM, Gandolfini was spotted mingling about, but he didn't appear to be giving any interviews. Instead, he was playing host to his soldier friends, asking if any of them wanted a drink.
Make no mistake: journalists love a good scoop. Getting an actor (especially a reclusive one) to give a quote makes for interested readers and happy editors.
More than a few reporters hovered in case Gandolfini was going to speak about The Sopranos. Sure, he was there because of his documentary, but reporters feel it's okay to ask a celebrities a question about one topic if they're at an event for another.
Case in point: the press asked Courteney Cox about Friends ending when she came to TCA in 2003 to tout a reality makeover show that she was producing. The next year, George Eads was grilled about his CSI: Crime Scene Investigation contract walkout when he was there to promote Evil Knievel. You get the idea ... but, tonight, from what I could see, everyone left Gandolfini alone and not just because he's an intimidating presence. (But let's face it -- that's probably part of it.)
Journalists saw that the actor was clearly there to be with his friends, the soldiers that are forever changed by the sacrifices they've made.
And, this time, inquring minds decided that asking about onion rings, Meadow's parking skills and series finales weren't so life and death after all.