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April 24, 2014

The TCAs are underway ... and we'll be there!

by Joel Keller, posted Jul 9th 2008 6:05PM
TCA logoYou might have noticed a few interesting items have come out that have the phrase "he/she said to a gathering of television critics." Well, that can only mean one thing... the Television Critics Association press tour is underway!

Because the writers' strike scuttled the winter edition of the twice-yearly tour earlier this year, this is the first time in a year that the various networks have had a chance to go though the painful process of peddling their wares in front of a group of cranky, jet-lagged, and hungry TV critics and journalists. This year should be interesting, since the broadcast networks don't really have much to offer in terms of new shows (and even fewer pilots for the shows they are picking up), and the whole nature and effectiveness of the press tour is being called into question by both the networks and the critics (more on that in a second).

All that being said, though, you can be sure that TV Squad will be at the Beverly Hilton to cover the dog-and-pony show. Kristin will attend selected cable presentations, and I'll be flying in Sunday, just in time for the broadcast networks to do their thing. Expect reports about executives and producers getting grilled, critics jostling each other out of the way to get a question in during post-press conference scrums, and tales of the unusual happenings at the all-star parties. Also keep an eye on our Twitter page, as I'll likely be throwing out silly dispatches (and maybe even breaking news) from the various events.

Now, about this business about the press tour being irrelevant...

As Aaron Barnhart of TVBarn.com pointed out, there's been the usual moaning and rending of garments from the veteran critics out there, reflecting on how the press tour "ain't what it used to be." Ray Richmond of The Hollywood Reporter seems to have gotten especially wistful, noting that in the eighties, networks had more time to make presentations, and the critics had more of a chance to hold executives' and producers' feet to the fire. Now, according to Richmond, newspapers are cutting their critics or not letting them go to the tour, and their spots are being replaced by (gulp) bloggers.

Richmond even goes on to cite a number of our fellow blogs who have gotten credentials to the tour (BuddyTV.com, Bullz-Eye.com, AfterElton.com, GirlPower.com and Visimag.com), figuring that they'll be there to ask more about who the stars are sleeping with than whether the shows they're on are any good or not.

Considering Ray's a blogger himself (which he notes), and he's sent us many tips e-mails pointing to his articles, his despondency over the bloggers' presence seems to be a little bit misplaced. Not every blogger is interested in asking people foofy questions; I certainly am not, as I'm a TV fan and relish the opportunity to ask tough questions to the people responsible for what's on our screens. That's the way I conducted myself when I was last at the tour (Winter '07) and that's how I intend to operate this time around.

As for the tour itself ... well, that's another matter. It does seem to be a bit old-fashioned, in this multi-media world, to have critics fly out to a luxury hotel and listen to people speak on stage for 45 minutes at a time, then gulp sushi and free booze with them at night. Josef Adalian of TV Week thinks that the press tour should be more of a fans-and-press free-for-all like Comic-Con. But I'm more in the camp of Eric Deggans of the St. Petersburg Times: "The net result is a more level playing field for critics. A shmoe like me, writing in Florida, has a level of access to the biggest names in TV that would otherwise be impossible."

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