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July 22, 2014

ABC wrap-up: Eli Stone, a DWTSer sings, and Ashton Kutcher hates my question - TCA Report

by Joel Keller, posted Jul 17th 2008 2:22AM
Julianne HoughThe remaining panels on ABC's first day were for Eli Stone, the Ashton Kutcher-produced game show Opportunity Knocks, and a panel for the upcoming Country Music Association events on the network. For the latter panel, Julianne Hough, who has twice partnered with the celebrity champion of Dancing with the Stars, sang a few songs from her current country album. Pretty girl. Nice voice. Dancer's body. But that's all I can say about the panel, because I bolted shortly after she was done singing.

The Eli Stone panel featured the entire cast along with executive producers Greg Berlanti (who seems to be producing two-thirds of ABC's scripted dramas) and Marc Guggenheim. Surprisingly enough, there was only one question about the presence of Katie Holmes as a guest star this season. The reason why she's there is a shock -- they brought her in to get ratings! Will wonders never cease?

"As we were talking about the beginning of the season and knowing that the show, you know, we really want to bring eyeballs to the show and do anything we could to get people talking about the show that like the show or haven't seen the show," said Berlanti. "So Marc and I were talking and Steve (McPherson, ABC Entertainment president) and I were talking and I said, 'I can go ask Katie and see if she's interested. We haven't worked together since Dawson's (Creek),' and I went and I begged her, and she said, 'I'd love to.'" She plays a lawyer that doesn't practice, but needs Eli's help. Oh, and she will be singing and dancing during the episode, something Berlanti didn't want to reveal but did after learning that McPherson already spilled the beans.

As for the show, there seems to be a desire to "reset" the show a bit, and the natural set point is the removal of Eli's aneurysm, which happened at the end of the first season, is a good place to do it, says Guggenheim. "The season premiere really kind of plays like a second pilot. So you can come in to it totally cold if you hadn't seen the show back in the Spring. So it's designed to be new-viewer-friendly, as it were."

The point is that, now that the public knows about Eli's visions, and that some of them have come true -- earthquakes, most notably -- how he and they deal with it is going to be the show's focus. "I think Eli sort of embraces that part of it this year, and it becomes more about how much the people around him begin to embrace that or not as it becomes more public."

Someone embarrassingly asked Jonny Lee Miller if he'll try to get Angelina Jolie, who he was married to for three years in the late nineties, to be a guest. "You'll have to call her, I'm afraid," he said. Uh, yeah. The woman just had a couple of kids. In France. With Brad Pitt. And she's an international mega-star and humanitarian. She's a little busy right now.

Ok, now for the question to Ashton Kutcher that I refer to in the title. Opportunity Knocks is a game show where the producers go to a family's house, knock on their door, and tell them they're on a game show. Then the game show is set up on the front lawn, lights, set, bleachers and everything, and the host -- producer J.D. Roth, asks the family probing questions about each other for fabulous prizes. The show asks friends and neighbors about the family in the time leading up to the taping, giving them the material to ask the probing questions.

To demonstrate (and to fill time during what would have been a very quiet session) Roth pulled up TV Guide's Matt Roush and asked him about a knick-knack in his office. Then he pulled up Brill Bundy and Rick Porter of Zap2It, to find out if Rick knew Brill better than her husband Eric, who was also reporting the tour (for someone else, but isn't it sweet? The couple who press tours together stays together, I always say). So, with Eric and Rick standing by with greaseboards like some demented Newlywed Game, Roth recited food-related entries from Brill's Twitter page. I guess it shows that they really dig to find some good information -- not dirt, just fun info -- on their contestants.

This led me to the question for Kutcher, who was busy being all serious about the "good" and "positive" nature of the show: Do they want to see people bicker during the show, like they do during The Newlywed Game? He let out a little "pfft" kind of noise while I asked the question, like he was insulted. But then he took the time to answer. "Human drama is definitely part of it. Like, I'm not -- we're not -- this isn't, like, a holy show by any means." He went on to say that "we don't assume that there's not going to be bickering. You want the bickering. Like, that's fun. But I don't think we're -- we don't want people getting divorced over it, but the bickering is fun."

After the session, there was a dinner where Dancing With The Stars dancers gave a huge group cha-cha lesson to those critics brave enough to get on the dance floor. It looked like a wedding from hell, so I decided to retire to an evening of furiously typing on a laptop. Tomorrow's the all-star party, so we'll see what fun we can get from that.

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