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October 13, 2015

TV Squad Ten: Things I learned at the TCAs

by Joel Keller, posted Aug 11th 2009 2:30PM
Gordon Ramsay cooks along w/ the critics @ TCAsAs usual, I've come back from the TCA press tour with a voice recorder full of great interviews and a brain made of mush. Because of the mush-brain part, I'm sure I'll go back and listen to some of the interviews and find that the ones I thought were full of golden nuggets of wit turn out to be full of nothing but platitudes.

That's okay, though; the tour was a lot of fun and I got to talk to a lot of interesting people. I mean, where else can you talk to Maria from Sesame Street, Alan Alda, Norman Lear, and Patti Smith.... all in the same day? It's amazing who you feel empowered to talk to when you have a press credential around your neck and a voice recorder in your hand.

But I also learned a bunch of other things during the tour, mostly about the upcoming season, but also a few other things as well:

Jay Leno at his TCA 09 panel1. Jay Leno is realistic, but ready to go.
Leno's panel was one of the more anticipated Q&As of the entire tour, and he delivered, answering our questions more candidly than any of us expected while also making even the most jaded critics laugh (ask Chelsea Handler how tough that was to do). It was a bit surprising for him to be so realistic about the 10:00 experiment's prospects: "If we go down in flames, at least we'll be laughing." But he sounds like he's re-engergized and up for the challenge.

2. FlashForward looks great, but wait a second... ABC showed critics the full pilot of FlashForward before the show's panel. It looked great. But after the producers answered our questions and a lot of us had a few minutes to think about it, a lot of us thought the same thing: "This is The Nine in reverse." Remember that show? Fantastic premiere, but dragged down by a premise that had nowhere to go if the show went more than a season. That's kind of what FlashForward feels like, especially given the fact that the date in the future everyone sees is only six months from now. Where do we go when that date passes? Anyone?

3. Matt Weiner is really good at keeping his folks quiet. During the AMC party and the TCA awards, we met up with Weiner and the cast and staff of Mad Men, trying to get them to spill some details about season three, and all any of them would say was it was about "changes." Luckily, I got a hold of the season three premiere; I'll publish an early look about it (non-spoilery, though), along with some of the benign quotes from Weiner and Co.

Modern Family cast
4. Comedy may be fully back, thanks to Modern Family and Community.
The new comedies on ABC and NBC, respectively, were the best pilots I saw this summer, and the best-received amongst the collected critics. The pilot for Community was just extremely sharp and boasts a killer cast, including Joel McHale, Chevy Chase, and Ken Jeong (just added for the 2nd episode). Similarly, Modern Family (whose cast is above) has sharp writing and a killer cast, but also has a heart that adds to the fun. Oh, and ABC now promotes the fact that it's about one big family, a fact that the cast and crew are very happy about (the network wanted that twist hidden at first, for some strange reason).

Ken Jeong of Community @ TCAs5. Ken Jeong is a funny dude. He's having as good a summer as his Hangover co-star Zach Galifianakis. And when I spoke to him at the NBC party, he was really happy that he got the job on Community (as a Spanish professor named Señor Chong). Oh, and when The Miz from WWE happened by while I was talking to him, their conversation about Jeong's recent appearance on RAW was one of the funniest things I encountered during the entire two weeks.

6. If you're a network executive, answer the questions you're asked. NBC's Angela Bromstad and Paul Telegdy really made a bad impression during their exec session, pushing questions off onto underlings and generally avoiding answering anything having to do with Leno, Conan, or Ben Silverman. Even the CW's notorious tap-dancer, Dawn Ostroff, was more forthright with us this time around.

7. Sometimes you need to put the voice recorder away. I learned that last year during the TCA awards, and it was reinforced this year. Yes, during some of the cocktail parties I got interviews. But a) I only spoke to people I really wanted to talk to and b) only if I knew or liked the show they were there to promote. When I decided to just hang out and enjoy the party, I got a lot more candid responses, none of which I can print here. But it's good information to have if I need it.

Single Ladies SNL sketch8. I never want to hear "Gotta Feeling" or "Single Ladies" again. All the networks are using both songs with nauseating frequency in their promos. Have some single ladies in your show? Break out the Beyonce. Show engenders good feelings? Bring on the Black Eyed Peas! The only time I wanted to hear either song was when NBC replayed the SNL sketch with Justin Timberlake playing one of Beyonce's backup dancers.

9. Not every panel is bloggable.
I learned my lesson about this last year; not every panel is going to be interesting enough to slave over a blog post about it. I mean, pretty much all of the panels the CW presented to us were about as interesting as watching paint dry. Then again, maybe seeing a series of pretty people without much to say just put me in a bad mood.

10. Twitter saved my bacon. I want to thank all of you for following my TCA tweets at @tvsquad and @joelkeller. The tweets that I and my fellow critics spewed forth from the various panels seemed to satisfy the real hard-core TV geeks that follow the TCA news and saved me from having to blog about every little development. I was able to save my energy to write about the real news and was able to get more than enough interviews and panel info to last well into the fall season, which is really why the tour exists in the first place.

Bonus: I'll never be a pastry chef. The pic at the top of this post was when Gordon Ramsay, promoting his Cookalong with Gordon Ramsay live special, had us try to whip up a meringue for Baked Alaska. All I got was some soupy pudding-like substance. It tasted OK, though...

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We at http://communitynbc.com/ can't wait for Community to air!

August 11 2009 at 3:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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