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Five Things Learned on the TCA Press Tour

by Joel Keller, posted Aug 13th 2010 5:29PM
Jerry Bruckheimer at the Summer 2010 TCAsNow that I've been back from California for a few days, and have fought off the jet lag (it gets worse as you get older, kids), I've been able to look back and digest what I learned at the TCA tour.

Besides the fact that I've learned my limits to eating salmon and chicken for lunch every day, there were a few things, at least from a TV perspective, that have stuck in my brain since I've gotten back:

1. The networks are relying on procedural dramas more than ever. Perhaps they got scared off by the flame out of 'FlashForward,' or the downward spiral to cancellation by 'Heroes.' But there only seemed to be a couple of new dramas on the networks' fall slates that had any kind of beefy continuing storyline. NBC's 'The Event' is probably the most serialized of the new shows, followed closely by FOX's 'Lone Star.' CBS's 'Blue Bloods' has a serialized element, but as we're finding out, there's an on-set disagreement as to how much that should be emphasized.

The rest of the dramatic slate leans heavily on the procedural, and as I said the other day, they are starting to blend together in my mind. Want evidence of this? Jerry Bruckheimer (pictured above) now has shows on three of the four networks this fall.

Snooki shows the TV critics her bump at the 'Jersey Shore' TCA panel2. 'Jersey Shore' might have more staying power than we realized. During the first cable day of the tour, the critics were presented with a bunch of buzzworthy shows, including a TLC show about a polygamist family, David Cross doing a Britcom, and the return of the Kids in the Hall. But what got the whole crowd talking was the appearance by the cast of 'Jersey Shore.' You could just feel the energy in the room rise as the MTV Networks' presentation got closer and closer to the appointed time when Snooki, The Situation, JWoww, etc. would take to the stage.

Even the most veteran critics, who have seen it all and know how fleeting stardom is, excitedly tweeted photos of Snooki walking the hallways or grabbing a smoke before the panel. Heck, even I got a small thrill passing Snooki outside the ballroom, one that for some reason I didn't get when I interviewed William Shatner and Tom Selleck, spoke to Tom Hanks, or got a surprise hug from Busy Phillipps.

So even though a lot of us felt a pang of shame for being so excited that the 'Jersey' cast was there, we were excited nevertheless. Maybe it's because they're so unique in their stardom, or that they basically have the same "We're down the Shore having a blast" attitude than they had a year ago. But, judging from the tour, their brief burst of fame is going to last a little bit longer than that of most reality stars.

Dax Shepard emceeing the TCA Awards in 20103. Dax Shepard is actually funny. At both the panel for 'Parenthood' and as emcee of the TCA Awards, Shepard demonstrated an off-the-cuff sense of humor that was surprising. At the awards, he riffed of his resemblance to Zach Braff by thanking us for supporting 'Scrubs' for nine years. He then discussed how most of the positive reviews of him on 'Parenthood' start of with words like "You won't believe this, but..." or "I never thought I'd write this, but..." He joked about how he's treated like a king at Costco after his role in 'Employee of the Month.'

Finally, he brought the house down with a dead-on impression of Owen Wilson talking to his brother Luke about all those Verizon ads he did and how he should have hit the gym before doing them. If the acting thing doesn't work out, the guy might have a second life as a stand-up comic or award show host.

Carrie Fisher4. Carrie Fisher may out-wacky Yoko Ono and Tracy Morgan combined. As I recounted the other day, Fisher had the critics in stitches during and after her panel for her HBO special 'Wishful Drinking.' Anyone who looked at a tour lineup that included Yoko Ono (promoting 'American Masters: Lennon NYC' on PBS) and Tracy Morgan (promoting his upcoming HBO standup special) would have never guessed that Fisher was going to be the one that gave us the most out-of-left-field moments.

Don't get me wrong: Ono and Morgan both had their moments. Ono replied to a critic who asked about why she kept living in the Dakota after Lennon was killed by going on a long rant about how sexist that notion was. "No one's going to comment that you would go to maybe a whorehouse or something like that right after your wife died," she said to the male critic. And Morgan said to the gathered critics "You know I'm in a room full of white people. I'm nervous. It's like the grand jury at this moment. Like this secret indictment is going to come down."

Cloris Leachman almost pulled the upset over Ono and Morgan for the wacky prize during the FOX session for 'Raising Hope,' asking critics to stand up when they asked her questions and joking, "I'm so sick of Betty White! I never liked her."

But Fisher's session was wall-to-wall zaniness, opening with her coming out in the Princess Leia bun wig and closing with her tossing glitter on an unsuspecting HBO executive. Judging bu the clips, she brings the same frenzy to her one-woman show. Looking forward to getting the screener for that one.

(By the way, I can't find one picture of Fisher's session anywhere. Wonder if that was at her request or not.)

Name Dropper5. I'm becoming a name-dropping d-bag. It never ceases to amaze me who I get to meet on the press tour. But I try to not be one of "those guys," who says things like "Yeah, Zach Levi, I've met the guy. Nice dude" in casual conversation. But, I caught myself leaving a note on a fellow critic's Facebook page that namechecked Tom Hanks for no particular reason. Even above, I had to get in a mention that I got that hug from Busy Philipps (yes, I just mentioned it a second time... there was a reason for that sudden familiarity, which I'll get to eventually).

This is why, even though the tour is tiring and exasperating and truly a "death march with cocktails," as Tim Goodman of the San Francisco Chronicle calls it, when you get home, you realize how much fun you had, and you're raring to go again. And, hopefully the fact that I have to make my own meals now will help curb the name-dropping, even if it's only a little bit.

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@AprilMac

Loved it Joel. You are one of my favorite people I look forward to seeing at Press tour, and reading your insights. The food was atrocious at the Beverly Hilton.

August 16 2010 at 12:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Brent

I just can't get into Jersey Shore. I have tried so hard too lol.

I mean I love the real world and have for most of my youth so it makes sense I would like Jersey Shore. I tried sitting down and watching the premiere of the show twice and both times I didn't last five minutes.

They are the most vile and uninteresting people on the planet in my opinion which obviously is with the minority considering their amazingly stellar ratings.

I turn 25 In Feb,2011, maybe this just means I'm too old to understand youth culture....or that an Australian just cant connect with this sub culture of America we never had much exposure to back home.

Either way there is not arguing with their success.

August 13 2010 at 6:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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