January 23, 2014
The Best TCA Moments… Revisited
By Michael Grebb
So many TCA moments, so little time. Actually, there was a lot of time, like days and days and days… but in any event, here’s a rundown of the more memorable “happenings” at this year’s winter tour. Some you’ve heard about. Others you haven’t. But one thing’s for sure: TCA never disappoints when it comes to those “moments” of humor, tension or just plain weirdness.
Most Honest Moment – When NBC Entertainment chmn Robert Greenblatt admitted to a questioner that he has no idea how to tell the difference between a mini-series, event series and limited series. “I don’t know,” he said flatly. After some real-time brainstorming on stage, he finally surmised that minis are “closed ended,” meaning they can’t come back for multiple seasons—unlike an event or limited series like CBS’ “Under the Dome” or FX’s “American Horror Story.” But oh wait, AHS was entered as a mini at the Emmys and… “That’s a limited series with a twist,” Greenblatt said of AHS. “So we grapple with those kinds of definitions.” Until one or the other fits an awards definition. So basically, people… series are whatever we want them to be, depending on how we’re marketing them and what kind of awards we want to qualify for. Got it?
Funniest Moment – A couple of years ago, producer/writer Peter Tolan (FX’s “Rescue Me”) literally dropped his pants onstage to wake up critics (it worked). So it’s to be expected that this TCA veteran decided to entertain us once again—this time without the visual aid of underwear—by pulling out his supposed diary to recount for us the daily routine on his new Fox show “Rake” starring Greg Kinnear. “September 16th, first day of shooting for Rake. Kinnear showed up drunk with a hooker named Tammy on his arm claiming it was part of his process,” he read. “After the first shot, he demanded we give Tammy a producer credit. Rather than upset him, we agreed, but her pimp pushed for co EP, so now she’s a f—king co EP.” It kind of devolved from there, with Tammy eventually getting an overall deal at 20th Century Fox and Peter ending up as CBS chmn Les Moonves’ butler, among other things. No need to drop the pants this year, Peter…
Most Racially Uncomfortable Question – Diversity both in front of and behind the camera is vital, and questions related to racial diversity are commonplace at TCA. They usually evoke awkward responses as showrunners try to explain why they ended up with lily white casts. But during FX’s panel for new series “Tyrant” (which looks great, by the way), one critic asked star Adam Rayner whether he was white. He was sitting right there, mind you, and looking pretty Caucasian, but Rayner was still forced to answer, “I am.” And just to be clear, he added: “I am. I am.” Now, granted he’s playing a Middle Eastern character, albeit one whose mother was British. So it’s a gray area, or a white area, or… whatever. Eventually, the critic answered his own question, asking whether the producers auditioned people of middle-eastern ethnicity and simply chose Rayner because he was best for the role. Responded showrunner Gideon Raff: “Yeah. That’s exactly what we did.” Brilliant!
Most Inappropriate Meal – The food at TCA is usually pretty good (or at least plentiful), and that was all the case at NBC’s delicious breakfast over the weekend to celebrate “Hannibal,” a show about a serial killer who eats people. What better series to showcase over a hot meal, especially considering that NBC let us all sit down with our sausages and assorted meat products before showing us a sizzle reel that included, well… sizzling human flesh and assorted meat products of the homo-sapien variety. Mmmmmmmm good, NBC! Mmmmmmm…
Most Refreshing Meal – True, the Hannibal breakfast might have made critics queasy, but NBC recovered nicely with its “Hollywood Game Night” lunch where host Jane Lynch pulled critics up to the stage to compete against each other in feats of TV knowledge. She kept the jokes coming as critics nervously tried to avoid NOT knowing something they SHOULD know because they like, watch EVERYTHING and should know their way around a TV dial. No one really embarrassed themselves—and it was a nice break from the otherwise back-to-back schedule of panels.
Weirdest Moment – Have you ever felt sorry for a beautiful model? All the time? Yeah, me too. Blame The CW, which hired a bunch of gorgeous, high-heel clad, cocktail-dress wearing women to bring microphones to critics asking questions during its session. When one critic asked why the CW felt the need to, well… go the model route rather than simply do what other nets do, which is to force pages to hand out mics while wearing dorky blazers and comfortable shoes, CW pres Mark Pedowitz said “I don’t have an answer to that question. I’ll look into it. Next question.” Interestingly, he seemed to think the models were in fact CW pages—strange in that they looked NOTHING like pages. Or really, any normal human beings—unless we lived in a universe in which normal human beings were F-ING PERFECT. Then again, The CW is a skewed universe in which the 100 teens dropped on a contaminated planet Earth in its new “The 100” sci-fi series all appear to be models as well. Lord of the Flies never looked so metrosexual, by the way…
Most Generous Moment – Denis Leary was on hand to promote his new USA series “Sirens” (he’s a producer, not talent), but he seemed more interested in probing the critics, who at this point had been stuck at the Langham hotel in Pasadena for more than 2 weeks. “Do you get free shit the whole time you’re here, like food and drink?” The crowd shouted “yes!” When told that we all pay for our own hotel rooms, he sarcastically added that “I’m very upset that somebody has to pay for their room” and promised that if Sirens does well, he’ll pick up the rooms. “If we’re here for our fifth year at TCA, we’re f—king paying for everything,” he said. “How is that?” USA senior programming exec Jackie De Crinis abruptly ended the panel at this point. Smart move, Jackie. Smart move.
Most Surprising Moment – As you may have heard, former Alaska governor and Presidential candidate Sarah Palin is no fan of the “lamestream media.” But you wouldn’t have known it based on her appearance at TCA. At a casual breakfast to promote her new series “Amazing America” on Sportsman Channel, Palin went table to table mingling with critics before an eventual gaggle choked her progress, forcing one of her handlers to start yelling at critics to make their way to a safer corner of the room. A few tough questions here and there, but Palin answered them all with a smile. To be honest, she’s far more charming in person than on TV. And perhaps that’s a lesson everyone should remember. Whether most of the critics share her politics or not, she worked the room like a master politician. Because she kind of is one.
Most Publicized Moment – Can we talk about HBO’s “Girls” panel? No? Why? Are you sick of reading about it? Sick of all the opinions from all sides that tell you nothing about what really happened? Let me break it all down for you: The Wrap’s Tim Molloy asked why Lena Dunham’s naked all the time on the show, often for no reason. It’s a fair question that she took to mean that she’s not attractive enough to be naked. So she got insulted, which drew producer Judd Apatow into the melee as he felt the need to defend Dunham. So he berated Molloy, asked him about his girlfriend, etc. It was a tense few moments, but it was over quickly. It didn’t really become a big “thing” until producer Jenni Konner decided to bring it up again a half hour later after she zoned out during a question. She decided to blame her brain freeze on the residual “rage spiral” she was still experiencing from Tim’s earlier question and “this idea that you would talk to a women like that and accuse a woman of showing her body too much.” That’s not necessarily what Tim did. But it didn’t matter. That’s how they took it, and so it all became a thing that has been debated too death ever since. And so it goes…