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The Television Critics Association Press Tour is going to be crawling with TVWeek staffers. Check this space for observations from the presentations, hallway chatter and the dope on who was misbehaving at the parties. TVWeek’s Jon Lafayette, Josef Adalian, Andrew Krukowski, Sergio Ibarra and Vlada Gelman all will post as they scour the scene for news.


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July 2008 Archives

McShane Tells It Like It Is

July 21, 2008 6:44 PM

Kings TCA Panel

BRUTAL HONESTY Ian McShane and Susanna Thompson from the cast of "Kings."

The nation's TV critics are running on fumes right now, two weeks into the TCA. But Ian McShane? Well, he came to press tour ready to rumble.

During a session to promote his new show, NBC's "Kings," Mr. McShane proved to be unlike most actors who appear on stage here—specifically, he answered questions with complete honesty rather than with the restraint that comes from being overhandled by publicists.

Mr. McShane's first spark came in response to a critic who didn't like the answer producers gave to a question about the setting of the show. The critic was befuddled by producers' admittedly vague explanation that the show is set in the present time—but in a place unfamiliar and unknown to viewers.

"Now you're not making any sense at all," the critic said. Mr. McShane immediately took issue with that comment.

"Excuse me for your ignorant remark," he said. "What do you expect—that it's all spelled out for you now?"

Mr. McShane and the critic exchanged a few more angry words. Creator Michael Green added a bit more fuel to the fire when he jokingly asked the critic something to the effect of, "Do you want to attack us anymore?"

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Tinkering With 'Knight Rider'

July 21, 2008 3:43 PM

“Knight Rider” might look the same as it did in its two-hour movie premiere earlier this year, but under the hood there are some distinct differences.

Gary Scott Thompson, the series' new executive producer, said the framework of the show, as in the characters, is essentially the same, but the mythology of the series is different from movie “Rider” to show “Rider.”

This includes changes to Mike Traceur’s origin story in Iraq; new characters played by Yancey Arias, Paul Campbell and Smith Cho; and the introduction of “the KITT cave.”

Val Kilmer will remain the voice of KITT, but Mr. Thompson explained that in order to pull the movie into a series, some tweaks needed to be made.

He also hinted at the story arc of season one by posing this question to the critics at the press tour: “Why would you put artificial intelligence into a car?”

As for KITT itself, Ford still remains the standout brand in the series, as KITT will transform into several Ford models. Critics questioned NBC Entertainment Co-Chairman Ben Silverman earlier and Mr. Thompson in this panel about the line of product placement in the series.

Mr. Campbell stepped in and said, “Nobody wants to see an AMC Gremlin transform into an Eagle.”

—Andrew Krukowski

TCA Party Patrol: NBC, CBS Get Their Grooves on

July 21, 2008 3:37 PM

CBS TCA Summer Press Tour Party

fun times Nancy Tellem, President, CBS Paramount Network Television Entertainment Group, Elizabeth Reaser, star of the new CBS series "The Ex List," Nina Tassler, President, CBS Entertainment, and Simon Baker, star of the new CBS series "The Mentalist" at The CW/Showtime/CBS Television TCA Party.


Imagine Jeff Zucker's brain, filled as it is with synergistic neurons constantly dreaming up new ways to link together various parts of the NBC Universal empire. Now imagine if that brain exploded all over the Oasis garden at the Beverly Hills Hilton, with various Peacock properties popping out all over the place.

That would pretty much describe the scene at NBC's all-star TCA bash. The Sunday soiree was populated with the most random members of the NBCU family.

Hey, it's Janice Dickinson and Tori Spelling of Oxygen walking by NBC News analyst Chuck Todd! There's Ben Silverman giving an interview to NBC's affiliate news feed while Coolio (also soon to be on Oxygen) plays DJ. Or maybe Christian Slater is giving the interview—they're both wearing the same dark-sportcoat-and-white-shirt getup.

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'Kath' Changes Just Part of Process, Producer Says

July 21, 2008 3:04 PM

The producer of "Kath & Kim" brushed aside questions about reports that her show is undergoing some growing pains.

Entertainment Weekly's Web site reported last week that director Paul Feig has exited the project, a remake of a hit Australian comedy. Australian media also have been pushing reports of behind-the-scenes changes.

Executive Producer Michelle Nader said she's just trying to make the show the best it can be.

"It's very, very hard to get a show right, and we want to get this show right," she said Monday during NBC's portion of the TCA press tour.

"That's the benefit of going straight to series," Ms. Nader added.

She said producers are "changing the look" of the show a bit, opening it up.

"It needs to be a celebration of these characters," Ms. Nader said. "They think of themselves as celebrities. We want to capture that."

—Josef Adalian

Ben Silverman, Basketball Fan

July 21, 2008 1:51 PM

If NBC Entertainment Co-Chairman Ben Silverman could reprogram the summer schedule, what would he do differently?

“I wouldn’t have had the Lakers play the Celtics,” he said, as a majority of NBC’s summer debuts, including “Fear Itself,” went toe-to-toe with the ratings-dominating NBA Finals.

If Mr. Silverman had his way, the Finals would have been the Memphis Grizzles against Vancouver, which would be pretty one-sided, considering Vancouver doesn’t have an NBA team anymore.

—Andrew Krukowski

Olbermann vs. O'Reilly, Round 927

July 21, 2008 1:45 PM

The NBC Decision ’08 panel responded to claims made by Fox News’ Chris Wallace, who said he thought it was inappropriate for opinion-based hosts, such as MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, to host straight primary coverage.

NBC News President Steve Capus said this strategy was nothing new, and that it drew no fire when Mr. Olbermann manned the anchor station during the 2006 election.

When asked what he thought of Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly possibly helming election coverage, Mr. Olbermann paused before answering.

“It would make it more interesting if Bill was on and did it live,” he said, coyly referring to this video (mature language ahoy):

—Andrew Krukowski

Live-Blogging the NBC Executive Session

July 21, 2008 11:14 AM

NBC

LOOKING AHEAD NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios Co-Chairmen Ben Silverman and Marc Graboff talk spinoffs, comedies and late night.

Co-Chairmen of NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios Marc Graboff and Ben Silverman are here and ready to go.

They've got some announcements:

—"SNL" will start early on Sept.13.

—Oct. 9 will be the launch of "SNL's" live prime-time political series.

—"Life" will air Monday at 10 p.m. for two weeks, starting Sept. 29. "My Own Worst Enemy" will premiere on Oct. 13 in that slot afterwards.

—"30 Rock" stays at 9:30 p.m. on Thursday. "Kath and Kim" takes the 8:30 block.

—Formally announcing that Amy Poehler is moving to a Thursday night comedy. Starring in a show from Greg Daniels and Mike Schur that is NOT a spinoff of "The Office."

—However, NBC, Mr. Daniels and Mr. Schur are still pursuing "The Office" spinoff.

—NBC will be doing the April infront once again.

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Live-Blogging the Sophomore NBC Panel

July 21, 2008 9:51 AM

Chuck

BACK FOR SECONDS "Chuck" star Zachary Levi and creator Josh Schwartz discuss the show's "guest star crazy" second season.

We've got Josh Schwartz ("Chuck"), Oliver Goldstick ("Lipstick Jungle") and Rand Ravich ("Life"), plus stars of three NBC sophomore shows ... SECRETS WILL BE REVEALED.

9:55 a.m.: Mr. Goldstick: Weather makes it tougher to shoot in New York. "You make the best of it," he says.

9:58 a.m.: Could Zachary Levi's character be killed off? "Next year it will be called 'Morgan,'" says Mr. Schwartz.

9:59 a.m.: Donal Logue will bring a "brash" sensibility to "Life," says Mr. Ravich. And give Damian Lewis time to breathe.

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'SNL' Launches Another Campaign

July 20, 2008 6:30 PM

It's an election year, so it's no surprise that the 2008 campaign dominated a panel featuring Lorne Michaels and several cast members of NBC's "Saturday Night Live."

Among the nuggets of election (and non-election) news gleaned from the 30-minute session:

—If Barack Obama were willing to guest host "SNL," would Mr. Michaels say yes? "Absolutely," he said.

—Mr. Michaels said his donation to the primary campaign of Sen. John McCain doesn't color the comedy on the show. "I did give to his campaign. But I give to pretty much any former hosts who run for office," he joked.

—Fred Armisen jokingly defended himself against critics who question the idea of a non-black man impersonating Sen. Obama. "I grew up in a hippie commune," he said. "And things are pretty loose there. My dad told me we really don't know who my mom is."

—Mr. Michaels said Amy Poehler will stay with "SNL" until she gives birth, "which hopefully will be right after the election." The producer said he doesn't expect to lose any other cast members this season. He does plan to add two, or possibly three, contributors to the cast.

—Any more "Laser Cats" in the future of "SNL"? "I think everybody hopes so," said Andy Samberg.

—"Being off the air in an election year was unbelievably frustrating," Mr. Michaels said, referring to the hiatus forced by the writers strike.. "It made me realize how precious it was to just have this job and be on the air."

—Hey, Lorne, whatcha think of the whole Jay Leno-NBC thing? "I so have so little to say about that," Mr. Michaels said, adding later: "I only work there."



Future Shock: How 'Caprica' Will Build Tension

July 20, 2008 5:49 PM

Sc-Fi Network TCA Panel

PREQUEL The cast of the "Battlestar Galactica" prequel "Caprica" (L-R) Polly Walker, Eric Stoltz, Paula Malcomson, Writer and Executive Producer Ronald D. Moore, Writer and Executive Producer Remi Aubuchon, and Executive Producer David Eick on stage.

Critics love "Battlestar Galactica." That means they should love "Caprica," Sci Fi's upcoming two-hour backdoor pilot that could serve as the blueprint for a new "BSG" series.

But at Sunday's "Caprica" panel at TCA, critics had one issue with producers: Why is this thing a prequel? Won't viewers know what's going to happen?

"The tension comes from the fact that you know where it's going," said executive producer Ronald D. Moore.

"The idea is to say, 'All that you see here is doomed.' There's an ominous (tone)," he said.

Read more and see the "Caprica" trailer after the jump.

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DirecTV Plans 'Friday Night Lights' Post-Game Show

July 20, 2008 4:38 PM

DirectTV Friday Night Lights TCA Panel

BACK FROM THE BRINK Eric Shanks, Executive Vice President of Entertainment for DIRECTV, along with the cast, discussed how the satcaster will be making a big promotional push for the new episodes of "Friday Night Lights."


DirecTV will present “Friday Night Lights Live” when the critically acclaimed but low-rated drama makes its debut Oct. 1 on the satellite provider's The 101 Network.

The 30-minute “postgame” show will allow viewers to call-in and talk to two or three cast members from the show live after each new episode of the series airs.

Asked if there was anything the cast was looking forward to or afraid of regarding “Friday Night Lights Live,” Connie Britton responded, “We have no fear.”

“We're survivors,” Kyle Chandler added.

Indeed, the show has survived many questions and uncertainties regarding its future, but now has won a reprieve with a guaranteed 13 episodes on DirecTV.

The satcaster will be making a big promotional push for the show, something Ms. Britton said she didn't feel the show has ever really gotten.

However, the show must battle the question of downloading and what will happen when the series returns to NBC in February. Many viewers may turn to torrents and file-sharing before the third season makes its broadcast premiere.

“The network believes that there will be an audience for the show in February,” said executive producer Jason Katims, who noted that NBC's and the studio's passion for the show is what made the deal with DirecTV possible.

Or, as Zach Gilford, who plays Matt Saracen, suggested, “If you're really such a big fan, go ahead and download it and then out of good conscience turn it on on NBC.”

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Doc, It Hurts When I Ask a Question...

July 19, 2008 6:21 PM

The "Doctors" session took the stage sans the McGraw boys, Dr. Phil and Jay, whose company is producing the series.

However, with four of the co-hosts meeting with the press, critics quickly brought up perhaps too personal medical topics for the panelists, echoing the essence of the show in discussing "topics people are too embarrassed to discuss with their own physician."

Critics' questions involved their personal frustration at being misdiagnosed, when to get a second opinion and not getting enough time in an office visit. One all but displayed an unusual growth that's causing concern, and another asked about a sponge left in her body post-op.

Dr. Travis Stork, former "Bachelor" star and centerpiece of the upcoming series, quickly pointed out that "The Doctors" is not meant to replace the viewer's (or critic's) own physician and is meant to serve an informational purpose only.

—Chris Pursell

CBS, Norville Mark 20 Years on the 'Inside'

July 19, 2008 6:17 PM

Critics were shuffled from The CW's presentation midday Saturday to greet Deborah Norville, as CBS Television Distribution hosted a lunch in honor of "Inside Edition's" 20th anniversary.

Ms. Norville continues to remain popular with the army of press who filled the room at the Beverly Hilton.

"One of the reasons we've reached this milestone is that we've stayed in touch with the viewers," said Ms. Norville. "We're positioned to cover the things Americans care about."

Despite 20 years on the air, the syndicated newsmagazine continues to be entrenched atop the ratings, taking second among all newsmagazine shows.

Of course, success could have a price—or perhaps after 20 years on the air, there is little left to ask or challenge as critics basked in their post-lunch glow and asked few questions, wrapping the session quickly.

—Chris Pursell

Live-Blogging the CW Executive Session

July 19, 2008 11:58 AM

Dawn Ostroff

Another Try Dawn Ostroff President of Entertainment, for The CW revealed that there is a possibility of seeing the 2009-10 season premiere during the 2009 summer.


The CW President of Entertainment Dawn Ostroff is set to take the stage shortly. Why not refresh yourself with what Ms. Ostroff handled during the upfronts here?

Here's what to expect during this session:
—Questions about The CW's low ratings.
—Why lime green? Why not brand a network with a nice burnt sienna or cerulean?
—In a game very similar to ABC's "Katherine Heigl, what's up with her?" critics may play "Tyra Banks, what's up with her?"

12:07 p.m.: There's no doubt that this was a challenging year, not only for us, but for others. The CW is going to target women 18-34, that's the channel's "sweet spot." The median age of the network is 34, Ms. Ostroff says.

12:09 p.m.: We're watching a clip of Sam Raimi's "13-Fear Is Real," which Ms. Ostroff says is like "The Blair Witch Project" as a reality show.

12:10 p.m.: The winner of "Fear" gets $66,666, and there was talk of killing off the folks on the show. This show may have some promise after all.

12:13 p.m.: Ms. Ostroff explains that getting "killed" on the show means disappearing from the rest of the group. Scratch what I just said.

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Live-Blogging the '90210' Panel

July 19, 2008 9:05 AM

90210 TCA Panel

NEW LOOK "90210" Executive producers Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah, along with the new cast members, described the progress being made on the new version of the show.

Weekends are for the weak as TCA rolls on through Saturday. We've got the "90210" panel coming up. In the lobby, there's a fake Peach Pit, offering peach Jamba Juice and booze.

What to expect in this panel:
—Questions about hair.
—Questions about how the original will tie into this version.
—Some smart-ass critic bringing up "Models, Inc."

9:29 a.m.: We're checking out some random clips of the cast talking about their characters. All these characters seem to laugh a lot and wear sunglasses.

9:30 a.m.: Shannen Doherty will be back on "90210," playing a drama teacher.

9:36 a.m.: Here's how this new series works: The Wilson family moves from Kansas to Beverly Hills, and must try to maintain their moral center within the extravagance. This sounds strikingly familiar...

9:41 a.m.: Critic puts the screws to the panel as to what show in the past that has been remade like this has been successful. The panel was stumped for the most part, but offhand "Degrassi" and "Star Trek" both had similar success. But, for every "Star Trek: TNG," there's like 15 "704 Hauser."

9:43 a.m.: Shannen Doherty is playing Brenda Walsh. So expect coy dialog like, "I've been in your shoes before" with this knowing look, and everyone at home will say, "OH...cause she was on the show before."

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Secrets of the 'List'

July 18, 2008 4:07 PM

The Ex List TCA Panel

MISSED CONNECTIONS:"The Ex List" actors Alexandra Breckenridge, left, and Adam Rothenberg join executive producer Diane Ruggiero to the show's protagonist's search for true love.

Executive producer Diane Ruggiero has a secret plan for “The Ex List."

“List” follows Bella Bloom (Elizabeth Reaser), who is told she must find a husband in one year or she’ll never find true love. The catch? She’s met the guy before.

But, after one year, what’s next for the show? Ms. Ruggiero said she has a plan after one year, but was incredibly mum about what it is.

However, she was pretty open about other aspects of the show, including writing styles.

A critic asked if CBS balked at a lot of the vaginal-based humor in the show, including discussion of merkins, or pubic wigs.

“I actually let my vagina write half of the script,” Ms. Ruggiero said.

—Andrew Krukowski

ABC Parties at the Hilton

July 18, 2008 3:49 PM

Disney-ABC Summer Press Tour All-Star Party

FAMILY FUN: Anne Sweeney, left, co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney-ABC Television Group, smiles with "Desperate Housewives" co-star Teri Hatcher at Disney-ABC TV Group's Summer Press Tour All-Star Party.

ABC kept its All Star party close to home Thursday at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, where the TCA summer press tour is taking place. Perhaps they thought it was best not to drag weary critics to a faraway location on a day when they had to cover the Emmy nominations at 5:45 a.m.

How to further lull critics into a sleepy haze? With plenty of free food that could easily send one into a food coma. With multiple dessert tables featuring mini-tarts, platters of deli meats, pasta, potatoes, chicken and roast beef, and at least one open bar in every room, it’s easy to fall under the spell.

There were no “Pushing Daisies” pies in sight. A missed opportunity for some creatively themed food, if you ask us. However, the bar did offer a “Pushing Daisies” drink that the menu promised would make you think of apple pie if you closed your eyes. There also was a Life on Mars-tini. Hey, maybe Sam Tyler just had one too many drinks and hit his head!

Aside from the show-themed drinks and small banners for ABC, ABC Family and Disney Channel above the food tables, it was hard to tell that it was an ABC party. Screens featuring a slideshow of pictures from the networks’ shows were obscured by throngs of people. Thankfully, there were stars from “Desperate Housewives,” “Private Practice,” “Scrubs” “Eli Stone” and “Dirty Sexy Money,” in addition to network brass and executive producers, present as reminders.

“Eli Stone” co-creator Marc Guggenheim revealed that the show had to swap its filming order for the first two episodes to accommodate Broadway-bound Katie Holmes’ schedule. Her episode was filmed first, but will air second.

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More ‘Moonlight’ Vampire Madness

July 18, 2008 3:42 PM

Alex O’Loughlin of Moonlight

FAN FARE: Nina Tassler said she'd still love to find a place for "Moonlight" star Alex O’Loughlin in the CBS lineup.

It’s not that CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler doesn’t love vampires, it’s that she loves former “Moonlight” lead actor Alex O’Loughlin more.

But CBS still stands by its decision to cancel “Moonlight.”

When asked by a critic about the vampire show with a devoted fan base, Ms. Tassler said “Everybody knows I love vampires, witches, werewolves, warlocks-I love them all.”

“I don't question the choice we made,” she said. She added that she thinks the fan outrage she's seen is mainly actor-centric, and wouldn't mind keeping "Moonlight" lead O'Loughlin in the CBS family.

Critics, especially those with an online presence, are familiar with “Moonlight.” The slightest breath of the show invites a deluge of upset fans, (Thus explaining the question from the critic.)

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Bringing 'Worst Week' Across the Pond

July 18, 2008 11:54 AM

Worst Week TCA Panel

ADAPTATION: Executive Producer Matt Tarses, left, and actors Erin Hayes and Kyle Bornheimer from new CBS comedy "Worst Week" answer questions about their work on the show, adapted from the British series.

CBS’ “Worst Week” has its main character screwing up and stepping in it every episode.
More literally at some times than others.

In the pilot, Sam Briggs, played by Kyle Bornheimer, mixes up a pot of turkey with a toilet during a power outage.

Mr. Bornheimer, when asked about the comedic moments of playing in a scene like that, said, “Once you are presented with a pot of urine, the possibilities … pissabilities … are endless.”

“That’s for you guys,” he said to groans from audience.

The series, adapted from British series “The Worst Week of My Life,” was difficult to adapt to American sensibilities.

Translating British comedies to America is “like trying to transport a Ming vase across the ocean,” said Jimmy Mulville, executive producer.

—Andrew Krukowski

Geography Lessons From CBS News

July 18, 2008 10:46 AM

CBS News Analyst Jeff Greenfield wants to make one thing clear: He may know a lot about Washington, but he's not a Washington insider.

A reporter—OK, me—addressed a query to Mr. Greenfield and CBS News' Bob Schieffer by labeling it "for the Washington guys."

Mr. Greenfield immediately took issue with that.

Said he: "I live in the heartland of America—the Upper West Side of Manhattan."

Duly noted.

—Josef Adalian

How Much Is Too Much on Obama Trip?

July 18, 2008 10:43 AM

Katie Couric at TCA via Sattelite

VIA SATELLITE: "CBS Evening News" anchor Katie Couric and Sean McManus, CBS News & Sports president, speak to the press via satellite about their thoughts on Obama's strategy.

With the Big Three news anchors scheduled to travel overseas with the Obama campaign next week, conservative critics already are raising questions about whether too much star power is being focused on the trip.

A similar trip by Sen. John McCain in March didn't get nearly the same attention, critics note.

But "CBS Evening News" anchor Katie Couric told a TCA audience that the Obama campaign has simply been more savvy.

"I think it was very deft on the part of the Obama campaign," she said, noting the Obama campaign offered the news networks extensive access to the candidate if they went along on the trip. "Had (Sen. McCain) extended such an invitation, we would have strongly considered it."

Beyond tactics, CBS News & Sports President Sean McManus noted that Mr. Obama is making his debut on the international scene.

"Any time (a presumed nominee) makes his first major foreign trip, it's a major event," he said. "If we didn't do it, we wouldn't be doing our job."

—Josef Adalian

Live-Blogging the CBS Executive Session

July 18, 2008 8:57 AM

Nina Tassler

EXECUTIVE ANSWER CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler loves vampires, but doesn't question canceling "Moonlight."

Three broadcast channels left! Today we have CBS' Nina Tassler, president of entertainment, in front of the critical firing squad. Prediction for this session: spinoff announcement of "Greatest American Cat."

9:11 a.m.: Ms. Tassler on stage. The big news according to her this TCA is William Petersen leaving "CSI."

9:13 a.m.: "Audiences are watching more television," Ms. Tassler says. "I think viewers are really looking forward to watching their shows."

9:14 a.m.: Ms. Tassler proud of "Swingtown," still behind the show.

Ms. Tassler talks about loving vampires, "Moonlight," and the evil gene after the jump.

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Cherry 'Desperate' for Closure

July 17, 2008 5:47 PM

“Desperate Housewives” creator Marc Cherry, speaking at the Television Critics Association press tour, reaffirmed that he’d like to end the series after seven seasons.

The show is entering its fifth season set five years in the future, a reset of sorts for the show, according to Mr. Cherry.

Others might not have the same idea as Mr. Cherry.

While Mr. Cherry explained why he’d like to see his creation close at the end of season seven, ABC Entertainment President Steve McPherson shouted from the back of the room, “Not gonna happen!”

—Andrew Krukowski

Rhimes Hitting Ground Running on 'Practice'

July 17, 2008 4:39 PM

Private Practice TCA Panel

On Duty Actress Kate Walsh and Executive Producer Shonda Rhimes of "Private Practice" explain to critics that the show will focus more on the medical setting and less of the soap opera this season.

In a growing trend, “Private Practice” creator Shonda Rhimes described the first episode of her returning show after the strike as having a minimum amount of learning curve.

Several showrunners and executive producers of sophomore series have explained at the TCA the difficulty of returning after the strike-shortened season.

Ms. Rhimes said “Practice” has the advantage of airing on Wednesdays with other shows, including “Dirty Sexy Money” and “Pushing Daisies,” that will use ABC’s ad department to full effect for a relaunch.

But, in this returning season, Ms. Rhimes said while “Grey’s Anatomy” is all about surgery, “Practice” tells the stories of moral and ethical dilemmas and the high-stakes medicine in people’s everyday lives. However, the show will focus more on the medicine this season than last year, as the soap opera stuff tended to outweigh the medical setting.

The panel marked the first time this TCA where the phrase "Grey's Anatomy" didn't force an inevitable question about Katherine Heigl.

—Andrew Krukowski

More Dirty, More Sexy, More Money!

July 17, 2008 3:49 PM

The writers strike sliced “Dirty Sexy Money’s” freshman season by half, but, just like executive producer Greg Berlanti’s other show, “Eli Stone,” “Money” has some tricks up its sleeves to bring back viewers.

First, Lucy Liu joins the cast. Liu said she received a call from ABC Entertainment President Steve McPherson, asking to keep her within the ABC family beyond “Cashmere Mafia.”

Ms. Liu said she loved “Money,” and after some dealing with the executive producers, she was signed on before her character was created.

But critics said that yesterday Mr. McPherson mentioned he was dissatisfied with the tone of “Money,” to which the executive producers promised this year will bring a lighter tone. Not a radical change in tone, because they don't want to dissuade current viewers, but “it’s more dirty, more sexy and more money than ever before,” creator Craig Wright said.

“If the stories are right, the tones will be right,” Mr. Wright said.

—Andrew Krukowski

Live-Blogging the ABC Showrunners Panel

July 17, 2008 1:55 PM

ShowrunnerPanelTCA08.jpg

THE BRAINS (L-R) Greg Berlanti, Shonda Rhimes, Silvio Horta, Damon Lindelof, Carlton Cuse and Marc Cherry field questions from critics.

We're set up to learn how to show run, the ABC way! Our panel: "Eli Stone's" Greg Berlanti, "Grey's Anatomy's" Shonda Rhimes, "Ugly Betty's" Silvio Horta, "Lost's" Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse and "Desperate Housewives'" Marc Cherry.

2:06 p.m.: ABC Entertainment President Steve McPherson is offering Red Bull to reporters who are bleary-eyed from having to wake up at 5-freakin'-45 this morning to cover the Emmy nominations during a week of wall-to-wall TCA coverage. No, no bitterness here. None whatsoever.

2:09 p.m.: Katherine Heigl, what's up with her? Storywise, she's got some good material, Ms. Rhimes says. "I would put her in a coma," Mr. Horta says.

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'Opportunity' Unlimited for Kutcher & Gang

July 16, 2008 5:14 PM

Opportunity Knocks

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS (L-R) JD Roth, Ashton Kutcher, Jason Goldberg and Karey Burke surprise critics with their new game show.

Ashton Kutcher, former underwear model-turned-actor-turned-TV producer, defended the reality TV genre, telling reporters at the Television Critics Association press tour that “actors bitching or worried about reality TV taking their money and their jobs” should wait for the next opportunity to arrive instead of worrying about the acting-gig “cake” running out.

Elaborate cake metaphors aside, Mr. Kutcher took the stage to talk about his upcoming ABC series “Opportunity Knocks,” along with executive producers J.D. Roth, Jason Goldberg and Karey Burke.

The series, which surprises unsuspecting families by bringing a game show to their neighborhoods to test their knowledge about each other, prides itself on the research it conducts to create questions and challenges about each family. So proud, in fact, that Mr. Roth, who also serves as series host, surprised some critics in the audience with questions about themselves.

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McPherson on What Might Have Been

July 16, 2008 3:50 PM

Will Ferrell, variety star? It could have happened.

ABC Entertainment President Steve McPherson said on Wednesday that the network had a signed deal with the movie star to host his own Christmas special a few years ago. The special never happened, however.

“He realized how much money he made in features and decided to go do that instead,” Mr. McPherson said.

Mr. McPherson said he’s curious to see how Fox does with its upcoming variety show with the Osbournes. ABC was among the bidders for that show, and it’s still open to the idea of a variety hour “with the right personality and talent,” he said.

—Josef Adalian

McPherson Digs 'Mole' Producers

July 16, 2008 3:47 PM

ABC took a bold step by bringing back reality show “The Mole” this summer. Viewers have repaid that boldness with decidedly so-so ratings, forcing producers to launch a Web site to save their show.

So will there be another season of “The Mole”? ABC Entertainment President Steve McPherson was noncommittal on Wednesday at press tour, but he said he doesn’t blame producers for the disappointing numbers.

“It's certainly not the fault of the production,” he said. “It's an incredibly well-produced show. I think they did a fabulous job.”

Mr. McPherson said he thought the network stumbled a bit in its marketing of the show. “Maybe we made a misstep there and should have focused a little bit more as just selling it as a completely new show,” he said. “I think we overestimated the kind of return value of it.”

The ABC chief said he was impressed that producer Scott Stone and his partners launched a Web site to rally fans. “Those are the kind of people you want to be in business with,” he said.

—Josef Adalian

Heigl Has McPherson's Backing

July 16, 2008 3:39 PM

Steve McPherson weighed in on Heigl-gate Wednesday, and he made this much clear: Katherine Heigl is sticking with “Grey’s Anatomy.”

“She's absolutely staying with the show,” ABC’s entertainment boss said. “There's an unbelievable storyline for her this year, which is really central to everything that's going to go on this season.”

Mr. McPherson, showing off his talent relations chops, called Ms. Heigl a “fantastically talented actress.” But he also offered a subtle defense of the producers of “Grey’s,” who came under attack from Ms. Heigl when she blamed them for not giving her character a better storyline last season.

Ms. Heigl cited the allegedly weak storyline when announcing her decision not to submit her name for Emmy consideration.

“I think it's unfortunate when there's any kind of turmoil on a show,” Mr. McPherson said. “There's so many people who work so unbelievably hard to make that show the No. 1 show in the country. … Everyone from the grips to the writers to the EPs, I think, deserves an enormous amount of credit. And I never like to see when any of them are in any way taken lightly.”

—Josef Adalian


'Practice' Not Yet Perfect

July 16, 2008 3:27 PM

“Private Practice” was a ratings hit during its first season. Critics, however, weren’t so enamored of the “Grey’s Anatomy” spinoff.

Looks like ABC executives had some issues, too.

“I think when it just became kind of a soap opera about those people's lives, there was a lot of talking, a lot of time in the coffee room taking about the angst. That's not that show,” ABC Entertainment President Steve McPherson told reporters. “It's not what [creator] Shonda [Rhimes] does well.”

So what’s Dr. McPherson’s prescription to get “Practice” to be more perfect?

Look for Kate Walsh’s lead character to get back to doing more surgery.

“I think (that) will be a big proponent for getting some more energy back, getting some medical drama,” Mr. McPherson said. "There's going to be more interaction with the hospital, because I think she does an unbelievable job of character, but it works best when it's laid over kind of a palette of these really great medical stories.

"We're hoping that that first episode kind of sets us up to really have engines that we didn't really have last year, because we spent a lot of time just kind of talking about the characters.”

—Josef Adalian

Live-Blogging ABC's 'Scrubs' Presentation

July 16, 2008 3:00 PM

Scrubs

SCRUBBING IN AT ABC (L-R) Neil Flynn, John C. McGinley, Donald Faison, Zach Braff, creator Bill Lawrence and Sarah Chalke discuss the future of "Scrubs."

3:00 p.m.: The "Scrubs" gang is about to take the stage. Let's all remember that the show is making the big jump to ABC this fall. On the panel: Neil Flynn, John C. McGinley, Donald Faison, Zach Braff, Sarah Chalke and executive producer Bill Lawrence.

3:02 p.m.: Clip reel started. It's the same one shown at the upfronts. Nothing new.

3:04 p.m.: Mr. Lawrence says the show just finished wrapping an episode in the Bahamas. The Todd (played by Robert Maschio) is rumored to still be there, frolicking in his banana hammocks.

3:05 p.m.: Mr. Braff is wearing some sick shades. He's been referred to as "Smart Zach."

3:07 p.m.: Ms. Chalke has been doing a guest stint on CBS' "How I Met Your Mother." She doesn't know what the future holds over there.

Read More »

On Setting 'Mars' in New York

July 16, 2008 2:48 PM

Life on Mars

'MARS' EXPEDITION TO NEW YORK (L-R) Josh Appelbaum, Jason O'Mara, Michael Imperioli and Andre Nemec talk about the show's New York setting.

ABC’s “Life on Mars,” originally a BBC 16-episode drama, has a storied past even before an episode airs.

“Mars” follows Sam Tyler, a police officer who finds himself in 1973.

Originally written and executive produced by David E. Kelley, who set the show in Los Angeles, “Mars” changed hands over to "October Road's" Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec after the first pilot was shot.

The show now has a new cast, save for Jason O’Mara who plays the lead, time-traveling detective Sam Tyler.

“Call it Irish luck,” he said.

The show is also set in New York. Why?

Read More »

Hoping to Avoid Embarrassing Missteps

July 16, 2008 12:44 PM

From the ABC press tour schedule for tonight’s dinner with “Dancing With the Stars” pros: “Please join us for a buffet dinner, then leap into Kristi Yamaguchi and Drew Lachey’s shoes as professional dancers from ‘Dancing With the Stars’ teach you some basic ballroom moves. … Plenty of alcohol will be available to help you loosen up both your hips and your inhibitions.”

This is the sole reason why we can’t shoot pictures in the ballroom, I’m SURE of it.

—Andrew Krukowski

Shameless Promotion for 'Eli Stone'

July 16, 2008 11:18 AM

Musical numbers. Big computer-generated scenes. Guest stars. ABC's “Eli Stone” uses every tool in the box to bring in viewers.

Co-creator Greg Berlanti knows this and embraces it.

Speaking at the Television Critics Association press tour Wednesday, Mr. Berlanti talked about changes to expect in the second season of his show, and said "Eli Stone" recognizes how important its time slot behind “Dancing With the Stars” is.

The first episode back, he said, will contain a huge scene comparable to the Golden Gate Bridge collapsing during last season.

A Katie Holmes appearance in the second episode and hopefully a reappearance of George Michael for a Christmas episode are also planned.

Read More »

Live-Blogging the ABC Executive Session

July 16, 2008 8:55 AM



Stephan McPherson

SUCCESS Stephen McPherson, President ABC Entertainment, addresses the press about success of “Wipeout.”


We're set up with our eggs and OJ, waiting for words from Stephen McPherson, president of ABC Entertainment.

9:12 a.m.: Mr. McPherson takes the stage.

9:13 a.m.: ABC is thrilled by the success of “Wipeout.”

9:14 a.m.: Spoiler for Comic-Con: “Lost” is breaking zero news, just showing a video that will be available on the ABC press site immediately afterwards.

9:15 a.m.: Jimmy Kimmel is here asking if ABC is courting Jay Leno. Guffaws abound. Kimmel asks if Mr. McPherson is concerned about his car if Mr. Leno replaces Mr. Kimmel. Seriously though, “For NBC, I can’t believe that they're going to let this guy go at the top of his game,” Mr. McPherson says.

Read More »

Danson Can't Curb His Enthusiasm

July 15, 2008 3:28 PM

Talking about the upcoming season of “Damages” during the FX portion of the Television Critics Association Press Tour, Ted Danson discussed living in Larry David’s world on HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

Mr. Danson was asked if Mr. David just calls him and assumes he’ll be there, or if there was some other arraignment.

“It’s as whimsical as this: The phone rings and for some sad reason, I’m available,” he said.

Fox Parties on the Pier

July 15, 2008 2:04 PM

Fox All Star Party at The Pier

AT THE BEACH (L-R) Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly, Eliza Dushku ("Dollhouse") and Fox Entertainment Chairman Peter Liguori at the Fox All Star Party at The Pier for the Fox 2008 Summer Press Tour.

After months of strike drama and bad news about low ratings, it almost felt like the good old days again Monday night at Fox's TV Critics Association press tour party.

The network returned to the Santa Monica Pier for its bash, which has a good shot at claiming the title of Party of the Tour. However, we'll reserve final judgment until the other networks hold their parties later this week.

Fox Entertainment chiefs Peter Liguori and Kevin Reilly welcomed a slew of the network's new stars and producers. Showrunners such as J.J. Abrams ("Fringe"), Joss Whedon ("Dollhouse"), Seth MacFarlane ("Family Guy") and Matt Groening ("The Simpsons") were popular targets for reporters looking for good soundbites.

Read More »

Live-Blogging the Fox Animation TCA Panel

July 14, 2008 5:37 PM

Fox Animation TCA Panel

ANIMATED: Richard Appel, left, and Mike Henry ("The Cleveland Show"), Matt Weitzman and Mike Barker ("American Dad"), Seth MacFarlane ("Family Guy," "American Dad"), John Altschuler and Mike Judge ("King of the Hill") and Al Jean and Matt Groening ("The Simpsons") take part in the Fox animation panel.

We're getting set for the last panel of the day here at Fox, the animation panel. We've got all the usual suspects, including cutaway joke guru Seth MacFarlane, "Simpsons" creator Matt Groening and "King of the Hill's" Mike Judge.

5:52 p.m.: Right out of the gate from Mr. MacFarlane: "Is that where Karl Rove sat? 'Cause I don't want to get AIDS."

5:54 p.m.: A critic just zinged the nine-man panel by asking a question for the women and minorities on the panel (there are none). Refuting that, 40% of the writing staff on "King of the Hill" are women and members of "The Cleveland Show" writing staff are African American. But, Mr. MacFarlane did say that animation just happens to be dominated by white men.

5:57 p.m.: Mr. Groening says the Emmy animation award should be split between adult animation and children's animation.

Read More »

'Sarah Connor' Shifts Away From Serialization

July 14, 2008 4:10 PM

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles Panel

Talking 'Terminator': Executive producers James Middleton, left, John Wirth and Josh Friedman answer questions about the new season of "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles."


“Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” is one of a handful of freshman shows from last year’s strike-shortened season to return on a high note. Executive producers Josh Friedman and John Wirth have learned some quick lessons from their nine-episode starter season.

Mr. Wirth said this year’s 22 episodes are a little more self-contained, shifting away from the serialization that took place during last year’s run.

“Sometimes the show got overly complicated,” Mr. Friedman said. He said the heavy mythology and serialization of the show muddled some of the storytelling, and this year’s episodes will be “less ambitious.”

New this year as well is Riley, played by Leven Rambin. She's a normal high school girl who runs in with John Connor but doesn’t know that he's secretly the savior of humanity.

Mr. Friedman said Riley was named after Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly, after Mr. Reilly strongly suggested that Mr. Friedman introduce a girl character early into the second season.

How about for the actual future of humanity? Will a SkyNet take over?

“Oh, it’s here,” Mr. Friedman said with gallows humor.

—Andrew Krukowski

Does 'Disturb' Go Too Far?

July 14, 2008 4:08 PM

Fox’s “Do Not Disturb” brought some questions of stereotypes with it when it checked in at the Television Critics Association today.

Set in a fictitious hotel, “Disturb” introduced characters that some concerned critics thought were painted in broad strokes, including a gay man obsessed with sex.

When asked about where the line of "too far" is in terms of humor in stereotypes, executive producer Abraham Higginbotham said it’s all about treading on that line and pushing the humor right up to that wall.

Mr. Higginbotham said the gay character, Larry, is important to him because “he’s grumpy, gay and married, like me.”

“He’s more interesting than being gay,” he said, adding he hopes to flesh out all of the characters past the brief introduction during the pilot critics have screened.

—Andrew Krukowski

Live-Blogging Fox News: We Report, You...Oh, Never Mind

July 14, 2008 1:53 PM

Karl Rove. Fox News execs. Maybe even an Irena Briganti sighting? Welcome to Fox News at TCA—one more chance to finally get this party started. Please. We need something, people.

Chris Wallace is here. Rove. John Moody. Howard Wolfson. But no Roger. And no Irena. Sigh.

2:02 p.m.: Howard Wolfson claims Fox News coverage is "outstanding" and "fair." Hillary Clinton supporters "understood quite well why it made sense for me to join the Fox News team," Wolfson says. Translation: Big paycheck.

2:05 p.m.: Wallace asked about "Fox and Friends" making fun of the New York Times and Barack Obama. He says the fact that he went on the show and told them "to knock it off" is proof the channel is "fair and balanced." He challenges NBC News reporters to go on Keith Olbermann's show and do the same.

2:10 p.m.: Rove and Wolfson asked whether they have an agenda when they offer commentary. Neither really answers the question, though Wolfson insists he's going to "tell it the way I see it."

2:12 p.m.: Moody: "None of our anchors is out there cheering for any candidate." Keith Olbermann might beg to differ.

2:15 p.m.: Wallace is worshipping at the altar of Rove. "It's a ... humbling experience" working primary night next to Rove, Wallace says.

2:18 p.m.: Terrorist fist jab question! Moody says it was "regrettable", but that anchors on Fox News have "a certain amount of freedom." Wolfson argues all cable news networks have made mistakes.

2:20 p.m.: Rove asked whether he agreed with the appointment of "Brownie" to head FEMA. He says he'll answer the question in his book ... out next year "for $29.95" and available for pre-order on Amazon.

Read More »

So You Think You Can Spill the Beans?

July 14, 2008 11:57 AM

So You Think You Can Dance TCA Panel

Ballroom Dancing: "So You Think You Can Dance" finalists Matt Dorame of Glendale, Ariz., and Kourtni Lind of Forest Lake, Minn., perform at TCA.

Fox kicked off its portion of the Television Critics Association press tour Monday with the judges and host of its hit summer series “So You Think You Can Dance,” the search for America’s favorite dancer. In attendance were host Cat Deeley and judges Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy and Mia Michaels.

The competition series is halfway through its summer run, with the top 10 dancers set to take the stage on Wednesday night. While many shakeups were expected as the couples were broken off into random pairings, Mr. Lythgoe, also executive producer for “Dance” and “American Idol,” had other changes to announce, some inadvertently.

Officially, Jessica King is out of the competition due to an injury. Mr. Lythgoe said he was not at liberty to discuss the details due to legal reasons.

Taking her place will be recently eliminated contestant Comfort Fedoke. Although Ms. Fedoke was out after failing to impress the judges with her solo, Ms. Michaels, also a choreographer, said, “I have a feeling that she’s gonna step it up.”

As for the new pairings for this week, Mr. Lythgoe let slip that fan favorite Joshua Allen will be paired with Courtney Galiano.

Question is: Will they be good enough for Ms. Murphy’s “hot tamale train”?

—Sergio Ibarra

Live-Blogging the 'Fringe' TCA Panel

July 14, 2008 10:46 AM

J.J. Abrams

Busy guy: Despite his busy schedule, executive producer and co-creator J.J. Abrams assured critics he would be deeply involved in writing "Fringe."

"Fringe" is up next. Unfortunately, there's no Apple giveaways or guys on huge Segways to promote the show this time. But there is a fun notebook, so that's something.

Our panelists include executive producer Bryan Burk, showrunner Jeff Pinkner and creators Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and J.J. Abrams. We also have some stars via satellite.

10:56 a.m.: Mr. Orci wanted to do a show of geniuses solving problems, but it got mixed with J.J. Abrams' love of "The Night Stalker" and "The Twilight Zone."

10:59 a.m.: I just noticed that the assistants handing out microphones to critics are wearing FBI jackets.

11 a.m.: Mr. Abrams is not concerned about his busy schedule affecting his role in "Fringe," and he's going to be deeply involved in the show in writing or rewrites, etc.

Read More »

Live-Blogging the Fox Executive TCA Session

July 14, 2008 9:54 AM

Kevin Reilly

Executive Session: Kevin Reilly, Fox entertainment president, answers questions from TV critics during the executive session of Fox's 2008 summer press tour.

"So You Think You Can Dance?" has just let out, and we're awaiting the arrival of Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly. The over/under on the phrase "business as unusual" being uttered is set at three. I will take the under.

10:05 a.m.: "Fringe" question: Fox made the call to J.J. Abrams and offered him a series from day one. "I think this one is gonna deliver the goods," Mr. Reilly says.

10:08 a.m.: The strategy is to be focused in the fall. Fox was going to focus on two shows next season regardless of a strike, Mr. Reilly says.

10:09 a.m.: Tim Roth has been cast in "Lie to Me."

10:10 a.m.: A December pilot screening has been set with Fox, as opposed to a massive slate in May. They will screen at least eight projects in December.

10:11 a.m.: This two-hour "24" prequel in November is really going to be a good piece of business, he says. By the way, the title of the "24" prequel is "24: Exile."

More Reilly material after the jump, including talk of "The Simpsons" coming to an end and Fox's move in the upfronts.

Read More »

Getting Rolling at TCA ... Finally

July 14, 2008 9:08 AM

OK, now press tour really begins. Hopefully.

The opening four days of the summer 2008 TCA were surprisingly bland, as cable failed to put forth much in the way of buzzworthy programming. Critics seemed to love HBO's "Generation Kill," and there were plenty of references to the male anatomy (a trend that continued over the weekend at PBS, which plans to air an NC-17 "King Lear").

But excitement over hot new shows? Not so much.

So now it's up to the Big Five—along with a few cable networks that have yet to present—to spice up TCA. Odds are, they won't succeed.

Read More »

Dennis Hopper Plays Disturbed Character? Nahhh …

July 11, 2008 5:20 PM

Starz TCA Panel

Collision: Actors Dennis Hopper, left, and Don Cheadle attend a panel for Starz original drama series "Crash."

When Dennis Hopper says a character he’s playing in a new show is the craziest one in his career, it’s probably worth checking out.

Mr. Hopper says in his first scene in Starz’s adaptation of the Oscar-winning movie “Crash,” his character is riding in the back of a limousine driven by a beautiful young African American woman. Mr. Hopper opens his pants and has a conversation with his penis about its inability to perform. The driver, thinking Mr. Hopper was talking to her, is horrified when she discovers what’s really going on in the back seat.

Read More »

Frankly, Did Critics Give a Damn?

July 11, 2008 4:58 PM

Frank Caliendo, star of TBS’ “Frank TV,” faced a tough crowd at the Television Critics Association summer press tour Thursday.

After zipping through a few of his best impressions and getting little reaction, he looked up and said, “You guys are really critic-y.” Later on, as the ballroom remained relatively quiet, he let the critics know, “I’m killing with you. You don’t realize it.”

Read More »

Harsh Reality: Numbers Hit Home for Critics

July 11, 2008 2:40 PM

Here’s a fun fact out of the Fox Reality Channel from channel President David Lyle.

Mr. Lyle said in 2002, there were 27 new reality shows making their way onto broadcast and 22 on cable.

Today, there are 32 broadcast reality shows and 140 squirming through cable.

Mr. Lyle was trying to make a point about how Fox Reality isn’t alternative programming, but there was a somewhat horrified gasp coming from parts of the room.

—Andrew Krukowski

CNN’s Magic Touch

July 11, 2008 12:48 PM

The big star at the TCA for CNN wasn’t Wolf Blitzer (live via satellite after pulling a hamstring), Soledad O’Brien, Gloria Borger or Suzanne Malveaux. It was the high-tech touchscreen that John King used during primary season to explain to viewers how election returns broke down on a county-by-county basis.

In the lobby of the ballroom at the Beverly Hilton, King demonstrated how the machine works for critics, who couldn’t keep their hands off of it. Turner wanted to get its hands on it, too.

“I’d love to have one of these in my office," said Phil Kent, chairman-CEO of Turner Broadcasting System.

Maybe after the election …

—Jon Lafayette

Cartoon Network Previews 'Clone Wars'

July 11, 2008 11:37 AM

The Clone Wars

NEW LOOK: The show was classic “Star Wars,” but the stylized characters gave the episode a distinct feeling of something separate from the movies.

Critics were treated to a screening of an episode of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” which will air on Cartoon Network in the fall.

The episode followed Yoda trying to convince an envoy to join his side in the Clone Wars, but the petite green Jedi is ambushed by the evil Count Dooku and his assistant Asajj Ventress.

The show was classic “Star Wars,” especially in its sound design, but the stylized characters gave the episode a distinct feeling of something separate from the movie.

The theme song also contains the classic John Williams score with a drum beat underneath it.

The series will follow an August theatrical release of “Clone Wars.”

“Clone Wars” takes place in between Episode 2 and 3 of the “Star Wars” trilogy, and 22 episodes are ready for the first season.

David Filoni, supervising director of the series, said he wasn’t born when the first film was produced, but he remembers playing Luke Skywalker and Han Solo with his brother in the backseat of his parents’ car, shooting at other cars like they were X-Wing fighters.

—Andrew Krukowski

Live-Blogging the CNN TCA Panel

July 11, 2008 8:59 AM

We're here at the last day of the Cable TCA. Right now, Turner has the floor with CNN, TNT, Cartoon Network and TBS. And we're about to enter the Situation Room, and yes, there are screens in the lobby showing election polls and whatnot, just in case Wolf Blitzer got homesick.

9:03 a.m.: A quick flip through the itinerary shows we've got the CNN folks up first, followed by Cartoon Network, which will be screening the first episode of "Star Wars: The Clone Wars." Afterwards, TNT presents its new series "Raising the Bar" and "Leverage," and TBS closes with Frank Caliendo and "Frank TV."

9:08 a.m.: We were just given some housekeeping notes, and this reminds me so much of college. I was just told that if we can get through the material quickly, we'll be able to get out early. I quickly thought, "Sweet, I can catch a nap at my dorm before my next class."

9:12 a.m.: CNN President Jonathan Klein up at the mic. He said that touchscreen boards at CNN aren't gimmicks, but simply tools to provide information faster.

9:15 a.m.: CNN HIGHLIGHT REEL! FAST CUTS! GRAPHS! JOHN MCCAIN! REPORTERS BEHIND LAPTOPS! BLITZER'S BEARD!

9:17 a.m.: WHAT? Mr. Blitzer's on satellite. He says he pulled a hammie while running on a treadmill, so he couldn't make the trip to L.A.

After the jump, CNN wizards.

Read More »

It's Not Sex, It's HBO

July 10, 2008 6:26 PM

Remember last year, when there was much discussion of the nudity in “Tell Me You Love Me,” and questions about whether the sex in the series was simulated?

At this year’s press tour while introducing its version of the British comedy series “Little Britain USA,” HBO warmed up the critics with a clip that featured full-frontal shots of two men in a gym locker room with very small genitalia (probably done with prosthetics). One character even gives the other a bikini shave, lifting his friend’s nubbin to avoid missing a spot.

That was preceded by a scene featuring guest star Rosie O’Donnell that ended with the punch line, “not as disgusting as licking another woman’s vagina.”

Next press tour HBO might be showing off its comedy “Hung.” Are they trying to tell us something?

—Jon Lafayette

Live-Blogging the HBO TCA Presentation, Part 2

July 10, 2008 4:30 PM

True Blood Panel

Coven Actors Anna Paquin (C) and Stephen Moyer (R), stars of the new HBO series "True Blood", discuss the show with series writer, director and executive producer Alan Ball (L) during HBO's panel presentation.

Back again after an interview with Richard Plepler and Michael Lombardo, we join the HBO presentation, already in progress.

4 p.m.-4:33 p.m.: The "Generation Kill" panel has been going strong while we were away. I assume there's been talk of shooting people. "Kill" premieres Sunday.

4:42 p.m.: Sorry I missed this panel. These folks look like they were having a hoot talking about "Kill."

4:43 p.m.: "Thank You, Mr. President: Helen Thomas at the White House" is up next. Ms. Thomas is not here—she's been sick. Director Rory Kennedy is here.

4:49 p.m.: Ms. Kennedy says the veteran White House correspondent is an iconic figure. "I think she really provides insights into some of these presidents and their character," Ms. Kennedy says.

4:55 p.m.: This pit feels lighter. I think a good amount of critics filed out with the "Generation Kill" folks.

4:57 p.m.: Ms. Kennedy says Ms. Thomas was leaning toward Hillary Clinton, but is OK with Barack Obama.

Read more about the HBO panel after the jump, including "True Blood" writer-director Alan Ball's comments about "Moonlight."

Read More »

Live-Blogging the HBO TCA Presentation

July 10, 2008 3:04 PM

Richard Plepler

Great Storytelling Richard Plepler, co-president of HBO, speaks during a question and answer session during HBO's panel presentation.

We're in at HBO. Co-President Richard Plepler and President, programming group and West Coast Operations, Michael Lombardo are on stage.

3:07 p.m.- The strike impacted us significantly, Mr. Lombardo says. "Big Love" will be back in the fall. HBO hopes "Curb Your Enthusiasm" will be back by the end of the year, depending on Larry David's schedule.

3:09 p.m.- After some big buzz last year, HBO finished shooting six episodes of "12 Miles of Bad Road" sometime last year, but Mr. Lombardo says it just didn't fit in with HBO. They've tried to shop it around, but just haven't found a home yet.

3:11 p.m.: Possibility of a second "Sex in the City" movie? Big interest from Warner Bros. for a sequel, but Mr. Lombardo can't say what the turnaround is going to be. Mr. Plepler says it's totally up to David Chase, creator of "The Sopranos," to look into a big-screen adaptation of the mob hit. (Get it? Hit? I just came up with that. Good times.)

3:14 p.m.: Mr. Plepler said he wishes "Mad Men" were on HBO.

Read More »

Sundance Sells 'Architecture,' Elvis Costello

July 10, 2008 2:54 PM

Sundance Channel’s “Architecture School,” a show of which George Costanza would heartily approve, follows an architecture class at Tulane University designing an affordable house for an owner in New Orleans.

Students wrack their brains to keep heating and cooling costs down while making it easy and affordable to build, according to Thursday's TCA panel on the show.

“We don’t produce a house that we design. We produce a house that we discovered,” Byron Mouton, co-director of the URBANbuild program at Tulane.

Read More »

Spike Speaks His Mind for ESPN

July 10, 2008 2:16 PM

Spike Lee

Game Changer Spike Lee said that if Sen. Barack Obama is elected president, “It changes everything”—including the entertainment industry.

Spike Lee said that if Sen. Barack Obama is elected president, “It changes everything”—including the entertainment industry.

The industry’s gatekeepers—the people who decide which TV series and movies get made—are now not African Americans, and that’s going to change, he said.

Mr. Lee was at the Television Critics Association summer press tour in Los Angeles to talk about projects he’s doing for ESPN.

One of them, “Game Day With Kobe,” trains 30 cameras on NBA MVP Kobe Bryant of the L.A. Lakers.

He hasn’t yet honed in on the second project, which will be part of ESPN’s “30 for 30” initiative to create 30 films to mark the network’s 30th anniversary.

Mr. Lee said, “I need to have more discussions” with the individuals under consideration as the focus of his film. He said ESPN has been pressing him to make a decision.

“It’s going to be good,” he said.

Also directing films for “30 for 30” initiative are Barbara Kopple, Mike Tollin, basketball star Steve Nash and the team of Alfred Spelman and Billy Corbin.

—Jon Lafayette

There's No Place Like Home for TLC

July 10, 2008 11:45 AM

TLC’s TCA presentation wasn’t less home entertainment and more Home Depot.

The panel tackled housing issues, the focus of Saturdays on TLC, with talent and executive producers from “Holmes on Homes,” “Hope for Your Home” and “Flip That House.”

R.J. Cutler, executive producer of “Flip That House,” said “Flip” has been documenting the story of the American housing market over the course of the show.

He said when the show started, flippers simply needed to buy a house and hang on to it for the value to increase. Current episodes now document how much risk would-be flipping incur.

“I think the mistake [of house flipping] is showing how simple it can be,” said Mike Holmes, host of “Holmes on Homes.” He said people who flip houses incorrectly are just leaving a bigger mess for the people who purchase the house later.

The panel also tackled the biggest problems with housing, including green renovation, a timely topic with TLC directly following the Planet Green panel.

Mr. Holmes said he appreciates the idea of moving toward being eco-friendly, but advertising has ramped up very quickly around "green" supplies that might not be so green. He added that being green means not only being friendly to the Earth, but also friendly toward the home owner.

—Andrew Krukowski

Rapper, Rocker Face Off in 'Battle Ground Earth'

July 10, 2008 11:34 AM

Battle Ground Earth: Ludacris v. Tommy Lee

Eco-Battle: "Battle Ground Earth: Ludacris v. Tommy Lee" aims to teach conservation lessons through a nine-city competition.

Pairing rocker Tommy Lee with rapper Chris “Ludacris” Bridges would be a way to conserve energy.

Discovery’s Planet Green network is launching “Battle Ground Earth: Ludacris v. Tommy Lee,” which aims to teach conservation lessons through a nine-city competition.

During the show Ludacris, Tommy Lee and their posses ride from town to town in a biodiesel-fueled bus and engage in challenges to encourage people to do things such as installing compact florescent bulbs to conserve electricity and taking mass showers to save water.

The series concludes with a concert. Losing man’s band will open for the winner.

Read More »

Discovering 'Unknown With Josh Bernstein'

July 10, 2008 11:15 AM

Josh Bernstein and Beth Dietrich

Raiders of the Unknown Host Josh Bernstein (L) and producer Beth Dietrich of "Into the Unkown with Josh Bernstein" describe the show's efforts at revealing interesting locations in high defintion.

Josh Bernstein, host of Discovery Channel’s new series “Into the Unknown With Josh Bernstein,” said that on the show, he will venture from training to be a Roman gladiator to taking a look inside NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he'll help build the vehicles that will be exploring Mars.

Mr. Bernstein, who used to have a show on History, said his move to Discovery allowed him to not just look backward, but to look forward as well.

He said episodes of "Into the Unknown" will focus on interesting places, have some mystery to address, and look beautiful in high definition.

In an episode with a slightly different approach, Mr. Bernstein will explore whether the flood in the Bible really happened.

He said many cultures have a story of a great flood; the episode will look at whether there was a man named Noah, if an ark could be built and what kind of animals would be on it.

He admitted, however, that a firm conclusion is unlikely.

“In an hour show, we realize we aren’t going to rewrite the Bible,” Mr. Bernstein said.

"Into the Unknown" premieres Aug. 18.

—Jon Lafayette

'Whale Wars': Danger at Sea

July 10, 2008 11:06 AM

Whale Wars

DRAMA: Paul Watson and his Sea Shepherd Conservation Society crew try to protect whales by intervening with whaling boats on the high seas.

At its TCA presentation, Animal Planet executives talked about “Whale Wars,” a new series that follows the adventures of the Sea Shepherd, a ship that tries to protect whales by intervening with whaling boats on the high seas.

A production crew from RIVR Media was essentially embedded with the Sea Shepherd crew.

“You woke up and there’s a camera in your face,” said Ben Potts, chief cook on the vessel.

Second mate Peter Hammarstedt noted that after months at sea in tight quarters, the crew wondered, “Would the series be called ‘Whale Wars’ or ‘The Love Boat'?”

In addition to shipboard romance and routine chores, cameras captured the danger created by the ship’s combative mission to stop whales from being killed.

On one mission, someone on a Japanese whaling boat took a shot at the Sea Shepherd, hitting Captain Paul Watson in the chest. Fortunately the captain was wearing a protective vest at the time.

Another time, a grenade was fired near the Sea Shepherd. The cameraman focused on the flight of the grenade until it exploded. The force of the blast blew the cameraman backward onto his backside, Captain Watson said.

Animal Planet President and General Manager Marjorie Kaplan said the channel doesn’t endorse the organization’s activities.

“This is really a character study," she said.

—Jon Lafayette

Planet Green Expands Its Horizons

July 10, 2008 10:57 AM

Greensburg

Act Two: “Greensburg” is getting a six-episode second season on Planet Green.

Planet Green rolled into an inaugural TCA visit with two announcements involving Leonardo DiCaprio and Margaritaville at the top of its presentation.

President/General Manager Eileen O’Neill announced that Jimmy Buffett is lending his support for a three-minute video about sharks to air during breaks on the channel. The video will use Mr. Buffett’s song “Fins.”

Also, “Greensburg,” the Planet Green series produced by Mr. DiCaprio, is getting a six-episode second season. The series follows the rebuilding of Greensburg, Kan., after massive tornados flattened it. Greensburg is being rebuilt from the ground up with eco-friendliness in mind.

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Discovery's Got Guts ... Dinosaur Guts

July 10, 2008 10:36 AM

Dr. Robert T. Bakker

Bones Paleontologist Dr. Robert T. Bakker of "Secrets of the Dinosaur Mummy" reveals the fossilized remains of Leonardo the dinosaur have 90% of his skin intact

Presenting Thursday morning at the Television Critics Association, a panel for Discovery Channel’s film “Secrets of the Dinosaur Mummy” chronicles the find of Leonardo, a largely intact dinosaur found in Montana, and what his body tells about the environment he lived in 77 million years ago.

Robert T. Bakker, visiting curator of paleontology at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, displaying big beard and cowboy hat, said this find confirms beliefs that dinosaurs weren’t slow, dumb, 60-ton turkeys.

“It’s a complicated dinosaur with a complicated society,” he said.

He said his team had found not the smoking gun, but the “smoking stomach and smoking intestines.”

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A&E Has Original Take on Interventionist's Story

July 9, 2008 10:49 PM

Cleaning Up Co-executive producer Warren Boyd, left, and actors Amy Price-Francis and Benjamin Bratt of "The Cleaner" describe the A&E series' origins.

When Benjamin Bratt read the script for A&E’s new drama “The Cleaner,” he loved the writing and his character, but was concerned that the show’s concept of an “extreme interventionist" might seem far-fetched.

But those concerns vanished. “They chuckled and said it was based on a real guy,” the actor said Wednesday at the Television Critics Association summer press tour in Los Angeles.

The series is based on the life of Warren Boyd, an ex-addict who works with a group of other ex-addicts to aggressively push people to get clean. Mr. Boyd is serving as an executive producer for the series.

“The Cleaner” is A&E's first original drama series in years, and the network wants its fiction series to ring as true as its reality series, such as “Dog the Bounty Hunter.”

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National Geo Continues Its Explorations

July 9, 2008 10:31 PM

From the Earth to the Moon: Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, left, Egyptologist Dr. Bob Brier, director Charles Dean Beeker and journalist Kelly Hearn are on a Nat Geo panel at the press tour.

National Geographic Channel introduced a batch of programs Wednesday at the Television Critics Association press tour that are set to make their debuts this fall, including a returning series, a new series and a whole week of original shows.

"Dogtown" will return with a two-hour special premiere episode chronicling the rehabilitation of Michael Vick's dog-fighting pitbulls. The new "World's Toughest Fixes" will look at large, one-of-a-kind mechanical dilemmas and how they are fixed. The network also will debut "Exploration Week," with seven premieres following groundbreaking explorations around the world and in space.

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‘Locator’ Aims to Inspire Viewers to Search

July 9, 2008 5:14 PM

Locate This Host Troy Dunn gestures during a panel for the WE television series "The Locator."

WE tv’s upcoming reality series “The Locator,” starring Troy Dunn as the title personality, will take viewers on an emotional ride as desperate participants seek help finding long-lost relatives.

Mr. Dunn, who began his work as a genealogy investigator when he helped his mother search for her long-lost mother, has found more than 40,000 people over the past 20 years. For the series, he’ll help others on their search for loved ones.

While a promotional clip at the Television Critics Association press tour showed the happy ending for a young woman named Katie and her search for her long-lost mother, Kathy, Mr. Dunn says not every story is as positive.

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Sneak Peek Into Future of ‘Mad Men’

July 9, 2008 4:39 PM

med

'Mad' man Matthew Weiner didn't reveal much about his AMC series.

AMC’s “Mad Men” will dive forward into the future when the series returns for its second season on July 27 at 10 p.m.

Executive Producer Matthew Weiner told reporters Wednesday at the Television Critics Association press tour that although the show covered about a month’s time during its first season, season two will jump ahead farther in order to “start fresh.”

Other than the time jump, not much was revealed about the series’ second season, a critical darling in its first year that won Golden Globe Awards for drama series and actor in a drama series (Jon Hamm). Mr. Weiner said that although many viewers, for example, are waiting to see what happens with Peggy’s baby, they will have to wait for the story to develop, letting facts come up “as needed.”

Even though the buzz has not translated to spectacular ratings, Mr. Weiner said, “Critical success is a lot more satisfying.”

Since “Mad Men’s” success, in addition to another original series, “Breaking Bad,” AMC has gained plenty of recognition as well. Other channels needed “five or 10 years of showing these kinds of things to get where AMC has gotten,” Mr. Weiner said. “The increase in attention to this channel—I consider that a big success.”

—Sergio Ibarra

Live-Blogging the MTV Networks Presentation

July 9, 2008 10:30 AM

10:30 a.m.: We're in the International Ballroom. Lauren Corrao just walked in. She's executive vice president of original programming and development at Comedy Central. The network has had the best first and second quarters. Coming up: "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" on the campaign trail, a Bob Saget roast and the two series being discussed today, "The Gong Show With Dave Attell" and "Chocolate News."

10:33 a.m.: Ms. Corrao says, "This is definitely not your daddy's 'Gong Show.'" A preview clip commences. Martial artists. Large, jiggly men. Sexy woman with a bunch of Hula Hoops. Quite the hodge-podge.

10:35 a.m.: Host Dave Attell and Executive Producer Doug Robinson on stage.

10:36 a.m.: Mr. Attell says he enjoys the "raunchy, vaudeville acts." Attell on being a good host: Says he gets to be the attorney and advocate for the performers in front of the judges.

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Live-Blogging the Comcast Networks TCA Presentation

July 8, 2008 4:51 PM

Comcast puts on the last panel of the night. We've got a panel on "Ruby" from Style, "Attack of the Show" from G4 and "The Soup" on E!.

4:52 p.m.: On stage right now is Ruby Gettinger and executive producers Gay Rosenthal and Victoria Zielinski. "Ruby" follows Ms. Gettinger, who weighs 500 pounds and struggles to live in mainstream society at that size.

4:55 p.m.: The mood of the room is pretty somber because Ms. Gettinger is talking about a grim diagnosis from her doctor regarding her size. Considering the other two panels lined up, it'll be interesting to see how someone follows this.

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BBC America Knows What’s Going On

July 8, 2008 4:25 PM

Garth Ancier

Showing Some 'Skins' BBC America President Garth Ancier announced that the cable network will begin airing episodes of the series "Skins" on Wednesdays at 8 p.m.

Television Critics Association rules at press tour prohibit taking photos during the sessions, but reporters sit at long tables and most have their laptops open, taking notes.

BBC America’s “Gavin and Stacey” co-creator James Corden, like most college professors, realized exactly what was occurring on most screens in the room.

He said it was amazing to be sitting on stage talking to people while everybody checks their e-mail.

A quick glance around the room from my vantage point confirms his point. Hey, reporters are busy people and tabbed browsing was made for a reason.

Also, we learned, there is a pilot in the works for NBC based on “Gavin and Stacey.”

Mr. Corden and Ruth Jones, his fellow writer on “Gavin,” are slated as executive producers, but weren’t up-to-date on the status of an American “Gavin.”

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Live-Blogging the HDNet TCA Panel

July 8, 2008 1:43 PM

Peter Bogdanovich and HDNet's Mark Cuban

Sneak Preview Director Peter Bogdanovich and president of HDNet Mark Cuban discuss HDNet Movies' Sneak Preview films.

We've got some food, we've switched rooms, and we've got Mark Cuban, chairman and co-founder of HDNet, director Peter Bogdanovich and "Humboldt County" directors/writers Darren Grodsky and Danny Jacobs on the panel.

1:57 p.m.: We've seen some clips of HDNet Movies' Sneak Preview films. Sneak Previews will allow VOD users to see the film on the Wednesday before the film is released in theaters. "Humboldt County" is one of those films.

1:59 p.m.: "They paid us in pot," says Mr. Bogdanovich, who co-stars in the film.

2 p.m.: Mr. Bogdanovich was asked how he felt about having films premiere on television over theaters. "I don't think there's anything to replace the experience of seeing a movie on the big screen with an audience," he said. But he said with a shrug that he guessed Mr. Cuban's HDNet Movies system is working.

2:08 p.m.: Mr. Cuban said premiering a film on television won't disqualify it from the Oscars. As co-owner of Landmark Theaters, he can preview screen a film somewhere in New York or Los Angeles and clear Oscar requirements.

2:16 p.m.: A broadcast drama costs about $4 million per hour, while Mr. Cuban is banking on a $2 million gross for his independent releases. When asked about the cost-effectiveness of this, he said HDNet Movies isn't angling for the blockbuster. "These are passion projects," he said. But while initial VOD numbers aren't stupendous for films, Mr. Cuban said that over the lifetime of the film on the channel, they will make money on the movie.

2:25 p.m.: Mr. Bogdanovich said it's bizarre that people are able to see movies on screens the size of a postage stamp, referring to iPods. Mr. Cuban said the only time he watches material on an iPod is when he is working out, and he watches movies on a laptop only when he's stuck in a hotel room.

We're through and making our way over to BBC America.

—Andrew Krukowski

Live-Blogging the Hallmark TCA Panel

July 8, 2008 10:48 AM

We're here at the Hallmark TCA panel. "Dear Prudence" with Jane Seymour has just presented, and now we're jumping into a panel with Mark Consuelos, Chandra West and Corbin Bernsen in "For the Love of Grace."

10:51 a.m.: Ms. West has been asked whether she knew what was going on in "John From Cincinnati." "The short answer is no," she said.

10:54 a.m.: Breaking news: Corbin Bersen's secret ingredient to guacamole is Lowry's Taco Seasoning. You didn't hear that from us.

Hallmark's David Kenin

Baby Boomer Programming David Kenin, VP of programming for the Hallmark Channel, speaks during the 2008 summer Television Critics Association press tour.

10:55 a.m.: Discussion has veered back to "John" creator David Milch, who sometimes confounded Ms. West.

Mr. Bernsen said Mr. Milch convinced him and his wife at a 2000 New Year's party that the world was coming to an end the following week.

11:01 a.m.: We're moving on to "Ladies of the House" with Florence Henderson and Donna Mills. A house remodeling causes three women to re-evaluate their lives.

11:02 a.m.: Ms. Henderson said she loves power tools and knows how to work a plunger. She's now discussing toilet construction.

11:05 a.m.: "We're lucky, our audience are not teeny-boppers," Hallmark Head of Programming David Kenin said. Using established and iconic stars, like Ms. Henderson, is important for Hallmark, Mr. Kenin said, as there is such a built-in following that it makes publicity that much easier.

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TV One Gets 'Afterparty' Started at TCA

July 8, 2008 10:47 AM

Barack Obama dominated the discussion during the kickoff TV One panel at the Summer 2008 Television Critics Association press tour.

Critics grilled the panel on TV One’s “Democratic National Convention Afterparty.” TV One is not covering the Republican National Convention and said during the panel that if Hillary Clinton were the Democratic nominee, TV One wouldn’t be covering that, either.

When asked if any black Republicans would be upset about the coverage decision, “Afterparty” contributor Sheryl Underwood said, “I speak for all eight of us. We are not slighted.”

—Andrew Krukowski

TVWeek Blogging the TCA

July 7, 2008 1:34 PM

Reporters covering the TV industry set their clocks by the events that unfold throughout the year, TCA, Upfronts, NATPE. If it’s July, that means TCA.

TelevisionWeek took a huge leap forward in its coverage when we hit the upfronts in New York in May. Daily video interviews of industry heavies drew tens of thousands of views. We live blogged for the first time. We broke our share of news, too. Our coverage of the TCA will pick up, journalistically, where the upfront left off.

Check in all day for blog updates, breaking news, the TVBizWire’s compilation of TCA news, as well as exclusive video.