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.
That's because critics simply haven't seen that many new shows yet. Fox didn't officially unveil its mega-promising "Fringe" until hours before its Monday tour began. And while it's a spectacularly entertaining pilot, J.J. Abrams alone might not be enough to turn things around for this tour.
NBC insiders are kvelling over "Kings" and "Kath and Kim"—but so far, critics have screened neither. ABC's intriguing "Life on Mars" is being completely retooled. And while the CW has both Gen X and Y atwitter (a-Twitter?) over "90210," the closest thing TCAites have gotten to the Zip code is their hotel rooms at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
That leaves CBS as the network most likely to clean up at TCA. It has showed off most of its new shows to critics. It remains to be seen whether having seen the shows early will result in better critical notices.
More likely, it means critics will feel free to take some detours, grilling executives and producers on other matters. Here's a quick cheat sheet as to what to expect from each network's TCA session:
Fox (Monday): While "American Idol" dominated the ratings, it slipped just a little—which means there will be plenty of queries about possible changes. Critics might also want to know what's happening with "Sit Down, Shut Up," the animated comedy that's been troubled by labor issues. And maybe Fox will finally reveal whatever happened to reality show "When Women Ruled the Earth."
ABC (Wednesday): Critics likely will wonder when ABC will begin producing more new shows for the 2008-09 season, since so far the network has OK'd just one new drama for the fall. Expect some queries about the quality of shows such as "Desperate Housewives," "Ugly Betty" and "Private Practice."
CBS (Friday): The epic battle for the soul of the Eye network might again be topic A, as critics wonder whether CBS boss Nina Tassler plans more shows like "Swingtown" or whether the network will stick to the safety of procedurals such as the forthcoming "Mentalist" and "Eleventh Hour." Reporters looking to drum up hits on their blogs (you know who you are) probably will ask a "Jericho" question (or three), and a half-dozen more about "Moonlight." The shows will remain dead.
The CW (Saturday): This might be a good time for Dawn Ostroff to fake a family crisis or have her appendix removed. Despite generating the most buzzed-about show for the second consecutive summer (last year, "Gossip Girl"/"Reaper"/"Aliens in America"; this year, the unseen "90210"), The CW remains a network on the brink ... of what, nobody knows. Things won't get Jamie Tarses-level sticky ... but it probably won't be pretty. Unless, of course, the critics are too tired to care by the end of the tour.
NBC (Sunday): Also unlikely to be pretty. Too much "Knight Rider" and not enough "Hill Street Blues" means Ben Silverman's back-to-the-future strategy for saving NBC isn't one critics have gotten behind. Oh, and the failure of most of the network's summer reality slate doesn't help, either. Expect some tough hits on "Friday Night Lights" moving to DirecTV. Knowing NBC, however, the network likely will avoid extended pain by dumping a bunch of news on the scribes—including, perhaps, Conan O'Brien's "Tonight Show" premiere date and details on the spinoff of "The Office."