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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Blogging the TCA

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.

10:40 a.m.: Mr. Attell says his secret talent is being a "drunk" and that he "chain smokes." He also wishes he had a funnier answer. Some chuckles come out, so it's not that bad, I suppose.

10:41 a.m.: "Talent has nothing to do with the show ... It's a party. The show works best when there are a variety of judges," Mr. Attell says. Mr. Robinson says the best judges are the ones who come out and get into it, as well.

10:43 a.m.: Where would the show draw the line? Mr. Attell says, "full penetration." Nudity flies, but maybe not for actual broadcast.

10:45 a.m.: Mr. Robinson says the winner wins the gong and about $600 in cash. It's for the love of performance with these contestants.

10:47 a.m.: They're not looking for the ultimate "Jackass" moment. A warning comes on before the show: "Don't try this at home, unless you live in a trailer park," Mr. Attell says.

10:50 a.m.: A preview clip for "Chocolate News" begins. A fake rapper, Fat Man, says he was fired for being black, not for the inappropriateness of his "No Child Left Behind" PSA, featuring shots of video girls in short skirts and thongs in front of children. The word "coochie" is dropped often.

10:52 a.m.: A critic asked about the predominantly white panel on stage (executive producers David Alan Grier, Robert Morton, Fax Bahr, Jordan Levin and Adam Small). Mr. Grier says he's worked with many of them on "In Living Color," and all the material goes through him, so it's all good!

10:58 a.m.: How far will the comedy go? Do the other panelists understand black humor? Mr. Grier says he steps in more often when some elements do not work. As for comedy, he says if the comedy does not offend someone in the room, it's not working. He adds that it's been the most collaborative program he's been on, more than "In Living Color," since he's not just waiting to perform material.

11:01 a.m.: The magazine news format for the series is a new way to approach sketch comedy not seen by African American audiences. "It's a fresh approach," Mr. Grier says.

11:03 a.m.: Mr. Grier pitched the show using a Nat Turner slave rebellion sketch, but with a lot more sex. Ms. Corrao says it's what sold the show to the network. Will the series have similarities to "The Dave Chappelle Show"? Mr. Grier would love those $50 million. Ms. Corrao says they're not going down that route again. Zing!

11:08 a.m.: Mr. Grier pitched the show to Comedy Central as more of a Bryant Gumbel "Real Sports" format. It's been his dream show, compared to other series where he was helping create other writers' visions. He wrote the original pilot and submitted it himself. Mr. Small read the script as a favor and wanted to be on board.

11:12 a.m.: Mr. Grier on playing Fat Man, the rapper in the preview clip: He felt people were seeing him as a fat man as opposed to just a person in a suit. "It's like that episode of 'Tyra Banks,'" he said. Ms. Banks probably will ask Mr. Grier to kiss all sorts of rear ends (Daytime Emmys acceptance speech, anyone?).

11:15 a.m.: There is space for guest stars and an ensemble cast, but because of the "Onion-esque" format, they prefer to have various actors. There will be an ensemble cast of reporters, Mr. Grier says. A "get" for the show: Condoleezza Rice!

11:18 a.m.: CMT Head of Development Bob Kusbit takes the stage to introduce the second season of "Gone Country." It's been the highest-rated series in the history of CMT.

11:21 a.m.: On stage for the series are host John Rich and contestants Chris Kirkpatrick, Sean Young, Lorenzo Lamas and Mikalah Gordon.

11:22 a.m.: I just have to get this off my chest before I explode: A CHRIS KIRKPATRICK SIGHTING! After the success of the various members of *N SYNC as solo artists, entertainment reporters, Broadway stars and dance show participants, I'm glad to know Mr. Kirkpatrick is still around.

11:26 a.m.: Mr. Lamas on joining the show: He's not a writer, but was compelled to do the show because of the "Renegade" fan base who missed him. His participation is a chance for fans to see him do something completely different—sing! If a stint on "Dancing With the Stars" happens, this could open up all sorts of triple-threat doors for him.

11:30 a.m.. Ms. Young says in the preview clip that the rest of the cast probably will think she's crazy. Adding to that, Ms. Young says getting drunk at the DGA Awards and being asked to leave was a turning point. She feels she doesn't get the attention she deserves for acting roles, but would rather focus on spending time raising her kids.

11:33 a.m.: Mr. Kirkpatrick says a prison performance was weird, not only because of the setting but being a solo performer. He says he has a lot of "country" family and getting to perform in that style was a great experience. "I'd love to go back to prison ... on my own terms," he says.

11:36 a.m.: Ms. Young is at a disadvantage going up against other contestants with some singing background. She feels she made the most progress, and "wasn't afraid to take the hit, to be scared." She did the best she possibly could and had a lot of fun. She says it helped her overcome her social anxiety (which she also said influenced that infamous DGA Awards episode).

11:38 a.m.: Mr. Kirkpatrick says the cast didn't really approach the competition as a strict competition. It was about helping each other and growing in this new style. And all that lovely kumbaya stuff on friendlier reality TV fare.

11:41 a.m. Mr. Lamas approves of daughter Shayne's engagement to recent ABC "The Bachelor" star Matt Grant, though he said no wedding date has been set yet.

11:42 a.m.: Former "American Idol" contestant Ms. Gordon finally speaks. Most people seemed to forget she was on the panel. "Everyone is intimidated by my low-cut dress," she says.

11:44 a.m.: Up next for CMT is "Outsiders' Inn," starring Bobby Brown, Maureen McCormick and Carnie Wilson (all "Gone Country" season-one alums) as they open a country bed-and-breakfast. Executive producers David Garfinkle and Jay Renfroe also join today's panel.

11:48 a.m.: OK, also just to get this off my chest: MARCIA, MARCIA, MARCIA!

11:49 a.m.: Mr. Brown on being misunderstood: Unless you know him, don't judge him. 'Nuff said.

11:51 a.m.: Ms. McCormick had always been interested in opening a B&B, and says she developed a strong relationship with Mr. Brown and Ms. Wilson during their stint on "Gone Country." The trio ran the inn for a month, emphasizes Mr. Brown, the inn's entertainment director.

11:53 a.m.: Ms. McCormick served as innkeeper and Ms. Wilson wanted to feed everybody. There was a lot of trust going into the project, Ms. Wilson says. There was a lot of room for "improvisational reacting."

11:54 a.m.: Ms. Wilson, although in her element as the cook, lost 11 pounds during filming of the series. Mr. Brown gained 12. Ms. Wilson's secret: Taste and spit. Three critics in the audience just spit out their finger sandwiches. Get it right, get it tight, y'all!

11:57 a.m.: "The dark one gets shot," Mr. Brown says about going on a hunting trip with some of the locals. He was careful on that outing. He also says he's working on a new album, a mix of country and R&B, with the first single out to coincide with the premiere of the show in August. Mixing up what you know and love—that's his prerogative.

12 p.m.: Larry Jones takes the stage for TV Land. Up next for the network: a second season of "High School Reunion" and "She's Got the Look." "Myths and Legends" also will come back with seven new episodes this fall. Next on stage, "Family Foreman," starring George Foreman, which premieres July 16.

12:03 p.m.: A preview clip begins. Did you know he named all his sons George? Awkward, right? On stage: George Foreman, George Foreman III (aka Monk) and George Foreman IV (aka Big Wheel).

12:07 p.m. Why did Mr. Foreman jump on the reality TV bandwagon, usually reserved for D-listers? As an Olympic gold medalist boxer, Mr. Foreman says being on TV is a great opportunity. It's every child's dream, and he says he's still a child at heart.

12:10 p.m.: As for all his sons being named George, Mrs. Foreman objected, but after the first two were named that way, the rest were included in the trend. It was a family decision, Mr. Foreman said. Yelling "George" for all of them is easier after getting hit in the head by some of the greatest boxers of all time.

12:11 p.m.: Mr. Foreman was a huge fan of Whitney Houston's reality show and tuned in to see her burst into song occasionally. Is it because of Ms. "Crack Is Whack" Houston's vocals, or because he's a secret Broadway aficionado? We may never know.

12:14 p.m.: The boys and girls in Mr. Foreman's family reversed traditional gender roles when they were younger. He hoped his sons would grow up to be boxers, but it was daughter Freeda George who found sizable success in the sport. George III enjoys being an amateur boxer for now.

12:19 p.m.: VH1's Jeff Olde, executive vice president of original programming and production, walks on stage. He's here for "Glam God," the search for the next great celebrity stylist, starring Vivica A. Fox, and "The Cho Show," a reality series following comedian Margaret Cho and her entourage.

12:23 p.m.: Off-the-chest moment: With its "fierce" cast, "Glam God" seems to be the gay-friendly reality competition missing from Bravo's lineup.

12:25 p.m.: Ms. Fox says she's always loved fashion and the way it can make or break any star. Mr. Bloch said integrity is most important for any stylist, including the contestants on the show. Also, both keep referring to the contestants as "the kids." Ms. Fox and Mr. Bloch appear to be mentors for the contestants, not just judges. They're more like Tyra Banks on "America's Next Top Model" than like Tim Gunn on "Project Runway."

12:31 p.m.: "Glam God" was able to bring in celebrity and designer guest judges every week over the span of the series, though no names have been disclosed. As for the typical judge roles, Ms. Fox said the Simon Cowell-esque part rotates among the panel.

12:36 p.m.: How will the show succeed to find the next best stylist? On cable, shows get a little bit more of a life, where they are not necessarily looking for a huge hit and can experiment with edginess.

12:38 p.m.: Someone asked if there is anyone in the crowd who needs some fashion help. Mr. Olde said, "Pick me and you won't make air." Mr. Bloch, instead, pointed in our direction and said we were a handsome group of gentlemen. Thank you, Mr. Bloch. I will stomp it to the death just for you!

12:40 p.m.: "The Cho Show" preview clip begins. The series has a certain "Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List" flavor. Also, Margaret Cho's parents smoked pot in 1967. On stage: Ms. Cho, Mr. and Mrs. Cho and Ms. Cho's assistant and friend Selene Luna.

12:42 p.m.: Ms. Cho says she had a difficult experience on "All-American Girl," the first Asian-American family sitcom on TV on ABC. She was criticized for her appearance and comedy style. She recalls one exec telling her, "Please never ever show your stomach on TV again." Ms Cho says she is very proud now to bring the second Asian-American family on TV. VH1 allowed Ms. Cho and her family and entourage to be themselves, which is why the show is exciting for them.

12:45 p.m.: Ms. Cho says that although she loves Kathy Griffin's show, hers is very different because Ms. Griffin is white. She adds that the series is a cross between Madonna's "Truth or Dare" tour, "The Joy Luck Club" and "Little People, Big World."

12:47 p.m.: Speaking on her family's support, Ms. Cho says, "Koreans like to work together, whether it's a liquor store or a reality show."

12:50 p.m.: With regard to doing a reality TV show, "This was the right thing to do, to tell our story the way we wanted to," Ms. Cho says she feels the show is reinventing the sitcom. Ms. Luna adds, "It's a comedy hybrid."

12:56 p.m.: Mr. Cho says she enjoys VH1 programming and the network has been great for women of color. She refers to "Miss Rap Supreme."

12:59 p.m.: What will be real and fake about the show? Ms. Cho says the situations are scripted and come from real life, such as an upcoming episode where San Francisco celebrated Margaret Cho Day, but the reactions to the situations are real.

1:01 p.m.: Tony DiSanto, MTV's executive VP of series, development and animation, comes out to introduce the "emotional and spiritual transformation" series, "From Gs to Gents." On stage are executive producers Jamie Foxx and Cris Abrego and host Fonzsworth Bentley.

1:05 p.m.: Mr. Foxx says MTV really helped bring diversity to the mainstream through its inclusion of hip-hop music. Mr. Abrego says, "A lot of the African American culture is pop culture," and in hip-hop there is a movement toward the gentleman figure.

1:09 p.m.: Mr. Foxx says he will make an appearance later in the series, though for the most part he will remain in his executive producer role.

1:10 p.m.: Mr. Bentley says he hopes people will change their perceptions of people like the contestants, who have the potential to do great but have not been given the right tools in life.

1:14 p.m.: As for casting, Mr. Foxx says people wanted to participate in the experience, but they also wanted to change their lives. "When you see these guys go through the transformations, you feel good," Mr. Foxx says, referring to the extended stories and families of each character. Mr. Bentley adds that he wanted the show to be edited in a way that was also instructional to viewers watching at home

1:16 p.m.: Mr. Bentley says he will write a blog to coincide with the show that includes a lot of current events and media topics and makes them relevant to the show.

1:18 p.m.: Although a $100,000 prize is at stake, Mr. Bentley wanted the lessons learned to be more important than the actual prize for the contestants.

1:19 p.m.: Mr. Bentley said presumed Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is one of today's gentlemen icons. "If you don't see the show, if you didn't get it, do whatever Obama does," he said.

1:26 p.m.: Mr. Abrego says the series incorporated a post-show element toward the end of the series, prepping the contestants for their return to their hometowns.

1:27 p.m.: Mr. Abrego points out that the difference between "From Gs to Gents" and VH1's "Charm School" is about the cast members' being reformed. They all wanted a change or transformation. It was not just about using the right fork and so forth, but giving them access to the tools needed to change their lives.

1:30 p.m.: And with that, the MTV Networks presentation is done. Off to lunch and a much needed break. Final off-the-chest moment: I've been needing to go to the restroom since "MARCIA, MARCIA, MARCIA!"

—Sergio Ibarra


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