Chuck Ross

The Perils of Live Blogging the TCA—on an iPhone

Jul 30, 2009

Listen, here’s how it came down:

2:30 a.m. The baby started screaming, "ba-bah, ba-bah."

Hours earlier our 6-year-old daughter had come in our room and woke us with the news that her tummy hurt. My wife had gone to her room to put her back to bed and fell asleep on our daughter’s extra bed.

So I went downstairs and fixed our baby’s ba-bah and then fed him from his warm bottle.

By then it was 3 a.m.—six in the morning back east—so I went back downstairs and fired up the computer and sent Tom Gilbert, our executive editor in New York, an email. He was compiling our morning TVBizWire and I asked him how it was going.

Slow going this morning he said, so I went surfing the ‘net to help him. I found a candid interview the LA Times had done with Mike Fleiss. The timing was good because this season’s edition of his "Bachelor/Bachelorette" franchise had just ended.

When asked why we’d had more "Bachelor" editions over the years than "Bachelorette" ones, he said it was because women have a stronger passion in pursuing guys than guys do gals. According to Fleiss, guys will just shrug their shoulders and say, “Forget that chick. Let’s go to Hooters.”

The baby started crying again and I went back upstairs to quiet him. I fell back to sleep for about 15 minutes when the alarm woke me up again.

I called Tom and asked him if we were ready for my live blogging at the TCA. I’d never done that. Back when I was reporting regularly, blogs were a thing of the future. But now everyone was doing them. Piece of cake, I thought. And I was pretty excited about the session I had chosen to blog live about: Joan Rivers, who was going to be promoting her new show on TV Land, “How’d You Get So Rich?”

I’d only talked to Rivers once before, back in 1994 when I interviewed her on the set of her syndicated show “Can We Shop? ” I guess she specializes in shows that have question marks in the title. As I recall the interview, she was pretty funny. It centered around her talking to some guy who was pushing something to do with cleaning toilets.

I got dressed and ran out of the house and drove the 30 minutes to Pasadena and the Television Critic’s Association’s Press Tour—the TCA.

I ran inside, got myself comfortable, and realized something was terribly wrong. I called Tom.

You’re not going to believe this, I told him, I forgot my laptop.

There was silence on the other end of the phone and then, “That could be a problem.”

"No, no. I’ve got a solution. I’m gonna do it from my iPhone."

“I don’t think that’ll work,” Tom said.

"No, no, it’ll be fine. This thing’s really a damn computer. And I’m quite facile with typing on it."

“What are you talking about?. Everyone hates that virtual keyboard it has.”

"Trust me. We’ll be fine."

He had to go to into a short meeting. I couldn’t get hold of our tech support guy, and there really wasn’t anyone else around at TVWeek to help me.

As many of you know, Joe Adalian, our editor, quit a few weeks ago. I haven’t had a chance to replace him yet, which is why I’m here reporting from the TCA in the first place.

So I called my mom. She’s 83 and lives up in Northern California. Believe it or not, she’s pretty savvy on a computer.

“Hi hon, “ she said. “You’re calling me early.”

I explained that I was live blogging from the TCA and needed her to go on our Web site to see if anything that I was blogging was showing up.

“What’s it going to say?” she asked.

"It’ll be about Joan Rivers."

“Ohhh,” she laughed, “That’ll be fun.”

"OK, Mom, call me back when you see I’ve written something." We hung up.

Larry Jones, president of TV Land, came out and started speaking. I was waiting for Joan.

I looked around the room. Glancing behind me I spotted James Hibberd. The Hibberdmeister. Live blogger extraordinaire. The Live Feed. He had honed his skills at our shop and then abandoned us. OK, OK, there might also have been the issue of more money and a more Hollywood-centric publication. So he’s now with The Hollywood Reporter. I think I saw him touch his keyboard. Oh, for crying out loud, what the hell is he saying. Should I be blogging something yet?

Jones showed a clip of Joan’s show. It was funny.

Rivers came out. She was funny—and nasty, of course—right off the bat. “We were originally going to sell this to the Food Network and it was going to be called ‘How’d you get fatter than a fifth of an acre?’ with Kristie Alley.”

I typed furiously on my iPhone virtual keyboard, and then called my mom.

"Anything yet?"

“No, honey. Wait, here it comes. ‘Rivers says shoe first offered to Fudd Network.’ ”

"Oy. Anything else."

“No. Oh, yes, here it is. ‘Show was called How do u get fatter than a fifth grader?’ ”

Tom was right. Live blogging from my iPhone wasn’t going to work. "Thanks, Mom."

I glanced around. Hibberd was typing away. I was sure it was great stuff.

Maybe I should try again. Rivers was having a great time, as if she was onstage in Vegas. She was dropping f-bombs all over the place. She was referring to her show as “How’d They Get So F—ing Rich?” Then she said that following her show was going to be “ ‘How’d You Get So F—ing Poor,’ hosted by the Madoffs.”

Again, I typed furiously. Just as I finished, my phone vibrated. It was Tom.

“You just wrote F-u-c-k-i-n-g. Is that OK?”

"As long as I don’t hear from my mom."

My iPhone vibrated again and showed that another number was trying to reach me. I recognized it as my mom’s. "Tom, I gotta go."

"Hi Mom."

“Honey, you just wrote F-u-c-k-i-n-g. Is that OK?”

"It is if Hibberd did it too."


"Mom, I gotta go."

I hung up. I had no idea what Hibberd was writing. I just knew it must be good.

Rivers was now telling a story about a guy who became a gazillionaire in the toilet cleaning business. What’s with this woman? It’s 15 years since I last saw her and again with the toilets.

Rivers couldn’t believe what some of the people do who she’d interviewed for her new show. “One of them I love is Hoffman,” she was saying. “You know you blow bubbles … (the wand) makes a bubble. This guy made [a wand] that makes five bubbles. You understand? Big f—ing deal.” She paused and then delivered the punch line: “Lives next to Barbra Streisand.

I was typing furiously again on my iPhone. Just as I finished, it vibrated once more. 

"Hi Tom."

“You just typed it again. Has your mom noticed?”

"Yes, but maybe Hibberd’s doing it too. Try and find out and call me back."

Joan was on a roll: “Do you understand? I’m not making a lie.” She was still talking about the five bubble wand guy. “His dog’s got a psychiatrist. He has a woman come in, and you can’t laugh because you’re filming you know. ‘Hmm, this looks interesting.’ And she’s making the dog feel relaxed. How much more relaxed can you be? You can lick your balls. I don’t know what more you want.”

The room erupted in laughter. I was typing feverishly on my iPhone. Again, it vibrated. It was my mom.

“I’m confused. Is it the dog that’s licking
its balls?”

My phone vibrated yet once more while she was speaking. It was Tom. I told my mom to hold on.

"Yes, Tom. Find out about what Hibberd’s blogging?"

“No. But it just occurred to me that you never actually gave me that Fleiss item this morning, so we never posted it.”

I told Tom just a minute, hit a virtual botton on the phone and started to talk again to my mom.

"You’re confused about what? The dog?"

“It’s me, Tom. No, I’m not confused about the dog. I want to know about the Fleiss item”

"Hold on." Then I hit another of the phone’s virtual buttons and said, "Mom, I’ll explain about the dog in a minute. Hold on." Hitting yet another button I said, "Tom, we’ll use it this afternoon. I love the line about chasing gals at Hooters."

“No, honey, it’s mom. So these dogs lick their balls and chase girls at Hooters? That’s one crazy reporter’s job you have.”

At that moment I dropped my phone. As I bent over to pick it up I saw this beautiful woman go up to Hibberd and say, “Love your blog. Do you Tweet?”

Son of a gun.#


  1. Chuck:
    It’s good see you’ve gone from your laser disc collection to IPhone – or maybe you should stick with the discs.
    Remember when you could get a girl’s attention by having a little dog. Get a dog and call it Bloggo.
    Hope all is well beyond what it appears to be.

  2. Hi Bruce. It’s been years. Great to hear from you. Didn’t we first meet when I was the TV writer at the San Francisco Chronicle and you were with KRON? And as Bruce notes, yes, I had a big collection of laserdiscs back then, as they were all the rage, especially in the Bay Area. Bruce, please send me an email at chkross@tvweek.com when you have a minute.

    Chuck Ross
  3. I feel your pain. I attempted to Tweet my way through Comic Con on a Blackberry, no less. After three Tweets, I realized I was missing 90% of the panel while I tried to type out interesting bits in under 140 characters a piece.

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