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2012 TCA Press Tour Liveblog

January 6th, 2012 by Ben Collins and Sheila Dichoso

We’re drinking free, very cold bottled waters and standing 50 feet away from Elle Macpherson. It’s the best Friday morning in the world, and it’s also called The Television Critic’s Association Press Tour.

Today’s tour guide: the impossible-to-cheer-up NBC. Chairman and programming chief Bob Greenblatt is talking right now, mostly using sad adjectives that fathers use after their son gently drives into a pole while playing with his iPod.

I mean, here’s his opening kicker: “We had a really bad fall. Worse than we’d hoped for, but about what I expected.”

Not exactly a glowing endorsement! Here are some more notes.

– Greenblatt: “I appreciate how respectful you’ve been towards me personally, and especially my staff.” I am rooting for this person.

– “Our most recent scripted hit is six years old. Important hits have lost important castmembers this year.” He’s probably being a little hard on himself, here. Community‘s a syndication hit, I think. Whitney is doing well, for some reason.

– “Mariska Hargitay isn’t leaving Law & Order.” In fact, Law & Order’s gonna have a love interest for her! Nothing says sexy like figuring out why a man was murdered in an alley.

Spoiler alert: Here’s your love interest—Harry Connick Jr.

He’ll be the new Assistant DA, boyfriend, and guy who sings “That’s Amore” after he puts that scumbag in the clink.

– Greenblatt: “Community has not been cancelled. It’ll definitely be back mid-Spring. I failed to explicitly say that it will be back. I know there are many fans of this show in the room today and I want you to keep writing about it.”

– Thank God.

– More on Community: “I don’t know if it’s fair to ask it to start off the night again.” What about a 4th season? “I’m not sure about that yet.”

– NBC has picked up five pilots before Thanksgiving and will have more in the next couple of weeks.

– Greenblatt: “We have a long road ahead of us, so bear with us.” Yikes. I like this guy’s toughness.

– Prime Suspect: “We were never gonna find a way to grow that audience.”

On the new Katherine McPhee-led “Smash,” which looks genuinely good for musical lovers: “I don’t believe it’s a make or break kind of a show for us. We really are proud of it and excited about what it can do. Hopefully the synergy of the night will unify (“Smash” and “The Voice”).”

– Greenblatt, facetiously talking about his former run as the head at Showtime: “I’m done with cable. It’s a dying business, and ruining the culture of America.”

– Here’s good news for Hulu in general, and great news for the future of TV shows on the Internet:

“There’s a general fear in the broadcast world of exposing something digitally and hurting the rating. I get that fear. When we were at Showtime, we needed to get sampling. I know they’re apples to oranges. But one could say that was a contributing factor. … We’re going to employ that with Smash and see what happens.”

He talked about New Girl in here, too, and said how that show’s popularity can be owed in large part to its sneak peek digital launch.

– About why Prime Suspect couldn’t garner an audience: “Is that too cable a character for this audience? Was that too cable? I don’t know. The audience seems to want to be entertained with escapist and fantasy and comedy. Maybe a hard-hitting cop show with a dead body in the first scene isn’t what they want to see.”

– On Whitney: “I know the backlash of the laughtrack. I’ve heard about it. I know.” It’s not the laughtrack. It’s everything else.

– But maybe it will change. I’d welcome that. “I’m pleased with Whitney. With every new show, you find the show the more episodes you do. I think the episode that airs next Wednesday is really strong. I’m hopeful that Whitney will be a long-term player for us.”

“Fashion Star,” The American Idol of Sexy Outfits
It’s back to reality TV for Nicole Richie and Jessica Simpson. But milking cows and talking about questionable canned food they are not. Along with designer John Varvatos, the three fashion icons serve as celebrity mentors on “Fashion Star,” NBC’s new reality competition series debuting in March. The midseason series searches for the next big fashion label with supermodel Elle Macpherson as host and Ben Silverman, executive producer of “The Office” and “The Biggest Loser.”

Here’s what primetime’s newest fashion brigade said Friday morning:

– It’s a different kind of reality show: Viewers will get to buy garments made by “Fashion Star” designers at Macy’s, H&M, Saks immediately after episodes air. “This is about real fashion. As America watches, they can walk into the store the next day and buy the items,” said Nicole Richie. Talk about some serious (and exciting) cross-promotion.

– Each episode will start with a fashion show, which Silverman compares to those sassy, infamous Victoria Secret runways.

– Executive Producer Ben Silverman said those who get inspired by “The Biggest Loser” will get equally inspired by “Fashion Star.” (“Fashion Star” will follow “The Biggest Loser” on Tuesdays.)

– A very preggos Jessica Simpson announced she’s working on a maternity collection for her fashion line.

– Silverman says to expect “fierce and fun” competition. We wouldn’t expect anything less. — Sheila Dichoso


“Are You There, Chelsea?” Is Not Nearly As Good As This Panel Is

We spent yesterday watching this show, which had laughtrack that mimicked—to a T—Kim Jong Il’s funeral. Sheila and I could not figure this thing out. It was so profoundly ’90s—comically large jail set, comically overused jail jokes, DUI’s being dealt with cutely, like someone getting a papercut—that we couldn’t catch up.

Sheila watched the second episode while I cried alone in a public park. Maybe it got better. You should ask her.

But I couldn’t deal with it.

Then this panel was so charming and cohesive. Lenny Clarke was this warm, grandfatherly figure, tossing out compliments that seem heavy and sincere. It made it seem like I watched the wrong thing. He interrupted a story that was going nowhere to say this.

“Look, Chelsea’s brilliant, she’s a genius, and she’s—I’ll say it—hot,” he says.

Chelsea butted in quickly to stop this.

“You’re not (getting some with) me, Lenny.”

Then Lenny dropped this afterward, amongst a smaller set of us: “This thing is better than ‘According to Jim,’ and that piece of (expletive) was on for nine years.”

I’m not sure that’s true, but these people made me want it to be.–Ben Collins


“Smash”: Don’t You Dare Call It “Glee”
Frankly, Smash looks solid, and so far it was the show all the TV types in the room seemed the most excited about. In saying that, I even believe that people who find musicals insufferable (yes, these people exist) should give this one a chance. I mean, it stars Anjelica effin’ Huston.

Here, we have talent straight outta Broadway like Megan Hilty and Mark Shaiman (music composer of Hairspray) and even Steven Spielberg as one of the executive producers dramatizing the making of a Broadway musical about Marilyn Monroe. And I’m happy that Katharine McPhee’s landed what seems like a promising gig. She’s pretty talented.

Here are a few tidbits from the panel:

– Smash isn’t Glee for adults. Executive Producer Craig Zadan says “Smash isn’t like Glee, but we’re grateful to Glee for opening that door.” Spielberg used The West Wing as a model for the tone he wanted to convey. So think of it as gritty like Chicago but fun like Hairspray.

– We got to watch a sneak peek of episode five performance “Let’s Be Bad” by Megan Hilty as Ivy Lynn as Marilyn Monroe. It was just as fiery and emotional as any Broadway number.

– Team Karen vs. Team Ivy: Katharine McPhee and Hilty play Karen and Ivy, respectively, the dualing Marilyns who executive producer Theresa Rebeck said represent the double life of Norma Jean/Marilyn. Expect to take a side and get ready for those #TeamKaren and #TeamIvy hashtags. – Sheila Dichoso

Last comment: Jan 16th 2012 2 Comments
  • blandphilosophy says:

    Regarding the 2012 TCA, Bob Greenblatt made several comments about NBC’s failure in the Fall 2011 season, and the resulting cancellations and midseason pickups. However, Greenblatt’s biggest problem is that he’s still thinking like a Showtime executive. The only solace is that he has begun canceling shows with failing numbers, and benching others to build on the syndication effect (http://nyti.ms/sJsNjp).

    Greenblatt focused on the failure of “Prime Suspect”, above and beyond everything else in addressing the Fall. He made parallels to Showtime, stating that “Prime Suspect” would have run 4 or 5 seasons (http://trib.in/yYKg8c). This illustrates the biggest problem facing NBC: their head of programming still has the mindset of a premium network’s president. What Greenblatt did to Showtime was more than commendable. The critically acclaimed “Dexter”, and the once-popular “Weeds” are just some of the shows he brought on. With “Homeland’s” and Matt LeBlanc’s wins last night at the Globes, it’s clear that he left his mark on Sho’s executives (http://bit.ly/5ly9EY). However, NBC isn’t Showtime.

    Let’s start with demographics. “Weeds”, “Nurse Jackie”, and “The Big C” are clearly targeted at the 18-49 female demographic. That’s fine for a premium network with an average viewership of two million (http://bit.ly/JJ9hg). However, with a broadcast network, you have to target a bigger audience. “Prime Suspect” didn’t fair well with the 18-29 or men, and “The Playboy Club’s” demo was muddled enough to ensure its failure (http://bit.ly/st7lfC). I fully believe that “Whitney “ and “Are You There Chelsea?” will suffer similar fates.

    Let’s end with the consideration that a 22-episode order means that storytelling is vastly different than it was at Showtime. Shows that can survive a 13-episode order won’t necessarily do as well with 22. For example, “Playboy Club” would have likely been able to do an engaging story for 13 episodes, had it focused on Showtime’s target demographic. However, with its effort to appeal across demographics and generate enough plot lines to carry it through a full year, it managed to be confusing and difficult to follow. In short – the show would have been a solid pickup for Showtime or AMC, but not for a broadcast network.

    In short, Greenblatt needs to adjust back to being at a broadcast network. Spring 2012 will likely continue to be one long failed experiment.

  • jenna says:

    this piece is OK, lots of factualities. But what was the “feel” of the tour? Am I wrong that the people covering the press tour are experienced, professional journalists, specializing in electronic media? Isn’t their reaction to the “suits” a valid area on which to report?