Sunday, July 30, 2006

The White Trash Chronicles: We go to the Demolition Derby

In an ongoing quest to experience the best that white trash has to offer, a group of us went to the Demolition Derby in Longmont on Saturday night. That is definitely an event that only men would think of, although there was one woman driver in the field. She was out pretty fast though. Anyway, what woman do you know who would come up with building cars for the sheer purpose of smashing them into each other? Testosterone has brought all sorts of hilariously stupid activities into this world, like dating, for example.

The premise of the Demo Derby is this: take a beat-up shell of a car, like a 1965 Lincoln Town Car or a 1977 Ford Fury, put a driver’s seat in it, a gas tank in the back and gird the driver’s side for impact. Then go to a big outdoor arena in the heat of summer and crash into lots of other cars in front of a crowd of screaming rednecks, and us, who were playing redneck that night. The last car running wins.

I have to say there was something strangely compelling about the Demolition Derby. I’m not a big car fan – I tool around in my 10-year-old Nissan Sentra and besides the A/C, it’s working just fine – but I really enjoyed watching men in tank tops crash into each other. Cars had smoke coming out of them and were on fire, wheels and bumpers came flying off, entire back ends were smashed flat. Oh, and the half-time entertainment involved two tractors ripping a poor unsuspecting car in half.

After the whole thing is over – and it runs long, four and a half hours – you get to go down into the dirt arena and check out the cars. I wish I could do the destruction justice by describing it, but these vehicles are really effed up. And the guys who drive them just laugh and talk about how they’ll pull the side of this car out with their tractor and then weld some stuff on and bring it back out the next time.

Prize money for the Demo Derby runs about $2,500 - $8,000 for a win, which I think you basically put back into your piece-of-crap car, which your wife then bitches about because it is truly an eyesore on any piece of property and marks you most certainly the white trashiest of your particular neighborhood.

Here's a good link if you want to learn more about the Demolition Derby. The man known as Speedo, as profiled by PBS's POV in 2004, is a good example of how people become so immersed in these subcultures that they shape their entire lives.

The other sort-of great part about this Demo Derby, in particular, was that our little county fair accompanied it. So in between crash-fests, a few of us went out to ride a ride and get a snack. I say sort-of because it was an appearances-beat-reality type of affair. The rides looked fun but were kind of ramshackle once you got on them. Plus we did a super twisty-turny one and I was nauseous after that for a good long time. I started out laughing and screaming and then just queasily going “uhhhh” every time we were jerked around. In fact, it makes me nauseous now just remembering it. I think that's one clear sign that you are getting old -- spinny rides that used to be the most fun ever when you are ten are now like horrible torture. If I was a CIA agent or something and I got captured by Iraqi soliders, they could easily learn everthing I knew just by putting me on some super-spinny ride for 15 seconds.

Then the food seems great and fun and white trash – which it is – but it’s also really kind of gross. Burritos from a frozen box, fried funnel cakes and corn dogs, disgusting cotton candy that I once begged for, iffy pieces of pizza that have been sitting out, watery and expensive lemonade.

That said, it was all quite fun. It’s always eye-opening to take a wholesale dunk into other social cultures and find some people whom you probably otherwise would never encounter.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Shocking Hollywood announcements

OK, I'm back home from press tour now and I still have a couple of press tour-related posts to put up, but I had to blog on this one because I found it hilarious. Hello, Lance Bass, of course you are gay. You are so gay that I see no need to make an announcement about it. On the other hand, I was watching the South Park episode the other night in which Tom Cruise and John Travolta literally won't come out of the closet and for some reason R. Kelly is there singing about how they need to come out the closet and then suddenly brandishing a gun. Unbelievably funny and also pointing out that some people should just go ahead and make an announcement already. But with Lance, I think we were already on to you man.

Now if the rest of N Sync would please come forward and clear some things up for us, that would be helpful.

Lance Bass: I'm gay

'N Sync singer worried he would harm group

Lance Bass is involved with Reichen Lehmkuhl of "Amazing Race."

NEW YORK (AP) -- Lance Bass, band member of 'N Sync, says he's gay and in a "very stable" relationship with a reality show star.

Bass, who formed 'N Sync with Justin Timberlake, JC Chasez, Joey Fatone and Chris Kirkpatrick, tells People magazine that he didn't earlier disclose his sexuality because he didn't want to affect the group's popularity.

"I knew that I was in this popular band and I had four other guys' careers in my hand, and I knew that if I ever acted on it or even said (that I was gay), it would overpower everything," he tells the magazine.

'N Sync is known for a string of hits including "Bye Bye Bye" and "It's Gonna Be Me." The band went on hiatus in 2002. Bass has also found headlines for undertaking astronaut training and failing to raise money for a trip into space.

Bass says he wondered if his coming out could prompt "the end of 'N Sync." He explains, "So I had that weight on me of like, 'Wow, if I ever let anyone know, it's bad.' So I just never did."

The singer says he's in a "very stable" relationship with 32-year-old actor Reichen Lehmkuhl, winner of season four of CBS' "Amazing Race."

Bass and Fatone, 29, are developing a sitcom pilot inspired by the screwball comedy "The Odd Couple," in which his character will be gay.

"The thing is, I'm not ashamed -- that's the one thing I want to say," Bass says. "I don't think it's wrong, I'm not devastated going through this. I'm more liberated and happy than I've been my whole life. I'm just happy."

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Press Tour, Day Nine: He's Just Not That Into You

This day, Sunday, started out with breakfast at the Ritz. Since it was an off-day – meaning no network was scheduled – non-network affiliated syndicators wanted to take advantage of the free time. This is a bit of a hard sell because we’re coming to the end of press tour and people are wanting to do non-press-tour type stuff, like laundry or exercise. To try to overcome that objection, Sony hosted a breakfast buffet with almost everything you could ever want in breakfast food – everything from ricotta pancakes with lemon curd to bagel pizzas with salmon to a toast bar including almost every possible toast topping (honey butter, peanut butter, almond butter, body butter, and so forth). I didn’t think at this point in the tour food would still prove a lure to many critics, but there was actually a good turn out to see Greg Behrendt, who is launching a syndicated talk show with Sony this year.

Greg is a funny guy. He’s been a stand-up for years, and he once held dreams of becoming a rock star. He made his fortune, however, by casually telling a woman that the guy she was dating was “just not that into you.” And boom, a star was born.

Greg used to be a consultant on Sex and the City, and the woman he said that to was a writer on the show, so it was immediately incorporated into an episode. If you aren’t a Sex and the City fan, let me refresh the scene for you: Carrie and Berger (my new boyfriend Ron Livingston) are having dinner with her friends, and Miranda is recounting the tale of a date she just had. When she completes the story, Berger reveals he didn’t want to come back to her place with her because “he’s just not that into you.” Miranda’s friends go into a frenzy of analysis and defend her to the end, but Miranda says, “thank you. That was the most freeing thing I’ve ever heard.” She then tries to repeat the line to a couple of younger women she overhears on the street to poor effect. She also accuses a later date of being “not that into her,” only to learn that no, he actually is having serious intestinal problems. So it’s not a hard and fast rule.

In any case, this line had a similar ripple effect in the country. Behrendt, with encouragement from his wife, Amiira, wrote a book called “He’s Just Not That Into You,” which shot to the top of the best-seller lists. The book offered pretty basic dating advice – if he’s not calling you or asking you out or generally paying any attention to you, it’s time to move on and get a new guy. But apparently women nationwide did not know this and the book shot to the top of best-seller lists. Behrendt ended up on Oprah, and even more books were sold.

Sometime last year, Sony decided they thought Behrendt was a good choice to host a one-hour syndicated talk show. He is charming, funny and relatable, but there’s some problems with this premise: 1) syndication is pretty much an impossible business, and all the more impossible for Sony because the company doesn’t own stations and has a hard time getting shows on good time periods. But this show was done in partnership with Tribune, which owns many stations, so perhaps that will prove helpful with the ratings; 2) I’m not sure how long Greg can jump off this “he’s just not that into you” schtick, and I’m not sure where it can go from here. 3) Even with Sex and the City, the book and Oprah, most people haven’t heard of this guy. People in Hollywood think that just because something’s a phenomenon in their little world, everyone in the U.S. feels the same way, and if they don’t, that’s their problem because they live in the rejectable “flyover” states. (Like Colorado, for example.)

That snobbery is all well and good when you are in your glassed-in office on a studio lot, but Hollywood suits would be better served if they paid attention to what the people want in the flyover states. Most of the country lives in those states, and those viewers are needed in order to make any show a success.

I wonder who will be first to write the headline in the likely event that Greg’s show fails: “Audiences just weren’t that into him.”

Press Tour, Day Eight: Interest Is Waning

I’ve dropped off the blog for the past couple days and that’s a hazard because now I can’t remember what happened over the weekend. Hmmm ….

Oh, here’s some good gossip that I probably should have known already: I guess that Aaron Sorkin dumped The NY Times' Maureen Dowd (who also supposedly was dumped by Michael Douglas in favor of Catherine Zeta, although if Catherine Zeta shows up in the middle of your relationship, you just say 'you win,' and walk away) to date the tiny and spunky Kristin Chenoweth (she’s best known as Glinda in Wicked). He eventually put her on The West Wing. In the meantime, Chenoweth cut an album of “inspirational” music and appeared on the 700 Club and he dropped her like it’s hot. Cut to Studio 60, and we see Matthew Perry’s character breaking up with his sketch-comedy-star girlfriend, played by Sarah Paulson, because she’s a member of the religious right.

Once again, art imitates life. A friend of mine who himself is a wonderful writer recently told me that he’s just good at “writing about himself,” but I think that’s true for everyone. If you find yourself hanging out with me a lot, watch out, because you might find yourself a character on my next TV show. Wait, what's that you say? I don't have a TV show? OK, well, you might find yourself a character on this widely read blog then.

Anyhoo, I ditched out on most of Saturday’s happenings because I had to write a story so obviously I didn’t hang out with too many famous people while I was holing up with my laptop in the Ghetto TL. Saturday night was the NBC party and since it was 110 degrees here and NBC chose to have a Texas-style barbecue, it was quite the sweaty affair. We were really feeling for the poor people who had to man the sizzling grills.

Famous people in attendance and sweating: From The Office: Rainn Wilson, John Kryzinski and many of the show’s minor players but no Steve Carell (I chatted up my favorite movie star on Sunday night). I do love The Office so I gave a lame-o fan shout-out to Rainn and John and they accomodated my stalker tendencies quite nicely. From Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: Aaron Sorkin, Tommy Schlamme, Matthew Perry, Bradley Whitford, Amanda Peet, Steven Weber, Evan Handler (played Charlotte’s husband Harry on Sex and the City); from Twenty Good Years: Jeffrey Tambor and John Lithgow (Ausiello called this show 22 Unfunny Minutes); from Kidnapped, Jeremy Sisto, who consistently was surrounded by a scrum of reporters, and then a bunch of people from shows like Friday Night Lights and Heroes that you have never heard of. I haven’t watched Friday Night Lights, but I did get the book from NBC for free. Heroes is an interesting pilot about people who have superpowers that they are just realizing. I thought the show was a little uneven, but it has promise, and it's already got tons of Internet buzz. And supposedly the show was a big hit at Comic-Con, the comic-book convention that was going on late last week in San Diego.

Having nothing to do with any of this, I just learned that one of the reporters here who asks actors questions like "what do you consider a healthy snack," and "what's your workout regime," making me want to yank my hair out in chunks, gathers all these quotes in quantity and then sells them to places like Esquire, People, US, whoever wants them. It's quite the interesting business venture -- not one I would want to get into because if I am ever caught asking an actor about their eating habits please kill me on the spot -- but still interesting. I mean, it takes balls to earn a living by asking people totally ridiculous questions, especially if you aren't Jay Leno or Stephen Colbert. In some ways, however, I think such "reporting" should be banned from the critics tour. This person is not acting as either a TV critic or a reporter, and posing such questions lowers the bar for everyone. What's more, it's often hard to get a word in edgewise with this person around, and sometimes I actually have real questions to ask. I'm just sayin'.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Press Tour, Day Seven: Drug habits are hilarious

It’s always good to know that people in Hollywood can poke fun at themselves. Well, at least some of them.

Asked what he thinks about reality shows, Aaron Sorkin, creator and executive producer of NBC’s Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, said “I do think that television is a terribly influential part of this country and that when things that are very mean-spirited and voyeuristic go on TV, I think it's like bad crack in the school yard.” Sorkin was busted for possession of crack and other drugs in 2001, so it was no surprise when he then wondered out loud: “Why did I use that word?” Later, Matthew Perry, a former prescription drug-addict himself, responded to a question about playing a character that resembles Sorkin, his ostensible boss: “I think it’s most like bad vicodin in the schoolyard.” Overall hilarity ensued in the room. Perry’s co-star Bradley Whitford later mused: “I have never wished I had a drug problem before.”

Staying with the self-deprecation note, when Perry was then asked why he decided to return to series TV so quickly after Friends, he said “because this script was so good and The Whole Ten Yards was so bad.”

More notes from press tour to come but I need to go drink now.

Press Tour, Day Six: Ohmygod, Grey's!

Today we visited the set of Grey’s Anatomy and I lived at least the initial part of the fantasy of many American women: I looked Patrick Dempsey in the eye and had a conversation with him. Obviously, I didn't get follow this encounter through to its preferred conclusion, but it was a good start. As my friend said, “if you tell me he’s a midget, I’m going to kill you.” This is because I had previously told her that David Krumholz (from CBS’s Numbers and the movie Serenity) is pretty much a midget and even if she puts platform shoes on him, she still probably wouldn’t want to sleep with him. I could be wrong about this, however, because Krummy had quite the hot young girlfriend, as did James Woods, who I find disgusting, so what do I know? Anyway, Patrick was quite doable, so no worries women of America.

I tried my very hardest to learn whether the delicious Eric Dane aka Mark “McSteamy” Sloan (link to more info) would be coming back to the show, but I was shut down by Grey’s creator Shonda Rhimes’ absolutely no-leaks policy. Damn! But me and other fans were encouraged that the martinis at the ABC party were named McDreamy and the extra dirty ones were named McSteamy. To me, mainly because I am desperate and I have told the exec producers this several times, this was a very good sign. Or if nothing else, a very good drink.

Other than Patrick, I also met Sandra Oh, Ellen Pompeo (very briefly and she is no skinnier than any of the other anorexics that populate this town but absolutely adorable. See Old School for proof), Kate Walsh (she plays Addison Shepherd, wife of McDreamy) and Katherine Heigl, who is absolutely gorgeous and like Virginia Madsen, very skinny in real life, except with some boobs. I chatted with Peter Horton, who directs the show and we bonded over our mutual ownership of Keen shoes, and Betsy Beers, one of the exec producers. We then got to look around the set, which is vast and quite realistic. All in all, it was TV heaven, even though I am supposed to be a cynical reporter and all that. I don’t want to live in Hollywood but there are moments when I sure like visiting it, and this was one of those times. The scant hour we were granted was nowhere close to enough. I needed like an hour of solo time with each cast member. So much stalking, so little time.

I will say that touring a set makes you realize what people are talking about when they say that series TV is exhausting and difficult. It all seems wonderfully glamorous when you are watching it, but when you see the dark, cramped sets, and think about how actors are shooting takes over and over again for 12 hours a day, six days a week, you can see how it gets a little tedious. It's not all award ceremonies and red carpets, people. That said, it's not coal-mining or truck-driving either, so my sympathy for successful actors remains limited.

Anyway, after that wonderful hour came to a screeching halt, I was back on the eternal LA highway to return to the Ritz in Pasadena. There, I hung out with the stars of Fox’s My Network TV, which is basically going to be an English-language telenovela network for TV stations. The young stars of these shows are, like The CW pages, the hottest people I’ve ever seen. One of them is a supermodel on the side! Hanging with them makes me feel like there’s some other planet where they grow much more attractive people than they do on this planet where I live. Or vice versa. Either way, I don’t think we are members of the same species.

Also in attendance – Morgan Fairchild and Bo Derek. I chatted a bit with Bo and while I’m sure she’s amply Botoxed, she is gorgeous and tiny. She may be the planetary mother of this other species about which I was just talking.

My night ended with dinner at the Ritz with the NBC PR corps, which was delightful and relaxing.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Tom Skerrit: Is He or Isn't He?

Tom Skerrit’s apparently not really in ABC’s Brothers & Sisters, but he still managed to pervade the show panel on Wednesday afternoon.

Most of this crowd has not seen the pilot of Brothers & Sisters, which looked great from the clip they showed, because they keep retooling and recasting it, and failing to put out a final episode. In the clip, Skerrit falls into the pool and his fate is not clear. So it was reasonable to wonder whether Skerrit, as the father of five brothers and sisters, would appear further in the show. Skerrit did not appear on the huge 14-person panel, indicating that perhaps his performance is just a cameo. And the show’s executive producers were very sketchy about whether to expect more Skerrit in the fall. When asked where Skerrit was, they said, “he’s working on a movie.”

This went on for quite a while until finally one intrepid reporter checked the ABC media site and read the following: “When the family gathers to celebrate a birthday, what they don’t know is that tonight the family patriarch will die.” This met with much laughter, and also seemed to settle the question.

Still, the question of Tom Skerrit remains unanswered. The web site no longer describes the show that way, and the press release about the show mentions both father and mother equally so maybe Skerrit is going to be a regular cast member. The producers did say repeatedly that the pilot had changed significantly.

Anyway, when the cast was asked “which member of the family will provide the comic relief?” (This was actually a much sillier question in practice, asked by the same reporter who asks most of the silly questions), the creator/EP said “Tom Skerrit.”

Raccoons Take Over TV

In another example of the genius of the TV critic, the apparent star of ABC’s Men in Trees is Elvis the Raccoon. Elvis makes an appearance in the pilot as the destroyer of an ill-fated wedding dress, which is in Alaska for specious reasons anyway. The best part of this is that later in the scene, Elvis the Raccoon is played by a stunt double, Boomer the Terrier, who wears a raccoon costume as he runs down the stairs. Yes, I did just say that a terrier is wearing a raccoon costume in a primetime television program. Just in case you were wondering, Elvis and Boomer were both local hires. And although Elvis is nocturnal, he graciously agreed to work during the day. Elvis has at least a two-episode deal for the show, creator and showrunner Jenny Bicks revealed during the Wednesday afternoon session.

As B&C's Ben Grossman points out: When the panel starts focusing on the animal actors, you know the show has no chance. (See Ben's work at, a blog sponsored by my corporate alma mater.)

Seriously, these are the things these people ask. And my absolutely favorite question: “For everyone in the cast, please tell us what character you play and describe him or her.” Even though watching the pilot or even just reading the fat binder each network helpfully provides would immediately clarify for this for you, moron reporter, without wasting our time with your horrendous question that you keep repeating during every single panel session.

I’m not alone in my hostility. After the third time this same moron reporter did this, about 50 other reporters groaned in unison.

Press Tour, Day Five: Charming Charlie

I feel like it’s taken me until now to get into the swing of press tour. I’ve asked a question in every panel this morning (which requires seriously fighting for voice time while figuring out which side of ballroom you are on from the perspective of the stage. This is hard for someone with a bit of directional dyslexia like me) and I’m getting better about the schmoozing and chasing down people after panels (chased down Donal Logue today and Ben Silverman yesterday, among others). After you cover Congress, you learn how to fight your way to the front of the press scrum like a pro (even if you are a short girl like me) and apparently it’s a skill you never forget.

This morning started with a panel with new ABC World News Anchor Charlie Gibson, who was available via satellite from Cypress, where the U.S. military is conducting an “assisted departure” of American citizens as opposed to an evacuation, Charlie said. The big news from this panel was that they are changing the name from – stop the presses! – ABC World News Tonight to ABC World News with Charles Gibson. The difference, in case you didn’t pick up on it, is that World News is now available all the time via podcast, webcast and every other kind of cast, so it’s not World News TONIGHT but World News All the Time. But that was a little long and obvious, I guess. Some intrepid reporter also took up microphone time by asking why it’s with CHARLES Gibson and not Charlie Gibson, which is what everyone calls him. OK, true, but do we really care? In any case, the answer is that he signs his check Charles and he’s officially and legally Charles. Good that we’ve got that important issue settled.

Still, I was really impressed with ole Charlie. He managed to be charming and charismatic even via satellite, which is no easy feat. One of my NY Post editors (and I’m gaining more and more of those the longer I work with them) said that an old friend of his, Shelby Coffey, who started the Washington Post’s Style section, once said that it takes someone special to jump through the camera and make you feel like s/he is your friend and Charlie Gibson is one of those. That’s why Charlie, et al (Katie Couric) gets the big bucks. That’s actually totally true. Oprah is the queen of this. She’s all into big issues and she’s smart and all that, but what she really gets paid for is her ability to make every woman in America think she’s her best friend, all through the cold lense of the camera. It’s no easy feat, especially considering that many of these people (Oprah and Katie among them) are known for being nothing like their onscreen personas backstage.

Charlie sort of answered one of my longstanding questions: What the hell do anchors do other than read the news off the teleprompter? I still think that’s mostly what they do, but he argued that anchors should travel to foreign places – like Cypress and Jerusalem – during international crises because of the perspective they can gain, contacts they can meet, and the immediacy that all gives to the nightly newscasts. He said all that while being sure to credit the bureau chiefs that actually are doing the reporting and know what they are talking about, so I think that was a realistic answer.

He also talked about the perception that he is politically neutral, and then discussed what he thinks is the biggest political problem of the day: Congressional districts that are gerrymandered so as to assure a win for a political party. The fact that both sides do this (it’s also known as redistricting and it’s the practice of redrawing the boundaries so that a district mostly covers Rs or Ds) sort of evens it out, in my book, but I think he’s right that the country’s too polarized and that this is mostly due to political engineering.

“The thing that really fascinates and worries me, is how deeply divided we are,” he said. Last election, only two states flipped. We’ve gotten ourselves into a situation where there are very few states in play or in the middle. The disappearance of the political middle in this country worries me.”

He was really passionate on this point, which was good to see, and better than listening to Katie’s press-release soundbites on every single topic.

Finally, he said that about 122,000 people will probably run for president in 2008 because it’s the most wide-open election since the 1920s. True. Besides Hilary Clinton, name one Democrat that you think has any kind of shot at the nomination next year. And besides John McCain, who doesn’t actually have a shot, name an R. So there you have it.

For all you smut-heads out there who have not the faintest idea what I’m talking about with all this political mumbo jumbo, my apologies. I’ll return to my regular schedule of entertainment babble with my next entry.

Press Tour, Day Four: Life Isn't Fair

My hobnobbing Monday night was limited to PR guys/friends, one Warner Bros. executive and an old friend from the Washington Post. Oh and sushi. The best part was the whole conversation devolved into what it always devolves into: What is the deal with Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’ baby? Someone here suggested they’ve failed to find one that looks enough like either of them. So I wasn’t such the social butterfly last night. Tonight I’m going to a friend’s for dinner so again no famous people on the docket.

Anyhoo, today’s been a little news free, but I did watch what I consider the best pilot I’ve seen so far: Ugly Betty. The show is an adaptation of Betty La Fea, which Salma Hayek and Ben Silverman purchased and turned into a series. It stars America Herrerra, who also starred in Real Women Have Curves, and America turns in what I’ve heard people call a courageous performance. I’m not sure what that means, but she does a great job – you relate to her and root for her and feel like the Ugly Betty title is a little unfair. (Salma, who is very ugly by the way – not, assured us that the title is meant to be sarcastic.)

The show, at least the pilot, is a great deal like The Devil Wears Prada, including some very similar plot lines. But while Anne Hathaway starts out a little bit preppy but still pretty, Betty’s got a lot further to go, including braces, horrendous eyebrows, terrible glasses and fashion choices that will shock even the most fashion-challenged. And Ugly Betty lets its characters go way over the top, unlike Meryl Streep’s understated performance in Prada. Vanessa Williams’ assistant is this stereotypical over-the-top gay man, but he’s pretty hilarious.

(Question from the audience to Vanessa Williams, who plays the show’s villainess: “Who would win in a total bitch fight – you or Meryl? Vanessa’s response, flexing her biceps: “Me, have you seen these guns?” Later, executive producer Ben Silverman confirmed that they were looking for the “fiercest bitch they could find,” and Vanessa fit the bill. She looks good but a little worked over, I have to say.)

Per usual, some of these critics are asking some shockingly ridiculous questions. One asked Vanessa: “Since you are pretty much the complete opposite of Betty, being so beautiful and all, do you find anything in her at all to relate to?” Vanessa’s response, after being visibly offended: “I’m 43, and you know as well as anyone that I’ve had some things happen to me.” Such as the discovery of nudie pics that robbed her of her Miss USA or America or whatever crown and the break-up of her marriage to LA Laker Rick Fox.

Here’s another awesome question: “Last year, you missed the South Beach panel due to a supposed death in the family. Was that just UPN’s excuse since they had already pulled the plug on the show?”

Vanessa: “Thank you for mentioning my father.”

So if you thought you had to be particularly smart or sensitive to be a TV critic, think no further. Many of them certainly aren’t doing too much thinking.

A surprise to me was the Help Me Help You panel, which stars Ted Danson as a group therapist whose own life isn’t running all that smoothly. The cast was generally cracking themselves – and us – up. I watched half the pilot during a break and I was laughing out loud. In one scene, the Asian girl with no social skills tells the man she met on J-Date that she dates Jewish men because she’s not threatened by them because she’s not attracted to them. Unfortunately, the pilot slows down in the second half, so we’ll see how the show goes.

My ABC day wrapped up with a panel on Daybreak, featuring Taye Diggs as a detective who must relive the worst day of his life – in Groundhog Day fashion – until he figures out who is trying to frame him. The show will take Lost’s place as it goes on hiatus from late November to early February. As a colleague of mine said, “I would pretty much watch him eat a bowl of cereal.” I agree, but this show looks like an endless drag. I myself don’t want to live the same day over and over again, why would I want to watch 13 episodes of it? Still, Taye assures us the show's not tediously boring: “I’m Taye Diggs,” he said, “why would I sign on for that?”

I could say, well, Kevin Hill, but that show started out good and went downhill. And in Taye’s case, the arrogance is warranted.

On a final note, I was saying to the same aforementioned colleague how unfair it is that people like Taye, Salma Hayek, Vanessa Williams and Sofia Vergara (she’s on Knights of Prosperity and she’s like the hottest person in the world. I’m not kidding. Check her out at so you can agree with me) are not only ridiculously, unworldly gorgeous, but they are also funny and smart and ambitious and talented. Taye (and Vanessa) can sing, for God’s sake. Salma executive produced an Oscar-nominated film (and she’s funny). Sofia is hilarious and has her own clothing line. I just think that God-given gifts should be more evenly distributed.

But as my colleague pointed out: “Life’s not fair.” And he’s right. Sigh.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Rob and Amber just keep on coming

Seriously, how do these people keep getting TV shows? Besides their own "Newlyweds" type show, god forbid, Rob just a gig hosting some sci-fi mystery show on Sci Fi. If they get to have two shows on TV, really everyone should have their own show. But I think there's a reason why people live in houses and don't broadcast every part of their lives -- there's some things that no one needs to share.

From Variety:

"News Corp. cable network Fox Reality is ramping up production on originals, greenlighting its first docudrama series -- "The Rob and Amber Project."

Channel has ordered up 10 half-hours, which will follow married reality TV stars Rob and Amber Mariano, former participants on both "Survivor" and "The Amazing Race."

Linda Ellman and Rob George are exec producers.

After having been wed on CBS in 2005, the Marianos are looking to grow their reality show winnings. Specifically Rob wants to take up professional poker. Fox Reality series would follow the couple's move to Las Vegas and Rob's attempts to break into professional gambling, while Amber does her best to be supportive in the risky venture.

Fox Reality general manager David Lyle said "Rob and Amber" has several things working for it that would appeal to the channel's reality-crazed audience.

"We've grown up with Rob and Amber. We've seen their first kiss on 'Survivor' and watched their wedding. They're likeable and competitive," Lyle said. "What Rob's trying to do now, it's probably every guy's dream and every girl's nightmare."

Production is under way for a January premiere.

Elsewhere on the original front, Fox Reality has set for December "My Bare Lady," a competish in which U.S. porn stars travel to London and attempt to start acting careers on the West End stage. Lyle said a decision on a second season of gameshow "Solitary" will come next week. Series' season finale airs Monday."

Monday, July 17, 2006

Press tour, Day Three: Bloggity Blog Blog

Ok, I was just reading the blog of TV Guide’s Michael Ausiello (, and while I find him funny, at least I am not journaling my pee breaks. I initially wrote “and lunch menus,” but then I realized that yesterday I talked about breakfast, lunch and dinner, so let’s let go of the notion that I am not obsessed with food because I most certainly am.

That said, Rachael Ray’s mini-burgers at lunch yesterday were not that great, not to mention that they were hard to acquire what with the line and the constant running out of food. As I previously mentioned, however, the chocolate macadamia tarts were outstanding. I also stopped by Trader Joe’s (my FAVORITE) and picked up some interesting snacks, including soy and flax seed tortilla chips, naam yogurt and dill chips and chili-spiced dried mango. How much do I love TJ’s? Let me count the ways. I so wish they were in Boulder. If TJ’s would just come to the Front Range, then it would be the absolutely perfect place. I heard they were supposed to come to 29th Street, but Wild Oats won out with the proposal to build a 35,000 square foot massive store. As all those who know me know, I LOVE grocery stores (we’re still on food) so it’s all good by me.

Anyhoo, these sessions in the ballroom are hilarious because now we have Wi-Fi and its like the best thing ever. Everyone is furiously typing through every session, blogging, emailing, taking notes. Anything but listening as far as I can tell. It's great though, because I can sit in session after session and check email and be in touch with the outside world instead of sitting here fretting about what I’m missing during the boring bits. And those are many.

Today was The CW, which is the squnched-together child (note the made-up words, I can do that because I’m blogging) of The WB and UPN. It basically feels like The WB with a lot of CBS people hanging around. So mostly it was a lot of blah blah blah except for the two following things.

First, apparently the new showrunner of the Gilmore Girls, David Rosenthal, was an obsessed stalker of Heidi Klum in a former life. Check out the details here:

So when this very odd reporter from The National Post asked, essentially: “So, what was the deal with that whole Heidi Klum thing,” the response was extremely curt, as you can imagine. “Um, I’m not here to talk about my personal life,” Rosenthal said. Added Lauren Graham, who plays Lorelai Gilmore on the show, “We’re not talking about that. Next question.” It added quite a hostile touch to the panel, which was already a little bit rocky because the show’s creators and executive producers, Amy Sherman Palladino and Dan Palladino failed to negotiate a multi-year deal with Warner Bros. that they could live with and exited the show this spring. I don’t know how many of you watch it, but Gilmore Girls is a show with a very definite patter, and I expect the Palladinos’ departure will affect the show much like Aaron Sorkin’s departure affected The West Wing. In my opinion, these shows become something else when their original creator exits the building. Graham and Alexis Bledel, who plays her daughter Rory, were confident that the show would fare well under the new stalker leadership, but the critics weren’t so sure.

What’s more, while refusing to say anything bad about the Palladinos, Graham was pretty clear that the old regime was a bit of a dictatorship and that she’s liking the openness of the new regime. That is, until she starts being stalked. Just in case you were wondering, by the way, both Graham and Bledel are more gorgeous in person than on TV, if that’s even possible.

Chris Rock and Jada Pinkett-Smith provided the star power on a panel about The CW’s Sunday night African-American comedies, but the real stand-out, in my humble opinion, was Ali LeRoi, the real executive producer and showrunner of Everybody Hates Chris. When asked how Sunday Night Football was going to affect viewership of his show, he said: “I recommend that people stop watching football because it promotes gratuitous violence in our society. Instead, you should sit down with yhour family and watch family programs, which will promote a better, stronger nation.”

Later, the critics couldn’t stop asking about diversity on primetime TV and the lack thereof, especially the inability of the broadcast networks to successfully launch a black drama. After the panel brushed the question off many times, LeRoi finally laid it on the line: “At the end of the day, dude, you got to sell some soap. If you don’t sell some soap, the executives don’t care about you. Black drama, schmack drama. If you don’t want to deal with network executives, go write a book.”

But I don’t want to suggest that Rock wasn’t funny too. His response to this question, which was posed in the session for the last time by an earnest black reporter: “Do you ever think your life is going to be as good as white people? Give that one up already.”

Rock and LeRoi ended up giving shout-outs to Lost’s J.J. Abrams and Grey’s Anatomy’s Shonda Rhimes, both of whom populate their casts with people of all colors: “Shows like Grey’s are the model, HBO’s The Wire is the model. J.J. Abrams has done a fantastic job of involving different people in his show,” Le Roi said. “Except for Oz, that’s a black drama. Don’t cast a white guy on Oz.”

For those of you who have no clue what he’s talking about here, Oz was this violent prison drama on HBO in which lots of murderers tried to live and love together in a federal prison. Needless to say, there were lots of bad breakups between the inmates, which often ended in stabbing and other violent deaths.

Tonight is The CW party, which involves hobnobbing with lots of these people. I’m not sure how much I care, although I will say Donnie Wahlberg was incredibly smart and articulate on his panel this morning about new show, Runaway. So maybe I will deign to put down my drink for a minute and talk to him. Oh wait, what’s that you say, I am in Pasadena to talk to actors, not stand to the side drinking and making fun of them? Hmmmm.

Off the subject, while I spent the entire day ensconced in this air-conditioned hotel ballroom, apparently the President said “shit” on television today. That’s excellent. I wonder if FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, a Bush appointee, will fine him for indecency.

Press Tour, Day Two: It's Hot Here in LA

Day two started with an omelet buffet and CBS bragging about a promotion in which they inscribe advertising messages on eggs.

Yes, that’s what I said. Soon, you will be advertised to while making your morning scrambled eggs, if you are actually able to read at that hour. Learn more at:

We then listened to Katie Couric say absolutely nothing for an hour, after the omelet-making set off the fire alarms and made everything start a bit late. I think it’s ironic that journalist Couric gave some of the most vague and non-insightful answers I’ve ever heard. If she was on the other side of those answers, like most of the journalists here have been, she would have thrown her mike at her subject. That makes me wonder how much of a “journalist” Katie is, and how much she’s just a pretty, relatable face that successfully reads the news (all the time – on TV, radio, Internet – anywhere you are, she can be, in a sort of scary Big-Brotherish media development). She really did look great though.

The rest of the day was mostly famous-person free. I missed the Rachel Ray panel because I was filing, but I did eat some of her food for lunch, and it was mostly nothing great, although the chocolate macademia tarts were spectacular. The rest of the day comprised a panel on digital initiatives (yawn) and one on CSI, on which I bailed.

Sunday night I departed the world of TV, and returned to earth, having dinner in Santa Monica with my cousin and my visiting aunt. Margaritas and ocean views for everyone! We went to Gilbert’s El Indio on W. Pico ( and of course my cousin Birkleigh knew the manager. She’s such a funny girl.

TV Critics Press Tour in Pasadena, Day One: The Odyssey Begins

TV Critics Press Tour in Pasadena, Day One

Arrived in LA today. All went well – got to the airport at the exact right time, walked right on to the plane, landed early, my giant bag was first off the carousel, walked right on to the rental car shuttle. I was rocking and expecting to start my ten-day TV odyssey early and relaxed.

Alas, this was not to be. I exited the rental car shuttle to find a line of epic proportions awaiting me. It took TWO HOURS to get my car at Budget (extremely hostile letter to the corporation to follow), with the line winding around the corner and extending on into infinity. I read half of The Red Tent during this wait, which was actually sort of pleasant. I’m rereading it again for Book Club and it’s just as good the second time around. Thank god I had a book or I would have gone postal like the ANNOYING jappy girl behind me, who never got off the phone or stopped talking about how horrible it was that she had to wait more than 30 seconds for the entire hour-and-a-half she and her boyfriend stood behind me. Finally, mercifully, someone came by in a Mercedes and whisked them away, never to annoy me again.

When I got up to the counter at Budget, one of the CSRs kept making irritating announcements, like “don’t take our your frustrations on us, it’s a company problem,” and I was like, “who the hell else do you expect us to complain to?” Hence, hostile letter to follow.

Once I finally got my zippy little red car with radio controls on the steering wheel, I took Sepulveda to the 105 to the 110 (because we like to talk like that about highways in LA) to the Ritz Carlton in Pasadena, which is a very lovely place and convinces you that you should definitely live in Southern California, even after the drive there convinces you that you never even visit the place, unless there’s some way to never drive anywhere ever. All roads lead to a traffic jam in LA. But Pasadena is sort of a different story – clean, lovely, wealthy, flowered – it’s really quite appealing.

I did make it to the Ritz in time to attend my first panel session, which was on the hour-long heist drama Smith, starring Ray Liotta. I had just watched the pilot last Thursday night, and found it slow, and at least one executive-type person at CBS agreed with me. The pilot, about a group of thieves that conduct the most violent heists network TV has ever seen, should have been fast and snappy. Instead, it was slow, plodding and humorless. And also hugely expensive, as all involved admit. The pilot runs 60 full minutes, and CBS plans to either premiere it 90 minutes or commercial-free (I expect 90 minutes), and the cast is about as high end as it gets, with Liotta, Sideways and Prairie Home Companion’s Virginia Madsen, House of Sand and Fog and 24’s Shohreh Aghdashloo, The Devil Wears Prada and The Guardian’s Simon Baker and Amy Smart, who is much, much smaller in person that she seems on TV. She’s looked tall in everything I’ve seen her in, but she’s possibly shorter than I am. There’s a lot of actors who when I see them I wonder how they broke in to the business. For example, How I Met Your Mother and Buffy’s Alyson Hannigan was in attendance and she’s just a tiny little average looking thing, but she gets a fair amount of attention wherever she goes.

Anyway, I digress, which I’m sure I’ll be doing a lot of. All the suits at CBS and Warner Bros. are thrilled to death regarding Smith, but when we watched it at a sparsely attended pilot night/aka Paige’s personal TV focus group, we were all more like bored to death. Those 60 minutes wore on, let me tell you. And when things are blowing up and paintings are getting stolen, being bored is the kiss of death in my book.

I missed the panels on Shark, starring James Woods, who showed up at CBS’s party at the Rose Bowl with his girlfriend, who appears to be about 40 years younger than he is and I do not exaggerate, and on Jericho and The Class. Which is too bad because I actually watched all those pilots.

Shark was better than I thought it would be, although someone asked me at the Rose Bowl how much coke I thought Woods was doing, and I have to say a fair amount. My more reasonable comment when I watched it is that movie actors are often too big for TV, and I think that’s really true with Woods. He comes off as manic in certain scenes of this show (and apparently during the panel as well). His 16-year-old daughter in the show, played by a gorgeous up-and-coming 21-year-old actress named Danielle Panabaker, looks older than his current blondie girlfriend. This is why I love Hollywood! But only to visit.

A lot of people said they liked Jericho, starring Skeet Ulrich and Gerald McRaney. Skeet looks AWFUL by the way – he’s already dried up and wrinkly and he has the weirdest vibe -- we chatted very briefly about the Budweiser we were drinking at the Rose Bowl bar. Anyway, my friends were all reading magazines during the Jericho pilot, which will have a separate plot running online as well, a la Lost, which is sort of interesting.

Finally, I personally hated The Class, CBS’s only comedy, finding the script silly and contrived and not funny.

In a non-glamour note, I’m staying at the Travelodge in Pasadena and it’s so white trash. It’s also cheap as dirt, which explains things, but it’s clean and cool and a place to shower and sleep so it’s all good. Would I rather be at the Ritz? Hell yes, but for the price the Travelodge is fine. And it has a fridge so I can store all the chocolate goodies the networks foist on us. Maybe I’ll put some fruit in there too in an attempt to be healthy.

For people who like this sort of thing, here’s the “famous” people I saw yesterday, besides the aforementioned ones: Numbers Rob Morrow, Cold Case’s Danny Pino (so cute), Charlie Sheen without new girlfriend (who went to highschool with a friend of mine) or visible restraining order, Jennifer Love Hewitt and her very average looking boyfriend, Rent, Prada and Cold Case’s Traci Thoms (who also is tiny and young, and she looks larger and older and more imposing on screen), CSI: New York’s Gary Sinise (also a slight man), The Unit and 24’s Dennis Haysbert, Scrubs and The Unit’s Scott Foley (and his non Jennifer Garner girlfriend, who was in NBC’s Heist) and CBS Chairman Leslie Moonves and his beautiful wife Julie Chen (also host of The Early Show and Big Brother). There also were a lot of minor stars wandering around, but a lot of them I didn’t really know. Like the cast of How I Met Your Mother – I’ve got no clue who those people are.

Oh, and I chatted with David Krumholtz, who stars with Rob Morrow on Numbers and plays Mr. Universe in Serenity, which is the movie I saw the night before I left for LA. It was funny to see him in a movie one minute and then in front of me the next. He is SHORT. (And so is Rob Morrow.)