Monday, July 17, 2006

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.)

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