Rob Salem at fall preview
Sunday, July 9
12:15 p.m. Welcome to the annual “TV Critic’s Fall Preview,” where the American networks and cable companies pull out all the stops to try to drum up some enthusiasm for their new season product from an increasingly haggard assemblage of major-market print press.
Or, as one wag famously dubbed it, “the Bataan Death March with cocktails.”
Not that I’m complaining (well, not yet anyway). There are worse ways to spend your mid-summer than three weeks in a luxury hotel with gala, star-studded parties every night. If it weren’t for the round-the-clock press conferences, interviews and screenings, and having to file copy pretty much every day (twice, now that I’m also “blogging”), this would make one helluva vacation.
The “TCA tour,” as it also known (for it is hosted, not by the studios and networks, but by the 200-plus members of the Television Critics Association), has returned this year to the Ritz Carlton Huntington resort in immaculately scenic Pasadena, California, where it was housed several years in a row before the membership started shopping around for alternate accommodations.
None of which really measured up to the elegant and opulent Ritz – though the retro glamour of last year’s site, the Beverly Hilton, did provide a welcome change, and a convenient proximity to L.A. restaurants and shopping (the cab trip in from Pasadena runs a good $60 bucks each way).
On the other hand, there’s not a lot of time to get “off campus” for that sort of thing anyway.
In fact, today’s pretty much my only day off – the press sessions don’t really get going till tomorrow, when we start in on an eclectic week of cable programming (Shannen Doherty! Mr. T!), before moving on to the networks, and PBS, and of course our annual TCA awards ceremony. All of which I will duly report on in the daily paper and, more intimately, here.
I arrived last night, passed out in the middle of unpacking, and started writing, jet-lagged, at about 6 o’clock (local time) this morning, the second I got my laptop plugged into the hotel high-speed.
The second I send this (and tomorrow’s column) off, I’ll get busy checking in with all my L.A. buddies.
My old high-school chum, Maurice LaMarche, has some good news. The go-to voice guy in L.A. animation (Pinky and the Brain, Harvey Birdman, The Critic, etc.), he and his cast-mates have just signed their contracts for the return of the cancelled Futurama.
Another cartoon star of my long acquaintance, Bill Fagerbakke, is the voice of Spongebob’s Patrick Starfish, best known in live-action as dumb guy Dauber from the sitcom Coach (the first season of which has just come out on DVD). His wife, Toronto actress Catherine McLenahan, tells me he has just opened here at the Geffen Theatre in the new Sam Sheppard play, The God of Hell. Gonna have to take a night off to catch that.
Also performing in town this month, my pals The Wet Spots, a deliciously lascivious musical lounge act I wrote a cover story about in What’s On last New Year’s. Yippee – another excuse for a night off-campus.
Other L.A. friends will show up here at the tour at some point. Leslie Hope has been busy back in Toronto, shooting her new CW show, Runaway, with Donnie Wahlberg. But they’ll both be here to help launch the show (one of only two new offerings on the melded network’s new lineup) in a few weeks.
I gather Tom Cavanagh also has a new show, which he richly deserves after having the very promising Love Monkey yanked out from under him so abruptly last season. Nothing on the schedule yet though.
I know that I will hook up with Ike Barenholtz, and his posse from Mad TV, as usual at the Fox network party, and probably continue on into the night on some debauched Entourage-like night on the L.A. comedy scene.
Eric McCormack, I know, is busy on stage in New York, returning to his theatrical roots after his stellar run on Will & Grace.
Biggest regret: Lucy Lawless, my TCA Awards date now two years running, is busy in Vancouver, repeatedly killing off her reincarnating character on the third season of the fabulous Battlestar Galactica.
How the hell am I ever going to be able to top having Xena, Warrior Princess on my arm at this year’s awards ceremony (I wonder if Jolene Blalock is busy?)