Monday, January 4, 2016

TCA TIME

I attended over 60 Television Critics Association "Press Tours" over the course of my 35 year career in the biz. In my late lamented blog I shared a few of my favorite moments. I don't miss Press Tour but do miss several of the TV writers who attended. Maybe some of them will call while they are out here and buy me a drink (hint hint)

Oh yeah, there would always be an executive session with the Presidents, Chairmens or whatever fakakta title was in vogue at the moment. They were my bosses. I would always tell them that there are only three answers to any question that a writer will ask. The goal is to come up with a creative variation on the answers. Here are the three answers:

1)Yeah

2)...and your point is?

3)Go fuck yourself

That's it. So to my pals in the press remember that when you ask a question to the big boys and girls at the executive sessions every answer is one of the three. Have fun figuring out which one they give to your question.

Anyway enjoy this blast from the past.

By next weekend we will be knee deep in TCA, one of the most nonsensical and increasingly irrelevant rituals of the television industry. Trust me, I'm saying this from experience having attended over forty of these puppies at two different networks. For those of you who don't know what TCA is it's the Television Critics Association press tour, which occurs twice a year (January and July or August). It's held in or near Los Angeles (it will be in Pasadena next week) and it's an opportunity for the television writers to attend panels on new or popular shows as well as hearing from the top executives at each of the broadcast and cable networks. The goal of the networks is to get out of town with no controversy, and for the writers it's a chance to drink and eat at the network's expense (and walk away with a lot of tchochkies) and to compete for the most idiotic question of each session....the competition is intense. The executive panel at TCA features the President/Chairman of each network and I am convinced there are only three answers to any question during that session and it's all about choosing the appropriate one and then responding in a creative way. I won't say what the three answers are but if you have ever attended a session I'm sure you can figure them out. Anyway with TCA upon us I thought I would share some of my favorite press tour moments over the past 20+ years.
                                                                                                                                  WARREN LITTLEFIELD INTRODUCING JAY LENO AS THE NEW HOST OF THE TONIGHT SHOW Definitely the most insane executive session I ever attended. We were prepping for the session in a small room (I think we were in Century City for this one) and we had no idea how packed the Ballroom was going to be. Warren handled the session with his usual calm and Jay rode in on his cycle. This whole thing inspired a book and an HBO movie                                                                                                                                           BRANDON TARTIKOFF RAPPING WITH WILL SMITH In May of 1989 we screened THE FRESH PRINCE OF BEL AIR which, at the time, seemed like a daring idea...put a rapper in a traditional family sit com. At the summer TCA Will Smith was supposed to come out and introduce Brandon and the two of them were going to rap. They rehearsed during the prep session and it became obvious that Brandon just couldn't do it. It was the most entertaining prep session I ever attended.  
                                                                                                                          JEFF ZUCKER OUTING FOX REALITY PROJECTS In one of the most bush moves in TCA history Zucker, having accused FOX (wrongly by the way) of ripping off a Mark Burnett boxing show-The Contender-exposed several FOX reality projects that were in the works. Given the need for secrecy in many projects, exposing the ideas made it more difficult to cast and execute. Even though FOX could have retaliated and outed several NBC reality shows, we decided to take the high road and…                                                PUT MIKE DARNELL IN FRONT OF THE TCA IN A BOXING ROBE SURROUNDED BY FREAKS FROM SEVERAL OF HIS SHOWS It was one of the more entertaining sessions and Mike put Zucker in his place.

AT THE NBC TCA PARTY, STEVE McPHERSON JUMPIED INTO THE PASADENA RITZ CARLTON POOL FULLY CLOTHED ON A DARE FROM WARREN LITTLEFIELD.

JOHN WELLS TALKING ABOUT ER I will never forget Wells summer session at TCA where he talked about his vision for a medical drama that NBC was putting in the HILL STREET BLUES, LA LAW time period. Wow did that guy understand television. We walked out of there confident that, not only did we have a great pilot, but the right person at the helm.                                                                                                                                                                     THE FIRST AMERICAN IDOL SESSION AT TCA Summer 2002, we were down to the final 10 and they performed at TCA. We knew we had something but (sort of like ER) had no idea that we were witnessing the beginning of the biggest show of the decade....ah the innocence.   
                                                                                                                          THE MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT I CAN RECALL AT A TCA SESSION was when a reporter who will remain nameless asked Jim Burrows (at the Will and Grace session) to describe the difference between directing television and movies. The reporter went on and on to show his familiarity with Jim's movie career. When he was done Jim calmly said "I'm Jim Burrows, you've mistaken me for Jim Brooks".......crickets.
                                                                                                                          THE ONE TCA QUESTION I EVER PLANTED was at Peter Liguori's first executive session as President of FOX. At the NBC session a few days earlier Kevin Reily described his first year as President of NBC as like “getting a high colonic”. I asked a good friend of mine (actually offered the person a dinner on the dare) to ask Liguori"what medical procedure best describes your first few months in the FOX job".....lots of laughs.....Liguori didn't get it. 
                
Hopefully something will happen to make this year's TCA memorable but I won't hold my breath.



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