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More TVWW Questions, More TCA Press Tour Answers
August 5, 2013  | By Ed Bark

BEVERLY HILLS, CA -- The annual Television Critics Association summer "press tour" is finally nearing closure, with only PBS left standing among all the show-and-tell networks.

Before winging it back home, here's a second installment of material directly generated by TV Worth Watching's questions. They were posed during an assembly line of group interview sessions held in the same sprawling hotel ballroom that accommodates the Golden Globe awards. Thanks, you've been a great audience. And here we go:

CBS Corporation president/CEO Leslie Moonves pinch-hit for entertainment head Nina Tassler when she left town to attend the funeral of a close friend. Moonves is no slouch, and genuinely enjoys parrying and thrusting with TV writers. It gets interesting and just a bit combative when he's asked to compare and contrast NBC's treatment of late-night ratings king Jay Leno with CBS's continued support of the now 66-year-old David Letterman. Leno, three years younger than Letterman, has dominated him for years in the battle for the biggest late-night audiences. But after February's Winter Olympics telecasts, NBC again will be ending Leno's tenure as Tonight Show host, this time in favor of Jimmy Fallon.
"I heard a rumor that they were going to put him at 10 p.m. (ET)," Moonves jokes, referring to NBC's disastrous ploy the last time around. "I think that would be a really good idea. What do you think?"
"Don't discount that," TVWW replies. But seriously, why is Letterman seemingly bullet-proof in comparison?
"Look, I consider David Letterman the best guy in late night," Moonves says. "I think Leno is great, I think (Jimmy) Kimmel is great, I think Fallon is great. We love having David Letterman. He's the dean. He's the best there is. Other than Johnny Carson, he's probably the best there ever was. We like the stability. We like the relationship we have with Dave. He's our guy, and despite what people think, we don't like drama at 11:30 (ET).
Yes, but "you don't tolerate failure in prime time," Moonves is told.
"I don't consider David Letterman a failure in any way, shape or form," he retorts. "Dave is still making money for us. He still does the best show and we're very happy to have him."
Veteran executive producer David E. Kelley (Ally McBeal, Boston Legal) is a prolific writer who is used to having his actors and actresses follow the script. But in CBS's new fall comedy series The Crazy Ones, he has a guy who's just as likely to fend for himself. Namely, Robin Williams as the rather addled head of an ad agency. So how much is Williams "looking at what you wrote and then doing what he wants or 'improv'-ing a lot?"
"He says my words perfectly," Kelley answers. "Then he uses his. He manages well 'inside the box.'  Then he gets the box down and we give him a few takes where he gets to break out of it . . . So what you have in the end is the architecture of the script, but you've got ad libs and spontaneity and the joy of those moments on top of it."
Williams interjects to say, "The bottom line is he (Kelley) writes great stuff. It's a great base and i've got great people to play off. It's like heaven."
Kelley says that once Williams had agreed to star, "I knew I'd be a fool to try and lasso him inside my script. It was daunting because it feels like I'd been handed the keys to a car that I was ill-equipped to drive."
But the series' co-executive producer and director, Jason Winer, "comes from the world of improv," Kelley notes. "So the first thing I did was try and lasso him on top of Robin and say, 'Would you help me?'  Jason was kind enough to do that. At which point, I quickly gave him the keys and said, 'OK, you drive.' "
Um, whatever works.
"We live in fertile vampire times," executive producer Julie Plec of The CW's new The Originals is told. It's a spinoff of the network's The Vampire Diaries in times when there's no shortage of blood-sucking, neck-biting big- and small-screen dramas. "Do you feel like there's a saturation point?"
"If I may say, that was the best way of stating the 'Dammit, why so many vampires?' question," Plec says. "When we did The Vampire Diaries, I got that exact same question because of Twilight and True Blood. Aren't you afraid of being the tipping point? And we were like, 'Yes, we're so afraid because it's going to happen. We're going to be the thing that kills it forever.'
"Not only did it not kill it forever, but it thrived. And it even reinvigorated the genre and opened the doors to a lot of other shows that have been able to have a lot of success. So it's the same answer. Yep, this could be the thing that makes people say, 'No more vampires, darn you.' Or it could just continue to breathe that powerful life in a genre that's been around in literature, film and television for 100 years."
Sticking with the supernatural genre, the producers of Fox's new Sleepy Hollow begin and end the pilot episode with The Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil." And it's the original Mick Jagger vocal, not a sound-alike. But in most cases, it's deemed too expensive to keep such music in the finished on-air product. Except, as it turns out, in this case.
"We have no money for the other episodes now," says co-executive producer Len Wiseman. "But no, we were very lucky and we've been supported, too, by the studio [20th Century Fox]. So we've got that song and it's him (Jagger)."
"I balance it out by being very cheap," adds series lead Tom Mison, who plays Ichabod Crane as a wisecracking action hero.
Those who thought the primary mission of NBC's The Voice is to create big new music stars are mis-informed according to judges Adam Levine and Christina Aguilera, and host Carson Daly. At least that's what TVWW is told at length after asking, "The ratings have stayed strong, but the overall goal is to find a new star. Do you feel the show has fallen a bit short there?"
"The fact that it hasn't happened yet doesn't seem like a shortcoming of the show," Levine contends. "It just seems like something that hasn't happened yet (in four editions). I would love that. We would all love that. But what we're doing is we're trying to prepare all these guys. And by the way, there's been a lot of success, depending on how you define the term 'success.' "
Daly then chips in. "It's not the end goal," he says. "We're in a day and age that's much different than 10 years ago, trying to have a breakout star. You've got four of the biggest names in music (Levine, Aguilera, CeeLo Green, Blake Shelton) that are offering an experience. Danielle Bradbury won last year. Danielle Bradbury is 16 years old. If we're going to break an artist, we'd rather break a career artist. And that's not going to happen overnight. She has eight years to figure it out -- her voice, an album, whatever it might be. And in eight years she'll be the same age as Taylor Swift is right now. She's got time."
"Well, she's already been on iTunes," judge Aguilera notes. Then Levine puts himself back in play.
"We totally understand why (not turning out a bonafide music star) would seem to have been a failure on the show's part," he says. "I get how you could draw that conclusion. But we're grooming these people to become successful in any way that they can in the music industry. That's what we do. So I guess the answer to the question is -- I don't even know what the hell the question was, to be honest."
OK then, back to you, Christina.
"Sometimes it's not like everything needs to be like boom, boom, boom, then the record deal, then the No. 1 success," she says. "It doesn't happen like that. It didn't happen that way for me either."
Aguilera is referring to her short stint on a latter-day version of The Mickey Mouse Club, whose alumni also include Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and Ryan Gosling.
"Right after the show, did we rocket to success?" she asks. "No," she answers. "It takes time. You absorb like a sponge in this business every single opportunity. And it's up to you to sort of use that opportunity and take it to the next level."
Levine wants a last crack: "By the way, if you're not in the negative in this business, you're succeeding," he says. "I remember when all I wanted to do was pay the rent. And you realize that if you're playing music and you're getting paid enough money to live your life, you're winning. So there's this over-blown, over-magnified idea of what success is. Especially in our business."
Jeff Garlin stars as a loud-mouthed dad in ABC's The Goldbergs after playing Larry David's oft-vexed manager in eight seasons worth of HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm. In the pilot episode for the new 1980s-set series, he spends a good part of the time yelling or singing at the top of his lungs. "Can you hold out for an entire 22-episode season at that decibel level?" he's asked. Let the give-and-take begin.
"In the pilot, I do get a couple of quiet moments and stuff," Garlin says. "Did you ever watch Seinfeld? Very funny. Yelling is good. Yelling is funny. When it becomes annoying I'll stop and I'l be the first to notice. Until then I'm going to yell. You look so disappointed at my answer. I'm just looking at you and you're like 'OK, all right. If that's the way you want to answer it, I'll go with that. We've been here all day. I don't like any of these shows.' "
"Would you just yell at me for about 20 seconds?" Garlin is asked.
"By the way," he replies, "when I walk with Susie Essman (his wife on Curb) down the street, people stop us and ask, 'Will you yell at me?' It happens all the time. I don't have it that bad."
"You seem hoarse already," he's told.
Garlin agrees. "I actually hurt my throat years ago doing WALL E when I was the captain. I worked three years on that and I blew out my vocal cords. I've been suffering ever since. so I have to be careful when we're working . . . But I'm good. Is that better for you? I don't know. The look of disappointment is unsettling."
Later in the session, TVWW asks Garlin whether he's "figured out Larry David yet" and if he thinks another season of Curb is in the cards. In an earlier interview, David had said he's still undecided but "ask me in six months."
"I'm not trying to figure out Larry David," he says. "I'm just appreciating Larry David at all times. And I think there's a decent chance we'll do more. I don't even ask him. I'll just get a call, 'Hey, do you want to do more?' And then that will be it. So I embrace him. I don't try and figure him out."
"Thank you. I'm happy with that answer," Garlin is informed.
He laughs agreeably, and all seems quite well with the world.

Read more by Ed Bark at unclebarky.com

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