TV critics' press tour is a crazy place. It's two weeks of 10-a-days, every day, with Q&A panels every half-hour, stars upon stars, writers, directors, execs, dogs, snakes.
And those last two aren't even the human kind.
It's like one giant cram session, absorbing info about the fall season, as 100-plus TV critics do every summer. We gather at a Hollywood-area hotel for another biannual endurance run (there's a January tour, too) through the gauntlet of producers, publicists and other eager show-sellers.
One minute, you're talking to people from The Weather Channel about hurricanes. The next, it's ESPN presenting "Bayonne bleeder" Chuck Wepner, the Rocky inspiration who in the '70s fought both Muhammad Ali and Andre the Giant. Walk down the hall, and it's Hallmark Channel in the ballroom, talking Christmas, royal weddings and hero dog awards.
Grab a box lunch, run up to the hotel room to check email, and head back down to ballroom level to meet Survivor pro "Boston Rob" Mariano and good ol' boy monster-trucker Dennis "Gravedigger" Anderson. And Vietnam war survivors. And Roseanne!
Get up the next day, and do it all again.
And somewhere in there, find time to write about it for paying publications, blogs, tweets and this very website. Luckily, the newsy nuggets just keep on comin' -- especially during the three cable days that kick off this tour's craziness. Here's a quick rundown on some of the first day's facts and fun.
(And we haven't even been to the Playboy Mansion yet!)
They've got 40 million mobile users! Which is probably why the Weather execs here weren't promoting TV forecasts (who needs those anymore?), instead hyping the Nov. 9 arrival of Coast Guard Alaska, an Al Roker-produced reality ridealong with the kind of rescue guys seen helping dunked deckhands on Deadliest Catch.
If you loved those insanely fascinating "30 for 30" documentaries made for the sports channel's 30th anniversary, be happy to hear there's more on the way. Starting Sept. 27 under the ESPN Films banner, they'll be premiering a fall-ful of freshly enlightening, intimate tales that expand far beyond gameday action.
Catching Hell kicks things off by profiling the villification of Steve Bartman, the Cubs fan who leaned over a Wrigley Field wall to catch a fly ball that many felt stole the big mo' and turned the 2003 playoffs into yet another Cubbie heartbreak.
After that, the focus turns to transgendered tennis player Renee Reynolds (Oct. 4), sports agents (Oct. 11), a basketball phenom turned druggie turned sober dad (Oct. 18), and boxing's "real Rocky," Chuck Wepner (Oct. 25), among others. Great stuff.
Do we really need another royal wedding movie? Maybe, if it features Victor Garber and Jean Smart as Prince Charles and wife Camilla. Sounds weird, but just might work, based on the quick preview clips shown to critics in a Wednesday session for Aug. 27's WIlliam & Kate: A Royal Romance. Both stars agreed the goal was "to humanize" these often derided royal parents.
The home of touchy-feely family films claims more TV moviemaking than any other channel, and it's no contest when it comes to Christmas. They're planning five more for the coming holiday season, along with two animated specials.
Before that, though, comes Nov 11's new Hero Dog Awards show. A descendant of silent movie canine hero Rin Tin Tin sat on the press tour stage to promote the event, where online voters choose top dogs who work in the military, guide service, law enforcement and more, with a special nod toward the canines of 9/11.
Survivor dude and monster trucker! Together, on rickshaws and zip lines! And it's even got lots to do with history, unlike some of the shows on History. (Yes, Ice Road Truckers, we mean you.) Around the World in 80 Ways pairs "Boston Rob" Mariano and Dennis Anderson of the big-wheeler Gravedigger, as they head ever east around the globe, employing a full 80 modes of travel.
"They're forms of transportation throughout history that's indigenous" to whatever area they're passing through, Mariano said. And producer Philip Segal added, "They celebrate the advances in travel." But this fall series comes from the production company of Thom Beers, the mastermind behind Ice Road and Deadliest Catch. So you know there's plenty of personal drama to be found in telling the tale.
Personal was definitely the mood around the panel for History's fall documentary Vietnam in HD, with an Army veteran and a war correspondent tearing up when discussing both battlefield memories and which war movies they like and loathe (Hamburger Hill among the former, Platoon among the latter).
And then there's Roseanne, who made a surprise appearance at Wednesday's session, which actually didn't have a panel planned for her unscripted series Roseanne's Nuts, about her new life as a Hawaii mac nut rancher. (Not kidding there.) She just walked onto the stage during an executive's intro remarks and talked for a couple minutes.
"They just told me to come out here and, like, interrupt you," she interrupted, with her new gray-haired maxi-dress earth-mama look. "It was my intention to do a little bit of a blend between reality and reality television," she continued, which had the advantage of being obviously true, if you've seen her tongue-in-cheek series, and obviously true, if you've seen much "reality" TV at all.
Her Hawaiian life as seen on Lifetime isn't all that riveting, but Roseanne's Nuts is indeed at its most interesting when they turn the cameras around and show the cameras themselves.
Almost makes me wanna watch it again.