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Quirks and Quarks: Odds and Bits and Assorted Potpourri from the Midway Point Of the Television Critics Association Press Tour
August 3, 2017  | By Alex Strachan

As you are probably well-aware by now, the Television Critics Association (TCA) Press Tour is just past the midway point in Beverly Hills, CA.

So this seems as good a time as any to cast a quick eye over some of the panels from the past ten days we weren’t able to cover in as much depth as we would’ve liked. Some of this is funny, some not so funny. Either way, it’s, well —  enlightening.


A Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM) session featuring late-night comedy writers was labeled "Has Politics Made Late-Night Great Again," but Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, The President Show and The Jim Jeffries Show writers admitted the contemporary state of politics in Washington, D.C. is not much fun anymore, despite the seemingly endless supply of material.

Twitter is the new enemy.

"I always look at it and am, like, ‘Oh, I'm going to have a stomachache all day today again," Full Frontal writer-correspondent Ashley Nicole Black (below) said.

"I hate that that's the routine now," Jim Jeffries showrunner Jason Reich concurred. "It's like, wake up, look at the phone, get depressed, every morning."

"When I flew here (to L.A.)," Black said, "I tweeted, ‘So excited to be on a plane for a couple of hours and not find out what's happening.' And people tweeted me back, ‘Wait for it. Wait for it.' And when I got off the plane, it's like, ‘Oh, you fired Reince Priebus while I was on the plane.' You can reliably predict that every time you take a nap or get on a plane, that something's going to happen."

"Hey, don't ever take a nap for us," The President Show head writer Christine Nangle cut in. "Please."

"Yeah, someone was like, ‘Oh, let's see what happens when you fly back,' " Black said. "I'm like, ‘Come on, man.' "

"I just find it exhausting," Reich said. "I mean, it's hard to find it fun with Trump all day, all the time."

"I don't want this job," Nangle said.

"If Hillary Clinton was president, we'd just get in there on pantsuits and policies," Black said. "I would give anything."

"Because our audience is so young," Daily Show writer Hallie Haglund said, "it's really important for Trevor (Noah) to cover issues at face value. A lot of times he's the sane voice in the room when we're foaming at the mouth to go after Trump, and he says, ‘I don't see what's so crazy in this instance here. Like, what exactly is he doing wrong here?' I think there's a real effort on his part not to pile on for the sake of piling on, but to really look at what's actually happening. There's a sort of lightness to him because he grew up (in South Africa) under apartheid. And he is just, like, ‘You guys, it gets way worse.' "

Nice to know!

"For me," Nangle said, "a lot of the political satire I see is aimed at the person who says, ‘The emperor has no clothes,' the people in this administration who know he has no clothes, but they refuse to stand up and say it.

"Oh, I thought someone was clapping there, but he was just fixing his camera."


Who knows what hidden secrets lurk in the family closet of Larry David (top)?

As anyone who's watched Curb Your Enthusiasm knows, it doesn't take much to get on his nerves, whether it's for comic material or not.  In response to a question from this TVWW scribe, the distance between "real Larry" and "TV Larry" is "this much," holding his thumb and forefinger about a quarter-inch apart. "See how that works?"

Even so, in an HBO session for Curb's ninth season — back Oct. 1 with the first of 10 new episodes — David was not expecting a confrontation with critics over upcoming episode of PBS's venerable biography program Finding Your Roots. David used his participation as inspiration for an episode of Curb in the new season, in which he learns he's a distant relative of a candidate who finished runner-up to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for president — the very same candidate, coincidentally, he parodied throughout the season on Saturday Night Live.

"How much of a shock was that for you?" he was asked.

"Who's saying that?" David replied.

"Me," responded a fellow critic.

"How do you know that?" David followed up, somewhat peeved. "That show hasn't even been on."

"They sent me a screener. I watched it."

"Is that so?"

"Are you actually related to Bernie Sanders?" Jeff Garlin (top) chimed in,

"He's in the line, yeah."

"You're a liar," Garlin said.

"Swear to God."



"What show is that?"

"They told me not to say anything."

There was a peal of laugher from the room.

"I haven't said a word about this," David said.

"What show is this?" Garlin demanded to know.

"You just spilled the beans," David said, to more laughter from the room.

"Finding Your Roots," Susie Essman said.

"Finding Your Roots?" Garlin queried.

"Finding Your Roots," David confirmed.

"You agreed to be on a show called Finding Your Roots?" Garlin said.

"I thought it would be cool to find out all that stuff."

"Your roots?"


"Anything else cool besides Bernie Sanders?" Garlin wanted to know.

"Yeah. I got Nazis in my family."

"You have Nazis?"

David tried to laugh as if it were a lame joke that misfired, but it came out more like a grimace. Not true, he suggested — but. . . .

"There are slaveholders, though."


"In my family."

"Shut up."


"I figured that," J.B. Smoove chimed in, deadpan.

"Yeah," David said.

"That's insane," said Garlin. "I'd never want to be on that show."

When pressed about his reaction, David continued.

"I was very happy about that," David said. "I thought there must have been some connection, you know."

"To Bernie Sanders," Essman added.

"To Bernie Sanders," Garlin repeated. "Not slaveholders."

"Yeah, to Bernie Sanders," David said.

"Just want to clarify for you," Garlin said, helpfully.

"Yeah," David said.

Garlin made air quotes, signifying a tabloid headline: "‘Larry David thrilled to be related to slaveholders,' " he said.

Cue laughter.

"You guys sit here all day, doing this?" Essman said, turning to the room. "J— f—ing C—," she said. "All day."


Ken Burns' (right) The Vietnam War is by-turns harrowing and hypnotic, life-affirming and profoundly disturbing, hard to watch and impossible to forget. It is, in short, his masterpiece — all 18 hours of it, and you will hear a lot more about The Vietnam War when it bows on Sept. 17.

Burns is renowned for his detailed, thoughtful answers to even the simplest of questions — "One thing about Ken Burns is he won't give you a sound bite," one reporter proffered, not unkindly — but there was one moment, the closest he came to commenting on politics in an hour-long press session, when he compared then and now in a way that only Ken Burns could.

"If I came to you and said, ‘This is a story about mass demonstrations all across the country against the current administration, about a White House obsessed with leaks and in disarray because of those leaks, about a president railing against you, the news media, for making up news, that it's about asymmetrical warfare, which even the mighty might of the United States Army can't figure out the correct strategy to take on, and it's about big document drops of classified material that's been hacked, that suddenly is dumped into the public sphere, destabilizing the conventional wisdom about really important topics and accusations that a political campaign reached out to a foreign power at the time of a national election to influence that election — this is the film we started in 2006, and every single one of those points are points about the Vietnam War and have nothing to do with today.

"The answer is that history doesn't repeat itself. We're not condemned to repeat what we don't remember. The answer is that human nature never changes."

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