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Quotes from the TCA Homestretch
July 21, 2014  | By Ed Bark
 


BEVERLY HILLS, CA -- As the latest Television Critics Association "press tour" heads for the homestretch, here's a broad sampling of answers in mass interview sessions generated by questions from TV Worth Watching. They run the gamut from ABC touting its richly diverse fall lineup to a defense of vomiting as a great comedy gag to the NFL restoring a network's "manhood." Here we go:

***

ABC Entertainment President Paul Lee, a Britisher by birth, will be presiding over a fall lineup that passes with flying colors in terms of ethnic diversity. Producer Shonda Rhimes, who is African-American, will be in charge of the network's entire Thursday night lineup with Grey's Anatomy, Scandal and the new How to Get Away with Murder, fronted by Viola Davis.

Other ABC freshmen series include Black-ish (spotlighting a prosperous suburban family and starring Anthony Anderson), Cristela (featuring Cristela Alonzo in the title role) and Selfie (John Cho plays the co-lead as a thinly disguised Professor Henry Higgins). ABC also has a midseason comedy, Fresh off the Boat, about an Asian-American immigrant family in the 1990s. So, all in all, is the network making a conscious "mission statement?"

"It is a mission statement to reflect America," Lee said. "We think that's our job. And, in a way, that's not so much diversity as authenticity if you're reflecting America. We went out of our way to approach some of the best storytellers...When they bring you authentic, relatable stories, you really have no other option than to pick them up. When I watch Fresh Off the Boat or Black-ish or Cristela, I am one of those families."

Answering a same-themed follow-up question from another TV writer, Lee said, "If you look at shows now that seem to lack diversity, they actually feel dated because America doesn't look like that anymore. People want to see what they live, and they want to see voices that reflect the America they know."

***

The first episode of ABC's Selfie includes a scene in which its modern-day Eliza Doolittle vomits into two airline sickness bags, only to have them burst in unison while she's later walking down a passenger aisle. The creator/executive producer of the show, Emily Kapnek, was asked about what's lately become something of a puke-fest on comedy and drama series.

"You want us to cut the vomiting?" she asked in turn. Perhaps not entirely, she's told. But surely the twin vomit bag eruption could hit the cutting room floor lest viewers hit their remotes.

"Look, it's true," Kapnek said. "You have to really like vomit to enjoy that moment. But I do. I like a good vomit gag. Also, it was incredibly cinematic. There was a slow chuck-out, and we also worked very hard on the vomit, getting the right consistency. A day's work was spent."

"There were special buttons on the bag I had to press," added co-star Karen Gillan.

***

Perhaps you've heard. CBS will be televising NFL games on Thursday nights through the early part of the upcoming season as well as retaining its full slate of Sunday afternoon games.

Once upon a time, the network relinquished the NFL because it supposedly couldn't make a profit. But CBS got pro football back in the late 1990s. And at a very lively party on "press tour" that night, CBS head Leslie Moonves crowed that the network had reacquired its "manhood." Remember, Les? And how has the profit picture changed over the years?

"I said that? I don't remember saying exactly that," Moonves said to laughter. "I never had that problem -- getting it back. By the way, I like having it (the NFL) back a lot, but not that much."

"Your manhood or the NFL?" commissioner Roger Goodell wondered.

"Anyway, yes, it was a very significant event for CBS," Moonves conceded. He recalled going to St. Patrick's Cathedral and "literally lit candles to get the NFL back. And fortunately, it worked. As a Jew, I did not go to synagogue, but I would next time."

But what about the profit picture? Moonves said CBS has made money "just about very single year" since regaining the NFL. "It's the best game in town, and in this era of the DVR and people watching it (live) in all sorts of places, the NFL gets great advertising rates."

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who also sat on this power-broker panel, said that networks quickly learn to re-covet pro football.

"This is my 21st season in the NFL," he said. "And when I came in, Rupert Murdoch had just come in with Fox and CBS has given up the NFL. And one thing I've learned is every broadcast partner we've had...wished they had never given it up and always come back, and are happy that they've come back. It might not quite be their manhood, but it's very close."

*****

Seth Meyers, who will host the annual prime time Emmy Awards ceremony on August 25th, is asked what approach he'll take. "You're not Ricky Gervais. You're not Seth MacFarlane. But where are you on that scale, do you think?"

"Coming up under the Lorne Michaels umbrella," as Meyers put it, "he always stresses to try not to tell a joke about somebody that you then would want to leave the cocktail party if they showed up. So try to be fair enough about it. So even if it's maybe a little negative, you can get away with it...You want to have a couple of jokes that, when you walk out, you don't know exactly how they're going to play. That makes it fun, sort of walking on the tightrope with material like that. So I think we'll have some of that. But it's more playful certainly than cutting or biting or anything like that."

***

Finally, the fall Showtime documentary film, Kobe Bryant's Muse, will "look at his life as he gears up for the start of the Lakers' new season," said the network's president, David Nevins. That includes his rehab from a second serious injury in as many seasons.

Bryant, affable and conversational -- as well as an executive producer of the film -- was asked whether his renowned self-confidence had been shaken by those back-to-back setbacks. "Or are you not wired to think that way?"

"No, I am," he answered. "Matter of fact, I'll tell you a story (about) when I was six years old. My mother thought that karate class would give me good discipline, right? So I was in karate class, and I was a white belt... So I wind up going against a brown belt who was a couple years older than me. And I remember crying my eyes out before I fought him. I was like, petrified of this guy. And my mom says, 'Just step in there. Just do your best. Just go after it.'

"So I get into this ring and I get my butt kicked. And I remember after, going, 'Damn, that wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be.' And the light bulb went on instantaneously. Because from that point I always remembered that your imagination makes situations much worse than they actually are. So if you can control that and look at things as realistically as possible, then you can come out of any situation.

"My confidence has been shaken throughout the years, even when I played -- just like everybody else. But I can step back from it and look at it as a challenge and say I'm not going to let my imagination kind of drive me crazy. Now I'm just going to chop the tree one swing at a time and go from there.' "
 
 
 
 
 
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