PASADENA — Cable press aren’t tolerated at TCA for more than five days — so we trespassed. Once ‘little cable’ is dispensed with, the big boys enter the fray, as the networks host day-long exposure fests to shows and executives. Despite the sometimes shallow water we know as network or broadcast television, its part of the tour displays the sensibility to stop the enjoyment of executive pitches and talent banalities for the luxury of writing breaks, a respite unheard of during the roller derby pace of cable’s days.
The few cable trade hacks whose pleasure it is to attend the TCA onslaught can only dream about the salad days when the broadcast networks rule. Days filled with set visits. Days of multi-hour breaks, interspersed with closed-circuit showings of programs that a few hours later are discussed by panels. (You mean we’ll actually get a chance to see the shows before they’re featured in TCA panels? What a concept.) To be fair, during cable days closed circuit showings are conveniently scheduled…for milkmen and night owls.
But let’s get our priorities ordered. What’s a broadcast day party like? Since our experience is limited, this intelligence may be tantamount to the warnings given Bush of WMDs in Iraq. Still, if ABC’s All-Star gathering Sunday night is an indication, the broadcasters know how to throw a party.
At this shindig the intimacy of cable days was swept aside for the enormity of a large-scale blowout. The Ritz-Carlton’s huge Viennese ballroom was defeated by the throng of talent from ABC network, ABC Cable, executives from both and TCA press. The food (filet mignon, pasta and sushi made to order) was first rate, bars were plentiful and the music was loud. Early in the evening you could barely move without bumping into Anne Heche or knocking over Calista Flockhart.
Certainly, being that close to the talent has its good and bad points; mostly you end up succumbing to the Hollywood pastime of "How Does He/She Look?" The bottom line, the men all age gracefully; the same can be said of Dixie Carter, Anne Heche, Sally Field and Calista Flockhart. Vanessa Williams, on the other hand, was a disappointment up close; a marvelous figure still, but that flawless face wasn’t nearly as striking as it appears to be in photographs. A jaw dropper was Tiffani Thiessen, who’ll always be Tiffani Amber Thiessen to us. All we can say is that Zach Morris was one lucky guy and would still be today.
Of course it’s fun to see live the faces of character actors that you’ve seen so often on screen; people like Greg Germann, Jonathan Silverman, Lori Loughlin, Rondell Sheridan and Kurt Fuller. Still, the big names are most memorable. And, it’s not every day that you have the existential experience of leaving Forrest Gump on TV as you exit your hotel room and a minute later you’re standing next to Sally Field. Yes, on the broadcast portion of the TCA tour, life really is like a box of chocolates.
CableWorld Editor Seth Arenstein is covering the Television Critics Association January press tour (or TCA, as both the association and its semi-annual preview of upcoming broadcast and cable network TV shows is called) that kicked off Jan. 9th in Pasadena for CableFAX Daily, CableWorld Magazine and Cable360.net.