(Editor’s Note: Following the four-day extravaganza that was Cable TCA, CableFAX Executive Editor Mike Grebb slipped into a brief coma and spent that time of blissful unconsciousness organizing his thoughts about the star-studded event. Click here for Part 1…)
Cable TCA – DAY 2 (July 13)
8 a.m. – Rise. I make the mistake of firing up the laptop, which shows that I have 352,672 unread messages from yesterday. I start to go through them and suddenly realize that I owe CableWorld some kind of feature about cable IT guys. My first thought is, “Can’t the cable IT guys do something about these 352,672 unread messages on my laptop?” No, my inner voice tells me. You must read them, Mike. Or at least pretend you have read them. I go downstairs to fill up a Big Gulp-sized vat of coffee and see that the MTV Networks has started their session. I can’t stay. Too much work. Then I see John Leguizamo has taken the stage to promote Spike TV’s new 8-episode series The Kill Point about a bank robbery gone wrong. The trailer looks like a cross between Dog Day Afternoon and Die Hard. Donnie Wahlberg, whose brother Mark Wahlberg is not only a massive movie star but also the executive producer of HBO hit Entourage, sits there next to Leguizamo exuding the unsteady confidence of someone who must live in Mark Wahlberg’s gargantuan shadow. “Mark has loftier goals than me,” admits brother Donnie. Okay. Fair enough. The show, by the way, looks like a pretty good fit for Spike’s testosterone-soaked audience. Lots of explosions, gunplay and, of course, muscled men grunting and grimacing their way into their inner Neanderthals. But alas, I must go back up to the room and write. I ask CableWorld editor Seth Arenstein to cover for me, and he agrees—deftly noting that I’ll be missing CMT’s presentation with the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders. Thanks for reminding me, Seth. Bastard.
Noon – Answering emails and writing my CableWorld feature has left me famished, so I head down to Travel Channel’s sponsored lunch. Travel Channel head Pat Younge is hanging out by the entrance, so I ask him how life has been under Cox, which bought out Travel Channel from Discovery a few months ago. He smartly tells me things are fabulous. What did I expect him to say? If things sucked mightily, would he tell me? Hell no. Anyway, he seems cheery enough, so I choose to believe him. Better yet, Travel Channel puts on a nice lunch with NO PANEL. Oh, man… does Pat get extra brownie points for that one or what? The network is, however, promoting its “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern” show, which necessitates a table adorned with delicacies like Larvets (“original worm snax, cheddar cheese flavor”), Crick-ettes (“Sour Cream and Onion” style) and my personal favorite, Scorpion Sucker lollipops (with an actual scorpion inside, preserved like a fly in amber… mmmmm, good!). Thankfully, these taste treats are situated a good distance from the real buffet table. I spend a moment trying to determine which TCA lunch was more appetizing: This one or yesterday’s Nat Geo working lunch in which they showed scenes of people getting mutilated for its new show Taboo. Hmmmm. Tough one. Can’t decide.
1:15 p.m. – It’s CableFAX time back on the East Coast, which means I must skip the BBC America and Discovery sessions to work on the daily. I’m bummed because two of BBC America’s new series, Jekyll and Torchwood, look severely freaky—and therefore quite watchable. Meanwhile, Discovery’s Ocean of Fear: The Worst Shark Attack Ever seems like the kind of thing that will give me nightmares for the next decade or so. I base that assessment on my initial belief that the show is about Hollywood agents, but alas it’s actually about the WWII shark attack immortalized by Robert Shaw’s drunken soliloquy in Jaws. So I’ll only have nightmares for a few weeks. Some of the real ex-Navy survivors have been walking around the hotel all day, making me feel like quite the punk who wouldn’t even begin to know how to thank these guys for saving the world more than 60 years ago. But alas, the FAX waits for no man. At least I’ll get to see the BBC America folks later when they host tonight’s party at BBC Worldwide president Garth Ancier’s house in Beverly Hills. I’m sure some Discovery peeps will show up for the free food and alcohol. But for now, it’s CableFAX time.
4:20 p.m. – Having finished up CableFAX, I head down to an unusual panel sponsored by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and featuring NBC‘s Marc Graboff and Warner Bros.’ Bruce Rosenblum. Both were there to confess to the critics that they really have no idea what they’re doing with the Internet and therefore shouldn’t be forced to ink any new long-term pacts with unions representing writers, directors and actors. “We need to be able to experiment,” says Graboff. Adds Rosenblum: “We need to be flexible in our business models. The digital landscape is unpredictable.” That sounds great if you’re a studio or producer trying to squeeze money out of digital properties. After all, not paying residuals to actors and writers kind of rocks that balance sheet, allowing the studios to “experiment” until they find the right formula. If you’re an artist, however, you pretty much feel like you’re getting screwed during this transition period, which Graboff and Rosenblum, by the way, confidently predicted would only last 24 to 36 months. After that, the TV industry will have it all figured out—around the same time Iraq becomes a democracy, Hugo Chavez professes his love for America and Santa Claus marries the Easter Bunny. I do have to say this, though: The AMPTP at least has the guts to get up and explain its position. According to TCA organizers, union representatives were invited to the panel but declined. Yeah… that’ll help get your point across.
5 p.m. – The AMPTP panel was pretty intense, so I’m ready to re-enter the fantastic world of Hollywood where everyone’s happy, tan and sandblasted into airbrushed little human facsimiles—all while smiling and beaming their ways into our sick, pathetic, needy hearts. Ah, time for the E! panels. Comedienne Chelsea Handler takes the stage to tell us about her new show Chelsea Lately in which she’ll skewer anyone and everyone in the showbiz scene, as well as the public’s obsession with celebrity. Thought that was David Spade’s job on Comedy Central. On second thought, there’s probably plenty of ridiculousness in Hollywood and fandom to go around. “We have to make fun of ourselves for paying so much attention to them,” she says. True ’dat. Then Russell Simmons’ ex-wife Kimora Lee Simmons shows up to tell us why she’s “addicted to fashion and style” and how that addiction convinced her to do a reality show (called, of course, Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane). She then invites any interested critic to let her follow him/her around with a camera crew to see what it’s like. Be careful, Kimora. Half of us would take you up on that. Writing about TV can be so… lonely.
6 p.m. – I hang at the E!-sponsored reception for a while. Chelsea Handler politely works the room with a look on her face that says: “How much longer do I have to stay here with these freaks? This is worse than my short-lived tenure hosting On The Lot.” I corner Style Network EVP Salaam Coleman Smith and proceed to talk her ear off mercilessly, pitching reality show concepts and discussing geeky subjects like the Second Life Web community. Yes, I am that pathetic. Just as she looks ready to commit hari-kari to escape my monotonous banter, someone decides to save her by leading me over to Adam de la Pena, who has been a creative force behind such shows as Crank Yankers and The Man Show and now has his own animated show on G4 called Code Monkeys. The show about video-game programmers in the 1980s is actually animated to look like a 1980s video game. Pretty clever. I drone on for 10 or 15 minutes about all things gaming as Adam nods and tries to be polite. He tells me that Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak was one of the voices in a recent show, so I ask him how he hooked up with the Woz. He tells me he Googled him on the Internet and found his phone number brazenly posted somewhere. He called it and Woz actually answered. Gotta admire that kind of chutzpa, which probably explains why Adam has his own TV show and I don’t. Finally, G4 president Neal Tiles comes over to say hello (which of course saves Adam from me), and we talk about the finer points of the XBox360 versus the Playstation 3. I’ll be honest. Neal is the only network head with whom I could ever have such a conversation. And that’s why he’s so cool.
7:30 p.m. – Time to head over to the BBC America party at Garth Ancier’s house. Seth and I sit down by the poolhouse to listen to the jazz band while engorging ourselves on a diet of leg-of-lamb and pan-seared chicken. Before long, we’re joined by Hollywood insider Jeannie Wolf and her husband. Jeannie is a fixture guest on The O’Reilly Factor on Fox News. (She’s brought in whenever Bill needs someone to explain those loopy, Satan-worshipping Hollywood types). Jeannie swears Bill O’Reilly is a nice guy when he’s off the air. Mmmm-kay. We chat for a while about La La Land and all of its outward glory. The jazz band grinds on. During one of the breaks, we meet the lead singer who is French Canadian and convincingly so. She changes her outfit at least five times, creating a new look after every break.
10:30 p.m. — As the party thins out, I head back to the hotel, spend an hour or so in CTAM’s Hospitality Suite with my fellow hacks and then collapse into bed. Another day over. Two more to go. • Click here for more TCA coverage »