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TCA press tour: MTV Networks offer penguins and perils

January 9, 2009 | 12:17 pm

The third day of the TCA press tour at the Universal Hilton began with penguins. Not real ones, only animated ones, but penguins nonetheless.

It was MTV Networks' turn at bat, and the networks for the young didn't disappoint. First was Nickelodeon, which is turning 30 this year. 30!  In addition to its own birthday celebrations, the network plans a lot of special programming to celebrate another birthday: SpongeBob SquarePants turns 10! (Is it just me, or is everybody getting really old? I mean, Big Bird is 40, people.) There are 20 new episodes, a special movie and even a SpongeBob documentary.

The network is also very excited — to the tune of ordering 52 episodes — about its new animated comedy, "Penguins of Madagascar," based on the two DreamWorks Animation films "Madagascar" and "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa." Tom McGrath voices Skipper, and Andy Richter does Mort.

The show will premiere March 28 after the Kids' Choice Awards.

Then came the Spike network, and it didn't disappoint. Jesse James appeared to promote his new reality series, "Jesse James Is a Dead Man," which premieres May 31.

We knew the guy was a daredevil, but did you know that he's funny? His show follows him through many death-defying challenges, such as traveling 200 mph on a Nitro bike supercharged by ultra-combustible nitro-methane fuel for a quarter-mile on one wheel. But Jesse — can we call him that? — doesn't take things like this seriously at all. He likes to live up to what his family and friends expect of him — that he act like a 9-year-old.

"Not quite a 6, not quite a 12. Just a 9. Getting old is a state of mind."

To that end, Jesse told the TV press how he spent quality time with his sons during the holidays. His 13-year-old son was riding his dirt bike, so Dad lighted stuff in the dirt below him so that he could ride through the fire. The 5-year-old son was present and wanted a chance at it too.

Even though Dad didn't go that far, a TV critic asked him if Child Protective Services had ever visited. Jesse laughed, in keeping with his philosophy that "life is only a one-lap race, and I'm getting the most out of my body."

Asked what the difference is between having a death wish and being an adrenaline junkie, the 39-year-old replied:

"Death wish is like the guy that wants to bury himself under 10,000 pounds of dirt, in a Plexiglass casket. That’s just dumb. That can’t be thrilling. It’s like, 'OK, get me out of here.' Adrenaline junkie is just having stuff. These things I like to do: racing, riding my motorcycle and going fast. A lot of people get killed at it. The common thing is how many people die or get maimed. Maybe to hide it from their wives. Here we’re putting the danger right out in the open. "

This act was followed by Comedy Central's new series, brought to us by way of Jon Stewart. "Important Things With Demetri Martin" is a stream-of-consciousness sketch and variety show, starring Demetri Martin of "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.

Martin, who dropped out of law school to become a stand-up comic and wrote on "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" for one season, showed up at TCA with his large pad and made some observations:

"Most castles in America are located in fish tanks. So we have what we call a submerged monarchy in the United States."

He also showed an empty circle and called it "a pie chart of procrastination."

Comedy Central will air seven episodes, and "every episode is based on a thing. Not topical that it covers news. It covers a simple thing like an object or an emotion. I'm using 'thing' very broadly in that sense."

— Maria Elena Fernandez