Category: TCA Press Tour 2010

TCA Press Tour: Wilmer Valderrama bugs out on the Science Channel

Wilmer-Valderrama Did you know that actor Wilmer Valderrama is a big science geek? 

Valderrama grew up in Venezuela near the Amazon and learned to love nature, animals, and yes, even insects. So much so, in fact, that he's producing a new series for the Science Channel, "Bugging Out," which premieres in October.

"The rain forest was so close to us," he said. "Walking out and and looking at the big tree and the tarantula on the wall. You learn to leave them alone, appreciate each other's common grounds."

Valderrama hopes his series will make insects look less menacing, and viewers will learn to appreciate them the way he does.

"The thing about insects is that understanding them leads to appreciation," he said. "To understand that sometimes physically these creatures can't really hurt you somehow makes you see them differently. Obviously in the entertainment industry and years of selling images of fear toward these misunderstood beings leads toward fear. But the more you can understand them, I feel like it's like when your father tells you that you should eat your greens and eventually you learn that they're good for you."

The series is hosted by Ken MacNeil, known as "Ken the Bug Guy."

-- Maria Elena Fernandez

Photo: Wilmer Valderrama Credit: Getty Images

TCA Press Tour: Yoko Ono promises that we don't know everything about John Lennon...yet

Looking striking and tiny in her rakish fedora and trademark sunglasses, Yoko Ono spoke to journalists at the television critics press tour about the upcoming “American Masters” film “LennonNYC,” which will premiere Nov. 22 on PBS.

“Yes, it seems like you know everything about us. I thought so too,” Ono said. But when she saw the footage being pulled together by the producers of the movie, she was shocked by how much she hadn’t seen before -- or even known was being filmed at the time. Ono cooperated fully with the production, which executive producer Susan Lacy said will feature music and images that have never been public before before, such as recordings from four or five unheard sessions and home movies only recently transferred to video.

As the title makes clear, “LennonNYC” focuses on the years the couple spent in Manhattan. He loved the city, Ono explained, because people treated him like a human being there -- unlike in London, where “everyone hated John for being with me.” She recalled coming in or out a police station in London with her very long hair “and some girl was pulling it. That’s how it was there.”

Asked why she hadn’t released all of Lennon’s unfinished songs, she said, “Some of the songs could not be out there because John just played it on the piano at home, and I thought if I just put it out there it would be slashed by the critics.... Many people say we want anything. And I say, maybe you want anything but John didn’t want you to have anything. He was a very astute artist and perfectionist.”

Ono noted that “American Masters” has a reputation for thoroughness and intense research, and she seemed delighted with the film’s determination to show Lennon as a three-dimensional person rather than a cliched icon. (“He was actually screamingly funny,” executive producer Lacy said.) Ono also sounded satisfied with the narrow focus on the New York years, when Lennon was raising their son Sean and finding his way back into the recording studio to make “Double Fantasy” with Ono.

It was a “city he loved so much, but it killed him," she said. "I can see that would happen to people, but I didn’t know that it would happen and he didn’t either. It was his love and it was his death.”

In response to the obligatory question about what Lennon would make of the Internet and Twitter, Ono responded earnestly: “I’m sure he would have used his computer to send his message to the world.”

-- Joy Press

TCA Press Tour: PBS to air the first documentary about presidential photographers


We agree with director and producer John Bredar: How is it possible that the story of what it's like to be a presidential photographer has never been told?

Not for much longer, though.

PBS will premiere a National Geographic special, "The President's Photographer," on Nov. 24. The film features interviews with prominent photographers and tells the stories of how they captured historical moments. Among the iconic national events covered are the Nixon resignation, Sept. 11 and President Barack Obama's inauguration.


Introducing the panel session Thursday with former presidential photographers Eric Draper, who followed President George W. Bush for his entire two terms, and David Kennerly, who tracked President Gerald Ford for nearly three years, Bredar said that "history is my crystal meth, and presidential photographers are the consummate dealers. They've pretty much seen it all."

In a clip shown before the session, Obama discusses his relationship with his photographer Pete Souza. 

"Pete and I are like an old couple," he said. "We certainly know each other, and we're family."

On the panel, Draper and Kennerly talked about having similar relationships with Bush and Ford, respectively. Draper had met and covered Bush when he was a photographer for Associated Press but says he got to know him on a different level when he worked for him in the White House.

"To see him on a personal level and how he interacted  personally with people and to capture that, his ability to connect on a personal level was something," he said. "He truly was a very generous person. I was invited to Camp David every Christmas to photograph the family, and I had a seat at the dinner table every Thanksiving. I found a lot about President Bush. I did develop an attachment as far as knowing him as a friend."

Kennerly, who said that Ford offered him "total access" and never criticized or complained about his photographs, recalled a moment in the Oval Office with his boss. The two men were waiting for an appointment, and President Ford, hands in his pockets, looked up at the presidential seal on the ceiling. 

"He told me all he ever wanted was to be speaker of the House," Kennerly said. "Then he said, 'I've never asked you, are you a Democrat or a Republican? Don't answer that!' "

Draper said he shot 1 million images of Bush during his two terms, all of which are now archived and public record. Kennerly's time in the White House obviously occurred before the Digital Age, so he says he took fewer photographs than Draper.

"To the best of my ability, I took document photos that could be easily interpreted later," Draper said. "I would think about injecting artistic style, but people need to understand what's happening here. I kept my feelings to myself. It wasn't my job to say, 'Hey, Mr. President, let me tell you what I think."

Kennerly said he approached his job as a journalist, though "many pictures were taken through tears."

— Maria Elena Fernandez

Photo: David Hume Kennerly answers a question in the documentary. Credit: J.J. Kelley/National Geographic.

TCA Press Tour exclusive video: Party (non)crashing with 'The Real Housewives of D.C.'

Outrageous antics are almost a prerequisite to being a “Real Housewife.” If you’re not flipping tables or yanking off wigs or babbling about the wonder of gummi bears, you don’t make the cut. And it seems that while new to the “Housewives” franchise, the ladies of “The Real Housewives of D.C.” are no rookies when it comes to drama. Exhibit A: the alleged White House crashing fiasco. Exhibit B: the Whoopi Goldberg incident. And the show hasn't even started!

The new neighbors to the "Housewives" block move into Bravo tonight, when the show premieres at 9. We spoke with the ladies — though, two of them wandered off midinterview (something that apparently they're good at — pre-WhoopiGate while they made their rounds at a TCA press tour afterparty last week (There was no party crashing. We were all invited.) Click on the video below and meet the new gals. They share who their favorite "Housewives" are and discuss their musical ambitions — would a song on healthcare be a hit?

You've been warned.

— Yvonne Villarreal

TCA Press Tour: Ben Linus is a Puritan

New ben linus When we last saw Benjamin Linus (Michael Emerson) he was loitering outside The "Lost" Church of Everlasting Light and Life -- or whatever it was called -- and declined to enter the spiritual place.

Ben, who lied, manipulated, punched, kicked, stabbed and killed -- including a man who extolled the virtues of faith, never a good idea if you want to get to heaven -- explained that he had some issues to work out first.

Well, apparently, Linus has time-traveled back to Colonial America, where he’s cleansing his tortured soul as a Puritan! In a brief clip from the six-hour series "God in America," shown during an afternoon panel at the semiannual TV Press Tour, Emerson is shown portraying a frothing Puritan who castigates a fallen member of the flock. (Talk about instant dharma -- you thought it was rough back on the island wearing jumpsuits, Ben -- wait till you have to visit the Puritan dentist.)

The Frontline/American Experience co-production examines the historical role of religion and the way it shaped the nation. The series, which will air over three consecutive nights, begins Oct. 11.

-- Martin Miller

Photo: Michael Emerson as Dr. Ben Linus on "Lost."

Credit: Mario Perez / ABC

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TCA Press Tour: PBS searches for the 'ultimate stuff' of the future

Pogue Since eras of time are named after stuff (Iron Age, Stone Age, Bronze Age … you get the picture), it only makes sense to try to find the “ultimate stuff” of the future.

In “Making Stuff Stronger, Smaller, Smarter, Cleaner,” a four-part PBS prime-time series from the producers of NOVA, David Pogue serves as our scientific tour guide as he explores the most remarkable advances in material science: from bacteria that can produce gasoline out of thin air and seat cushions made out of soy bean oil to germ-repelling "shark skin" that could be coming to a hospital near you.

The latter is Pogue’s favorite part in the series, he revealed during the TCA press tour. The New York Times columnist checked out a man-made material that mimics shark skin, which has “teeny-weeny” (his scientific term, not ours) little walls that are too small for bacteria cells to wedge into. He predicts it will revolutionize the healthcare industry.

“If you can invest in it, you should,” he joked.

“Making Stuff” will air later this year.

-- Yvonne Villarreal

Photo: Pogue visiting a company that does "ingenious things with magneto-rhealogical (MR) fluids." Credit: PBS

TCA Press Tour: PBS' 'Need to Know' anchors know following Bill Moyers isn't easy

PBS-Need-to-Know-HO_443784c It’s not easy when a new show inherits a time slot. It’s even harder when it’s one that was once occupied by veteran journalist Bill Moyers.

“Obviously you can’t replace Bill Moyers,” said Alison Stewart, co-anchor of PBS’ “Need to Know,” the Friday night public affairs program that took over the slot after Moyers retired in May.  “That’s just a ridiculous notion.”

Stewart, along with co-anchor Jon Meacham, discussed how they’ve been received by viewers post-Moyers departure Thursday at the TCA press tour -- viewers who feared the hour-long news-magazine show would fail to live up to the programs it replaced, “Bill Moyers Journal” and “Now PBS.” Stewart likened the process to the five stages of grieving.

“We caught [viewers] in anger,” she said. Moyers, she added, “has been an unbelievable supporter of ours. We’re just doing what he set out to do: seek out the truth.”

Moyers, at 75, decided to semi-retire from the daily grind, signing off from his weekly show but promising to return with specials. “Now” was canceled.

“Need to Know” combines multimedia with current-affairs, reporting on the economy, energy and the environment, security, health and culture — with reports filed online throughout the week and culminating in Friday’s broadcast.

“Journalism is the first rough draft of history,” said Meacham, formerly editor of Newsweek.  “And some drafts are rougher than others. The entire landscape is shifting so rapidly. The state of reporting is in peril and the kind of independent reporting that PBS has done so well for so long … is growing ever more difficult to produce, the kind of journalism that the country needs. Life is a baseball season; sometimes you get it right, and sometimes it’s not so great. My sense is that the audience is coming and coming back and still seeing what we’re doing.”

ShowTrackers, are you tuning in?

— Yvonne Villarreal

Photo: Alison Stewart and Jon Meacham. Credit: PBS.

TCA Press Tour: One of the 'Pioneers of Television' explains how Martin Luther King changed the course of 'Star Trek'

Nichols “I took 'Star Trek' because I thought it might be a nice adjunct to my resume and I’d get to Broadway faster,” said Nichelle “Lt. Uhura” Nichols, during a television press tour panel for the second season of the PBS series "Pioneers of Television,” where she sat along with fellow classic TV stars Martin Landau, Robert Conrad, Linda Evans and Mike Conrad.

Nichols had been an up-and-coming stage performer when she was offered the iconic role, and she insisted, “I still think 'Star Trek' interrupted my career and I got stuck there.” Nichols told the crowd that she tried to leave the Starship Enterprise after the first season “because I thought it was going nowhere for me.”

Producer Gene Roddenberry asked her to reconsider, and the next night she attended an NAACP fundraiser at which she was introduced to a man who claimed to be her “biggest fan.” The Trekkie turned out to be Martin Luther King Jr., who told her that “Star Trek” was the only TV show he and his wife Coretta would allow their three little children to watch, because out in the streets there were African-Americans being hosed for wanting to sit down in a whites-only restaurant; meanwhile, “there I was playing an astronaut of the 23rd century."

When she told King she was leaving the show, “He said what Gene Roddenbery had done was to establish who we were in the 23rd century." Insisting that she needed to stay on the show, he said, "You are part of history, and it’s your responsibility, even though it wasn’t your career choice.”

The series, which is scheduled for winter 2011, looks at some of the classic moments and genres of early television through the people involved. Nichols appears on the science fiction episode; other installments will cover crime dramas, westerns and local kids TV.

— Joy Press

Photo: Nichelle Nichols (NBC).

TCA Press Tour: 'The Cat in the Hat' takes on science for PBS


"The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That" is PBS' new animated series for young children, which premieres on Sept. 6.

What does the Cat know a lot about? Science!

Based on the The Cat in the Hat's Learning Library book series, the TV show strives to engage children in scientific exploration with the help of their favorite characters, the Cat, his friends Sally and Nick, and old pals Fish, Thing 1 and Thing 2.

Actor Martin Short, who voices the Cat, did not attend a panel session Wednesday at the Beverly Hilton. But Kate Klimo, vice president and publisher of Random House/Golden Books Young Readers Group, who works on the series as a production executive, told the story of how the series focused on science came to be.

Klimo, who worked with Ted Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) toward the end of his life, said he had wanted to turn children on to science in the same way he had inspired their reading. He built a partnership with NASA that was supposed to time the the debut of the book series with the launch of the Mars probe rocket.

"Sadly, soon after this, Ted lost his battle to cancer and everyone who had anything to do with this project was fired," Klimo said.

So Random House house approached Geisel's widow, Audrey, about working on the project with her and the Learning Library was born. It was Audrey Geisel's decision to create the TV series on PBS -- she wouldn't consider other networks. Klimo said the Cat in this series stays true to himself.

"Ted always referred to The Cat in the Hat as his alter ego, and I think that's certainly true. The grinch is the flip side alter ego. I think this is very true to the Cat's character ... that thing of his unpredictability, where you just don't know what's going to happen, that we've preserved."

That quality attracted Short to the role, he said in a video PBS showed to reporters during the session. The Cat, the actor said, reminds him of Harpo Marx.

"I think The Cat in the Hat's appealing to children because he's unpredictable and he's sincere at the same time," Short said. "And his thinking has a logic but, like children, it can be over here and over there and over here. And they relate to the way his mind works ... those bursts of unpredictability is what drives me to him."

-- Maria Elena Fernandez

Photo: Image from "The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That" premiere episode. Credit: TM and DSE and CITH Productions Inc. / Red Hat Animation

TCA Press Tour exclusive video: 'Glee's' Chris Colfer takes us for a high flying spin

There's a million and one reasons for Chris Colfer to celebrate these days. The 20-year-old has become a pop culture phenom as Kurt on Fox's hit "Glee," and even snagged an Emmy nomination for his role (one of 19 the show scooped up in case you're counting).

After show creator Ryan Murphy spilled the beans earlier in the day on a few things to expect for season two (catch our favorite bits here), we caught up with Colfer at the Fox party which was held at the Santa Monica Pier.

While network stars mingled with reporters and played carnival games, Colfer had his eyes set on the rides like any twentysomething would. The main target? The Gyro Loop. The ride, which is considered a game because the passengers operate the movement with a joystick, is a two-seater apparatus capable of 360-degree turns and falls going frontward and backward. Colfer said he'd ride if we did, and you don't turn down the chance to hang out with Colfer. 

He only had one request. If he puked, the cameras had to fade to black. Thankfully we both held in our dinner. Watch us freefall – and scream for our lives below.

-- Gerrick D. Kennedy

Video: Maria Elena Fernandez

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TCA Press Tour exclusive video: Bravo's Jackie Warner makes us break a sweat

With Bravo's "Work Out," Jackie Warner showed viewers her tough-as-nails approach to whipping her clients into tip-top shape. But the show quickly became known for its drama outside the gym. Between a tumultuous relationship with her ex-girlfriend and tension among the crew she hired for her gym, the docu-series was less about working out and more about duking it out. 

But Warner had enough of all that drama. She's back to Bravo with a new show, "Thintervention," which again will show her helping clients make drastic lifestyle changes to cut pounds and get in shape. We wanted to put Warner to the challenge -- even if it embarrassed us -- so we asked her for some tips on getting into shape for those of us who have desk jobs.Take a look.

-- Gerrick D. Kennedy

Video credit: Yvonne Villarreal


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TCA Press Tour: Chad Ochocinco tweets himself into a guest spot on FX's 'The League'

Chad ochocinco
How did Chad Ochocinco land a guest gig on FX's second-season premiere of "The League?"

Using his favorite medium, of course.

The Cincinnati Bengals tweet-aholic saw an episode of FX's comedy about a fantasy football league in which Andre (Paul Scheer) says "Child, please," a catchphrase Ochocinco used frequently on "Hard Knocks."  Ochocinco contacted Scher via Twitter and asked him to put him in the show.

Executive producers-spouses Jeff and Jackie Schaffer were happy to oblige.

"He's perfect for us because he comes from the world of football," Jeff Schaffer said. "He had a blast."

If he didn't, we're sure we'll hear about it on Twitter.

-- Maria Elena Fernandez

Photo: Paul Sheer, left, Mark Duplass, Stephan Rannazzisi and Nick Kroll. Credit: Patrick McElhenney/FX.

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