Category: TCA

Is James Van Der Beek allowed to see Katie Holmes?

Is James Van Der Beek allowed to see Katie Holmes?

It was the question that left James Van Der Beek, the teen heartthrob of yesteryear from his days on "Dawson's Creek," blushing under his manly beard: Are you allowed to see Katie Holmes? -- insinuating his former costar on the teen soap leads a sheltered life as wife of Tom Cruise.

The Beek from the Creek, as ABC entertainment chief Paul Lee calls him, could only muster a giggle -- that Dawson Leery girlie giggle -- when the million-dollar question presented itself during the panel for ABC's series "Don't Trust The B---- in Apartment 23," which Van Der Beek stars in, during the Television Critics Assn. press tour on Tuesday.

He never did answer the question. But Van Der Beek's role as the sensitive dreamer on the long-running WB series was a recurring point of discussion during the panel. In "Apt. 23," he plays a larger-than-life version of himself, caught up in the fame he achieved from "Dawson's Creek." When asked at what point enough time had passed to embrace and poke fun at the flannel-loving, sweater-wearing, man-crying character: "I think once the residual money ran out it became OK to make fun of it," he said.

Playing himself seems to be Van Der Beek's forte these days. Last year, he appeared as himself -- killing unicorns with lasers? -- in Ke$ha's music video for "Blow." And then there's the Funny Or Die videos. But landing the gig as The Beek on the ABC comedy wasn't such a sure thing.

"I had to audition against six other James Van Der Beeks," he joked. "I was lucky that four were not actors and two did not speak English."

Joking aside, the role had originally been written with another former teen heartthrob, 'N Sync's Lance Bass, in mind. But how much can you tease a dude who danced without irony with four other guys for years and, also, wanted to go to space?

"Don't Trust the B---- In Apartment 23" actually centers around two odd-couple girl roomies, played by Krysten Ritter ("Breaking Bad") and Dreama Walker ("The Good Wife"). It will premiere in April.


"The Revolution" can't replace soaps, hosts say

Viewers render a harsh ratings verdict on 'The Firm'

Jon Hamm lets 'Mad Men' March 25 return date out of the bag

-- Yvonne Villarreal

Photo: James Van Der Beek, Krysten Ritter and Dreama Walker of "Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23." Credit: ABC

'The Revolution' can't replace 'One Life to Live,' hosts say

'The Revolution' is yet another lifestyle show replacing soaps
"The Revolution" is a new one-hour daily talk show on ABC from the man behind NBC's "The Biggest Loser": J.D. Roth. Not even on the air yet, the show already finds itself facing the same obstacle its sister show "The Chew" faced earlier this season: getting die-hard soap fans (those still up in arms over the cancellation of "All My Children" and "One Life to Live," which these shows have replaced) to embrace it.

"One Life to Live" will end its run on Friday, clearing the time slot for "The Revolution's" premiere Jan. 16. Featuring a gaggle of "lifestyle experts" — designer Ty Pennington ("Extreme Home Makeover"), style guru Tim Gunn, therapist Tiffanie Davis Henry, OB-GYN Jennifer Ashton and celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak — the show aims to transform the lives of guests and viewers. Hardly the campy goodness viewers have become accustomed to while watching the characters of Llanview — and its hosts are hoping people won't hold that against them.

"We can't replace ["One Life to Live]," Pennington said during a panel for the daytime show at the Television Critics Assn. press tour on Monday. "What we offer is something different."

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Charlie Sheen is a hit at Fox party: 'I'm not crazy anymore'

Charlie Sheen showed his charming side at a Fox party for his new series "Anger Management"
Charlie Sheen fired up a cigarette in the back of a huge mansion in Pasadena, flashing a sheepish smile tinged with befuddlement. Moments earlier, he had been surrounded by a throng of reporters bombarding him with questions on topics including his personal life and earth-scorching meltdown last year and the status of "Anger Management," his upcoming series on FX.

"Man, it's a bit nutty," he said, puffing with a bit of a gleam in his eye. "I'm just a white guy from Malibu who dropped out of high school. I'm amazed that there's still all this interest in what's going on."

Of course, Sheen knows deep down he's not just a "white guy from Malibu." He's the "warlock" with "tiger blood" coursing through his veins, the guy whose drug-and-sex-soaked antics wreaked havoc on his family life, his career and his reputation while costing him his high-paying starring role on CBS' "Two and A Half Men." Video of his wild-eyed rants, in which he lashed out at his bosses while declaring he was "winning," were revived during the holidays as one of the top news stories of the year.

Photos: Fox's all-star party

But the Charlie Sheen who appeared at the Fox party Sunday for the Television Critics Assn. medias tour bore no resemblance to the 2011 model. Wearing glasses and looking trim, Sheen was matinee-idol handsome, looking healthier and clearer than he had in years. He was mobbed by reporters almost as soon as he walked into the Castle Green house. Although numerous other stars such as Keifer Sutherland and the cast of "Glee" attended, Sheen easily attracted the biggest crowd.

It was his first public appearance since September, when he allowed himself to be lovingly lashed and humiliated during his roast on Comedy Central. Though he seemed to embrace the vicious humor, he appeared a bit uneasy afterward and declined to speak to reporters.

But at the Fox party, Sheen was effortlessly charming, self-deprecating, patient and forthcoming, even though the swarm of reporters and photographers was so relentless that a bodyguard had to keep moving them back. Anyone who wondered why FX would want to do a series with a performer who has drawn more than his share of unsavory headlines in recent years would have had their doubts answered: Despite his notoriety and troubles, Sheen's considerable star power is undimmed -- and may have brightened with his fiery shenanigans.

And he maintained that his worst days are behind him. "Well, I'm not crazy anymore," he said to reporters when asked if he was a different person than last year. "That was an episode. I'm a different person than I was yesterday!" Asked whether he would leave the outrageous antics on screen, he offered, "Let's just say I have a mellower plan."

In a quieter moment after the reporters departed, Sheen said, "I find it really strange now when someone comes up to me in the supermarket and says, 'Winning!'" He said he realized he was one of the most famous people in the world last year, noting that one popularity measure concluded that 3 billion people knew about him ("That's half the planet"), and that he had little concept of how much of a cultural impression he was making at the time.

"I know I used it a lot and abused it a lot," he said.

These days, he said, he's spending more time with his kids and family, and has cut down on his tweeting: "To tweet while sitting at home watching a ballgame isn't very exciting."

Joined at the party by star sitcom producer Bruce Helford ("Roseanne," "The Drew Carey Show"), Sheen's main purpose at the party was to promote "Anger Management," which shares the title but little else with the 2003 Jack Nicholson-Adam Sandler comedy. The show is in early development; Sheen will play an anger-management specialist, but so far little else has been determined.

Said Helford, "Everyone in the world has called and wants to be on the show. They want to be a patient."

Helford, who is an executive producer of the show, and Sheen had high praise for FX and John Landgraf, who heads the network. Sheen said he was a fan of several of the cable channel's series, including "Sons of Anarchy" and "Louie." He said his series would probably premiere in the summer and would be a multi-camera show filmed before a live audience.

Sheen told reporters that working on the new series was already a more gratifying experience creatively than his previous series, "Two and a Half Men": "It's exciting to be in a situation where the people I work with are excited about my input. That hasn't happened in a long time. But I still know my strengths and weaknesses," adding that he looks to Helford to guide him.

Still, he was mostly gracious about "Two and A Half Men," though he said he felt that killing off his character (he was stuck by a subway train) was "a little mean-spirited." Ashton Kutcher, who replaced him on the show this season, is "doing a good job. But it's a different show now," he said.

He added that he thought Kutcher's introduction on the show (Jon Cryer, who played Sheen's brother, drops the cremated ashes of Sheen's character as Kutcher appears outside, wet and naked) "was one of the great TV moments of all time. That's how the show should have ended ... and then 'to be continued.'"


Photos: Fox's all-star party for TCA

"American Idol" judges rip "The Voice" and "The X Factor"

J.J. Abrams won't get ''lost" in serialized stories with "Alcatraz"

-- Greg Braxton

Photo: Charlie Sheen at his Comedy Central roast in 2011. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

'American Idol' stars rip 'X Factor' and 'The Voice'

The folks at "American Idol" do really wish their competitors all the best. Even if their shows are derivative and not as successful as "Idol."

That message came through loud and clear Sunday afternoon, as the "Idol" judges, host Ryan Seacrest and show producers met reporters at the semi-annual TV press tour in Pasadena and shot a few poison darts in the direction of "The X Factor," the rival singing show developed by erstwhile "Idol" judge Simon Cowell. 

"We're the original, we kind of invented this whole game that everybody now copied," said Randy Jackson, the sole remaining member of "Idol's" original judging trio with Cowell and Paula Abdul (now also on "X Factor"). He appeared onstage Sunday alongside fellow judges Steven Tyler from Aerosmith and Jennifer Lopez, whose career has resurged because of "Idol." "Simon has done well with his show. Probably not meeting the expectations he wanted, but we wish him well."


Of course, the situation had to be handled with some delicacy, because "X Factor" and "Idol" have both become bulwarks for the Fox network, albeit at different times of year ("X Factor" just wrapped its inaugural run last month, while "Idol" rolls out its 11th season Jan. 18).

But the "Idol" folks may be feeling the heat. In addition to comparisons with "X Factor," "Idol" will have to fend off another challenge from "The Voice," which returns to the NBC schedule this month. Earlier on Sunday, Fox programming chief Kevin Reilly told reporters that the network was prepared to see lower ratings for "Idol" given its age and competition.

When the subject of "The Voice" came up, Jackson broke in: "I will tell you one thing: We will never rip off 'Star Trek' like 'The Voice' did with spinning chairs." He also proclaimed "Idol" "the most authentic talent show."

Even Mike Darnell, who as Fox's reality chief has to maintain diplomatic relations with both "Idol" and "X Factor," called the latter program "over the top, campy, [and] louder" than "Idol." When a reporter noted that first-season "Idol" winner Kelly Clarkson would mentor contestants on "The Voice" — which could be viewed as an act of betrayal, given that "Idol" gave her an invaluable platform with which to launch her career — Darnell couldn't resist a swipe: "We're not hiring a lot of people on 'The Voice' to be on our show."

Well, all right then.

With all this thinly veiled acrimony in the air, it was up to Seacrest to restore some civility to the proceedings. And that he did by sidestepping speculation that he's bound to replace Matt Lauer on NBC's morning powerhouse "Today." When a reporter pressed him on the subject, Seacrest simply said that he couldn't comment.

"I can't imagine life without 'American Idol,' " Seacrest told the crowd.


Fox cartoons will take on "Saturday Night Live"

Kiefer Sutherland returns in Fox's "Touch"

— Scott Collins (

Photo: Judges Steven Tyler, left, Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson will return to "American Idol" this month. Credit: Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images.


J.J. Abrams won't get 'lost' with serialized stories in 'Alcatraz'


Star producer J.J. Abrams has been behind hit films and several of TV's most popular -- and confusing -- serialized shows, including "Alias" and "Lost."

He recalled coming across an episode of "Alias" while visiting a friend's house several years ago and "after four minutes, I was saying, 'What the ... is going on with this show?' and I knew and I had worked on it."

Abrams said his new drama, "Alcatraz," will not have the same intense serialized direction. Sure there will be familiar Abrams elements -- the show contains time travel and a group of investigators trying to unravel giant, perhaps supernatural and otherworldly, elements. But the stories will be more self-contained.

"I love serialized TV," Abrams said as he discussed the new series during the Fox portion of the Television Critics Assn. press tour. "But this show will be more episodic, with a wide arc." The main focus of the show will be going after the bad guy of the week.

The show follows a trio of investigators exploring the reappearance of 302 of Alcatraz's most dangerous prisoners and guards 50 years after they vanished. The show stars Sam Neill, Sarah Jones and Jorge Garcia.

The show marks Garcia's second series with Abrams; he starred in "Lost." Garcia acknowledged that he's back on an island. But there's a different kind of creepiness going on with "Alcatraz" that has nothing to do with smoke monsters and jungle dwellers.

"Alcatraz is like an old skeleton, just crumbling," said Garcia, though adding that the prisoners in the show "are really clean cut."


Kiefer Sutherland says "Touch" is not an effort to bury Jack Bauer

Fox cartoons will take on "Saturday Night Live"

-- Greg Braxton        

Photo: The cast of "Alcatraz." Credit: Fox Television

Fox to take on NBC's 'Saturday Night Live' with cartoons

Fox President Kevin Reilly

Fox Broadcasting Co. is betting on cartoons to challenge NBC's "Saturday Night Live."

The network, which already relies on animation to fill its Sunday night prime-time lineup, is getting even more invested in cartoons with a new Saturday block of cartoons that will compete with "Saturday Night Live," the reigning champ of weekend late-night TV.

Calling "Saturday Night Live" an institution, Reilly said he had no dreams of dethroning it with cartoons, but that he thinks there are young men out there that the network can grab for itself.

"There is a lot of under-served audience there," Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly said of the decision to try programming late night on Saturdays. Fox expects to debut the late-night block in January 2013, featuring four animated series from 11 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. "Saturday Night Live" runs from 11:30 p.m. to 1 a.m.

This is not the first time Fox has tried to compete with "Saturday Night Live." For years, it ran a comedy sketch show -- "Mad TV" -- against "SNL." More recently, it tried a variety show with comedian Wanda Sykes that failed to gain traction.

The network, which made the announcement of the new programming effort Sunday at the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Pasadena, is also going to launch a digital platform to showcase cartoons.

Noting how much animation Fox produces for its Sunday night lineup, Reilly said one of the high-class problems of that strategy has been a lot of development that couldn't get a home in prime time.

The digital channel Fox plans to launch later this year will be available via the Web, mobile phones, game consoles and video-on-demand but not as a cable network. Fox has tapped Nick Weidenfeld, a former head of program development for Cartoon Network's "Adult Swim" animated block, to oversee the new alternative animated content unit.

Fox has been toying with launching a new animation-only cable channel but needs to wait until it reacquires rerun rights to its long-running hit "The Simpsons" so Homer and the gang can be used as a backbone for such a network.

Although Fox is coming off a fall television season that saw the network's prime-time audience jump 17% thanks to its comedy "New Girl" and the musical talent show "The X Factor," the network still has some tough decisions in the weeks ahead.

Tops among them is the fate of "Terra Nova," the drama about a family that travels back to prehistoric times in an effort to save the future. While "Terra Nova," which finished its 13-episode run last month, delivered decent numbers it is very expensive, making a second season no slam dunk.

Reilly said a decision on "Terra Nova," which needs to be made earlier than usual because the show shoots in Australia and takes a long time to produce, in the next several weeks. He did acknowledge having had some issues with the show, creatively.

Another show awaiting its fate is "House," the long-running medical drama starring Hugh Laurie. Fox's current deal for "House" expires after this season and the show's ratings have dropped sharply over the last few years.

As for "The X Factor," which was created by and stars former "American Idol" judge Simon Cowell, Reilly said the show would undergo changes when it returned next fall but declined to elaborate. The show delivered strong numbers, but not as big as Cowell had promised and Fox was hoping to deliver to advertisers. 

There has been a lot of speculation that one of the big changes next season will be the replacement of the show's host, Steve Jones. Asked specifically about Jones, Reilly said "the hosting gig as we know it is a much harder job than meets the eye," adding that everyone now has a new appreciation of the value of Ryan Seacrest, the host of "American Idol."

Seacrest was also a subject of discussion during Reilly's session with critics. Seacrest's contract as host of "American Idol," for which he gets $10 million per season, expires in May. Reilly declined to talk about negotiations to keep Seacrest tied to "American Idol." Seacrest, who also hosts a popular radio program and produces numerous reality shows including E!'s "Keeping up with Kardashians," has also been mentioned as a potential replacement for Matt Lauer as an anchor of NBC's morning show "Today."


Is Ryan Seacrest worth $45 million

Network TV season defies expectations

Fox's `Terra Nova' fights against extinction

-- Joe Flint

Photo: Fox's Kevin Reilly in 2009. Credit: Frank Micelotta / Fox

Kiefer Sutherland says ‘Touch’ isn’t an effort to bury Jack Bauer

Kiefer Sutherland return to TV and Fox in 'Touch'
People, let's all just clear the air now: Kiefer Sutherland is not (I repeat, not) trying to escape the shadow of driven "24" hero Jack Bauer.

The actor, who appeared at the Television Critics Assn. press tour to promote his new series "Touch," was, understandably, peppered with numerous questions about his past life as the up-against-the clock special agent and whether his latest turn on Fox was an attempt to get audiences to forget about those eight years of adrenaline.

"Touch," created and written by Tim Kring ("Heroes"), centers around a father's relationship with his mute 11-year-old son, who has the ability to predict events and make connections.  In the process, the show often explores the relationship between spirituality and science.

When he was sent the script after playing Bauer for eight years, Sutherland was doing a theater production and wasn't ready to tackle another TV project, he recalled.  

"I really wanted to spend some time apart from the amazing experience I had on '24' and try some different things," he said. "I was at page 35 [of the script], and I went ... 'I’m in real trouble,' because it was just so beautifully written."

OK. Whatever. But is this an attempt to get away from Jack Bauer?

Sutherland offered this: "It's nice diversion from '24,' yes. But the choice, and reason I made the choice, was because it spoke to me."

"The one parallel I can bring from the two characters," he added, "is that Jack Bauer was asked to save the day, and there was always going to be casualties. And Mark [Bohm] is never going to have the perfect idyllic relationship with his son. They both never completely win. For whatever reason, it's something I’m drawn to as an actor."

Settled? Not quite. Later in the panel,  Sutherland would find himself , once more, uttering the words: "It's not because I wanted to get away from '24.' "

What a relief, because now we really want to know what the status is on the "24" movie!

"Hopefully, we will be shooting at end of April, beginning of May," he said.

A preview of "Touch" will air Jan. 25. The series premiere is March 19.


Fox cartoons will take on "Saturday Night Live"

'American Idol' stars rip 'X Factor' and 'The Voice'

J.J. Abrams won't get lost in 'Alcatraz'

-- Yvonne Villarreal

Photo: Kiefer Sutherland in a promo shot for 'Touch.' Credit: Fox.

Bravo gives Kathy Griffin a talk show, announces premiere dates

Kathy Griffin to get own talk show on Bravo
Comedian Kathy Griffin, a staple personality on Bravo with her outlandish stand-up specials and reality series "My Life on the D-List," will be getting her own prime-time pop culture talk show on the network in the spring, the network announced Saturday.

Titled "Kathy," the show will feature Griffin's rants on tabloid fodder, stand-up routines, celebrity interviews and taped segments. The show continues Bravo's experiment with the talk-show format. Its first foray, "Watch What Happens Live," has been successful with Andy Cohen as host; it kicks off its sixth season Sunday, which will see the show expand to five nights a week.

In addition to the talk show, Griffin will also have two stand-up comedy specials air on the network this year -- bringing her total 15 since 2005.

The network also announced premiere dates for new and returning series:


“Interior Therapy with Jeff Lewis," which sees the house-flipping Bravo-lebrity taking on the role as a home therapist, premieres March 14 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

"Shahs of Sunset," which has been described as being in the vein of "Jersey Shore," follows a group of young Persian American friends in Los Angeles. It premieres in March.

“Love Broker" introduces viewers to another matchmaker, New York's Lori Zaslow, and premieres in March.

“Million Dollar Listing New York," a spin-off to "Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles," premieres in March.

“Around the World in 80 Plates,” which features "culinary experts" Curtis Stone and Cat Cora as hosts of a culinary competition that takes place across 10 countries in 44 days, premieres in March.

“Don’t Be Tardy for the Wedding" chronicles "Real Housewives of Atlanta" star Kim Zolciak's journey to the aisle and premieres in the spring.


“The Ring Leader” looks at over-the-top wedding planner Kristen Banta. It airs Feb. 27.

“The Kandi Factory” will see "Real Housewives of Atlanta" star Kandi Burruss, a multi-platinum songwriter, as she tries to mold two music hopefuls.


Season 4 of “Tabatha Takes Over” will premiere Jan. 10. And this time she's transforming more than just hair salons.

“Inside the Actors Studio” returns Jan. 31, with George Clooney as the first guest.

The third season of “Bethenny Ever After” begins Feb. 20.

"Pregnant in Heels" enters its second season in the spring.

The original matchmaker, Patti Stanger, returns for a sixth season of “The Millionaire Matchmaker” in the spring, along with "Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles," which is back for a fifth season.

-- Yvonne Villarreal 

Photo: Kathy Griffin tapes a her stand-up special. Griffin is getting her own talks show on Bravo. Credit: Bravo

'The Voice': Bickering superstars are the secret weapon

Christina aguilera nbc the voice
NBC’s “The Voice” returns for a second season on Feb. 5 in a high-profile slot right after the Super Bowl. And its celebrity mentors –- Christina Aguilera, Adam Levine, Blake Shelton and Cee-Lo Green -- feel confident the show has a secret weapon no other music reality competition has: themselves.

At the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Pasadena on Friday, “The Voice” team argued that the special twist of the show, and much of the drama, comes from the mentors having to battle each other to convince contestants to join their team. “It’s truly a competition for all parties involved,” Aguilera pointed out.

And as executive producer Mark Burnett said, “Superstars pleading with unknown singers to join their team is delicious TV.”

The four star mentors charmed America with their bickering and affectionate repartee. But were they too nice to the actual competitors on the show? Levine insisted that wasn’t the case. “There’s a difference between being critical and willfully mean,” he said, adding, “the talent level is so high there aren’t many awful performances.”

Aguilera admitted that they may have been reacting against all the Cowell-style crankiness on TV when they recorded the first season. “We were all tired of seeing the attack/pick on them mode…This year were diving more into critiquing.”

For the second season, the show will have some additional superstar mentors coming on for cameos, including Lionel Richie, Jewel, Kelly Clarkson and Shelton’s wife, Miranda Lambert.

But the core team of the series remains the four mentors, who apparently have as much chemistry off stage as on. When Shelton was asked about his controversial tendency to tweet while drunk, he turned his answer into a tribute to his “Voice”-mates:

“...With these guys I feel like I have met my true family. These people are freaks so I feel like I can be myself around them. That’s part of the show -- showing my team, You’re not running for office, you’re artists, just be who you are."


Chelsea Handler is not herself in 'Are You There, Chelsea?'

NBC's Bob Greenblatt: 'We had a really bad fall'

NBC's 'Fashion Star' wants to sell you clothes

-- Joy Press

Chelsea Handler is not herself in 'Are You There, Chelsea?'

NBC's new series "Are You There, Chelsea?" is based on Chelsea Handler's books of humorous essays based on her wild life. Handler has a recurring role in the sitcom, but she's not playing herself — she's playing her sister. Laura Prepon is playing a younger version of Chelsea Handler, and has several scenes with the real Chelsea.

Got it?

Handler, Prepon and the producers of the series acknowledge that there might be a bit of head-scratching about the show during their session at the NBC portion of the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Pasadena.

"Everyone was a bit confused at first, but we're doing promos and I think we're doing a good job of getting the word out," said Prepon, who is best known for her starring role on "That '70s Show."

"Are You There, Chelsea?" stars Prepon as the twentysomething Chelsea, a brash, fun-loving cocktail  waitress who "lives life to its fullest," with the help of her friends, colleagues and family. Handler, who is also an executive producer of the series, plays Chelsea's sister Sloane, who is a conservative new mother who has little in common with her more carefree sister.

Handler says the series' Chelsea is inspired by her but is a softer version.

"I was a lot angrier than she was," said Handler. "I was just barreling through life with no rhyme or reason. There is an essence of that, but we also license Laura to do what she wanted with the character." She quipped, "I like myself much better than her."

Tom Werner, who produced several groundbreaking series during his time with Carsey-Werner, compared the Chelsea character to the main character in "Roseanne." "She's not sweet. She's brave and unapologetic." 

Even though the character is based on her, Handler never considered taking on the role of Chelsea. She's too busy hosting her late-night "Chelsea Lately" on E!, producing other series such as "After Lately," doing comedy concerts around the country and writing books.

"I didn't have time to star in my own show," she said. "I really like my E! show. I like being under the radar."

Lenny Clarke, who plays Chelsea's father, praised Handler for juggling so many projects. "Plus, she's hot!" he proclaimed.

Not missing a beat, Chandler told Clarke she was not having sex with him. Her actual words were much cruder.


Josh Lucas serves up paranoia in "The Firm"

NBC's Bob Greenblatt: "We had a really bad fall"

— Greg Braxton

Photo: Chelsea Handler (3rd from left in front row) and Laura Prepon (4th from left in front row) with the cast and crew of "Are You There, Chelsea?" Credit: Chris Haston / NBC

Josh Lucas dials up paranoia in NBC's 'The Firm'

We have no idea how NBC will do with its new legal drama "The Firm," but "The pay phone represents his paranoia" might go down as one of the all-time great TV showrunner quotes.

The line was uttered Friday afternoon at the semi-annual TV press tour in Pasadena by Lukas Reiter, the executive producer behind the new adaptation of John Grisham's bestseller, which was already made into a 1993 movie starring Tom Cruise. This time around, young lawyer on the run Mitch McDeere is played by movie actor Josh Lucas, who covered all his bases at the panel by extravagantly praising Cruise's performance while still finding time to drop extravagant praise on the art of TV drama today.

It was clear early on that "The Firm" session would not go well. The TV adaptation is set in the present day, years after the events described in the novel. Critics were puzzled why the pilot seems to ignore technology since 1991, when the book was published. One wondered why Mitch was still using his real name after years in witness protection, and furthermore why mob heavies chasing him didn't simply use Google to help track him down.

Reiter did his best to explain that away as the audience titterered, but other critics brought up more discrepancies. Costar Juliette Lewis squirmed in her chair, but it was hard to tell whether that was due to the line of questioning or to some unknown personal issue. The best question: Why does Mitch resort to using a pay phone, a dated technology that has virtually disappeared from most streets?

Reiter's first parry -- "The pay phone represents his paranoia" -- elicited some giggles in the room, as well as some scathing commentary on Twitter. ("This session so badly needs a surprise Cylon attack," tweeted Hollywood Reporter critic Tim Goodman.) Then Reiter tried again: "If Mitch McDeere can't find a pay phone at this point in his career, we're all in trouble."

What do you mean "we," Lukas?

The anachronisms may not matter. Or maybe they will. In any case, viewers will have plenty of time to make up their minds, as NBC has already given "The Firm" a 22-episode order. Mitch McDeere, phone home! But use your cell.


NBC's "Fashion Star" wants to sell you clothes

Alec Baldwin to stay put on "30 Rock"

Harry Connick Jr. to guest on "Law & Order: SVU"

-- Scott Collins (

Photo: Lukas Reiter, far left, of NBC's "The Firm" with cast members, from left, Molly Parker, Josh Lucas, Juliette Lewis and Callum Keith Rennie. Credit: Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images.




NBC's Bob Greenblatt: 'We had a really bad fall'

Bob greenblatt nbc
NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt didn't waste any time.

"We had a really bad fall," the new NBC programming chief said Friday to open the peacock network's sessions at the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Pasadena.  "It was worse than what I had hoped for."

For seven years now, NBC has been slipping further and further in the ratings, a painful reminder that the once preeminent TV network had not yet reached the bottom of its catastrophic descent. Last season was particularly bad as the network limped through the waning days of former NBCUniversal chief Jeff Zucker's regime, but this season has proved to be even worse.  

NBC's ratings are down 11% in the advertisers' favorite category of viewers ages 18 to 49, compared with last season. Much of their slate, including "The Playboy Club" and "Free Agents," opened with a whimper, leading to early cancellations. Overall, NBC remains in fourth place in the network prime-time standings, attracting 7.4 million viewers a night.  In contrast, network leader CBS pulls in more than 12 million viewers in prime-time. 

Later this month marks the first anniversary of the takeover of NBCUniversal by Philadelphia cable giant Comcast Corp. Comcast executives have repeatedly said that reviving the ailing broadcast network is NBCUniversal's priority, and they brought in Greenblatt to do just that.

The pleasant and polite Midwesterner and former TV and Broadway producer became a star as the programming chief of premium cable channel Showtime. While there, he launched a string of hits that explored deeply flawed characters, including "Dexter," "Weeds" and "Californication."

Now Greenblatt is focused on the flaws in NBC's schedule.  He was refreshingly candid Friday about NBC's considerable challenges: Veteran shows have been losing steam, and it has been six years since NBC launched a bona fide hit.

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