Category: Television Critics Association

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.


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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

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."


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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

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

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

Fashion star jessica simpson nichole richie
As “Project Runway’s” star wanes, a host of new fashion-oriented shows are moving in to try to fill the void. NBC presented its candidate -- clothing competition “Fashion Star” -- at the Television Critics press tour in Pasadena on Friday.

Premiering March 13, "Fashion Star" is hosted by Elle Macpherson (also an executive producer) and features Jessica Simpson, Nicole Richie and John Varvatos as mentors to 14 designers, each of whom hopes to win the show’s prize:  $6 million worth of orders for clothes collections in Macy's, H&M and Saks Fifth Avenue stores.

The key innovation of the show is that the winning collection –- men's and women’s lines -– will be available to purchase online as soon as the show ends, and in the stores the next morning.

“You’re voting with your pocket book and you can wear the winner,” executive producer Ben Silverman said. “This is a show of its time,” a product of the new technologies that make instant feedback and commerce possible.  

While  “Project Runway” focused on the idea of creative genius, “Fashion Star” is all about business and branding.  A very pregnant Simpson (who has her own clothes line) said, “We wanted to mentor these contestants for having a lifestyle brand… really making a name for yourself.”

“Fashion Star” may share the mentor concept with “X Factor” but Richie (who also has her own fashion line, House of Harlow) emphasized that the mentors will be circulating among all the designers, and that the celebs are not competing with each other. “We’re working together to make each designer a better version of themselves.”

And in a way, it’s not just a battle among fashion designers -– it’s also a competition among the three stores, which will be bidding on the winning collection every week, hoping to nail down the chance to sell a budding mega-brand. As Silverman pointed out, as well as providing the prize, these stores “are directly driving the story.”


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Alec Baldwin to stay on '30 Rock' 2 more years

-- Joy Press

Photo: Nicole Richie, Jon Varvatos, Elle Macpherson, Jessica Simpson. Credit: John Russo/NBC.

Harry Connick Jr. to guest-star on 'Law & Order: SVU'

For all you "Law & Order: SVU" peeps worried about Mariska Hargitay's future on the show, get a hold of yourself! Hargitay lightened her load after adopting a child last year, but she'll be in every episode when the show returns, NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt said Friday at the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Pasadena. 

And Hargitay's character, Det. Olivia Benson, will be getting herself some romance action in the process with a little help from Harry Connick Jr. The crooner (who often moonlights as an actor) will join the show in a four-episode arc, beginning Jan. 18.,  playing an assistant district attorney on the show. Here's a look at their steamy connection.



— Yvonne Villarreal


Tony Bennett wows TV critics with PBS promo set


How do you keep the critics clapping? If you're Tony Bennett, it's fairly easy -- you just put on a free show.

The 85-year-old music legend showed up at the TV press tour in Pasadena on Thursday night to plug his PBS "Great Performances" special coming later this month. But he didn't bother with a Q&A. Instead he focused on what he does best: Singing.

With a 10-song, 35-minute set, Bennett pretty much had the hardened journos eating out of his hand. For a jaded crowd that typically doesn't applaud anyone -- much to the annoyance of network executives -- the Bennett reception was notable. You could hear the "ahhhs" when he launched into his best-known numbers -- including "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" -- and the critics rewarded him and his four-piece backup band with not just one, but two, standing ovations. 

All the famous Bennett gestures so memorably parodied by Alec Baldwin and others -- the jaunty salutes, the thumbs-up signs, the overwhelming positivity -- were on display ("Lady Gaga -- what a wonderful singer she is," he said of his partner on his new, top-charting "Duets II" album). Once, he bobbled a lyric and had to improvise with some scat singing. But his voice remains a powerful instrument for a singer of his years, and Bennett has an uncanny knack for blanketing audiences in warmth. It's charm that not even TV critics can resist.

The entire set list: "Watch What Happens," "They All Laughed," "Maybe This Time," "I Got Rhythm," "The Way You Look Tonight," "The Good Life," "For Once in My Life," "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," "The Best Is Yet to Come" and "How Do You Keep the Music Playing?". 


Ken Burns revisits the Dust Bowl for PBS

Now it's Keith Olbermann vs. the New York Times

NFL ratings slip despite Tim Tebow factor

-- Scott Collins

Photo: Tony Bennett wowed the critics at the TV press tour in Pasadena with a 35-minute set. Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Ken Burns takes on 'The Dust Bowl'

Dust bowl

There are BIG projects from Ken Burns ("Baseball," "Jazz," and "The Civil War"), and there are the less ambitious stories ("Thomas Jefferson" and "Mark Twain") from the New Hampshire-based documentarian who has become in many ways a de facto national historian.

"The Dust Bowl," which PBS officials at the Winter TV press tour in Pasadena said will air in November 2012 and focuses on the worst man-made disaster in American history, falls into the latter category. But, at least as evidenced by the clips shown to critics and television journalists Thursday, it doesn't mean the material is any less compelling.

The glimpse of the project, narrated by Burns' regular Peter Coyote, relies on Depression-era footage and first person interviews with those who lived through the ecological crisis that destroyed millions of acres of once-fertile land and that lasted nearly a decade in some parts. The disaster, brought on by overplanting and drought conditions, produced huge sandstorms that cut visibility down to yards and eventually led to hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the region for states such as California.   

Burns is slated to talk to critics about the documentary this summer.


Black History Month: A celebration with mixed feelings on PBS

Johnny Carson Gets the 'American Masters' treatment

PBS chief rejects Mitt Romney's call for Big Bird ads

-- Martin Miller

Photo: A cloud of dust fills the sky near Boise City, Okla., in 1935. Credit: Associated Press


Black History Month: A celebration with mixed feelings on PBS

Shukree Hassan Tilghman
The celebration of Black History Month on PBS' "Independent Lens" will include a film that is highly critical of the annual February observance of African American history.

"More Than A Month," which airs Feb. 16, follows filmmaker Shukree Hassan Tilghman's  cross-country campaign to end Black History Month. Tilghman challenges the commemoration of the month as short-changing black history and culture, while acknowledging the contradiction that the film is airing during the very month he opposes.

"I'm a little torn," Tilghman said during the PBS portion of the Television Critics Assn. press tour. "It can't really air in July, but I really want it to be seen outside the box, in July or August. March would be great."

Also expressing reservations about Black History Month was filmmaker Sharon La Cruise, whose documentary "Daisy Bates: First Lady of Little Rock" airs Feb. 2. The film focuses on civil rights activist Daisy Bates, who fought for the right of nine black students to attend the all-white Central High School of Little Rock, Ark., in 1957.

"I have mixed feelings as well, said La Cruise. "But at the end of the day, the film will be seen by more people because of all the promotion behind Black History Month. So I have no problem with that."

Airing Feb. 9 is "The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975," which recently played theatrically. The film is by seven Swedish journalists who came to America in the late 1960s and early '70s to document the burgeoning black power movement. The film, which contains unseen footage that was thought to have been lost, includes interviews with leading black power figures such as Angela Davis, Stokely Carmichael and Eldridge Cleaver.

Davis said she didn't have as much of a problem with the observance, but said it would be more appropriate if it could be expanded to the struggle of freedom for all races in America.

"Maybe we could call it freedom month," she said.

-- Greg Braxton

Photo: Filmmaker Shukree Hassan Tilghman in Philadelphia. Credit: Tiago Da Costa.

Johnny Carson Gets the 'American Masters' treatment

Johnny Carson is one of the most iconic figures in TV history, becoming a cultural fixture by hosting "The Tonight Show" for almost 30 years.

Yet he was also an intensely private man who shunned the limelight off camera and was extremely protective of his personal life. And when he said goodbye to America on his final "Tonight Show," he declined to do interviews and rarely appeared again in public.

The complex personal and professional nature of Carson is the focus of a two-hour American Masters documentary, "Johnny Carson, King of Late Night," which premieres May 14 on PBS and was the subject of discussion at the Winter TV Press Tour being held in Pasadena this week. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Carson taking over "The Tonight Show" and the 20th anniversary of his retirement.

Peter Jones, who directed the project, interviewed several member of Carson's family and inner circle in addition of several performers, including Jerry Seinfeld, Ray Romano, Don Rickles, Steve Martin and Conan O'Brien.

In a panel about the documentary, Jones said he wrote a letter every year for 15 years to Carson seeking his cooperation for the film. In 2003 he finally got a call from the enterainer, who said, "Peter, you write a damn fine letter, but I'm not going to participate in anything about my life because I don't give a (expletive). I've done everything I wanted to do. There may be something done on me, but it will never be while I'm alive."

Drew Carey, who hosts "The Price Is Right," recalled being awed by Carson when he was a stand-up comic who scored a spot on the show.

"He seemed genuine, he was really nice," said Carey, who added it was almost overwhelming when he looked over at Carson during his routine and saw the host laughing so hard he was holding on to his desk to keep from falling over.

Carey said he was thrilled when Carson summoned him to sit on the couch after his routine, a privilege granted to comedians only when he was extremely impressed: "It was like being in a dream. It was like being called over by Jesus."

Angie Dickinson, also a panelist Thursday and a frequent guest on the show, said that Carson wasn't cocky, "and he was extremely shy. That's sort of a Midwest trait."

She added that appearing on the show greatly boosted her popularity. "I had a great deal of success due just to that. It enhanced everything I did."

Dickenson also spoke about how Carson largely retreated from public view after he exited the late-night show in an emotional farewell.

"That final show was pure Johnny — he had said it all and done it all and he really was finished," said the actress.


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Late Night: Stephen Colbert predicts Iowa caucus winner

"Slavery By Another Name" explores shameful U.S.history

-- Greg Braxton

Photo: David Steinberg, left, and Johnny Carson on "The Tonight Show." Steinberg made 140 appearences of the show, second only to Bob Hope. Credit: NBC/Carson Entertainment Group.



TCA 2011: New shows bring Showtime into the real world

Showtime's Josh Lawson, Kristen Bell, Jeannie Van de Hooven, Don Cheadle, Dawn Olivieri and Ben Schwartz of 'House of LIes.' Credit: Showtime.

"Dexter," "The Borgias," "Weeds" and "Nurse Jackie" are among the popular Showtime series that revolve around high concepts of serial killers, corrupt royalty, pot-selling soccer moms and pill-popping nurses. But upcoming series on the premium cable network will be more grounded in the so-called real world.

Showtime's president of entertainment, David Nevins, said the network is gradually evolving into a renewed sensibility with series such as "Homeland," about a former prisoner of war who may or may not be a terrorist, and "House of Lies," about a self-loathing management consultant.

"We're getting into shows that have scope and bigness and are relevant to the world we live in," Nevins said. "We believe in real diversity of programming. We will be sophisticated and adult but can also be bigger and edgy."

Photos: Which veteran actors are returning to TV this fall?

"Homeland," which stars Claire Danes and Damian Harris, will premiere in October, while "House of Lies," which stars Don Cheadle and Kristen Bell, is scheduled to premiere Jan. 8.

Upcoming on the Showtime schedule is "Laughing Stock," a new series that will feature interviews with top comedians as they explain their art and the state of comedy. Steve Carell ("The Office") and David Steinberg ("Sit Down Comedy With David Steinberg") are executive producers, and Chris Rock, Tina Fey and Ellen Degeneres wil be among the comedians participating.

Nevins said he was also proud of Showtime's reliance on its veteran slate, which he categorized as "renewable resources" that keep growing in creativity, attracting bigger audiences.


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Showtime's 'Homeland' has 'fortuitous' timing

Fall TV: A video guide to what's new on television

-- Greg Braxton

Photo: Josh Lawson, Kristen Bell, Jeannie Van de Hooven, Don Cheadle, Dawn Olivieri and Ben Schwartz of "House of LIes." Photo credit: Showtime.

TCA Press Tour 2011: 'The Good Wife's' Julianna Margulies had to tutor husband on dramatic license

Juliannamargulies Fans of "The Good Wife" know that the courtroom drama often uses real events and people as inspiration. But not everyone can get on board with the generous dramatic liberties the show takes -- such as, for instance, star Julianna Margulies' husband, Keith Lieberthal.

"My husband is a lawyer," Margulies told reporters at the TV press tour in Pasadena on Friday. "He wasn't a big television watcher -- of course, he was to watch it now -- and when he saw the first episode, he's like, 'Well, that would have taken months, that case.' And I said, 'You're absolutely right. And then again, we have 42 minutes.'

"And that's our artistic license as storytellers on television. Sadly, we don't have the luxury of time," the star added. "Otherwise, how would we be able to tell the story?"

"Now it doesn't bother him anymore," Margulies said of her husband.

The star also batted aside the notion of "The Good Wife" appealing -- as most CBS shows do -- mainly to aging adults. On the series, Margulies plays Alicia Florrick, a mother who returns to legal practice after her husband is disgraced in a sex-and-corruption scandal.

"I live in New York City," Margulies said. "The people who watch me who approach me on the streets aren't that old, to be honest. A lot of kids, 13, 14, 15, who watch the show with their parents [and] are loving the connection and the way Alicia parents her children. ... This season we've done quite well in the younger demographic."

Co-creator Robert King even revealed an un-CBS desire to be naughty. "The Good Wife was always meant ironically," he told reporters. "It would be nice to be ironic and call it 'The Sexy Wife.'"

-- Scott Collins

Photo: Julianna Margulies in "The Good Wife." Credit: CBS


TCA Press Tour 2011: All about the funny men and women [Updated]

Juliety The 2011 Press Tour headquartered in Pasadena went off campus Tuesday, traveling to studios and sets to give reporters an up-close look at the shows they cover. The morning festivities were highlighted by a visit to 20th Century Fox Studios, where the scribes were treated to two distinct panels featuring "the funny men and women of 20th Century Fox," featuring cast members from several hit comedies, including "Modern Family," "How I Met Your Mother" and "Glee."

Jason Segel of "How I Met Your Mother" looked a bit concerned when he first gazed out on the sparse audience in Fox's Little Theatre gathered for his "Funny Men" panel.

"This looks like the opening night of 'Gulliver's Travels,' " said Segel, referring to the recent Jack Black flop. It wasn't a cheap shot — Segel was one of the stars.

The theater eventually filled up — the bus ferrying reporters from Pasadena was late — and Segel and his fellow panelists discussed the business of being funny.

Ty Burrell, who plays Phil Dunphy on "Modern Family," gave enormous credit to the show's writers, who channel some of their experiences to characters on the series:  "We constantly pray for catastrophes on our writers' lives."

Lucas Neff downplayed some of the difficulties he has working with a baby in "Raising Hope," the Fox comedy in which he plays a young single father of an infant: "Babies are really truthful. They never break character. And you can't blame them. So it helps with learning how to be patient."

The panelists kept referring to the current popularity of TV comedies, arriving only a few years after many in the industry speculated that comedy was dead. Said Segel: "The pendulum swung too far the other way on reality TV. Eventually people got tired of it. They wanted to watch something nice, that could make you laugh in a calm world at the end of the day."

Other panelists included Jesse Tyler Ferguson ("Modern Family"), Neil Patrick Harris ("How I Met Your Mother") and Mattew Morrison and Chris Colfer ("Glee").

Said Colfer: "I'm not funny. I'm not sure why I'm here."

When the stage was turned over to the female performers, much of the discussion centered on the changing role of women. Julie Bowen ("Modern Family") said she was often cast as girlfriends whose main attribute revolved around her sexuality. Now women in comedies have more complex and dimensional roles in which they are involved in the humor rather than just reacting to it.

Added Lea Michele of "Glee:" "There are fresh rules. You can be beautiful and funny too."

The panelists included Alyson Hannigan ("How I Met Your Mother") and Martha Plimpton ("Raising Hope").

A slight buzz erupted when Jane Lynch ("Glee") was asked about recent comments attributed to Ed O'Neill ("Modern Family") that his TV wife, Sofia Vergara, should have won last year's Emmy for outstanding supporting actress in a comedy instead of Lynch. O'Neill later said his comments were taken out of context and apologized to Lynch.

"I love Ed," said Lynch, who sat next to Vergara on the panel. She said the fracas was stirred up by the media. "That was you guys, not us."

[Updated, 8:30 p.m.: A previous version of this post misspelled Jason Segel's name as Segal.]

— Greg Braxton

Photo: Julie Bowen and Ty Burrell of "Modern Family." Credit: Adam Taylor / ABC


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