Press Tour Tales

TCA reporters' notebook

No one can predict what actors, writers, producers and directors will say to reporters at the Television Critics Association tour. Unlike the usual drill—studios and networks' handing out carefully crafted comments that sound like marketing strategies or publicity-speak—TCA lets the creative crews speak for themselves. Here are some unscripted highlights from the second week of TCA's winter press tour:

Martin Scorsese: While promoting a Bob Dylan documentary he's directing for PBS, the esteemed film director confessed that he often can't tell left from right. So how does he direct? He simply uses his hands, literally pointing in the direction he wants.

Who's Your Daddy?: Fox got more guff over the reality show that offered big bucks to a woman if she could identify her birth father. At the same time, PBS affiliate WGBH announced plans to produce a documentary about adoption. Some of Daddy's biggest critics will help produce the show. “Adoption is not a game. It is not a reality show,” said WGBH Vice President Margaret Drain. “It's about people's lives, and you have to be careful not to trivialize it.”

Jenny McCarthy: The actress showed up at the TCA chuck wagon to promote her new UPN comedy The Bad Girl's Guide. Executive producer and show runner Robin Schiff said the show will be provocative, though UPN can't “go as far as HBO” with its language and content. Critics were shown several short clips from the pilot. They were not amused. One shows McCarthy's character, J.J., remarking that her shirt smells like B.O. When one of the characters asks why the girls are going out for the evening, another replies, “Because we're horny.”

An Idol Comment: American Idol judge Simon Cowell apologized for a remark he had made on the show. Cowell's caustic tongue has made him a wealthy man and helped turn Idol into one of the top shows on TV. But one critic charged Cowell went too far when he told triplets they look like “three overweight Jessica Simpsons.” Since singing ability has nothing to do with body image, a critic asked, why bring it up? “OK,” responded Cowell. “I apologize.”

Gail Berman: The Fox entertainment president praised Simple Life star Paris Hilton at a star-studded party the network held for critics. “If you can make them laugh, you can do anything. I'm so proud of you,” Berman told Hilton. Then Berman told B&C she thought the critics hadn't been all that critical during an earlier press event. In July, she was accused of stealing ideas for reality shows.

Dawn Ostroff and Tyra Banks: UPN Entertainment President Dawn Ostroff couldn't stop gushing about Tyra Banks, the supermodel who created one of UPN's highest-rated shows, America's Next Top Model. Banks is developing three other series for the fledgling network. At various points, Ostroff noted, “She is full of ideas, very talented and smart. She has great taste. She is just the hardest worker that I've seen. She's tireless. It's very hard to do all the different things that Tyra is able to do.” UPN has just ordered two more cycles of Model, which begin September 2005. (The show's next cycle, its fourth, debuts March 2.)

Camryn Manheim: CBS execs joked about Camryn Manheim's physique after Nina Tassler, the network's entertainment president, mistakenly said the heavy-set actress was cast as Ann-Margret in a miniseries about the life of Elvis Presley. “We're taking risks. We're taking risks,” said Tassler. “Who said creative casting was dead?” asked CBS Chairman Les Moonves, adding, “I think you could get sued for that.” Tassler then responded, “I probably could.” Manheim, The Practice's Emmy winner, is playing The King's mother, Gladys.

Gil Schwartz: CBS' uberspokesman joked about the venue for the press tour. “This year, it's at the Hilton Universal City. Next time, it'll be at the Beverly Hilton. After that, it'll be Paris Hilton.”