Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Dumb critic questions

...Speaking of TV critics (or at least two days ago), they’ve all been in Los Angeles lately for the big annual TCA convention, a month long hypeorgy where networks trot out their new stars and show runners in endless panels of “We’re the next great thing” presentations. Every creator is super excited, every cast just immediately clicked on day one and now are a big family. I’ve been on those panels. I've said those same things. But in my case of course it was true. For both shows.

Uh huh.

Lying your ass off and fooling no one aside, there’s nothing like looking out at 200 people who are bored out of their skulls, knowing you’re the seventh panel of the day and this is day eleven. Do the math. They just want to go home.

The networks try to help your case by wining and dining the critics. There are usually lavish cocktail parties complete with shrimp. At least now each critic must pay his own way (i.e. his paper pays). Years ago the networks popped for the entire junket. And they would provide perks like laundry service since they knew this was a lengthy stay. One critic one year brought his living room drapes from home and had them dry cleaned at the networks’ expense. But you gotta give that guy credit for chutzpah.

Most of the questions asked at these presentations tend to be the same (as do the answers). But every so often the monotony is broken by someone asking something really stupid. Here are a few from this year:

One guy asked Lucy Lui how it was to be 40.

When Dave Attell, hosting a new GONG SHOW (what took so long to revive that masterpiece?), said the show would feature a beer pong act, one of the critics asked him what a beer pong act did.

One critic informed Jonny Lee Miller that she had seen HACKERS ninety-five times, and later asked him if he was going to call Angelina Jolie (his ex-wife) to guest star on the show. (Miller, annoyed but diplomatic: "You'll have to call her, I'm afraid.")

To Kevin Reilly, whom the critic had clearly confused with Ben Silverman: "Have you made up with Steve McPherson?"

To the showrunners of LIFE ON MARS: "If it's set in New York, why is it called "Life on Mars"?"

And just a few from years past (I’m sure there are thousands more):

A critic who was a sci-fi fan once asked Dawn Ostroff whether VERONICA MARS would be adding any "genre elements" -- because apparently nobody clued this person in that film noir is a genre.

Terrence Howard was once asked why he was dressed like a pimp.

Ron Glass was asked if his hair was real.

And finally, when I was on a panel for BIG WAVE DAVE’S I mentioned that the show would be shot multi-camera in front of a live audience on a soundstage in Hollywood and one critic asked, “So will there be actual surfing on the show?”

These cocktail parties obviously feature open bars.


Hmmm...? said...

At least being on such a panel means that your show has been picked up (or at the very least, you have a shot a being employed for a couple of weeks).

So the price for attending this convention is a little boredom or a tiny bit of stupidity. Beats the hell out of my reality.

KEN LEVINE said...

Hopefully someday you'll get there.

D. McEwan said...

I hate to sound as dumb as a TV critic (WAIT A MINUTE! I WAS a TV critic for a while on radio decades ago. Why I oughta...), but I have no idea what a "Beer pong act" is either.

I saw most of the first episode of the new GONG SHOW. Yikes! Andy Dick as a judge? Can one gong the judges? Imagine being judged by Andy Dick! OF course, he'll be facing a judge himself before long.

But before I get too superior, I have to confess that I was a contestant (as part of a 4-man comedy troup) back on the original GONG SHOW with Chuck Barris himself, and was gonged I must add. We were then brought back by Barris to shoot our act for the greatest movie ever made: THE GONG SHOW MOVIE, although we were cut from the final edit of the picture, a lucky escape.

Tom Galloway said...

Tim Goodman, the SF Chronicle tv critic, has been referring to this for a number of years as "Death March With Cocktails".

William Gallagher said...

I was once a critic at the launch of a medical drama here in the UK: they sat us all in a semi-circle and each member of the cast had their moment in the hot seat.

I've rarely been so embarrassed professionally: all the questions before me were about the cast's love lives, whether they'd ever wanted to be a doctor/nurse/porter in real life.

All the cast were fine, smart, handling everything. But then when it got to me and I asked a guy playing a stereotypical curmudgeonly surgeon whether it was going to be difficult to develop that character over the 13-episode order, you could hear the tutting of every other critic.

And the cast member visibly lit up: you could see him actually thinking about his answer and enjoying it. I felt great, he gave me a good answer.

And the next critic wanted to know if this guy had ever sat in on a real operation. Sigh.

But it does go the other way: I've been smirked at for asking a computer company what the price of their product was going to be.


pat reeder said...

At least the Gong Show admits up front that it's a joke, so having Andy Dick as a talent judge is oddly appropriate. OTOH, I know a number of extraordinarily talented performers who were invited to audition here in Dallas for "America's Got Talent," and were rejected. On the same day, they took people who were complete embarrassments just so they could humilate them on the air. As if anything could be more humilating than having your talent judged by Sharon Osbourne and David Hasselhoff, whose combined talents would consist of eating a cheeseburger off a floor covered with Pomeranian droppings.

Simon said...

If the worse thing you have to go through in working on a TV show is deal with a bunch of stupid TV writers every year, then life is going pretty good. The surfing question amused me though.

Simon said...

Correction: by TV writers, I mean people writing as journalists, not the actual writers of the show.

Jason said...

@D. McEwan: Read and be educated. Or made dumber, if you set out to play a few games yourself: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beer_pong

As for the original post, I guess that means I need to add Lucy Liu to the FYOILF list.

tb said...

Beer bong maybe?

Dan Coyle said...

Liu was always the most popular AMcBCMILF, though she wasn't nearly as hot as Portia DeRossi.

Anonymous said...

also I've noticed on the previous post that all the critics Ken mentioned write for newspaper and other outdated forms of communication, so it seems like the only "legitimate" critics are all print people according to the industry. That means these things are full of old people, which explains why they don't get the jokes, need to take naps frequently, etc.

D. McEwan said...

Pat Reeder,

I think I got the joke-aspect of The Gong Show back when I was on it. The man who gonged us was some football player named Jack Youngblood (I think that was his name. It was 30 years ago, and it's not like I had ever heard of him before appearing on the same stage with him.), a person even less qualified to judge an act than David Hasselhoff. I might add that the bit we were doing, we'd been doing onstage in a show with Robin Williams, and sometimes Andy Kaufman, for months before doing it on the TV show, always to big laughs. In any event, our pay check wasn't predicated on whether we were gonged or not. (We were AFTRA talent, and Barris had to pay us. Viewers didn't know that AFTRA talent doing THE GONG SHOW and THE DATING GAME as "Contestants" were paid union money also, which is why a lot of us gay performers did THE DATING GAME, for the money. Barris understood that, to keep his shows funny enough to survive, he needed professional talent, and he hired it.)

You are right that AMERICA'S GOT TALENT is just a BIG version of THE GONG SHOW. I completely agree with you about Hasselhoff (A man who insists on having his personal disintegration televised) and that Osbourne woman. After watching it last season (When the winning act was a ventriloquist for heaven's sake.) I found it unwatchable this year. I saw the first episode and half of the second, and haven't looked at it again. Godawful crap.

18 years ago, I had Andy Dick as a pupil in an Improv class I was teaching. He was a sweet, talented, and, believe-it-or-not, gracious young man then. The hideous creature he has become is one I don't recognize. But his boorishness has long since ceased being even remotely funny.

To the Anonymous who wrote of "newspaper and other outdated forms of communication." your shallowness is showing. Criticism is not a performance skill. Print is where it flourishes, where one can analyze in depth, and where it properly belongs. Your idiotic, ageist comment; "That means these things are full of old people, which explains why they don't get the jokes, need to take naps frequently, etc." shows only your immaturity. Here's a fact: the older you get, the MORE jokes you get, because you know more. Some critics are idiots. Some are not, but it's unrelated to age. You may, if you are not stabbed, some day be old enough to realize what a tool you are. And it's small chldren who take naps.

Now I'm getting cranky. It must be time for MY nap.

JSWN said...

Dear Dan Coyle:

Shirley you jest?!! Portia was starving to death on Ally Mc-Meal and her eyebrows looked like David Kelly had one too many Vodkas and drew them on with a Sharpie for crying out loud. By the way, her real name is Mandy Smith. How does one Mandy become a Portia? Oh, just you nevermind.... Robert Downey Jr. was the BEST thing to happen to that fucking show-drugs and all. If I were a man-or a woman in Portia's case, which I am-but I digress, I'd rather ~MILF~ a Marshmallow Peep than either of these two women.

Respectfully Yours,
Jack Lamb Swanson

JSWN said...

Dear God:

Where is John Gregory Dunne when we need him?!

Hi Ken! You rock! Love you and your blog! Thanks.

Jack Lamb Swanson

Toby said...

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