IR Interview: Jerry O’Connell For “Carter” [WGN America]

Dramatic Progressions & Comedic Timing: The 2010 CBS Summer TCA Press Tour – Feature

In structure of its new season, CBS understands its structure of comedy, both new and proven with the high performing “Big Bang Theory” but also freshman entries like “Mike & Molly” and “S%&t My Dad Says”. However, in parallel, the network is also embracing sleek hour long programming to structure balancing the high octane elements of “Hawaii Five-O” with the characters drama of “Blue Bloods” starring perennial Tom Selleck.

The Big Bang Theory Entering into a fourth season, the idea becomes to not become complacent in the character structure but also being aware of how finite the experience can be. The chemistry and timing of this series much like “Cheers” or “Night Court” funnels the show from not taking itself too seriously.

Chuck Lorre, the creator of the show, says its inception was a very tortuous path because the writer’s strike abbreviated the first season. With the current coming season, it will be their 4th move in just as many years which, given their success after three seasons, doesn’t worry him too much. His perception is that “our job is to make a good show” insisting that “we grow the crops but we don’t bring them to market”. In terms of Penny & Leonard, he said it was always built-in that they would have a difficult relationship but like the audience, the bond is “fragile”. In terms of writing, you can’t think completely in terms of a season because “there are too many choices”. One specific example is Sheldon’s speeches which are meant to allow a view inside his head. The irony and realization now coming forth is that Penny is domesticating Sheldon which they discovered as they went along since the characters are so monumentally different. The one aspect that remains true is that Leonard’s affection for Sheldon is unspoken which exec producer Bill Prady mirrors saying that what anchors the show is that Leonard is “the center between two worlds” as “he is the character mostly in motion”.

Kaley Cuoco, who plays Penny, follows up this up saying that “none of us really knows what’s going on”. In terms of contract negotiations for the coming seasons, she jokes that she “would do next season for free”. The reaction from the fans makes her “extremely touched” which the boys jump on her for. The relationship with Leonard and its falling out last season she calls “super realistic” which Johnny Galecki mirrors acknowledging his character is the most normal but “doesn’t have the navigation tools” to excel. Cuoco admits that Penny and Sheldon have a special relationship in that they now respect each other.

Jim Parsons, who plays series favorite Sheldon, says that the ideas for his character play simplistic but there are variations and, within that, it is interesting to find the rhythm. He resolutely agrees that their “fan base is distinctive” calling their most recent Comic Con, which they will always attend, a “pep rally”. For him it is always easier when they get to show night where the speeches become “a surprisingly non-thought process” though he admits that “rock/paper/lizard/spock” was never easy.

Simon Helberg, who plays Walowitz, jokes when Kunal Nayymar (also known as “Raj”) mentions the influx of Indian proliferation in Hollywood that “someday Jews will make their mark in show business”. With the love relationship last season which built then faltered (though Lorre says that the love interest is coming back), Simon says that “it’s nice to cut through the sleaze a little bit and get to the character” insisting that there is “a bleeding heart underneath” Walowitz’s charming exterior. His belief is to not ask questions but when pushed about the bromance between Walowitz and Raj, he says that “they love each other” to which Kanal say “non-sexually…mostly”.

After the presentation, discussing finer character points with Johnny Galecki who plays Leonard, he admits these kind of events make him nervous which is probably why he can seem “too-cool-for-school” onstage when it is simply about maintaining face. While the rest of the cast seems to ham it up he reflects that he just loves playing in the character in that he wants people to see the tenderness of Leonard and not the actor behind it. This, in effect, is the hardest job on the show compared to a more showy role like Parsons’ Sheldon. The chemistry of the characters come from the pure basis of the idea but he admits that their evolution is a slow burn that might go on for many years. He understands that he is the view through which people structure their perception of what happens in the show. This is especially true in that he doesn’t wear glasses but yet he has them perched above his brow as we are talking. Galecki is a very thoughtful person which definitely needs to be brought to bear and will be interesting to see perhaps a darker tread in the series to see how it evolves.

Mike & Molly This new series again from the prospect of Chuck Lorre uses the structure again of off-set social groups to motivate comedy from all structures. Since this series follows two overweight people falling in love it provides a more standard structure that allowed “King Of Queens” to flourish.

Chuck Lorre admits doing the pilot was really fun and they are just starting to move on the series with Jim Burrows doing a majority if not all of the directing. In terms of handling his three shows (2 1/2 Men, Big Bang and this one), Lorre says that he is balancing all of this poorly but that it is mostly terrifying. With 2 1/2, it might seem like it is on autopilot but all those scripts need to be written at top level. With “Mike & Molly”, he hopes the humor comes off as “self deprecating with affection”. In terms of success, he says “I felt for a long time that all shows are fundamentally family shows” using examples such as “Cheers” and “Taxi” as primaries adding that both those shows also had “alot of characters and intricacies”.

Mark Roberts who co-created the show with Lorre, says that they talked very early on of comparisons to “Marty”. Mark had been thinking more within the context of two cops in a car show structured within a relationship comedy. The Overeaters Anonymous angle, he admits, was Chuck’s idea.

Billy Gardell, a working stand-up comic, who plays Mike, comes out of the gate with the joke that “my wife is little and I’ve done a little better than I should have”. He goes on to say “everybody has a different tick…mine just happens to be pizza”. In terms of character structure in reference to overeating, he reflects with the idea that “when you don’t deal with emotion, you push it down with a piece of cake”. Ultimately though, for him, the series is a love story adding that he is “humbled, to be at my age and weight in Hollywood” adding that “I got the Willy Wonka ticket”. The press tour is the part, like Galecki, that makes him nervous. Billy admits that he is 40 and that he has been a road comic for 20 years. He is just happy not to be at the Holiday Inn. His point with the concept: “We’re fat…the show’s funny!” adding “What else is there to say?” In terms of what idealism in stand up comedy he brings to the show, Billy says that “I had alot more dysfunction to pull on than just me and weight” explaining that he used “a sense of humor as a defense mechanism” most of his life.

Melissa McCarthy, who plays Molly, adds to Billy’s perception saying “anytime you see a broad spectrum, it is good”. The show, for her too, is not about weight but more about a “lovely relationship, both with Billy and with the family”

After the discussion, getting into finer elements with Billy, he says he is wonderfully content with not “having to play Chuck E. Cheese or the back of an Eckerd Drugs that has been converted into a nightclub”. In terms of the comedic basis, he says his biggest influences on the stage were Richard Pryor and George Carlin. Lately however with “The Honeymooners” all the way up to “Smokey & The Bandit”, it was Jackie Gleason saying “he had a gut but he was cool”. He also pays homage to John Candy whom he says “had a big heart”. Jim Burrows, best known for directing almost all of “Cheers”, is of particular help to Billy who says the seasoned professional “does little tweaks but let’s you know if you’re doing something wrong”. When he first came in for the audition. the concept was still functioning as the buddy cop show. With Lorre’s track record, he said he knew best “not to tell these guys anything”. But being on the stand-up stage is different than being able to do a retake in a taping though “if it doesn’t work, nothing can save you”. In retrospect, he said, he wouldn’t have been ready for this kind of breakthrough in his 20s but always thought he would get the wingman part and not the lead, since right now “thinner guys always get the chicks”. He quietly tells us of one of the first episodes, which he seems very excited about, which is about getting ready for the first date which might hit all the right notes.

The Talk In creating competition programming against ABC’s “The View”, the key is to have a more specific parlay in terms of approachability. With “The Talk” the focus more is around the maternal progression hoping to further capture that thought process with a rather diversified panel.

Sara Gilbert, who brought the project together, said it all came from a new perception. She was a new mom with her partner Allie and went to a group to gain perspective and found a great synergy. Even though she has been acting her whole life with recent stints on “The Big Bang Theory”, this will be the first time “I will be discussing my life”. Being able to talk about one’s relationship is key and she makes the point that “Allie is much taller than I am” and “clothes always look better on her”. She is hoping with her widely varying co-hosts that during their discussions that “it will be alright to interrupt” and long as they don’t “stampede”.

Leah Remini, who co-starred with Kevin James on the hit TV show “King Of Queens”, defends her point of view saying that “sometimes I am very unlikable as a person” but that “anything that comes out of my mouth is who I am”. She jokes that “there is the fear that I could be hated [on air] but I’m hated at home”. The fact, she relates, is that all the hosts on the show are moms that “have trials and tribulations we all go through”. She jokingly admits that “Sara is a better mom” in that “she feeds her kids”. As far as her perception on her relationship with her other half, he says that the most annoying aspect is that what he wants for the holidays or the like is always sex. Ultimately she says, she guesses that it’s good he still wants sex from her. She hopes that in this format she can help by letting women hear a story that makes them laugh.

Sharon Osbourne, well known as businesswoman, wife and mother, says that husband Ozzy probably doesn’t even know she is doing this show calling him “the perfect partner”. While she considers her views very liberal when it comes to kids she ironically is “very conservative” because “there is a fine line you have to take”. Regarding her exacting opinions, she makes the point that “I am not running for mayor” or “looking for votes” but “if people like it, fair enough”.

Julie Chen, rounding out the extension of the pack and who will be taking an abbreviated turn on “The Early Show”, explained her decision to join signifying that “I have a ten-month-old at home and I thought it would be a perfect match” but she could not serve as co-anchor for the morning as well, a feat impossible even for “The Chen-Bot” as she calls herself.

Hawaii Five-0 Reinventing a show with different dynamics and bringing it full throttle into the new century requires a bit of mirth and luck to play the game. Fortunately with a showrunner adept at reboots (Alex Kurtzman with “Star Trek”) and a diversified cast including Alex O’Loughlin (“Moonlight”), Daniel Dae Kim (“Lost”), Grace Park (“Battlestar Galactica”) and movie vet Scott Caan who make his first starring role to TV, the pedigree is high.

Alex Kurtzman, the show runner also responsible for “Fringe”, says in rebooting the series that “it was about keeping the quality level the same”. One of the first questions he said that people ask him in terms of this series is “Why now?” He said what convinced him was Peter Lenkov talking about watching the show with his father. That reflected his thought within the show of a take on family since a major progression is O’Louglin’s McGarrett returning to the island to face his past. Obviously because of “Lost” finishing its run, Hawaii he says has been “wildly receptive” in bringing the show back but says they “had to be sure it was reflected in the right way”. The key, like with “Star Trek”, was that “you have to find what that original experience was about” and then “remain true to the spirit”. It becomes for him “what am I going to keep and what am I going to reinvent?” One of the aspects that they could not change was the original theme song, even explaining that they brought back some of the original musicians.

Peter Lenkov, also an exec on the show, says that his initial progression was taking the cases from week to week as the original show did. The key, in retrospect, was that it had to be the two guys (McGarett and Danno) as the principles with the latter functioning more as a foil. All of the footage is original using their 2nd unit, even to the point where they have a cameraman solely with a Canon 5D picking up cool shots on the fly. They are shooting the office building for the department directly across from where the original 5-O shot but has since become a federal building. They are trying their best to keep the talent, in terms of casting featured extras and guest stars, as local even going so far as to attend acting workshops on the island. What is most interesting for him to portray within the series is that what makes McGarett and Danno is that “they make mistakes” because “we love flawed heroes”. In terms of other cast members, Park and Kim are shooting currently in Hawaii but Lenkov calls Daniel “the unofficial mayor of Waikiki” since he knows everyone there from “Lost”. The story lines, he says, will structure in placing the fact that, in a global arena, Hawaii is the first line of America’s defense in The Pacific especially when threats are being flung from North Korea. Lenkov continues that “there is such global stakes to that region in terms of storytelling” but even on the ground, he points out there are unique problems such as “ice”, meth and human smuggling which in his definition makes for “big crimes and international stakes”. He textures also some connections to the earlier show specificying that O’Loughlin’s McGarrett will be rebuilding his father’s old car.

Alex O’Loughlin, who assumes the role of McGarrett, says that he remembers alot of the original show when he was growing up. In comparison to his earlier series: “Moonlight” and “Three Rivers” which ended abruptly, he says he feels more confident in this progression explaining that there is a reason things work or don’t work. He has seen the pilot and admits “there is something about it”. He pays his homage to Jack Lord’s McGarett saying “I love his hair” and “he started Blue Steel”. His McGarrett, he sees as “stoic in alot of ways” as “a military guy”. The difference in this aspect between his character and that of Caan’s Danno are very apparent. The key for him, as far as a character at the end of the day, is that he has to deliver. On some of the other series, through whatever perceptions, he says “shades get cut” which is “not possible in human nature” because “the more flawed you can make it, the better”.

After dictating during the presentation that when he first read the pilot, he didn’t quite get if he would work, Scott Caan says his fears were quelled when he understood that it is about seeing Danno’s personality. In discussing this aspect one-on-one, he said it came down to the fact also that he didn’t want to leave Los Angeles (which has always been his home). However now he is happy that he did. He only came in for the press tour for 24 hours but says he is already wanting to get back to the set (which was less an aspect of the publicity machine but more that he has gotten to used to the rigors of a TV shooting schedule). Currently they are only one episode beyond the pilot but in future episodes, Caan’s character will reveal his ex-wife as well as kids. In responding about the humor, Caan resolutes that it will be there but more hard-edged. His perception is that on the show, they can do anything but say the F word. The bromance element is, of course, there but the aspect is figuring out what and how it works. In making the move to television, he said he simply committed himself to doing movies for so many years adding that he doesn’t watch network TV because it is “simply not his thing” though he does say he might be back on “Entourage” though he thinks that this might be its last season.

The Defenders This series follows a pair of lawyers in Las Vegas who make sure the motor’s running but aren’t necessarily sure who is driving at any specific point. With the texture of Jim Belushi and Jerry O’ Connell filling the core, the genre specifications allows from some dexterity of play.

Jim Belushi, broaching the character structure, says that the initial interviews he did with defense attorneys just showed him that they’re just guys. They just happen to be doing a job that sometimes some people don’t find savory. Many will represent murderers and gypsies. The characters that these specific guys are based from are the subject of a documentary of the same name made by The Gantz Brothers. What intrigued Belushi is that “these guys are good on the floor but morons with women”. Some of the stories that he has heard, especially when they were shooting in Vegas, push the limit. One he mentions is of a young robber who holds up a liquor store and gets the cash but then asks for some cigarettes. The owner won’t give them to him because the kid is obviously underage and the proprietor doesn’t want to be shut down. The biggest challenge for Belushi was the aspect of the hour-long episodic series. The words here are definitively set in stone for the most part while with sitcoms you are writing every day. What is funny, he says, are that alot of the static sets are in the same location as the ones for “According To Jim”. He says he has much love for the CBS Radford Lot in Studio City. They are on the same stage. He has his same dressing room. There are five sushi restaurants nearby. He is happy. He relates though that shooting the pilot mostly in Vegas was intense. In reference back to “According To Jim”, he says that he had a contract for 8 years. When the plug is pulled on any series, he agrees “those moments are shitty but you get through them” adding that “I got it down to 3 days of morning [when] it used to be six months”.

Jerry O’Connell mirrors his riffing co-star saying that when he saw that there was interest in terms of him doing the show, he went to Jim’s house to meet him. Belushi had been watching the original documentary on these Vegas lawyers with intense interest and after a couple drinks, Jim started acting out the part. O’Connell relays that the transition from docu to TV show is very disimilar in that it mainly only shares the title. He says though, from a professional standpoint, these guys they are playing are fascinating. He also talks about when he used to go with a bunch of friends to Vegas but expresses that now he goes with his wife [Rebecca Romijn] and “we shop”. He speaks of acting across from Belushi with his “Albanian dead eyes” which he calls “chilly on-set but very exciting”. In terms of shooting the pilot, O’Connell had an interesting reaction. The call time was 1am which meant they were shooting until 3pm. He had to buy the no-sleep pulls and “was worried that my performance looked like a crackhead”. He compared it to recently when he was going to law school at night at South Western. He says the reading for that degree was “more than anybody should have to do”.

Blue Bloods This new drama series from two of the executive producers behind “The Sopranos” follows the inherent intensity within a NY power family involved in every aspect of law enforcement from the Police Chief to lead detective to beat cop. Starring CBS maven Tom Selleck who made “Magnum P.I.” there, with Donnie Wahlberg starring as his son alongside Bridget Moynahan as his daughter who works with the D.A.’s office, the possibilities are rife with tension.

Mitchell Burgess, the first of the former “Sopranos” producers, calls the series “the melding of a family drama with a police show” highlighting that their big concern was “going against too small a world” while co-creator Robin Green dictates that it comes down to “the weight and gravity”. For years, on “The Sopranos”, he says they did the anti-hero angle but they “wanted to find what a hero is today”. They discussed other cities in which to place the story but admits that nothing has the aspect of New York, where the show is shot.

In terms of bringing himself into the fold of this series, Tom Selleck, who plays the patriarch and police chief, says that, “first, the script was good, and, two, it was an ensemble that would clearly require talented actors”. While his experience on “Magnum” all those years ago would come up, he says that with that show “he was not tired of it but tired from it”. Initially when he heard thoughts that “Blue Bloods” might be shot somewhere other than NY, he took a specific look and decided that “conflicts make it interesting”. He adds that “I love my ranch and that lifestyle” and that “the location [change] was the biggest challenge” but adds that life “never works the way you plan it”. He relays that he is still working on Jesse Stone and the 7th picture, which was shot in Halifax, will be coming soon as he made sure the production schedule for “Bloods” does not interfere with that production. He says that when CBS gave up their movie-of-the-week, Jesse Stone became a two-hour event, which he is fine with. In terms of his new character he says that it is very important that the character wear the uniform which is indicative of the NY enforcement mentality. He also adds that the Chief has learned to be more diplomatic on the way up. In terms of his producer chops he says that “I don’t butt in…but I have learned things” but continues that “I am pretty good at not throwing my weight around too much”.

Donnie Wahlberg, who plays his son Danny who is a detective on the force, says that he “was attracted to the family element” of the series specifically noting that the initial dinner scene in the pilot jumped out at him because it shows “the character stuff brought into the procedural directly”. He admits that he did play some things differently than he anticipated. He adds that Selleck had “a gaze that reminds me of my dad” in that “my dad is a powerful man but that [certain elements] are always grey”. Aside from that he says that he has never felt more safe as an actor in a job.

S%&t My Dad Says This new comedy sitcom brings the powerhouse of possibility and culturally-skewed tendencies together in the form of William Shatner. The series is actually based on a book of the same name by Justin Halperin who just started writing what his dad would talk about. It became a Twitter sensation.

Bill Shatner is so one of a kind that once he starts his thought process one has to follow it through to the end which might work exceptionally well here if it is done right. He begins with this: “I have problems with electronics”. He continues with the fact that he needs to modulate what he says in that this series “has been an exploration in the immediate language.” He admits that he didn’t want to do another series but that the writing here “very precise” but adds that “physically and mentally” he is the same as the guy he is playing. He sees this character as “very much with it” and “has a snap to the way he speaks”. In ever Shatner fashion, the punchline is “if I am fumbling, it’s me” but explains that “lurching is good”.

With this new outlay, Shatner says that “I am trying to make a character that is coming from a different place”. He says that there is a passion and an anger inside this character which “we don’t quite know” saying that they fumble around with what he actually is aware of. In making reference to his own father, Shatner shares that his dad was “somewhat tactitern”. He explains that the name Shatner is Austrian and somewhat Germanic but adds that with his father there was “a silence and passion underneath”. Shatner then suddenly realizes with mock possibility: “maybe I’m channeling my father” and “wouldn’t that be wonderful”. The word play continues in flagrante with Shatner proudly stating that “this show was born in a twitter” and that “it is all a-twitter” as “an electronic show”. He loves that the show is “ahead of the curve” but still “going in a different direction”.

In terms of joining this electronic era, Shatner says that he has ignored it all until only recently. He recounts starting in live television when the cooling systems for the cameras were as big as a large coffee table. He said now they as actots can be put in Paris without leaving their Warner Brothers shooting stage. He waxes poetic saying that “the miracle and tragedy of our lives is invention” adding that it is “all about survival”.

And as far as the title, he wished they would just call it “Shit”. He says that he brought up kids. He says relating “take a shit…you’ll feel better” is what it is all about (which sent people howling) adding that “it’s a natural function” and that “let’s not pussyfoot”.

Shatner continues with an opus on fatherhood. His dad, he says, was “a man of action” and that “the worst tragedy was him taking me up to a stream in the Podstachy Mountains [in Canada]”. He builds on the fact that “my father fell in the river and lost a fish…a big bass” and that it was never the same. He speaks in relation to the series and life that “there is a warmth and connection between a father and son” but adds that that the key is to not be “overbearing”. The progression of the character he says is “an acting choice” but you have to see the “evolution” because “to condemn heartily all the time doesn’t work”.

In terms of approaching sitcom comedy, originally Shatner says he was “started slow and low and not enough”. The build for for him here entails going “through the work, camera day with an audience and then 200 people [live]” but what is most interesting for him is that the “fourth wall is totally gone”. He adds that now “the audience is aware of the process” calling his new experience “enthralling but chaotic” categorizing himself in the situation of “part minstrel and part actor”.

Justin Halperin, who wrote the book upon which the series is based, says that, in adapting his book they had to find an angle where the premise is “entertaining” because “otherwise who cares?”. He relates that his father doesn’t use the Internet because “ever since [my dad] saw the Sandra Bullock movie ‘The Net’, he’s been scarred”. Halperin admits “it is tough to get my father to a taping” but says that, in terms of comparisons between his father and Shatner, “they have the same warmness”.

Cougars, Witches & Aliens: The 2009 ABC TCA Summer Press Tour – Feature – Part II

The second part of ABC’s summer press tour is even more dramatically scripted than the first which was highlighted by the season’s rookie to beat. But with a Jerry Bruckheimer drama starring Christian Slater, a “Witches Of Eastwick” update, a series remake of “V” and a new Courteney Cox-black comedy entitled “Cougar Town”, ABC is betting the farm on a variety of interesting but at times risky propositions.

Executive Session: Stephen McPherson  (President/ABC Entertainment)  The first question posed to McPherson was the inherent bear of the tour which was the perception of Jay Leno’s 10pm show in contradiction to scripted late prime shows. The exec responded that NBC is in transition and they (at ABC) are waiting to see what the prime time move in terms of effectiveness turns out to be. He plans to compete for the viewers as his mandate is to make the broadcast element of his company vibrant. He believes in terms of series that ABC has to remain ambitious. He says projects like “Lost” have been very fortuitous for them but states that you have to look at each show differently. “Flash Forward” he agrees needs to have that cinematic feeling. He says that there is alot of great drama out there and sees the 10pm hour as a major opportunity in the current marketplace.

In terms of some other new shows at ABC, he speaks that when he heard that Warners was going out with a TV take on “The Witches Of Eastwick”, he thought it was a great fun way to do a female driven series. Rebecca Romijn was such a trooper going back to work. He makes the joke that she was doing the role an hour and a half after having her twins.

In terms of some shows getting the axe, he says that those decisions are among the biggest challenges in determining how patient you can be. Sometimes it has to do with how it affects your schedule. For others (he cites “Pushing Daisies”) the writer’s strike derailed them.

Other shows by comparison are making their way from other networks, “Scrubs” will still be called “Scrubs” but it will be different in its construct in terms of the hospital versus teaching. McPherson adds that Zach Braff will be back but for a limited amount of time. 

In terms of the thought of possibly bringing Paula Abdul into the fray of “America’s Got Talent” after her sudden and supposed break from “American Idol”, McPherson said that he was stunned and actually had already put in a call to her. His quote: “We’d love to get a piece of that.”

Questioned about the lack of movie of the week and/or miniseries product which used to be a mainstay of ABC, McPherson says that there is a very specific business model for those types of projects which they have looked at but just doesn’t fit the marketplace right now. However he said he would love for it to be a business again for them.

Coming back to the NBC/Leno move, McPherson thinks it was a decision of cost containment versus what it can do for the network or the studio. He doesn’t think anyone believes that Leno could do a 5 rating in that time slot but he believes a drama series could.

The series that could do it in fact could possibly be “Flash Forward” though McPherson doesn’t state this. He does say however that he would like to have some of the success that “Lost” has had with this new show. “Flash Forward” he said was a spec that Goyer and his team had done for HBO. ABC he says wasn’t trailing for a series like this but agrees that there are similarities in terms of the epic nature of the canvas and that of “Lost”. However he believes that as “Flash Forward” evolves, the two series will be seen very differently.

McPherson says that the current next season comedy push on ABC with “Hank” and “Modern Family” was a conscious decision. He also states that “Romantically Challenged” will be back midseason possibly in a block with “Scrubs” and “Better Off Ted”. He also admits they did cut budgets as is the norm right now.

He said there was some success with “Samantha Who” but the series never gained full traction. “Ugly Betty” is still going strong and was never cancelled. He says that there are still great plans for it and that it will stay in NY in terms of shooting for at least another year. In terms of “Grey’s Anatomy”, Katherine Heigl is back while he confirms that TR Knight has left. Ellen Pompeo will be out for a couple episodes while she is having her baby.

McPherson does think Shonda (the show runner on “Grey’s” and “Private Practice”) has hit her stride. He says the creative direction of “Practice” at the end of last year was a good lesson for him as an executive because he wasn’t sure if the angle was going to work. He says though that Shonda pulled it off.

In thought of “Better Off Ted” (another severely underrated show with bite), McPherson says that summer was tough in general. He says that they have tabled a couple episodes of that series but would have liked a better performance from it.  TV, of course,  is not an easy game.

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The Forgotten This series on a group of people who track down missing persons works a little differently than most Jerry Bruckheimer TV vehicles. While it is still forensic and procedural in nature, the characters in it, save for one, have day jobs.

Bruckheimer admits he loves mystery. Audiences, he believes, are enamoured with crimes and the solving of them. In terms of this series, it is about someone coming in and being a White Knight to these people who have lost someone. Christian Slater wasn’t in the original pilot and actually was a late addition to the cast.

Jerry jokes that they couldn’t find Slater at the beginning because he was somewhere in Russia (presumably Jerry making reference to Slater’s now defunct NBC Show “My Own Worst Enemy”). Bruckheimer’s thought is that Slater brings “versimilitude” to the series. 

Slater, for his part, said that he enjoyed his time on “My Own Worst Enemy” but wasn’t thinking about going back into TV right away. He half jokingly says that the deal came together in a locker room. His agent and Bruckheimer play on opposing teams in Bruckheimer’s famous industry insider hockey league which is how the conversation started. Slater was interested in mystery in terms of form as he had started a year before reading three chapters a night of “Nancy Drew” to his daughter who influenced him with her excitement. That was initially the angle that he loved about “My Own Worst Enemy” because that was about a guy who was very human who had some phenomenally extraordinary experiences.

Exec Producer Marc Friedman says that the group of people in the series are amateurs in terms of their characters. Their focus is finding these people who have been lost. Fellow exec producer Jonathan Littman says that the show fulfills the same perspective as alot of crime dramas in that there needs to be closure.

Rochelle Aytes, who plays Detective Grace, offers an angled perspective of the team, saying that she is the closer for the Jane Does and is tough and passionate but she also keeps Alex (Christian Slater’s character) from going downhill which indicates some interesting emotional challenges for the actor.

Danny Cannon (who directed the action film “Judge Dredd” and serves as one of the directors on the show as well as an exec producer) says what interested him in terms of the style of the show was being able to show “death backwards”. For him the visual motif needed to have a spiritual structure in terms of seeing death through the eyes of these people and then, by contrast, a godlike element encroaching on the invesigators through these missing persons. If even a bit of what Cannon described can be created or filmed (and it is a possibility considering the achievements of CSI), this film could be Bruckheimer’s next big hit.

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Cougar Town The title of this series gets you off the bat especially since Courteney Cox is in it. She showed in the FX series “Dirt” that she was willing to go the distance for the jugular if need be. The woman had no fear. Matching her with Bill Lawrence, the cool and ultimately outspoken exec producer on both this and “Scrubs”, is a grand time waiting to happen since Lawrence seems game for anything. He is a young exec at barely over 40 and still has that great enthusiasm and balls out approach which can translate into fascinating TV.

Lawrence starts off saying that we are still in a sexist and misogynistic society and that a series like “Cougar Town” has the possibility of alot of traps. The assumption is that the show would be written by guys but, in actuality, this one has a majority of female writers which he is very proud of. He jokes that they titled the show this way so they could set the bar low. He also says that in life he has heard both sides of the female perspective of the word, whether it be one of empowerment or not.

He admits he and his wife (who plays one of Courteney’s friends in the series) are in their 40s as is Courteney (you can see Courteney wince). The hardest angle of network television in the current marketplace for Bill is making noise. If you do so people will be aware of the show. All you can do then is cross your fingers and see with the subsequent scripts if it is a show that works. He says that the age range between Courteney and her son on the show is respective to him and his father in real life as they are only separated by 20 years. The key to the proceedings with these kind of relationships is that Courteney can play discomfort exceedingly well.

Lawrence admits that he likes shows like “True Blood” and jokes that he enjoys watching the vampires’ orgies of blood. However the key with television in any shape is that you shouldn’t walk on the edge just for the sake of it. “Cougar Town” will be aired in a 9:30 timeslot and will have a warning on it. But, for him, it is truly about a character going after the world.

Seemingly a little nervous, Lawrence says that he rarely has this much trepidation with a show but that he doesn’t want to fail Courteney. He was inspired by his wife in the gestation of some elements of the series, specifically in the pilot. His wife, now sitting only a couple feet from him, had just had their baby when the idea started to formulate. She was passing through the bathroom going to the shower and stopped and looked at herself in the mirror. She simply said “Fuck”. That is such a clear and present concept for the idea, even though Lawrence’s wife did seem a little embarrassed by his admission and telling of the story. 

Lawrence continues that the zeitgeist would be to show something so age inappropriate. Courteney’s character in the series says that “the bummer about being single at 40 is that al the men are broke, gay or dating younger girls”. For Lawrence it was essential to create two characters as romantic leads in the series who had chemistry but had no interest in being together as a result of their recent divorces. Lawrence whispers like a ventriloquist to goad Cox about possibly having Jennifer Aniston guest on the show. Cox jokes that she doesn’t discount it.

Lawrence also addresses, as is the norm this year, the aspect of NBC and the Leno influx into the 10pm slot since “Scrubs” was originally on that network. First and foremost, Bill comments: “Ben [Silverman] is not trying to destroy television …someone else is.” He follows up saying that “it is sad for scripted TV but they [NBC] has created this onorous situation.”

He then speaks to the new slate at ABC saying he wants more forward thinking which is apparent at this network. He thinks “Modern Family” is a kick ass sitcom and both “Flash Forward” and “Eastwick” are good shows. He says good TV is all about execution. He knows he is good at this and Courteney is good at this but nowadays there is a limited window to make a splash. He will market the show as much as possible. He even jokes that he will go get a tattoo on his chest for “Cougar Town” and suggests that we go to the bar right now. Lawrence is a force of nature and his enthusiasm is infectious.

Courteney Cox, by comparison, barely gets in a word since Lawrence by design is this hurricane of enthusiasm. Lawrence had said that Cox doesn’t use a body double for her introduction scenes in the pilot. Cox, by contrast, makes the point that people don’t look on TV the way they look in real life. In terms of the actual word “cougar”, she says that it would be a great term if we knew the term for a man doing the same thing. A shout comes out from inside the room: “a man” (which gets a roar of laughter from everyone).

Cox says that ‘Cougar Town” is not Samantha from “Sex & The City”. She wanted to get back to comedy. She recalls being 40 and laying in bed with Coco (her daughter with husband David Arquette) right after she was born. She jokes “Should I give this [the baby] back to someone?” She says that getting older is harder anyway and says “it would be really scary if I wasn’t married”. She also mentions that Aniston is making a movie called “Pumas”. The joke that ends the panel is that a “puma” is a cougar in her 30s. And the laughs keep on coming.

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Eastwick Doing a TV update of the classic movie from 1987 is fraught with either possibility or challenge depending on how it is done. The aspects here are workable but not quite focused yet. The show runner hints at some crossover, hints to the mythology and also the casting of original cast member Veronica Cartwright as a mystery character.

Maggie Friedman, the show runner, specifies that they wanted to appeal to both the female and the male demographic but that they didn’t want to copycat “Desperate Housewives” but still would like some of their viewership. She pays reverence to the original movie starring Jack Nicholson as “iconic” but says that it was very much of its time. The characters here are quite different.

In the 1987 movie, the magic of the female characters are very efemeral according to Maggie. Here, by contrast, there is a very specific reason for each woman’s powers. Veronica Cartwright, who played a different character in the original movie, is back as a different character who may or may not be a former witch. Friedman says she loves Veronica’s scream which got a lot of wear and tear in the first “Alien” movie as well.

The town of Eastwick was rebuilt on the Warner Ranch in Burbank, just blocks away from the lot with Maria Caso doing the production design. For Maggie, she has the storylines planned out in tandem. The first year plan addresses the theme of empowerment but follows the structure of Darryl (that horny little devil) coming in and seducing the women and the town. There will most certainly be winks and homages to the film she promises. Maggie teases that the character that Cartwright plays might in fact be one of the witches from the 80s since it is the same town and 20 years have passed. Maybe Darryl was actually in this Eastwick in a different form back then. For her, it is all about metaphors.

Maggie also teases that Cybill Shepherd might play one of the other witches from back then as well. But it all has to have motivation. An example she uses in terms of the magic crossed with the character structure is that Joanna can hypnotize other people. This keys into the aspect that her character’s true nature is shy and quiet and needs to learn to stand up for herself. This magic allows her to do. It is like it knows what she wants which for them is their allure to Darryl. The unspoken truth is that Darryl needs them infinitely more than they need him but they need to be able to harness their power.

Maggie addresses the input of John Updike, the original author of the book, who she was able to speak to before he died. He however knew that the concept was being made into a TV show. The writing staff, like “Cougar Town” is distinctly mixed, with six women to six men which should allow for an interesting dichotomy of stories. Maggie believes that the show will definitely appeal to men since Darryl is living a fantasy.

For his part as Darryl, the devil, Paul Cross chose this as his first part in an American show after much time overseas. He is seemingly suited to the task. Like Pierce Brosnan was to Sean Connery in Bond so is Paul to Jack in this role. Cross admits that there are many kinds of devils but keys in with a bit of fun that “my powers are limitless” which means he can do anything. He has got a little bit of flack about his hair but they found a balance, a small price to pay.

In terms of being compared or playing Jack, he says Jack is “like Mount Rushmore” and there is no comparison. You can’t climb that kind of performance but Paul thought he could bring something slightly different to this part and could really do something with it. And he saw the upside: His character knows everything. His character runs the world. He gets to work with amazingly beautiful women. Plus he had no idea how he was going to do it. Sounds like a plan.

The girls by contrast saw a degree of clarity within their ambitions.

Rebecca Romijn, who recently had twins with husband Jerry O’Connell, jumped into the fray 8 weeks after she delivered as the character of Roxie. Like Demi Moore in “’Indecent Proposal”, this coud be a real boon to the part since it adds another texture that could be quite interesting. The twins were on set with her most of the time. Now O’Connell is taking some time off to be with them while Rebecca is working on this. She says the part by design is a bit of a double edged sword. She takes on the Cher role in her mind in terms of the coven of witches. She was a big fan of the movie when it came out since she was a teenager. She distinctifies that this character is the closest to her real personality that she has ever played.

The other two witches also have distinctiveness and perception to who their witches are and what they will become. Lindsay Price, who plays Joanna, also agrees that this character is very close to her own personality. In playing the Susan Sarandon role in glasses and a bun, she admits to her own awkwardness, even though in front of me she looks like a stunner. And, on screen, she is even more alluring like one of teachers in Van Halen’s “Hot For Teacher” video.

Jamie Ray Newman, by comparison, says her character Kat (the Michelle Pfieffer role) went from being a teenager to a mom and is in denial of her powers even though hers is the most dynamic visually. Kat is a character that loves safety and security and her new situation flies in the face of everything she believes because the devil made her do it.

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V There had been talk for many years of the retelling of this 80s miniseries into a full fledged series. What seemed to make the gelling finally click was the critical success of “Battlestar Galactica” which took the different themes of terrorism and placed them in a sci-fi conundrum. “V” does the same thing in many ways. Another parallel is that Zoic Studios who did a lot of the FX work on “Galactica” in their early seasons is working on this as well. The first announcement which made the cast distinctly earnest was the fact that they premiere November 3rd at 8pm.

Exec producer Scott Peters (who worked on “The 4400”) said that in moving forward they didn’t want to stop the original themes in addition with blending the modern elements of a post 9/11 world. Because of the writers’ strike, the show was developed over a long period of time. The key became apparent in the news of everyday where people were searching for change.

The sell of the show began to be “What if aliens showed up and could solve all our problems?” The key is that in that these kind of shows, idealogy needs to remain open to interpretation. He says that they are very sure of where the storylines are going for the first and second seasons as well as where the end lies. They did meet with Kenneth Johnson (the miniseries creator) but admitted that this is a brand new take.

In terms of effects, they are approaching the interior of the ship with virtual world technology which allows the camera to move around within the space while making every angle and perspective different. This, Peters hopes, wows the audience on a weekly basis since they will be visiting the ships in every episode. However, he does admit that they are shooting in Vancouver and not NY but believes that the difference will not be noticable.

Elizabeth Mitchell, best known as Juliet on “Lost”, was intrigued by her character Erica on “V”. She likes traditional heroes and had never gotten to play one before. She says that she was on a panel with Sigourney Weaver a while back who had said that she always in these sorts of pictures picks the men’s roles. Mitchell had watched the original in the 80s as well. In perspective to “Lost”, she says that she is going back to shoot in Hawaii but cannot say if she is dead or alive considering what happened in the final moment of last season.

Morena Baccarin plays Anna, the smooth and elegant alien who is able to disarm the human race. There is something otherworldly about her. Baccarin says it is about being the face of what people want to see. She jokes that she did some research on being an alien but there is not much out there. The one thing in Anna she does see is the angle of her ambition.

In conclusion, exec producer Jeffrey Bell examines some of the elements that die hards might be looking for. He says when they talk to people, they hear about the rat and guinea pig moments with the lizards in the original miniseries. He agrees that they would be “morons” not to put those moments in but he also empahasizes that the agenda for the Vs is not what it was before.

By the end of the first season, the audience will have a full conception of the V’s agenda. Bell says they want to keep the stories within the character’s grounded lives. It is about freezing those frames of the emotional turmoil but also keying within the wish fulfillment element of it.

ABC Cocktail Party Within the Viennese Ballroom, the sushi became the mood enhancer. Talking off-the-cuff with Maggie Friedman who runs “Eastwick”, she says that they are going to push the limit and get a little bawdy with some of the stories. The story structures of these elements are coming into play. She makes reference to a vibrator subplot that runs through an episode mid-season that really highlights the humor which is so necessary to a series like this. At this point, Paul Cross, ever playing the part as Darryl, walks over with a scotch in hand. He relishes the role and gets to be naughty. Maggie reinforces the element of wish fulfillment in “Eastwick” that will appeal to both male and female viewers.

Outside, after stealing a gliding glance from V’s Morena Baccarin walking to the bar, “V” show runner Scott Peters talks about the essence of darkness within this incarnation of the show and why that balance will heighten the experience. HYe says they start shooting that following Monday in Vancouver first tweaking the pilot with some pick-ups before they start in on the new episodes. Mentioning Morena (whom I had just passed), Peters agrees that it is that kind of connection that will motivate the show. Tone, of course, in mentioning to him, is important. He says the writing staff reflects this with a couple people from 4400 but also some new blood. Score is also mentioned which is crucial. Peters  says that they have hired Marco Beltrami who recently did “3:10 To Yuma” for that important task.

Heading inside towards the sushi bar, Nathan Fillion saunters to the bar, ever in his Castle role relishing the moment, while Stana Katic, who plays Detective Beckett, sits in the corner with her girlfriends conversing in a beautiful red dress which her character would scarsely be caught in at this point in the series.

The last interaction of the night was a welcome one in the form of the entire central cast of “Better Off Ted”, one of the best new underrated shows of the season. Lead actor Jay Harrington (who plays Ted), there with his girlfriend Adriana reminds one of the mainstream version of Don Draper but with infinitely more humor. He admits that at the beginning it was hard talking to camera because the 4th wall can be a finicky thing. I say though that the charm and chemistry between him and his co-star Andrea Anders who plays Linda is palpable. Andrea sanders over in a stunning backless dress but with a shy awkwardness that befits her character. Oddly enough the person I thought was Andrea’s publicist is actually Jonathan Slavin, who plays one of the scientists Phil. The transformation helped by make-up and some good acting chops is quite staggering. The other part of the duo: Malcolm Barrett (who plays Lem) comes over with a bit of stubble.  Their real life personalities are so decidely different that you see the almost illicit balance that the show creates. From these four you can feel a family as they hang out and talk with me near the sushi bar.

Harrington says that they are going back to start shooting new episodes the following Monday which seems like a busy day for a lot of people. “Better Off Ted” deserves support (which I tell them) because the writing is sharp which they utterly appreciate. It is just a matter of steadying the course.

The essence of ABC continuing through this new fall season is one of interest and risk in storytelling but nonetheless one with major potential.