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July 23, 2008

The Live Feed's Best of TCA Awards

TCA -- So my Russian optometrist just explained in her "Bullwinkle" villain accent that I have two ulcers on my left eye that are going to require a week of taking antibiotics and wearing glasses.

She has no explanation for what caused these painful burns. But I do. And I know in my heart that I got off easy.

Because this is what can happen if you stare at TV network executives and talent for nearly three weeks straight. TCA is like some sort of new media-era "Clockwork Orange" experiment. NBC's "My Own Worst Enemy" panel was alone enough to sear your corneas (Christian Slater in the show's trailer, walking away from an exploding building in slow motion? Ahhhh NBC, please don't tell me in 2008 that you still think that's cool ...).

And there was so much more. Roller backpacks and Coolio and tiny burgers and disguised talk-show hosts.

So below is the Live Feed's first-ever Best of TCA Awards, bringing you a sample of the high and low points of press tour, complete with lots o' links to help leech old posts for a little more traffic.

Also, though I'll be armed with glasses and eye drops, live blogging will resume Thursday from Comic-Con in San Diego and will continue through the weekend.

Here goes:

-- The format-breaking stunt that paid off: Cartoon Network screening an entire episode of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.” Critics were grateful for the entertaining break, and their enthusiastic reviews went all over the Web. 

-- Best swag: National Geographic Channel roller backpacks. They’re backpacks! Yet they roll! Ideal for pulling your backpack up the sidewalks of K2.

-- Scariest swag: HBO's pitch black sweatshirt hoodie and matching black skullcap, both stamped with the words "Generation Kill." Could aid otherwise congenial-looking reporters in terrifying their victims as newspaper layoffs force them into a life of crime.

-- Most contentious panel: Fox News. Critics didn't like that the network hired embattled former White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove, and the panelists didn't like being asked pointed questions about the wisdom of their hire. "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace's irritated defensiveness and urging of critics to go after NBC demonstrates why TCA members mistrust the network in the first place. Runner-up: "Kings" -- it's one thing for a network to not have any pilots to show, it's another to ream a critic for not understanding what you didn't show him.

-- Most overused song in network promos: Coldplay's "Viva la Vida." Runner-up: MGMT's "Time to Pretend."

-- Goofiest critic question: During CBS Paramount's panel for daytime syndicated series "The Doctors," one critic told a 237-word anecdote about surgeons leaving a sponge inside of her and getting a staph infection. The critic concluded by asking, "How does a doctor do something like that?"

-- The second format-breaking stunt that paid off: Having Jimmy Kimmel pose as a critic and ask ABC entertainment president Steve McPherson the same tough questions regarding the network's interest in hiring Jay Leno that critics wanted to ask. The move made it difficult for critics to re-ask the questions seriously, and suggested that Kimmel is still on the ABC team.

-- The format-breaking stunt that flopped: ABC's attempt of a live demonstration of its game show "Opportunity Knocks." Armed with background information on TCA members, the show's host pulled critics onstage and quizzed them on aspects from their own lives. ABC should have guessed that this would end up awkward for all involved; it thankfully wasn't even included in the session's transcript. Runner-up: Leno's confusing me-too version of the Kimmel stunt.

-- Biggest nonheadline: Katie Couric is not leaving CBS News (hey, we did it too).

[More awards --  such as quickest ethical u-turn and best/worst parties --  after the jump ...]

-- Biggest actual headline: "Tonight Show" transition announced.

-- One network's TCA revamp proposal that critics are wary of: Ditch the ballrooms, shuttle TCA members to studio sets. This would keep critics focused on shows instead of network performance and will save money in hotel ballroom/catering expenses. But it risks turning TCA into a show-and-tell instead of a news event.

-- Best anecdote: Buzz Aldrin's Ray Bradbury-style space-travel tale.

-- Wittiest intro by a publicist: The CW's Paul McGuire: "We doubled our Emmy nominations this year -- from one to two. That's a 100% increase -- which sounds likes a MyNetworkTV ratings release." Well, it's funny if you cover this stuff.

-- Best infusion of Zen/Kabbalah teachings and reality production: Ashton Kutcher.

-- Best Party: (tie) Fox and CBS. Fox's return to the Santa Monica pier featured free games, rides and carnival food. CBS' shindig at Boulevard3 was packed with friendly and accessible talent. 

-- Worst Party: We. Having wedding theme is never a good idea unless you're hosting an actual wedding. We's effort to tout its wedding-themed programming featured a musical performance by a dour trio performing sappy 1970s love songs while a pair of models hired to play a bride and groom wandering about, unsure exactly what to do.

-- Most depressing intro by a publicist: HBO spokesperson Quentin Schaeffer: "I just want to say I feel every time we get together now, it's like an Agatha Christie mystery. I'm wondering who is going to survive the year."

-- Best blunder recovery: Marc Cherry.

-- Most news-free executive session: CBS. The network's goal was to keep the focus on the shows and entertainment president Nina Tassler succeeded. But one TCA member fell asleep and was snoring for about 10 minutes before a critic shook him awake.

--  Too many adjectives award: executive producer Glen Mazzara was asked whether Starz's version of "Crash" would be like the movie: "I didn't want the series to feel somber. Or didactic. Or heavy handed. This is a fun show. The show is not bleak. Or depressing."


-- Most notable actor fashion trend: Men wearing horn-rimmed glasses (as pointed out by Alan Sepinwall).

-- Quickest ethical U-turn: A TV One panel preaching racial tolerance while promoting its documentary series "Murder in Black and White" was followed by a TV One panel for "Black Men Revealed," with co-host Ryan Stewart saying, "I probably would leave the set" of his show if a gay guest was hired full time.

-- Personal favorite headline: PBS threatens to show Gandalf naked.

[For additional recycling, here's a top TCA one-liners post, and here you can find nearly all of The Live Feed's TCA posts archived]


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