July 17, 2008

News and Notes From the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. _ If you hang around TV producers and stars for a couple weeks, you actually get a few moments of candor and truth. Failing that, you at least get some good one-liners.

We're nearly two weeks into the TV critics press tour here, and we've heard a few nuggets of bluntness worth repeating, starting with a moment of clarity from J.J. Abrams, who's got a drama coming on Fox called "Fringe."

Abrams is the creator of "Lost" and "Alias," and he said he realized something about "Alias" a few years ago when he watched it with his friend, Greg Grunberg, a star of that show.

"I was so confused," Abrams said about his own series. "It was impenetrable. I'm watching it going, 'Who ... was that guy?'

"We're trying now to do a show that doesn't require insane, absolute dedication."

_Alan Ball, the Oscar-winning writer of "American Beauty" and creator of "Six Feet Under," will be back with HBO on Sept. 7 with a playful and racy vampire-themed drama called "True Blood."

He had criticism for a certain kind of TV producer, one that messes around with basic legends.

"I think it's pretty lame," Ball said, "when you let your vampire go out in the day just because you don't want to shoot at night."

_PBS' always terrific "Nova" has an intriguing hour coming in October about Mark Oliver Everett, the lead singer of the alternative band, The Eels, searching for more info about his late father. It's called "Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives."

What makes this one special, is that Everett's dad, Hugh Everett, was a legendary physicist who in 1957 came up with a theory of parallel universes that is now a building block of quantum mechanics.

Someone said probably in some other universe, Mark was a music genius and a multi-platinum-selling star, and asked if he was unhappy that he got stuck in this universe where he's just a cult indie-rock dude.

"I don't know if you can be a genius and multi-platinum," Everett said."

Everett also told critics he was never good at math, unlike his father, but he has come to understand how huge a genius the man was. A reporter asked if Mark was bothered at all by his math shortcomings or his inability to follow his father's steps.

"I'd much rather be a rock star," Everett said. "The groupies are a lot better."

_Speaking of being satisfied with their lot in life, Fox assembled a panel of creators and producers of its Sunday night animated shows that included Seth McFarlane ("Family Guy" and "American Dad"), Mike Judge ("King of the Hill"), and Matt Groening ("The Simpsons").

They were asked if it irked them that animated shows never got the respect they deserve from Emmy voters or society at large.

Said Groening, "If we weren't so rich, we'd be very depressed."

The group got to talking about the differences in the old school animation their shows all use, and the computer generated imagery _ called CGI _ that make up most of feature film animation.

"You know what bothers me," Groening said. "Every one of the CGI movies that have a cute animals in them, they all have human eyeballs. I get freaked out ... I like animators who draw perfect ovals with dots. Now that's an eyeball."

_Finally, there was Ted Danson, who revealed a basic truth about life as a star when he was asked if he enjoyed playing the villainous Arthur Frobisher in FX's "Damages."

"I've never had such carte blanche to be so narcissistic," Danson said, "except in life."


We've got a TV critics press tour edition of What'd They Do to My Shows, and the first bit of good news is that HBO's "Entourage" finally got an official return date. It will be back Sept. 7.

Also from HBO, "Big Love" will be back sometime this fall, and execs are hoping "Curb Your Enthusiasm" will return before the end of 2009. "I don't want to use the word guarantee," said Michael Lombardo, president of HBO's West Coast operations, "but we're counting on it."

On the bad news side, HBO co-president Richard Pepler told critics to give up hope for those final two "Deadwood" movies. "I think it's safe to report that the likelihood of a 'Deadwood' movie happening is slim to none," he said.

_Even though they're less than two months into this season, Lifetime announced it's renewing "Army Wives' for a third season to run next summer.

_FX's "The Shield" returns for its last season on Sept. 2, and "Damages" will start season two in January 2009. The cable network also announced its plans for the remaining days of "Nip/Tuck." The last eight episodes of season five will air next spring, and FX ordered 19 more episodes for the show to finish its run. Some will show up in 2010, and the rest, including the series finale, will air in 2011.


Rick Kushman: [email protected]


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