9:02 am If I didn't know better, I'd swear Fox is trying to kill us. How else to explain the artery-clogging goodie bags awaiting each and every one of us at our work stations this morning. Among the treats inside: chocolate-covered pretzels, M&M's, Whoppers, roasted almonds, Jolly Ranchers and huge gumballs. Do they not realize that most of the critics — after spending upwards of three weeks binging on fried shrimp, pizza, hamburgers and lard-filled pastries — are in detox mode? This is akin to inviting Sue Ellen Ewing to finish off a bender with a wine-tasting at Falcon Crest! Well, I'm not letting the terrorists win this time. I'll pretend like they're not even there.
9:05 I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm going to miss former Fox chief Gail Berman. Sure, we didn't always see eye to eye — she insisted audiences were responding to Quintuplets; I insisted she was plastered — but there was something oddly comforting about having her around. Plus I can tell this new Peter Liguori fella isn't going to be nearly as much fun to pick on.
9:10 Liguori starts off on the right foot, announcing, "You're not going to get any speech from me, so let's get right to the Q&A." This is going to be a good day — I can feel it.
9:11 The first question pertains to the investigation into Paula Abdul's alleged affair with American Idol reject Corey Clark. I must confess that I forgot all about Paulagate. It's probably good we get this matter out of the way now and move on to other business.
9:11:30 Liguori confirms that he has hired a special "independent counsel to lead an inquiry into the allegations." He adds, "The credibility of the competition is extraordinarily important to us."
9:12 Oh, another Abdul query. This time a reporter asks whether Fox ever came out and asked Abdul if she shagged Clark. "Yeah, we have sat down with Paula," he says. "Again, what I would like, ideally, is [to] not discuss the inquiry [until] a conclusion is reached." OK, moving on…
9:19 ... or not. Liguori is asked whether a judge shagging a contestant — particularly one as skeevy as Clark — is a fireable offense. "The credibility of the competition is incredibly important to us," he reiterates, "and we will do everything possible to secure that credibility." Phew. I seriously thought that line of questioning would never end.
9:22 Now a reporter is asking what'll happen if the independent counsel hasn't completed its task by the time Idol tryouts start on Aug. 18. "The investigation is winding down, but what I don't want to do is impose our production timetable on it," Liguori says, adding that guest judges could always be called on to fill in for Abdul in the event that the inquiry isn't wrapped by then.
9:26 Liguori says the independent counsel "is not Ken Starr... It is not someone of major notoriety."
9:27 Hallelujah! Finally changing the subject, Liguori is asked to drop some hints about the new season of 24! "It's going to take some bamboo shoots for me to talk about 24," he replies, prompting the frustrated journo to shoot back, "Then I'm going to ask… " — oh, sweet Jesus, no — "… another Paula Abdul question!" Don't do it! Turn back! There's still time!
9:27:15 He did it. He went back to Titanic. I officially give up. Good thing I brought along a book to read.
9:27:30 "The credibility of this competition to us can never be underestimated." (Step 1: Find yourself a durable plastic bag without holes.)
9:34 "We're dealing with the allegations, and the allegations are centered on Paula." (Step 2: Find a rubber band.)
9:35 "Look, the audience loves Paula. She continues to get support." (Step 3: Place plastic bag over your head.)
9:36 "At this point, we have nothing that specifically says [Paula] shouldn't be showing up for work." (Step 4: Secure plastic bag around head using rubber band.)
9:39 "Once the inquiry is finished, we will give you a full display." (Step 5: Be patient. Suffocation will set in momentarily.)
9:41 "We are clearly not making light of the allegations. The credibility of the show is paramount to us." (Step 6: Suffocation should have set in. If you're not dead yet, you will be soon.)
9:42 The session ends just as I'm about to get to chapter 18: "How to Kill Yourself Via the Inhalation of Carbon Monoxide Gas." I'll pick up with it this afternoon during the Head Cases session.
9:59 Perfect. A fire alarm has rendered the elevators at the Beverly Hilton inoperable, making it impossible for us to get to our rooms. I guess I'll just take a seat in the lobby and wait.
9:56 Chapter 18: "How to Kill Yourself Via the Inhalation of Carbon Monoxide Gas."
10:15 The concierge announces that the elevators are up and running. About 38 reporters cram into the first available car, exceeding the weight limit by about two Hurleys.
11:38 This session gets off to horrendous start when the reporter next to me, cueing her tape recorder to the right spot, plays it full blast — busting the eardrums of everyone around her. How rude!
11:38:10 It's still blasting! People from all over the room are beginning to shoot daggers at her. Just as I'm about to grab that tin of Goldfish crackers in my goodie bag and chuck it at her head, it dawns on me… maybe she's deaf.
11:39:40 She finally shuts the thing off, just in time for the session to start.
11:40 Oh, for the love of all that is good and holy: We're back to introducing and miking up the panel after the clip presentation. Has no one at Fox read my diaries? Sheesh.
11:41 Oh, my god — it's Angel!!!!!!!!!
11:45 Who says you never learn anything useful at press tour? "One of the interesting things I found out in researching this series was that if you want to kill someone and get away with it, don't bury them," reveals executive producer Hart Hanson. "Just take them out to the desert and toss them there, and the animals will take care of it in two or three days — depending on the acidity of the ground." Good to know.
11:50 Is David Boreanaz's leading lady, Emily Deschanel, a Naval Academy grad? Because she's got amazing posture.
11:50:30 Nope, she went to Boston University. Maybe she has a rod in her back.
12:03 pm This session is starting to make my bones hurt.
12:05 A reporter asks Boreanaz how his character's dynamic with Deschanel is different from Angel's relationship with Buffy. "I can actually go to bed with this one [without losing my soul]," he cracks.
12:11 In a rare moment of press-tour candor, Boreanaz reveals that one of the reasons his first meeting with Hanson didn't go well was because his future employer "started talking about Angel… and I really was not into talking about that." That noise you hear is riots breaking out in the Buffyverse.
12:15 It's time to hand out today's "Whatchoo talkin' 'bout, Willis?" award, which goes to the reporter who asked Hanson, "This is the first show I watched, so — and so I kind of forgot, but [former X-Files boss man] Mitch Pileggi's in the pilot, right?" "No," the exec replies, "that's John Jackson." That one's gonna be tough to top. Congratulations to today's winner!
Family Guy Lunch
12:20 I'm tempted to skip this to get some writing done, but if ever a press-tour luncheon had muy pricey swag written all over it, it's this one.
12:21 Upon entering the Grand Ballroom — the setting for today's meal — I notice… oh… my… god. Do my eyes deceive me? Did Fox really place… 7-foot-tall martini glasses in the center of every table and fill them with free Family Guy merchandise? Yes, they sure did!
12:21:15 There are Stewie stuffed animals!
12:21:30 And action figures!
12:21:45 And notebooks!
12:21:52 And backpacks! All with their original tags, making them perfect for regifting! Fox, you win! You win!
12:22 Be cool, Mike. People are just beginning to trickle in. You don't want to be the first one to start picking through the booty. Remember the cardinal rule of swagwhorism: Lay low, wait for the signal — and then pounce.
12:40 I'm apparently not the only journo well-versed in the art of swagwhorism. Everyone is settled in at their tables, but the free crap remains untouched. No one wants to make the first move… Wait… across the room… at the table in the corner… that trade reporter… he's gunning for the Family Guy cocktail shaker! The room erupts in all-out pandemonium, a veritable swagwhorgy! That Stewie keychain is mine, you bastard!
12:41 Like a pack of wild dogs fighting over a bone, well-respected reporters from around the country are attacking the loot-filled martini glasses with utter abandon. It's like watching an all-star episode of Supermarket Sweep, only instead of Ken Jennings leading the way, you have me!
1:15 The "Oh Yeahhhh! Brownie Sundae" is about to be served for dessert, which is my cue to head back to my room and sort through my loot. Without getting into specifics, let's just say that both my brothers are more than taken care of for Christmas.
2:03 The subtle tip I gave to one of Fox's top PR execs earlier appears to have fallen on deaf ears: They're still introducing and miking up the talent after the clip presentation.
2:03:10 While I'm waiting for things to get under way, I suppose it wouldn't hurt to open the tin of pretzel nuggets in my goodie bag. Pretzels are certainly better for you than Whoppers.
2:03:24 Unless, of course, those pretzels are filled with peanut butter! Damn you, Fox!
2:05 Someone apparently forgot to tell Buffy's Nicholas Brendon — clad in green pants, red jacket and a white button-down shirt — that one of the perks of sobriety is that you don't have to wear your drunk clothes anymore.
2:09 Attempting to fill some dead air, Kitchen star Bradley Cooper (Alias) says, "Crickets." Hey, that's my line!
2:16 What does
Xander Brendon know about kitchens? "When I was 3 or 4, my twin brother Kelly and I, we knew how to take a Hungry Man TV-tray dinner box out of the trash can, light it on fire and then throw it on the curtains in the dining room and then awaken my parents to something that was savage. That's what I know about kitchens." Um… huh?
2:19 I think Brendon may be suffering from ericbalfourism — an affliction that causes actors to hijack press conferences with erratic behavior and unfunny banter.
2:24 Brendon's disease has progressed further than I first thought. He just threatened to cook costar Bonnie Somerville's arm "at 350 [degrees] for 25 minutes" to make the fish smell go away. Fox needs to do the right thing here and turn his mic off.
2:43 Someone please stick a fork in this session. Somerville is now running through the guest list from last winter's NYPD Blue wrap party. (Dennis Franz was there, David Caruso wasn't. Shocking.)
2:50 After going about 20 minutes too long, the session finally ends, prompting an unnamed fellow journo to whisper, "That was like a bad three-course meal."
3:03 A few Jolly Ranchers aren't gonna hurt me. Besides, I've got to find something to do while Chris O'Donnell, Adam Goldberg and the rest of this legal dramedy's cast get introduced and miked.
3:09 We're less than five minutes in, and O'Donnell is already checking his watch.
3:11 I wonder how the grape one tastes…
3:11:10 Pretty good, actually.
3:20 Adam Goldberg — you remember him; he was Chandler's scary roommate, Eddie, on Friends — may be in the early stages of ericbalfourism himself. He just made a joke and it bombed.
3:25 Two chocolate-covered pretzels, that's it.
3:27 Oh, my god, I just finished off the entire tin of chocolate-covered pretzels. Damn you, Fox!
3:28 Another Adam Goldberg joke lands like a thud.
3:29 The show's littlest star, Jake Cherry, yawns. Good — I'm not the only one.
3:32 With this session's feeding tube just moments away from being pulled out by Fox, O'Donnell — filling some dead air between questions — looks out over the weary press corps and notes, "So [you have all been here for] three weeks.Two days to go, huh? Almost home."
Until next year. In the meantime, one little Whopper won't hurt.
The Press Tour Diaries may be done, but the scoop sure isn't. Check out Wednesday's Ask Ausiello for all the behind-the-scenes buzz from the year's biggest mixer, including Fox Part 2!