9:05 am “Last season was like a colonic,” starts off Kevin Reilly, entertainment president of fourth-place NBC. “It wasn’t a lot of fun to go through at the time, but it’s going to be healthy in the long run.”
9:05:15 Continuing with the intestinal-irrigation metaphor, Reilly adds, “It literally took any residual sense of entitlement or complacency at our company and blew it out.” That’s what you want to hear right after breakfast.
9:09 Reilly announces “a new direction” for Joey this season that will hopefully make it suck less. “This year we will kick off with Joey finally making it in Hollywood,” he reveals. “Drea de Matteo’s character is going to go to work for Jennifer Coolidge [aka Joey’s agent]. We’re adding a new actor friend to Joey’s posse. And we have a one-hour season opener with some big-name guest stars — not former Friends cast members. We will announce these in a couple of weeks.”
9:10 Regarding the addition of Law & Order alum Angie Harmon to the cast of the fertility drama Inconceivable, Reilly says, “She’s going to play the third leg of a triangle with costars Jonathan Cake and Ming-Na.” Twenty bucks says Angie takes it in one episode. (She’ll have to, too; I doubt the show will last a trimester.)
9:14 Reilly reveals another tweak being made on Joey this season that will hopefully make it suck less. “We’re going to see his nephew move out of the apartment,” he previews, adding, “I’ve heard the stories pitched for the first batch of episodes this year. I wish I heard stories this good last year.”
9:16 OK, time to make Reilly come clean about Scrubs. Gimme that microphone! “Kevin, you announced at the upfronts in May that the reason Scrubs was being held until midseason was that Zach Braff had landed a movie,” I begin. “But executive producer Bill Lawrence insists that’s not the case and that the decision was made before Zach landed the movie,” I continue. “So,” I conclude, “what was the real reason Scrubs was held?”
9:16:30 “Bill’s a pathological liar,” Reilly says with a laugh. “No. It was concurrent timing. [Zach’s film schedule] certainly wasn’t the No. 1 driver… [Scrubs] will be on sooner rather than later. What I’m hoping is [that] we get some spark with these new [Tuesday-night] shows [My Name Is Earl and The Office] and we can start then rebuilding our comedy blocks.” Bottom line: Someone’s gonna feel really silly if Scrubs takes home the Emmy for best comedy in September.
9:18 A reporter asks Reilly why NBC felt a press-tour session for The Apprentice: Martha Stewart would not be a good thing. “That really came down to logistical difficulty,” he says. “With her limited time under house arrest [back on the East Coast]… and the awkwardness of satellite interviews… we just felt it was not going to put the whole thing in the best light.”
9:20 Scoop! Reilly reveals that although Law & Order: Trial by Jury is indeed dead, “out of the ashes of that show” will come a new Dick Wolf-produced drama set in the world of ADAs. “It’s highly unlikely it’ll have Law & Order in the title,” he says of the program. “It’s a more character-based show that Dick pitched to us on Friday. I would expect to see that on the air.” Bottom line: Dick Wolf always wins.
9:24 “[Martha] will have her own [Apprentice] catchphrase,” he confirms. “I hope it catches on the way Donald’s did.”
9:34 Reilly announces that the Peacock is implementing a revolutionary programming strategy this season: “Put a show in its time period, leave it in its time period, start it on time.” OK, that’s just crazy.
9:37 Reilly suggests that John Wells and Co. may still be on the fence about who’ll be The West Wing’s next president, Alan Alda or Jimmy Smits. “They had an idea,” he says, “but… I think now they’re kind of wrestling with how to change it up.”
9:44 Reilly uses the words “very wide turning radius” in a sentence. No fair — I want to use big words, too. Maybe later.
My Name Is Earl
11:06 A reporter asks leading man Jason Lee (Chasing Amy) “how it feels to have all of NBC’s slim fortunes riding on your back.” (Earl was allegedly NBC’s highest-testing comedy pilot in 15 years.) “I can’t show up on the set every day with that on my mind,” he replies. “It would be too distracting.”
11:12 Random noise alert: A telephone rings — and not a cell phone, but an old-fashioned brrrrring, brrrrring kind of phone. I scan the room to see if anyone else hears it.
11:12:15 Nope, just me. Must be the Vicodin.
11:46 None of my colleagues can, um, fathom why I like this aquatic thriller, but I do. There, I said it.
11:47 An NBC publicist introduces the panel thusly: “Sitting to my left, executive producer Josh Pate; to his left, Carter Jenkins; to his left, Lake Bell; to her left, Jay Ferguson; and to his left, Jonas Pate.” Now, admittedly, I’m not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but wouldn’t it have been easier just to say, “From left to right… ”?
11:50 Josh Pate says that “some legal complications” led them to change the title of the show from Fathom to Surface. “We came up with a list of names, and we really liked Surface,” he says. “It doesn’t tell you whether the species is good or bad.”
11:57 “I never really got into Lost,” confesses Surface’s young star, Carter Jenkins. I’m sorry, but that’s just unfathomable.
11:59 “It’s a family name,” says Lake Bell, explaining how she wound up with her unique first name. “My great-grandmother was named Lake.”
12:01 pm And now today's "Whatchoo talkin' 'bout, Willis?" award for the most inappropriate thing to ask a 14-year-old boy as he’s sitting next to a 26-year-old woman named Lake — especially in front of a bunch of dirty-minded television critics — goes to the reporter who posed this question to Carter Jenkins: “Do you still like lake sports?”
12:01:30 “I mean water sports,” the red-faced reporter clarifies. “I’m sorry.” Wow, the bar was set pretty high with that one. Congratulations to today’s winner!
12:02 Next to insinuating that she’s having an affair with her 14-year-old costar, what’s the most surefire way to make Lake Bell squirm in her seat? Wait until she’s in a room with 250 people (including her current employers) and ask her how come David E. Kelley fired her from Boston Legal. “That’s a fair question. Fair question,” she says hesitantly. “I’m not really an authority to really talk about it. I don’t know what David… I don’t really know how to answer that question, actually. I think he just… I think that show… I don’t really know anything about that show anymore because I’m not on it anymore. But yeah, it’s all I guess I can say. Sorry I don’t have a cooler answer than that. I actually don’t know.” Am I the only one sweating right now?
2:05 Scoop! Melrose Place gal-for-hire Kelly Rutherford has joined Benjamin Bratt and Dennis Hopper in this Pentagon-set drama!
2:07 Scoop! Producers have dropped 24 villainess Sarah Clarke as Bratt’s better half so that they can instead make his character single!
2:08 Scoop! I stopped watching this pilot 22 minutes in because the cheesy dialogue made my ears hurt!
2:31 Hopper says that he’s probably losing “a million-and-a-half dollars a year taking this [TV] job” and putting his movie career on hold. Really? They were going to pay him that much for Firestarter 3?
The Biggest Loser
2:47 In introducing the session for the second season of Loser, an NBC publicist works in three — count ‘em, three — food-related puns. Although that’s a new press-tour record, the history-making moment is apparently lost on the 11 other journalists who actually stuck around for this session.
3:01 A certain reporter who shall remain nameless leans over to me and points out that first-season runner-up Kelly Minner — despite having lost nearly 80 lbs. on Loser — looks like “Monica Geller in the old home videos.”
3:01:15 As a former fatty myself, I inform this certain reporter who shall remain nameless that I find his crack hurtful and insensitive. In other words, perfect for my Press Tour Diary.
3:04 OK, someone needs to stick a fork in this session because I’m pretty sure it’s done.
3:05 There’s a rumor going around that immediately following this session, NBC will be hosting a Biggest Loser-themed snack break that features both sinful and nutritious options. I can’t wait!
3:07 Scoop! Producers reveal that there’s a special family version of Biggest Loser in the works. Meanwhile, there are just eight more minutes to go!
3:15 Snack time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
3:15:30 I pass right by the celery sticks and granola bars…
3:15:35 … heading straight for the… oh, my god… Double-Stuff Oreos!
3:15:40 And brownies!
3:15:45 And jumbo chocolate-chip cookies!
3:15:50 Suddenly, E-Ring is starting to look a whole lot better.
Tomorrow: NBC: Day 2