Ghost Whisperer

8:50 am My first official day of the Television Critics Association press tour gets off to a smashing start when what to my wondering eyes should appear on the front page of Daily Variety but a smiling Papa Smurf! Turns out Paramount is developing a trilogy of Smurf features to debut in 2008! Azrael is gonna pee himself!

8:58 My Smurferrific mood dampens a bit when I learn that the Godfather of CBS, Mr. Leslie Moonves, will not be headlining this morning's executive session for the first time in, like, a decade. It seems Les is holed up in the Big Apple at a Viacom board meeting, leaving CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler to go it alone. Bummer. Nothing against Ms. Tassler, but press tour without Les Moonves is like Deadwood without Al Swearengen.

Executive Session

9:05 Before Tassler takes the stage, it's time for a quick TCA checklist: Laptop? Check. Diet Raspberry Snapple (courtesy of the public-relations staff at the Beverly Hilton)? Check. Vicodin? Check. Swag (in this case, DVDs of CBS classics Hogan's Heroes and I Love Lucy: The Complete Fourth Season)? Check. Unscratched UPC codes on aforementioned swag? Check. Let the games begin!

9:09 In her opening remarks, Tassler lays out CBS' strategy for the coming season and… Hey, lemme check my Snapple cap to see if I won myself a favor! "Sorry — not a winner. Do yourself a favor, try again!" D'oh!

9:17 Scoop! Tassler reveals that more changes are imminent on CSI: NY next season. Among them: The CSI offices will relocate from their current basement setting to a spectacular high-rise, and costar Hill Harper will move out of the morgue and into the field. "We've seen some of the early dailies, and he's got great chemistry with Gary Sinise,"she says. "They're really terrific together."

9:20 Responding to a reporter's question about whether CBS had a hand in Rob and Amber's losing The Amazing Race by ordering the pilot of that jet in Puerto Rico to return to the gate and pick up eventual winners Uchenna and Joyce, Tassler says, "As far as I know, we had nothing to do with it." The key words here being "as far as I know."

9:26 Joan of Arcadia got crucified, Tassler explains, because the show "lost 24 percent of its audience… and we couldn't get them back. It was a big disappointment."

9:36 Wow. This executive session blows. Where's a couple of CSI firings or a Brad Garrett salary standoff when you need one?

9:37 Someone just asked a question about CBS' upcoming miniseries on the Pope, so allow me to use this lull to give you guys some good TCA dirt. At a panel on Monday to promote her upcoming daytime gabfest, The Tyra Banks Show, Ms. Tyra refused to answer any questions pertaining to America's Next Top Model. And to add insult to injury, the Oprah wannabe committed one of the cardinal sins of TCA by not sticking around after the session to answer follow-up questions. All I was gonna ask her was, "Do you remember what it was like to be unemployed?"

We now return you to CBS' executive session, already in progress…

10:02 A reporter asks Tassler whether she and Les had any "disagreements" when putting together the fall schedule. After mulling it over for a few seconds, she replies, "Hmmm… no." The key word here being "hmmm."

How I Met Your Mother

10:20 The panel for this Monday-night sitcom begins and… sweet Jesus, it's Doogie Howser Neil Patrick Harris and Willow Rosenberg Alyson Hannigan!!!!

10:21 I notice that Willow Alyson has grown her ravishing red locks out — to amazing effect!

10:23 A question is asked about the big twist at the end of the show's first episode… a twist we're not allowed to reveal. But here's a hint: Exec producer Craig Thomas answers the question by saying, "It's more about the journey than the destination." Any guesses?

10:26 Oh, swell. Another question about the big twist we're not allowed to reveal. Here's a hint: Fellow exec producer Carter Bays answers the question by saying, "It's going to be a complicated story." Hmmm….

10:39 A reporter asks the producers if they're concerned that folks watching the first episode will feel cheated when they find out… Oh, crap — another friggin' question about the big twist we're not allowed to reveal!

10:42 Doogie Neil finds it "interesting" that there's been so much talk about the big twist we're not allowed to reveal, saying, "I don't see that there's a need for an answer by the end of Episode 13."Adds Willow Aly: "Yeah, you never found out who the boss really was on Who's the Boss?" That gets a huge laugh from the crowd. You'd laugh, too, if you knew what the big twist we're not allowed to reveal was. How much fun is this, eh?

10:51 Finally, something non-twist-related: Willow Aly reveals that she's wearing hair extensions right now for an as-yet-untitled romantic comedy that she's shooting. Hey, this session wasn't a total waste after all!

Knots Landing Reunion: Together Again

11:22 CBS is holding this "informal" press conference — featuring Knots divas Michele Lee, Joan Van Ark and Donna Mills — off the main ballroom in the smaller Grand Salon, prompting one critic to note, "You just know if Nicollette Sheridan were here, it'd be in the bigger room." It's sad but true.

11:23 The ladies enter along with Michael Levitt, the special's exec producer, and Michael Filerman, one of Knots' creators. He's also the guy who took over Falcon Crest in Season 8 and single-handedly burned it to the ground. But that's for another time.

11:26 Scoop! Michele Lee reveals something she didn't have the guts to on the recently shot special, which mixes classic clips with cast interviews: "I had written in my contract that I would not be a grandmother on Knots Landing."

11:30 I ask the producers whether Nicollette Sheridan was approached to appear in the special, and Lee deadpans, "She's a slut."

11:31 "Actually, Nicollette was approached," explains Levitt. "She was unavailable for the initial taping due to her Desperate Housewives schedule. But it was important enough to her to call herself and say, 'How can I still be a part of this?' So we were able to work out a special segment with Nicollette that's been integrated into the reunion, which is very, very nice."

11:35 Levitt confesses that he was one of the producers responsible for last season's godawful Dallas reunion. Big mistake, buddy.

11:36 Michele Lee asks the mostly male, middle-aged audience, "How many in the room actually saw Knots Landing?" Almost everyone in the room raises their hand — a little too enthusiastically, if you ask me.

11:42 Reporters start shouting out their favorite Knots story lines — right down to specific lines of dialogue. OK, now I'm scared.

11:46 Lee once again refers to Nicollette Sheridan as "the little slut." You know what they say: First time's funny, second time's true.

12:03 pm I raise my hand and ask Levitt if he learned any lessons from the Dallas reunion that he applied to the Knots special, adding, "Because the consensus on the Dallas reunion was that, as far as the cheese factor goes, it was off the charts."

12:03:30 Apparently shocked by the critical nature of my question, Donna Mills lets out an "Ooooh."

12:03:45 "On some level, reunions are what they are," Levitt reasons. "And what we have found is that viewers want to see the cast members come together. They want to know that they're still friends. Some may consider [that cheesy]… but I think the ratings and the viewer interest kind of speak to the fact that it works." First off, the Dallas reunion was widely considered a ratings disappointment. Secondly, I think I speak for all Dallas fans when I say that what doesn't work is having the cast show up at Southfork one by one and pretend they hadn't seen each other for a decade when, in fact, they all had dinner the night before. There, I said it.

Close to Home

2:10 Cast members Jennifer Finnigan (Committed, The Bold and the Beautiful), Kimberly Elise (Diary of a Mad Black Woman) and Christian Kane (Angel) take their positions on stage. This was one of my favorite pilots, so I have a good feeling about this session.

2:25 This session blows big-time. Finnigan's her usual adorable self, but producers Jonathan Littman and Jim Leonard are barely audible, Kane looks like he wants to be anywhere but here, and stone-faced Elise has apparently sent her Madame Tussaud's wax figure to sub for her.

2:26 I scan the room, and of the 154 journalists in attendance, three of them are still conscious — and they're hanging on by a thread.

2:27 Oops, we lost another one.

2:33 Kimberly Elise just smiled. I swear.

2:36 [Crickets]

2:38 "Sorry — not a winner. Do yourself a favor, try again!" D'oh!

2:40 She's alive — and she's talking! Asked what attracted her to the role, Elise plays the race card a little too hard, saying, "The writers saw me and the people I represent as human beings." Overly pretentious party of one, your table is ready!

Out of Practice

3:05 Man, new mom Paula Marshall (Cupid) has huge knockers — and she ain't afraid to show ‘em.

3:11 Scoop! Leading lady Stockard Channing says she's committed to three episodes of The West Wing next season, adding, "I think [the Bartlet administration] will be gone by Christmas."

3:12 And now today's "Whatchoo talkin' 'bout, Willis?" award for the most random question of the day. It goes to the reporter who asked The Fonz Henry Winkler how he finds time to run his production company and star in a sitcom. "Are you in your trailer making phone calls? Do you wait until the day is over to do it?" Let's have a big round of applause for today's winner!

3:17 Paula Marshall hasn't told her mother she's playing a lesbian yet "because she's old and doesn't understand."

3:26 A reporter asks Marshall how one would tell her apart from doppelganger (and fellow CBS star) Carla Gugino. Without missing a beat, she cracks, "Carla's tits are much bigger."

3:28 On working with Stockard Channing for the first time, The Fonz Henry Winkler gushes, "I am a very fortunate man to be standing toe to toe with this woman." He then glances over at Ms. Channing, most likely expecting her to return the compliment (or at least say thanks), but… nothing. Hey, Rizzo just dissed Fonzie!

3:31 Exec producer Joe Keenan says CBS did not balk at the line in the pilot that read, "Dyke-sniffing truffle hog." Phew.

3:39 Christopher Gorham reveals that he met with Keenan about doing Out of Practice while he was still working on NBC's now-defunct Medical Investigation.

3:40 Awkward-moment alert! A clearly still-annoyed Keenan says Gorham's agents insisted their client would "only meet. He won't read" for the role. Such an ultimatum appears to be news to Gorham.

3:50 More awkwardness! Another reporter presses Keenan about Gorham's meet-and-not-read tactic. "I think it's mainly the posturing of agents who want to flatter their clients by saying, 'My client will not audition,'" Keenan explains. "And there are many people whose body of work is strong enough that you should know by now that this person can play this part. In the case of Chris, we were scratching our heads only because he had done little comedy." Dude, he's sitting right next to you!

3:51 Paula Marshall breaks some bad news to the male critics before her: She won't be attending this evening's CBS party and therefore won't be able to "compare them"— "them" being her boobies — with confirmed attendee Carla Gugino.

Ghost Whisperer

4:10 Although they've been on stage for all of 10 seconds, I'm willing to bet boy-crazy Jennifer Love Hewitt has already made a play for her near-flawless leading man, Miss Match's David Conrad. It's just a hunch.

4:12 Someone asks J.L.H. about her acting technique — and not a single reporter laughs. Now that, ladies and gentleman, is restraint.

4:23 Would someone please tell me how it is that Aisha Tyler went from Friends to Nip/Tuck to 24 to CSI to the role of J.Luv's sidekick on this sappy CBS drama? Clearly Chris Gorham is not the only one with an agent problem.

4:25 I catch J.L.H. making googily eyes at Hottie Conrad. I knew it!

4:29 Now Aisha Tyler's flirting with Hottie. J.L.H. pretends not to notice. Damn, this is getting good.

4:35 Hottie starts to take off his jacket and J.L.H. reaches over to help him.

4:41 When a reporter notes the parallels between Whisperer and NBC's Medium, particularly where the show's central couples are concerned, J.L.H. declares, "My husband is prettier!" I rest my case.

Coming up tomorrow: Day 2 of CBS

 Check out the rest of Michael Ausiello's press tour diary entries:  Day 1 (CBS) - Day 2 (CBS) - Day 3 (UPN) - Day 4 (WB) -Day 5 (NBC) - Day 6 (NBC) - Day 7 (ABC) - Day 8 (ABC)

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