9:09 "We’re thrilled to see everyone
except Michael Ausiello today," UPN’s top PR gal, Joanna Massey, announces to the room. She might just as well have said the middle part ‘cause I know she was thinking it. As one insider recently confided to me, "You’re on UPN’s [poopy] list ever since you did that interview with [Veronica Mars creator] Rob Thomas." That probably explains why they didn’t deliver Snapple to my room like they did last year. I suppose I should be grateful I got the press binder.
9:11 Network chief Dawn Ostroff, in bragging about UPN’s impressive year, cites a 13 percent surge in viewership among the women 18-34 demo. Meanwhile, I’m pretty sure she hates me, too.
9:19 Ostroff pins the failure of Kevin Hill squarely on the shoulders of the show’s executive producers. "Creatively, it lost its way," she says. "It really spiraled down." (Ironic sidebar: Ostroff renewed Eve for a second season.)
9:20 One of the four episodes of Mars that CBS will be airing next month will be the pilot. The other three will feature "more closed-ended [stories] to make it as accessible as possible to people who have not seen the show."
9:24 Ostroff says the net fired Shannen Doherty from its new comedy, Love, Inc., because "we decided to go in a different direction with the character." News on Doherty’s replacement, meanwhile, is coming "soon." (Editor’s note: Just 10 hours later, Busy Phillips of Freaks and Geeks and Dawson’s Creek was named as Doherty’s successor.)
9:27 Ostroff dodges her first question about meddling with Mars. I’m tempted to raise my hand and force the issue, but, well, I want Snapple next year. Does that make me a bad person? I think it does.
9:35 Ostroff dodges her second question about meddling with Mars. Don’t let her off the hook, people!
9:36 Ostroff "cannot comment" on rumors that a major Mars cast member is on his or her way out, but she does offer a little preview of the new season. "Veronica’s going to start off wanting to be just a normal kid, not working in her dad’s investigative firm. But clearly, that won’t last very long. We’re introducing a new mystery. Wallace is going to have a girlfriend. And Veronica’s dad will be encouraged to run for sheriff again."
9:38 Ostroff dodges her first question about why Janice Dickinson was booted from America’s Next Top Model’s judging panel, adding that the world’s first supermodel "is actually going to appear in the show in a different way." As a contestant, perhaps? An extra?
9:45 "We’re looking for ways to really maximize the Top Model audience and bring them into Veronica Mars," she says. Among the ideas: In one of next season’s Top Model episodes, the winner of that week’s challenge will win dinner with all the guys from Mars. The runner-up will get a tour of the Half & Half set.
9:55 They’re allowing one final question. OK, gimme that mic. "Rob Thomas, in a recent interview (tee-hee), said that the level of network interference made for some tense moments last season," I begin. "He also said that going into the first episode of this season, you guys were having a ‘minibattle,’" I continue. And for my big finish: "Given that, can you understand why fans might be concerned that you’re tinkering with their favorite show a little too much?" Dodge that.
9:56: "Honestly, I’m surprised by that. I think you should talk to Rob because we’re thrilled with the first episode and we know he’s very excited about it. And we’ve had a fantastic working relationship." Crap! She dodged it!
10:09 Executive producer Warren Littlefield all but confirms that Shannen Doherty went all Exorcist on him the day that pink slip arrived on her doorstep. "That was a really difficult discussion," he says, "particularly because the work process was very positive."
10:12 "[Shannen and I] had a terrific relationship," insists costar Holly Robinson Peete. "This is no B.S. We really did. I was very upset to hear that [she got axed]." It’s not a lie if you believe it.
10:15 "I think we would all love to work with her again," adds fellow cast member Reagan Gomez-Preston. "She was such a sweetheart." It’s not a lie if you… I’m sorry, but she’s lying.
10:17 This is probably a good time to point out that, with or without Doherty, this show blows massive chunks. (Poor Busy Phillips.) This is in stark contrast to…
Everybody Hates Chris
10:50 … which is brilliant. It’s hands-down the best new show of the fall. And with executive producer/narrator Chris Rock in the house today, I suspect this session will be a press-tour highlight.
10:52 Asked about reports that Fox passed on Everybody Hates Chris out of concern that he would bolt after the pilot, Fox cracks: "My name’s Rock, not Chappelle." Oh, no he di’int. Oh, yes he did. Oh, no he di’int. Oh, yes he did. Oh, no he di’int. Oh, yes he did. Oh, no he di’int. Oh, yes he did.
10:54 A well-meaning reporter makes the mistake of asking Rock about using the N-word in the Chris pilot. "Excuse me, n---er?" he fires back. "I do whatever the network lets me do. If they say I can use the F-word, there’s a bunch of them coming, too." I think I just piddled my pants. Seriously.
10:56 How’d Rock find Tyler James Williams, the 12-year-old playing him in Chris? "I was at Michael Jackson’s house, in the driveway, and this kid runs out," he cracks. "’Wait! Save me!’" More piddle! Wow, first Cybill Shepherd and now Chris Rock. This is turning out to be the best press tour ever.
11:03 Rock jokes that he originally considered calling the show Let’s Shoot Chris in the Head, but he "couldn’t get that one by the censors." No piddle on that one but funny nonetheless.
11:20 Asked if there'd been any fallout from his coolly received stint as Oscar host last February, Rock replies, "I don’t think there’s any fallout. My career seems to be OK. Will I do it again? Maybe. Who knows if they’ll even ask me? I don’t know."
11:25 Exec producer Ali LeRoi jokes that "a dragon is going to try to kill Chris in Episode 4." Adds Rock: "I can’t wait for the abortion episode. That’s the one I’m looking forward to." Steady stream of piddle!
Sex, Love & Secrets
2:15 pm The session begins, and with Denise Richards up there like a sitting duck, I’m bummed that the first question isn’t, "So what’d the bastard do?"
2:16 I know I’m not supposed to say this because she just had a baby, but Richards has really let herself go. She’s gotta be pushing, like, 96 lbs. It’s so sad.
2:17 Cancellation appears to have humbled Eric Balfour, who costars with Richards in this L.A.-based soap. At last year’s session for NBC’s short-lived stinker Hawaii, he acted like a homeless 4-year-old crack addict. This year he’s positively refined in a sharp tan suit. Even better, he’s not speaking unless spoken to.
2:24 A reporter asks a question about the big twist at the end of the first episode that I’m not allowed to talk about.
2:25 One gutsy journo asks Richards what it was like to film the Sex, Love & Secrets pilot at a time when her personal life was in such upheaval. It’s not as specific as I would have liked, but it’ll do. "It was actually a wonderful escape for me to be able to just focus on work and forget about everything else," she replies.
2:26 Richards says she got pointers from good pal — and Charlie’s onetime Spin City leading lady — Heather Locklear about playing a bad girl on a prime-time sudser. "There are little bits of [Amanda] from Melrose Place," she says. "[But my] character is a little deeper." But not by much. (I’ve seen the pilot. I know.)
2:44 A reporter asks Richards — whose character is described as a "sneaky publicist" — what’s the most outrageous thing she’s ever seen a publicist do. "I don’t know," she hedges. "Does anyone want to help me with that one?" I would, but I’m saving it for my memoirs.
2:45 When costar Omar Benson Miller says, "I can relate to getting cheated on, like most people in this room," my eyes dart over to Richards to see if her expression reveals any clues as to whether infidelity played a role in her split with Sheen. Does that make me a horrendous person? I think it does — and I’m OK with it.
R U THE GIRL WITH T-BOZ AND CHILLI
3:00 Nap time!
Coming up Sunday: WB