What do Heather Locklear, Matt LeBlanc, Drea de Matteo and Debra Messing have in common with, well, me? We all spent Sunday at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles for the Television Critics Assoc. press tour. (Actually, I spent most of the day next door at the St. Regis, but that's another story for another time.) Anyway, it's NBC's final day of the tour and up first is the session for this fall's most anticipated new sitcom, Joey. Here's my minute-by-minute rundown of yesterday's most memorable moments:JOEY9:50 am The cast — featuring new brother-sister team LeBlanc and de Matteo — walks out on stage and... Oh my God, Adriana's alive! For the love of God, she's alive!
9:54 "It wasn't properly conceived," exec producer Shana Goldberg Meehan says of Ashley Scott's next-door-neighbor character. As a result, the role is currently being revamped and recast. An announcement about Scott's replacement is expected next week. (Sources tell me it's down to three actresses — one of whom used to be on Felicity. But if anyone asks, you did not hear that from me.)
9:57 Fellow producer Kevin Bright says "the chances are small" that Joey's famous friends will make guest appearances in the near future. But he confirms that David Schwimmer will direct the show's sixth episode.
9:59 Adriana's alive! Sweet Jesus, she's alive!
10:00 De Matteo explains the difference between Joey and The Sopranos: "I'll be throwing the punches this time. I won't be getting the s--t beat out of me every week." How much do we love Drea de Matteo?
10:02 Scoop! "I am still signed on [for one more year]," de Matteo says of her Sopranos contract, adding that she will "probably" appear in a dream sequence for the drama's sixth and final season. Seconds later, the actress gets the biggest laugh of the tour so far when she says Adriana "crawled all the way to NBC" after getting gunned down in the woods on HBO. I repeat: How much do we love Drea de Matteo?
10:06 A reporter asks the panel the dreaded "Are sitcoms a dying breed?" question and suddenly, this once-promising session comes to a screeching halt.
10:10 LeBlanc — looking trimmer than usual, I should point out — ends the Q&A on an emotional note when he says walking away from Friends was "like getting a divorce from someone you're still in love with." Only LeBlanc could say something as cornball as that and get away with it. How much do we love Matt LeBlanc?
10:11 Reporters from every corner of the ballroom feverishly rush the stage to get some post-session soundbites from LeBlanc and Co. It's embarrassing spectacles like these that make me ashamed to be a TV journalist. Luckily, I get a head start and beat them all.
10:12 "Drea, what was it like shooting that final scene on The Sopranos?" I ask. "I was very sad to be leaving," she replies. "It was like the Friends finale for me."
10:13 Despite relocating from New York to Los Angeles for Joey, de Matteo reveals that she refuses to get behind the wheel of a car. "That's my one little crazy thing," she says. "I quit driving when I was 21 and I'm not so sure if it's time for me to start yet." You will be the first time you try hailing a cab on Hollywood Boulevard.LAX11:34 The LAX session is about to lift off (couldn't resist), so let me take a moment to say that this airport-based drama — starring Heather Locklear and Blair Underwood — was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Let me also take a moment to predict that, given the show's setting, the hackneyed phrase "post-9/11" will be uttered at least four times in the next 30 minutes.
11:37 Co-star Paul Leyden is apparently too cool for this room. Slouched in his chair, the former As the World Turns stud looks like he's posing for a Levis ad instead of participating in a press conference.
11:38 "Post-9/11" comes up for the first time in a question about airport security.
11:44 Second "post-9/11" mention.
11:46 Third "post-9/11" mention.
11:47 Leyden reveals his trick for getting free first-class upgrades: He gets the ticket takers to feel sorry for him by feigning a knee injury — complete with crutches and a leg brace. That gets a chuckle from the crowd, but I'm pretty sure he made the whole thing up.
11:58 The publicist allows one more question and then we're all free to go to lunch. Good, because I'm starving. Let's make this quick, folks. A female reporter takes the mic and asks, "Can each of the actors tell us what we can expect from their characters?" Please tell me she didn't just ask that. I could have sworn the TCA issued a moratorium on lame round-up questions — especially right before lunch.
11:59 Luckily, the producers save the day by pointing out that, with just one episode shot, the actors don't really know where their characters are headed. And on that note, the session ends. Phew, that was a close one.
11:59:30 Alright, so there were only three references to "post-9/11." I was close.LUNCH WITH JANE PAULEY ON THE OPEN PLAZA12:15 pm Mmmm... grilled veggie sandwiches served on multigrain buns. I think I'll have three!
12:17 Where's Jane? Better yet, where are these pretzels I'm hearing about? All I see is potato chips. I want pretzels! Pretzels, pretzels, pretzels!HAWAII2:45 An NBC page begins handing out fresh leis in advance of the Hawaii session. I grab one and, without missing a beat, announce to my posse, "I finally got leid at press tour!" Yipee! I made the first lei joke! 2:50 In the ballroom, the Hawaii cast, including ER's Sharif Atkins, Ivan Sergei (Jack & Jill) and Eric Balfour (Six Feet Under), take their seats on stage and the Q&A begins.
2:51 "This question is for Mr. Atkins. After falling asleep during the Hawaii pilot, I can't for the life of me figure out why you left your cushy gig at ER for this mess?" Well, that's the question I would have asked if I had the guts.2:52 How confident is Balfour that Hawaii will be a hit? He just bought a house in Honolulu. How confident am I that there will be a For Sale sign on his front lawn by September? Very.
2:55 "Can each of the actors talk about what we can expect from their characters in future episodes?" another reporter (possibly the same one as before) asks. Here's a better question: Do they sell muzzles in the hotel gift shop?
2:57 Methinks Mr. Balfour has issues. He keeps interrupting his costars to test out his new stand-up material. There's nothing sadder than someone who thinks they're funny when they're really not.
3:10 Balfour drops a bombshell: The real-life cops he rode along with as research for his role frequented strip joints in their downtime. No one likes a tattletale.WILL & GRACE3:31 New mommy Debra Messing joins costars Sean Hayes and Eric McCormack, and new showrunners Alex Herschlag and Dave Flebotte on stage to dish about the new season.
3:32 Messing is immediately asked how she's enjoying motherhood. "I'm in love," she confesses.
3:33 I raise my hand and ask the producers what happened to Jhoni Marchinko and Jeff Greenstein, the sitcom's previous showrunners. "They wanted to move on to other things," says Herschlag. Note to self: Do some digging — there's a story there.
3:40 Scoop! Herschlag reveals that Grace and Leo (Harry Connick Jr.) will finally split early in the season, allowing Grace and Karen to explore single life together for the first time. Meanwhile, things will get serious between Will and Vince (Third Watch's Bobby Cannavale, who's back for at least five episodes.)
3:45 More scoop! It's revealed that Jack will quit nursing to become a TV executive at a gay cable network. That sounds funny. Unrealistic, but funny.
3:50 A reporter wonders where the heck Megan Mullally is. "She had a prior commitment," says Herschlag. Note to self: Do some digging — there's a story there.
3:56 Sean Hayes takes a swipe at Woody Harrelson. Someone asks whether Harrelson's Nathan character might come back into Grace's life now that Leo is out of the picture. "If we can find him," Hayes snarkily giggles. Note to self: Where has Harrelson been hiding?
4:02 The session wraps and so does another day of press tour. I've got a few hours before NBC's big all-star party at Universal Studios begins — time I can easily kill relaxing in my room next door at the St. Regis (that's another story for another time).
4:05 I'm waiting for the elevator outside the ballroom when I overhear a journalist ask an NBC employee, "How much does a fresh lei cost these days?" Everyone laughs — including me. And at that very moment I learned a valuable lesson: There's no glory in being the first to make a lei joke because, well, they never get old.
For Day One of Michael Ausiello's Press Tour Diary, click here.