Today's big news: I woke up to find a zit the size of a Vespa parked on my face. Good times....
ABC Entertainment president Stephen McPherson is wearing blue jeans that scream "rock-star network executive!"
9:06 am: McPherson announces that he's going to pressure the TV Academy to let us, the nation's top TV critics, decide next year's Emmy nominees. Hey, that was my idea! (And not to split hairs, but it's only supposed to be Matt Roush and me.)
9:08 am: McPherson admits if he had to do Commander in Chief over again, he wouldn't have impeached Rod Lurie and replaced him with Steven Bochco. "We would probably bring it on later in the season and let Rod prep for it a lot longer than he had a chance to. He was the voice of that show."
9:08 am: I ask McPherson what he's doing behind the scenes at Desperate Housewives to address last season's "creative collapse." Although he disagrees with the "creative collapse" part - I was going to say implosion - he confirms that "[exec producer] Tom Spezialy has left and Marc has taken over 100 percent of the show-running, and that's been a terrific change." Um, ouch! "Everyone," he continues, "including Marc, admitted that at the beginning of last year we stumbled a little bit. We spent too much time setting up the mystery. This season, we jump right in [and they'll] all be going through Marc's typewriter." (Note to Tom Spezialy: If this whole scapegoat thing is rubbing you the wrong way and you wanna vent, gimme a ring.)
9:11 am: Regarding ABC's decision to air Lost next season in two uninterrupted chunks - six in the fall and 16 in the spring - McPherson says, "We really listened to the audience about the repeats." And yes, you read that correctly - just six episodes this fall!
9:12 am: Responding to CBS president Nina Tassler's contention that CSI is the " underdog" in the Thursday showdown between CSI and Grey's Anatomy, McPherson says, "I heard Nina was playing the rope-a-dope," insisting that it's Grey's that will get its ass kicked. " CSI and CBS have dominated that night; they are the champions without question." My brain can't handle all this reverse-psychology crap! Make it stop!
9:17 am: McPherson is sad that J.J. Abrams is leaving his perch at Touchstone in search of greener pastures at Warner Bros., but says he'll remain heavily involved in all three of his ABC shows - at least this season.
9:20 am: Someone's cell phone rings. And lucky for us, they have the volume set at "loud and annoying."
9:23 am: McPherson blames Lost's Emmy misfortune on "the new system. It's sad for a show like that. It's one of the best shows on the air, if not of all time. There's a problem." Welcome to Lauren Graham's world.
9:28 am: Patricia Heaton's ABC sitcom is dead. "Patti is fantastic," he says. "The show itself didn't get to the level we needed. That was a missed opportunity." Ladies and gents, make way for the Everybody Loves Raymond curse!
9:30 am: On Invasion's cancellation: "We just could not get a large audience off of it. We really believed in it. It came down to the wire. It was a very tough call for us."
9:33 am: There's that cell again. Would someone please introduce Mr. Nimrod to his phone's off switch? Thank you very much.
9:34 am: McPherson admits launching nine new shows this season is "aggressive."
9:35 am: J.J.'s going to be directing episodes of Lost this year!
9:36 am: The cast for the next Dancing with the Stars is "almost set." Urkel must be playing hardball.
9:43 am: That cell phone goes off again! This never would have happened had the TCA for once just listened to me and deployed snipers in the back of the ballroom.
SIX DEGREES PRESENTATION
This drama about six interconnected strangers is from the J.J. Abrams factory of TV hits, although J.J. himself is MIA today.
11:02 am: The trailer ends, the lights come up, and costar Bridget Moynahan is wiping tears from her face. "I can't help it," she giggle-sobs.
11:04 am: She's still wiping tears. The show's good, honey, but it's not that good.
11:05 am: Another frustrated comedian disguised as a critic makes his presence known when he asks producers, "How come Kevin Bacon isn't in this show?"
11:10 am: One of the producers declares, "It's not going to become Friends." Phew.
11:16 am: A critic objects to a scene in the pilot where Erika Christensen takes her top off. Dude, that's how gay rumors start.
11:17 am: Bridget addresses her earlier emotional breakdown. "I [cry at] commercials, too," she says. "It's just so nice to see the story lines come to life. I'm really proud of it, so I get teary-eyed." Again, it's good, but it's not that good.
11:22 am: A reporter coins a new showbiz term: J.J. Abrams chic. That describes television producers - in this case, Six Degrees execs Stuart Zicherman and Raven Metzner - whose personal style resembles that of the mega-producer behind Lost and Alias.
11:40 am: I'll never understand why the personal publicists in the back of the room clap when a session ends. It's a press conference, not a ballet recital, for chrissakes.
HELP ME HELP YOU PRESENTATION
It's Dear John meets Freaks and Geeks, with Ted Danson playing therapist. There were several good laughs in the pilot, most of them courtesy of the hilarious Jim Rash ( Cybill) and Suzy Nakamura ( Curb Your Enthusiasm).
12:05 pm: The faux comics have overtaken the crickets today! The latest doozy: "Will Cameron Crowe get residuals on the title?"
12:08 pm: Shocker! All of Danson's costars were huge Cheers fans!
12:21 pm: Danson announces that he's "out of the closet." No, not that closet, the gray-haired closet. (You really have to pay attention in these sessions.)
12:25 pm: Jere Burns just relayed a story that made Ted Danson sound insane.
12:29 pm: Danson works because "I, like the rest of the world, have mortgages to pay." Yes, that's mortgages with an "S."
LUNCH WITH JIMMY KIMMEL
Kimmel just made me a double-decker veggie burger outside in the 120-degree heat. I guess I don't have to tell you who my new favorite late-night host is.
UGLY BETTY PRESENTATION
Hands down, best pilot on any network. Surprising, considering it's "from executive producer Salma Hayek!"
2:17 pm: Technical glitch! A clip of Charlie Gibson interviewing Yasser Arafat plays on the monitor instead of the Ugly Betty trailer. The crowd roars, and one critic cracks, "That was certainly ugly."
2:20 pm: Stop the presses! The title is supposed to be ironic! "I don't think Betty is really ugly," says Hayek. "We're making fun of the people who think she's ugly."
2:26 pm: Hey, Salma is really funny. And smart. And passionate about this project. I think I may have underestimated her. Seriously.
2:30 pm: The whitest reporter in the room attempts to say telenovela with the correct, Spanish pronunciation. I scan the room to see if anyone else finds this hysterical.
2:31 pm: Oh, yeah. someone from USA Today is giggling.
2:40 pm: Vanessa Williams drops a bombshell: Her UPN soap South Beach blew chunks! I better call the office!
2:44 pm: A reporter implies that Eric Mabius' character is a one-dimensional cad, and he's having none of it. "Did you see the pilot?" he snaps. "I think it would beg a second viewing, unless I didn't do my job."
2:48 pm: Betty star America Ferrera - who I'm ready to proclaim this season's Kristen Davis - admits, "I didn't know how fat and ugly I was until I started going on auditions." Someone's getting a big hug after the session.
2:53 pm: Vanessa Williams seamlessly works in a plug for Proactiv while answering a question about adolescent insecurity. Whatever they're paying her, it ain't enough.
2:55 pm: It's that time, folks. I know you've all been waiting for it. It's the tour's first Whatchoo Talkin' 'Bout Willis Award, and it goes to the critic who just asked Williams if she was aware that UPN had canceled its South Beach session at press tour last January due to her absence. "We were told that there would be no press conference because of the unfortunate news that you had a death in the family. Did you know about the cancellation of the press conference?" Before we can all crawl under the table and hide, Williams replies that she "knew nothing." She then adds this zinger: "But thank you for mentioning my father." Today's winner gets extra points for making everyone in the room extremely uncomfortable for a whole five minutes. That's not easy to do! Congratulations!
2:56 pm: Would you look at this! The session is about to wrap, and the ABC pages are forming a human chain in front of the stage to prevent the gaggle stampede from breaking through. More fallout from Sunday's Katie Couric trampling, I gather.
DAY BREAK PRESENTATION
Amazing pilot. Preposterous Groundhog Day-meets- 24 premise, but amazing pilot nonetheless.
3:27 pm: Taye Diggs is about as perfect-looking a human being as they come. But the dude needs to lighten up. He's way too serious.
3:30 pm: "This is very different from Groundhog Day," says exec producer Matthew Gross, "in that Groundhog Day is the same day played out over and over again; it's repetitive. Some of this will never repeat itself. It is the same day, but it isn't the same day." Got that?
3:35 pm: ( Crickets)
3:42 pm: A reporter did not just ask the entire six-person cast to "just go across" and say who they play and what their characters' functions are. I thought boring roundup questions were banned at press tour!
3:43 pm: One down, five to go.
3:44 pm: Two down, four to go.
3:45 pm: Three down, three to go.
3:46 pm: Four down, two to go.
3:47 pm: Five down, one to go.
3:48 pm: We're done. Longest five minutes of my life.
3:49 pm: OK, my boy Taye is loosening up. Referring to the pilot in which his alter ego witnesses the same situations over and over, he assures us that "the dog isn't going to have the shoe in his mouth in every single [episode]. That would be bad TV. We're not dumb. I'm Taye Diggs! I wouldn't sign on for that!" The crowd roars. Yeah, we needed that.
BIG DAY PRESENTATION
Hey, ABC - seven sessions in one day is just plain cruel. But I can do this. Just two to go.
4:21 pm: If Fox trimmed 24 to 30 minutes, made it into a comedy and devoted an entire season to Jack's wedding day, you'd have Big Day. Didn't see the pilot, so I can't pass judgment.
4:24 pm: I'm crashing. I. Need. Caffeine.
4:37 pm: The Practice's Marla Sokoloff (aka the bride) reveals that she makes custom-made guitar straps on the side. This is the first costar Wendie Malick is hearing of it, and she is positively stunned.
4:39 pm: Costar Kurt Fuller - he plays the father of the bride - just wiped his sweaty forehead with an orange hotel napkin. And then wiped his mouth with it.
4:42 pm: Kurt Fuller is now chewing on his water bottle.
4:48 pm: Would anyone notice if I just rested my head on the table for a moment?
THE NINE PRESENTATION
Judging by the number of seats on the stage, the show should be called "The Nineteen."
5:15 pm: The Nine's impressive cast, which includes Tim Daly, Scott Wolf, Kim Raver and Chi McBride, appear on stage. I was quite fond of this show, which follows the lives of nine strangers who meet during a 52-hour hostage crisis at a bank.
5:21 pm: Scoop! Costar John Billingsley reveals that Prison Break will be forced to recast his role as Terrence Steadman.
5:22 pm: Scoop! Kim Raver all but confirms that she'll be returning to 24 this season. "They are keeping Audrey alive," she says. "Hopefully, I'll jump and do a couple story lines there."
5:35 pm: Some serious cell-phone interference is coming in over the speakers, but no one seems to notice.
5:36 pm: The noise is getting louder, but still, the press conference continues uninterrupted, until... "Does anyone else hear that high pitch?" Tim Daly asks the crowd. Everyone laughs, so clearly they all heard it, too. But where's it coming from? I love a good mystery!
5:37 pm: Executive producer Hank Steinberg retrieves his BlackBerry from his pocket and shuts it off. Mystery solved.
5:38 pm: Too bad I already handed out today's Whatchoo Talkin' 'Bout Willis Award. A reporter just asked the cast if the show has made them afraid to go to the bank.
5:38 pm: Scott Wolf says it was "disappointing to hear that" Everwood wasn't picked up. "I thought it was an incredibly well-made show, and I made some great friends." Hey, doin' anything this Friday afternoon?
5:50 pm: Tim Daly says he'd like his Sopranos character to get "killed in a very unique and interesting way."
5:53 pm: Oh, goody, another roundup question. That's my cue to fold up the laptop and call it a day.
Coming tomorrow: ABC Day 2