I'm sure Keith Olbermann puts on a good show on MSNBC, but even the promise of a "hot breakfast" isn't enough to lure me down to his early-morning
Countdown panel. I'm sleeping in.
10:51 am: If we can make it through this session without a question that starts, "This is for the entire cast: If you could have any superpower...," then I'll be a very happy man.
10:53 am: As the Heroes trailer plays on the monitor, the cast hoots and hollers like a football team before the big game. This is going to be a fun bunch.
10:54 am: The trailer ends, the lights come up, and... sweet Jesus Jenny Craig, my buddy Greg Grunberg is half the man he used to be!
10:55 am: This is odd. Adrian Pasdar, arguably the biggest "name" in the cast, is banished to the back row alongside second-tier stars Santiago Cabrera, Tawny Cypress, Masi Oka and Leonard Roberts. Up in front are Grunny, Ali Larter, series creator Tim Kring, Sendhill Ramamurthy, Hayden Panettiere and Milo Ventimiglia. How'd that happen?
10:56 am: Kring confirms that the two-hour pilot was cut down to just an hour. Greg Grunberg's telepathic cop will now be introduced in the second episode - and that suits him just fine. "For superstitious reasons, I'm glad I'm not in the pilot," he confesses. "I wasn't in the Felicity pilot [and] I wasn't in the Alias pilot. I was in the Lost pilot, but I was eaten alive." On that note, let's pause for a moment of silence in memory of Felicity.
11:03 am: Not only does Masi Oka steal Heroes as a time-traveling computer geek, but the Tokyo native is stealing the press conference as well. Asked whether he's anything like his comic-book-obsessed character, he answers the question in Japanese, and, when he's done, raises his hand and does a Vulcan salute.
11:17 am: Hayden Panettiere is a fantastic actress, but I can't stand her on this show. Her unbreakable Heroes alter ego is a petulant, humorless grump. Someone had to say it.
11:20 am: Shockingly, not a single roundup question about you-know-what. There is a god!
DEAL OR NO DEAL PRESENTATION
11:32 am: Why is half the room emptying out? Is the hotel on fire? Did someone let off a stink bomb? Oh, the Deal or No Deal session is about to begin. Now it all makes sense.
11:33 am: Howie Mandel isn't allowed to literally shake some sense into the contestants when they reject the Banker's lucrative offers. "I can't shake hands," says the noted obsessive-compulsive, "[so] I'm not going to shake people."
11:34 am: Exec producer Scott St. John says the briefcase beauties "are not just models, they're not just numbers, they really are people." Sorry, I'm not buying it. I know a bunch of fembots when I see them.
11:38 am: Howie says the Deal or No Deal phenom has been the "most exciting" thing to happen to him in his career. (Even better than Gremlins 2: The New Batch?)
11:42 am: The producers are being very evasive about this shadowy Banker dude, leading me to believe it's probably just an NBC page. Or Shelley Morrison.
11:44 am: Howie hints that next season's batch of shows - which they're currently shooting - will break some records in terms of cash prizes. "The most exciting shows to date," he says, "were just put in the can."
11:47 am: Scoop! There will be a $6 million briefcase in play this season.
11:51 am: Not all of the models will be back this season, reveals exec producer Scott St. John. Some of them have moved on "to other things." They'll presumably be replaced by newer, more powerful models!
11:54 am: Apparently forgetting that we're in the middle of a press conference, two reporters behind me begin a conversation at normal speaking levels.
11:55 am: The female critic sitting next to me finally shushes them. Took her long enough.
11:58 am: Howie reveals that he sometimes acts on the show to heighten the drama, but never "in terms of how I feel about the contestants." He's not that good an actor.
30 ROCK PRESENTATION
2:07 pm: Lorne Michaels hasn't seen Aaron Sorkin's similarly themed (and SNL-skewering) Studio 60, but insists 30 Rock "isn't a response to it. This show was in development before the Aaron Sorkin show." Notice how he refuses to say the title of "the Aaron Sorkin show?"
2:10 pm: Echoing an announcement she made on Friday's Tonight Show, Tina Fey confirms that she's leaving Saturday Night Live "to focus just on this show. I'll never not be there in some way, but I won't be a paid employee of Saturday Night Live."
2:11 pm: Fey explains that Alec Baldwin is MIA because he's attending his 30th high-school reunion. I'm pretty sure she's serious.
2:13 pm: Lorne plans to test out "different combinations" of "Weekend Update" anchors before unveiling the new duo in the fall.
2:15 pm: Tracy Morgan says he didn't model his off-kilter, naked-street-loitering character after off-kilter, naked-street-loitering actor Martin Lawrence. "No, but I [did model it after] my uncle Rick," he cracks. "Martin didn't corner the market on meltdowns."
2:17 pm: Rachel Dratch's 30 Rock role is being revamped, but she'll still be part of the show, Fey says. But she'll no longer be a part of SNL. She's done there, too.
2:22 pm: Lorne Michaels, clearly growing agitated by all of the Studio 60 questions, snidely explains to a reporter that viewers will be able to tell the difference between the two shows because one is 60 minutes and the other is 30. I'm going to introduce Mr. Cranky Pants to Ray Liotta and Calista Flockhart. I think the three of them would really hit it off.
2:30 pm: Michaels acknowledges that "Tina's disappearing [on SNL leaves] a huge hole in the writing staff. People will have to step up, and I think we will hopefully find our way." Once more with feeling?
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS PRESENTATION
2:51 pm: A reporter shoots off a list of failed sports-themed TV shows, prompting exec producer Peter Berg to plead, "Let's keep it positive." Yeah, c'mon, this one's really good. And Kyle Chandler's the coach!
2:58 pm: Interesting tidbit: although the actors run all of the plays on the football field themselves, stunt doubles are brought in to absorb some of the bigger hits.
3:03 pm: Connie Britton, who is reprising the coach's-wife role she played in the Friday Night Lights feature film, says Peter Berg pricked his finger, shook her hand and swore that her character would be better developed this time around. Um, gross!
3:17 pm: The session ends and an NBC publicist announces that this evening's all-star party - to be held on the back lawn here at the Ritz - is being delayed an hour to give Calista Flockhart more time in hair and makeup. I kid. I kid. (It's due to the extreme heat.)
PRIME-TIME EMMY PRESENTATION...
3:31 pm:... with host Conan O'Brien, show producers Jeff Ross and Ken Ehrlich, Academy CEO Dick Askin and a lot of angry TV critics. I considered boycotting this session in honor of Lauren Graham, Hugh Laurie, Mary McDonnell, Forest Whitaker, Kristen Bell, Edie Falco and Donald Faison, but then it hit me: The revolution isn't gonna start itself!
3:34 pm: Conan announces that it's 108 degrees outside.
3:35 pm: Dick Astin admits he's "aware of the controversy" surrounding this year's Emmy nominations, but insists the new rules are "a step in the right direction." He adds that the blue-ribbon-panel idea "was always seen as a one-year test" and further tinkering is possible. "We are going to look to see if there's a way of improving the panels next year."
3:37 pm: More talk about the big voting controversy. Conan couldn't be more bored.
3:41 pm: Conan thinks we're in a golden age of TV, citing House, Lost, 24 and The Office as his favorite shows.
3:46 pm: Conan will be working the voting controversy into his opening monologue. He better include a shout-out to you-know-who.
3:58 pm: I grab the microphone and pitch Astin my idea of letting TV critics (read: Matt Roush and me) play a role in the nomination process. Believe it or not, he says he's open to such a proposal - but there's a catch. We would have to become Academy members, and such an affiliation could be perceived as a conflict of interest. (Hogwash!)
4:04 pm: The session ends and I take an informal critics poll. Turns out the majority of those I spoke with do not view it as a conflict of interest. Translation: the revolution has begun - and I'm going to lead it!
4:22 pm: Who the hell came up with these seating charts today? Dana Delany and Timothy Hutton are seated in the back row on the dais, behind Jeremy Sisto and Delroy Lindo!
4:25 pm: Series creator Jason Smilovic ( Karen Sisco) looks like he's 8 years old.
4:27 pm: Let me pause here for a moment to give mad props to NBC for keeping these sessions to just 30 minutes instead of the standard 45. It's so much more humane.
4:28 pm: Smilovic explains that Sisto and Lindo, who play the detectives searching for Delany and Hutton's son, are the only cast members on board beyond this season. You see, every season will feature a new kidnap victim, but Sisto and Lindo will always be the ones tracking them. That's still no excuse for banishing Dana Delany and Timothy Hutton to steerage.
4:41 pm: Kidnapped will "never be gratuitously violent," says Smolivic. What fun is that?
4:44 pm: Just as the session is about to end, someone's phone goes off. Crikey! We almost made it through one full day without a cell interruption, people!
Press tour resumes on Monday with the first day of Fox. But all you Gilmore Girls fans will want to check back here later tomorrow for a big surprise. (Hint: Finally, some good news.)