Dancing with the Stars all star Bristol Palin takes tough questions as ABC clams up on Modern Family
LOS ANGELES -- Bristol Palin thinks she's gotten a raw deal.
"I like gays," said Palin, who has spoken out in the past on her belief that gay people shouldn't have the right to marry. "I'm sick of people saying I'm homophobic. Just because I believe in traditional marriage doesn't mean I hate anybody...But this is not about politics; it's just about dancing and having fun."
Unfortunately, Palin's declaration felt loaded with hypocrisy; a bit like saying you love women but allowing them to vote would destroy the nation.
Still, it also was a predictable script when the daughter of onetime Alaska governor Sarah Palin faced journalists here in a press conference to announce celebrities filling the all-star edition of Dancing with the Stars set to debut this fall.
It unfolded like this: Palin dodged questions on the way her family has jumped into reality TV shows and her views about gay people, blaming the media for unfair coverage. And journalists, sensing the intoxicating smell of horse puckey, kept pushing her for better answers.
"God provides these opportunities," she said, in response to a question on whether reality TV had become the Palin family business. "The press is going to be talking about me, anyway. So I might as well be having fun."
One reporter put it plainly: Reality TV is a good gig, with great pay for doing mostly-fun things. Why act like media attention has "forced" you to chase fame and fortune on unscripted shows?
"You guys -- and I do mean you, the media -- will talk about me even if I would have gone back to my little life in Alaska," she said, an edge in her voice. "Do I like providing for my son? Yes, I do."
But in a sense, unscripted TV has become the Palin family business. Her dad Todd Palin stars in the NBC competition series Stars Earn Stripes, her mother had a TLC series Sarah Palin's Alaska and remains a paid analyst for Fox News Channel.
And Bristol Palin saw her 3-year-old son make national headlines when Lifetime aired a scene in her other reality TV show, Life's a Tripp, which seemed to depict him calling his aunt by a slur for a gay man (Bristol Palin later wrote in a blog post that he used the other f-word profanity in the scene, which was bleeped to obscure what was said).
What seems obvious, is that the Palin want the advantages of celebrity -- fame, big paychecks, flattering media showcases, adoring fans -- but have little patience for questions about possible hypocrisies or inconsistencies.
Palin received the most pointed questions during a press conference here about Dancing with the Stars which revealed the 13 all-stars slated to compete on the show. Joining Palin will be former winners, including Olympic skater Apolo Ohno (Season 4), gymnast Shawn Johnson (Season 8), singer Drew Lachey (Season 2), NFL star Emmitt Smith (Season 3), race car driver Helio Castroneves (Season 5) and soap star Kelly Monaco (Season 1).
Among those who didn't win but were still popular: sex symbol Pamela Anderson (Season 10), actress Kirstie Alley (Season 12), soap actor Gilles Marini (Season 8), singer Joey Fatone (Season 4), and reality TV star Melissa Rycroft (Season 8).
Viewers will pick the 13th all star in voting which opened this morning between several candidates: Disney star Kyle Massey, fashion expert Carson Kressley and singer Sabrina Bryan.
There are few actual big-name stars in this roster, raising the question: Can Dancing improve on last season's ratings -- some of the show's worst-ever numbers -- with a cast of sorta-stars viewers have seen already?
"It's a target-rich environment," quipped host Tom Bergeron, whose quick wit is sometimes softened for celebrities who are just getting used to Dancing with the Stars as a season begins. "All these guys already know how to do it, so I don't have to be as nice."
The session capped an eventful morning for ABC at the TV Critics Association's summer press tour; earlier entertainment president Paul Lee tried avoiding questions about Modern Family, which saw a "table read" rehearsal this week pushed back a day as the show's adult stars teamed up to file a lawsuit aimed at boosting their pay amid the series' blockbuster success.
So far, the show hasn't re-signed the stars of its most successful comedy; the linchpin of its Wednesday lineup.
But Lee wouldn't even answer if the network has a backup plan if contract talks fail with Sofia Vergara, Julie Bowen, Eric Stonestreet, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Ty Burrell and Ed O'Neil, who recently joined his castmates' lawsuit.
"We're negotiating and we're optimistic about it," said Lee, who declined questions on why negotiations have become so public, given the show's importance to ABC and the Hollywood tradition of giving stars from hit shows substantial salary increases. "We expect the show to (debut) on time this season."
Otherwise, Lee talked up the network's slate of soapy new dramas and stabs at comedy, including returning family sitcoms to Friday nights and establishing a block of "good vs. evil" shows on Sundays with Once Upon a Time, the relocated soap Revenge and new supernatural soap 666 Park Avenue.
"You have to build up every year," he said, shrugging off the fact that ABC tied NBC for last place among viewers aged 18 to 49 last season. "You have to add a new brick, a new block, every year."