On a mission in Los Angeles
Aside from the 14-hour workdays and long moments feigning interest in the biographies of Deal or No Deal models, the TV Critics Association’s July press tour can look like summer vacation for professional small-screen junkies.
This year's event offers two weeks of news conferences, parties and set visits to showcase new programming. There are few events like it in any field; Where else can you watch Jeff Goldblum play jazz piano one moment and have a drink with the president of CNN/U.S. the next?
Though the whole mess started last Tuesday, I join it all Sunday, offering constant updates here. Some of the trends I’ll be scouting:
The Future: As TV fans spend more time in digital worlds, the writers strike cuts the number of new shows and the average network TV viewer gets older and poorer, the future for big broadcasters is murky at best. No one knows which way success lies, particularly when videogames and Web sites may offer more competition than rival channels.
Diversity: Among network TV’s diminished slate of new shows, just one stars a person of color: The Cleveland Show (above), an animated spinoff of Fox’s Family Guy series starring a black character voiced by a white guy. Clearly, broadcasters have backslid from the days when multi-ethnic casts powered hits like Lost and Grey’s Anatomy. Instead, minority characters are usually BBFs — black (or Latino) best friends with little life beyond the concerns of the white lead personality. Could this be one reason young people find network TV increasingly old-fashioned?
The British Invasion: Once upon a time, network TV just imported actors and reality shows. These days, broadcasters are so desperate for new concepts that no fewer than five scripted shows have been pilfered from overseas, including a remake of the Aussie comedy Kath and Kim and the British time travel drama Life on Mars. That’s modern-day America; we’re even outsourcing our TV bombs.
We didn't get around to redoing it this year, but here's my waycool animated intro to press tour from last year: