TV Critics tour mishaps: How I was mistaken for Randy Jackson and other startling tales...
LOS ANGELES -- After years of being told I resemble a certain American Idol judge, on Friday night it finally happened.
Someone in Hollywood mistook me for bass player/producer/TV dawg extraordinaire, Randy Jackson.
At first I though the salutation I heard -- "Hey Randy!" -- was a joke; particularly since I had just finished talking with former Idol judge and X Factor star Paula Abdul at the Fox network's press party in an oceanside restaurant. But the mistaken fan in question -- a producer on an auction show Fox will debut later this month -- was serious until I told him he was barking at the wrong dawg. (Wonder if I could have gotten a development deal by playing along?)
Such are the odd encounters which can happen at the TV Critics Association's annual press tours -- an odd gathering of 200 journalist/critics/bloggers, dozens of celebrities, a pile of producers, executives and hangers-on, all mixed together with a relentless schedule of press conference and an open bar. What could possibly go wrong?
In fact, that wasn't even my oddest encounter chasing stories and trends in the halls of the Beverly Hills Hilton; read on to check out some of my more notable interactions.
Marilu Henner's freakish memory: Fans know former Taxi star Marilu Henner is one of the few in the world with what scientists call a "super autobiographical memory," or the ability to remember every day in her life as if it happened yesterday. 60 Minutes included her in a widely-seen show about the topic and CBS has now created Unforgettable, a cop drama starring a red-headed woman with the same ability, tapping Henner as a consultant (Why not just hire her as the star? Despite her great look, Henner is nearly 60 and series star Poppy Montgomery is a more TV-friendly age 36)
I had begun schmoozing CBS Sunday Morning contributor Mo Rocca and Big Bang Theory co-co-creator Bill Prady at CBS's press tour party Wednesday when Henner walked up, greeting Prady warmly because they'd lunched some time ago. Immediately, Henner began reeling off what she had worn, what he had worn, what day of the week it was and what kind of salad she had. "Is that what happened?"I asked Prady as his jaw dropped further. "That. Is. Amazing." he would only say.
Rocca reacted like a kid with a new toy, begging me to take his picture with Henner on his iPhone.
I introduced myself to Henner, just so I could be sure there is at least one celebrity in Hollywood who knows my name.
Cloris Leachmans' awesome ping pong skills: There may have been no sight more inspiring than seeing 85-year-old Raising Hope co-star Cloris Leachman whipping the pants off critics and TV executives alike on the ping pong tables at the rear of the restaurant Friday. Last year, Leachman had wowed critics by strapping on a safety harness and attempting to scale a fake rock wall (turns out, even that was a bit much for her).
But she barely broke a sweat Friday, attacking her ping pong games with a ferocity most save for driving on LA freeways. (photo courtesy of RealityBlurred.com's Andy Dehnart, who is getting his butt kicked here)
"It's all in the wrists," she quipped after beating one critic particularly badly. But I wondered: What is an 80something TV legend doing to keep her wrists strong, anyway?
Robert Sean Leonard's disinterest in watching his own show: Sensing an opportunity, I sidled up to House Co-star Robert Sean Leonard to ask about rumors the show might end after next season and get the skinny on his character, Gregory House's Dr. Watson, James Wilson. Leonard was gracious, saying he's willing to do the show as long as star Hugh Laurie will, admitting he doesn't know what happens to his character despite starting filming on Monday and declining to offer an opinion on how last season's storylines worked out.
Because he doesn't watch the show.
"I just make it...I can't tell one episode from another," he said. "We have really good directors and I trust the actors I work with and I've been acting for 20 years. So I just wing it...I don't really see the show the way others do."
Of course, if Leonard can't be bothered to watch his own show, should any fans make the effort, either?