TCAs 2013: Keith Olbermann talks Carlos Danger and ESPN2, while Tampa Bay area folks talk doomsday prepping
LOS ANGELES -- Want to see a roomful of TV critics blanch?
Tell a joke like the one James Brolin let loose here Wednesday, wrapping up a press conference on a heartwarming Hallmark Channel movie about a Christmas, a young kid and his dog with a story that involved putting your wife and pet in a trunk to see who is happiest with you when it opens again.
And yes, this came from Mr. Barbra Streisand.
Welcome to the first day of the TV Critics Association’s summer press tour, where even the lightest press conference can bring the kind of comment from a star, producer or TV executive which puts everything into an odd kind of perspective.
“Is everybody’s incarceration going well here at TCA?” quipped former MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann, promoting his return to ESPN2 with an 11 p.m. show Aug. 26. It comes 20 years after he kicked off the channel’s start in 1993 by cracking “welcome to the end of my career.”
The anchor denied a New York Times report that he was contractually prohibited from talking politics on his new show, Olbermann. But he did allow the show likely won’t feature much political talk, instead offering a tweak on a well-known bit he did on MSNBC, retooled as The Worst Person in the Sports World.
He also noted Anthony Weiner's supposed online sexting alias, Carlos Danger, would have made a great alias for checking into hotels but didn't necessarily disqualify Weiner from running for New York mayor.
The important question: Will he be eating crow now that he’s coming back to a channel he dissed so loudly two decades ago?
“Napoleon got back to France faster than I got back to ESPN,” Olbermann said, noting that, much as he complained about the sports channel when he worked there, “the places I went afterward made ESPN look like a 'let's applaud Keith' session for five years.”
“It’s been wonderful not talking about politics,” added Olbermann, who, depending on who you ask, was fired or quit an anchor job at Current TV in 2012, about a year after quitting his anchor job at MSNBC. “I’m 54 years old, if I haven’t figured out what parts of it were my fault...(Political TV shows were) a lot of work. It took a lot out of me, and it wasn't a whole lot of fun. For all that you've heard about it, I had a lot of fun doing SportsCenter."
Al Jazeera, which was to kick off the TCA with the first press session for its new channel (scheduled to take over the space once held by Al Gore’s Current TV), bailed on the TCA Monday. Which left us with a day kicked off by National Geographic Channel showing off its animal shows and Doomsday Castle, a spin of its Doomsday Preppers series featuring Florida real estate agent Brent Bruns, Sr. and his family.
“When Y2K (computer threat occurred), that’s what started it for us, with the realization that the grid could possibly go down,” said Bruns, a Daytona-area businessman who has developed a safe house of sorts within a castle inside the mountains of Carolina featured on the program. “It became a nonevent, but we still kept preparing.”
Turns out, several his children on the show live in the Tampa Bay area, including son Brent Bruns II, who owns the Rock and Roll House bed and breakfast in St. Petersburg. Clips showing the elder Bruns’ adult children struggling with a fake attack from outsiders makes you wonder: Is this really a mindset National Geographic should be encouraging?
“I think we could go back to medieval times,” Brent Bruns II told critics Wednesday, shrugging off questions on whether viewers might find their doomsday preparations odd. “If there is chaos, if there is a disruption in the power grid, it’s going to be back to medieval times…We’re going to kind of go back to square one, and we’re prepared for that.”
And as for the fighting shown among five siblings and the father, who presses his kids like a drill sergeant in video clips? “I haven’t lived with my father in 20 something years, so to be back under his roof under his control or under his bossiness… you know, I’m a grown man,” he said. “I haven’t had a man tell me what to do in 23 years.
Kenny Leon, well-known director of Lifetime’s black-centered Steel Magnolias remake, reminisced on how his time growing up in St. Petersburg and attending Northeast High School gave him a strong grounding which helped in directing the Hallmark Channel film about a black family who travels south from 1963-era Michigan in The Watsons Go to Birmingham.
“Angela Bassett grew up in St. Petersburg, too…we had great schools there and I still consider it home,” said Leon. “It’s been a blessing to have a lot of good, strong family around me there.”