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Transcedental Alignment & Vivid Entanglements: The Fox TCA Summer Press Tour 2012 – Feature

The alignment between the transcendence of real and the modulation of the self continues to show its penchant revolving into the 2012 TCA Summer Press Tour for Fox Television as the engagement of re-emerging ideas as well as mind altering new ones forms the structure for either engaging television or vivid entanglements.

Starting within the reality purveyance of the world, the build up of “The X Factor” judge panel with the inclusion of Britney Spears offers the hope for spellbinding TV (or, at least, deer-in-the-headlights mayhem). Appearing via satellite from Miami where they are currently judging the next round of possibilities, the tension and energy seemed fruitful, if not a little unstable.

Spears, for her part, seems relatively focused and positive yet understandably reserved and restrained. She speaks that “I think that this show has been very good for me to do” because “I can relate to them [the contestants]” connecting that “I know the foundation and depth you go through”. Her instincts are “based on who I am and my personality”. One angle people might not know is “I am a huge fan of hip hop” but “I like cabaret music and bands [as well]”. In terms of the reality of “making it”, she explains that “in this industry, there are so many auditions” and “it is the way” but “having done 8 tours, this is different than anything I have ever done”.

For Simon Cowell, as the brawn behind the might, he explains that he “was fascinated by her [Britney] as a person and as a pop star” and “thought it would be interesting to put on this show”. By contrast, he says that “Demi [Lovato, another judge] is a brat but there is something about her”. In terms of structure, Cowell says “you are going to see some changes editorially” from last season. He admits that “there is an awful lot of competition that we have to fight against this year” but “I brought this show to America because I think the best singers in the world are here”. Examining pushing himself for excellence, he says “I put myself under a great amount of pressure” but “this is on a little of an upscale of the thing”. Commenting on the possibility of Mariah Carey on his previous show “American Idol”, he simply says “I think she will find it difficult to say no”. As to his impression of Britney’s judging, he says “she is as sweet as a lemon” but then addressing the departure of previous “X-Factor” judges says that “no one has job security anymore, [not] even myself”.

Demi Lovato, reacting with intensity to Cowell’s jabs, says that “any little bit of criticism hurts when you are growing up.” She remembers “when I was auditioning for things and I was dropped, it would hurt me” but “you can’t prevent anybody from going down the wrong road” though “fame makes the problem a little worse”.

Swirling within his own private empire, much like Martha Stewart, Chef Gordon Ramsay expands his domain with “Hotel Hell” where he helps provide new perspective within the texture of the bigger picture that surrounds his restaurants and, by extension, hotel service. He initially offers that “we have had good and bad experiences, like with ‘Kitchen Nightmares'” but believes that “we don’t book or banter on the hotels”. The idea of this show was “the next extension”. In terms of his presupposed omnipresence in the media landscape, he explains “I pace myself” but “the appetite’s there” and “I work for a living”. Implementing his work ethic, Ramsay says “if you are that talented and that determined to do something, all is well”. The focus with him starts with the fact that “I was dealt a dysfunctional card when I got into the industry” which reflects in his current propensity to that “when you undermined the customer and [take] shortcuts in hygiene”, all is not well. Reflecting on the rage that seems to be his persona, Ramsay retorts “I think it is misconstrued at times. [I think] it is passion. It is what I know” and “deep down inside, I don’t know any better.” His advice to patrons worldwide (but especially in the US): “We are too polite. We need to complain more”.

Entering into scripted territory, “The Mob Doctor“, currently shooting in Chicago, follows a female surgeon that is forced to moonlight to treat one of the city’s major crime lords. Josh Berman, who also works on “Drop Dead Diva”, explains “the doctors to the mob are usually motivated by greed…but I think we flipped that”. The key with this show is that it “does not need to be black and white” and “we love that, with our idea, the starting point is that there is no rules”. As far as shooting in the Windy City, he states “it is tough to beat Chicago for a mob town [because] it has an old world feel”. In terms of the mob doctor Grace (played by Jordana Spiro), “we have really mapped out [her] story” adding that the narrative “is really grounded” and “we are not playing to the humor at all”.

Rob Wright, also an executive producer, who concurrently works on “Diva” with Berman as well as previous stints on “Las Vegas” and “Knight Rider”, sees the progression of “Mob Doctor” “sort of like ‘Faust’ with elements of ‘The Sopranos’ meets ‘ER'”. The thought for them of the notion of “‘Do No Harm’ juxtaposed with ‘No Honor Among Thieves'” creates an interesting dynamic because the jealousy of the hospital mirrors the mob world.

Jordana Spiro, who plays Grace, speaks that, with Chicago, “when you are on location, it lends to the authenticity”. The physical aspect of that “a house is a house” gives it a weight for her. She agrees though, in terms of the tone, that “the timing of this will have to be handled carefully” because “it is the seduction of that kind of human desire [that leads] to the dark side”.

William Forsythe, no stranger to heavies (he famously played Al Capone on the TV series of “The Untouchables”), explains years ago when that show ended “they placed me [as Al] in prison”. “The Mob Doctor” begins with him being released (though he is not playing Capone here). It plays full circle in his mind.

Circling into closure, “Fringe” finds its notion of heaven and redemption possibly in the resurrection of its final season. J.H. Wyman, an exec producer on the show, speaks that the goal of this season is “because we have done so much work to get people interested in the mythology”, that has to come to fruition. The key beneath is that “the root of it all is that these people [Walter, Peter & Olivia] are what the fans care about” but “the relationships need to pay off”. In terms of lessons learned, he says “Akiva [Goldsman, another executive producer] taught me that being clever is not an emotion”. Looking at the endgame of the series, he states “we want the end of these characters to be beautiful and touching” while “still connecting to the metaphor of the difficulty of keeping families together”. He accentuates that “where else can you talk about an affair [in a series] that involved two of the same people”. Seeing the ending in sight, he says that, over the years, there have been 3 or 4 possible end scenarios, but “it [the show], being a living breathing organism, is going to change” and “I truly believe the show has a natural end”. How that is seen takes the form of “something that we know is right but how that takes shape is always in flux” though he resolves “I want them to have what’s been earned”.

Anna Torv, having taken the duality of a character like Olivia Dunham to new heights, explains “the more you have to do, the more you are engaged in it”. In terms of playing both sides, she says “I loved it so much because, when ‘Ultimate Olivia’ came in, I knew what I didn’t want to repeat” but continues that “it is very much on the journey”. As far as seeing what the end has in store, she hints that “we have a little bit of a clue in terms of what is going on more than ever before”. Speaking of her co-stars, “for me, watching John [Noble] and Josh [Jackson] taught me how television works and how you attack [it]” in that “you look at the story and plan out your arc”. One of the key lessons, she says is leanring that “television is fluid” sensing that “you’d watch them [John & Josh] pushing the envelope” . She adds that “John [Noble] tries anything and everything”. The complication for her becomes “you don’t realize things unless you can define it” but “because we are a cult show with a cult following, you can [end] it right”.

Joshua Jackson, playing the essence of Peter Bishop, waxes that “in an odd way, I have plenty of actor friends that had shows cut before their time” but this one “is not bittersweet since all shows end” but it is important “to have it end well”. Looking at John Noble’s immersion as Walter Bishop, Jackson explains “what he has done and created in the character in Walter, it is once in a lifetime”. He continues that “we are in a good era of television” but specifies that, with “Fringe”, “great science fiction takes big think ideas and makes the entry point lower” but “you have to have the cahones to do it”.

Fox continues to move to the balance without rocking the boat. Allowing “Fringe” to exit with grace definitely creates a specific tone while maintaining with tried and true formulas across the board that both engage and intensify their viewership.

Buddies, Lives & Bauer: The Fox Winter 2010 TCA Press Tour – Feature

Fox, in past seasons, has tried a cross-section of different inferences melding between both genre outlays like “Dollhouse” and “Fringe” while trying out new essences like “Glee” while stalwarts like “American Idol” rumble along. The essence has always been about crucial character work with an overall sense of commercial viability.

Code 58 This new buddy series from “Burn Notice” creator Matt Nix places Bradley Whitford from “The West Wing” and “Sunset 60” with Colin Hanks as two reverse sector cops who investigate odd little crimes, not unlike “Dragnet” with role reversal which his father made a film of many years ago.

Nix explains that he wrote the original feature script that did not sell about 12 years ago. Two or three years ago, Mikkel (Matt’s manager) brought it back up. “Code 58”, he expounds, is the actual Dallas police code for a routine investigation. The key becomes, paraphrasing Travis Bickle, “getting organized” admitting all of his television heroes, including Michael Weston on “Burn”, do it. He jokes that Shawn Ryan, who runs “Lie To Me” is giving him some coaching lessons since to maintain the balance between the humor and drama is difficult to do well but “sometimes you get a break”. He calls the cops in this new show “not necessarily bad cops”. Dan, played by Whitford, “is a fantastic 1981 cop and everything that comes along with that” adding that “he hasn’t really moved along with the times”. Jack, played by Hanks, is what Nix describes as “a very good cop who has embarassed his bosses publicly”. The irony, he says, is that they are not really investigating the crimes they solve. The key becomes finding “three or four stories that work and dovetailing them into each other”. Nix admits that now, after having some experience in this genre, he has become more comfortable with the angle of some of his characters adding that “it’s not like a sit down and think ‘I am going to make them laugh with this one'”. He explains that the production model of “Code 58” is very similar to “Burn Notice” in Miami with Dallas providing the balance of both incentives and crews.

Whitford, in trademark style, with a new mustache to boot, jumps into the fray saying “it turned out the last pilot I did was not picked up”. The original script, called “Jack & Dan” was more angled on a lecherous cop. Whitford personally sees his character as a great cop adding that “we turn out to be wonderful crime solvers” but continually joking that “there is a little bit of a drinking issue”. There was a tone within this series that he says he really responded to it which is similar to “Burn Notice”. He says when he first watched that other show, he saw an Elmore Leonard/”Raising Arizona” action comedy flavor which he had not seen on TV. He doesn’t know if people will be “fascinated or disgusted by my character” adding that “30 years ago I could have been a hot young cop” but that “I wear make up for a living” explaining that “there is no way to win”. He continues that he went “from feeling like a young actor to [feeling like] Ernest Borgnine”. He explains that what he shares with this character is that “I have a bright future behind me” which results in “a ripe combination of wisdom”.

Colin Hanks, for his point just looks on in disbelief as Whitford goes at a million miles a minute exhorting a chuckle saying that “for me, this is a script where I actually get to say funny stuff back” from “wanting to be able to have a witty banter”.

Executive Session: Peter Chernin & Kevin Reilly Fox has been finding their stride with the genres but the necessities involve staying one step ahead of the competition.

Chernin begins by saying that “Glee” would be picked up for a second season and that they would be adding three new characters but that these new cast members would not be determined by vote. In terms of the Conan situation, he says there is not much more to digest although he made a point that their position on late night was consistent. He professes his love for Conan but says that the late night host needs to make a decision about his own future. He does admit that they have talked to his people and there have been informal conversations. Jumping from there becomes the ensuing questions about “American Idol”. Chernin agrees that Simon Cowell is irreplacable but that “AI” needs to continue despite any of these perceptions. His outlook is that there are very fundamental differences between “X Factor” and “Idol” but the true fact is that “Simon is at the end of his contract”.

Reilly, for his part, relays some statistics beginning with the facts that they were up 14% (7% if you strip out the sport package). He says that “The Cleveland Show” was “a great step”. He also speaks of “Bob’s Burger” which is to be a multi-part reality series based within “Glee”. The Simon speculation continues to build which will be addressed but reinforces that there is “a lot of anticipation for Ellen”.”Human Target” will be premiering out of “24”. He speaks to the 13 episode order of “Dollhouse” saying that they had to “work to do it on Friday”. He called it ” a good show that had its run…and that’s that”.

At this point, Simon Cowell himself emerges based on the different ideas that Reilly and Chernin had been bouncing around for the previous minutes. Cowell says that “there has been alot of speculation[on his future] partly because we didn’t have an agreement” before saying that they had reached “a deal at half past eleven” the night prior with the lock to launch “X-Factor” in the US in 2011. “This will be my last season on American Idol” were his following words. He explained that he had met Chernin last October but that he had made a committment to staying on the show (“Idol”) in America. Cowell’s strategic belief revolves around “having a plan like a good football team. Even though Idol is not his show, Cowell is very close to it and is “confident that it will continue to be the number one show”. The angle he likes with “X Factor” is that there is no upper age limit and because of the development time frame, “we have some time to figure out who the judging panel is” since “the auditions are done in quite different ways”. He makes the joke that Ryan [Seacrest] should be a judge “because it will be another job”. He makes the point that he “has had the best 9 years of my life doing the job” on “Idol”. The most important thing in a judge, he says, is someone who knows what they are talking about who can shepherd the most important idea overall which is finding talent. His intention is to leave “Idol” “bigger and better this year than I have before”. While admitting he doesn’t like rules, he says that the example of Susan Boyle is the best ideal of his thought process because “the contestants are what makes [these shows] different”. In terms of “X-Factor” he said “America needs a second show…a different type a show”. And with that, in front of us, he signs the “X-Factor” deal memo as Reilly and Chernin look on.

Past Life This new series from one of minds behind “Friday Night Lights” follows an investigative team that uses structures of past regression in homicide victims to rebuild and solve cases. While the pursuant of forensic-based cases makes this a hybrid with a bit of supernatural, the necessity will need to be of balance to maintain the viewer.

Exec producer David Hudgins understands that “one of the challenges of a show like this is belief”. He said one of the aspects that they talked about ruminated on the platform of “no rules” which he interprets as “pushing the envelope”. In this way “we took the attitude that it is ‘all’ for real”. It was a matter of keeping an open mind as to how they approach the material and reflecting back that “anything is possible”. The key was also to keep the stories contemporary which was a balance of both a limited budget but also the structure of shooting in Atlanta which, beyond its incentives, didn’t offer the option of an ocean or desert

Lou Pitt, also an executive producer who also made the film “Hollywood Homicide” with Harrison Ford, says that with “Past Life” what “we try to do is take a little bit of the reality and give it a twist”. The series itself is based on the book “The Reincarnationist” by M.J. Rose who also wrote some of the series episodes. Pitt believes that the fact that more than a million people in the world believe in reincarnation is a good start.

Richard Schiff, who plays Dr. Malachi Talmadge on the show, says “I actually believe in it…so there”. He likes that there is something generally good about these characters in that they are healers. The aspect of reincarnation relies on the fact that “certain phenomenon cannot be explained in another way”. The reason these investigators return to this certain field is because these are “unsolvable mysteries”. He admits that there is alot of things in life that he doesn’t understand but that the show “explores some of the mysteries that confound me”.

Kelly Giddish who plays regressionist Dr. Kate McGinn, says that “the relationships in these worlds are defined” so there needs to be a search for a “special reason”. Nicolas Bishop, who plays her more unbelieving partner Price Whatley, says that doing the show motivates him with alot more curiousity adding that “to delve into skepticism is an interesting concept”.

Ravi Patel, who rounds out the cast as Dr. Rishi Karna, admits that he doesn’t believe in reincarnation but that he does believe in karma which is “more of a principle”. One of thee major elements he enjoys about the show is that “no overarching key is left unturned” which allowed for some “really pleasantly surprising things to come to light”.

24 This series has becomes a crucial part in pacing. Like John McClane was to “Die Hard”, Jack Bauer now has a complete rule ovr a certain part of the TV landscape. The question becomes one of thought, pliability and effectiveness in the coming season.

Exec Producer Howard Gordon, who was also a major force on “The X-Files”, says that there is a cathartic aspect to “24” but balanced within that has always been a “creative proposition”. The key becomes to not become “too comfortable in your assumptions” but adds that “there is no sea change or conscious propaganda”.

Kiefer Sutherland, who also acts a producer on the show in addition to his starring role, says that their objective is “great substance in a 24-hour period”. He points to that fact that “24” as a show alleviated alot of the stress people had about terrorism on an individual level after 9/11. What Howard [Gordon] did was give Jack something to “right” for. He agrees that they have taken Jack to “some dark places: the loss of his wife, the estrangement of his daughter”. The kicker, for him. “is that giving him something to fight for is an exciting place to be for a character”. He relays that it surprises him that the show has been translated into 14 languages and that Jack Bauer has become part of the idiom of pop culture. He actually relates a story some kids told him about horsing around in a hot tub including a cannonball scenario where they said “I’m going to Jack Bauer you”. In terms of creative decisions that pushed the boundaries politically, Kiefer says that the torture sequence which were done for dramatic purpose did cause them some heat. However his perception is that Bauer is a “result oriented character” when, by paradox, his superiors wanted to do it by the book but admitted “that was the only time we addressed a specific political issue”. He always is shocked though when people say they feel safer on the plane with him.

Katee Sackoff, formerly of Battlestar Galactica and the short lived “Bionic Women” joins the cast as Dana who is involved in the new narrative this season. She says that this character is the closest she has ever played to herself even though Dana is a computer analyst. In this kind of situation, everything becomes more interesting because the woman has a past. One of the character’s former strengths was raising show ponies in Kentucky. But, of course, as Sackoff states, “it goes bad…it’s 24”. She admits Dana is “very good and loves being close to Chloe’s boss” a subtle hint at a development possibly this season. Her strength, she jokingly, adds is that she “has boobs and two guns” because unlike “Battlestar” “this is different…this is on land”.

Upping The Heat: NBC Summer Press Day 2009

Within the structure of the Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena (formerly the Ritz Carlton), the brief interlude of the 2009 NBC Summer Press Day begins highlighting elements across NBC’s arsenal from USA to Bravo to Oxygen to NBC Proper.

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Tori & Dean: Home Sweet Hollywood This second season of the reality show on Oxygen presupposes the different aspects in the lives of two highly focused couple. The balance now becomes between juxtaposing work and the aspects of having two kids under two. Dean [McDermott, Tori’s husband] says that having kids keep you busy. He used to be toasting to the fact that they had sex six times a day. Now it’s different. Tori simply says they never get any sleep, like any normal parents. In terms of her dealing with a second child: “It gets easier in a sense. With Liam [her firstborn], I thought he would break. You take more chances with the second one.” She also dispels the rumors about the selling of her father’s estate, one of the biggest in Los Angeles: “That’s another perception. I didn’t grow up in that house. I moved there when I was 17 and moved out when I was 19. I think it is great that [my mom] is selling it.” As far as the current status of her life, Tori says that she is just trying to juggle with one side being a stay-at-home mom and the other side her business interests. She sums it up: “It is about making everybody and me happy at the same time”. Dean backs her up: “We are partners and get into everything together. She wears the hose in the family. I just do all the guy stuff”.

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Law & Order: Criminal Intent On USA, the big news of late has been the integration in Season Two of actor Jeff Goldblum as a new detective. Jeff’s perception is that right now on the date, they have shot seven of eight scripts. “We don’t find out a lot about my backstory,” he explains. “There is a gloom to the way I go about things.” His belief is that it is about rationing. Most recently in the perception of a cop he was in the short lived NBC series “Raines”. Here, on “Criminal Intent”, he got to play the piano. His co-star Vincent D’Onofrio jokes that he didn’t have his harmonica. Jeff’s perception is perhaps they will have Vincent singing in the shower at some point. In response to seeing a difference in his character in terms of perception of family, D’Onofrio responds: “It gets very intense. There is no back to personal [setting] this season. The thing is to go back to the early years when Goren was completely fixated on the job. We know that he is strange. He is that character again.” D’Onofrio follows this up saying that he is very happy with his character in reference to the writing. In relation if he D’Onofrio will be seen together in scenes onscreen, Goldblum jokes that “this is the most time we’ve spent together” aside from doing their Super Bowl spot which was improvised. In terms of bringing that thought to the show, Goldblum delivers in deadpan: “We offer a cornacopia of things and then they pick. We offer them a fruit plate.” In response to the “Characters Welcome” moniker of USA Network, Goldblum jokes that he “has a map on my door that says ‘not unwelcome'”. Producer Peter Jankowski concludes addressing the aspect of writing on the show: “I look at these shows as a diagnosis for mythology. You can’t see ‘The Odyssey” without Odysseus. [These characters] take you into any world you want. There are very good stories that have the opportunity for nice psychodrama. You just build on clues left before. You start from the last scene and move in reverse”

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The Fashion Show On Bravo, world renown designer Isaac Mizrahi brings his delicious style of commentary that was so prevalent in the successful Miramax film “Unzipped” to the small screen. In relation to its predecessor “Project Runway”, Mizrahi says the format of this show is different in that “maybe it is more competitive”. Described by him, there is a mini challenge within each episode and then the fashion show. In terms of being on Bravo, he says “in terms of quality, [they] do it best”. In terms of exclusions, he says right now there will be no men’s clothes on the show but the challenges are different each time. One week could be society clothes made for only 40 dollars while another week could be shoes. In response to the evolution of fashion and celebrity understanding of what it means, Mizrahi comments “I think we have all become more aware of style. The great thing about television [and online] in general is that it is about education and communication. It is about an evolution. The stars have come a long way. They are working with stylists which they never did before.” The way the media and arts operate today, Mizrahi sees a “very fine line between red carpet and runway” as they move closer towards each other.

Kelly Rowland, formerly of Destiny’s Child, is the host of the show and points toward the exciting voting element of the show: “I like how America gets to vote the final winner. America makes stars now”. She likens Kelly Clarkson as a wonderful example of this. Mizrahi likes how Rowland “cuts to the chase and says ‘that girl cannot wear that'”. A key point brought to Mizrahi’s attention was if the clothes will be seen on real people’s bodies. His reply: “I am right in the middle of promoting a Liz Claiborne line [that I designed]. [To be honest], real people are interested in seeing clothes on models. [At different points on the show] we had real people involved and it was fabulous. The answer here is multi-fold. We do make sure that there are fittings on many different body [types]. Certain designers are very good at that but [when someone] is 65, she is not 35. Paris Hilton has needs too!”

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America’s Got Talent This show continues to build its structure especially after the meteroric rise of Susan Doyle in the British version. Adding to the American contingent along with stalwarts David Hasselhoff and Sharon Osbourne, Nick Cannon has joined the team as host. Nick speaks on his arrival: “I am the freshman and in HD. I am trying to just bring the energy and have a good time. I think my angle is truly as a fan because I will get emotional when it’s time to get emotional.” Osbourne just loves the spontaneity of it: “Every year you never know what is going to come through the door. We’ve done NY, LA and Miami already. There is a great anticipation”. Simon Cowell, who produces the show, has, as is legendary, his own brand of perspective: “It’s always about who turns up. We’ve got new people on board who make the difference but it all depends on who walks through the door. What is great about [the story of] Susan Boyle is that it is one of the underdog. When the story plays out, it either works or it doesn’t. We wanted to create a TV show where there were no rules.”

And that is the key as the presentation of NBC’s Summer Slate 2009 concludes.

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