<p>Ben Silverman</p>

Ben Silverman

Credit: NBC

Nina Tassler kicks off Ben Silverman's new reign as whipping boy

CBS prez calls back Ben Silverman's notorious D-girl comment

 

The one week anniversary of Ben Silverman's departure from NBC coincided with the start of the network portion of the Television Critics Association press tour. Perfect timing, then, to begin the not-so-tacit mockery of the exiting exec.

Talking to critics on Monday (Aug. 3) morning, CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler was asked to reflect on Silverman's parting of ways with NBC and the reasons behind it.

Presumably it was a question she'd be expecting.

"I'm really just a D-girl, so I wouldn't comment," Tassler said. She then winked, earning a rare round of applause from the assembled scribes.

Want a little context for Tassler's zinger?

I refer you to a quote from Silverman's notoriously blustery 2007 Esquire interview: 

"The industry hasn't seen an executive like me in a long time," Silverman said at the time. "Traditionally, development executives rise through a specific subsection of the TV business -- prime time, network, scripted programming. They're basically D-girls. That's what [ABC Entertainment president] Steve McPherson is, that's what [Fox Entertainment president] Kevin Reilly is. That's bad vernacular, but they're all D-girls."

Another thing that Steve McPherson and Kevin Reilly now have in common? Their jobs. Ben Silverman? Not-so-much.

We still have at least three more non-NBC networks for somebody to bring up my all-time favorite Silverman quote (regarding the WGA strike threatening to cancel the Golden Globes):

"Sadly, it feels like the nerdiest, ugliest, meanest kids in the high school are trying to cancel the prom. But NBC wants to try to keep that prom alive." 

 

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<p>Laura Harris of 'Defying Gravity'</p>

Laura Harris of 'Defying Gravity'

Credit: ABC

TV Review: 'Defying Gravity'

ABC's 'Grey's Astronomy' feels like a lot of shows you probably liked better

[Sorry about the lateness of this review, folks... I haven't exactly given you all that much time to mull whether or not you want to see "Defying Gravity" before it premiere ons ABC on Sunday night at 9 p.m. ET. But if ABC wanted a fully considered, timely review of its new space soap opera, maybe premiering it on the heels of 10 days of Comic-Con and the Press Tour wasn't the best of ideas.]

"Defying Gravity" is created by James Parriott and anybody watching the show's first couple episodes will greet the news that Parriott comes from a "Grey's Anatomy" background with a resounding "Well duh." The series wasn't produced for ABC -- it's part of Fox Television Studios' new wave of internationally produced and financed shows -- but it's no wonder that ABC responded to it and gave it a home. "Defying Gravity" could be described as a "'Grey's Anatomy' in Space" or as "'Grey's Anatomy' meets 'Virtuality'" or as "'Grey's Anatomy' by way of any of a dozen of iconic space films" but no matter where your comparison ends, it's almost certain to start with McDreamy and the Seattle Grace gang.

Is it necessarily bad for a show to be as shamelessly derivative as "Defying Gravity"? Not necessarily. In this case, it yields a flatness that even the strong cast and solid production values can't shake. You watch "Defying Gravity" and think, "Wow. This should have been the biggest hit of the 2007 TV season." 

[Full review of "Defying Gravity" after the break...]

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<p>Joss Whedon talking to reporters today on the 'Dollhouse' set</p>

Joss Whedon talking to reporters today on the 'Dollhouse' set

Credit: Michael Buckner/Getty Images for FOX

Joss Whedon meets the press on the 'Dollhouse' set

'Dollhouse' creator is excited for Season Two and The Fien Print hopes it didn't kill his candid streak

If Joss Whedon seems somehow less forthcoming when discussing the upcoming second season of "Dollhouse," I'm afraid it's probably my fault.

Sorry.

From the best shows to the worst, almost every program on TV goes through growing pains trying to find itself. But with most shows, it's a process that goes undiscussed, as both networks and producers are hesitant to admit if they're putting out anything less than the finest work imaginable.

But denial isn't Joss Whedon's way.

He was candid when "Dollhouse" scrapped its original pilot and shot a new one. He was candid when "Dollhouse" shut down production in the early going to give the writers the chance to regain their footing. As the show premiered, he was candid that the first five episodes were basically variations on the pilot and that things didn't really get good until "Man on the Street." While most shows launch amidst a news cycle built around puffery and bluster, Whedon made the decision to tell the world that he was plugging away on this project that he wasn't really comfortable with.

As a reporter, Whedon's attitude was endlessly interesting and refreshing, but I could imaging that for some casual viewers, operating outside of Whedon's sphere of influence, it was a bit off-putting to be told that they should keep tuning in to "Dollhouse," even with the not-so-tacit acknowledgement that the man responsible for the show wasn't exactly a cheerleader.

On Friday (July 31) afternoon, members of the Television Critics Association gathered on the "Dollhouse" set (still one of the most beautiful and detailed I've ever seen) and I asked Whedon if, in retrospect, he felt that maybe he'd been a bit too candid in the show's early going. I asked if maybe some viewers had chose to wait until he said he'd gotten it right.

That seems fair, right?

[Whedon's answer and his enthusiastic gushing about Season Two after the break...]

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<p>Robin Williams</p>

Robin Williams

Credit: HBO

Press Tour Notes: 'Hung' hits below the belt and Robin Williams reflects

Also, Zach Galifianakis prepares to be washed up, Mo'Nique drops weight and Larry David gets happy

On Wednesday I joked a little bit about how this was becoming the Twitter Television Association press tour, full of funny soundbytes and devoid of actual news.

Then Thursday (July 30) came along and suddenly everything was fun, exciting and newsworthy up in Pasadena for the TCA.

We got an update on the progress of "Jon & Kate Plus 8," which doesn't matter to me, but absolutely matters to many readers.

HBO went through its whole slate, from "True Blood" to "Big Love" to "Treme," renewing and setting premiere dates galore. 

And Larry David told us how this season of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" will be the "Seinfeld" reunion we've all been waiting for. Only not exactly.

All of those things were solid and newsy. In fact, with more time and less of an ongoing headache, I also could have written stories on a subdued and sincere (but also very funny) Robin Williams preparing to return to the stage after his heart surgery. Or I could have compiled all of the times people said "penis," "dick" or "cock" in the double-entendre-filled "Hung" session. I also could have written something about Mo'Nique, who may get an Oscar nomination for "Precious" while she's hosting a BET late night show.

Instead, I've put those aside for a later date and just compiled a selection of the day's best quotes, some of which are a little blue...

Click through...

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<p>Joan Rivers</p>

Joan Rivers

Credit: NBC

Press Tour Notes: Joan Rivers trashes Leno, 'Spartacus' redefines Kirk Douglas

Also, Howard Zinn teaches us history and DJ AM discusses the plane crash

 

Wednesday (July 29) marked Day Two of what I'm already beginning to call the Twitter Television Critics Association Press Tour. Yes, I've been tweeting for the past three or four years, but these are the first two days that I've ever felt that the depth of available stories was sufficiently thin that they could be dispatched in a handful of 140 character quotes, comments and news bytes.

If you're following my Twitter feed -- and you sure should be... @HitFixDaniel -- you learned that Starz' "Spartacus: Blood and Sand" will premiere on Jan. 22, that Kevin Bacon is narrating NatGeo's "Human Family Tree," that Michael Eisner is hocking a Nickelodeon animated show and that Jeff Dunham bombed disastrously. All of those things were 140 characters of exciting and newsworthiness, but probably not more.

The big quote that most of my colleagues turned into stories was Joan Rivers' observation on the state of the late night TV wars.

"I think it’s brilliant that they put Leno at 10:00 now because Americans get bored more easily and go to sleep earlier, and that will -- that’s all I have to say about that," Rivers said. "When was the last time you said, 'Did you hear what Leno said last night? Ahh.' Never. So it’s nice for the Midwest because the crops will be greener."

It's a great quote. Don't get me wrong. But since when is Joan Rivers being catty worth more than one sentence? 

Click through for a few of the day's other standout quotes, both funny and serious, including Lucy Lawless talking about merkins, DJ AM talking about his plane crash and some more wisdom from Rivers...

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<p>Adam Richman of 'Man v. Food'</p>

Adam Richman of 'Man v. Food'

Credit: Travel Channel

Press Tour Notes: 'Man v. Food' apparently doesn't glorify obesity

Adam Richman says his Travel Channel food isn't about over-eating, even if it is.

Nothing kicks off a 10-day saga of catered food and drink and more food -- the semi-annual Television Critics Association press tour, I mean -- like a panel dedicated to a Travel Channel show celebrating the glories of gluttony.

Actually, Travel Channel's "Man v. Food" isn't really about the glories of gluttony at all. Or at least that's what host Adam Richman too great pains to explain to critics on Tuesday (July 28) morning, especially the critics treating him as the cause of America's ever-increasing fatness.

"Here is the one thing that I would like to make abundantly clear. At no point do I or the network or the show espouse overeating," Richman attempted to make abundantly clear. "This is not about that. These are about once-in-a-blue-moon indulgences because at no point will we ever espouse eating like I eat or eating what I eat like a lifestyle choice."

As fans of "Man v. Food" know, Richman travels the country, participating in ambitious challenges forcing him to eat a location's spiciest pasta or largest burrito or a four-pound hamburger successfully completed by only the most intrepid of diners. Sometimes he succeeds, but just as often he fails, with the kind of nobility that can only be achieved when your face is red, your belly engorged and your shirt covered with the detritus of hastily consumed meal. Even when he wins, what Richman does doesn't exactly look like the sort of thing that would be good for the human body. Yet, like the competitive eaters celebrated on Coney Island every 4th of July (an ignored by most of the populace for the rest of the year), Richman doesn't look like a man who eats for a living.

"I stay super vigilant about my health," he promises. And I don’t eat necessarily like I eat on the show in my day-to-day life. I think that it’s a system of checks and balances and I just really do try to stay extra vigilant not just with doctor visits, but also staying on top of supplements, making sure I do work out on a daily basis, making sure that I do monitor my health in a rigorous fashion. I think it would be foolhardy not to."

While not a competitive eater himself -- he's actually a graduate of the Yale School of Drama, it seems -- Richman received coaching from hot dog champ Joey Chestnut, a first season guest star.

"Joey Chesnut’s big thing is running. So what I actually do is I combine strength training with running the morning of," Richman says. "He is a big, big proponent of running in terms of both elevating his appetite and metabolism. Also, he stressed to me the importance of staying hydrated, which I guess is a good thing anyway."

But it isn't all about the eating, so much as the spectacle.

"The challenge is so much about the experience that I don’t usually like to get bogged down with the sort of minutiae of the physical stuff. For me it’s such an amazing event," he says. "It’s somewhere in between, like, an absolute party and the Roman Coliseum."

He adds, "To paraphrase John Cougar Mellencamp, 'Ain’t that America?' The thing is it’s not solely about the food. This is a travel show. It is – basically it’s exploration of a destination one bite at a time. So it’s using food as the point of departure — and a highly delicious point of departure, I might add — to sort of explore these cities. So I’ve recently just been to Springfield, Illinois. I’m going to Boise. I’m going to Little Rock. And the thing is they may not necessarily have the culinary profile of a New York, a San Francisco, a Philadelphia, a Chicago in terms of haute cuisine, but they do have their staples. And these foods are a point of pride to these people. And I feel that what I’m really trying to show is the food, yes, but the food is part of a larger experience."

 

***

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The other highlights of a fairly slow first day of press tour included a Fox Reality Channel promo for "Househusbands of Hollywood" that claimed that star Billy Ashley lost his chance at baseball stardom because of an injury (rather than a .233 lifetime after and difficulties hitting off-speed pitches), Joy Behar saying she wanted to interview Sarah Palin (but being willing to settle for her maid or her babysitter) and George Lopez explaining his recent difficulties with customs.

The day culminated in a relatively intimate cocktail party/dinner for AMC, where I talked to Matt Weiner and Christina Hendricks about "Mad Men" and Jim Caviezel about Comic-Con, the nature of stardom and "The Prisoner."

Up on Wednesday? Panels with Joan Rivers, Matt Damon & Marisa Tomei, Ice Cube and David Tennant.

Stay tuned.

 

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<p>'Futurama'</p>

'Futurama'

Credit: 20th Century Fox TV

Nothing ado about much for 'Futurama' at Comic-Con

With the fate of its popular voices up in the air, 'Futurama' couldn't celebrate at Comic-Con

This was not the way Saturday's (July 25) "Futurama" Comic-Con panel was supposed to unfold. 

Slotted into an afternoon of network television's most popular animated shows, the "Futurama" panel was expected to be a celebration for fans. It looked like a chance for 45 minutes of revelry surrounding a show that was cancelled and resurrected thanks to enduring audience support and changing industry business models. 

[More after the break...]

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<p>Anna Paquin of 'True Blood'</p>

Anna Paquin of 'True Blood'

Credit: HBO

Comic-Con Live-Blogging: 'True Blood'

Alan Ball and Charlaine Harris' Southern vampire saga comes to Ballroom 20

5:09 p.m. "Fringe" didn't leave that many empty seats in Ballroom 20 for the inevitable influx of "True Blood" fans. I wonder if that will impact that tone of the panel, or if we're about to get a straight-up infusion of vampire devotees. Because that would be tremendous. It's not that I expect this to be "Twilight: Part II" (panel-passion-wise), but there had better be a sufficient amount of shrieking.

5:24 p.m. "We are very happy to be able to announce that True Blood the drink is actually a reality now," is Alan Ball's big announcement. Ummm... Ick?  "Obviously we couldn't make synthetic blood for human consumption," Ball clarifies. 

5:26 p.m. "It's actually a very tasty blood-orange soda," Ball finally admits. OK. See? That I'd drink. It'll be available September 10 in time for your finale viewing parties.

5:28 p.m. A preview reel of upcoming scenes set the crowd all a-squeal. There's a war a-comin' it would appear. We can also await cowboy vampires, more of that critter with the horns, and some MIGHTY unusual changes to Tara. The loudest screams are for Eric and when Bill tells Sookie "Trust Me." And, in our final shot, we see Evan Rachel Wood, face covered with blood. The Vampire Queen says, "Care to join me." It looks like some bloody high drama to come.

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<p>Zachary Levi of 'Chuck'</p>

Zachary Levi of 'Chuck'

Credit: NBC

Live-Blogging the 'Chuck' Comic-Con Panel

Follow along with us...

9:57 a.m. PT The "Chuck" panel is minutes away from its scheduled start. Ballroom 20 isn't half-full yet, but the line still waiting to get in is longer than any Ballroom 20 line I've ever seen at Comic-Con. Are people here for "Chuck"? Are they here for "Futurama"? Are they truly committed "True Blood" fans waiting for the late afternoon panel? I can't say.

9:59 a.m. I actually waiting in line for nearly 90 minutes even though the seat I prefer at events like this is usually the last to fill. I like being back and to the right, with a clear sightline of screens and easy access to power plugs, because on a day like today, my batteries are going to be taxed. If you want coverage of the day's Ballroom 20 madness, it's the price I have to pay.

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<p>'Dexter' promo</p>

'Dexter' promo

Credit: Showtime

'Dexter' takes a stab at Comic-Con

Michael C. Hall, John Lithgow and company tease the killer new season of 'Dexter'

 

Michael C. Hall's "Dexter" has faced the police and out-smarted the feds. He's outfoxed ambitious and psychotic attorneys, dealt with crazed British sexpots and even dispatched his own brother. 

If the clips shown to the Comic-Con crowd on Thursday (July 23) afternoon were any indication, the new season of "Dexter" may find our serial-killing blood-spatter expert coping with his biggest challenge yet: Fatherhood.

[There are some spoilers in this post, after the break...]

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