Twice a year, a parade of stellar stars and ultra-creative people in broadcasting gather with television writers from across the U.S. and Canada to promote their shows. This winter, the TV critics press tour was held at the posh Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena, and the biggest buzz was the “Tonight Show” upheaval caused by NBC trying to undo the Leno and Conan switch-a-roo. But after cover press tours for 25 years, I know that civilization won’t come to an end just because a network executive made a bad decision. Heaven help us, if that were true, we’d have Armageddon after every pilot season.
Instead of focusing on what didn’t work, I was happy to see a lot of good shows introduced for TV’s midseason, including “Parenthood” from producer Ron Howard. It is a wonderful series inspired by Howard’s hit movie and follows the very large, colorful and imperfect family that has something for everyone. The drama with humor debuts March 2 featuring Peter Krause, Craig T. Nelson, Lauren Graham,, Monica Potter and Bonnie Bedelia among many other outstanding performers. Howard told me: “It’s a project I cherish. It’s probably the most personal film that I’ve ever done. This is about the unbelievable ups and downs of parenting, the absurdity of it, the pain of it and also, significantly to me, the nobility of it.” When we chatted, Howard proudly mentioned that he went to Burroughs High School in Burbank. That should provide some inspiration for all the future filmmakers there.
Another mega-filmmaker, Steven Spielberg was at the press tour for his latest HBO project, the ten-part miniseries called “The Pacific,” debuting March 14. The epic drama follows the intertwined lives of three U.S. Marines who fought in the Pacific during World War II. It is a follow up to the acclaimed HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers,” which Spielberg executively produced along with Tom Hanks, who was also on the panel.
Tom Hanks was ultra funny but equally passionate about telling stories about real heroes. Speaking of heroes, another TV project that Spielberg has been developing is for the Science Channel. It’s a six-part series projected for 2011 called “Rebuilding Ground Zero,” chronicling the reengineering of the World Trade Center site.
Yet another great filmmaker, Jerry Bruckheimer was on hand to talk about his latest series “Miami Medical.” It will premiere April 2 on CBS, the network that’s home to the platinum-plated Bruckheimer “CSI” franchise. He said the new hospital show will be about a team of doctors who excel in the “golden hour,” which is the 60 minutes after being critically injured, when a patient’s life hangs in the balance.
Producer-director Oliver Stone, no stranger to controversy in his films, will also stir things up with his upcoming Showtime presentation “Oliver Stone’s Secret History of America.” He doesn’t like how history is taught in schools and says he is offering important details left out of our history books. Stone’s idea is very thought-provoking.
There were many highlights from the press tour including a special musical performance by Mary Chapin Carpenter, who is featured in the PBS special “Rounder Records 40th Anniversary” airing March 6. Also thanks to PBS, I enjoyed laughing at Neil deGrasse Tyson, the gregarious host of the Nova series, as he humorously made his case about whether or not Pluto should be called a planet. There’s a wonderful show on the subject, “The Pluto Files,” airing March 2 on PBS. Likewise, Jamie Lee Curtis was equally as passionate and funny about her upcoming PBS special “Dirt! The Movie,” airing April 20. Quite simply, it’s about how important it is to have dirt in your lives. Really.
Get away with Tony Curtis
Okay. Now, would you like to dish the dirt with Jamie Lee’s dad Tony Curtis? If you’re looking to get away from your TV, please consider spending some time with the silver screen icon Tony Curtis. The star of so many great motion pictures is the latest to get the spotlight in The Magic Castle’s Legends Series on Saturday, Jan. 30, with a dinner party and Q&A. And on Sunday, Jan. 31 at 4 pm, there will be a screening of “Some Like It Hot” followed by a Q&A with Curtis, and a book signing. Open to non-members of the Castle, it should be a memorable experience for all.