Showtime and The CW are two networks that I never think of at the same time, but it was impossible to keep them apart Thursday as they shared a day at the Summer 2011 Television Critics Association tour. In order to avoid confusion, and in an effort to accent the frequent transitions throughout the day from one to the other and back again, the lighting on stage was bright red for Showtime and pale green for The CW.
The day began with a panel for the upcoming Showtime drama Homeland with series stars Claire Danes and Damien Lewis, among others. The network is so excited about this show that it has been given prime real estate on its schedule. It will follow Dexteron Sunday nights beginning October 2.
Next up was a session with Showtime Entertainment President David Nevins. He revealed that Showtime has added over 2 million subscribers in the past year, pushing the network's subscriber total to over 20 million for the first time in its history. Nevins appeared at the January 2011 tour but had a much greater presence at this one, staying around for much of the day to introduce every Showtime panel.
When Nevins' session ended, the lighting changed from red to green and out came new CW President Mark Pedowitz, making his first appearance at a TCA tour. Happily, he said that the upcoming season of Supernatural is not intended to be its last, while the upcoming season of One Tree Hill is intended to be the end. He also said that The CW is once again looking for comedies, citing CBS' 2 Broke Girls, ABC's Apartment 23 and Fox's The New Girl as three new sitcoms this fall that "would have worked well" on his network.
After Pedowitz came a session that was The CW's best of the day: A panel for the new drama Ringer with Sarah Michelle Gellar. A favorite of TCA members, Gellar hadn't been at a tour since her days as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but she hasn't lost her touch. She's terrific with the press and had even those critics who weren't impressed with the Ringer pilot interested in seeing the second episode.
Some of the excitement of the Ringer session carried over to the one that followed for another new CW drama, Hart of Dixie. But I don't think all that positive energy, nor the undeniable appeal of series leads Rachel Bilson and Scott Porter, is going to be enough to save this sappy show.
In the best example of the sometimes dramatic shifts in tone throughout the day, after the Hart of Dixie panel ended the stage went red again as Showtime delivered a satellite interview with Paul McCartney on behalf of his upcoming special The Love We Make: Paul McCartney and the Concert for New York City, a stylish black and white documentary about the historic concert McCartney orchestrated following the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. McCartney was smart, funny, gracious and very candid. There are still four days to go before it ends, but I think his session may have been the best of the tour.
The stage remained Showtime Red after a lunch break for the network's final sessions, one for the documentary Rebirth, about the transformations of five people whose lives were dramatically changed by the events of September 11, along with the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site over the last decade as seen via time-lapse photography; the other for Web Therapy, an expansion of the popular Internet comedy series created by and starring Lisa Kudrow.
Everything went green again for the last three sessions, all for new series coming to The CW: The Secret Circle, like The Vampire Diaries a scripted serial about supernatural teens; H8R, a reality series starring Mario Lopez in which dime-store celebrities like Snooki and Kim Kardashian are brought face to face with ordinary people who have taken to the Internet to trash them; and Dr. Drew's Lifechangers, another series in which the ubiquitous Dr. Drew Pinsky helps people fix whatever is wrong in their lives.
The panel for H8R was the only one of the day that got a little heated. "I'm curious as to what the power relationship is here," one critic carped. "I mean, a celebrity is the one in the position of power, and I don't care if some moron on the Internet doesn't have checks and balances. The moron on the Internet still has no power, and Kim Kardashian is still worth however much she's worth. Snooki still has whatever money she has, [so] explain how the power relationship doesn't become icky."
"You see how these rich and famous people are really wounded and hurt when they hear somebody hating on them," replied executive producer Mike Fleiss, in defense mode. "You see the look on these celebrities' faces. It makes them sad. It makes them feel bad about themselves. So then they have the motivation to, you know, convert that person into somebody who doesn't hate them. It's really an interesting concept."
Another critic couldn't contain himself after all that talk about poor Snooki and Kim Kardashian having their feelings hurt. "Unemployment is 9.2 percent. The market fell, like, 500 points today. The world is falling apart. Why do I care about the feelings of a woman who goes on TV and has become famous by acting like an idiot?" he asked, failing to indicate whether he was talking about Snooki or Kim.
"Because you need an escape from all that," replied the ever-diplomatic Lopez. "You don't want to think about all that for a while." It was clear the critics don't want to think about H8Reither, but I can see it catching on.
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