The 2018 Summer Television Critics Association tour kicks off tonight with the annual welcoming event held by National Geographic. And then a 15-day crash course in upcoming content from broadcast and cable networks and streaming services gets underway, as hundreds of critics and reporters from the U.S. and Canada arrive at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles to participate in approximately 200 press conferences and events. There are no days off during this one of a kind event, from beginning to end. And there is much work to be done all day, every day. But you'll get no complaints here. This certainly isn’t the only gig out there that requires a lot of stamina. And in this era of Peak TV, with its insurmountable output of new programming coming from every direction, TCA has never felt more essential.
Highlights of the first few days at TCA include the first-ever presentation by Facebook Watch and the return after a year away of Netflix, which will fill an entire day with panels. Amazon, AT&T Audience, Sony Crackle and YouTube will be back. Discovery will be showcasing some of the newer networks in its portfolio, including HGTV and Food Network. HBO will have Jane Fonda and Amy Adams on hand, among many others, for its extended presentation Wednesday morning. Also participating: AMC Networks, A+E Networks, Viacom Networks and Starz. As always, the gala evening event by Crown Media Networks featuring dozens of stars from programs on Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies and Mysteries looks to be a highlight of the tour.
As I noted last year at this time, while preparing for this extended trip to Los Angeles I could not get a certain song out of my head -- “California Here I Come” as sung by Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel in the unforgettable sequence from the classic sitcom I Love Lucy (pictured above), in which the four friends began a cross-country drive from New York City to Los Angeles that set the stage for one of the series’ most memorable seasons (its fourth).
You know the words:
California here I come,
Right back where I started from,
Where bowers of flowers bloom in the sun,
Each morning, at dawning, birdies sing at everything,
A sun-kissed miss said don’t be late,
That’s why I can hardly wait,
Open up that Golden Gate,
California here I come!
I’ve seen that episode – indeed, every episode of I Love Lucy – dozens of times. But I think this scene resonates for me every time I head to the West Coast for a specific reason … the sheer joy of it all. Ask yourself: When was the last time you saw a scene in a scripted series that was so disarmingly joyful you knew you would never forget it? The producers of Peak TV may be giving us hundreds of top-notch programs, but have any of them given us that? Nothing I've seen lately is going to resonate with millions of people for more than a half century in the same way as that glorious moment when the Ricardos and the Mertzes broke into song while crossing the George Washington Bridge.
Here’s hoping I’ll see something similarly simple and rewarding during the next two weeks. It won’t have to make me sing, but it will have to prove that the television industry, which often chokes on its own sense of self-importance, hasn’t forgotten this basic truth: Sometimes it’s enough just to be entertaining.
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