Fearful that they'll never eat lunch in this town again, it's rare that people in the entertainment industry really speak their minds. But celebrity guests at the Summer 2010 Television Critics Association tour this week have let fly with a few refreshingly blunt comments that have endeared them to more than one reporter.
Consider the following critique from acclaimed performer and recording artist Michael Feinstein, who during his appearance here Wednesday night to promote the upcoming three-part PBS special Michael Feinstein's American Songbook dared to criticize the most popular program on television when asked his opinion of American Idol.
Ed Martin is also reporting from the Television Critics Association tour on individual networks' presentations exclusively for Jack Myers Media Business Report subscribers at www.JackMyers.com.
"I have problems with American Idol because I think that we live in a time when it is essential to connect with other people in a way of kindness," he began. "To see the bashing of young souls on television for the sake of sport and ratings and a witty line is, I think, unconscionable. I think of how generations of kids are watching this program and are gaining permission to treat other people that way, to judge them and to say nasty things to them. I think that's a terrible thing. As my life has evolved, I've tried to be less judgmental and to try and see something positive in people. And to see a show where souls are dismissed wholesale in that way is a very sad and dangerous thing."
An accomplished musical entertainer dissing the mighty American Idol? Blasphemy!
Earlier in the week there were these words from the creator and cast members of FX's gritty biker drama Sons of Anarchy when asked during their panel about this year's egregious Emmy snubbing. (The show did not receive any nominations despite being the highest rated series in the network's history and receiving all kinds of critical acclaim, including nominations for the show itself and for star Katey Sagal in this year's prestigious Television Critics Association Awards.)
"Every year when the Emmys are announced, half the stories that come out are about the nominations and the other half are about the absurdity of the nominations and the snubs," said Sons creator and executive producer Kurt Sutter. "So to me, perhaps that suggests that the system is somewhat flawed."
His actors were less diplomatic.
"Emmy-shmemmy," dismissed Tommy Flanagan, who plays Irish tough-guy Chibs.
"Fuck 'em," cussed Ron Perlman, who plays motorcycle club leader Clay.
"I'm sure I'll garner a little bit of disappointment or confusion from my colleagues, [but] I personally was really happy," admitted Charlie Hunnam, who plays Clay's stepson, Jax. "I don't subscribe to Emmys or awards or any of that shit. I think it's all a crock of shit. I think it's corrupting. I was happy that we weren't on the receiving end of a force that could change the dynamic that we have, because I think it's working, and it's an environment where we're able to do good work and feel fulfilled as artists. All of that crap, I just think, is secondary and completely unimportant, [but it] does have the potential to ruin a good thing.
"So, like he said, fuck 'em," he added, pointing toward Perlman.
Actors trashing the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences? Shocking!
Before all of this refreshingly salty talk from the Sons crew, I thought the most outspoken person of the week had been Martha Plimpton, who stars in Fox's upcoming white trash comedy Raising Hope, the title character of which is a baby being raised by her somewhat dimwitted young father Lucas and his spectacularly flawed family. Plimpton plays Lucas' mother.
When series creator Greg Garcia (My Name is Earl) on Monday was asked how far he could take the family's bizarre behavior given that a baby is involved, Garcia replied, "This baby's going to bring up issues. Lucas' character is going to discover how his parents did certain things, and that's going to bring up some present-day issues between them. And it's not always going to be about just trying to keep this baby alive. I know we do a lot of jokes about that in the pilot, but it's not like we're going to have scenes with people juggling chainsaws over the baby."
Once the critics stopped laughing, Plimpton -- God love her -- dared to suggest that Americans are out of control when it comes to fretting and fussing and carrying on about their children.
"I think [Raising Hope] shows a nice antidote to our sort of infant-child 'fetishistic' obsession that we have in our country where, you know, everything becomes about the baby," she said. "You know, the baby comes in and everybody adjusts themselves and their behavior and their world to the baby! I prefer to live in a world where children are here to adjust to me.
"You're here to get to know how to do it the way I do it," she continued, speaking to an imaginary baby. "I'm not here to do it the way you do it."
A woman suggesting that American parents have gone bananas over their babies? Outrageous! Can't you imagine the ladies of The View melting down over that one?