TCA Cable Tour Wrap: Starz, TNT, Animal Planet, HBO, BBC America, ToonNet, IFC and More

On the final night of the cable portion of the TCA press tour, Rainbow Media’s IFC Channel organized the cherry on top of Turner Broadcasting’s All-Star Party.  

IFC hosted a rock-and-roll "after-party" to promote their new semi-improvisational comedy Z Rock, centering on ZO2, a real band.  ZO2 played a few numbers at the IFC bash. Waiters floated across the room with an abundance of burgers and very delish french fries, and staff dished out ice-cream from the ice cream bar.  The press packed the house and stayed late. 

Here’s ZO2 (in Walnut Creek, CA.)  This vid gets pretty hot about three minutes in…

IFC nicely wrapped a tour that started out a little unevenly.  Another channel (that shall remain unnamed) was responsible for an unusual low point, and one that I’ve never witnessed at press tour:  at a dinner time event, a skimpy hors d’oeuvres selection was served to a ravenous press. 

The unlucky waiters assigned to pass around the meager offerings - as in, mini-burgers the size of  tiddlywinks - struggled to keep up with demand.  They scurried back and forth to replenish their trays.  The press surrounded the wait staff like a school of piranhas, stripping the trays clean of food in seconds.

Except the stuffed tomatoes.  Those didn’t go over too well, for some reason.

Some members of the press skedaddled early in search of sustenance.

Earlier that day, MTV ran out of press packets. 

CNN got a few points deducted from the plus-column for telling a packed room that Wolf Blitzer couldn’t make it due to a nearly-healed pulled hamstring.

The GSN event was very nice and the press seemed to be having fun playing their games, but the bash wasn’t quite up to last year’s standard, described here on my blog.  Admittedly, the 2007 party, with the bubble girls and circus performers, was hard to top.  Multichannel created a photo album of my pics from the 2007 event, posted here.

Okay - let talk high points!  High points outnumbered the low, fortunately.  Memorable moments:

National Geographic: for their class act and…swag! (handy rolling backpacks)

Turner Broadcasting: for trucking in all that talent, the producers etc.

Cartoon Network: for screening a full episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

Lifetime:  Shirley MacLaine.  And a lovely, well-stocked cocktail party afterwards.

CNN:  John King, chief national correspondent, demonstrating the interactive screen in the lobby.  John King was a high point, generally.  CNN flew in five of their top people - Gloria Borger (senior political analyst), Suzanne Malveaux (White House correspondent), Jon Klein (president) and David Bohrman (senior VP and DC Bureau Chief)

HBO - for telling the Helen Thomas story.

Planet Green:  Ludacris on stage; Tommy Lee by satellite.  

Animal Planet:  Sea Shepherd Conservation Society crew members

AMC:  Matt Weiner and the cast of Mad Men

Sundance: two words - Elvis Costello

Hallmark: consistently fun panels.

Here’s a list of shows worth considering:

TV One’s Murder in Black and White, October 5 - a documentary series about unsolved civil rights murders from the 40’s and 50’s.   (See more discussion here in an earlier blog post….)

BBC America’s Primeval, August 9 - the popular British series crosses the pond.  A time rift or anomaly- actually something akin to a stargate, without having to bother with all those symbols -  allows humans to jump back to the age of the dinosaurs.  Alas, the portal works both ways and sometimes the creatures break loose on the M5 Motorway. 

Humans discover multiple anomalies and there are…consequences.  The special effects are great and the long preview DVD was fun.  I’m anxiously awaiting screeners.

WE’s The Locator/September 6 -  This is a real tear jerker of a reality show, but I think viewers (though probably not me) will watch.  It’s emotionally-charged.  Troy Dunn is an investigator who helps the desperate locate long-lost loved ones.  The emotional reunions featured in the clip brought some of the press to tears.

Comedy Centrals Chocolate News (no MTV press packet so no date) - starring David Alan Grier.  this show might be a bit uneven but the "No Child Left Behind" skit screened for the press was drop dead funny.  Worth checking out.

CMT’s Gone Country/August ‘08 - the country music answer to American Idol goes into a second season.  B to D-list celebrities, euphemistically called "mainstream" by CMT, move to Nashville in search of country music stardom.  Might be a guilty pleasure.

National Geographic World’s Toughest Fixes/September 2008 -  a brawny show that should appeal to guys who love tools and big machines.  Deadliest Catch Marries Popular Science. 

Animal Planet’s Whale Wars/November 2008 - this reality series has all the elements.  Mammals we adore!  Eco-pirate love on the high seas!  Classic good guys vs. bad guys!  A sea battle (with the bad guys)!  Helicopter spotters!  The Antarctic (in HD!).    It looks like Animal Planet might have the next big thing in play.  I’m anxiously awaiting the screeners.

Planet Green’s Battleground Earth: Ludacris v. Tommy Lee/August 3, 2008 - if this ten-episode series moves fast enough and it’s crazy enough, it could work.   It’s MTV Gone Green.

Sundance Channel’s Spectacle: Elvis Costello with…/December 3, 2008 - Elvis Costello hosts 13 one-hour interviews with a variety of musicians and personalities.  The understated but beautifully dressed Costello was thoughtful and humble on stage.  Worth sampling.

HBO’s Thank You Mr. President: Helen Thomas at the White House/August 18, 2008 -  Produced and directed by Rory Kennedy.  Helen Thomas is an icon, a beloved reporter who has covered every president since JFK.  This is her story.  Now 87, Thomas has been quite ill lately, but word is that she’s slowly recovering.  We have Rory Kennedy and HBO to thank for capturing this force of journalism on film.

CNN’s Black in America/July 23-24 -  The series continues with Soledad O’Brien’s Black Men and Black Women & Family.  A lens into the experience of African-Americans.  Companion pieces to TV One’s Murder in Black and White.  Recommended for everyone as we enter - hopefully! - an age of racial reconciliation.

John King and his upcoming election coverage, period.

Cartoon Network’s Star Wars: The Clone Wars/sometime this fall - A 22-episode series from George Lucas using state of the art computer generated animation.  ToonNet screened an entire Dazzling! episode for the press.  New battles and adventures, with the fate of universe hanging in the balance.  What a treat it was to watch this episode on a huge screen at TCA.  We love you, ToonNet!

TNT’s Leverage/December ‘08 - starring Timothy Hutton.  Thieves, hackers and grifters act as modern-day Robin Hoods, take revenge against those who use power and wealth to victimize the powerless.   The motley group forms a family bond in the process.  From Dean Devlin.    I’m awaiting screeners to see how this concept rolls out.

Fox Reality Channel’s Long Way Down/August 2, 2008 - A ten-episode reality series featuring Ewan McGregor and his close friend, Charley Boorman.  This is the second big journey for these two.  (The first was Long Way Round, through Central Asia.)   Ewan and Charley traverse Africa on their motorcycles, raising money for charities.  Ewan’s wife joins him briefly on this trip.  

Starz’s Crash/October 2008 - A 13-episode series based on the Oscar-winning film.  Starring Dennis Hopper. Hopper’s character is a music mogul who "doesn’t have an edit button," said producer Don Cheadle during Starz’s TCA panel.  Producers disclosed, however, that the series is shot in New Mexico for budgetary reasons. 

Still, Starz is premium cable and Hopper indicated the drama would take full advantage of their artistic freedom.  "It’s beautifully written, and we have no language barriers or sexual," remarked Hopper, "it’s just free. It’s as free as television will ever be." I’m anxiously awaiting screeners.

Lifetime’s How to Look Good Naked Season Two/July 22 - addictive and inspirational.  Reviewed here yesterday.

Dramas I’m on the fence about and waiting to screen more episodes:

HBO’s True Blood/September 7

TNT’s Raising The Bar/September ‘08

A&E’s The Cleaner/July 15