Lisa de Moraes
Lisa de Moraes
The TV Column

Sarah Palin vs. the monkey at NBC’s press tour party

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Sarah and Todd Palin — the Barrymores of reality television — caused consternation among lamestream TV critics at NBC’s Summer TV Press Tour party.

The Palins are celebrating their fourth reality-TV series: Todd will compete on NBC’s new reality series, “Stars Earn Stripes,” in which celebrities — yes, Todd’s one — execute military exercises.

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Pulitzer Prize winner, Peabody recipient, Medal of Freedom honoree -- Lisa de Moraes is none of these, but she is an authority on the bad direction, over-acting, and muddled plot lines being played out in the TV industry's executive suites.

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(Lisa Rose/NBC) - Sarah Palin joined husband Todd on Tuesday at NBC’s press week party. Todd Palin will compete on “Stars Earn Stripes,” a new NBC reality show, this fall.

One of “SES’s” executive producers, Mark Burnett, is the same guy who produced “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” for TLC. And of course, daughter Bristol Palin — who was the improbable finalist on the 11th edition of “Dancing With the Stars” — is starring in Lifetime’s “Bristol Palin: Life’s a Tripp,” and is expected to be among the celebs announced later this week for ABC’s upcoming all-star edition of “Dancing.”

Reality TV is the Palin family business.

So naturally, Sarah Palin showed up with her husband on Tuesday at NBC’s press tour poolside party at the Beverly Hilton hotel. Critics, who should not have been surprised, were, judging by the commotion her presence caused at the clambake.

“Sarah Palin was at NBC’s TCA party — I feel dirty,” reported HuffPost TV associate editor Laura Prudom in a since-deleted tweet.

“I gave her the evil eye,” chimed in Jethro Nededog, formerly a senior reporter at the Hollywood Reporter and a featured writer at Zap2it.com, now senior TV editor at Celebuzz.

It will go down as one of Sarah Palin’s more challenging press and photo ops. Not because the lamestreamers oogled and/or snickered — she’s used to that. Yet it’s the first time, we think, that she competed for press attention with a capuchin monkey.

Yes, NBC’s Summer TV Press Tour party will go down as the death match between Sarah Palin and Crystal the Monkey. Based on TV critics’ reports, blog posts and tweets about the evening, we’d have to say that Crystal — star of NBC’s new comedy “Animal Practice” — won by the slimmest of margins. But that’s only because Crystal — the scene-stealing darling of “The Hangover II” and “We Bought a Zoo,” and who’s soon to be known as The Monkey Who Saved NBC — so enthusiastically wrapped herself around TV critics for photo-taking, and kissed them on the lips and licked their cheeks on command. That is, until her trainer said it was time for her to take a break so he could check her diaper — at which point she called it a night and Sarah Palin had the field all to herself.

In Palin’s favor, Crystal was stuck wearing a diaper. Palin, on the other hand, was a knockout, by all press accounts, in a short brown wrap dress that freelance TV critic/blogger Bill Brioux said “hugged her like a long lost cousin.”

Critics marveled at her Hollyweird tan, and the wrap-around glasses she never took off — the jury’s still out as to whether they were Oakleys or something more “Cito Gaston-ish,” as one critic insisted.

Palin also wore an American flag bracelet. And critics seemed to love the black platform peekaboo gladiator boots — one called them “bondage gear,” in a good way — she was wearing. The critic from TV Guide Canada — who, yes, asked Palin who she was wearing on her feet — reported that she responded: “I don’t know — they’re on consignment from somewhere.”

It appears that when she says “consignment,” Palin means she did not pay for them and does not own them. That is not how the rest of Hollywood defines “consignment.” If they did, every starlet on every TV show who comes to Press Tour and puts on the free Louboutin pumps provided to them by the network and/or studio for their appearance would be wearing “consignment” shoes. And, of course, “consignment” is something Hollywood stars would not be caught dead in. Here in Hollywood, it’s referred to as “swag.”

Anyway, Palin wore her hair down, and in a dark shade of brown, bedazzled with long golden strands, critics noted approvingly.

Crystal, meanwhile, was sporting facial hair that most closely resembled that of NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt — only his is red, and she’s a brunette, from head to toe to tail.

When the Palins arrived, they made their way to one side of the Beverly Hilton hotel swimming pool. Hank Stuever, The Post’s TV critic, noticed that all the way across the great divide created by the hotel swimming pool, Justin Bartha and Andrew Rannells — who play the gay couple in NBC’s new Ryan Murphy comedy, “The New Normal” — were giving joint interviews. “TV is the great equalizer,” Stuever tweeted.

And, in the middle: Crystal.

As she competed with Crystal for press attention, Palin was somewhat handicapped by her unwillingness to wrap herself around critics or lick their cheeks. She patiently let critics hold her hand and have their photos taken with her — a violation of TV Critics Association rules, which prompted the org’s president to send an e-mail imposing an absolute ban on photo-taking at all TCA events, parties, set visits and even the awards ceremony.

And Palin did speak with adorable coyness when asked whether she was going to show up at the Republican National Convention in Tampa in August. (“We’ll have an announcement in a couple of days. I don’t know if we’ll do anything fancy as a press conference, but we’ll get word out,” she told Eric Deggans, TV/media critic for the Tampa Bay Times, as a press wrangler insisted that journalists direct their questions to Todd Palin.)

Palin took a couple of questions about her husband’s involvement in the NBC show, gushing: “Todd’s hard-core, he’s a commercial fisherman. He’s a world-champion snow-machine racer. He’s got all this physicality.”

TV Guide Canada’s Amber Dowling called it “some weird form of foreplay.”

To read previous columns by Lisa de Moraes and the latest from the Summer TV Press Tour, go to washingtonpost.com/tvblog.

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