BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Starz brought Kelsey Grammer and other cast members of its show “Boss” to Summer TV Press Tour 2012, hoping that the hundred or so TV critics/bloggers/tweeters attending the tour’s waning days would help scare up more viewers for the series.
In the Chicago-set drama, Grammer plays Mayor Tom Kane, who is facing a fatal illness and trying to change his nature to achieve redemption. Grammer thinks it’s his “King Lear.”
“I can’t tell you how many people come up and tell me, ‘That’s the best thing you’ve ever done!’ . . . There are also people who come up to me and say, ‘When are you coming back to television?’ ” Grammer joked of the show’s challenged ratings.
Grammer says he does not know exactly what the numbers are.
Show creator Farhad Safinia, on the other hand, says: “I am completely aware what the numbers are, and I’m heartbroken. . . . It deserves a larger audience.”
In the second season, which debuts Aug. 17, Kane beats back the physical symptoms of his debilitating neurological disorder with high doses of medication — but he suffers heightened psychological manifestations of the disease. Kane now has a new chief of staff, played by Sanaa Lathan, and a new adviser, played by “Glee’s” Jonathan Groff.
“ ‘Boss: the Musical’ can be seen at the Pantages Theatre,” Grammer joked of Groff’s joining the cast.
Yeah, and if TV critics ever are attending a stage production starring Grammer, they’ll be sure to keep their cellphones turned on and feel free to answer them should they ring — after Grammer did the same to them during the “Boss” Q&A session.
As Grammer and gang lobbied for “Boss” in the Beverly Hilton ballroom, which was filled with journalists and company, Grammer’s cellphone rang and he took the call.
It was his wife.
“Hi, honey. . . . Okay. Cool. . . . I’m [on] stage right now, but go ahead. . . . Oh, that sounds great. . . . But they should bring the truck, so they can to go Universal after that. . . . Call Stan. . . . Okay, 310- ”
Only at that point did a technician turn off Grammer’s microphone, so TV critics could not hear as Grammer read the phone number of his publicist, Stan Rosenfeld, to wife No. 4, Kayte.
“Kelsey Grammer is actually taking a phone call while in the middle of his #TCAs12 panel and he is not keeping it brief. Power corrupts?” a pop culture writer/deputy TV editor tweeted angrily.
“Bad manners: Grammer takes a call while in the middle of the press conference#TCAs12,” agreed a TV critic in a tweet.
“KelseyGrammer has answered his phone onstage & we are now listening to his conversation. Some find this to be charming,” another critic’s tweet added even more peevishly.
“For the record, I would NOT take a phone call from my wife while sitting on a #TCAs12 panel,” tweeted the most miffed critic yet.
While Grammer made sure all TV critics’ eyes were on him and his phone call, “Boss’s” other cast members on stage stretched their improv muscles:
“I like your sneakers,” Lathan, who plays Kane’s incorruptible new chief of staff, told Tip “T.I.” Harris, who plays Trey.
“They’re the Olympic Jordans,” Harris told Lathan.
Groff contributed nothing. Possibly he was still thinking about “Boss: the Musical.”
The Q&A session never seemed to regain the full attention of the critics/bloggers/tweeters after the phone call. Wrapping things up, one critic told Grammer that he figured there would be many reports about the actor’s having taken a somewhat lengthy phone call during this Q&A session. The critic thought he should ask Grammer: “Why did you do that?”
“There are some things that are more important than others, and in my world, the well-being of my wife sits on top of the charts,” Grammer said.
TLC is the latest network that’s looking to snag ratings with a show about young Amish and Mennonite people who leave their communities to explore life out of the fold.
“Breaking Amish” follows four Amish men and women and one Mennonite woman as they go give life a try — in the Big Apple! TLC has ordered nine one-hour episodes.
In one clip, the Amish and Mennonite youths are seen marveling at the skyscrapers, buying clothing made in underdeveloped countries, interacting with pedestrians and shacking up in an expensive hotel paid for by, well, probably not them.
TV critics — who had been through this with UPN’s “Amish in the City,” National Geographic Channel’s “Amish: Out of Order” and so on — were not impressed.
“We wanted to have a real authentic look,” exec producer Shannon Evangelista said as she and Eric Evangelista described how they hired two producers — one Amish and one Mennonite — to recruite their band of 20-somethings to take to New York for the show, which they purport to call a documentary.
“It’s 100 percent accurate,” Eric Evangelista said of the series, which is produced, appropriately, under the Hot Snakes Media banner.
“We have already seen at least one show like this,” said one TV critic. “How can you call it a documentary if you actually change the conditions? You’re taking people who would not go to New York normally and taking them out of their normal environment. . . . How is this different than putting them in a ‘Real World’ house, or ‘Jersey Shore?’ ”
“All five of them were going to do something,” Eric Evangelista insisted. “They were going to leave. We provided them with a much safer way to do that.”
“They really give you their all, they open up,” Shannon Evangelista added.
“So does Snooki,” the critic shot back, adding: “You are affecting the story — you have already interfered with the timeline.”
TV critics seemed a bit put out to be reminded that Animal Planet has a series on its lineup called “Finding Bigfoot.”
The show got a Q&A session at Summer Press Tour because it’s not only returning with 11 episodes and two specials but is also expanding its search for Bigfoot to Australia and Indonesia.
And for the first time, Animal Planet will produce two Bigfoot “aftershows.” Kind of like what Andy Cohen used to do with his housewives on Bravo. Only in this case, Animal Planet’s bigfootologists will be taking “burning questions from fans” and diving “deeper into the evidence and theories.”
When they actually do find Bigfoot, one TV critic wondered, what contractual arrangement does Animal Planet have with the producers to slap that episode on the air out of order.
Animal Planet General Manager Marjorie Kaplan admitted that she had no such contractual arrangement — “but I will tell you when they find Bigfoot, you will know quickly.”
Another critic wondered whether Animal Planet “had run out of real animals” to profile.
Kaplan said the network has been reinvented and now is all about exploring the “rich planet” on which we live.
Yet another TV critic wondered whether this was a sequel to Animal Planet’s documentary “Mermaid — the Body Found.”
The fact that the mermaid “docudrama” did so well ratings-wise “is evidence our audience loved it,” Kaplan said, adding that there are “new species being discovered all the time.”
“Do you want to stick with ‘docudrama’ on that?” the critic asked.
Someone asked Kaplan whether she thought Discovery Communications — the parent company of Animal Planet — was damaging the brand by putting on “fake documentaries” about mermaids and Bigfoot.
“I don’t think so, or I wouldn’t put it on,” she said.
“The audience voted with their remotes,” she said, returning to that Sucker Born Every Minute theme.
“You can’t equate Bigfoot with mermaids,” scoffed Bigfoot researcher James “Bobo” Fay. “You’re ignorant of the subject matter.”
To read previous columns by Lisa de Moraes and the latest from the Summer TV Press Tour, go to washingtonpost.com/tvblog.