That Sputtering Sound You Hear? Another Press Tour Revs Up

By Lisa de Moraes
Wednesday, July 9, 2008

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif., July 8

The day on which the Thank God We're Working Summer TV Press Tour got its start was one of singular euphoria.

One year after the previous TV press tour -- the winter one was whacked by the 100-day writers' strike -- endangered TV critics marveled at being employed, back at the posh Beverly Hilton hotel and on an expense account. Actors and producers at the tour, thrilled to be not-on-strike, spoke giddily about their new TV projects.

All, that is, except former Screen Actors Guild president Ed Asner, who ostensibly came to talk about "Generation Gap," his contribution to the pantheon of glutinous TV movies in the Hallmark Channel library. Asner wishes SAG -- the only guild not yet able to pound out a new contract with the Hollywood studios -- would strike; on the other hand, he also wishes the old MGM studio were as clean as it was when Marlon Brando used to eat at the commissary.

Where were we? Oh yes, the Thank God We're Working Summer TV Press Tour . . .

Suits from cable networks -- cable nets dominate the first four days of the tour -- reveled in the viewers they have watching their networks, and even those they don't yet have, thanks to cable system operators that still refuse to carry their networks.

So thrilled were the critics with the whole still-employed/Beverly Hills/expense-account thing, they generously overlooked TV One following its first session, on racism in America, with one that kicked off with homophobic remarks made by a guy who appears to be one of the new co-hosts of TV One show "Black Men Revealed."

And, hours later, they also graciously let it slide when Florence Henderson -- born 1934 -- slipped in a reference to herself as being part of the baby boom generation:

I personally am very grateful to Hallmark because I feel very strongly about the baby boomer generation, that they're sorely neglected on television. . . . We're the fastest-growing segment of the population; I feel we are underserved, underestimated, underappreciated, and I think advertisers forget that we are the ones with the most money.

This is not to say all was perfect happiness on Day 1 of the Thank God We're Working Summer TV Press Tour.

Critics did seem a tad peeved when the Rev. Al Sharpton did not show up for the very first panel. After all, they'd risen at the crack of 9 because they'd been promised that the always quotable Sharpton would be among the panelists for a Q&A session on "Murder in Black and White." The series of documentaries about unsolved civil rights murders from the '40s and '50s was produced by Keith Beauchamp, whose 2005 docu on Emmett Till inspired the government to reopen that 1955 case.

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