At winter press tour, older actors and the basic cable TV that loves them

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 5, 2011; 10:26 PM

PASADENA

Basic cable loves old actors. They're such a hoot, and when you're up onstage with them at Winter Press Tour 2011, you can talk about them as if they're not there. Plus, they make adorable subjects of sex jokes.

And nobody's better at pretending they've taken a role on your new sitcom because the project is so compelling - and not because they can't get the time of day from film directors or suits at broadcast TV networks who are working like little beavers to attract young male viewers.

"Are you on Facial Book?," 76-year-old George Segal is made to ask his pretend son on TV Land's new comedy, "Retired at 35," so that his son can respond snarkily, "No - I'm Tittering."

"The quality of the writing is breathtakingly high," Segal tells TV critics at Winter Press Tour 2011, convincing no one who'd just watched the clip from the show, about a Wall Street up-and-comer who decides to chuck it all and live with his parents in retirement in Florida.

"If it ain't on the page, it ain't on the stage, we like to say," added Jessica Walter, who plays his wife - still convincing no one.

Segal likened the show to Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland saying, "Let's go out to the barn and make a show." That probably explains why show creator Chris Case says he didn't even bother pitching this show to any broadcast networks, because there "was no way they were going to put it on."

The show's other, younger cast members marveled at how Segal and Walter did not play the "my way or the highway" card during production, as well as at Segal's willingness to "pass the ball" to them.

"I'd love to work with this guy he's talking about," Segal responded cranky-old-manishly - he knows his role. A few minutes after grousing, "Hey, this isn't a private conversation - who the hell are you talking about" to one critic who'd asked Walter to explain the difference between her character on the animated FX show "Archer" and this new TV Land sitcom.

One of the show's younger set, Ryan Michelle Bathe, told critics that she just loved lunch break on the show because you can "sit back and shut your mouth and let [Segal and Walter] talk. It's the most extraordinary 45 minutes . . . hearing their stories and the people they talk about.

"They say [some star's] name and you wonder if they mean that person, because that person's really famous," she marveled insultingly onstage, a couple of seats away from Walter and Segal.

Ed Asner, meanwhile, is the sex symbol on the new CMT (formerly Country Music Television) comedy series "Working Class," the show's Jill Cargerman joked to TV critics.


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