Visited the Church of J.J. today.
Its founder, J.J. Abrams, has a new series on ABC called "Lost." It's about a bunch of people who survive a plane crash and find themselves on an island inhabited by a big scary monster who, grievously, is not a vegetarian.
The Reporters Who Cover Television worship at the feet of J.J. for reasons we do not entirely understand.
The Church of J.J. sprang up right about the time Abrams created WB's hot-chick-in-college series "Felicity," which was supposed to be Very Big, only it turned out it was only a moderate success and its popularity was contingent upon the star's hairstyle. And everyone knows the mark of a true hit is its ability to survive a change in the star's hairstyle -- like Jennifer Aniston on "Friends."
Even more of TRWCT joined the Church of J.J. when he created ABC's hot-chick spy drama "Alias." "Alias" was definitely going to be Very Big, only it turned out that even when it aired after the Super Bowl the show still got only a middling rating, even though its star did not change her hair -- though she did dump her husband.
But church membership never stopped growing. So naturally ABC suits asked Abrams to step in and save a new show it wanted to order that included a plane crash, an island and a big, scary monster.
Miracles happen every day in the Church of J.J. For instance, although middle-aged women will not survive a plane crash on a remote island, miraculously all of the hot young ones will, as will all of the hot young men. Also surviving will be one young though fat male, one middle-aged man and one precocious child.
Equally miraculous, the hot young women's bikinis will survive the crash and will be found in time for the promo shots, no matter how far they were flung upon impact, though their sensible shoes will be lost in the wreckage and they will have to pull sensible shoes off the feet of dead middle-aged women whose bodies are strewn around the crash site.
Really, is it any wonder there are so many followers of the Church of J.J. among TRWCT?
This morning, at Summer TV Press Tour 2004, surrounded by 11 hot young plane crash survivor-actors, plus the one young fat guy, the one middle-aged guy, the one precocious kid and a partridge in a pear tree, J.J. talked to his fans.
One critic noted that the premise might cause a viewer to comment, "What a stupid show."
But "Lost," the critic continued, "went way beyond 'that could never happen,' " and, he forecast, viewers will not say, "What a stupid show."
"What," the critic wondered, "is the difference between those two kinds of shows, and how do you do it?"
"I have no idea why anything doesn't work or does," J.J. responded calmly.
"I think the idea is to take a premise that is maybe a B premise and, whether it's the spy world or characters who crash-land on an island, say, 'How do you do this A?' "
Speaking of B premises, that big, scary monster seemed difficult for the critics to swallow. But, J.J. assured them, the monster is not the star. And though he said he understood their skepticism, he asked them to believe.
"If you have a monster and it's, you know, you call it a monster, it's like, then it's sort of disposable and silly and feels kind of irrelevant or gimmicky. If you have something that represents terror and represents fear and represents sort of the darkness of this place, to me, that's incredibly valuable."
"Lost" is not "Gilligan's Island," critics were assured, because guest stars will not be washed up on shore each week, though they will be featured in flashbacks to the survivors' precrash lives, J.J. explained.
And "Lost" won't be like "Survivor" in that the big, scary monster won't devour one of the survivors each week, as it did in the pilot.
What, then, is it? critics wondered aloud.
"I've just got to say that the fact I don't know how to answer that question in a way that would satisfy anyone who's not seen the first few, six episodes of the show is why I'm so excited," J.J. replied.
After nearly an hour of this, critics finally asked him to reveal whether this island is on Earth and whether Big Scary Monster had a master, to which J.J. replied: "I have to say, the fact that you would ask that question is one of the things that gets me excited. It's, like, you don't want to do a show that is so weird, you go, 'Oh, it's like this creepy science- fiction show only.'
"But to me, if this show were on, I would watch it," he said.
David E. Kelley is off to a really lousy start with his spinoff of "The Practice" for ABC. Kelley, one of the darlings of The Reporters Who Cover Television, was a no-show at the Summer TV Press Tour 2004 Q&A session for "Boston Legal," formerly "The Practice: Fleet Street," starring James Spader and William Shatner. This did not go unnoticed. In fact, "Where's David E. Kelley?" was the first question of that Q&A.
Another of the show's executive producers, Bill D'Elia -- apparently unaware of the very special relationship between Kelley and critics and therefore oblivious of the pain behind the question, responded brightly that Kelley had just moved to northern California, north of Palo Alto, and is conducting business from there.
"He flies in to see us about once a week; during the course of the week we're on the phone with him daily, and we're in the course of setting up this video link so we can actually see each other daily," D'Elia explained, thinking the question was all about him and the show.
"It's not much different than when he was here every day, actually," said D'Elia, mistaking critics for people who cared about what he was saying.
"No offense to this esteemed panel, but it would seem that David E. Kelley's comments about this show would be the most important," groused another critic a few minutes and a few questions later. "When did he decide not to be here and why did he choose not to be here?" Critics understandably thought this was pretty cheeky-casual for a guy who, for the first time in years, had only one show on the fall lineup and needed them now more than ever.
D'Elia finally grasped what was going on and said he apologized on everyone's behalf, adding: "But we're not certain, since his move to Palo Alto, whether or not he would be available. Obviously we all wanted him to be here and he would like to be here himself, but this coincided with his move out of the Los Angeles area and he's just literally unpacking and coming back and forth, and it just didn't work out that this day worked. It's as simple as that."
"Is he [angry] at us?" a critic asked.
Like I said, a very special relationship.