Blogging the TCA, Part 1: ABC president annoys reporters, “Pushing Daisies” pleases them

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This is a live blog from the bi-annual Television Critics Association conference. See more TCA live blog posts here.

I just arrived for the ABC portion of the summer Television Critics Association conference in L.A, a three week period each summer when the broadcast and cable networks debut their new shows, wine and dine reporters and (now) bloggers, and make show-related announcements.

Although Malinda has been here for several days now, I’m just arriving, and since this is my first time at the TCA, this is all new to me. So I thought I’d share some of my impressions, sort-of like a short, snarky live blog of the event.

This morning’s discussion with ABC president Stephen McPherson revealed a few newsy pieces. The first is bad news for Lucy Lawless fans: contrary to the rumors, Steve says there is “no future” for Footballers Wives at ABC. Bummer. The only other news of interest he reveals, after being badgered by reporters pissed off that was reserving a big Lost announcement for Comic-Con in San Diego — is that Harold Perrineau is returning to Lost next season. Um, that was the big announcement? The silence in the room says it all.

Now it’s time for a panel on the fantastic show Pushing Daisies, a quirky drama about a man named Ned (Lee Pace) who can bring people back from the dead but can’t touch the girl he loves without killing her. The girl is named Chuck (Anna Friel), Kristin Chenoweth plays a sassy waitress, the narrator is the Harry Potter audio book guy, Jim Dale, and each week they use Ned’s power to solve murders, while dealing with various romantic entanglements. What’s not to love?

Okay I’ll admit it, I’m predisposed to like anything Daisies creator Bryan Fuller makes, both because he was one of the first people I interviewed for AfterEllen.com back in the day when it was hard to get anyone to talk to me, and because he wrote a decent lesbian character into Wonderfalls. A gay man who writes a good lesbian character is a thing to be treasured.

But I like Pushing Daisies on its own merits, and I’m not the only one: The tired and jaded reporters actually clapped when they ran the promo trailer just now.

The cast, creator, and director come out on stage now and take their seats to face the crowd of eager journalists. Kristin Chenoweth has a slightly severe haircut, sort of like a longish bob. I can’t decide if I like it.

Swoosie Kurtz is wearing a red patterned dress with shaggy red shoulder-length hair. Great to see Swoosie back on TV again, even if her character only has one eye (she wears an eye patch). I’m trying to figure out where I’ve seen the female lead, Anna Friel, before, so I look her up on IMDb and realize she was the girlfriend in Goal! The Dream Begins, a soccer movie which probably only I’ve seen. It wasn’t bad, as far as soccer movies go, but it was no Bend It Like Beckham.

But Anna looks great:

Creator Bryan Fuller says Daisies was originally intended to be a spinoff of Dead Like Me, but evolved into this. I have to admit, I never got into Dead Like Me, despite my affection for Ellen Muth from The Truth About Jane, and Jasmine Guy from A Different World. Which reminds me: whatever happened to Dwayne Wayne Kadeem Hardison? And what’s Cree Summer up to these days? I think I heard she changed her name and released an album.

Bryan cops to ripping off the French film Amelie, and jokes that he’s “bringing mutual masturbation back” when a reporter asks how they’re going to develop the romantic relationship between Ned and Chuck.

Kristin, who plays a character named Olive Snook who’s in love with Ned, is telling a story now about how she randomly sang one of her lines during a take. The reporters pretty much laugh at anything she says.

Chi McBride — who is great on this show but will always be the principal from Boston Public to me — is making fun of executive producer/director Barry Sonnenfeld now, quoting him saying “Some people see the glass half empty, some see it half full, I see it as a glass of poison.” Everyone laughs.

Random factoid: Daisies is filmed on the former Wonder Woman set. Maybe Kristin’s character will get some bullet-deflecting bracelets.

Barry thinks this will appeal to audiences who liked Men in Black and Tim Burton movies. Hmmm, I liked the former but not the latter. Even more puzzling: Barry’s wearing an orange striped tie with a bright green shirt and a light pink blazer. No fear that anyone’s going to think he’s gay anytime soon. Blind maybe, but not gay.

Bryan reveals a spoiler about a future episode involving Ned baking anti-depressants into pies. Yes, it’s that kind of show. He also says he’s planning a musical episode, ala Buffy. Hey Bryan, I hear Amber Benson‘s free – she’d make a good singing waitress, don’t you think? Just for God’s sakes don’t kill her!

Someone asks Bryan about Heroes now, for which he wrote several episodes, and whether he considered staying on. Bryan avoids answering the question and talks about how much he loved working on Heroes, and how he’s modeled his writing process on Daisies on his experience at Heroes. Bryan describes Chuck and her family as “Christmas and Easter Jews,” in response to someone’s question about why Chuck is Jewish and how that will factor into the show.

The panel’s all over, and now there’s a mad rush to the stage to interview Bryan, Barry, and the cast. Since there aren’t any lesbians on the show, Angie Harmon and crew will be on stage to discuss Women’s Murder Club, I’m staying put for now.

More to come…

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