TCA Diary, July 17: “We never got there with ‘Cashmere Mafia’”

Yesterday was my third day at TCA, but it felt like I’d been here for five years already. Small example: I don’t drink coffee in the mornings; I drink tea. Well, this morning, I started drinking coffee. But never mind that; you want the news, right? Here’s the short version: ABC is so gay and multicultural I feel like I walked into a parallel universe after the first two days of Fox.

Wednesday started off with a press conference with ABC’s President of Entertainment, Steven McPherson. He was soon asked why they chose to renew some shows and not others, and he said, "There were certain shows that, you know, we didn’t bring
back that performed OK. It really, to us, is based on
creative upside. Did we believe in the show runners?
Did we believe in the shows? What was the performance?
How did we think the audience was responding?"

Of course this got me thinking: Is he talking about Cashmere Mafia?

After the press conference I asked him that very question, and here’s what he had to say — it’s quite revealing:

Steven McPherson: Cashmere Mafia honestly was a decision that creatively we were disappointed in the execution. It did OK ratings-wise, but it never really to me fully realized its opportunity. I think there was never quite the insight about those kind of women and their lives and what it would be. It felt like it was kind of an outsider looking in at what that might be like, and I felt like Sex and the City was really such a very real, honest look at that, in an insightful way, and I just felt like we never got there with Cashmere Mafia.

So it sounds like ABC’s head honchos just didn’t wind up liking Cashmere Mafia. I’m not sure where along the lines the creative decisions got made, but I do recall that the original pilot was much more interesting than the one that aired, and whoever made the decision to change it made the wrong choice. RIP, Caitlin and her pregnant first girlfriend.

Next up was the panel for Eli Stone, a series about a lawyer who discovers that he’s a prophet. Oh, and it’s created by openly gay executive producer Greg Berlanti, who’s also behind Brothers & Sisters and Dirty Sexy Money. Last season Eli Stone included one episode that aired in February 2008 about a lesbian custody battle; unfortunately I didn’t see it so I don’t know what happened (perhaps if you saw it you could enlighten me in the comments).

Lesbian custody battles notwithstanding, the show does have "heart-warming" written all over it. Plus it features wonderful actor Loretta Devine and Natasha Henstridge, aka "the chick from Species" (seriously, that’s what her IMDb.com page says!).

Loretta Devine (left) and Natasha Henstridge

Photo Credit: ABC/Adam Larkey

After the panel I asked Berlanti if we could hope for any more lesbian/bisexual story lines in the future, and he answered,

"There’s always a chance. … That would be my hope. I mean I like to represent everybody on the show, so I have a firm belief in that." They’re currently breaking out the fourth or fifth episode, so there’s still a possibility for the upcoming season, which premieres Oct. 14.

In the afternoon there was a panel for the new series Life on Mars, which is based on the critically acclaimed British series of the same name. It’s about a present-day cop who gets hit by a car and then winds up in 1973 New York. Yep, you read that right: he winds up in 1973.

The series’ executive producer, Josh Appelbaum, said that this is not a time-traveling show, but there is a mystery about how this guy got to 1973 that carries throughout the series. One of the characters living in 1973 is a female police officer named Annie. Although the series is trying to remain true to the feel of the British series, Annie differs somewhat from her original.

Josh Appelbaum: It’s mainly a function of the fact that
in the BBC version, you know, to be in the police
department in Manchester, England, is one thing.
To be in the police department in New York in
1973, that just requires a whole other sort of
character for, you know, of this woman — this
strength and this determination to kind of endure,
you know, the ferocity that’s around her. Our
Annie is going to be a little stronger, a little
more connected to like the women’s lib movement, a
little more kind of outspoken than she was in the
BBC version.

This character has not yet been cast, and when I asked him what he was looking for in an actor to play Annie, he said, "Somebody that can bring the sensitivity and the warmth that she had in the BBC version, but also like the strength and somebody that would be believable as having put herself into the early ’70s New York City police department."

Appelbaum also said "the first batch" of the series starts off with a gay story line. But wait! It’s about men and "deals with a returning Vietnam vet, with finding a victim that’s gay … we deal with all of that stuff, specifically how it’s viewed at the time."

The day wrapped up with a Dancing With the Stars-themed dinner and dance; several of the professional dancers on the show came to teach us stodgy old TV critics how to do the cha-cha. Unfortunately I have no photos from this lovely event, but I do have news about a new Dancing With the Stars video game for Wii and NDS that’s coming out Oct. 21.

The news? Same-sex couples are not allowed. I talked to the video game’s producer and Activision’s publicist and their excuse was that you have to play using couples from the show, and obviously, no same-sex couples have been on the show. I asked them if they had given any thought to the fact that this was just a game, and perhaps gay players might want to play using same-sex couples. I got some polite but confused stares.

Up tomorrow: Grey’s Anatomy, folks! I’ll do my best to get some scoop for you.

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