This summer’s press tour for TV critics felt a lot like your average reality show. The food was horrid, the participants were cranky, and the cameras were everywhere. Which is only appropriate. Because the No. 1 topic at the Pasadena, Calif., affair — a just concluded two week ”schmooze and booze” session where the networks shill their fall lineups to cynical journalists — was, you guessed it, Reality TV. Would NBC finally jump on the bandwagon? (Probably, with ”Chains of Love,” in which a woman is handcuffed to four potential dates.) Could the trend get any hokier? (Definitely, with Fox’s ”The Sexiest Bachelor in America.”) And how has fame affected ”Survivor” castoff Sonja Christopher? (Well, she got a free dessert at a restaurant.)
In fact, that ”Survivor” show — have you heard of it? — infected the entire proceedings, causing much teeth gritting among rival network execs. At a breakfast for NBC’s ”Will & Grace,” star Debra Messing gushed ”’Survivor’ rocks,” adding that Grace wouldn’t last long on the island: ”As soon as she saw a rat, forget about it…. Food allergies, you know.” Meanwhile, fellow Peacock star Yasmine Bleeth noted that her new show ”Titans,” a ”Dynasty” style soap, is more real than ”Survivor” ”if you just happen to be a… trillionaire family.” Here, some ”non island related” highlights.
KRAMER VS. KRAMER
At the panel for NBC’s ”The Michael Richards Show,” the lanky star repeatedly emphasized that his new show’s private eye differs from ”Seinfeld”’s wacky neighbor — despite numerous shtick heavy clips that pointed to the contrary. Richards also denied rumors of behind the scenes mayhem (the pilot is being overhauled, with Tim Meadows and William Devane added to the cast). ”There’s no trouble here,” said Richards. ”I know it seems that way because you haven’t seen a pilot… [but] we’ve got months to prepare.”
OOPS, I BIT YOU AGAIN
After failing to work out a guest spot on ”Dawson’s Creek” last season, Britney Spears and the WB finally seem to be in synch. ”Buffy the Vampire Slayer” coexec producer Marti Noxon tells EW it’s ”very likely” the diva-ette will appear in an episode of the vampy drama this season. ”She’s a friend of Sarah Michelle Gellar’s and she loves the show and wants to do an episode,” Noxon says. And what would the midriff mad moppet do? ”Just about anything she wants to, I suspect,” says producer Gareth Davies.
John Goodman, who plays a gay divorcé in a ”yet to be titled” Fox sitcom, offered some ideas for names: ”I’m hoping for either ‘Silas Marner’ or ‘Petticoat Junction.”’ As for his dream on-screen love match? ”Al Pacino.”
After being stopped at the entrance of the CBS party by security, Paul Sorvino, star of the dramedy ”That’s Life,” was heard to bark, ”I do not wear name tags! Let’s get [CBS TV president] Mr. Moonves here and let him set you straight.” Later, when Sorvino was asked what daughter Mira thinks of his new show, he said, ”She has no idea what I’m doing.”
TAKE ‘MY WIFE,’ PLEASE
Even the non-wrestlers at UPN are ready to rumble. At a conference for UPN’s ”The Hughleys” — which the netlet recently acquired from ABC — star D.L. Hughley accused the Alphabet of dropping his sitcom to pick up the Damon Wayans vehicle ”My Wife and Kids.” Moreover, Hughley says ”Wife” — a Disney show about a trucking company owner in the suburbs — is a rip-off of his own series about a vending machine company owner in, yes, the suburbs. Hughley called ABC execs in May and ”said, ‘If you put that show on, we’re going to court. Then all of a sudden, [”Wife”] becomes a midseason replacement that’s supposed to be retooled.” An ABC spokesman dodges the bullet: ”We picked up the shows that we felt would give us the strongest schedule.”
DARK RAVING MAD
Watch out, Angelina Jolie. There’s a new ”bee stung lipped” babe with a penchant for outrageous quotes. Jessica Alba, the tour’s most buzzed about newcomer and star of James Cameron’s Fox sci-fi drama ”Dark Angel,” finished a rambling spiel about her family with: ”Do you believe I’m the star of this f—ing show?!”
The most memorable appearance by an exNew Black Panther Party member turned reality show contestant? No, not Delta Burke — it’s ousted ”Big Brother” housemate William Collins (a.k.a. Will Mega), who showed up with a Bible and a dictionary (so he could understand ”the words of our enemy”). At one point, Mega asked an African-American reporter to stand: ”I want to see you because I ain’t seen too many black people in a while.” After Mega finished, most reporters exited to file stories, leaving the next session — for Steven Bochco’s ”City of Angels” — nearly empty. ”This is a 9 share that you’re looking at,” quipped the producer. (That’s TV speak for ”no one’s here.”)
(Additional reporting by Bruce Fretts, Lynette Rice, and Ken Tucker)