Katie Couric: News from CBS' summer press tour
Our reporters investigate CBS' fall shows -- featuring Katie Couric, Rachael Ray, and Phil Keoghan -- during the network's two days of presentations at the summer press tour
SATURDAY, JULY 15
The broadcast-network portion of the Television Critics Association 2006 Summer Press Tour, at the Pasadena, Calif., Ritz-Carlton, began on Saturday, July 15, with the question on everyone’s minds: ”Is Joan of Arcadia really gone?” Okay, well, that wasn’t the question on everyone’s minds, but it was asked by a sad and disappointed TV writer to CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler. Dude, it’s time to leave the house on Friday nights. Joan of Arcadia is gone. Deal with it. Here are some other memorable moments of the first of CBS’ two days of panels:
Don’t get out of the water James Woods and the cast of the new law drama Shark delivered an energetic and funny panel. All I have to say is Mr. Woods is quite a Chatty Cathy. He even mentioned that the ongoing Anthony Pellicano scandal would be tackled on the show, most likely in a slightly fictionalized manner. Woods said that the choice of this plotline was inspired by the fact that his former lawyer was connected to the case.
”Race” relations The network also announced the new cast of the 10th season of The Amazing Race, which includes an amputee and the first Muslim duo ever. Most refreshing was that the producers and host Phil Keoghan acknowledged that there will never again be a family edition of The Amazing Race, as it was an unmitigated ratings and critical flop.
Voice lessons The rest of the day proceeded with unexciting panels from CBS’ new shows The Class, Jericho, and Smith. Oddly, the biggest stars of these three series (Jason Ritter, Skeet Ulrich, and Ray Liotta, respectively) remained almost completely mute during their sessions. There was at least one awkward moment during The Class‘ panel: One reporter asked co-star Heather Goldenhersh where she came up with her character Lena’s unique voice, which almost sounds as if Ms. Goldenhersh were, um, challenged. Goldenhersh responded by saying that’s actually her own voice: ”Some people have remarked that I speak in a unique way, and I think it’s a consequence of drama school. Some people think I’m Canadian.”
Happy meetings My colleague Whitney Pastorek and I had a lovely time chatting up Alyson Hannigan. It turns out the former Buffy star — now a brunette — had just returned from Munich, where she caught some of the World Cup with her husband, Angel star Alexis Denisof. Unfortunately, most of the conversation involved me pretending to know anything about professional sports. It involved a lot of head-nodding and saying, ”Mmm-hmmm.”
Rose ceremony Later, we all headed to the Rose Bowl for CBS’ party, held on the actual field of the stadium. It was quite an experience. Charlie Sheen, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Gary Sinise, and Julie Chen were all in attendance at the event, which even featured a kicking area for those who dreamed of one day scoring a Rose Bowl field goal. Phil Keoghan was obsessed and pretty much spent the entire party practicing his kicks. I was more drawn to the open bar and the opportunity to do shots with Mother co-star Jason Segel. It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it. —T.S.
SUNDAY, JULY 16
Woke up this morning excited to find out the answer to one of the weekend’s biggest mysteries. Question: Why did CBS show us a picture of a chicken on day one? Answer: Because in an either brilliant or totally mortifying turn of events, they have decided to advertise on eggs. Keep an eye out for cartons filled with special messages like ”How I Met Your Mother: Find Your Chick on CBS.” Also keep an eye out for the EW staff rolling their eyes and saying things like ”Eggcellent.”
News chat for gals Thanks to the eggstraordinary CBS omelet stations in the lobby, the fire alarms went off, and there was some suspicion that Katie Couric had been evacuated from the building, which at least explains why the panel was late in starting. But Ms. Couric, who will take over as the network’s evening news anchor on Sept. 5, handled the room like a pro, at one point managing to both quote Abe Lincoln and name-drop Walter Cronkite — in a single sentence! Toward the end of the panel, discussion inevitably turned to Dan Rather’s dismissal. ”What did you think about the way Dan Rather departed CBS?” one reporter asked Katie. ”As a journalist, I don’t think it’s appropriate to comment on something that I wasn’t involved in,” she tactfully replied. ”I guess I’m not asking what you think as a journalist,” our determined reporter friend continued, ”just, how does it make you feel?” Katie’s response went something like this: ”Dodge, dodge, I don’t mean to not answer your question, but dodge.” Sadly, the hard-hitting interrogation couldn’t last forever. The final questions were wasted on what Katie will be wearing on air — ”You’re kidding, right?” Katie replied, in that caustic little tired-cheerleader voice we know so well. Then some lady launched into a really nice anti-feminism question that began with, ”And your youngsters, what do they think of your new job?” Sigh.
Rachael profiling Okay, I was terrified of Rachael Ray, because I cannot cook, and because anyone who can have 9 TV shows and 37 cookbooks frightens me. But those fears quickly abated when I realized that Rachael Ray is basically me, if someone gave me a television show and unlimited opportunity to influence people to be just like me, because the way I choose to live my life is infinitely better than the way most people are going about it, and also, I am incapable of not expressing every feeling that I have, every moment that I have them. Rachael Ray is promoting Rachael Ray, her daily talk show debuting Sept. 18, where she’ll help us with cooking and dining and dressing and finding a man and generally being really chipper and awesome. The show won’t really tackle serious issues — ”Nobody would take me seriously, I mean, I’m a bobblehead,” says Rachael — but it will explore all kinds of different subjects, many suggested by the viewers. One that I was particularly excited about was the ”Better Than Nothing Workout,” where we’ll lose weight by doing a bare minimum of activity. The big ”surprise” with this panel was that Rachael Ray had planned lunch for us. (It wasn’t so much of a surprise — it was on the schedule.) ”I was looking out for you with the food,” said Rachael, smiling, and shortly thereafter she made the triumphant announcement that lunch today will be…mini-burgers! So we all tromped down to another ballroom to eat sliders and Greek salad, followed by chocolate macadamia-nut tarts and sangria popsicles. (Blind item: Which minuscule CBS publicist ate two sangrias on a stick and was completely, adorably faux-blitzed by the end of the meal?)
CSI: Pasadena Since I took the liberty of skipping the CBS Digital Media Presentation (sorry; just say the word ”multiplatform” to yourself about 75 times, and I swear it’ll be just like you were there), the last session of the day was for Television’s No. 1 Drama. I don’t watch this program (because I figure enough people do), so I’m not sure what sorts of significant things were said. Jorja Fox is happy that her character, Sara, kissed William Petersen’s character, Grissom. And that’s the biggest thing that happened last season, right? Other questions addressed this fall’s competition with the show’s new time-slot buddy Grey’s Anatomy. For some reason, the word ”underdog” keeps getting tossed around. Yeah, right, CSI. You’re so scrappy. Perspective is a funny thing. Other info (spoiler!): The season premiere will involve a crime that takes place backstage at Cirque du Soleil, and Marg Helgenberger’s character will be slipped a mickey. A reporter found a way to work Joan of Arcadia into his question, which is only funny if you were at a certain panel on CBS’ day one (and even then, it’s not that funny).
Tomorrow: The Network Formerly Known As The WB and/or UPN, a.k.a. The CW, presents its melded fall slate. The session schedule is already out, and my co-worker Alynda Wheat took one look at the way Girlfriends, Everybody Hates Chris, and All of Us are sharing a single 45-minute panel and sighed, ”So not only are the black people relegated to one night; they’re relegated to one session? I love television.” —W.P.