''Ugly Betty'': News from ABC's summer press tour
On ABC's first day at the summer TV press tour, ''Ugly Betty'' star America Ferrera talks about Hollywood beauty; plus, Ted Danson and Taye Diggs reveal a little vanity
- TV Show
Everyone was super bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the first day of ABC’s presentations at the Television Critics Association’s Summer Press Tour today, held on Tuesday, July 18, at the Pasadena, Calif., Ritz-Carlton. The assembled reporters and critics got plenty of rest thanks to the early end of last night’s CW ”party,” which shut down at 10 p.m. sharp for reasons that are unclear (especially given the all-night dance-off at last year’s WB fete). Personally, I’m blaming it on Gilmore Girls‘ Matt Czuchry, who was busy climbing the giant light-up CW sculpture on the lawn at about the same time the music (and the booze) got shut off. Whatevs, yo.
ABC Entertainment president Stephen McPherson kicked off the morning by fielding questions that began with things like ”Given the complete creative collapse of Desperate Housewives last season….” (FYI: Mark Cherry’s gonna start writing scripts again.) By the end of the day, Tim Daly was comparing his role in the hostage drama The Nine to spending eight years on Wings. (”I have a lot of personal experience with hostages,” he said.) In between we got a couple great moments of clarity amidst all the yap-yap, which I am proud to share with you now. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s proof that if you sit in the same room for four days straight, the truth is bound to come out eventually.
1. ”I like playing someone who desperately wants the world to like them. It’s closer to home.” Ted Danson returns as a group-therapy session leader in Help Me Help You, a kind of even more dysfunctional Dear John (also starring, oddly enough, DJ vet Jere Burns). When asked if it was tough for him to segue out of his nasty Becker character, Danson delivered the line above; he also came out of the bald closet, revealing that his cropped white hair on the show is more a function of being sick of dealing with toupees than anything else. Best moment of the panel, though, goes to actor Jim Rash: After a reporter asked the group if they’d seen Cheers, he deadpanned, ”I just realized Ted existed.”
2. ”I didn’t even know I was fat until I started acting.” Real Women Have Curves star America Ferrera dropped that wisdom during the panel for her nueva telenovela Ugly Betty, arguably the most promising show of ABC’s new lineup. In the role of an awkward girl sent to work at a fashion magazine, Ferrera’s incredibly natural skills as an actress shine through; in person, she is remarkably poised and aware of the bizarre standards set for women, especially in the entertainment industry, and she has wonderfully articulate things to say about anyone’s ability to overcome them by just using a little self-confidence. I’d also like to give major props to former Miss America Vanessa Williams, who managed to work a plug for Proactiv into all the affirming feminist discussion.
3. ”We know what we’re doing. We’re not dumb. I’m Taye Diggs! I wouldn’t sign on for that!” On the fourth day of network press tour, the Oh my God there are so many serialized dramas on TV and what if they don’t make sense and audiences can’t follow them have you thought of that? discussion finally got the slap in the face it deserves. Someone asked the staff of the drama Day Break if audiences are going to get bored with its Groundhog Day-meets-24 premise — the main character experiences the same events again and again — and God bless him, Taye Diggs just wasn’t gonna take that crap. Thank you, Taye. PS: Do you have any thoughts on the cancellation of Joan of Arcadia? (That’s still not funny, is it?)
4. ”My kids are only allowed to watch an hour of TV a week. And it’s usually on video.” In a panel full of surprises, the Big Day cast revealed just how much they don’t know about each other yet. First, star Marla Sokoloff divulged that not only did she put an album out this spring (called Grateful; she says it’s in the Aimee Mann vein) but she’s also got her own guitar-strap business (called Kiss My Axe). Then Kurt Fuller (Alias, West Wing, Desperate Housewives) decided that for some reason it would be a good idea to confess, in a room full of television critics, that he doesn’t let his two young daughters watch the stuff. This prompted shock and awe from just about everyone, and as his costars made shoveling and tap-dancing gestures, Fuller tried desperately to explain how great it was that the girls have these nice long attention spans, they can sit through plays, etc., etc. His costar Stephnie Weir eventually piped up with, ”Are they interesting people, though?” Fuller thought for a moment and replied, ”They do a lot of yard work.” That’s sweet. The bad news for Kurt? My parents didn’t let me watch TV, either. And as you can all clearly see, that worked out terrific.