It's a golden age for women in television, but only if the woman in question is willing to do it all. That was one of several themes presented when the biannual Television Critics Association press tour continued at the Beverly Hills Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles this week, with plenty of panels to satisfy a variety of interests.
The 15-day tour continued with press conferences from broadcasters such as AMC, HBO, NBC and Syfy, leading the ballroom's population to swell in a reflection of the crowd's interest and of the increased number of publicists, execs and managers taking up a seat in the room traditionally reserved for the Golden Globe Awards. At one point, protective critics were running lavish HBO swag bags to their rooms or cars between panels, scared there weren't enough to go around and their copies of True Detective would be swiped.
Lisa Kudrow made friends with critics when she headlined the HBO panel about the resurrection of The Comeback, in which she plays a Real Housewives-type star who allows cameras to capture her every move with dangerous results. For a co-creator and executive producer she didn't have much to say about picking up the character after nine years, and only offered her opinion when prompted by creative partner Michael Patrick King. Kate Walsh had plenty to say about her return to comedy when she captivated the room with stories about an "Emmy-winning bra" for NBC's Bad Judge; unfortunately most reporters walked away from the panel wishing the pilot was as funny as she is.
Cristin Milioti, who will now forever be known as the mother in How I Met Your Mother, also charmed the crowd, but much of the discussion surrounding her new NBC romcom was about the finite premise and title of the show, A to Z. Casey Wilson and her executive producer husband David Caspe had critics giggling with stories of how their real-life engagement influenced Marry Me, no surprises there given the Happy Endings champions taking up residence in the room. Joking their way through the panel proved to be a better tactic than Hulu's attempts at engaging everyone on their day with a one-drink minimum in the form of boxed wine in the middle of the afternoon. Some critics quickly vanished for a power nap.
The room was definitely awake for NBC's State of Affairs conference with Katherine Heigl, whose behind-the-scenes dramatics on Grey's Anatomy made international headlines. The actress once again grabbed the spotlight (and Twitterverse) when she revealed she didn't consider herself hard to work with. One reporter pressed the actress on whether she felt women with opinions in Hollywood were often silenced, and was accused of being rude for not allowing a male producer to answer for her when she took a moment to collect her thoughts. To prove just how agreeable she is, Heigl was one of the last stars to leave that night's NBC All-Star party at the rammed RivaBella on Sunset Blvd., staying longer than Debra Messing, Tim Meadows, Sophia Bush and Matt Ryan.
There was plenty of male representation scattered throughout as well. John Goodman trudged through Amazon's Alpha House panel with such a scowl on his face that one reporter remarked he looked as though he would rather be having a root canal. Co-star Mark Consuelos assured the crowd that's just Goodman's resting face, while Goodman apologized for looking grumpy. Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl seemed much more comfortable during his solo HBO panel for the upcoming Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways, a docu-reality series that follows the band as they record an album across eight different cities. Grohl – who conversationally cursed 10 times in 20 minutes – seemed perfectly at home discussing his passion for music, revealing he had gone out and played with a cover band at a bar the night before just because he couldn't sleep.
The producers for Breaking Bad spinoff Better Call Saul were also on hand to shed light on why the character of Saul Goodman needs more meat, and to field questions about how the show could potentially flop despite having already been renewed for a second season. Gene Simmons also graced the stage alongside fellow KISS member Paul Stanley to talk about their latest reality foray with football series 4th and Loud. Remarkably, the panel only went a little over time following Simmons's constant interruptions; as he remarked, "I love the sound of my own voice."
Oxygen won brownie points by realizing critics are typically punchy halfway through the tour, and offered complimentary massages and manicures to help soothe the mood. The makeshift spa helped many reporters calm their nerves, which were still frayed from sitting through a LeAnn Rimes, Eddie Cibrian panel days before. But the winning party came courtesy of SyFy, which used the space at the Hilton to great effect by hosting a Sharknado 2 screening party poolside. The event featured retro couches designed to resemble classic cars, plush sharks scattered alongside throw pillows, shark balloons floating above and appearances by movie stars Ian Ziering and Tara Reid. Critics were well fed thanks to the plethora of drive-in themed food (wings, pizza, burgers and fries), as well as a giant candy bar and a popcorn station. There were just enough carbs for attendees to enjoy an extra themed cocktail or two, allowing for plenty of jokes about how in the end, the critics were probably the real sharks in the room.
The TCA press tour continues this week.