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Tuned In: Critics' tour a whirlwind of hits, hype, grammar

Thursday, August 05, 1999

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Oh, Mrs. Brady! My lasting impression of 1999's summer Television Critics Association press tour will be getting hit on by Florence Henderson.

Maybe "hit on" is too strong -- I think her husband was sitting nearby -- but hey, this is my story.

I had just finished talking to Pittsburgh native Jodi Applegate, who was seated at the same table as her "Later Today" co-hosts during an NBC party. Just as I said goodbye, Henderson thanked me for my interest in the show and commented, "You could be our Matt Lauer!"

Then she put her hand on my arm and exclaimed, "Look at those dimples!"

I was taken by surprise -- my brother has dimples, but I don't.

Still, it was a nice compliment from the embodiment of the all-American, stay-at-home mom. I love the Bradys, and if Carol Brady herself wants to imagine me with dimples sitting next to her at an anchor desk, who am I to complain?

Besides, maybe she could put in a good word for me with Marcia.

While that may have been the most surreal moment during my 19 days in La-La Land, it wasn't the only one.

Lisa Nicole Carson, who plays Ally's smart, together roommate on "Ally McBeal," appeared dazed and confused at a CBS press conference for a November mini-series, "Aftershock: Earthquake in New York."

Carson, who gets trapped in the subway in "Aftershock," seemed to be in her own world as she answered questions with short answers, her eyes wandering around the room. She tended to giggle a lot, and when one TV critic asked if it would be better to be in a doorway or bathtub during an earthquake, Carson slowly said she'd prefer "to be under a big, strong man."

Maybe we've been gossiping about the wrong "Ally McBeal" cast member.

On the other hand, Park Overall gave it her all, promoting the new CBS comedy "Ladies Man" while seated next to the show's executive producer, Chris Thompson.

Overall said she got the job because she once had a late-morning meeting with Thompson and saw him having a drink.

"You know, my daddy was an alcoholic, and I enjoyed the hell out of him," Overall said. "And when we stood up about noon to leave, he pointed to his empty glass and said, 'You didn't see that.' And I've not told it until now. He's on the wagon now, I guess. And I swear to you, even though that was so many years ago, I believe that's how I got [this job]."

Thompson's only response: "You really want Park to be testifying, like, at your probation hearing."

Other highlights from press tour included the appearance of "X-Files" star David Duchovny. He said he expected this would be his last year on the show, but he wouldn't completely close the door on another season. His contract is up in May, while co-star Gillian Anderson is contracted through the eighth year.

Perhaps I'm being overly cynical, but if Duchovny truly had no intention of continuing, why would he meet the press? My take on it: Duchovny wanted to get out word he wasn't ready to completely dismiss an eighth season so fans will get riled up and give him bargaining leverage when it's time to re-negotiate his contract.

In another case of hype and reality, ABC showed critics a promo that proclaimed its new drama "Wasteland" a project from the producer of "Shakespeare in Love" and "Good Will Hunting."

Really it's from Kevin Williamson, creator of "Dawson's Creek," but "Wasteland" is the first TV program from Miramax, the company that produced those Oscar-winning movies.

In the "Wasteland" pilot a gay guy comes out to his straight friend while both are nude in the shower at a gym. Critics questioned the realism of the scene, but Williamson responded, "Come on, it's fun!"

Press tour isn't all fun or all about making fun of ridiculous scenes in new shows.

Some press conferences, usually for loser shows or mini-series, are deadly dull. During one ABC session, several of us decided to play grammar cops, poring over the names of all the shows in prime time that should have different punctuation.

We changed "Ladies Man" to "Ladies' Man." "Oh Grow Up" to "Oh, Grow Up." "Diagnosis Murder" was renamed "Diagnosis: Murder."

Different name issues came up at The WB party. None of the talent wore name tags, making it difficult to remember which attractive 18-year-old belonged with which of the network's many youth-filled fall dramas.

But if playing a guessing game with young celebs is the worst part of a trip to Los Angeles -- hey, there could have been a major earthquake -- I figure I escaped pretty much unscathed.

Rob Owen can be reached at 412-263-2582 or rowen@post-gazette.com. For more TV news, go to www.post-gazette.com/tv.

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