Just returned from a whirlwind week in La La Land. I was in town for the LA Screenings, one of the busiest and important weeks on the international television calendar. Screenings week is television’s version of Fashion Week, an occasion when all the studios preview their new shows to international buyers. These new shows will soon start production and will eventually be broadcast on a screen near you. I spent the last week going from studio to studio watching a parade of new television shows: some good, some bad, and a few just dreadful. It sounds like fun but I assure you it is very hard work, especially sitting through a number of insipid comedies.
My broad impression of the new ’10/’11 television season: on balance, a mediocre crop of shows. The US networks are playing it safe this year without much creative risk-taking. After watching about 50 pilots, I find the industry truism holds true – it’s easier to spot the losers and much more difficult to identify the winners. For the new TV season there’s no apparent breakthrough, game-changing show. The product is still drama-heavy with crime and legal procedurals and while the number of comedies is up, the quality of the comedies is way down.
LA Screenings is much more than just watching a mind-numbing amount of new television product. There are many meetings, internal and external. Evenings involve business dinners and an occasional studio party. I went to two such gigs. Disney had an upfront presentation on Sunday night in which they brought out all the talent of their new shows (including Forrest Whittaker, Dana Delaney, Michael Chiklas).
The blowout evening of the week goes to Warner Bros, who threw a freakish, edgy, and over-the-top bash on two large outdoor sets on their Burbank studio lot. It was a Wild West meets risque circus theme which included a spank room in a church on the set. Two dominatrixes, a photographer, and lots of onlookers were on hand for a spanking good time with WB’s willing guests. I did some spanking and have a photo to prove it, but I’m not sure whom it hurt more . Later, one of the WB execs told me she’s considered the top dominatrix in the United States. Not sure how, exactly, that is determined.
Then there’s the food, which ranges from American comfort (In-N-Out burgers and Pink’s hot dogs) to more upscale fare. On one dinner at the Peninsula Hotel I ordered a steak and received half a cow. Other dinner highlights included Koi, an uber-trendy Japanese place in WeHo; Frida’s in Bev Hills; and James Beach in Venice, home of the famous grilled mahi mahi tacos.
No trip to LA is complete without a tally of semi-star sightings. Maggie Q and William H Macy, whom I think is one of the biz’s finest actors, were at the WB party. There was plenty of recognizable but not famous talent (eg the girl from V, the guy from Lost season 1) and a sprinkling of reality faces. I saw Guliana & Bill, of E! fame, at the Pen leaving in his and her cars.
On my way to LAX I squeezed in a dash of culture at the LACMA and Broad Contemporary Art museums. After a week of driving around in LA and packing in 18 hour plus days, with very little exercise, I was exhausted and slept for most of the 14-hour flight back across the Pond. La La Land is one place I just have no interest in going native. Very happy to be back home and in the real world.