By Ryan Berenz
Before getting into Tuesday’s NBC Universal TCA panels, just have to mention what an awesome party NBCU threw at The Bazaar at SLS Hotel Beverly Hills last night. After grabbing some seafood hors d’ouvres, I found a table and sat down, and was joined shortly by The Singing Bee judge Ben Folds and his wife. I chatted with him, and talked about the Ben Folds Five show I remembered seeing at Milwaukee’s Summerfest about 12 years ago. Folds mentioned that he loves playing Summerfest. “That’s a pretty drunk crowd there,” he says. The man knows Summerfest. I did not, however, ask him if he ever got back his money and black T-shirt. I am professional, if nothing else.
The room was packed, and it was just kind of surreal to be in a line for food and turn your head and realize Mindy Kaling from The Office is behind you. In addition to Kaling, I spotted Oscar Nunez, Craig Robinson, Ellie Kemper, Zach Woods and current Parks and Recreation star Rashida Jones. The entire cast of Community was there: Joel McHale, Alison Brie, Gillian Jacobs, Yvette Nicole Brown, Donald Glover, Danny Pudi, Ken Jeong, Chevy Chase and Jim Rash. You know how Troy and Abed are like an inseparable pair on the show? Glover and Pudi are like that in real life, at least they were at the party. I got to hang out with them for a bit, then did a little interview with McHale, who just absolutely loves doing Community and seemed genuinely grateful that I was among the fans.
And then, back to work on Tuesday. The USA Network breakfast poolside include cast members from Necessary Roughness, Psych and Suits. Then it was an MSNBC panel with Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews and Lawrence O’Donnell. Nothing quite gets the TV journos fired up like politics, and they were feisty with each other for control of the mic (are they rappers?). Matthews seemed a little crusty to reporters at first, but probably could’ve talked for an hour. The biggest story to pop from this panel was when they were asked about their predictions for the next president. Maddow and Lawrence both believe Obama will be reelected, but Matthews believed it was too soon to tell, with the state of the economy going to be the deciding factor. A little lighter fare followed, as the five remaining contestants on Oxygen’s The Glee Project (plus the one contestant who took himself out of the running) talked about their experience on the show and how they got there. Critics seemed to have a lot of questions that should’ve been directed at Glee executive producer Ryan Murphy, who was not present. The winner is selected solely by Murphy (a process that they say mimics the reality of entertainment casting) and will have a seven-episode appearance on Glee. Glee Project executive producer Michael Davies seemed sure the series would have a second season, but there’s been no official renewal. Then it was on to the Stardust Lounge on the rooftop for lunch, Texas-style, with the cast of Bravo’s new reality series Most Eligible Dallas, which follows a group of rich, sexy, single friends living it up in the Big D. The series premieres Aug. 15, and will probably get washed away by this huge tidal wave of Texas-based reality TV shows that have been popping up.