By Jeff Pfeiffer
Yesterday I made my way out to Beverly Hills to round out the relay team of Channel Guide TCA Press Tour coverage (see earlier posts from Barb Oates and Ryan Berenz for more TCA adventures and info).
I’ve been doing this tour for over a decade now, and I always feel somewhat out of sorts on the first day I get here. Obviously, jet lag and a long travel day factor into this, but there is something more, I think. Something like the culture shock one may get when traveling to a foreign country, and to this Wisconsinite, Southern California can still sometimes manage to feel like another world even after coming out here all these years. It doesn’t take long to realize that I’m not in Milwaukee anymore.
Nowhere is this feeling made more clear than at parties such as the one I attended last night, my first night of the tour, which was hosted by CBS, Showtime and The CW. I got to the party (conveniently located right across from the hotel where the tour is being held) about a half-hour after it began, and already it was buzzing. After a fairly long day of travel (which included a 45-minute wait in an airport security line and a 90-minute shuttle ride from the airport to the hotel), followed by checking up on e-mail and some work matters, and a little bit of rest, I was mainly looking to get a bite to eat, and to basically re-acclimate myself to the sometimes-crazy world of press tour. I don’t normally go to parties much any more in my “real” life, let alone on a Wednesday night, and certainly not among a group of ridiculously hip and beautiful men and women, but there I was. All part of that culture shock that I needed to immerse myself in yet again. So I walked past the red carpet where the celebs, before being allowed to enter the party, were being subjected to the usual photography and pesky Access Hollywood-type interviews that come with their territory. I also walked past groups of lookers-on outside the gates (mainly envious teens hoping to get a glimpse of some CW stars, by the looks of them) and entered the shindig.
The party was held outdoors on a beautiful evening (coming from 90-degree, humid weather, the pleasant 70s almost felt chilly, but very nice). I arrived as the sun was starting to set against the backdrop of the party’s main set piece — a giant Japanese pagoda covering much of the center of the yard. The party had an Asian theme, and included tasty morsels of food such as a won ton bar, egg rolls and rice dishes, along with a selection of delicious teas. There were bonsai trees large and small, Buddha statues and even those Zen sand gardens that you can rake for relaxation. There were miniature gardens, and full-sized sandboxes. I played around in one of the larger ones, raking sand and rocks and trying to rake away the stress of the earlier day and get myself into TCA mode.
DJs started the evening cranking out the “oom-tss-oom-tss” techno beats you might expect, and that was relaxing background music. They then moved on to playing hits from bands like Simple Minds, INXS, Blondie and Pet Shop Boys — namely, artists who likely peaked well before some of the CW stars in attendance were born. But my fortysomething ears loved it.
Speaking of stars, they came out, all right, as surely as the actual stars began appearing in the crystal-clear sky as evening further descended upon the scene. But like with those real stars, you had to take a somewhat telescopic view at first to recognize some of the celebrities. I am always amazed at these functions how the most familiar personalities on TV can sometimes be hard to pick out in person unless you’re practically on top of them. And whether because of vanity or fashion sense, they usually don’t wear nametags, so it sometimes involves a bit of staring to finally say, “Ah-ha! It’s you.” Lack of nametags can be particularly troublesome when trying to identify the young, newer actors who may not have established facial recognition among someone older than Generation Y. But that’s part of the fun of these parties, playing the guessing game.
Among the stars there that I did recognize was Garrett Morris, the former Saturday Night Live actor who stars in CBS’ new fall comedy 2 Broke Girls. (Side note: Having not thought about Morris in years, in the last couple of weeks I have not only learned that he is the favorite SNL actor of one of my coworkers, but I also caught Morris in an airing of Cooley High on a local channel and then saw him at this party.) Morris was seated at a table near the DJ, and the volume of the music made lots of people at the party trying to have conversations appear to be acting like his News For the Hard of Hearing Translator character from the SNL days.
I passed Marilu Henner, who is a consultant on the new CBS drama Unforgettable. It was a fleeting encounter, and nothing was said, but I still wouldn’t be surprised if she remembers it for the rest of her life.
Also spotted as I made the rounds were Johnny Galecki (CBS’ The Big Bang Theory); Damian Lewis and Morena Baccarin of Showtime’s new drama Homeland; Edward James Olmos, who is starring in Showtime’s Dexter this season; Dexter himself, Michael C. Hall; Pauley Perrette of CBS’ NCIS; Paget Brewster of CBS’ Criminal Minds; Kristen Bell (the voice of CW’s Gossip Girl); former Life Unexpected stars Kristoffer Polaha (pictured) and Britt Robertson, starring in the CW’s Ringer and The Secret Circle, respectively; and Natasha Henstridge of The Secret Circle.
After a few hours I headed back to my hotel room. I’ll be seeing several of these folks at today’s Showtime and CW sessions, and the party was a nice ice breaker both for some chats and also for my sense of re-entering the different world of TCA. The combination of hectic, noisy conversations, and the offsetting tranquility of the ambiance and the chill music that one could then escape to for a little while, helped me gear up for the busy days ahead. It was a moment of Zen in a press tour that can sometimes get frantic, all while being pretty exciting, too.
Homeland: Credit Kent Smith/Showtime
Kristoffer Polaha (Ringer): © 2011 The CW Network, LLC. Credit: Jordan Nuttall