A MISSION FOR A TV JUNKIE; Gail Pennington Heads for Los Angeles to Report on What's New in Broadcast TV and Cable

By Pennington, Gail | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), July 21, 2013 | Go to article overview

A MISSION FOR A TV JUNKIE; Gail Pennington Heads for Los Angeles to Report on What's New in Broadcast TV and Cable


Pennington, Gail, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Sweaters for icy hotel ballrooms? Check. Immune boosters to keep me healthy and energetic? Check. Chargers for multiple electronic devices? Check, check and check.

I'm packed up and ready to head to Los Angeles for the summer edition of the Television Critics Association press tour. This is the big one, when the broadcast networks introduce their new fall shows and cable networks and PBS piggy-back on to show off their wares.

To refresh: the Television Critics Association, or TCA, was founded in 1978 for print journalists covering TV. Membership numbers more than 200, many these days from online outlets as well as newspapers and magazines.

Twice a year, the TCA and the broadcast and cable networks work together to put on what we call press tour. The name dates to the days when actors were dragged around from city to city, talking to the press at every stop, but in fact, we stay in one place and the actors and producers come to us.

Days are long, often starting with a working breakfast at 8 a.m., filled with Q&A session after Q&A session, and ending with a party (i.e., a place to do more interviews) that stretches late into the evening.

That's not a complaint. TCA press tour is as good as it gets for a TV junkie. It's by far the best opportunity to get access to people in television, from CBS boss Les Moonves (or, at the first panel my first year, Fox's Rupert Murdoch) to the cast of "Downton Abbey" (that happened in January) to young stars on the rise.

As of Wednesday, I'll be reporting regularly from our headquarters at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Follow me on Twitter (@gailpennington), Facebook (Facebook.com/tubetalkPD) and on my Tube Talk blog (stltoday.com/tubetalk) for updates and videos several times a day.

The schedules are still coming together. But here's an overview of what I'll be seeing and doing. If you have questions you'd like me to ask, email them to me (gpennington@post-dispatch.com) and I'll do my best. Sometimes it's impossible, but you never know whom I'll wind up sharing an elevator with.

The National Geographic Channels will welcome us with a reception Tuesday night, before the formal sessions start. In a tie-in to a new "Nat Geo Wild" special, "Secret Life of Dogs," the networks are bringing puppies from Los Angeles shelters. If some channel would do this every day, we'd appreciate it. Being stuck in a hotel, even a nice one, gets old fast.

Not leaving it at puppies, Nat Geo Wild will include a chimp named Eli on a panel Wednesday for "Jobs That Bite" (November), in which Jeremy Brandt takes on animal-related jobs from beehive remover to camel milker. I am not clear on how Eli the Chimp ties into this, but whatever. A chimp!

Elsewhere on the wildlife front, Tucker the dog will join James Brolin and Josie Bissett to preview a Hallmark Channel Christmas movie (a prequel to "A Dog Named Christmas"). And PBS promises a cockatoo.

Discovery does not list a cheetah on the panel for "Man, Cheetah, Wild," but game ranger turned filmmaker Kim Wolhuter will talk about his year with a family of cheetahs in Zimbabwe. (Premiere date TBA.)

On the human (maybe?) front, BBC America will mark the 50th anniversary of "Doctor Who" with a November special, and the current, exiting Doctor, Matt Smith, will be there to talk about it Thursday, along with Companion Jenna Coleman.

We'll also meet David Bradley, who'll play the first-ever Doctor, William Hartnell, in the November movie "An Adventure in Space and Time," which dramatizes the birth of the franchise in 1963. (Bradley also stars in BBC America's "Broadchurch," a thriller due Aug. 7.)

Italian Prince Lorenzo de'Medici was "The Bachelor" once, and he's still looking for love. He'll be featured, along with a Russian prince and an "honorable" from Ireland, in Discovery's "Secret Princes," due in October. They're looking, we're told, for women who'll love them for themselves, not their titles. …

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