Saturday, January 27, 2007

TCA Press Tour - Jan. 27, 2007

Pasadena, Calif.


When opportunity knocks

Some have a gloomy outlook on TV's future. Others regard the shifting sands in the TV landscape as an exciting circumstance to be seized.

By Eric Kohanik

The Television Critics Association’s semi-annual network press tour is many things to many people.

Held in Los Angeles every January and July, the event brings together 200 reporters, critics and columnists from media outlets across the United States and Canada. For them, it’s mostly a chance to preview new shows, talk to network executives and mingle with stars.

For producers and networks, meanwhile, the TCA press tour is often a chance to crow about plans for the future – that is, when there’s something good to crow about. Even when there isn’t, though, networks put the best spin possible on what lies ahead.

This year’s January press tour had its share of that. With traditional TV viewership in a continued decline while alternative platforms continue to grow as a home for programming, the sands of the TV landscape are continuing to shift. Some see it as a gloomy scenario; others see positive aspects.

“The only things we can be certain of in our business, entertainment in general, in the next five years is that people will go to watch movies in dark rooms with other people,” executive producer Mark Burnett quipped at a press conference for The MTV Movie Awards, which he will oversee, and turn into a live broadcast for the first time, on June 3. “[But] I think there’s nothing certain about the future of the type of television we’re going to watch.”

The creative force behind such TV franchises as Survivor, Rock Star and The Apprentice, Burnett has also had success recently with Gold Rush, an online interactive game “show” he created last year.

“Whatever [television] is in the future, it’s some convergent, interactive experience,” Burnett declares. “Things are happening so fast in technology. But I don’t have any doom and gloom. You know something? I see only opportunities. That’s not a bullsh--answer. That’s how I really think.”

As for the TV opportunities viewers face in the short term, this month’s TCA Press Tour rolled out a lot of dismal offerings. But there were a few gems thrown in as well.

CBS has one of the most promising entries in Rules of Engagement, which premieres Feb. 5. It’s a comedy that casts Oliver Hudson as an engaged guy who gets a few oddball lessons in love from a jaded married neighbour (?Seinfeld grad Patrick Warburton) and a footloose single pal (David Spade).

Rules of Engagement is everything that Brad Garrett’s Fox sitcom, ’Til Death, has tried to be this season, with one significant difference: this one is actually good.

As for what other good things may await TV, Burnett sees it in a five-year time frame.

“Going five years ahead,” Burnett says, “nothing in television will be the same. [But] I don’t think anyone can dictate what that is.

“I don’t know in five years. And, honestly, beware of the people that say they know.”

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