The Light from the TV Shows: 10 Highlights from ESPN’s ‘Olbermann’ Panel

When it comes to sports, I have a longstanding history of being the least-knowledgeable member of the Bullz-Eye staff by far – I’ve lost track of how many editorial meetings have found me drifting into silence as the topic of conversation shifted into talk of this team’s record or that player’s performance – so I hope you can appreciate just how much of a pop culture figure Keith Olbermann has become if I’m dedicating my TV column to his return to ESPN. By all rights, I really shouldn’t care.

Like, at all.

There’s something about Olbermann, though, that I’ve always found entertaining, no matter what he’s talking about or whether I fundamentally agree with it. As such, when it was announced that he’d be attending the summer TCA tour to hype his return to ESPN, I actually wanted to be there and hear what he had to say. Unsurprisingly, he kept the crowd of TV critics happy by providing quick quips and well-considered answers to their questions, enough that I was able to put together a list of 10 highlights from his panel.

OlbermannTCATour

1. “For all of you who had (August 26) in your pool as to when I would return to do ESPN, congratulations. Any span over, like, 40 years, you could have picked that date. You got it right. So very well done.”

2. ” I’m not intending to talk about politics, certainly not in the partisan sense and not in the sense that I did in the last ten years of work that I’ve done, for the simple reason that it’s a sports show. And there will be occasions in which, as I said in the news conference we had last week, if Barack Obama runs onto the field during the all star game, we will have to talk about the ramifications of that during the game and perhaps for his political future. But it will not be the intent to say, you know, ‘The Chicago White Sox moved to Vancouver, Canada, today; but, first, let’s talk about what Speaker Boehner said.’ I’ve done and enjoy and own the work that I did in politics and news, but that’s not what this is. I wanted to go back into sports, and I wanted to repair some transportation means with my former employer, and I got to do both.”

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The Light from the TV Shows: A Chat with Giancarlo Esposito (“Revolution”)

It’s a matter of public record that I’ve interviewed a huge-ass number of people over the years, but given that most of those interviews tend to be on the phone, it never fails to give me a warm feeling inside when someone actually remembers me from an in-person encounter. Then again, one presumes that the cast of “Breaking Bad” doesn’t sit down and break bread with journalists on their home turf of Albuquerque all that often, so maybe that makes it a little easier to remember such an occasion.

Either way, it was still nice to see the warm glow of recognition in Giancarlo Esposito’s eyes when I came up to him at the Television Critics Association press tour this summer. I mean, it’s certainly better to see that than the steely anger we came to expect from him in his final appearances as Gustavo Fring, right? Sadly, it was a short chat, so we didn’t even get a chance to talk about Gus’s last days (except in passing reference) or even his Best Supporting Actor Emmy nod, but you can still look back at the far lengthier conversation we had a few years ago to get a bit more insight into his feelings about Gus and his career as it stood prior to “Breaking Bad.” For now, though, Esposito is all about looking forward…really, really intensely.

Giancarlo Esposito: Hi, Will! Oh, my goodness, I remember that evening in Albuquerque. I totally remember that evening!

Bullz-Eye: I’m glad I’m not the only one!

GE: How are you? It’s good to see you again.

BE: It’s mutual, of course. So I’m curious: with “Revolution,” you’ve taken on another supporting role. Not that you don’t do them well, but do you have an active desire to kick it up to leading-man status, or do you just enjoy the challenge of making the most out of a smaller part.

GE: You know what? I always have a desire to make it to the big time. [Laughs.] But the more I’m able to put my heart and soul into a role and the fuller that character that is, then the more screen time it has, and for me that’s a plus. But I love doing what I do as a character actor, and I think that’s also important, because that enables me to strengthen my craft. And in this case, that supporting role is with some of the best folks in television. So to me, it’s a journey. I feel like there is a moment in time when there’ll be that moment to step up into films where I’m doing the lead and carrying everything, but right now I think that all is well.

I’m coming off this time with “Breaking Bad” and that’s been very special for me, and it’s a nice way to decompress and play a character that’s a heavy but probably a little more of a loose cannon, a little more psychotic. He’d love to think he’s always in control, but he does lose it. And he’s a guy who’s a little bit different than the last guy, but…audiences just love the bad guy! [Laughs.] And they love the character actor that can play him in a fuller way. So I’m all in. I’m all in with this “Revolution.” I think the show itself is about evolution of human beings, and on a grand scale. I mean, this is an epic show. I don’t know what people expect, but some seem to think that they may be seeing something they’ve seen before. They’re not. It’s a big show to do, a big show to produce…it’s a big, wide canvas of a show, but I think it’s not only a grand action/adventure series but it’s also a very dramatic, character-driven show as well.

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The Light from the TV Shows: A Chat with Gordon Ramsay (“Hell’s Kitchen”)

Given the number of restaurants in his empire (as it were), Gordon Ramsay would be a very busy man even if he didn’t have a TV series. As it happens, however, he actually has four of them: “Hell’s Kitchen,” “Kitchen Nightmares,” “Masterchef,” and, most recently, “Hotel Hell.” With less than a 10-minute window available for a chat after his appearance at the Television Critics Association press tour last month, Chef Ramsay and I didn’t have a chance to get terribly in-depth about any topic for Bullz-Eye, but I was able to get a little bit of insight into how he transitioned from the soccer field to the kitchen, how he handles himself behind the camera, and how long his “Hell’s Kitchen” winners tend to stick around his restaurants.

Bullz-Eye: The first thing I must tell you is that I have a seven-year-old daughter who says she’s pretty sure that she can cook scallops better than some of your contestants on this go-round of “Hell’s Kitchen.”

Gordon Ramsay: So has my daughter. [Laughs.] I have three daughters – 10, 11, and 13 – and Megan, the oldest, said, “Daddy, I can cook scallops better than any of your sous-chefs on ‘Hell’s Kitchen.’” So it gets a little bit embarrassing. But, you know, it’s not the one portion, it’s cooking for an entire restaurant that gets them, because it’s down to the timing. No one can prepare you better for that service than experience. You can’t just walk into it. You’ve got to be prepped big-time. So I suppose the big frustration at home, with everyone saying, “I can do better than that,” is because they’re looking at one portion. Yet the most important thing is cooking the scallops perfectly across the entire night.

BE: To start at the very beginning, I understand you were actually on your way to a career in football – by which I mean soccer, of course – at one point.

GR: Yeah, wow, a long time ago now. Yeah, you’re right, but, I mean, what do you do? Do you sit there and get bitter and think ‘it could’ve been’ or ‘it may have been’ or ‘what happens if,’ or do you get on with it? So I picked myself up. Mom and Dad were going through a real shitty divorce at the time, so it was sort of getting out of one big negativity spot and following your second dream. I think everybody deserves a second chance in life, and nobody’s perfect, so with head down…

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The Light from the TV Shows: God Bless the TCA Press Tour

If you’ve been a regular Bullz-Eye reader for awhile now, then you may be aware that, twice a year, I take a jaunt from my home turf in Chesapeake, VA, to southern California in order to attend the Television Critics Association press tour, which takes place in January and July. I arrived here in Pasadena yesterday, which means the proceedings have only just gotten underway, but based on my previous experiences, there’s every reason to believe that this tour will prove to be just as amusing, fascinating, and consistently entertaining as it has been every other time I’ve been here.

My original plan for this week’s column was to discuss which of the panels and events I’m most interested in attending, but then it occurred to me that it probably wouldn’t look a whole lot different from my list of the 12 new series I’m most looking forward to seeing in 2012. Instead, I thought I’d look back at some of my favorite TCA tour experiences since joining the organization in 2007. I can’t imagine any other organization which could provide a writer based in Virginia with the opportunity to mingle with everyone from Oprah Winfrey to Mike Tyson, giving me once-in-a-lifetime experiences twice a freaking year.

With that, I present you with some highlights from past tours…

Summer 2007

Most enjoyable panel: The “Family Guy” live read-through of their 100th episode. Watching Seth MacFarlane (right) bounce back and forth between his voices for Peter, Stewie and Brian is mind-blowing.

Best panelist rants: James Woods.

When one of the reporters bemoaned the panel (Woods, co-star Jeri Ryan and producer/creator Ian Biederman) for not giving them anything that made for good copy, Woods stepped up to bat. “OK, well, I honestly hate these motherfuckers, but I’m getting paid so, you know, what am I going to do. That fucking Jeri Ryan bitch. She shows up in a fucking Borg suit and says, “Hey, remember me when I was hot?” One more fucking time and I’m done!” At this point, he finally gave in to laughter, saying, “OK, I think we’re done now.”

In the last moments of the panel, Woods tackled the issue of his character’s questionable moral decision in the season finale, when he knowingly sent a man to prison for a crime he didn’t commit because he knew that he was guilty of other crimes. As it happens, Woods didn’t really agree with Biederman’s decision to have Sebastian Stark do what he did. “I don’t believe in vigilante justice,” he said. Then, after a moment, added, “Except if I were pissed off about something. Then I would believe in it. I mean, you know, I get lousy customer support, I want to get involved in a workplace killing.”

At this point, Woods began to mime speaking into a phone. “‘Where in India are you, motherfucker? Where exactly in Sumatra are you, you fucker?’”

Pause for a heartbeat.

“Oh, boy, that wasn’t politically correct,” said Woods. “I wouldn’t want to see that get out.”
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TV Turmoil

Our man Will Harris is in Los Angeles for the latest gathering of the Television Critics Association and he’s been reporting on all the turmoil in TV land. The hot story of course surrounds NBC and the recent decision to cancel Jay Leno’s prime time show. He also reported that Simon Cowell will be leaving “American Idol.”

Of course, the NBC decision has now led to complete chaos, as the NBC brass decided that they wanted to keep Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Fallon in their late-night lineup. All of the late-night comedians are having a field day with the situation, but Conan had some of the best zingers in a recent monologue that you can see above.

Will just reported, however, that the situation is now breaking down completely, as Conan released a statement claiming that he won’t stay on as host of “The Tonight Show” if the start time is moved back to 12:05 to accommodate the Jay Leno show. Good for him! As Will says, “you should absolutely read it in full, as it’s a ballsy missive that’ll make a whole lot of his fellow comedians (not to mention quite a few TV critics, including myself) stand up and cheer.”

You can get your “I’m with Coco” t-shirts here.

  

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