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Death March Day 1: Scorecard

Rating the presentations and panels. And parties.

Not counting Tuesday's lovely early evening reception and dinner from National Geographic, here's a brief rundown of how the Death March With Cocktails, aka the Television Critics Association winter press tour, fared on Day 1.

MTV Networks: TV Land presented Retired at 35, starring George Segal and Jessica Walter. Critic buzz is bad on the show, but at least Jessica Walter is always a joy. The channel followed with Hot In Cleveland, the series that inspired TV Land to continue in the scripted arena. Valerie Bertinelli talked about being 50, Wendie Malick talked about being 60, Jane Leeves kept quiet and, so surprise here, Betty White stole the show. 

CMT gave us Working Class, another sitcom, this time with Melissa Peterman and Ed Asner. She was boldly talkative and he was crotchety, which no one could really tell was an act or not. He mocked White and Cloris Leachman but not Mary Tyler Moore. The latter will be a guest star on Hot in Cleveland. Not a lot of buzz on Working Class at all.

Spike TV, on the other hand, made quite the impact with Coal, a new reality series (set to air in the spring) about Appalachian coal miners. It's from Thom Beers, no stranger to dangerous jobs. What with the Chilean miners, you might has this has a built in level of interest. Beyond that, the lives of the miners and life in the area will no doubt be compelling. 

Comedy Central scored big with Onion SportsDome, a half hour spoof on the likes of SportsCenter and its ilk. Lots of material there and it looks like the Onion people will mine it well. Tosh.0 isn't exactly new, but the channel did comedian and host Daniel Tosh a big favor by giving him an audience with many critics who may not have been familiar with the show. Tosh was funny and probably opened some eyes.

Sorry, passed on The Nail Files from TV Guide Network (network?!). Went to Pie N' Burger instead. If you've ever been there, you'll agree it was a good decision. Loads of critics who stayed for the panel also agreed that I (and others not named) made a good decision.

National Geographic Channel had a big chunk of time in the middle of the day, trotting out Beast Hunter, Explorer, Alien Invasion/Area 51 Declassified, and Wild About Snakes. Every time I go to Nat Geo sessions, I end up thinking most of the stuff looks great, but then it often gets lost in the clutter of scripted shows later on (this happens to a lot of other critics as well. It's called The PBS Syndrome.  But honestly, the series in question really did seem compelling, particularly three Explorer specials (one on journalist Terry Anderson called American Hostage, another called How to Build a Beating Heart and a very intriguing documentary called The Angel Effect, about how the supernatural and science collide in the minds of people in near-death experiences).

There are times at this event when you choose to not attend and times when you simply have to make time for writing. So I skipped TV One and The Weather Channel.

ESPN closed out the day with Year of the Quarterback, which had a panel featuring Steve Young and Jerry Rice. I'm not sure any non-49ers fans enjoyed that as much as I did, but the panel did confirm that Young is too smart for sports. Or that ESPN needs to give him a show that taps into his talents in fresh ways. The last panel, BCS Title Game was...can't tell you. Got so bored I nodded off. If you've ever heard people talk about the need to fix the BCS system, then just imagine a lot of that, in a sparse ballroom just 50 or so feet away from where the night's party was about to start. 

Comcast Entertainment Group (that's E!, The Style Network and G4 - but not yet NBC), hosted the party. Never speak ill of a party that has excellent food and serves Veuve Clicquot the entire time. Plus they had Ryan Seacrest show up for about 45 seconds and Chelsea Handler, too. She continues to be over-handled by her handlers for reasons that escape most people, but again - Veuve Clicquot. Plus some other people who are on those channels were there. Oh, and there was food.