Damon, Rivers among TCA Day 2 highlights
Starz, MTV Networks also gave presentationsCable networks presented a lively number of panels for the second day of critics press tour with slates that compensated in entertainment value for what they lacked in headlines.
MTV Networks, History, Nat Geo, ESPN and Starz largely kept announcements to a minimum while focusing on paneling new programming. One highlight was Joan Rivers, promoting her new TV Land reality series, "How'd You Get So Rich?"
Rivers lived up to her blunt comedic reputation with a dig at the expense of Jay Leno. The former "Tonight Show" guest host was asked if she thought Leno's new fall show would succeed at 10 p.m.
"I think it's brilliant that Leno is at 10 p.m., because America can get bored more easily and go to sleep earlier," she said. "When was the last time you heard, 'Did you hear what Leno said last night?' It will be nice for the Midwest because their crops will be greener."
Less embraced was ventriloquist Jeff Dunham, who scored a Comedy Central series after his Christmas special became the network's most-watched program ever. Sensing the critics weren't responding to his act, Dunham turned on the audience.
"These are TV critics right?" said Dunham, speaking as his puppet alter ego, Walter. "They don't have to laugh out loud, right, just write 'lol.' Print (publishing) -- remember that? You going to wait to get laid off? Or take the early severance package?"
History unveiled a first look at its ambitious project to restore World War II footage into high definition. Titled "WWII in HD," the trailer included some stunningly vivid images on a well-worn topic. Another History project, the oral-history documentary "The People Speak," drew some snickers for its trailer that included executive producer Matt Damon reciting the Declaration of Independence.
Damon talked about the difficulty of getting the project made and said it was set up at Fox and HBO before landing at History.
"It's an optimistic movie because it demonstrates how everyday citizens change the course of history, and ultimately you have to reflect on what can you do," he said.
MTV kicked off the day with two projects that are part of its new programming mandate.
"These shows reflect he values of this Millennial Generation, the hopefulness, the optimism and can-do spirit of our audience," programming president Tony DiSanto said.
The network paneled its "Intervention"-style series "Gone Too Far" that shows young addicts trying to get sober, along with "The Buried Life," where a quartet travels the country helping strangers accomplish something they'd like to do before they die.
"This is truly inspiring and has a great pay-it-forward message," DiSanto said of the latter program.
Starz picked up a new comedy series tentatively titled "Failure to Fly" from Eric Schaeffer ("If Lucy Fell). The premium network ordered 10 episodes of the project, which follows a support group for people who tried to commit suicide. And ESPN announced eight additional films for its "30 for 30" film project, where filmmakers create a one-hour doc on the sports subject of their choosing.