TCA Journal No. 1: Why Are We In Pasadena?

Chief TV Critic Tim Goodman's ongoing thoughts about the Television Critics Association winter press tour
Eric Charbonneau/Invision/AP.
David Nevins of Showtime illustrates exactly how exciting TCA is.

THR's Chief Television Critic Tim Goodman will be writing a number of these journals while TCA rolls on forever. He'll also be tweeting non-stop and writing reviews.

Other than Pie 'N Burger, why the hell is everybody going to be in Pasadena for the next few weeks? 

The dry answer is that ostensibly, we — TV critics and reporters from around the country and Canada and all the networks, cable channels and digital streamers that get invites — are sharing information for the general public to absorb, helping them make those increasingly difficult decisions on what to watch because there's just so goddamned much of it out there.

So, for example, NBC says, "Here is one of our shows. We've sent you a delightful screener in advance that you no doubt watched over Christmas break. Here's the cast, the creators and too many executive producers up on stage for 45 minutes. Please wait for the microphone."

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And we say, "Thank you. How did this show come to be and please can all of the actors explain their characters, etc., etc. etc."

Into the ether and a bunch of print publications not yet dead will go information for consumers of television to parse. Their brains will then decide whether they (and maybe their family) should watch.

And yes, part of that's what's going on here. But also, the Television Critics Association press tour is about spin and hype and lies and snark and booze and then later a bunch of infighting about how it all went down. After years of whispers that the press tour would evaporate in discontent, both sides probably need each other more than ever.

In the insanely competitive world of television — 7,561 new scripted shows, plus a miniseries from your UncleMorty, are coming in the next three months — content creators need any tiny spec of buzz they can get. Networks used to loathe Twitter (and most still do — or at least critics using it during TCA), but these days they realize that creating any kind of notice ("We got a hashtag!") might separate them from all the shows people will never hear of, thus never watch or record, so they'll take it.

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And the TV industry itself right now is maybe the most interesting its ever been, so reporters and critics pretty much need to be here to help make sense of it. There are a lot of really smart people running the industry and it doesn't hurt sometimes to get them drunk and ask them what the hell is happening.

Sometimes repeatedly, with a look of complete incomprehension on your face while asking.

We're all looking for something. Networks and niche cable channels want to create buzz about all their shows and, if not all of their shows, then god let it be the ones they own or the ones that will get Emmys and Globes. Reporters want to know about why so and so got fired and who will replace him or her. They'll break a bunch of TV stories out of here. Critics will get to ask about series that look great or look unfinished or asinine. Executives will be held accountable for past failures (the TV industry and the sports world are about the only place where these public mea culpas take place without the intimate protection of a private shareholder's meeting.)

We'll be talking about the TV of the future, unbundling, cord-cutting, time-shifting, ratings, demos, rumors and lots of other stuff that may or may not be about Tatiana Maslany or Gina Rodriguez or Marvel.

That's why we're all here in Pasadena. Otherwise, nobody ever comes to the Eastside.

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