TCA 2012: NBC Party Diary With Sarah Palin, Nene Leakes & the 'Hangover' Monkey

Andrew Rannells, Justin Bartha, Nick Lachey, Samantha Harris and Dean Cain are among the bold-face names in attendance at the network's Beverly Hilton bash.
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Sarah Palin

Following a relatively low-key day of panels, NBC invited members of the Television Critics Association to mingle poolside with the network's new fall crop of stars. And while actors from Matthew Perry to Nene Leakes were swarmed by recorder-clad reporters, it was Sarah Palin (accompanying husband Todd, a contestant on NBC's upcoming reality effort Stars Earn Stripes) and Crystal the Monkey (a scene-stealer on Animal Practice) who proved the party's biggest draws.

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Here's a look at what went down at the Beverly Hilton on Tuesday night:

6:20 p.m.: Stars Earn Stripes contestant (and former Superman) Dean Cain stops to sign an autograph for a young girl as he makes his way to the poolside party.

6:35 p.m.: One Million Moms be damned. New Normal stars Justin Bartha and Andrew Rannells are seated side-by-side giving a joint interview as though they were an item off-screen as well as on. (Worth noting: They are not.)

6:50 p.m.: A sunglasses-clad Sarah Palin sequesters herself from a fevered group of reporters to have a quick bite from NBC's turkey bar. Palin -- along with her curve-hugging dress and un-presidential shoes -- is proving the biggest headline maker at the party. (Crystal the Monkey is a close second.)

7:15 p.m.: New Normal actress (and Real Housewife) Nene Leakes, communing with press members on a sectional couch, beckons to her ex-husband. He quickly returns with a pink cosmopolitan. Not one to miss the fun, she outlasts 95 percent of the stars in attendance.

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7:24 p.m.: Go On’s Matthew Perry, who spent the better part of his afternoon panel cracking jokes and slurping a Red Bull, is flanked by at least 10 reporters. Among the questions asked of the former Friends star today was how he's dealt with grieving, the theme of his emotional comedy. "I don't have a lot of experience with grieving, but I have a ton of experience sitting in circles and talking about my problems," quipped Perry, who has famously spent time in rehab. "I've been doing that for a long, long time, so I didn't have to do much research."

7:30 p.m.: A diaper-clad Crystal is giving Palin a run for her money. In addition to posing in The Hollywood Reporter's photo booth, the star of Animal Practice (along with Hangover II, Community and We Bought a Zoo) is now snapping picks with -- and in many cases, wrapping herself around -- dozens of reporters. Her (human) co-star, Justin Kirk, is nowhere to be found -- fearing he will be upstaged by the capuchin as he was earlier in the day, perhaps?

7:34 p.m.: Palin, who has garnered as many gawkers as she has interview requests, is posing for one of countless pictures. Picabo Street, one of Todd’s Stars Earn Stripes castmates, jumps in to fix the former VP candidate's hair. (The only visual reminder of her political past is the American flag bracelet cupping her wrist.) Nearby, the reality competition series’ Nick Lachey, Cain and later host Samantha Harris are catching up.

7:40 p.m.: New Normal’s Rannells and Georgia King scoot around the pool giggling: “We’re on a mission to find Sarah Palin,” explains Rannells (of Book of Mormon fame), who has been busy giving interviews until now. The co-stars have heard all about the former candidate’s “wife of a reality show contestant” look and want to get a glimpse for themselves.

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8:10 p.m.: NBC entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt hasn’t been able to move much beyond the entrance, where he is now surrounded by a small and rotating gaggle of reporters waiting for him to say something quote-worthy. Hours earlier he had them all in stitches when he took the stage to read a handful of nasty NBC tweets critics seated before him had been posting. Among them: “NBC has the number one program on TV in the 18-49 demographic [The Voice], and a bunch of rusty tin cans it can’t even get a goat to eat.”

8:28 p.m.: Reality chief Paul Telegdy, who has been holding court with reporters in the bar, interrupts Greenblatt’s conversation with a journalist to introduce the network chief to Cain. The famously talent-friendly Greenblatt praises the work that Cain and his castmates have done for the net’s Dick Wolf reality effort, which Telegdy has dubbed “a love letter to men and women in uniform.”

9 p.m.: Crystal (and her trainer) hit the valet stand. Without the monkey, the party is over.