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It was a Television Critics Association tour like no other.
For the first time in longer than any current TCA member can recall, hundreds of television critics from across the United States and Canada assembled to learn all they could about the new series set to debut during the upcoming television season without seeing pilots for most of those shows. In many cases they had only interviews with the producers and stars of the shows from which to extract information and form early opinions - or instant opinions in this era of live blogging and immediate publishing, two burgeoning areas of digital technology that continue to change the very nature of TCA. (Indeed, next year's tour is scheduled to run in early August rather than early July, as it always has, in part because the thousands of blog entries and instant info-bits that appear across hundreds of Web sites during TCA will then be published closer to the actual season premiere dates of the broadcasters' new and returning series. The elements may change but the game remains the same. TCA is all about publicity.)
In one unfortunate instance - the strange case of NBC's Crusoe, an intriguing adventure series current filming in South Africa and a clear favorite of NBC Entertainment Co-Chairman Ben Silverman - the critics came away with nothing. No pilot, no clips and no interview session, in person or via satellite. In another, critics were denied a session for the CBS sitcom Gary Unmarried because star Jay Mohr had a long-standing personal commitment in another country. But they at least saw the opening episode of this show back in June, when CBS sent out rough cuts of pilots for four new series (including Gary) plus tantalizing preview clips of two others to the press, which was (and still is) champing at the bit to see the new season's new offerings. No other broadcaster provided an advance screener of any new series except Fox, which sent out one for its new comedy Do Not Disturb.
I was asked by several critics what I thought about the season to come as TCA concluded. My response: "I don't really know." After the full Summer 2008 TCA experience I have certainly begun to form opinions about the new fall shows, but I can't really formalize them until I see the pilots. Those critics who prefer to put their opinions and conclusions into proper context felt the same way.
What, then, is there to say about the new fall shows, just a few weeks before some of their premieres? Here's a rough post-TCA rundown.
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