PASADENA, Calif., July 25, 2000 - Members of the Television Critics Association have now been holed up in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel for two weeks eating catered food, drying hands on warm restroom towels, and never fearing to ask the tough questions. On Monday, it was The WB's turn to show off their new fall schedule additions, so the tough questions mostly dealt with the "Felicity" haircut controversy.
For the record, no one who appears on camera at the WB will ever cut his or her hair again.
The day started off fast when the entire cast of the new sketch comedy show "Hype" came out in character and ripped the place up. Cast member Frank Caliendo then returned later in the day to wake us up with what could have been 15 minutes worth of stand-up material, condensed into a blistering five-minute set. Co-producer and SNL veteran Terry Sweeny billed the show as "Laugh-in 2000." If the talent is any indication, "Hype" might just live up to its name.
"Drew Carey" producer Bruce Helford offers a welcome repackaging of Nikki Cox in "Nikki," a (somewhat) innovative comedy that features big dance numbers in each episode (it's funnier than it sounds). Helford later assured us that big song and dance routines will be back in vogue this fall.
Former "Beverly Hills 90210" producer Darren Starr is offering a clever comedy-within-a-drama in "Gross Pointe," a show about the actors of an Aaron Spelling-like night-time soap. Starr was grilled about the controversial decision to change a certain character that was similar to a certain person who may or may not have gotten a role because her father produced the show. Starr's best answer was his first, "who are you talking about?"
At the "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" Q-and-A with Melissa Joan Hart and her mother-producer Paula Hart, we learned in no uncertain terms that "Caroline Rhea (absent with a broken toe) is under contract and cannot be spared" if she were to be offered Kathie Lee Gifford's chair next to Regis in the morning. So, put that one to bed.
Of all the new WB shows, watch for "Gilmore Girls," a warm, earthy, dramatic comedy sure to win a strong following. It's interesting how the world is populated by lots of single mothers, yet they are still a rarity on TV. Gilmore Girls" might change that.
Finally, considering last year's after-party got out of hand (word was the WB's young stars got a little too rowdy), this year the network decided to rein things in and go a little classier at the Il Fornaio restaurant in Old Town Pasadena. All the stars politely mingled with the journalists (having learned these parties are just supposed to look like fun, not actually be fun) to lob out a few more crucial sound bites about Keri Russell's hair, then left early (perhaps to party somewhere else).
So, would you want to take credit for helping bring about -- even indirectly -- the primetime soap that was "Beverly Hills 90210"? You would if there was a bunch of money involved.
And so it has come to pass that Robert Wagner ("Hart to Hart") is suing Aaron ("90210") Spelling, saying that he (Wagner) was cheated out of $20 million in ka-chingable "90210" monies.
A fascinating bit of TV history Wagner's lawsuit is: It says that all the way back in 1973, R.J. and wife Natalie Wood dreamed up the dream that was "Charlie's Angels." When the series made it to the air in 1976, Wagner and Wood got a cut.
And when Spelling got a deal to make an "Angels" revival series in 1988, Wagner was in line to get another cut. (Wood died in 1982.)
Thing was, "Angels '88" never made it to the air. Fox, the network with whom Spelling had a deal, backed out. Spelling, Wagner's suit says, threatened to sue.
To placate the producer, the network let him pitch two more drama series -- one of which became, ta-da, "Beverly Hills, 90210."
Wagner says he didn't learn about the Fox make-good offer until 1999. The way he figures, if he and Wood didn't pitch "Charlie's Angels," there wouldn't have been an "Angels '88" deal, and, hence, there wouldn't have been a "90210."
The mind boggles with Tori Spelling implications.
No comment yet from Spelling.