TCA Winter ’15 (BLOG): Off to a ‘Mad’ start

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Greetings and salutations from sunny, but surprisingly chilly California, Filles! It seems like just yesterday I was here covering my first Television Critics Association Press Tour on behalf of Cinefilles this past summer and now I’m back again for the winter version and its dozens of panels, set visits and parties celebrating midseason shows.

I’ve technically been in Pasadena for three days now, having arrived at the 2015 TCA Winter Press Tour HQ (the Langham Huntington Hotel) midday on Friday, but things didn’t really get started for me until yesterday, when I had a positively Bad/Mad morning. Now by that I don’t mean it was a total disaster. Quite the contrary, really, as I was able to sit in on the first-ever panel for Breaking Bad spinoff Better Call Saul, complete with appearances from leading man Bob Odenkirk and creator Vince Gilligan, as well as the last session for Mad Men.

The Better Call Saul panel was a perfect way to kick off my tour, as the room was obviously filled with dorkdom the minute that Gilligan and Co. stepped onto the ballroom stage. Critics were some of the first huge supporters of Breaking Bad, which was always what made me feel like a loser when I came to the party late in the game. I didn’t get any questions in at the panel, but just hearing what’s in store for the first season got me feeling like I was high on Blue Sky, especially because the panelists were in particularly hilarious form when it came to answering the expected Breaking Bad “crossover” (question: is it really a crossover if one show is over?) questions. Michael McKean was perhaps most succinct when he noted that Jesse Pinkman would have been in middle school during the timeline of Better Call Saul, making a guest appearance kind of awkward.

After the Better Call Saul session ended, I rushed outside with hopes of talking to Odenkirk about that recent Mr. Show reunion photo and what it might mean. Alas, with the mass of people waiting to talk to him about Saul Goodman and his future (or is it his past?), I was out of luck. I didn’t fare much better in a scrum with Jon Hamm following the Mad Men panel either, with my goal of getting in a short, but sweet Parks and Recreation Q in there shut down by an anxious publicist and Hamm giving some wonderfully detailed answers (guys, the dude is, unlike Don, a total gem).

I will admit that I’ve had my struggles with Mad Men for years, which is why I wasn’t as excited as some of my peers listening to Matthew Weiner’s veiled hints about these last few episodes. But it was great to see the gang together one last time, with everyone seeming genuinely heartbroken to be letting the show go. After hearing Hamm, Elisabeth Olsen, January Jones, John Slattery, Vincent Kartheiser and Christina Hendricks describe their reactions to the ending, I almost believed them when they all threw their hands up after one journalist jokingly asked about doing a Mad Men cruise (hey, I’m still waiting on my chance to attend one of those Olsen twins-hosted nautical jaunts that I heard about as a tween). And I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the other critics tried to make that actually happen given their awws and gasps at a teaser trailer for 6B.

I myself ended up giving into audible onomatopoeias after failing to get some one-on-one time with Lee Pace following the Halt and Catch Fire panel and thus, being forced to wait until Tuesday to learn more about his part on The Mindy Project. But there were a lot of other things to focus on, including panels for BBC America, VH1, MTV, Comedy Central and Adult Swim shows. My fellow Canadian contingent certainly got a huge kick out of Tatiana Maslany appearing via satellite while an obviously faked CN Tower appeared in the background. I was most delighted by clips from the cable comedy series coming up, however, especially The Jack and Triumph Show and Another Period.

The Jack and Triumph Show stars Jack McBrayer and Triumph the Comic Insult Dog, but the real draw for me is the recurring role held by the remarkably hilarious June Squibb. I actually had my hand up to ask about her involvement, but creator Robert Smigel ended up bringing her up before I could get the mic. Either way, I’m delighted to know that the Nebraska scene-stealer and Oscar nominee is a fan of Triumph’s filthy, insulting brand of comedy.

Another Period, on the other hand, might be even more ridiculous than The Jack and Triumph Show and that’s saying a lot considering we saw a lot of Triumph humping Jack’s leg and Joey Fatone getting roasted (literally) in the trailer. It’s a, well, period piece starring Natasha Leggero, Christina Hendricks, Jason Ritter and Riki Lindhome, but it’s as raunchy as It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, or any wonderfully horrific modern sitcom. I can’t remember any really specific moments from the sizzle reel we saw, except for Leggero verbally assaulting a baby and while that might disgust some, it delights me in all the ways.

What didn’t delight me was the fact that I missed a chance to speak with Hilary Duff following a panel for her new show Younger, but after getting some very stern advice from her fans not to ask her about Lizzie McGuire after suggesting it on Twitter, maybe I’m better off. She probably doesn’t need to know I got a cartoon Lizzie plushie, anyway. (You all know I wouldn’t actually tell her about that, right? I’d obviously stick to asking her about why Miranda was such an enormous bitch and if Gordo has a chance now that she and Mike Comrie are split up. You know, important stuff.)

While “Day 1” at this TCA wasn’t as huge of a success as I might have wanted it to be, it certainly whet my whistle for the rest of my 10 days here. Right now I’m writing to you from a critics screening of the Golden Globes in the Lobby Bar (yes, I’ll be live-tweeting that beast shortly). And as I’ll recap in another blog to come, the first half of today kind of rocked. Let’s just say I got to talk to some CW peeps, including the mastermind behind one of the best shows of all the times, Veronica Mars.

Yeah, this Marshmallow is pretty naturally toasted right now.


Emily is covering the 2015 Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour live from the Huntington Langham Hotel from January 9 – 18. Tune in every day for new pieces and follow her tweets at @Cinefilles and @emilygagne.


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