Tuesday, July 10, 2007

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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- The summer 2007 edition of the Televsion Critics Association summer press tour kicks off today at The Beverly Hilton with two days of what appear to be high-caliber PBS sessions, including one for the surprisingly controversial Ken Burns epic series "The War," about World War II.

But the first press conference that's bound to have some uncomfortable-making questions comes Thursday when HBO panels its upcoming series "Tell Me You Love Me." It's the show most likely to be labeled a pornographic bore. The story of several pairs of lovers in couples counseling with a therapist (Jane Alexander), the "Tell Me..." pilot features what appears to be actors having actual, not simulated, sex.

There's a scene of apparent penetration, a woman (actress Sonya Walger, or possibly Ally Walker, I have trouble telling them apart and both are in this show) masturbates her male partner to completion and Alexander's character appears to perform oral sex on her husband.

Normally I would just dismiss this as sexual special effects, but we live in a world post-"Shortbus," last year's film in which the actors did have actual sex on camera. And HBO's press release for the series, premiering Sept. 9, is intentionally cagey, saying the show "looks at the connection, or disconnection, between sex and intimacy," and quotes HBO executive Carolyn Strauss who says, "The show reveals characters and relationships through everyday, telling moments in a way that broadcast TV can't do."


So someone's going to have to ask the uncomfortable "Is it real or fake?" question. I hope someone else beats me to it.

Adding insult to injury: On my USAirways flight to L.A. yesterday, one of the programs shown on the flip-down monitors was an episode of CBS's "The Class." A year ago at press tour, it was the great hope for the revival of the sitcom and a sure-bet for CBS. Now, this quality comedy has been canceled. Sigh.

Reilly resurfaces: Yesterday Fox announced that former NBC Entertainment president Kevin Reilly -- the guy who put "Friday Night Lights" and "30 Rock" on the air and then was dumped by the Peacock a couple months ago in favor of wunderkind producer Ben Silverman -- will become Entertainment president at Fox, reuniting him with his old FX buddy, Peter Liguori, who becomes Entertainment chairman.

Reilly couldn't help but take a bit of a jab at NBC in the announcement press release, saying, "I couldn't be happier to rejoin ...the Fox family and to collaborate again with my good friend Peter Liguori, who shares my view of being competitive by being creatively adventurous. The company has a top-down vision and the network has a collaborative environment and winning track record fostered by Peter Liguori, which I personally look forward to as a refreshing change of pace, and have no doubt will be the formula to keep Fox the leader on all fronts for years to come."

It should be a good, comfortable pairing. And although I still think Reilly got a raw deal at NBC, as I noted a few months ago, after seeing the pilots for the uninspiring, lackluster fall lineup Reilly put together for NBC, I now better understand the decision to replace him.


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