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NBC Day at Press Tour: Up All Afternoon

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The Up All Night panel, with producers Jon Pollack and Emily Spivey, Rudolph, Arnett, Applegate and producer Lorne Michaels./ NBC

I arrived at the Beverly Hilton for TCA press tour in the middle of the afternoon, so I missed the first half of NBC’s day of presentations, in which we learned that The Playboy Club is actually about the empowerment of women and that new programming chief Robert Greenblatt would like to bring a little bit of the spirit of his old channel, Showtime, to NBC. (Perhaps that little bit would be the part in which sex-object shows are about female empowerment.)

I did catch a few sessions in the afternoon, though, so some random notes and impressions from my first day:

* The first panel I caught was for NBC’s Up All Night, which is being retooled from its (pretty funny) original pilot. The retooling seems to be something along the lines of: Hey, Bridesmaids did pretty well! Uh… maybe it would have been a good idea to give Maya Rudolph a bigger role? Rudolph is still a supporting character—the childless friend to Christina Applegate, who has embarked on new parenthood with her husband played by Will Arnett—but Rudolph will now play a talk-show host (with Applegate as her producer), giving her more of the sorts of opportunities she had when she did Oprah on SNL.

Curiously, while Rudolph is childless on the show, she was full of new-mom stories for the panel (she remarked that she had just pumped before coming to the Hilton). But Applegate was no slouch in bringing up the memories of new-baby hell; she made what I am pretty sure was the first reference to the Febre Ferber method of sleep-training I’ve ever heard at a TCA panel.

* At the end of the Up All Night session came an announcement: “The next panel will be Grimm.” Critics who have seen the pilot laughed in agreement.

* At the session for Prime Suspect, producers tried to explain how they were distinguishing Maria Bello’s tough, abrasive cop from the British character Helen Mirren originated. What drove the original Prime Suspect was Mirren’s performance as Jane Tennison, a great detective who was not only an alcoholic, but could be bitter, mean-spirited and unpleasant. Bello’s Timoney, not so much. Producer Alexandra Cunningham noted that it’s not quite so groundbreaking anymore to have an alcoholic protagonist, which is true, but I wonder if they’re taking her too far in the direction of the American TV ideal of making Jane “relatable.” (That’s what we’re about in America: life, liberty and the pursuit of relatability.)

NBC

* Finally, we heard from The Most Important Show on Television, NBC’s The Sing-Off, with returning judges Ben Folds and Shawn Stockman and new judge Sara Bareilles. To expand what was a short-run holiday special into a season-long series, the series is going to give us more depth and background on the contestants’ backstories, because I know we all wanted to know what childhood struggles drove the Beelzebubs. Also, the panelists were asked their favorite TV theme songs. Folds answered immediately: “Sanford and Son. No backbeat. It’s all high-end. And that was Quincy Jones.” (An NBC show, by the way.) Did I not tell you this was the most important show on television?

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