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TCA 2012: Palins, Monkey Join NBC Media Circus

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When you have a successful lineup of acclaimed shows at the Television Critics Association, all you need to do to get attention is to bring out the talented stars and creators who made the shows. When your network is in a, er, “rebuilding year,” you haul out all the stunts you can.

At NBC’s “meet the stars” cocktail party, poolside at The Beverly Hilton Tuesday night, the marquee attractions were a monkey and Sarah Palin.

The monkey, Crystal, is the co-star of Animal Practice, a new comedy also featuring the trained human actor Justin Kirk. Palin is an American reality television star, rumored to have political ambitions, whose husband Todd is one of the contestants on Stars Earn Stripes, a fall show in which celebrities will compete at military challenges, coached by special forces members.

At the Stars Earn Stripes session earlier, Todd Palin spoke reservedly about why he’d agree to do the show when his family already has Kardashian-level reality-TV exposure. (Most recently, daughter Bristol has gotten less-than-flattering attention in her Lifetime show, Life’s a Tripp.) “The motivation is the show’s cause,” he said. “Competing to raise money for military-base charities.

At the party, however, a press crowd formed around a tanned Sarah Palin, Hollywood-glam in a form-fitting dress, who largely passed on political questions, but weighed in on the recent shooting in Aurora, Colo., which she told The Wrap should not lead to more gun control (“Bad guys don’t follow laws”). Crystal the monkey, meanwhile, responded to press inquiries by jumping on gathered journalists’ heads.

It was an example of how television can make odd channelmates: just across the pool from the conservative spokeswoman, there was also a big crowd for The New Normal, the new sitcom from the creator of Glee in which a gay couple hire a surrogate to have a baby. TV, you see, can still bring together a big tent of viewers. As long as that tent happens to be at the pool of the Beverly Hilton.