Depress Tour

I coulda sworn I was there when they turned on the TV

HBO chairman Chris Albrecht presents new shows, including K Streetand Carnivale, described during presentation as "so horribly pretentious you'll mistake them for innovative, provocative and brilliant." Critics nod knowingly. Curb Your Enthusiasm's Larry David introduces cast of Angels in Americaas "brilliant bunch of cocksuckers"; spends 30 minutes trying to explain himself, fails. HBO gives critics James Gandolfini's weight in gold.

July 19:Asian-Americans outside hotel protest new Fox series Bonzai, a parody of Japanese game shows; Anglo-Americans inside hotel protest Fox shows Paradise Hoteland Temptation Island, a parody of white people. Fox Entertainment President Gail Berman takes podium to announce lineup of scripted shows, some of which, she says, "are so good we will cancel them by November." The cast of Arrested Development, which includes a remarkably lifelike Jason Bateman and a nude David Cross, takes podium for question-answer session. After 30 minutes of ironic silence, cast leaves. Berman says mid-season show Wonderfalls, about a girl who talks to inanimate objects, should not be confused with Paris Hilton-Nicole Richie reality series The Simple Life, about girls who talk like inanimate objects. Hilton shows up at press conference on scooter made of gold, says she promised Fox execs she would "fill in the hole left by Shannen Doherty."

Berman says Fox will take novel approach of using old scripts from defunct Fox series to make "new" shows; experiment begins in fall with The O.C., which consists of dialogue lifted from first season of Beverly Hills, 90210and the third season of Married with Children. Fox Television Entertainment Group chairman Sandy Grushow says this will save time and money better spent on reality shows, "which are harder to make now that every idiot in America has been on a reality show." American IdolRuben Studdard takes stage; critic from Newark asks, "Who are you, and where is Clay?" Berman expects big things from Skin, Romeo and Julietset in the porn biz. Grushow says "the show gives me a boner, it's that good." The critics give him a standing O. Fox gives each critic a portable DVD player and complete collection of Paris Hilton's home movies.

Break for lunch of hamburgers, roast quail and giraffe stew, provided by Animal Planet.

BBC America executives tell writers that next season, the network will start airing "Britishized" versions of American series. Debuted are short clips from Everybody Loves Reginald, According to Jamesand King of Queens, which use exact same scripts but are much funnier than originals when spoken in English accent. The Office's Ricky Gervais comes out and does 43-minute-long version of infamous dance; organ grinder leaves after 20 minutes.

July 21:CBS CEO Les Moonves says Big Brother 4will be "all nude," a concept used to garner high ratings during the final episode of the net's late hit Murder, She Wrote. He also touts forthcoming movie about Ronald and Nancy Reagan, which he describes as "mean-spirited, but with a big heart." Ray Romano shows up to explain he will not be returning to Everybody Loves Raymondfor another season if the show begins to "lose its creative edge." Critic from Seattle reminds him show never had one; Romano, nodding, signs on for five more seasons during press conference. Moonves also announces net will begin production on six more C.S.I.spin-offs during 2004 and that David Letterman will suffer at least one serious illness in a ratings-boosting cliffhanger. Critic from St. Louis, who appears to be in his 20s, asks Moonves if CBS is still on the air.

At bar, Charlie Sheen, star of Two and a Half Men, empties bottle of Jack Daniel's, then admits he had no idea he had even signed up to do a television series until eight episodes had been taped. Ted Danson admits over lunch that he, like the rest of America, thought Beckerhad been canceled two years ago. CBS gives each critic box of Depends and copy of Who Are You on eight-track.

July 25:At NBC press conference, Jeff Zucker announces Matt LeBlanc will star next season in Friendsspin-off called Joey. Also says David Schwimmer will move next season to NBC-owned Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, replacing "equally useless" Jai. Zucker introduces cast of Coupling, spends much of the rest of press conference apologizing for introducing cast of Coupling. Rob Lowe takes podium, gloats for 14 minutes about leaving "that sinking ship" called The West Wing for own show, The Lyon's Den. (Note to self: Call NBC in November and see if Lowe's show ever aired.)

Zucker introduces network's slate of reality series, all of which appear to feature some combination of beautiful women with perfect skin, ugly men with hairy bodies and toupees, lie detectors and the consumption of live insects--or, in the case of The Apprentice, during which 16 people will vie for a job with Donald Trump, "all of the above," says Zucker, who is clearly not joking. Critic from Lincoln asks Zucker what happened to Scrubsand Boomtown, "the only good shows on NBC." Zucker tells him they're still on the air. Writer tells him to "prove it." NBC gives each critic Matthew Perry to take home; all refuse.

July 26:Last day of press tour. Fatigue long ago set in amongst TV critics, who have realized what a horrible profession they've chosen after sitting through hours of new fall programming. Time for syndicated shows, most of which feature "Judge" somewhere in title, to make their pitches; Sharon Osbourne and Ellen DeGeneres outnumber critics in attendance.

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