Every summer, the television networks and cable channels put on a big show for TV critics from across the country. To try to generate a positive buzz for their new shows for fall, they give the critics a chance to meet the stars, directors and producers, along with previewing the shows themselves. L.A. Youth signed me up to see presentations from the WB, Fox, UPN and NBC.
I thought I’d be sneaking in a back door with a lot of paparazzi who were trying to get a shot of actress Paris Hilton. Little did I know that I would be considering trading my dream of being a film director for the plush life of a television critic.
When I arrived at the first session for the WB, they looked at me funny and told me I was probably at the wrong event. They didn’t even check the list when I told them my last name! But after a little convincing, they accepted that I really was a writer for a newspaper. Since I was the only teen iat the conference, the other critics looked at me strangely, as if they were questioning why I was there. Once they got to know me though, they realized that I was just as professional as they were. From then on I was greeted by a pretty 20-year old opening the door for me and saying "Good morning, Mr. Gray." Great way to start your day, isn’t it?
Right away I found out about the food. At the WB session, I was starving when I got there. It was 8 a.m. so I didn’t expect them to have any good food yet. To my surprise, they had a hot breakfast waiting for all the press. All I had to do was show them my badge and I was served like a prince. Fox had arguably the best breakfast—along with the regular breakfast stuff, they had endless Starbucks coffee. Somebody say Amen!
All of the sessions usually started around 9 a.m. The actors would sit on the stage while all the critics sat in their seats and asked questions about the shows. Every critic had a sort of table setting at his or her seat. In addition to your own personal pen and pad you had an assorted choice of drinks and food—all for you! On top of that, most shows tried to win you over by giving you things like watches, hats, backpacks and T-shirts. I got a Nike watch, a trucker hat, a black backpack from Fox, CDs and candy from NBC, and numerous toys such as finger boards and high-bounce balls.
Lunch at these events was even more extravagant than the events themselves. Things like filet mignon (a fancy type of steak), baked chicken and shrimp were served buffet-style! At night, the critics were invited to cool parties with the stars (I couldn’t go because alcohol was served).
How does TV get made?
One of the coolest benefits that came along with this assignment was that I got to see how the television industry works behind the cameras. In addition to the actors and press, there were numerous big-name producers there. A producer is someone who takes a script and makes it happen. Many people think it is the director but the producer comes first. The producer is in charge of everything from marketing to financing to administration.
As far as celebrities go, there were plenty of them. Sharon Osbourne, who was promoting her new talk show, was possibly the funniest star there. She looked exceptionally healthy for someone who was battling cancer. The show itself is awesome, blending the talk show environment with bed and breakfast. She kept saying how if she ever had an episode focusing on drugs, she was going to make her son Jack her first guest! His battle to stay clean is well-known.
I know you’re probably thinking, that’s why all this crap gets on TV—because of these events! How can a critic focus on the show when he’s getting pampered? Well for one, it’s my opinion that television these days is not all crap. Sure, you may have to look for a good show but there are still some out there. As for the critics, they’re hardened professionals. If a show was bad, nothing could change their mind about it, no matter how many toys the network gave away or how nice the lunch was. Rest assured, all TV shows got a fair review.
As you can see, being a member of the press is not as boring or lowly as you might think. You get paid to watch television, eat up other people’s food, stay in the best hotels, meet the coolest people, and go to the most happenin’ parties in town. So the next time you hear the press getting a bad reputation, remember, the only reason other people don’t like them is because they are probably jealous. Now where did I put that job application?