The director was at the TCA to tout “Pearl Jam Twenty,” which will air on PBS in October after a brief theatrical release
As the Television Critics Association press tour's first week comes to a close, it's not hard to single out its biggest highlight: Saturday's panel discussion with Cameron Crowe about his "American Masters" documentary, "Pearl Jam Twenty," which will air on PBS on October 21 after a theatrical run starting in September.
This is not meant as a slight to Alan Ball, who revealed during an engaging "True Blood" presentation on Friday that he had just signed on for another season as its showrunner.
It's not meant to belittle comedy legend Jerry Lewis, whose satisfyingly old school jabs during a session about his upcoming Encore documentary "Method to the Madness" served notice that the 85-year-old's still got it.
Also read: Jerry Lewis Kills at Encore Panel
And we're not taking anything away from Anderson Cooper, or "Beavis and Butt-head" creator Mike Judge, or the "Doctor Who" team, or Ken Burns, or even Elmo — all of whom were on hand to pimp upcoming projects.
It's just that Crowe's 45-minute appearance was so entertaining — and not in the breezy, "look at me!" and "ooh, I just revealed a delicious tidbit!" kind of way that is typical of massive promotional events like Comic-Con and the Television Critics Association summer press tour.
Dressed in a blue button down and blue jeans, the boyish director lucidly and energetically discussed not only his current project — which "American Masters" creator and executive producer Susan Lacy described as an "insider hang" with the iconic Seattle band — but also his thoughts about music in general and a "Say Anything…" sequel in specific.
"['Say Anything…' is] the only thing that I've written that I would consider doing that with," said Cameron, when begged by a superfan reporter in the audience to do a follow-up to the 1989 romantic comedy. "And I've thought about it from time to time, and talked about it with John Cusack once. This is the only story that [I've thought], there might be another chapter to that at some point."
(He added, amazingly, that, if he does ever do such a sequel, "we have to keep the guy that Lloyd Dobler has to drive home from the prom party — he's got to come back.")
But the documentary talk was engaging enough on its own, probably because the documentary itself is an unqualified winner.
I know this because PBS screened "Pearl Jam Twenty" for critics at a late-night function on Friday, and the film went down even easier than the free beer and popcorn the network had on hand — and I'm not even partial to the band's music.
That's the case with the best documentaries about musicians: They appeal to fans and non-fans alike. In Crowe's case, that had to have been a difficult line to walk, given his longtime personal connection to the band in question.
But he made a point of including footage in the film that the band would have loved to have seen quashed, like Vedder's "perfectly hideous" performance and intoxicated stage rantings at a 1992 Sony bash celebrating the release of "Singles."
"I think that's a measure of success in a way," Crowe told reporters attending the TCA panel, "that you're able to kind of get under their skin a little bit because if everything was perfect, it would have felt like an EPK" — that is, an electronic press kit.
Refreshingly, the documentary is nothing of the sort, and, in fact, has already compelled me to explore Pearl Jam's catalogue and look into seeing one of their transformative live performances, two things I've been meaning to do for years but have never been quite committed enough to get to.
And that might be the truest measure of Crowe's success with "Pearl Jam Twenty" — that his documentary is powerful enough to show the light to those previously apathetic to the band's many selling points, even a guy who, in 1992, in a moment of extreme irritation and not a little youthful inebriation, regrettably said that their hit single "Jeremy" sounded like sonic vomit.