The semiannual TV Critics Association press tour kicks off Saturday -- but the real fireworks will likely start on Sunday.
That's when NBC will meet critics and reporters for its portion of the event. What already promised to be be an interesting day -- new chief Jeff Gaspin is making his press tour bow (at least in his current capacity) -- could well end up becoming the Main Event, thanks to Late Night Crisis 2010.
Look for daily coverage of TCA here on TV MoJoe. But first: Here's a look at what else to expect from NBC's potential day from hell -- and the rest of the broadcast portion of the tour. (We'll preview cable's half of the TCA next week).
Our focus in this preview is on the executive sessions, though there could be some headlines from other parts of the tour. Like the final "Lost" TCA press conference (sniff).
--CBS (Saturday): Typically one of the most tame days at TCA -- and that's just the way (uh huh, uh huh) Eye likes it. That's because what others might see as dull, CBS interprets as: "We're doing great, no problems, nothing to see here).
Boss Nina Tassler typically dives right into the Q&A, though she's been known to give a mini state of the union on the TV business from time to time. CBS got off to a solid start this fall, with "NCIS: Cool J" and "The Good Wife" both doing fine in their freshmen years, and "The Big Bang Theory" exploding -- ergo, not many tough questions in store.
The CW and Showtime will share the day with CBS. Expect lots of blog buzz from "Vampire Diaries" and "Nurse Jackie," as well as a panel of comedy showrunners and an Oliver Stone session.
The day's biggest event will be at night, when CBS holds the "Survivor" at 20 at Television City. Hatch. Hawk. IT'S ON.
-- NBC (Sunday): Gaspin, along with NBC Entertainment chief Angela Bromstad, takes the stage around 10. He'll probably seek to tackle Leno-O'Brien head on, though it's unlikely there'll be resolution to the matter. Over/under on number of Jay-Conan questions asks before someone suggests moving on: five.
Of course, once that topic's done, Gamstad (Jangela?) will have to talk about NBC's fourth place performance, and what they're going to do to change it. The cancellation of "Southland" (move on, people!) Another attempt to get some Leno-Conan news. Some Comcast questions that can't be (legally) answered.
Don't be shocked if NBC offers up a news dump at some point, showering the journalistic peoples with press release love. Perhaps the network will announce plans for how "Heroes" will end (or simply that it will end after one more batch of episodes). There's also talk of a new host for "The Marriage Ref" and the return of "Last Comic Standing."
Jerry Seinfeld will make an appearance at tour. Expect someone to ask him what he thinks of NBC post-"Seinfeld."
The biggest star of the tour could end up being Gaspin. He's known for being refreshingly blunt in private. If NBC avoids over-prepping him, and lets Gaspin be Gaspin, Sunday might not be so bad.
-- Fox (Monday): We've already reported that the network could use this day to announce the return of "Glee." But Peter Rice and Kevin Reilly could spend a big chunk of their session answering queries about "The X-Factor" and Simon Cowell.
We're betting there's firm news on the matter (finally) of whether Fox plans to import Cowell's Brit hit, and what Cowell's intentions are. And if you believe the National Enquirer, Paula Abdul could be on "X Factor." (These days, you never know ...)
Other buzz topics: Will this be the final season of "24"? Is "Fringe" safe for another season? (Fingers crossed). What the hell happened with "Our Little Genius"? And, oh: Conan?
-- ABC (Tuesday): Steve McPherson is entitled to a victory lap, given his network's feat of launching three comedy successes (though not quite all hits) on Wednesday. That's huge for the network, and for the TV business overall (20th Century Fox TV can already smell backend for "Modern Family").
But there's likely to be just as much grilling over the creative status of the much-hyped "FlashForward" and possibly "V." Critics love ABC shows, but they also love to be heard when ABC shows disappoint.
Our suggested response for McSteve: Hey, at least we try creatively difficult things.
In addition to a question or two about Conan O'Brien -- assuming The Crisis hasn't abated -- McPherson will also be grilled on the future of "Ugly Betty," why "Better Off Ted" was seemingly burned off (in some critics' eyes) and why the network hasn't already ordered 20 more episodes of "Tunnel of Love." (OK, that last one is unlikely -- although TV MoJoe vows to make that show's return our life's mission).
ABC Family and SOAPNet will also share the stage with ABC. Two words: "Being Erica."
After a one-day palate cleanser from PBS, cable kicks off Thursday with Discovery Networks. More on those sessions next week.