Ellen Gray | Brace yourself, it's critics conference time

Posted: July 11, 2007

BY THE TIME you read this, I'll be in Beverly Hills, Calif., hunkered down at the Hilton for the Television Critics Association's summer meetings, a 2 1/2-week endurance challenge that one of the group's charter members long ago dubbed a "death march with cocktail parties."

It's a description that might get retired this year, because this afternoon we're scheduled to meet with filmmaker Ken Burns, whose 14 1/2-hour PBS series "The War" has a gripping segment on the Bataan death march that puts our semi-annual visits to the TV networks' celebrity petting zoo in perspective.

But yes, later on, there'll no doubt be cocktails.

Perspective, though, will remain in short supply until we return home, since it's hard to avoid whiplash at any event where one day you're with PBS talking about World War II, and the next you're talking about the war between the sexes with the stars of HBO's sexually explicit "Tell Me You Love Me."

And that's just the serious stuff.

Looking ahead, I see a session on VH1's "The Salt-n-Pepa Show" (they're attempting some sort of reunion), a scary-sounding Travel Channel lunch to promote "Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern" and a session on the Disney Channel's "High School Musical 2."

Somewhere along the way, there will be Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders. Not to mention the press conference for ABC's dreaded "Cavemen."

There will also, however, be opportunities to speak with Glenn Close, Holly Hunter and Lili Taylor - to name three reasons this is a great summer to have cable - and to visit the sets of NBC's "Heroes" and TNT's "The Closer." Plus, the schedule so far appears, for once, to be Paris Hilton-free.

Most important, though, are the other things that aren't on the schedule - the hours spent in conversation with the people who make television, the weird celebrity sightings, the Philly angles you won't ever see on "Entertainment Tonight."

Lots of that stuff will once again find its way into my press tour blog and into columns and stories I'll be writing over the next few weeks and months.

I'm already hearing from readers who want certain questions asked - chief among them, when will we be seeing those "Deadwood" movies from HBO? - and I'd love to hear more.

So e-mail me or post to the blog, and we'll see if we can't make it through this thing together. *

Send e-mail to graye@phillynews.com.

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