BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Some people go to the lake. Some people go camping. Some people go on long, lazy driving trips. And some people just stay home.
It's summertime, the time of year when TV critics do none of the above. Instead, like wild creatures following a migratory instinct, people who get paid to watch and write about television pack up their laptops and luggage each July and head for hot and smoggy Los Angeles where they spend two crazy weeks previewing the upcoming TV season. They interview the stars, producers and network executives who make the shows and shmooze with Hollywood types at an ongoing series of elaborate and entertainingly show-bizzy receptions and cocktail parties.
Well, it's that time again. This summer's version of the U.S. networks' semi-annual press tour (there's also a January version of the event) takes place at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, a wedge-shaped slice of L.A. history that is famous for, among other things, being the site of the annual Golden Globe Awards each January, the former home of the renowned showbiz hangout Trader Vic's, the place legendary producer Robert Evans made his first Hollywood connections while loitering daily at poolside, the rendezvous destination where philandering former U.S. senator John Edwards was cornered by a tabloid reporter and confronted about his infidelity and the hotel in which Whitney Houston died the night before the 2012 Grammy Awards.
It's a stone's throw from Rodeo Drive's ultra-luxurious shopping strip, a short stroll from Fox TV's studio lot and, literally, across the street from the palm tree-lined streets whose opulence was showcased on a weekly basis back when The Beverly Hillbillies loaded up the truck and moved here in the early '60s.
As business trips go, this would surely rank among the most entertaining.
This edition of the TV press tour shows some definite promise, both for the lineup of network and cable shows being introduced this fall and the roster of talent that will parade through the Beverly Hilton's lobby and hallways during the next couple of weeks. Here's a quick look at who and what we're looking forward to as the summer press tour unfolds:
- Robin Williams returns to prime time: More than 30 years after he uttered his last "Nanu-nanu!" as the star of Mork & Mindy, Williams returns to series TV as star of the promising CBS comedy The Crazy Ones, in which he and co-star Sarah Michelle Gellar play the father/daughter team at the head of an unconventional ad agency.
- Michael J. Fox rejoins the sitcom fray: The Canadian-born actor stars in a new NBC comedy (The Michael J. Fox Show) with autobiographical undertones, portraying a beloved New York TV news anchor who returns to work five years after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.
- Big-screen comic-book action moves to the small screen: Following on the feature-film success of The Avengers, ABC is getting into the hero game with Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which follows the crimebusting exploits of a super-secret team of agents who fight strange and unexplainable crime around the world.
- Post-Curb enthusiasm: Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm) will be here during HBO's press-tour presentation, discussing a new TV-movie project called Clear History, in which he stars as a marketing executive who sells of his shares in an electric-car company after a petty argument with his boss, and then is forced to watch from the sidelines as the firm's fortunes rise and the stock is worth billions.
- A Doctor's appointment to look forward to: BBC America, which imports Doctor Who for the Stateside audience, will celebrate the Doctor's 50th anniversary by throwing a Brit-themed poolside bash atop the trendy Soho House West hotel on Sunset Boulevard.
- Breaking bye-bye: Emmy winner Bryan Cranston and the rest of the Breaking Bad cast will take part in AMC's press-tour interviews, chatting about the acclaimed series' upcoming final-season run.
- Abbey meets Hilton: There's sure to be a huge, Brit-accented fuss at the Beverly Hilton when PBS's biggest buzz-generator in years, Downton Abbey, brings its cast -- led by Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary) -- across the pond to meet the press and promote the show's about-to-launch fourth season.
- And the winner is... : The summer TV press tour is always highlighted by the annual Television Critics Association Awards, which celebrate the critics' picks for the best of the past small-screen year. Leading the nominees in 2013 are established favourites Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Homeland and Mad Men, along with newcomers Orphan Black, The Americans and Elementary.
We'll be here, from the start of the TV press tour right through to the foggy, smoggy finish, filing frequent dispatches to our printed pages and to www.winnipegfreepress.com, and posting pithy tidbits on Twitter. Stay tuned. It'll be fun, I promise.
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @BradOswald