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TV networks turn on the charm, bring out the stars in sunny L.A.

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Tricia Helfer plays a Texas Ranger in Killer Women.

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Tricia Helfer plays a Texas Ranger in Killer Women.

Albert Hammond may have been stretching a meteorological stereotype slightly when he sang that it never rains in southern California — it does, particularly in winter — but there is one weather-related thing that truly never happens there:

It never gets colder than the surface of Mars, a dubious distinction that our fair but frozen Prairie burg earned on New Year's Day.

Which is why it's a pretty good week to be a television critic — especially one employed by a Canadian newspaper — because southern California is where it's at when professional tube-watchers from around North American gather in sunny Los Angeles for the winter version of the U.S. networks' semi-annual TV press tour.

This time, we're bound for Pasadena, the upscale old-money suburban enclave that has just finished its annual Rose Bowl frenzy, as well as hosting U.S. college football's Bowl Championship Series title game on Monday night. After enduring a week's worth of non-stop gridiron fan antics, hotel staffers and restaurateurs in Pasadena will surely view the arrival of the TV press tour as rather quaintly serene.

But for TV critics, this is one of the busiest times of the year. The press tour takes place twice each year in L.A., and brings journalists who cover television together with the networks, studios, producers and stars who make TV shows for a two-week marathon of screenings, press conferences, interviews and lavishly staged social events (for consistency's sake, let's call 'em Big Phoney Hollywood Parties) related to the new and returning programs that will make up prime time's mid-season schedule.

For the next couple of weeks, I will be filing regular dispatches — in print, online and via Twitter — to keep Free Press readers up to date with all that's new and buzz-worthy in the U.S. network and cable TV world.

Here's a quick rundown of some of the highlights of the TV press tour schedule:

— Former Desperate Housewives co-workers and current production partners Eva Longoria and Marc Cherry will be in Pasadena to discuss the upcoming second season of Devious Maids, which was something of a surprise hit for Lifetime when it premièred last summer. Cast members Ana Ortiz, Dania Ramirez, Roselyn Sanchez, Judy Reyes, Edy Ganem and Susan Lucci will also be on hand.

— Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey will make a press-tour stop to promote the HBO drama True Detective (which premières Jan. 12), in which they portray a couple of Louisiana detectives trying to bring closure to a murder case that has remained unsolved for 17 years.

— Recently departed Daily Show correspondent John Oliver -- who was given a funny and rather touching send-off by host/boss Jon Stewart last month -- will make the trip to L.A. to crack wise about the new self-titled HBO comedy series (première date TBA) that prompted his exit from The Daily Show.

— Sci-fi TV's current "It" girl, Saskatchewan native Tatiana Maslany, will be in Pasadena to talk about the dizzying success of the clone-cluttered Space network drama Orphan Black's first season and, hopefully, to drop a few hints about what Season 2 (which premières in April) will bring.

— Fox's press-tour sessions will include interviews with Greg Kinnear, star of the new drama Rake (which premières Jan. 23 on Fox and Global), a chat with Kevin Bacon about the second season of The Following (Jan. 20) and a visit with American Idol's new judging panel, comprised of Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr. (the series' 13th season launches Jan. 15/16).

— CBS's press-tour day will include interviews with Lost alumnus Josh Holloway, star of the new drama Intelligence (which premièred Jan. 7), and Kevin Connolly, James Van Der Beek and Brooklyn Decker of the mid-season sitcom Friends With Better Lives (March 31), as well as a last-call visit to MacClaren's Pub to chat with the How I Met Your Mother cast about that show's March 31 finale.

— ABC's schedule includes visits from Vanessa Redgrave and Kelly Reilly of the psychological drama The Black Box (première date TBA), Canadian star Tricia Helfer of the new series Killer Women (premièred Jan. 7), and Christian Slater and Steve Zahn of the con-artist serial Mind Games (March 11), as well as a session with the cast of the returning comedy Suburgatory (Jan. 15).

— NBC's roster for the winter press tour includes Minnie Driver, star of the TV-series adaptation of About a Boy (date TBA), Dermot Mulroney and Gillian Anderson of the school-bus hostage-situation drama Crisis (date TBA) and executive producer J.J. Abrams of the new drama Believe (date TBA), which focuses on a 10-year-old girl with extra-sensory powers some evil folks are eager to exploit.

— PBS, which always brings a diverse and jam-packed lineup to the TV press tour, has scheduled sessions with Christopher Plummer (of Great Performances' Barrymore, which airs Jan. 31), Bob Newhart, George Takei and Jimmy Walker (Pioneers of Television, April 8), Jeremy Piven (Mr. Selfridge, March 30) and Sting (Sting: The Last Ship, Feb. 21).

That's a whole lot of teevee. And, for what it's worth, very few surface-of-Mars temperatures. Stay tuned.

 

brad.oswald@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @BradOswald

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 8, 2014 C3

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