We Gather Together

Today's cuppa: Start off the morning with chai spice black tea, head through midday with iced tea (half decaf cold-brewed black tea, half pomegranate-raspberry green tea), finish off the evening with decaf British blend tea.

Strike in the SAG? Not yet. The outcome of the contract vote by AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) could be known as early as Wednesday, and it's unlikely that SAG (Screen Actors Guild) -- which shares many members with AFTRA -- or the AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers) will do anything major until after then. SAG and AFTRA have historically negotiated together, but this year, AFTRA negotiated on its own, setting off a nasty intramural battle in a town still reeling from the aftereffects of the three-month WGA (Writers Guild of America) walkout.

We watch and wait.

As I write this, it's the eve of the July edition of the TCA (Television Critics Association) Press Tour, a biannual gathering of journalists from all over North America that cover the TV industry. Or, this year, I should say annual gathering, since the WGA strike torpedoed the TCA's usual January convocation.

There was much fear that a SAG walkout -- its contract with the AMPTP ran out last Monday -- would put the kibosh on the July Press Tour, but as of right now, it goes forward for the next two weeks. That's one change, since it's usually three, but the WGA strike resulted in far fewer new shows being ordered, and so there are far fewer new shows to present to reporters.

The tour, held this time at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills (home to the Golden Globes, except for this past January, when the WGA strike axed that event, too), is a steady stream of large and small press conferences from cable and broadcast networks, sprinkled throughout with cocktail parties and evening galas in which reporters can mingle with and interview executives and talent, along with a few set visits and, since it's July, the annual TCA Awards presentation, which remains one of Hollywood's few non-televised kudofests.

I have no idea what the mood's going to be.

The tour happens as the new-media wave is upending the entire old-media world -- from TV to movies to newspapers -- leaving broken business models and lost jobs in its wake. Labor disputes buffet Hollywood, while plunging ad revenues threaten to pull newspapers under (yeah, I'm watching last week's "Deadliest Catch" right now. Sig, turn the boat! Phil, you're in the hospital, stop puffing! Keith, get some more tape to plug that leak! Sorry.).

Many veteran TV reporters won't be with us, lost to layoffs, buyouts and reorganization. Those that remain will face off with network executives and producers who have problems of their own.

My mission for this TCA, and I choose to accept it, is to put my ear to the ground and see what tidbits I can glean about TV's future and then pass them along to you. And while I'm at it, I'll try to have a cuppa with as many interesting people as I can -- starting tomorrow morning at breakfast with Matt Frei of BBC World News America.

I have a sneaking suspicion that, before long, we'll all know what the village smithy felt like when that first Model-T rolled through town.