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Long network days

By RD Heldenfels Published: July 21, 2005

Wednesday was a mixed blessing. On the one hand, there was a session with the cast and executive producer of ''Two and a Half Men,'' an often funny CBS sitcom. (One reporter at the session suggested that it lacked critical acclaim, to the puzzlement of the many people who have written kindly about it.) And, on that same hand, the session included the cast and Lorre singing ''Oshikuru,'' a Lorre-penned little ditty from the show, which Lorre called ''phenomenally inept and mundane.'' Which, of course, made it all the funnier.

There was also news in the session: ''Men'' co-star Charlie Sheen's father Martin will be guest-starring on the show this coming season.

Martin -- best known for ''The West Wing'' -- ''is a huge fan of the show,'' Charlie said. ''He would love to come and play with us. ... To Chuck's credit, they didn't do (the guest role) just to do it.'' Instead, they waited for the right story -- and for Sheen's schedule to ease up, which ''The West Wing's'' move toward the end of the Bartlet administration is doing.

''It's sad that he's coming because he has a little more free time this season,'' said Charlie. ''But we're thrilled to have him, and I think it's going to be something really special.''

On the other hand, there was a lack of energy in the room throughout the day, including long pauses while critics tried to think of more questions for the makers of, say, ''Threshold.''

Sometimes these things happen when the shows are bad and no one particularly cares to talk about them. Sometimes there's just nothing to talk about. Ken Ehrlich, executive producer of the next prime-time Emmy telecast, got major honesty points for saying -- at an Emmy-themed luncheon, no less -- that it's too soon to talk about telecast plans in detail.

But on Wednesday. the low-key press conferences came one after another regardless of the quality of the production being discussed.

Could be fatigue, physical and emotional. Some of us have been here for 10 days, with a long ways yet to go. But I think we also fall prey to the tricky rhythms of a press tour. PBS starts the thing, and it's not easy to get energized during it. Then comes four days of cable, which are a grinding marathon of long days, numerous sessions, topical shifts and -- if you're not careful, short sleep.

If you make it through cable feeling more or less intact, then everything else feels pretty easy. CBS, which we've had for the last couple of days, has been a cakewalk -- smooth-running sessions with plenty of breaks. But after keeping your energy up for cable, downshifting for a network cuts down your energy. And those breaks, as welcome as they can be, are long enough to let your body admit it's tired -- just before you have to go back into high gear for the next session. So you see people struggling to get in gear.

Thursday may be a little better, since it showcases UPN. One of the most buzzed-about shows of the coming season is UPN's ''Everybody Hates Chris,'' a comedy based on the youth of Chris Rock, and Chris Rock is expected to attend. And a lot of us will be gathering string about ''Veronica Mars,'' a terrific show going into its second season. So I'm hoping to be alert, aware -- and able to collect some goodies for this blog.

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