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Not That Happy Hour...

By RD Heldenfels Published: July 25, 2006

As a nod to its new comedy ''Happy Hour,'' Fox preceded the press conference with servers bearing cocktails -- mimosas, bloody Marys, something with Kahlua. It did not seem to bother Fox that the drinks were being distributed before 10 a.m. (although, it could have been a stunt planned when the network scheduled ''Happy Hour'' as an afternoon session -- and stuck to when the press conference was moved to the morning).

If the stunt was also meant to dull the wits of the assembled reporters, Fox needn't have bothered. As I've said before, this is late in the press tour. I don't even drink, and my wits have dulled quite thoroughly.

Besides, the ''Happy Hour'' session was quite enjoyable without cocktails, one of those cases where the cast and producers were funnier in the room than they had been in the show's pilot.

Before ''Happy Hour,'' we met the cast and producers of ''Justice,'' a new legal drama from Fox. The cast includes Victor Garber, fresh off of ''Alias'' and -- while saying he wanted to do this show -- he admitted that dramas are not fun: ''The schedule is brutal. You can't believe the hours that it takes to do these shows. And at the end of the day, if you go home at night thinking 'I
did a good job today, this was exciting,' it's all worthwhile.''

Because yesterday I tried to torture Josh Berman about ''Killer Instinct,'' a short-lived show from last season, (see my previous post for what happened) I decided to do the same to Jonathan Shapiro, an executive producer of ''Justice.'' Last year he created the gone-in-a-blink ''Just Legal,'' the Don Johnson lawyer show on The WB.

Lessons learned? '' 'Be on Fox' is a good idea,'' he said. '' 'Just Legal' was a great experience. I wish that it had lasted longer.'' Then he got back on message about his new show. ''A lot of the issues that we addressed in 'Just Legal' and I wanted to address in 'Just Legal,' we're going to address here. That was a defense firm, this is a defense firm.''

But I dug in a little more, asking how he felt about the quick hook the WB show got. ''I spent many years working with Democratic candidates in various statewide elections. So early and abrupt endings of hopeful campaigns don't surprise me.''

By the way, I think Fox had the most crowded stage of the press tour yesterday, when ''Vanished'' offered up 15 people -- three producers and 12 actors. We've seen a fair number of double-digit panels so far -- a sign of producer proliferation, ensemble casts and the need to make all the regular actors feel loved. Still, when the Q&A starts, because most of the questions are going to go to the producers (since they know most about what a show is going to be). Actors, meanwhile, are more likely to get individual attention in scrums afterward or at the network press parties. But press-conference neglect is even more likely when the stage is so packed.

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