TV critics press tour highlights: Bruce Jenner faces off with critic, RuPaul versus Rodi

After spending nine days in L.A. for the TV critics’ winter press tour, where broadcast and cable networks offered the cast and producers of their new and returning shows, a few moments from the reality TV show press conferences stand out in my mind, from Paula Abdul denying her own criticism of her show to Paula Abdul imitating someone with a Puerto Rican accent (which the transcript does not, alas, include).

Critics were, on the whole, less hostile toward reality TV shows than they were last summer, but there’s always time for impossibly stupid questions. For example, at the press conference panel for Animal Planet’s upcoming series Jockeys, which focuses on men and women who race horses, as the preview we saw showed, a critic non-ironically asked Animal Planet’s general manager:

“I suppose we’re all animals here in this room, but what the hell has this got to do with Animal Planet? Are you implying they’re in fact animals?

During the Keeping Up with the Kardashians panel, the same grouchy critic made fun of Bruce Jenner to his face, about his face:

Question: Right here in the middle. I know I’m not in your demographic, but who are you and why should we want to keep up with you?

Bruce Jenner: That’s an excellent question. Are you in my demographics?

Question: It’s hard to say by looking at you.

One of the cast members on BET’s new reality series Harlem Heights discovered the futility of trying to be coy and conceal something from a room full of critics with laptops:

Question: Brooke, can I ask you, who did you date, and does that come up at all in the show?

Brooke Crittendon: Well, I guess maybe you will have to stay tuned and find out who that person was. You know, part of my personal journey beyond actually wrapping the show is to not mention that person, because if I’m trying to get from under the shadow of being that person’s girlfriend, I feel like to constantly drop their name and that association is sort of saying, “Hey, I don’t want you to think I’m just that, but I did used to date this really cool person.” You know what I mean? So it comes up. You will find out. You’ll know. You just gotta wait.

Critic [grabs mic and shouts]: Kanye West.

The Travel Channel brought former Girls Next Door star Bridget Marquardt, who’s hosting Bridget’s Sexiest Beaches because of her advanced degree (“I also have my degree in communications, a Master’s degree, so I can do the voiceover”) and her obvious ability to identify what makes a beach sexy and her new show unique:

Question: Have you ever been to an unsexy beach?

Bridget Marquardt: I don’t know if there’s any such thing. I mean, some are sexier than others, but all the destinations that we go have been amazing.

[later] And I almost feel like it’s an extension of “Girls Next Door” and that I’m doing my own scenes, and it just never comes back to the mansion or the other girls. I mean, I realize I’m doing my own show now and everything, but I don’t feel a huge difference. I’m very comfortable in what we are doing. I’m very excited about it, and I keep expecting the other girls just to pop up or be in it at some time. It doesn’t feel like a big difference to me even though it’s an entirely different show and not an extension at all.

At another session, Rodi Alexander–who’s essentially the Helen Thomast of the Television Critics Association, but funnier–provided one of the funnier moments during Spike’s panel on its summer series Jesse James is a Dead Man, which features the former Monster Garage star doing dangerous stunts. After he revealed that he had three kids, ages 5, 12, and 14, she asked,

Rodi Alexander: Have you taught any of them, your 14-year-old boy [sic] to follow you, emulate you? Would you like him to?

Jesse James: Actually, over the holiday, he was riding his dirt bike at the shop, and I put some stuff on the ground and lit a fire and let him ride his dirt bike through it. And he made me do it first. And then the 5-year-old saw, and she was like, “I want to do that too. He rode so fast, the ground caught on fire.” But just stuff like that. …

Rodi Alexander: Has the Children’s Protection Society been around?

Rodi provided most of the entertainment when RuPaul showed up to promote RuPaul’s Drag Race, Logo’s drag queen competition that looks good even if it’s just Top Model in different clothes. (The bottom two, however, are instructed to “lip sync for your life,” which looked pretty awesome in the preview.)

Speaking of clothes, RuPaul showed up not in drag, but in a suit, and bombed like a hack comedian (we didn’t laugh when he said “slutty whore,” so he said it three more times and pointed out we weren’t laughing, but we only laughed once someone else said it). RuPaul was quickly overshadowed by critics, perhaps because he started off by threatening one:

The Orlando Sentinel’s Hal Boedecker: I’m also wondering, how much do you owe to Tyra Banks and–

RuPaul: Nothing. And don’t you ever bring that name up again. Where is his car? Shannel, key his car. Actually, security, get him out of this room now. Now! Tyra Banks? She learned everything from me, darling.

Boedecker: But if I say it reminds me of “America’s Next Top Model”–

RuPaul: Then you are retarded. That’s it. Enough said. Don’t give me no Tyra shit.

Later, Rodi overshadowed RuPaul time and time again, like during this exchange:

RuPaul: Nobody thinks slutty whore is funny? What is wrong with you, people? Slutty whore. You say it.

Rodi Alexander: Slutty whore.

RuPaul: See, now it’s funny. Now it’s funny.

Rodi Alexander: What’s funny is putting me up here with three men looking like beautiful girls and then I have to look at me when I go home.

RuPaul: Well, now, I don’t think that’s true. No, no. I don’t think that’s true. I think you are lovely.

Rodi Alexander: No, I’m not.

Someone give her a reality series already.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.