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TCA: Once more unto the breach

ThewarHere we go again. The summer Television Critics Assn. tour is upon is. Ken Burns is the big draw at the Beverly Hilton today, talking up his 14-hour mini “The War,” which looks at World War II from the homefront perspective of four American hamlets: Waterbury, Conn.; Mobile, Ala.; Sacramento, Calif.; and the tiny farming community of Luverne, Minn. “The War,” produced and directed by Burns and Lynn Novick, has been six years in the making. It’s also been the project that put Burns in the unfamiliar position of fielding some pretty harsh criticism for his take on history, from Hispanic and Native American advocacy groups who claimed his mini overlooked their contributions to the war effort. (According to the AP, Burns addressed this issue during his TCA sesh, saying he’s added nearly a half-hour of material featuring Hispanic and Native American stories to the doc.) I just got my screener copy on Monday and am eager to set aside some time to watch it. If nothing else, Burns is meticulous about his research and has surely turned up some amazing images to tell this tale, like the one at left from somewhere in the South Pacific in 1944. PBS is bolding going to “War” during the thick of fall premiere week, rolling out the series in seven parts across two weeks beginning Sept. 23.

After PBS wraps up today, the wired-world takes over on Thursday for four days of cable-iscious fun. The presentation sked to the best of my knowledge is:

THURSDAY: Lifetime; FX, National Geographic Channel; Hallmark Channel; HBO, which outta be very intriguing given that it’s the first major public event for the post-Albrecht regime.

FRIDAY: MTV Networks; BBC America; Discovery Networks; E! and G4

SATURDAY: Disney-ABC Cable; ESPN; GSN; Sundance Channel; Showtime

SUNDAY: Turner nets; BET; Rainbow Networks; History Channel; NBC Universal Cable

As of MONDAY, the broadcasters take over starting with two days of NBC, which also outta be interesting with the new Ben Silverman-Marc Graboff regime taking the stage for the first time.

WEDNESDAY-THURSDAY is all about CBS, which as usual is coming off another season of stability, making it hard for the scribe tribe to find much to grill entertainment prexy Nina Tassler about, other her love for musical theater and how it led to the pickup of “Viva Laughlin.”

FRIDAY belongs to the CW. Co-toppers Dawn Ostroff and John Maatta probably have a bet going as to how quickly the “so why didn’t you grow by leaps and bounds in your first year?” question is lobbed.

SATURDAY is a day of rest and awards, as the TCA’s annual honors will be handed out to worthy programs (“Friday Night Lights,” anyone?) and individuals, no doubt. (Click here for noms.)

SUNDAY-MONDAY ought to be good too as Fox, not to be outdone with NBC, brings out its new regime of ex-NBC-er Kevin Reilly and newly promoted Peter Liguori. Those two probably have a bet going as to who gets the first “how long can ‘American Idol’ keep it up?” question.

And finally, after a day of rest on Tuesday (July 24), the network that comes first alphabetically heads up the final two days of the tour, WEDNESDAY-THURSDAY (July 25-26), a cruel slot that no network with a show as good as “Lost” and a pilot as charming as “Pushing Daisies” should have to endure. But if anyone’s got the spine to fend off back whatever a group of cranky critics have to throw at him, it’s ABC Entertainment prexy Stephen McPherson.

So let ‘er rip! Look for a steady stream of TCA dispatches here from yours truly plus my talented TV colleagues at Variety, including two, Mssrs. Zeitchik and Learmonth, who have winged in from Gotham just for the occasion.

And please, oh gods of auto-congestion, let the self-park garage at the Hilton not be too clogged…There’s nothing like inching your way down those steep ramps when all you really wanna do is get back to the real world.

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