As TCA begins, so do the questions

Greenblatt, Pedowitz address crix for first time

While network toppers glowingly offered their impressive stats during the upfronts without any back and forth from the assembled ad community, TV journos will now have their chance to have a dialogue.

As the two-week bi-annual Television Critics Assn. tour begins panels today at the Beverly Hilton, nets will be hawking their new wares and asking TV critics and reporters to believe that upcoming reality series starring barking dogs or dancing babies is set to be the next big thing.

Among some of the most newsworthy exec sessions, topical panels and questions sure to be asked:

• Although TCA is commonplace to many execs, it will be the first time NBC topper Robert Greenblatt will address the crix. He comes in fresh off the NBCU-Comcast merger, promising a newfound commitment to primetime programming.

Greenblatt will be touting a lineup of freshman shows he hopes will help pull the network out of fourth place.

That’s a tough sales job, but clearly easier than what some of his former colleagues had to endure at TCA in explaining the reasoning behind the Conan O’Brien-Jay Leno mess.

• While Greenblatt is accustomed to taking the stage at TCA, newly crowned CW topper Mark Pedowitz — the former head of ABC Studios — is less experienced in dealing with the press. He will be tasked with tubthumping shows that will appeal to the 18-34 female crowd, a chore he was far less familiar with while at the Alphabet.

• While “New Girl” might be one of the most buzzed about pilots for fall, questions posed to Kevin Reilly during the Fox exec session will likely be pointed more toward Rupert Murdoch than Zooey Deschanel. How the repercussions of the News Corp. brouhaha, and the role Rupert Murdoch played in the mess, may ultimately dictate what happens at Fox will be ripe for discussion.

• And there will, of course, be the “American Idol” questions: Is Jennifer Lopez set to return for a new season? How would that affect Steven Tyler coming back? And what does the Simon Fuller lawsuit against the network and FremantleMedia mean going forward for “The X Factor”?

• CBS president Nina Tassler will be a happier camper this time around, speaking of the fortunes for a renewed and Ashton Kutcher-fueled “Two and a Half Men.” Last time out, the first question posed to a seemingly annoyed Tassler was about Charlie Sheen, and how his quickly unraveling personal life was affecting the hit sitcom.

• On the cable side, HBO programming toppers Michael Lombardo and Richard Plepler will discuss the “Game of Thrones” phenomenon and what changes may occur in the pay cabler’s sports department following the exit of longtime president Ross Greenburg.

As for the personalities who will chat with the assembled masses for the first time, Paul McCartney will be on hand via satellite to discuss his upcoming Showtime doc “The Love We Make” and Jerry Lewis is due to talk about his Encore docu.

While the trade press will pounce on every word the execs say, those from the like of People and E! Online will clearly be more interested in other aspects of the tour.

One network PR exec said that TCA is as relevant as ever now, if not more so, especially for consumer publicity, with so many disparate websites and blogs covering the arena in addition to traditional outlets.

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