TV PRESS TOUR
“Jon & Kate Plus 8" returns from hiatus Monday night, and TLC wants you to know that the network has taken “great care and thoughtfulness” as it shoots the couple in the middle of a highly publicized divorce.
“It’s a subject many, many Americans are familiar with,” President and General Manager of TLC Eileen O’Neill said Thursday during the semiannual gathering of the Television Critics Assn. in Pasadena. “And we’re dealing with it in a respectful and sensitive way.”
Otherwise, the episodes remain “works in progress,” she continued and offered at least one big change for the cable show that drew more than 10 million viewers as the couple’s strained relationship became tabloid fodder earlier this year. The “iconic couch” has been replaced by separate interview chairs for Jon and Kate.
And instead of the couple rearing children together, viewers will see what it’s like for a single parent to watch eight on his or her own. Kate will attempt for the first time to put up a tent for the kids in her backyard, while Jon will struggle in the kitchen trying to make pizza for the family.
But what about Jon’s new girlfriend? (Or girlfriends?)
O’Neill said that new people coming in and out of the show would be handled “on a case-by-case basis. This is real life. And it’s important to remember our cameras are there for limited amounts of time.”
Lamas, son share more than a name
Well, that was a little awkward: Just a few weeks after Star magazine reported that Lorenzo Lamas’ ex-wife and former Playboy model Shauna Sand had an affair with Lamas’ son A.J., the pair were seated Thursday on opposite ends of a couch. The father and son were there to promote their new E! reality series “The Lamas Life.” The subject of the affair came up first, and, initially, was quickly shot down. “I don’t make comments and I don’t, and I don’t encourage my kids to make comments, about public stories. . . . So I guess, you’ll have to watch the show to find out how we deal with it,” Lorenzo said.
But reporters pressed to hear why any of the Lamases thought starring in a reality show would be a good idea given the family’s strained circumstances.
The family is no stranger to the spotlight: Lorenzo was the star of the TV series “Falcon Crest” and “Renegade,” daughter Shayne was the winner of “The Bachelor” and is pursuing an acting career, as is A.J. His other daughter Dakota is pursuing a career in the music industry.
Lorenzo said, for him, the show was a chance to reunite with his son.
“Before we started working together on the show, it had been a few years since we spoke,” he said. “It is unusual. But it was a chance to make things better.”
“There is only one way to get a family together and that’s television,” executive producer Mike Fleiss joked. “And that’s what the E! channel is all about. Bringing people together.”
A.J. said he was more than hesitant. “I was like you,” he told the room. “Like, ‘A . . . reality show to come back together?’ But if that’s what it takes.” He said he’d seen more of his dad in the last two weeks than in the last four years. “We’re working on it. I have issues with him, he has issues with me . . . you know, just watch the show.”
Another of Lorenzo’s ex-wives and the mother of all three children, Michele Smith, is on the show and was also present on the panel.
“We are in a sense rebuilding our lives, professionally and personally,” Lorenzo said. “We are dealing with very personal dynamics and the challenges that we face, having the public eye and spotlight again. I think it will be interesting for the audience to see how we cope with this new opportunity.”
Reality show and the ‘D’ word
Another reality show about newlyweds? Don’t most end in divorce?
Reporters at the panel for “Giuliana & Bill” wanted to know: Why do it? Especially given that the Style network show follows the long-distance married life of E! News anchor Giuliana Rancic and Season 1 “The Apprentice” winner Bill Rancic. She lives in L.A. and he lives in Chicago. The two met when she interviewed him after his victory.
“We thought about it, definitely,” Bill said. “There is that reality show curse, but this is different.” How? “It makes being married cool. There is no flipping tables or cursing at each other. It’s very positive.”
With respect, one reporter piped up, the stars of those previous shows came to press tour happy and in love too. And the next thing you know, their breakups were plastered all over the tabloids.
Giuliana said watching the first episode was tough. But, she countered, “I make a living getting personal things out of celebrities. . . . If I can’t do the same thing, I’d be a hypocrite.”
The drama of “Giuliana & Bill” will also be, well, pretty mundane. The couple said episodes will focus on the everyday stresses and strains on the recently married and, in their case, commuting cross-country.
And those other reality show couples? “My theory is that these shows accelerate the breakup,” Giuliana said. “Those couples would have broken up anyway.”
In contrast, she said being on the show has improved their relationship.
“When something private is exposed or we get emotional, we make sure to talk about it,” she said. “If you are strong enough as a couple it can actually be a good thing. I think I know Bill better now [because] we’re forced to learn a lot about the way you deal with issues.”
Giuliana said she also realized how “annoying” she could be on camera.
“I’m like the most annoying person!” she said. “If I didn’t have the show, I’d have never known. Now I apologize to my family for being annoying.”
“Giuliana & Bill” premieres Wednesday.