LOS ANGELES -- The grumblings of veteran TV writers like myself get louder and louder each year at the TV Critics press tour as networks offer less and less availability of their talent. Either the biggest names pose for pictures and then jump into their limos or they attend the evening parties with such protection that you can't get within 20 feet of them without the fear of being maced.
So kudos to the CBS empire for throwing an ol' fashioned party Monday night, which honored the fact that these events are designed for regional reporters to be able to collect quotes for big stars rather than a chance for celebrities to party with each other.
Chairman Leslie Moonves set the tone by filling in for entertainment president Nina Tassler for the morning press conference (she was called away due to the passing of a close friend) and then literally closing the evening soiree, as he and his wife, "Big Brother" host Jule Chen, being the last big name's to leave.
In addition to the opportunity to catch up with TV's most powerful couple, I was able to chitchat at ease with lots of top-tier talent. Among the highlights:
Oscar winner Jon Voight talked passionately about his role ini Showtime's "Ray Donovan," which many consider to be his juiciest role since "Coming Home." He told me that he realized TV offered great, challenging work after his guest star stint on "24" and by getting hooked on "The Sopranos."
Don Cheadle was hilarious, loose and sarcastic as he talked about his Emmy-nominated turn in Showtime's "House of Lies." But he laid off the jokes--temporarily--when asked who he thought should win in his category of best actor in a comedic role.
"I'm rooting for Louie C.K.," he said.
Cheadle also indulged me with memories from his time at The Guthrie and the Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis. He got nostalgic about the long drives he took from Los Angeles to Minnesota ever year and called that period one of "best times of my life." But he refused to acknowledge that The Guthrie still exists. In his mind, the theatre closed as soon as it moved downtown.
JB Smoove, who works alongside Will Arnett in the new CBS sitcom, "The Millers," talked about his chemistry with Larry David, who he improvises with so well in both "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and the hilarious HBO movie, "Clear History." He compared their chemistry to the one shared by Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor.
"It's like two people coming around the corner, bumping into each other and then giving each other a hug," he said.
I got to gush over Beau Bridges for his performance in "The Fabulous Baker Boys," one of my all-time favorite movies.
"That was magic," said Bridges, who also appears in "The Millers." "We didn't change a word.
To punctuate our conversation, Bridges said, "Ride easy, man," which is now the way I plan to say goodbye to everyone.
Caught Allison Janney, star of the upcoming CBS sitcom, "Mom," dancing to the beat coming over speakers at the parking-lot party, just across the street from the Beverly Hilton. Take it from me: The woman has got some moves.
The only strange encounter of the evening came when I approached a solitary Garrett Morris who seemed taken aback when I introduced myself and asked him what kind of music he's listening to.
"Are you recording this?" he said. When I answered that indeed I was, he looked off to the side and said, "I wish you would have told me that before we started." Um, we HADN'T started. From that point on, it got even more awkward as the "2 Broke Girls" actor and "SNL" veteran was more animated in introducing me to his friends than addressing any of my softball questions.
Guess it's time to go back to watching Janney bust a move.