The annual Television Critics Association press tour is under way this week: Amy Dawes reports on HBO day:
Gloria Steinem, focus of an HBO documentary premiering Aug. 15 titled Gloria: In Her Own Words, had consistent praise for the present generation of young women in remarks Thursday at her TCA panel, despite repeated inducements to disparage them based on their perceived looseness of dress and sexual behavior.
“There are more young women now who are feminist leaders than there ever were during my era,” said Steinem, who recently spent time on college campuses, “and young women have better shit detectors than we ever had.”
Steinem said that she sees this as particularly encouraging because “anthropologically speaking, women get more activist and radical with age, whereas it’s the reverse with men. And that’s because men gain power as they age, whereas women often lose it.” Asked if her to-do list includes improving opportunities for older women, Steinem replied, “I’m trying,” with a laugh. “Everywhere I go, I tell my age, because it’s a form of coming out.” She added, “I’m 77,” which given her svelte, largely unchanged appearance, set off a murmur of surprise in the room.
The doc shows Steinem as a pivotal figure during the early 1970s birth of the women’s movement, and in later interviews. It also shows her putting together the first issue of Ms. Magazine, which she helped found and edit in 1972.
“The idea of a feminist magazine seemed crazy to people. It was chaotic and scary. We were afraid that we would fail, and hurt the movement,” says Steinem. The first issue, meant to be on newsstands for three months, sold out in a week. Nearly 40 years later, the magazine is still around, with Steinem as consulting editor.
“In general, a movement has to last about 100 years to be really absorbed into a culture, and we’re about 40 years into this,” said Steinem. “I’m old, but the movement is young. I hope people take encouragement from this documentary.”
When asked about the sexually provocative dress and behavior of many female stars, Steinem said: “Is she doing it because she wants to, because she’s body proud? If so, I say great. If she’s doing it because she feels she has to, because she won’t be popular otherwise, than I say, that’s too bad.”
Steinem, who was among the most visible symbol of the women’s movement during its formative years, was happy to define the word feminist: “A feminist is, just as it says in the dictionary, a person, male or female, who believes in the full social, economic and political equality of women and men,” she said. “It means that you see the world whole instead of half. It shouldn’t need a name, and someday it won’t.”
HBO’s three-hour TCA presentation also featured the final gathering in one place of key cast members of “Entourage,” which recently wrapped production of its eighth and final season. Creator Doug Ellin and exec producer (and movie star) Mark Wahlberg appeared along with cast members Jeremy Piven, Adrian Grenier, Kevin Connoly, a slimmed-down Jerry Ferrara, and Kevin Dillon to bid goodbye to a show that went boldly inside the workings of Hollywood in a way that few have gone before.
“What we were trying to do from the beginning was make a realistic show, and we feel we’ve accomplished that, and so do most of the people in the town,” said Ellin.
Piven, who played the much emulated uber-agent Ari Gold, inspired by Ellin’s agent Ari Emanuel, said the show was sometimes a little too persuasive.
“I’ve had actors tell me they’ve fired their agent because he’s not enough like Ari,” said Piven. “It’s awkward when I have to explain that even (the real) Ari isn’t that much like Ari.”
“We’re all choked up, truthfully,” said Grenier of the last-time gathering. “We’ve spent eight years working really hard to create this. But we know we’ll always be connected to each other on some level.”
Wahlberg said he’s determined to pursue a movie version of the series, citing the success of The Hangover and other R-rated comedies as proof there could be a big enough audience to support it.
Also during the presentation, Mike White, Laura Dern and Luke Wilson were on hand to present upcoming HBO comedy series Enlightened, in which Dern plays a self destructive woman who has a spiritual awakening after a major emotional meltdown at the office. The pilot is written and directed by Mike White, from a story by Laura Dern. “I thought it would be good to do a show about someone who comes back from a publicly humiliating experience and says, ‘I’m not crazy,’ I’ve got the answers, only to find she has no credibility,” said White.
“When you’re inside a character who’s honest, you find out how incredibly unlikable a trait it is,” says Dern. “And until then you think it’s something people would revere.”
Among other news from the HBO panel:
True Blood creator Alan Ball said there’s no truth to rumors that this season will be his last, adding, “Every thing ends, but I’m having a great time and I have no plans to leave.”
HBO programming president Michael Lombardo indicated that the network will attempt to shorten the gaps between seasons of its shows. In discussing the return of Game of Thrones, targeted for early 2012, he said, “We’ve decided it’s a mistake to make the consumer wait more than a year.”
He said Luck, the long in the works horse-racing drama series starring Dustin Hoffman and directed by Michael Mann, will premiere in the beginning of January 2012. Bill Maher, celebrating ten years and a pickup of his show for for another season, introduced Lombardo and co-president Richard Plepler. “I like their shows,” said Maher. “When I was on networks, I never watched their shit.”