The Television Critics Association's semi-annual press tours are always at least a bit odd, given the fact that you've got more than 100 TV critics jammed into a hotel firing questions at people who work in TV.
But the sessions don't normally get quite this weird - more than 100 TV critics firing questions at Prince Edward, the youngest child of Queen Elizabeth II.Edward was here to talk about his upcoming PBS series titled "Crown & Country," a series of half-hour travelogues visiting famous English sites ranging from Windsor Castle to Portsmouth to Sandringham to Cambridge. He's not only the producer but the rather genial host.
And he contributed to the oddness of it all. A man who has spent his entire life avoiding answering questions, he's learned that lesson well. The fact is that, were he not Prince Edward, he'd be neither producing nor hosting anything. And the only thing anybody is really interested in hearing from him is what it's like to be a member of the royal family.
But that's something he refused to discuss.
"Whether anybody will end up being better informed about the royal family as a result of this (series), I doubt," Edward said. "Most of it is firmly in the past."
But he really didn't have a lot to say about the programs either. He did say that "being thrust in front of the camera was certainly not on my agenda initially, but I kept getting my arm twisted to do it," Edward said.
(Gee, didn't they used to throw people in the Tower of London for twisting a prince's arm? Ah, for the good old days.)
Edward's behavior was far less strange than that of a good number of critics, who seemed rather overwhelmed to be in the presence of royalty. Some almost seemed to be affecting British accents as they asked their questions.
And the subject of accents did come up.
"Edward, it was mentioned that you had unusual access," said one critic. "Can you give an example in this program of how that access paid off for you?"
Edward seemed nonplused for moment. "Oh - ACCESS," he finally said. "I'm sorry, I thought you said `accents' and I was thinking, `What?' I didn't know I had a reputation for strange accents."
PBS officials told critics before the press conference that, as he was not there in any sort of royal capacity, Edward was going by the name of simply Edward Windsor. He was to be address as simply Edward, not Mr. Windsor or Your Royal Highness or any of that.
"Certainly in our country, we have hang-ups about titles. It's as simple as that," Edward said. "I don't think you have so much in your country. So if I come to this country to talk to people about producing programs, people will just accept that that's what I'm there to talk about.
"In Britain, if you've got a title you obviously don't have any brains, so there's no point talking about anything else."
One questioner still insisted on calling Edward "Your Highness," which the prince politely ignored. Another questioner made a fool out of himself without even being aware that he had done so.
"You've played a lot of roles in your life, from military man to crown prince in England," the questioner said, pretty much blowing it on both counts. First of all, Edward was indeed in the military, but only briefly - and his quick exit caused a bit of a stir, at least on the other side of the Atlantic.
As to his being the crown prince, well, that's poppycock. Prince Charles is the crown prince, and Edward has about as much chance of being king of England as he does of being world renowned for his producing skills.
Edward wasn't precisely blunt, but he was certainly brief at times. One bizarre question was framed like this: "Is the surname of the family Mountbatten Windsor? And the second part of the question is - does the queen consult with you, do you consult with the queen about any of the aspects of these things that you're doing, obviously about the history and the heritage which you've all inherited; is there any interplay there in any way?"
Edward's answer was concise. "No," he said.
It took WNET's Bill Grant to answer that the family name is Windsor. (It was actually Mountbatten until it was changed during World War I to something less Germanic.)
Asked why he thinks Americans are fascinated with British royalty, he replied, "I don't know. You shouldn't ask me that question. Perhaps you should ask a few of the people around here."
Actually, Edward's response to a question about how his family feels about his job as a television producer was pretty much right on the mark.
"What does your family think about your being a journalist?" he politely shot back. "I mean, it's a silly question, isn't it really? Please."
But it wasn't as bad as one radio reporter apparently looking for a soundbite with that personal touch.
"Edward, I understand what you mean when you say that your country is very hung up on titles," this woman said. "So I'm going to ask you this question, Gail to Edward . . ."
At which point the prince interjected, "Before long, I'm going to think that America's hung up on titles as well."
Edward did stick around after the press conference, continuing to take questions at a PBS reception - and continuing not to answer most of them.
But there was one priceless moment that made it all worthwhile. Juanita Buschkoetter, a rural Nebraska woman who, along with her husband, is the subject of the upcoming "Frontline" documentary "The Farmer's Wife," did chat with the prince for a bit.
The sight of this lovely, normal woman who had just flown on an airplane for the first time the day before talking to Prince Edward was great enough. But when she asked, "So, when is YOUR series on?" it was priceless.
NO NAME CHANGE: A question about whether naming their new talk show "Marie & Donny" instead of "Donny and Marie" drew different responses from the Osmond siblings.
"I love you!" Marie said.
"No! Don't even go there," Donny said. "To be honest with you, it was considered for a second. But I wouldn't sign a contract."
TAKING A SHOT: Roseanne, who was known for battling with and firing a number of producers during her sitcom days, apparently isn't completely over the bitterness that developed.
"I think I've learned how important it is to be able to delegate," she said of her role on her talk show (on which she's also credited as an executive producer). "And I didn't really know how to do that too well on my `Roseanne' show. But I didn't have the caliber of producers on that show that I have on this one."
Those producers included series creator Matt Williams and a guy by the name of Tom Arnold - her second husband, whom she has since divorced.