Cast members of FOX television’s "Bones," from lower left, Emily Deschanel, T.J. Thyne and Michaela Conlin, and upper left, David Boreanaz
Cast members of FOX television's "Bones," from lower left, Emily Deschanel, T.J. Thyne and Michaela Conlin, and upper left, David Boreanaz and Eddie McClintock, rehearse at the Fox studios in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2006. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
PASADENA

THE COURTYARD between two areas of a Pasadena eatery was packed with stars as Fox threw the best party of the entire winter press tour.

Up against a tree decorated in white lights, reporters pressed Kiefer Sutherland for even more intel on "24." We know there will be a romance between two secondary characters, and that there will be a big dust-up between Jack and his dad, who appears later in the season.

Fewer folks were gathered by "The O.C." creator Josh Schwartz, whose once white-hot series takes its final bow in a few weeks.

"I'm not forgetting the support we got, and continue to get, from The O.C. at Boalt fans," says Schwartz, referring to UC Berkeley's law students, who even started a scholarship in the name of the series' attorney dad, Sandy Cohen. "I'm going to do a very special homage to them in the final episode."

Former "Angel" star David Boreanaz used a very non-FCC friendly word to tell people that his show "Bones," about Brennan, an emotionally distant forensic scientist (Emily Deschanel) and the FBI agent Booth (Boreanaz), was "not a (insert word) procedural show."

"I don't give a (insert word) about who got murdered or who was murdered," the smiling and very animated Boreanaz says. "Because this is a (insert word) relationship show between Booth and Brennan. It's about your (insert word) friends, people you work with. That's what interests me and that's where this (insert word) series is going."

Boreanaz isn't the only one talking about changes in his series. Oakland's Kat Foster chatted about how her Fox series "'Til Death" starring Brad Garrett — the series that made almost every critic's worst-show-of-the-season list — is improving.

Really, how could it not? But Foster makes a good case for giving it a second chance.

"We've got (Bay Area comic) Margaret Cho on the series now, and we're making everyone much more interesting," Foster says. "You're learning more about my character, who has had quite a colorful past."

Speaking of colorful, cross-dressing British actor/comedian Eddie Izzard charmed everyone with his new Fx series "The Riches," about a family of con-artists who take over the lives of a deceased couple in an effort to get break away from their Traveler roots.

His wife is played by Minnie Driver, who talked about her character.

"She's very unlikable, but she's being dragged into changing her life when she really doesn't want to get away from her extended family and friends," Driver explains. "I'm so happy to have such a great role. It's not easy for women in my age group to get work in the movies, because all the good roles are going to women named Kate."

While nearly every Fox show was represented at the party, including Fx favorites from "The Shield," a significant group was missing: The "American Idol" judges, who almost always pop up at the Fox parties. But they were probably just glad to get through the press conference earlier in the day.

After waiting 40 minutes past the slotted "American Idol" panel time, critics started chanting "Paula. Paula. Paula." The wannabe rock star has been hitting the headlines, appearing on YouTube and becoming water cooler fodder for her on-camera antics during a series of satellite interviews.

In the interviews with a Seattle station and our very own KTVU-Channel 2 Fox affiliate, Abdul looked as if she might have inhaled.

"American Idol" judge Randy Jackson, center, laughs at a question as executive producer Ken Warwick, host Ryan Seacrest, and fellow judges Paula
"American Idol" judge Randy Jackson, center, laughs at a question as executive producer Ken Warwick, host Ryan Seacrest, and fellow judges Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell, from left, listen during a media presentation on the hit television show at the 2007 Fox Winter Press Tour, Saturday, Jan. 20, 2007, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Rene Macura)

Abdul has a reputation for bolting from the TV critics press tour, including last year when she said an eye-infection kept her from the panel — and left judges Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell left to explain it all. This time, however, Abdul finally took her place onstage with host Ryan Seacrest, and critics finally got a chance to grill Cowell, Abdul and Jackson about all their recent sins.

The judges circled the wagons, ready to take any bullet needed to get all this behind them.

Abdul explained how, in satellite interviews, you sit in a room with a green screen behind you looking at a camera hour after hour without actually looking at a person.

"I had two different cities in my ear," Abdul says, talking about the way the interviews are done. "I was answering questions to one and didn't know the other one was on as well."

Then Cowell took the big step and told everyone it was his fault that Abdul started babbling about moths and melons last year.

"The truth behind that was on the show, Paula said to me, 'I genuinely don't know what I should say.' So I said — I did make it up — 'Use the Chinese proverb I use: The moth who finds the melon will eat the corn flake,'" Simon says rather unconvincingly.

Even Jackson chimed in to say, "He said that to both of us."

And Seacrest added, "And I was kind of playing along."

"I publicly apologize," Cowell says.

Of course Abdul tears up a bit, hugs Cowell and claims she loves him even though he's left her out to dry for the past year on this silly thing.

For his part, Cowell looks like the guy who just ingested raw worms so his team can continue to race.

And that, my friends, is what people will do to protect a TV show that keeps breaking records.

And about the cola served on stage, Jackson wants you all to know it's just Diet Coke.

Moving on, the judges, especially Cowell, have been accused of being mean to auditioners who may be mentally challenged.

"I take your point, which is it's a singing competition and why should I call someone a bush baby," Cowell says. "Truthfully, on auditions or anything you do like this, bad things do happen, and I think that's why the audience trusts us, that we will show the good things as well as the bad things."

Actually, most people watch those ghastly audition shows because it makes them feel oh-so-much-better about themselves knowing there's someone on a lower social and intellectual rung.

After the session, Cowell told critics he did regret saying hurtful things, but that people show up for the competition knowing this is all part of it.

So, how would Mr. Toxic like to be remembered on his tombstone?

"I think it will say, 'Thank God he's gone,'" Simon quips.

And with that, my friends, we close out this portion of the TV Critics Winter Press Tour.

For more on the "American Idol" judges, why the creator of a new Fox series starring Rob Corddry is out to get Faye Dunaway and other insider stuff, check out the blog at http://www.ibabuzz.com/unscripted. You can reach Susan Young at syoung@angnewspapers.com or call (925) 416-4820.