Think it's awkward when you and your ex show up at the same party? Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez have no sympathy.
The newly split couple had to appear together before a roomful of reporters Saturday morning for a panel about their new Univision musical reality show, "Q'Viva! The Chosen," which they host and produce.
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Anthony and Lopez used a tried-and-true strategy for avoiding any uncomfortable questions about their personal lives: running out the clock.
It was only a mixed success.
The former couple managed not to look awkward together or make any tabloid-fodder comments as they sat side-by-side on-stage. As the assembled press watched carefully for any sign of discord, they displayed none. At one point, Anthony held Lopez's hand to look at the four huge rings on her fingers. After he let go, she briefly stroked his arm.
But that doesn't mean there was no awkwardness: It arose from the obviousness of the efforts to run out the clock. As the panel wore on, it became the second elephant in the room, even larger than the original elephant.
The reporters reacted to the attempt to shut out questions as if the state of the J.Lo-Anthony dynamic was — how to put this delicately? — important. It didn't help that it occurred at the cranky hour of 7:30 a.m. — and started late — on the 12th day of the 13-day Television Critics Association winter press tour. The circumstances made for the second most-awkward panel of the tour.
It wasn't as if the assembled press were trying to delve into the panelist's personal lives as Univision struggled nobly to keep the focus on the show. A sizzle reel previewing the series, shown at the start of the panel, asked, "What would you do to bring Marc and Jennifer together again?"
That reel ate up some of the allotted time for the session, and the panelists devoured several more minutes by questioning each other.
But then Philadelphia Inquirer veteran Jonathan Storm (affectionately dubbed "Stormy" by some of his colleagues) decided he'd had enough. Calling out from his seat, he demanded to know when reporters would be allowed to ask questions.
It was an edge-of-your-seat moment, but the panelists relented, and allowed Storm to ask his question, which was this: Will the show translate to English speaking audiences?
The answer: Yes. It features English, Spanish, and Portuguese speakers, and will appeal to all of them.
That established, Anthony tried to defuse the tension.
"This is a tough crowd," he said. "It's too early for this."
Added co-host Jamie King: "I feel like we're being roasted."
The next question, for Anthony and Lopez, delicately stepped on the very ground the panelists were so obviously trying to avoid: Can you talk about working together? And will the show be back for a second season if it succeeds?
Lopez seized on the second half of the question, ignoring the first: "It will be successful and there will be a season two."
Then the panelists and Univision organizers apologized that time was running short, ending the questions. But there was still time for another sizzle reel, the music of which cut out abruptly, and an eight-minute musical number.
As Lopez and Anthony remained on-stage, talented musicians and dancers performed some of the music from the show. The number including some intense swing dancing that featured three female dancers clinging to one male one by their thighs as he played the buttocks of the first two women like drums. It was impressive.
Then the panel was over. But during the butt drums, one heroic journalist (full disclosure: me) had maneuvered to the front of the stage to ask Anthony and Lopez the oh-so-pressing question of the day:
So, um, what's it like to work together again?
Rather than talking into our recorder, Lopez and Anthony spoke into the mic so the whole room could hear:
"Same as it was any other time we worked together," she said. "We have a great time working together."
As the reporters filed out, several questioned Univision spokeswoman Monica Talan about why there were so few opportunities for questions. She took the bullet for her stars, saying the panel had started late because of technical difficulties.
"Why did you not dispense with your own canned questions?" one reporter asked. "This is a press conference. That's where the press asks questions."
She said the panelsts took as many questions as time allowed.
Another reporter said the schedule should have been adjusted.
"You're right," Talan said. "We made some mistakes due to trying to adjust to the technical difficulties."
But Univision had done one thing right: Lopez and Anthony had made their way backstage, guided by a large bodyguard, their privacy intact.
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