HOLLYWOOD — For the next three weeks, people who make TV shows are going to be telling people who write about TV shows just how great their TV shows are.

And some of them will be right.

But some of those addressing members of the Television Critics Association will be full of baloney. And the things they say this month will come back to haunt them.

Take, for instance, Randy Quaid and Carol Kane. Two talented people who signed on to a sitcom called "The Grubbs," and who, almost exactly a year ago, told critics just what a great show it was.

"It's really good, solid writing," Quaid said.

"For me, it's 100 percent about the writing," Kane said, "and I think we have just wonderful writers."

"You're too kind," said executive producer Joshua Sternin.

The only one telling the truth there was Sternin. Quaid and Kane were much too kind. If you don't recall seeing a sitcom titled "The Grubbs" on TV, well, you didn't. The pilot was bad and the handful of additional episodes that were produced were apparently worse.

"The Grubbs" was so bad that Fox canceled it without ever putting it on the air. And this is Fox we're talking about here — a network that has aired a lot of shows that are embarrassingly bad. A network that, at times, has seemed on the verge of airing public executions, if only Fox programmers thought they could get away with it.

So, yes, there's a lot of lying that goes on here. Some of it's understandable, frankly. The president of a network isn't going to get up in front of the press and tell you Sitcom X and Drama Y are awful shows, even if he or she knows they are. (And the truth is, they do know sometimes. When they're picking shows, they're often picking what they see as the least of several evils.)

And you can't exactly blame writers, producers and stars for hyping their own projects. It's how they make their living, after all.

But we're not as dumb as they think we are. Most of us can smell the stinkers, and some of us express our opinions in our questions.

"Are there things in the pilot you think need to be adjusted?" one critic somewhat kindly asked the producers of "The Grubbs."

Not that all of us are that subtle.

"Fox already had 'Married . . . With Children,' " asked another critic. "Are you trying to lower the bar a little more?"

Which is not to say that the TCA press tour is nothing but lies. There really are good shows and smart people who write and produce them. And smart executives who put them on the air.

Hollywood gets a bad rap that it doesn't always deserve. There are a lot of people here who not only put good shows on the air, but who are bright and erudite. Perhaps more than there are who try to take what they've said and write bright, interesting TV columns.

As for the baloney, well, that's just fun.

Puh-leeze. TV critics (at least TV critics like yours truly) live for the moments when interviewees say unintentionally hilarious things. And there are few things more amusing than listening to people trying to tell us that a piece of garbage is a precious gem.

And, sometimes, the silliness can be fun to reflect back on. Like when the producers of "The Grubbs" (which was based on a British sitcom) compared producing seven episodes a year for the BBC with producing 22 episodes a year for an American TV network.

"Would you rather have been able to do just seven?" asked one critic.

"We may get our wish," said executive producer Jeffrey Ventimilia.


E-MAIL: pierce@desnews.com