Published August 10. 2012 4:00AM
It's the moment before the moment of truth.
The new fall series are in the wings, just days or weeks from bursting into view and discovering their fate. Their stars, producers and network bosses are full of anticipation and resolve.
That's what the recent Television Critics Association powwow was all about: Casts and execs parading before the nation's TV reporters to get them stoked.
Granted, many of the stars who hawked their show with such conviction were relying on blind faith. Most were still a few days from resuming production. Some hadn't even seen any upcoming scripts. Their only firsthand knowledge was based on the series pilot they shot months ago.
But never mind the unknowns to be dealt with once they got back to work. They were excited that soon their show would reach the public and, just maybe, catch fire and air for years, then reign forever in syndicated reruns - a jackpot that might bring them new or boosted fame and untold riches, even a place in the annals of great TV.
The stakes are sky-high and, each fall, hope springs eternal.
So does reasonable doubt for most of the stars. They know launching a series that clicks with viewers is like striking oil or taking gold at the Olympics.
The painful truth is, the shows the stars came plugging at TCA will most likely be gone a year from now, when some of the same actors could be right back here promoting their next series - those actors, that is, who are lucky enough to land another series so quickly.
Consider Laura Benanti from the upcoming NBC comedy "Go On," who a year earlier sat here on the dais in the Beverly Hilton Hotel's grand ballroom as part of the ensemble of NBC's "The Playboy Club" - which was axed last fall after airing just three weeks.
Alongside her was "Go On" co-star Matthew Perry, who last season was at TCA plugging his ABC sitcom "Mr. Sunshine."
During the "Go On" session one reporter's question to him began with, "A lot of people in this room liked 'Mr. Sunshine,'" whereupon Perry got laughs with a joke at his own expense: "THIS is the room where people liked 'Mr. Sunshine'?"
"Mr. Sunshine" came and went in early 2011. Now Perry (whose new show got a sneak preview on Wednesday after NBC's Olympics coverage) is primed to take another swing.
So is Anthony Anderson, whose many TV credits include the Fox drama "K-Ville," which lasted just a few weeks in fall 2007.
Now he's in the NBC sitcom "Guys With Kids," and exuding positive energy.
"It's the job that I have at hand," said Anderson at NBC's poolside party, "so I send nothing but positive energy to it. That's the only way it's going to be successful. You manifest your own destiny."
Other actors have other coping techniques.
Mindy Kaling, fresh from "The Office," is the creator-writer-star of the Fox comedy "The Mindy Project," which suggests she might be feeling extra waves of pressure.
But there's good news, she said, for a multi-hyphenate: "When you're starring in a show you're also writing, you don't have extra time to do the neurotic things I would normally do, like obsess."
"You get nervous as hell," confided series veteran Michael Chiklis, now back with "Vegas," a CBS drama. "I feel like this show is such a great thing, but I'm mildly superstitious and afraid to be cocky. I don't want to get ahead of myself."
Terry O'Quinn, who scored belated TV stardom on "Lost," now is headlining as a devilish landlord on ABC's spooky thriller "666 Park Avenue," and he takes nothing for granted.
"I feel very uncertain, not terribly well-balanced," he said with a wan smile, "and having done this for a living for this long, that's a fairly normal state. I hope the show succeeds, but I've become pretty philosophical about the numerous failures that one suffers in this business."
For many stars, the best policy at a moment like this is to stay sharply focused on just doing the job, and let the rest of the process take care of itself.
Justin Bartha stars as one-half of a committed gay couple in the NBC comedy "The New Normal," and while declaring his pride in the show he confessed, "I don't even know when it will air, to be honest."
"Everybody is cautiously optimistic," said his co-star Andrew Rannells (a Tony winner for the hit musical "The Book of Mormon"), adding with cautious optimism, "our fingers are crossed."
Jordana Spiro, who formerly starred in the TBS comedy "My Boys," insisted that right now she means to "keep my head down and do good work and not look like a schmuck" on her new Fox drama, "The Mob Doctor."
But after it premieres, that could change. "If people really respond to it I may get a bit dizzy and say, 'Whoa, wait a second! This is kind of a big deal!'"
Meanwhile, nothing can hold back JoAnna Garcia Swisher. A star of the NBC sitcom "Animal Practice" (which gets a post-Olympics preview on Sunday), she already is dreaming about a big deal.
"I'm always hoping for the best, that's my personality," she explained with a grin. "I'm already thinking about syndication!"