Pussycat Dolls: "It is empowering to just chill out" (Press Tour/Day 11)

P-r-r-r-fect embodiments of today's "third wave feminism" or just six brazen Booby Dolls? Clockwise from top left: Pussycat Dolls sextet Jessica, Ashley, Melody, Kimberly, Carmit and Nicole

PASADENA, Calif. -- Cats got your tongues? Not at this "press tour" classic pitting promoters of the CW network's upcoming hunt for a seventh Pussycat Doll against TV critics with their claws out.

A colleague from Canada led the charge Friday after den mother Robin Antin essentially portrayed the Pussycats as veritable Carrie Nations exemplifying every woman's search for her "inner doll."

McG (real name Joseph McGinty Nichol), best known for directing the two Charlie's Angels movies, didn't help by earlier extolling the Dolls as "powerful, sexy and sort of like a snapshot of the contemporary woman being everything she can be."

Frankly, what a load of McCrap. So from the lion's den came this: "My daughter's almost 17, and just to be devil's advocate, she sees this all as like a giant step back for women. Why should young girls aspire to dress up like 'skanks' and sing 'Don't you wish your boyfriend was hot like me?' "

Antin, who launched the Dolls concept in 1995, preferred to call their outfits "cute." Then co-executive producer Ron Fair invoked the name of existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre in explaining that "there's a lid for every pot. Not everybody's going to respond to it in the same way. We're in the entertainment business and we've made great strides and been very, very careful to not make this into a burlesque show . . . So I applaud your daughter for her position, but it just might not be for her."

To which the unmoved critic retorted, "You've been using words like 'empowering,' and it sounds like these girls are running for president."

Pussycat Dolls founder Robin Antin and TV producer McG.

Fair, Antin and ex-con rapper Lil' Kim will be the three judges on CW's eight-episode Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll, which doesn't have an air date yet. The singing, dancing, writhing sextet's debut CD has sold nearly six million copies worldwide and spawned five hit singles ranging from Don't Cha to StickWitu. They'll be in Dallas at American Airlines Center on Feb. 21.

The Dolls didn't attend Friday's festivities, but Lil' Kim says they're "one of my favorite groups ever." Not only that, they are "everything that I've developed myself into being. Just the allure of being in front of that camera and able to show your sexiness and your sensual side is something that all women like to kind of bring forward at one point in time."

Another critic wondered about that. "I'm just always puzzled by this thing about how it's celebrating women," he said before repeating one of the Dolls' song lyrics -- 'Don't you wish your girlfriend was like a freak like me?' In what sense does that celebrate other women?"

McG gazed upon the questioner and saw a middle-aged man with a thick beard, a thicker physique and a what-the-hell-do-I-care-what-I-look-like wardrobe. So he McPounced.

"You must understand the fundamental paradox of a gentleman of your age demo asking that very question," he sniffed. "Naturally this isn't in the wheelhouse of what you may find compelling on television or in your CD changer right now. And that is the vernacular, contemporary colloquialisms of how kids interact. I don't know if you two-way your friends on your Sidekick."

Oh, this was getting good. Gabby Hayes fired back, saying, "I think hot girls are tremendous." But he still wondered about that "freak like me" riff.

"It's very simple," said Fair. "It's just a word. And what we mean by empowering is putting catchy songs into the universe that become hit records that people can cut loose to on Friday after a long week at work. It is empowering to just chill out and dance to the song. . . And that is a celebration when you can do that freely and get out of the constraints of your own brain for three minutes and 25 seconds."

All concerned got out of the constraints of their own brains for a full 40 minues before CW head of communications Paul McGuire drily called it quits.

"But you know how Jean-Paul Sartre was known as a 'freak' in his day," he said. "On that note, we gotta wrap this up."

Happy together: Producer Chris Rock and star Tyler James Williams.

Later Friday, Chris Rock and fellow cast members and producers of Everybody Hates Chris met with critics to talk about CW's early third-season pickup of the Monday night comedy series.

Rock, who co-produces the show with Ali LeRoi and also provides its narrative voice, mostly threw out a series of sharp one-liners. Fasten your seat belts because some of them get pretty dicey.

On whether he now can rest on his laurels -- "I don't relax. We're already on the CW. What's next? BET?"

About the initial scheduling on Sunday nights before CW quickly switched Chris back to Mondays -- "My TiVo wouldn't even watch the show on Sunday nights. Every week, 60 Minutes. Damn."

What he might do to "create more awareness" for the show -- "Well, in about a week I'm going to have Terry (cast member Terry Crews, who plays little Chris's dad) run through a club screaming (the n-word). Gonna generate some buzz."

How he feels about efforts by the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton to stop use of the n-word by people of all color -- "Oh man, I don't know. I just told my broker to buy me 80 shares of 'Coon'. "

On whether they could get Michael Richards to guest-star in atonement for his racial tirade at a comedy club -- "He's busy working on Apocalypto II."

Would he actually offer a job to Michael Richards? -- "Wow, I don't know. I mean, I'd have to make sure all the other non-(n-word) screaming people didn't need jobs first."