Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA.

The critics took out their verbal blades at an afternoon TCA panel hyping the new CW reality show H8R that goes to great lengths to bring “celebrities” together with those who trash talk about them on the Internet. The early episodes will feature the likes of Snooki from Jersey Shore. The biggest names participating in the series so far are Eva Longoria and Leah Remini. Critics peppered exec producers Mike Fleiss and Lisa Gregorisch-Dempsey and exec producer/host Mario Lopez with questions about who would watch the famous go to great lengths to convert their biggest non-fans into supporters. One questioner wondered whether viewers would eventually see an episode where President Obama comes face to face with a Tea Party member.

But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the panel was the fact that Fleiss, producer of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, among other unscripted shows, was just blowing smoke — literally. It turns out that the cigarette in his mouth was the electric variety rather than made from tobacco, and the smoke coming out of it was actually vapor “mixed with a little bit of nicotine,” he said after someone finally had the courage to indeed ask what Fleiss was smoking. He added, “I’m trying to quit cigarettes. And I think it’s working.” No word on whether he’ll be forced to take up tobacco again pending the H8R ratings results.

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