Programming

The Best and Worst Of Upfront Week

What hit and what tanked onstage in New York 5/24/2010 01:01:00 AM Eastern
We won’t really know anything about the new slate of shows until the fall,
but this year’s upfront presentations had plenty of highs
and lows. If you couldn’t score a hot upfront ticket, here’s what you missed.

THE BEST
Rapping David Poltrack: With apologies to every single preview
of a new show, the best clip of the week
went to CBS, which put together a hysterical
piece featuring a rapping research chief David
Poltrack calling “bullshit” on some faulty numbers.
Making it even more special (besides the
fact Poltrack himself found out about it only
two days before the show) is that it was put
together by the late Ron Scalera.


Reilly Plays It Straight:
Upfront presentations
are known for spin and fluff, but Fox entertainment chief
Kevin Reilly went the opposite direction onstage when talking
about American Idol. Instead, he came right out and said the show
was down in the ratings and maybe showing its age. The result:
instant credibility for everything Reilly said the rest of the day.
Amazing what just telling the truth does.

Jane Lynch: Unfortunately for Reilly, he wasn’t the only one being
brutally honest onstage that day. In full Sue Sylvester character
and to thunderous laughter, the Glee star unloaded on Reilly’s
physical attributes. The best line: “He has been coasting on those
shiny weatherman looks for too long.”

NBC’s Upfront: NBC is back. Well, its upfront is anyway. NBC’s
presentation made it feel like a network again, with a slate of clips that
at least look like they have a shot. NBC execs say quietly they want at
least one drama and one comedy to hit, but if they get just one or the
other, they’ll be back on the right track. And they’d better be; they are
spending about 40% more in development than last year. If this is
entertainment president Angela Bromstad’s one shot, so far so good.


Turner’s Party:
After its upfront, Turner hosted a fancy luncheon
just for its talent, executives and the media at an upscale
restaurant. Giving the media that much access in a non-rushed
(except for Conan, who had to fly back to Chicago for a show that
night) and casual environment showed confidence and savvy as
Turner looks to cement its acquisition-happy buzz.

THE WORST
No Breakout Star: Last year, everyone left New York knowing
that Modern Family was going to be a smash hit. ABC went with
the gutsy move of playing the entire pilot, it absolutely killed at
Lincoln Center, and everyone was buzzing. But this year, while
there were plenty of solid-looking prospects, there definitely is not
one show that swept people collectively off their feet.

Late-Night Hosts: Usually the network late-night hosts bring
some much-needed yuks, but not this year. Jimmy Fallon took a
guitar onstage and promptly challenged Jay Leno’s White House
Correspondents’ dinner appearance as the biggest bomb by a latenight
host this year. And at ABC, Jimmy Kimmel fell far below his
regular slaying. He did get big laughs for a great Glee joke (saying
by putting it on after the Super Bowl, Fox is trying to set a new
record for most drunk guys saying “What the f**k is this?” all at
once). But other than that, he mostly fell flat while lazily going
after low-hanging fruit like NBC and Paula Abdul.

ESPN’s Upfront: ESPN’s surprisingly low-energy presentation
missed the mark and wasn’t up to the impressive sheer power of its
über-brand. After setting a high bar for itself in recent upfronts, this
year’s show just had too many people in suits painfully reading off a
TelePrompTer. Co-host Colin Cowherd was flat and lifeless, but the
bright spot was co-host Michelle Beadle, who looks like a rising star.

My Generation: ABC’s new drama had gotten great buzz coming
into the upfronts, and the network even tried to add to the
anticipation by holding back its
clip until later in the show. But it
wasn’t worth the wait, as the clip
was largely panned afterward.
The good news for ABC, however,
is that a drama not clipping well
isn’t the death sentence a bad
comedy clip is (because if you
can’t find 30 seconds of funny,
how will 22 minutes look?). Plus,
No Ordinary Family with Michael Chiklis looks like a big keeper.

September
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