The Best and Worst of Upfront Week - Broadcasting & Cable

The Best and Worst of Upfront Week

What attendees flipped for—and what flopped—at upfronts
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Complete Coverage: Upfronts 2013

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Click here to view pilot clips and trailers from the networks' new shows.

Best Pre-Taped Exec Performance


Univision Communications CEO Randy Falco sent up the once-common pre-taped upfront executive skits when the former NBC exec appeared in an on-message spoof of the AT&T "It's Not Complicated" ads that feature a man in a suit asking simple questions to children such as, "Which is better, more or less?"

In the video bit, Falco also asks the kids around him what they'd do if they paid $2 for a donut and only got half a donut as well as what they'd do if they got more donuts than they paid for. Kids, of course, say the darndest things so hilarity ensues. Falco on a voiceover ends the piece with: "It's not complicated. Univision is the only network where you pay for more, not for less."

Watch Falco's spoof here.


0520 Upfront Best Worst Early Contenders

Kung-Fu Koonin Kills

Not to be outdone by his own technical-snafu-saving self at a past upfront, in his opening, Turner Entertainment Networks president Steve Koonin('s stunt doubles) busted out incredible and hilarious acrobatics, juggling on a unicycle and doing great break dancing moves.

Best-Kept Secret

ABC stole some spotlight upfront eve, announcing May 12 its authenticated streaming app Watch ABC. The initiative marks the first time a broadcaster is offering a 24/7 stream of stations' content (local, network and syndicated). It premiered as part of a free preview on WABC and WPVI on May 14, the day of ABC's upfront presentation.

Best Surprise Appearance

In his first upfront appearance in 15 years, David Letterman appeared onstage at the CBS show, thanked CBS CEO Leslie Moonves and called Moonves "the man who single-handedly saved network television."

Best Genes

The CW, deservedly known for having some of the best-looking young stars on the tube, did not have to look far to cast its next potential heartthrob. At last week's presentation, The CW's Arrow star Stephen Amell was joined onstage by the star of CW's upcoming The Tomorrow People, which will join Arrow on Wednesdays. Arrow's Amell and Tomorrow People's Robbie Amell then revealed they're also joined by something else: blood. The two are cousins.

Best Show-Stealer: Netflix's Bluth Banana Stand

Attendees leaving NBC's upfront at Radio City Music Hall around 1 p.m. last Monday were greeted by a guy in a banana suit by the exit. He was part of a stunt Netflix set up across the street: A pop-up Bluth Banana Stand giving out free frozen bananas-a nod to the resurrected series Arrested Development. NBC's upfront, which was shorter than last year's lengthy presentation, did not provide refreshments. So free food was a welcome sight to many an upfront-goer, even if the banana stand line extended around the corner and down the street. The iconic stand is on a tour to promote Netflix' May 26 launch of new, original episodes of the series. The tour locations are announced via Twitter at @arresteddev. About 7,500 people moved through the line across from Radio City, Netflix said. The stand was all over New York last week, but its appearance outside the first upfront of the week was hardly coincidental.

Missed Opportunity: Remembering the 'Show' in Show Business

Anyone who is in the business of putting shows on the air would best be served to put on a show at the upfront-especially with presentations held at iconic structures around Manhattan. Several companies did this well-Turner with its Koonin stunt-double and live comedy; USA with a musical number from the cast of Psych, a virtual choir featuring most of the USA characters (and the ad sales staff), fireworks and performance by Passion Pit; ESPN with anchors and sports figures galore; and Univision, which had snow and telenovela stars and a performance by Enrique Iglesias.

Granted, the cable programmers don't have to wait until the last minute like the broadcast nets to set their schedules, but there are things they do know and they can play to those strengths. It was a no-brainer for ABC to again spotlight Jimmy Kimmel, who always kills roasting the network. But it's CBS who continues to show how it's done, with its surprise David Letterman appearance, a comedy set by Robin Williams and kicking off the show with a musical number by the How I Met Your Mother cast, which concluded the song live, in person, onstage at Carnegie Hall, using yellow umbrellas iconic to the show. Fox runs a tight ship with good exec banter and welcomed attendees with fanfare and free chocolate bars. It's also no coincidence that CBS and Fox, the two top-rated networks, are also the top upfront party-throwers, presenting lavish gatherings with access to their stars and sales forces that add true sparkle. So it really sticks out when networks don't seize the platform they have to show off their shows. We don't mean to pick on NBC, but they know they have Olympics and a big new late-night plan to tout. Rather than lean on the execs who even admitted up there that they're exhausted (Bob Greenblatt's word), how about grab Seth Meyers to do some hosting like ESPN does with its anchors? Bring out an Olympian or two? Especially after CBS' outstanding HIMYM number, we are still waiting for Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon to walk out onstage and finish the musical number that NBC played from a tape.

Related

The Best and Worstof Upfronts 2011

It didn't stop raining all week, a cable network exec by far was the biggest star on any stage and a flash mob even broke out at a network run by a guy named Pedowitz. Yes, Upfront Week 2011 left us all with plenty of memories.