McPherson: He's Dancing as Fast as He Can

Say what you will about ABC's new slate of shows, but critics are unanimous about Entertainment President Steve McPherson: The man can dance!

Claiming that he'd lost a bet to late-night host Jimmy Kimmel about who would win ABC hit Dancing With the Stars, McPherson took the stage at ABC's upfront last week and proceeded to dance a cha-cha—to AC/DC's “You Shook Me All Night Long,” no less—that caused jaws to hit the floor.

Except for a head butt to his partner near the end of the routine, McPherson's performance would've made Dancing alum John O'Hurley proud.

Among the awestruck was McPherson's boss, Disney-ABC Network chief Anne Sweeney, who marveled at the intricacy of his moves.

“I couldn't believe it,” she said at the afterparty.

McPherson says he practiced once or twice a week, upping the number to three a week as the performance got closer. “I've been so busy I haven't been able to work on it that much,” he says. “I could only do it at night, but I was working on it for the last eight weeks.”

Even with all the preparation, he says, “right before I went out there, I just thought, 'Why am I doing this?'”

Apparently, others had the same question, asking McPherson why he made time for a dance routine but not for more analysis of the schedule in his presentation.

“C'mon, this is show business,” he responded. “Brandon Tartikoff used to make this a show and have fun with it, and that's what we wanted to do. We just figured we'd have a little fun.”

And that's why he's entertainment chief and you're not.

Hot and Blue

Fox had the hottest upfront presentation by far last week, though not in the way network executives had hoped. The overcrowded, over-lit show was staged in an under–air-conditioned armory, leaving many of the 2,000 attendees fanning themselves and mopping sweaty brows.

The presentation, however, was barely at body temperature. Ad executives suffered through a plodding sports showcase and an arguably too-blue routine by Brad Garrett, star of the new sitcom 'Til Death, before collectively scratching their heads over the unknown host of Fox's new Talk Show With Spike Feresten.

Meanwhile, Fox's MyNetworkTV (MNT) couldn't get any respect last week. Rival network executives and media buyers knocked it as a syndication provider, not a broadcast network. Its main rival, The CW, conspicuously left MNT off the grid in the schedules flashed on their jumbo screens, and Entertainment chief Dawn Ostroff pointedly referred to the five broadcast networks in operation.

In fine Fox tradition, TV Stations Chairman Roger Ailes preempted any insults with some digs of his own.

“If anything goes wrong today,” he said at MNT's presentation, “we'll blame [NBC Entertainment President] Kevin Reilly. NBC's been doing that for years.”

Laugh Lines

For all the new dramas unveiled last week, comics were big hits at the networks' presentations this year.

Jimmy Kimmel began with a knock at a certain network's penchant for, um, sincere flattery, welcoming all to the 2006 ABC upfront—“also known as the 2007 Fox upfront.”

He went on to joke that Dancing With the Stars might use “actual stars” next season, and he ridiculed the network's multiplatform bluster, asking, “What the hell are mobisodes?”

Everybody Hates Chris creator Chris Rock promised advertisers that The CW will be a big draw “because we're going to put a lot more white people on our shows. You know the little black kid who plays Chris on my show? Next season, he's going to be played by a little white girl.”

And Fox recruit Brad Garrett managed a G-rated gag about his years on CBS' Everybody Loves Raymond and the indignity of having to take “creative notes” from CBS Corp. chief and onetime actor Leslie Moonves—a guy whose “artistic career peaked as Bad Guy #2 on The Six Million Dollar Man.”

Bad Guy #2, however, held his own. Noting that he hadn't appeared in one of his trademark film parodies at the CBS presentation, Moonves assured the crowd that they'd been spared:

“The other choice was me and Bob Schieffer in our version of Brokeback Mountain.

But it was Rock who killed the assembled advertisers with the sort of candor that network executives only dream of. Before turning the show over to The CW's Dawn Ostroff, he said, “You better spend some muthaf---in' money.” Amen.