Turner has a winning formula: Use a lot of ampersands, play a ton of sports and, when in doubt, take creative teams, actors, plots and sometimes entire series (new episode or syndicated -- either will do!) from other networks and air that. It may feel cheap, but based on the number of completely original new shows that bombed from the 2012 development slate, it's not the worst idea in the world... that would be cancelling Southland. Anyway, my personal bitterness aside, some of the new series really do look great. Below are the ones the upfront audience actually got to see, in order of best to worst:
Last year Syfy turned the famous whale room at New York's American Museum of Natural History purple to unveil its annual slate to the assembled press and advertisers corps. The network's 2013 upfront took place in the considerably less grand surroundings of Chelsea Piers' Silver Screen Studios, where they used to shoot Law & Order for the gazillion years that show was on the air. The downgrade in venue was somewhat ill-timed since the network's 2013-2014 line-up looks to be significantly stronger than its predecessor, which offered two scripted shows (including a series called Rewind that seems to have been scrapped entirely) and a bunch of dubious-sounding reality series, many of which never even aired (so long Awesome Foundation -- we're kinda glad we never got the chance to know you). Unlike the 2012 edition, 2013's slate feels potentially big enough to fill the Natural History Museum's cavernous whale room, whereas last year the surroundings just barely distracted from the thinness of the content.
This morning, Bravo hosted an Upfronts breakfast where Flipping Out's Jeff Lewis told critics just how well Bravo was doing (after taking a few admittedly hilarious cruel shots at a few network alums, including a particularly sharp jab at Real Housewives of New York City's Alex and Simon for how desperate they are) and introduced several executives including, of course, Andy Cohen, to announce about the network's new line-up. Most of the new series blended together, and the sizzle real eventually turned into this one Saturday Night Live sketch:
In what was truly a breath of fresh air after several weeks of upfronts madness, yesterday's USA Network presentation at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall -- the final event of the season -- didn't feature a single word from any executive. It's a long-standing tradition at the cabler to have their stars do the talking, which means a minimum amount of industry speak... and way more scripted banter. Since USA has acquired the syndication rights to Modern Family, the highlight of the evening was a digital short of series co-creator Steven Levitan standing in front of the Pritchett-Delgado house saying how excited he was to be part of the USA family, only to have Ed O'Neill, in character as Jay, come out and angrily demand, "Hey, get the fuck out of my driveway!" It was followed with the Modern Family framed-moment title song , where the casts of each USA original series held up a little frame until the final shot ended on the Modern Family theme final still. Another highlight, especially to WWE fans, was the announcement that in honor of Monday Night Raw's 1,000th episode, the series will now be expanded to three hours every week.
You've got to hand it to The CW: they know how to really keep an upfront moving. From kicking it off with a performance by Flo Rida to just jumping right in to a preview of their most interesting new series, Arrow, it flew by faster than any other network presentation this week. Sure, they spent time discussing social media and whatnot, but it was all broken up by on-stage appearances by the very beautiful people who are on their shows. And hey, most of their upcoming shows look watchable, if not legitimately entertaining, and since they're recycling a ton of their talent (and in some cases, characters), we feel like we know these programs already.
CBS president Les Moonves got us all excited about a one-minute long upfront at the beginning of the network's presentation this afternoon, but it actually went on for over an hour. And considering they only have four new shows this fall, that meant a lot of padding. So they filled it with Mike & Molly stars Billy Gardell and Melissa McCarthy bantering about their recent fake wedding and the lack of gifts they've received from their fellow CBS stars (except Ted Danson, who sent them a pony); the Two Broke Girls trying to find a way to make money; LL Cool J rapping; and Eli Manning trying to crack jokes (which, as we learned on Saturday Night Live, is not something he can do). Still, despite the fact that this was the network that showed us the fewest clips, the ones we saw actually had more promise than the other three this week so far.
We're still trying to figure out what ABC's execs were talking about at their upfront presentation when they claimed they were the "number one must-keep" network, but at least they had something resembling a sense of humor about their shows, talking about while their Bachelors may not stay engaged, their viewers are. And then, as usual, they unleashed Jimmy Kimmel, whose show has been on the air for ten years, which is about nine longer than I predicted way back when. He joked to the ad buyers in the crowd that "We don't know what we are doing. We have no idea what people want to see. If we did, we wouldn't have an upfront; we'd just put the shows on the air and you'd just mail us a check." Then he added, "That show Work It... you know we were just kidding about that, right?" Of course, he had to rip on the other networks as well. On NBC: "Spinning chairs and a monkey. This truly is a golden age of television." On Fox's X Factor: "No one knows talent like Britney Spears and Demi Lovato. Britney Spears wanted to be a judge since she's spent the last ten years appearing before them." On CBS: "For the 18-to-49-trips-to-the-bathroom demographic." On The CW's new musical chairs show: "Oh Sit! It used to be called Steaming Pile o' Sit, but they shortened it." Still, his best joke was also at The X Factor and Idol's expense: "I feel bad for Paula Abdul. She's the Rosa Parks of bipolar talent show judges. No one was more dedicated or more medicated." It's a good thing that Kimmel was funny, because none of ABC's new comedies looked amusing at all.
The Fox upfront presentation began with a pre-taped bit about the cast of New Girl interviewing for a new roommate, and their options were Fox stars ranging from Mr. Schue to Walter to the kid from Touch. Oh, and Emily Deschanel, because they couldn't resist making a sister joke. It was cute and the highlight of the network's hour-long presentation, for sure. Most of the rest focused on clips from this season of New Girl, a live awkward bit of banter between Zooey and Mindy Kaling about who is the most adorkable Fox star of them all, and Ryan Seacrest being Ryan Seacresty. They also made a big deal about The X-Factor and officially introduced new judges Demi Lovato and Britney Spears, while making a couple of digs at The Voice. I suppose they had to fill the time somehow, because aside from talking about some new random animation domination HD thing that's going to air in the dead of Saturday night (11 PM-12:30 AM), and referencing baseball as much as they could, there really wasn't a lot of new stuff to show off. But here's what we thought of the new programs they did preview:
This morning at Radio City Music Hall, NBC unveiled their new fall lineup with the help of a lot (a lot) of singing. Those of us in attendance were treated to a performance by Voice winner Jermaine Paul, a full gospel choir and orchestra backing Smash stars Leslie Odom Jr. and Katherine McPhee on "Stand" to close the presentation and, to open things up, McPhee and Megan Hilty doing "Let Me Be Your Star," complete with a bit of The Voice judges (sans Blake Shelton) spinning their chairs for them. And then in a pre-packaged bit, Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon "found" footage of the returning shows infused with music (including The Office, Parks and Recreation, Law & Order: SVU, Meet the Press and, most amusingly, Grimm). Honestly, while NBC exec Bob Greenblatt joked that a Grimm musical episode was a long way from a reality, it might get me to start watching that show again. The network's execs promised that their fall lineup won't be all music, but there is a lot of it, and they are going really heavy on the comedies as well. In fact, they mentioned the word comedy about 1,000 times in the two hours, but given that they did see fit to renew both Community and Parks and Recreation (and I got to sit within 100 yards of Adam Scott, which probably violates my restraining order in some way), I am inclined to overlook that. However, I am not willing to overlook the fact that most of the comedies that they mentioned look mediocre and forgettable at first glance.
Are you the kind of person who likes to put your wildest imaginings into practice? Do you not just want to watch TV, but interact with it? If so, you might just be an igniter and therefore precisely the kind of person that the Syfy network wants amongst its audience. "Igniter" was the buzzword at Syfy's upfront presentation, which unfolded Tuesday night at New York's famed American Museum of Natural History, where the famous Hall of Ocean Life (you know, the one with that giant whale suspended from the ceiling) was bathed in the network's signature purple while DJ Spooky spun records and guests feasted on dishes created by celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson. But the evening wasn't all fun and food -- Syfy also revealed its plans for the 2012-2013 season and those plans include a lot more reality, a lot fewer scripted series and a whole lot of igniter-driven interactivity between viewer and show.
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