Fox programming chief Kevin Reilly already has tried out his This Has Been A Tough Season presentation, on the phone with the press early this morning, to see if any part of it elicited giggles. They swallowed it in big gulps — even the bit in which he said, “We don’t acknowledge the season as defined by Nielsen – but if we did….If you were to look at the season, it’s been a tough one for us, especially in the second half… Returning shows did not perform as well as anticipated.” Among those under-achievers: American Idol will be “streamlined” (translation: busted down) – probably to two hours, one night a week after the auditions phase. Glee looks to be in for a “streamlining” too. Tuesday’s comedy block has been “streamlined” and animated comedies have been “streamlined” on Sunday to make room for some live-action one which Reilly called “returning to Fox’s roots.” On the bright side, advertisers attending Fox’s Upfront presentation at the Beacon Theatre on the Upper West Side won’t have to sit through Fox’s annual slog through its midseason schedule this year — because Fox execs aren’t announcing one. That’s because the network hasn’t yet decided how much of Idol it can afford to “streamline” next season. “We always built our second-season schedule around Idol,” Reilly explained this morning.
Presentation about to begin….
4:08 PM: Because Fox doesn’t have a Jimmy Kimmel or a Seth Meyers, it opens its presentation with Ryan Seacrest announcing “THIS — is the 2014 Fox upfront!” And what better way to start this party than with “the man who literally knows how to get a party started…a fashion icon who shakes it unlike anyone I’ve ever met?” Seacrest asks, rhetorically. We know he can’t be talking about Reilly — and, sure enough, it’s Pitbull, who has been signed to host Fox’s New Year’s Eve countdown special this year, which has been renamed Pitbull’s New Year’s Revolution.
4:16 PM ET: Reilly follows Pitbull, telling advertisers Fox is still America’s Next Generation network (translation: highest concentration of 18-34). He also promises advertisers that, next season, the network next season will do more to “eventize” its entertainment slate (translation: programming viewers will watch live). “The power of broadcast really shines through when there’s urgency to view,” he said as he mentioned Fox’s upcoming live production of the musical Grease, and Jump Of The Century, in which two stuntmen will try to replicate Evel Knievel’s failed jump across Idaho’s 2,300-foot-deep Snake River Canyon on the 40th anniversary of that stunt in which Knievel’s bucket seat attached to a steam-powered thrust engine deployed its parachute too early and he was blown back into the canyon where he crashed, walking away with minor injuries.
Reilly also plugs new reality series Utopia as one of those gotta-watch-it-live shows, a “big social experiment” in which people who want to be stars — or at least famous — commit to living in some hell of an isolated location for an entire year and create their own Real World from scratch, for John de Mol who, Reilly says, is one of the people who put reality on the map.
4:21 PM ET: Drama series Gracepoint and Wayward Pines get the Upfront video treatment. Long-ish, good-looking videos, of which advertisers in the hall seem to approve, based on applause. “These two series have nothing in common, except you cannot turn them off,” Reilly says. Plus, he boasts, the mysteries for each show conclude in 10 episodes, “rather than five years,” as if the five-year mystery solving plan was something foisted upon broadcast networks by an evil outside force, like the FCC. Gracepoint, about a young boy found dead on a beach in northern California, is paired with Bones in the fall. Earlier in the day, talking to The Reporters Who Cover Television, Reilly revealed that Gracepoint, a reworking of hit UK whodunit Broadchurch, which has already aired in this country on BBC America, will have a different ending so that Broadchurch fans can’t spoil it — apparently renaming it Gracepoint wasn’t enough of a deterrent. Also getting the Upfront video treatment: Wayward Pines, starring Matt Dillon as a Secret Service agent investigating a disappearance in a small Idaho town, joins Fox’s sked later this winter. Reilly predicts both will “win big.”
Related: Fox 2014 Schedule
4:35 PM ET: The Reading Of The Fox Sports Portfolio.
4:40 PM ET: Fox’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine star Andy Samberg comes out to do comedy — because Fox has no Kimmel. He dies in the hall, with jokes such as:
“Who’s ready to laugh? Who’s ready to pretend we’re not all forced here by the invisible hand of capitalism?” Samberg says he’s here to join Reilly as he announces “that he’s picked up my show, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, for the next 50 seasons, which now counts as an official announcement because I said it here — so it’s true!”
Fox, Samberg insists, had a very strong development season and the new pilots were “all amazing” with titles such as:
You Are Here
You Aren’t Here
It Is What It Was
It’s Not What You Think
It Is What You Think
Agree to Disagree
X-Men Original Days of Futures Past Collectors Cups: The Show. “That one is going to be really good,” Samberg says, when that last title got a laugh.
“Is this the best lineup of shows Fox ever assembled? I’m not going to lie to you. Moving on,” Samberg plows ahead. Fox has a new multi-platform campaign called the Entertainment Network Electronic Media Asset Strategy — E.N.E.M.A.S.
“I love E.N.E.M.A.S.,” Samberg says, suggesting the advertisers in the audience sign on “so we can give E.N.E.M.A.S. to every American together.”
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Broadcast networks are still “keeping it classy — the place viewers go to watch programs without graphic violence or sex,” Samberg says, insisting there is an old saying at broadcast TV networks: “What we lack in boobs, we make up for in commercials.” This gag might have gone over bigger had he not been playing to a hall packed with media buyers. He begins to critique the other networks, while we count the minutes until Jimmy Kimmel’s seventh-inning stretch at ABC’s presentation.
CBS has developed a lot of spinoffs, Samberg says, including “CSI: Tampa, CSI: Legoland, CSI: Mike And Molly, and CSI: CSI Production Offices — that last one is shockingly violent.” CBS in fact has so many shows with a colon in the title, CBS now stands for Colon Broadcasting System because, “it’s also the No. 1 network among colonoscopy patients,” Samberg jokes. He notes Seth Meyers and Jimmy Fallon have already entertained the crowd with comedy bits earlier in the day, during NBC’s presentation, and congratulates advertisers on “enduring your third consecutive Almost Handsome Former SNL Cast Member of the day. SNL, he says has been churning out Almost Handsome White Dudes for nearly 40 Years.
Among ABC’s development for next season, Samberg continues, are Sexy Nantucket Sexy Mystery Hunk Island and Disney Butt Implant Funtime Hour.
Just as the audience starts to foam over, Samberg introduces a clip for John Mulaney’s new Fox comedy Mulaney, from Lorne Michaels, which will join Brooklyn Nine-Nine on Fox’s Sunday lineup in the fall, woven in amongst the animated series. Mulaney is about an aspiring comedian coming of age in NYC under the influence of his faded stand-up-comic-turned-game-show-host boss, played by Martin Short. Mulaney, Reilly said, is “Seinfeld for a new generation.”
4:54 PM ET: After a loving look back at Sleepy Hollow, Reilly returns to pronounce, “Sleepy is a blast” and introduce clips for new fall dramas Red Band Society — about a group of Steven Spielbergian teens who meet as patients at a children’s hospital — and Gotham, in which Bruno Heller explores Commissioner James Gordon, before he met Batman and had to deal on his own with Riddler, Joker, Penguin, Catwoman, and other rannygazoo artists of the underworld. “Gotham is going to be big,” Reilly forecast, adding, “Red Band Society is an “inspiring show that feels commercial and yet somehow moves the genre forward.”
He talks about midseason dramas. They include Hieroglyph — pharoahs, concubines, sorcerers, criminal underbellies — and British accents! Also, Backstrom — this season’s Fox dramedy about a lovable reprobate in a position of authority, from the creator of Bones and starring Rainn Wilson. The hip-hop dynasty soap Empire will be paired with that “streamlined” American Idol.
“I hope you can appreciate the quality and excitement that’s in store on Fox next season,” Reilly says, wrapping up a very short presentation.