ABC re-upped eight of 10 freshman shows for next season and sold stability to media buyers this afternoon, walking them pretty briskly through a schedule that includes three nights of entertainment programming returning intact (Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday), as well as football on Saturday. that left loads of time for late-night star Jimmy Kimmel. Kimmel’s always hilarious seventh-inning stretch at ABC’s presentation has become an Upfront Week institution. Yes, NBC’s Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon had set the bar very high yesterday morning when, during his network’s at-bat, he made headlines walking out on stage and telling NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt: “We’re going to miss you, buddy. You had a good run.” Fallon added that his show offers an original broadcast four nights a week, which, he quipped, was nearly a full season for some NBC primetime series this season.
But Kimmel once again demonstrated why he remains the undisputed king of the Upfront Week Takedown.
Here’s how it went:
1 PM PT: Media buyers are told to take their seats because “class is now in session.” How to Get Away With Murder’s Viola Davis, aka Professor Annalise Keating, schools David Muir, Mark Cuban, etc in re how to deliver a win with ABC, via video. “So, when does all the murder happen?” quips Muir — a throwaway line, but makes the point ABC is featuring its evening news anchor at its Upfront, in marked contrast to NBC, which had no news presence at its Upfront clambake as it continues to mull the future, or lack thereof, at the network of Brian Williams. Davis introduces Disney/ABC Television Group prez chief Ben Sherwood, who says he will get off stage “before Kimmel gets here” and gives nod to the “person who’s really paying for this” — Shonda Rhimes.
1:19 PM: Black-ish star Anthony Anderson introduces ABC Sales president Geri Wang, who begins some deep-in-the-weeds pitching to media buyers, using the adorable tots of Anderson’s comedy series to make the point it’s all so easy children can understand it.
1:30 PM: ABC programming chief Paul Lee finally takes the stage. ” I’ve done this for five years. I think it’s time to drop the phony British accent,” he says. He begins with his traditional patter about ABC’s strong brand and passionate programing, claiming “The era of least objectionable storytelling is dead,” and ABC is “the most modern television brand in America”.
1:37 PM: The Muppets becomes the first new series clip of ABC’s upfront. The Tuesday comedy is a spoof on TV mockumentaries The Office or 30 Rock and not your parents Muppets, Lee says – a statement he tried out on reporters earlier in the day during a phoner to discuss his new schedule, and which they found a head scratcher, given how popular Muppets already are with millennials.
1:48 PM: It’s followed by clips of Quantico, featuring impossibly good looking FBI agents in training, one of whom has masterminded “the biggest attack on New York City since 9/11” and The Real O’Neals, which is controversial because lightning-rod activist Dan Savage is among its exec producers.
1:53 PM: Midseason Tuesday drama Wicked City, Lee boasts, “breaks all the rules of broadcast television” but he does not explain why. It’s about a pair of beguiling Bonnie & Clyde -esque serial killers in Los Angeles. Lee says the show “repels and seduces” and was the network’s highest testing new show with millennials, which is maybe redundant. “What’s wrong with” millennials? jokes Lee after he shows media buyers a stylishly grisly clip.
1:54 PM: After showing via clip package why Wednesday is returning intact, Lee bring out Ellen Pompeo to introduce a clip package on ABC’s Shonda Night: Thursday.
2 PM: “My contract says I have to introduce a new Shonda” series each year, Lee cracks when Pompeo wraps. This year’s it’s midseason The Catch, starring Mireille Enos as a fraud investigator who gets conned by her “fiance.” Media buyers respond enthusiastically.
2:03 PM: New Friday comedy, Dr. Ken stars Ken Jeong who, Paul Lee reminds, is an actual former doctor claiming to have been the third best doctor in the valley. Media buyers like this clip too, maybe for Hangover/Community actor casting. After clip of new Uncle Buck, its star, Mike Epps, and Jeong take the stage for some uncomfortable banter.
2:10 PM: Lee stops his primetime patter to “acknowledge the amazing work by our partners at ABC News,” once again reminding media buyers, and press in the hall, that NBC pointedly did not make mention of its news operation during its Upfront presentation one day earlier, as that network news division slogs its way through its Brian Williams Problem. Lee praises Good Morning America, ABC World News Tonight, 20/20 and, most pointedly, Diane Sawyer’s “groundbreaking Bruce Jenner” interview, which brought the newsmag its biggest ratings in 15 years. He introduces ABC News on-air talent, including Sawyer – and there’s evening anchor David Muir! — in the audience.
2:13 PM: “And now it’s time for Jimmy Kimmel to un-do everything I have just done,” Lee says, signaling the start of what Reporters Who Cover Television will be talking about for the rest of the day.
2:15 PM: Kimmel begins, talking to media buyers: “A recap of what has been going on here: So far as I understand it, a grown man with a degree from Oxford just stood on stage and told you he’s excited about the Muppets.”
“I’m happy to be here. This time, the good news is I talked to [Disney CEO] Bob Iger and, because he has The Avengers and Star Wars we don’t need money from you.”
“Yesterday NBC told you they are No. 1 and now here we are also claiming to be No. 1, which means one of the networks is lying to you and I’m here to tel lyou it’s us.”
“We have more shows featuring minority leads…We are so diverse that when CBS drives by us, they lock their car doors.”
“[NBC] didn’t mention it but NBC suspended [Brian Williams] for basically doing the same thing we are doing to you right now.”
“I feel confident we’ll beat NBC this season hands, down, because they’re bringing back Coach. It was the sixth most popular show of 1993.”
“I was handed a note to read to Bob Greenblatt: Dear Bob, We’re glad Dolly Parton will always love you because after what you made us sit through yesterday, no one else ever will. Signed, Everyone.”
Kimmel also brought out on stage his adorable 10-month old daughter, Jane who, he said seemed to have pooped in her diaper. “We could sell that poop to them — they buy that sort of thing,” he stage whispered to her.
Loads more where that came from – he got lots of time on stage.
2:40 PM: Lee once again has the thankless job of following Kimmels’ Upfront Takedown. He tries gamely with clips from two midseason dramas: political thriller The Family, starring Joan Allen, followed by Of Kings and Prophets. The latter is “like no other biblical show you have ever seen,” Lee promises, which is saying a lot, given the slew of biblical TV programs of late. This one, he promised, is “the original soap opera,” aka the story of David and Saul – David being “the world’s first rock star” who “came from nowhere” and slept with the king’s daughter. The series, Lee promised, will have “all the violence and sex of the oldest dynasty of them all.”
Some of ABC’s new midseason “heroines” are brought out on stage, joined by Scandal’s Kerry Washington who, in turn, brings out Montell Jordan to sing This is How We Do It, with lyrics changed to tout ABC. It’s only slightly awkward.