CBS’s Armageddon Upfront just wrapped.
Technically, this Upfront Week’s most anticipated new-schedule unveiling was held at famed Carnegie Hall, per usual. But it began mere hours after Shari Redstone’s National Amusements took the nuclear option, changing CBS Corp’s bylaws ahead of tomorrow’s board meeting to consider diluting the family’s control over the network. NAI said it had to make the move to ensure “the long-term success of CBS” – which is the best gag you’re going to hear at Upfront Week – sorry Jimmy Kimmel – given the Redstone record running Viacom versus Leslie Moonves’ running of CBS.
As CBS Corp chairman Moonves and CBS Entertainment chief Kelly Kahl walked advertisers through their plans for next season, CBS and Shari were literally still duking it out in a Delaware court.
NAI went nuclear to prevent what is claimed was an unlawful action by CBS to introduce the idea of issuing voting shares of stock to investors who now own non-voting shares, effectively diluting Shari’s control over the company.
Here is how CBS’s Upfront went, on ET time:
4:00 PM: Late Show’s Jon Batiste opens at a Tom Thumb piano, after which he’s joined by members of his Stay Human band. Crowd loves it.
4:03 PM: A very young CBS Chief Revenue Officer Jo Ann Ross rides in period car with cast of Young Sheldon, in a video that brings her to the stage.
4:09 PM: CBS’s annual How-Do-We-Top-Last-Year opening video stars John Malkovich, reading a CBS Upfront script he is supposed to deliver.
“What the fuck is ‘addressable TV’?!” Malcovich mumbles.
Leslie Moonves phones him. Malkovich begins to complain, “Did you read the script?”
“I’ve been reading that shit for 20 years. Now it’s your turn,” Moonves responds happily.
“I am NEVER playing poker at your house again!” Malkovich shouts, explaining this storyline. “Do you really expect me to say this crap?”
“Good stuff, huh?” CBS Corp’s CEO responds.
Moonves rings off asking, “John, please don’t be a pain in the ass this time.”
“Fucking executive,” Malkovich mumbles and hangs up.
“Fucking talent,” Moonves mumbles and hangs up.
4:15 PM: Actual Les walks out on stage: “Good afternoon everyone.”
Hall breaks out in wild applause and gives him a standing ovation, being up to speed on the Shari Redstone drama.
“So, how’s your week been?” Les deadpans, bringing down the house.
“For years I told you I’m only out here for a few minutes. And this year, perhaps for the first time, I actually mean it,” he jokes.
4:25 PM: CBS wastes no time bringing out maybe its most anticipated ” new” series, Murphy Brown. Candice Bergen on video bemoans the state of journalism and says it’s time for Murphy Brown to come back.
“And besides, you missed us. You know you did,” she winks.
Bergen then walks out on stage to say, “It’s so great to have the gang back together, and so many Americans cheering a bunch of journalists.”
She apologizes for taking so long between seasons “but we have so much to cover.” They did not shoot a pilot episode, she explains, because if they had they would be “a dozen major headlines and several Stormy’s out of date.” In this iteration, Murphy hosts a cable news morning show. “The world of cable news is fast paced,” the actress says, with characters who range from the Sean Hannity’s to “actual journalists.”
CBS Entertainment president Kelly Kahl calls Murphy Brown “a show that was ahead of its time – and its time is right now.”
4:34 PM: Late Show star Stephen Colbert takes the stage to warn any former members of the Trump administration seeking jobs at CBS – most particularly Steve Bannon – that “The Amazing Race is not what you think it is about.”
“It’s been quite a year,” Colbert marvels. “So much has happened since we were at Carnegie Hall last year.” Back then, for instance “you had no excuse if you Googled ‘Stormy Daniels’.”
Tomorrow, Colbert announced, is the one-year anniversary of the Mueller investigation. The first anniversary is traditionally a paper anniversary which, Colbert said, is hopefully “what Mueller will be serving Trump.”
Trump being the TV president, Colbert discusses latest administration developments in industry terms. “The Rex Tillerson Show did not get picked up for a second season.”
And, Paul Ryan announced he’s not doing another season, “which is sad because we will not get to see how Congress ends,” Colbert added.
4:45 PM: CBS EVP Thom Sherman is brought out to introduce clips of the new programs. The Neighborhood star Cedric the Entertainer describes his character as “kind of like half Archie Bunker, half George Jefferson,” adding, “I’m excited to be on CBS” which, he says, puts him “at center stage in America.”
Damon Wayans Jr. talks up his new comedy, Happy Together, in which he and Amber Stevens West are a married couple into whose house pop star Cooper (Felix Mallard) moves.
5:00 PM: CBS Sports talks football.
5:02 PM: Late Late Show host James Corden pitches advertisers on his new idea for a primetime series Young Corden. “It’s the whimsical tale of a song and dance kid who gets bullied through grad school and goes on to host a late night show that has 5 billion YouTube views. It has the two hottest things on TV: “a chubby friendly guy and a British accent.” It’s also a crime procedural that takes place in a sexy hospital and there’s a part in it for Rob Lowe. “I need your money to make the magic happen!” he says.
5:08 PM: Brandon Micheal Hall talks about his new show God Friended Me, in which he plays an atheist who gets friended by god on Facebook.
5:15 PM: Jay Hernandez introduces a zippy high-hot-car-casualty video for CBS’s Magnum P.I. reboot, in which he stars. “This is the kind of show that ALWAYS works on CBS,” boasts Kahl.
5:23 PM: Advertisers very much like Dick Wolf’s new drama, FBI – which is not on NBC and not set in Chicago. Kahl, after calling Wolf a “monumental talent,” said the show is tailor-made for his network’s Tuesday timeslot, bridging NCIS and NCIS: New Orleans. “Look for it to be the most watched new drama of next season,” Kahl forecast.
5: 33 PM: Kahl recaps the new primetime schedule and wrap things up: “There it is, the CBS 2018 fall primetime schedule,” he says, calling it an “incomparable collection of shows perfectly positioned, all on America’s Most Watched Network.”