While it’s a well-known fact that the TV industry exec who is tired of Upfront Week is tired of life itself, it is just possible, in this age of rush and hurry that through the ranks of this industry there are one or two who found themselves unable to attend this year’s clambake. For them, we present Upfront Week Talking Points:
Best Intro Music: CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves brings out the network’s Entertainment chairman Nina Tassler to Imagine Dragons’ “I Bet My Life (On You)”.
Most Missed Opportunity: For the first time since he joined TBS, Conan O’Brian was not asked to do a few minutes on stage at Turner Networks’ presentation, which meant he got no on-stage victory lap, in front of potential advertisers, for his groundbreaking show road trip to Cuba.
Upfront Week 2019: The Good, The Bad & The "Did That Just Happen?"
Most Awkward On-Stage Moment: Tonight Show star Jimmy Fallon upon being introduced on stage by NBC chairman Bob Greenblatt: “We’re all going to miss you buddy. You had a good run,” after which Fallon noted his late-night program does five original shows a week, which is “like a whole season for most NBC series.” Greenblatt, who only returned one freshman series to the network’s fall lineup, took the high road and told media buyers that while CBS’ upcoming premiere of Stephen Colbert as Late Show host might be the prettiest dress in the store for fall, NBC has the No. 1 late-night block in Fallon’s show and Late Night With Seth Meyers, adding, “We think we’ll continue to have the hot hand.”
Most Talked About Omission: NBC’s presentation this year did not include a dog-and-pony segment about its news operation, and no word on the fate of suspended Nightly News anchor Brian Williams. The press covering the event collectively raised their eyebrows, and other networks made sure they stayed raised — especially ABC, which stopped its primetime patter briefly the next afternoon to “acknowledge the amazing work by our partners at ABC News” and introduce Williams’ competition David Muir, among others. Muir also was featured in ABC’s presentation-opening video. And, later, Jimmy Kimmel said, “[NBC] didn’t mention it, but NBC suspended [Brian Williams] for basically doing the same thing we are doing to you right now.”
Awwwww!: Jimmy Kimmel’s much-loved, super-barbed ABC Upfront Seventh Inning Stretch this year was as wickedly funny as ever, but this time also included his on-stage introduction of his adorable 20-month-old daughter. To keep things from teetering toward the treacly, Kimmel told media buyers he thought she might have just pooped in her nappy, then stage-whispered to Jane, “We could sell that poop to them — they buy that sort of thing.”
Best Use Of Comedy To Crush Controversy: Anticipating a revving up of conservative trash-talking about its decision to hire Stephen Colbert as its new Late Show host, the network opened its presentation with a video in which the former Comedy Central faux-conservative-gasbag confesses to CBS CEO Leslie Moonves,” “But I don’t know who the real Stephen Colbert is?!” and tells media buyers live on stage, “A lot of people have been asking ‘Who is Stephen Colbert?’ Mostly my wife, but I love you – I want to say, Denise?” Moonves responded: “You’re a white male comedian with a nice haircut and suit.” “Oh! I’m a talk show host!” Colbert marveled.
Best Costume Change: Okay, maybe the only costume change of this week’s Upfront presentations. Giuliana Rancic is so big at NBCU Cable, she was given an NBCU Cable Upfront Designer Dress Change budget, appearing first in some clingy red sheath to stunning effect, then changing to a perhaps more comfortable loose black number later in the clambake.
Best ‘Wish I Wasn’t Here’ Speech: The exuberance of broadcast network talent when deciding to use their on-stage time at the Upfront to tell advertisers they were contractually obligated to be there (interesting way to woo advertisers) was no doubt diminished by the discovery they were not the only one to have this inspiration. In fact, no Upfront presentation is considered complete unless some on-air talent delivers a “had to be here it’s in my contract” line. But we are confident Andy Samberg’s delivery at Fox’s upfront presentation this year will be included in the list of the Hundred Best Upfront Snarks About Being Compelled By Contract To Be There. For his interpretation, Samberg said he agreed to host the Emmys this fall, only if Fox also would let him realize his dream, “that I also get to perform at this year’s Upfronts. And here I am now” on the same stage “as countless Rob Thomas concerts. Dream realized.”
Biggest Finish: Bob Greenblatt wound up his presentation talking about the network’s deal to dramatize Dolly Parton tunes, because family viewing is “under served” after which Parton came out on stage in an outfit she described as “miniature NBC Peacock.” Greenblatt and Parton closed out the NBC presentation with him at the piano and her belting out her hit I Will Always Love You, which was a sentiment media buyers seemed to return with a standing ovation. But that didn’t stop them from laughing out loud the next day when ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel said during his network’s presentation: “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.”
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