If Fox Network Group chairmen Dana Walden and Gary Newman sounded funnier than your general variety upfront presentation banter this year, it may be because they had some professional help. I hear Modern Family co-creator/executive producer Steve Levitan was flown in to New York and helped punch up the duo’s lines. While I hear many of his jokes — mostly edgier fare — were not used in the final script, he was helpful in changing the wording and sharpening the delivery. Among Levitan’s bits that did get in was the jab at CBS’ Les Moonves who was made to look like a Gotham villain named Lex Moonves. And I hear that everyone let a little loose this year, with a number of jokes that were said on stage coming from the Fox speechwriting team and from Walden and Newman themselves.
In line with the self-depreciating tone of the presentation, the network was skewered in pre-taped bits by both Seth MacFarlane and especially Homer Simpson, who channeled Jimmy Kimmel in his barbs whose targets, in addition to Fox, included NBC, CBS, Netflix and Amazon. Homer also had a quip that appeared to refer to Modern Family, produced by 20th TV for ABC, as he talked about the shows Walden and Newman sell through the studio, “Let’s hope they don’t save the best ones for ABC this time,” he said. As an inside man, I hear Levitan was in on the joke.