NBC kicked off Upfront Week Palooza at Radio City Music Hall, but only after Comcast made advertisers waded through NBCU’s cable pitches. Seth Meyers stole the show burning Matt Lauer, Megyn Kelly, Donald Trump and Bill Cosby during a very welcome 7th inning stretch. After that, NBC got back to celebrating its rescue of cancelled cop comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine, formerly of Fox, and tout its new Dick Wolf Does Chicago Wednesday, pregnant with storyline overlap and character crossover potential. Or, as Meyers put it, NBC now stands for Nothing But Chicago.
Here’s how it went, on ET time:
10:25 AM: On red carpet, Brooklyn Nine star Andy Samberg directs celebs who took to Twitter during the nano-second his comedy series was in a state of “cancellation” to guest star this season. That means you Mark Hamill and Lin-Manuel Miranda
10:50 AM: Will & Grace’s Debra Messing leads the whole NBC family in the traditional NBC Upfront opening musical number, set to tune “Here We Go Again” from Universal’s upcoming Mama Mia sequel:
“It’s the Upfronts,Here we go again, My my! Oh how we missed you!”
NBCU chief Steve Burke takes the stage to state the obvious: “like much of what we’re going to see” that was shameless self-promotion. Sort of like explaining a joke.
11:01 AM: NBCU is going to make advertisers wait for NBC while it frontloads with new cable program plugs. Busy Philipps tries to get audience to engage in shout-out game to promote her new E! talk show. It doesn’t go well. Advertisers are notoriously un-fun Upfront crowds.
11:12 AM: Syfy’s Nightflyers trailer, based on George R.R. Martin’s novella and the 1987 film, plays well with the media crowd.
11:16 AM: Telemundo sends a loud lyrical “I am the majority of the new mainstream” message to former NBC reality-TV star Donald Trump. Big applause in Radio City Music Hall.
11:25 AM: Project Runway is returning to Bravo, Watch What Happens Live host Andy Cohen gushes, explaining, “This is big breaking news!” Cohen raved. “We heart our Bravo-holics and they heart us right back,” Cohen adds.
11:30 AM: Oxygen’s The Killing of Jessica Chambers trailer sends a chill.
11:35 AM: USA stars take the stage for high-grade pitching, including new Suits cast regular Katherine Heigl, who says she doesn’t think she “could have joined the USA family at a better time.”
11:40 AM: Stephanie McMahon comes out to commend WWE for recognizing there was growth potential in promoting female wrestlers, who they now call “superstars – same as men!” It’s 2018. WWE’s female superstars were allowed to perform, for the first time, in front of a live audience in Abu Dhabi, she enthuses, reporting the crowd began to chant, “This is hope.”
11:45 AM: First glimpse of NBC programming peeks through this promotional clutter. NBC’s at-bat pointedly starts with its news division, which has been rocked recently by various sexual harassment claims and firings, and criticism over its decision to conduct in-hour investigations of same. Lots of on-air talent take the stage, including Chuck Todd, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, Today’s Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb and Megyn Kelly.
NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt got elected to reminding advertisers about NBC News’ various ratings successes.
“Journalism is at the heart of what we do. And facts do matter,” said Holt, who just celebrated the one-year anniversary of his gobsmacking sit down with President Donald Trump during which POTUS said he fired FBI Director James Comey because the Russia probe was a made up thing by Democrats to cover for their election loss.
11:52 AM: NBC late-night star Seth Meyers takes the stage and begins lobbing zingers:
-“NBC stands for Nothing But Chicago. We’ve got Chicago Fire, Chicago Med, Chicago PD. Everything but Chicago accents. That would be going too far”.
-“We are home to the No. 1 drama on television and a show that each week gives us twists and turns…I’m talking about This is The Today Show.
-“Hoda has replaced Matt Lauer and she has been incredible. Everyone here is so proud of Hoda” he said, though he’s not sure how Kathie Lee feels about it, noting, “I saw her drinking at 10 AM.”
-“NBC continues to produce highly rated musicals. NBC aired a live version of Jesus Christ Superstar this year starring John Legend…You know a network has some range when they have a black Jesus AND Megyn Kelly.”
-“Advertisers paid over $5 million dollars for a 30-second ad at the Super Bowl this year, which is a lot. That is a lot considering Donald Trump only paid $130,000 to Stormy Daniels for the exact same amount of time.”
-“It’s now my honor to introduce two people whose reboot was so successful I’m sure at least one exec at NBC says, ‘We can’t bring back The Cosby Show, right? Of course not! Just blue skying! Ladies and gentlemen; Eric McCormack and Debra Messing.”
12:06 PM: Andy Samberg joined Seth Meyers on stage to apologize for having called NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt “Bob Greenbutt” back when exited the network because NBC let his Univeral-produced comedy series wind up at Fox.
12:15 PM: America’s Got Talent creator/producer/star judge Simon Cowell comes out to boast about show achieving its biggest audience ever in most recent season, boasting it’s a show “families love and watch together.” He ticks off a slew of stats — social media logged 2.8B views last season, etc.
Cowell was introduced by a Simon Cowell puppet, managed by last seasons AGT winner, ventriloquist Darci Lynne Farmer. “I am now a puppet. Now I know how Paula felt,” Cowell said, letting his nasty old American Idol Cowell out for just a moment.
Back to I-love-TV-I-can-watch-with-my-child Simon: “We could not sell [AGT] 14 years ago. It was dead in the water, and I was very fortunate to get a call from NBC. The big reason it is so successful is that they believe in it, understand what it is all about and pushed us to get better and better.”
Cowell boasted AGT‘s in-season debut in January, which is billed as a “champion” edition, is really a World’s Got Talent, and “The Olympics of Talent Competition.”
12:25 PM: This is Us gang introduces clips of NBC’s new drama series
12:34 PM: Seth Meyers, who had taken off his tie and spread his white collar under his suit jacket after Simon Cowell’s on stage at-bat, comes back on stage without having re-tied himself, telling advertisers “I did this as a joke, but this is my signature now. You can breathe more.” Then he introduces Linda Yaccarino, chairman of ad sales at NBCU and the hard selling begins.
12:51 PM: JLo and her World of Dance stars wrap up the NBCU Upfront Presentation with a flashy production number.