ABC’s Lincoln Center Upfront presentation was, as its Television Group President Ben Sherwood promised, the perfect Roseanne Drinking Game. We lost track of how many times she was mentioned as the network celebrated the stunning ratings success of Roseanne redux. Sharing their Upfront presentation time with Freeform for the first time, ABC had to race through their new primetime schedule, to the detriment of new programs and returning – same as NBC has suffered for several springs now in its Upfront event shared with the various cable nets of NBCU.
ABC Entertainment chief Channing Dungey raced though plugs for Alec Baldwin’s new Sunday interview show – the first for broadcast primetime since Jay Leno’s short-lived stab at it on NBC. Slightly more time was spent on a new Juniors edition of Dancing with the Stars.
Even Jimmy Kimmel seemed a big undone by the rush as he made his triumphant return to ABC’s presentation – a seventh-inning stretch that’s the highlight of Upfront Week for many. Kimmel took off last year off, following his newborn son’s heart surgery.
Here’s how it went, ET time:
4:04 PM: ABC entertainment and news stars audition before American Idol judges, for the chance to open the Upfront presentation. Roseanne Barr wins, singing My Way. Turns out she’s not tone deaf, and her massacre of “The Star Spangled Banner” at a Padres game a couple decades ago was comedy.
“I’m thrilled to share my vocal talents with America one more time,” Roseanne snarks on stage. “My record deal is in the works. Watch for me in Roseanne: The Musical. I hear#RoseanneSings is trending.”
4:12 PM: Disney-ABC Television Group President Ben Sherwood gives Roseanne a big hug and tells advertisers to give a big round of applause to “a woman who has always done it her way.” He mentions Roseanne several more times, telling anyone watching the presentation while playing a Roseanne Drinking Game, “You are welcome.”
Sherwood also reminds the crowd they’re in for a treat, because Jimmy Kimmel is back for “our annual ritual of network executive humiliation.”
4:21 PM: Robin Roberts, George Stephanopoulos, Michael Strahan, David Muir and Amy Roback take the stage to pitch ABC News. Stephanopoulos talks about how high the stakes are in these days. Strahan says it’s “pretty awesome” working on Good Morning America with Robin and George. David Muir says he preferred watching Peter Jennings to playing outside as a kid. Robach is his new partner on 20/20 which is 40 years on the air. Roseanne’s sitcom husband John Goodman is the voice of a new ABC News promo campaign: “No bull, no spin, just give it to me straight. Straight forward news.”
4:30 PM: ABC is sharing its Upfront presentation with Freeform for the first time. Yara Shahidi introduces programming chief Karey Burke, who quickly walks ad execs through programming plans.
4:45 PM: Freddie Highmore is star of the season’s most successful new drama The Good Doctor, and therefore got elected to introduce ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey. But, he also notes, last year, he wasn’t a big enough deal to make the cut to appear on stage at ABC’s Upfront presentation, “so times really have changed.”
5:05 PM: Dungey speed talks through ABC’s schedule before finally landing on new 10 PM cop drama The Rookie. She did not know the LAPD accepts rookies as old as age 40, which is what “beloved Nathan Fillion” will play in the new series.
Fillion takes the stage to tell ad execs they probably know him from ABC’s Castle. “But, if you don’t know me, that’s totally alright – I’m probably a pretty big deal to your mom,” he jokes, saying that when he reached his age he naturally started to think about his life’s “shrinking opportunities.” Yikes on that, but he says it perfectly prepares him to play the lead in the new series. Like Channing, Fillion also did not know something about the LAPD: they wear wool uniforms. Even in the summer. In Los Angeles.
5:18 PM: New drama A Million Little Things, about a group of friends whose lives are changed when one of them dies unexpectedly, gets the very biggest response from advertisers in the hall.
5:21 PM: Jimmy Kimmel takes the stage, thanking people for their outpouring of support for his son, Billy, who just turned 1. Then Kimmel starts to skewer in all directions:
-“I’ve been a fan of Freeform since 20 minutes ago when I learned what it was.”
-“Our new slogan: ‘Forward. Together.’ Hillary had a tag sale.”
-“More people are watching this than most of our 10 o’clock shows.”
-“Fox’s JAZ Pods sounds like something you’d use to wash leotards.”
-ABC parent Disney’s deal to buy Fox seemed to be a done deal but last week Comcast surprised them “like an ex boyfriend who shows up on The Bachelorette. We got peacock blocked.”
-ABC is leaving behind Shondaland and diving “headfirst into to Roseanne-istan.”
-“Who says Hollywood is out of new ideas?…Ours was to Google ‘What were our old ideas?'”
-“Roseanne’s success “proves the older and crazier you are the more audiences like you.”
-CBS is bringing back Murphy Brown because it “knows what millennials want and they’ll be damned if they give it to them.”
-“I’m excited about Murphy Brown. It’s refreshing to see anything brown on CBS.”
-“NBC talked about rebooting The Cosby Show. They’re calling it The Bad Doctor.
-“America will not see fourth season of Quantico. In the same way it did not see a second and third season of Quantico.”
5:38 PM: Midseason The Mix trailer is well received. Ditto The Goldbergs spinoff, Schooled
5:42 PM: Soapy midseason drama Grand Hotel is an “Upstairs/Downstairs” Dungey says, adding that she loves that the Upstairs population is Hispanic.
5:48 PM: Jimmy Kimmel having thoroughly mocked ABC’s midseason series Whiskey Cavalier during his set, it’s nearly impossible for Channing Dungey to discuss with straight face the hourlong action-dramedy project starring Scott Foley, and executive produced by Bill Lawrence, from writer Dave Hemingson.
Foley likewise has a very hard time on stage, finally begging, “god please roll the clip.” After the clip, Dungey returns to the stage and announces, “When we’re celebrating Season 10 of Whiskey Cavalier I’m going to bring Jimmy back out there and we’re going to talk about it!”
5:56 PM: A Ryan Seacrest-introduced performance of American Idol competitors closes out the presentation, after Seacrest announces it’s a few minutes before his bedtime.