“We have a new slogan this year at ABC,” Jimmy Kimmel said today as the closing act at the Big 4 network and Freeform’s upfront presentation in New York. “Our new slogan is Forward Together,” the longtime late-night host added before revealing his teeth. “Hillary Clinton had a yard sale, and she let us have that for almost nothing.”
Besides also saying “our President is a lunatic, and we are all going to die,” Kimmel kept his promise to go light on Donald Trump and politics and focused his firepower on the fast-changing television business. Following a sugary introduction by ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey and a greatest-hits montage, the Jimmy Kimmel Live! host came out onstage at Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall with a dose of reality and one-liners after the network strutted its stuff for nearly an hour in front of advertisers.
Swiping at his own bosses with the likes of “somehow we have more people watching this upfront than most of our 10 o’clock shows,” Kimmel went after millennials, the proliferation of tech and marketing terms, and Shonda Rhimes’ big Netflix deal. He also took a swing at the title and premise of the upcoming series Whiskey Cavalier with The Walking Dead alum Lauren Cohan and Scandal vet Scott Foley, all the NBC shows based in Chicago, bingeing and, as he has in past years, the promise of the upfronts.
“Let’s be honest, this is all nonsense — our ratings are going down and our prices are going up,” he told the Manhattan audience and those watching via livestream. “Too bad, eat it!” Kimmel tossed in near the end of his 10-minute-plus stand-up to another big and undoubtedly self-conscious cheer. “Here’s what I think we should do: Just let these stupid shows wash over us, clap politely and then let’s just go get blackout drunk together, OK?”
Of course, ABC wasn’t the only Big 4 network Kimmel had designs on decimating today.
“Fox needs help,” Kimmel noted of the company that ABC’s parent company Disney looks likely to own a lot of (with the exception of the broadcast nets and Fox News Channel). “They canceled Lucifer and The Exorcist — they can’t even make a deal with the devil.”
Kimmel praised Disney boss Bob Iger and his handy and well-stocked Black Panther card. He also slapped NBC owner Comcast for its last-minute bid for Fox as the $50 billion-plus deal with the House of Mouse awaits regulatory approval. “Like the surprise ex-boyfriend who shows up on The Bachelorette right before she is about to get engaged, Comcast shows up and weasels their way into our business,” the comedian shived the communications giant. “We got Peacock-blocked is what happened,” he declared, pulling the NBC symbol into the muck marvelously.
Like ABC, NBC and Fox, the other broadcast network was in Kimmel’s sights, with a lot of fire. “CBS knows what millennials want, and they’ll be damned if they give it to them,” he snapped about the House of Moonves rebooting Murphy Brown. “I have to admit I’m kind of excited about Murphy Brown,” Kimmel then said. “Really, it’s refreshing to see anything brown on CBS.”
After missing last year due to the medical needs of his newborn son, Kimmel was back in the Big Apple for his 15th upfront and much copied but rarely matched roast of the industry. “Before we get to all this stuff, on behalf of my family, I want to thank you for the outpouring of support and well wishes for my son,” a slightly somber Kimmel noted near the beginning of his stint onstage. “You’ll be happy to know, he is doing much much better than network television,” he added to the first of many big laughs from the crowd of executives, talent and advertisers.
Tweaking his material until the last minute of his 5:21 PM ET-starting routine, the ABC standard-bearer was the second late-night host to try to scorch the industry this week, after Seth Meyers got first dibs yesterday. The former Saturday Night Live regular and Late Night frontman sought to sear the likes of former Celebrity Apprentice host Trump, a reboot of The Cosby Show and all the Chicago shows on NBC at the Comcast-owned net’s Radio City Music Hall presentation.
The Disney-owned ABC actually started its ad-and-pony show with an American Idol video highlight from its broadcast of the onetime Fox blockbuster. That video saw ABC and Freeform bright lights including GMA’s Robin Roberts, Shark Tank’s Mark Cuban, The Good Doctor star Freddie Highmore (who showed up later in the presentation) and a “My Way”-singing Roseanne Barr embarrass themselves in deliberately cringe-inducing mock auditions.
At least Roseanne made up for her glass-cracking 1990 “Star-Spangled Banner” rendition, and got a thumbs up from eager-to-please ABC boss Ben Sherwood. Check out Deadline’s live blog of the net’s upfronts presentation here for more.
And, sorry Jimmy — you’re wrong. Let’s totally do this again next year.