UPDATED with event complete: The NBCUniversal Upfront Presentation kicked off a busy week Monday at Radio City Music Hall.
The first time NBCU did a combined upfront presentation a couple of years ago, it ran for 2 1/2 hours, testing the patience of ad buyers, executives and agents. This year, the promise was for a tight, hourlong affair. The event lasted 105 minutes and featured appearances by Seth Meyers, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Rami Malek, Ted Danson and the cast of Saturday Night Live.
Here’s how it went down:
10:30 AM ET: So far so good, the presentation is starting on time. Opening the event are NBC late-night host Jimmy Fallon and John Cena with a five-minute video lampooning the famous 1984 Apple commercial. The skit saw Fallon running through a dystopian warehouse with a hammer, but he needs a hand from Cena and a young girl to succeed. He then chooses to enter Radio City Music Hall and appears onstage in a pair of ’80s shorts and vest.
10: 40 ET: After a breezy pitch from NBCU’s ad sales team, we get the first comic relief, a “Family Feud” skid with the stars of Saturday Night Live.
Here are highlights from the skit: SNL veteran Kenan Thompson, on the heels of the confirmation that he will be extending his record tenure on the show despite having two new primetime series on NBC, is reprising his Steve Harvey impersonation for a game between NBC News vs. NBC Entertainment.
For those wondering why he is at the NBCU upfront presentation since Family Feud is not a company show, Thompson’s Harvey says, “I have a medical condition that prevents me from saying ‘no’,” a reference to the slew of gigs Harvey has been juggled simultaneously. I have to leave as a I’m driving an Uber pool in 20 minutes.”
On the NBC News panel were Kate McKinnon as Mika Brzezinski, or as Thompson’s Harvey called her “Bresunba,” and Alex Moffat as Joe Scarborough. The married Morning Joe duo displayed some serious sexual tension, prompting Thompson’s Harvey to scold them, “You got to all tone it down, it’s not the HBO upfront.”
The NBC Entertainment panel included Melissa Villaseñor as World of Dance star Jennifer Lopez, Pete Davidson as a very robotic Rami Malek, and Chris Redd as an emotional Sterling K. Brown, channeling his This Is Us character and breaking down every time he starts to answer a question, which turns into one of the signature Randall speeches.
“I love you man, but you are a lot,” Thompson’s Harvey says.
10:55 AM: The first big musical number — Latin superstar Luis Fonsi doing a medley of his biggest hits, including “Despacito.”
11 AM: Fonsi is followed by La Reina del Sur star Kate del Castillo, who touts the Latino demo who are “60 million strong and seventh-strongest in the world in buying power.” She introduces Telemundo’s upcoming slate.
11:05 AM: To shave off time, NBCU is packaging the reality genres across the portfolio. First off is a compilation of the networks’ competition reality series.
11:10 AM: Rami Malek comes out and says “it’s so great to be here with you” with the monotonic tone of his voice a little exaggerated to match Davidson’s delivery. He acts surprised when the hall erupts into laughter.
“This network has been a home for me,” Malek says of USA Network, where he became a star with Mr. Robot, heading into its fourth and final season. “That show means everything for me, it helped me to be be where I am today,” he said, before introducing one of USA’s newest stars, Rosario Dawson. She, in turn, introduces trailers for her USA series Briarpatch and Syfy’s upcoming Resident Alien.
11: 15 AM: The stars of Total Bellas introduce a WWE Raw package while also taking a slight dig at Fox, whose announcement this morning called its new acquisition WWE SmackDown Live the No. 1 WWE series. The duo reminded ad buyers that Raw is No. 1.
11:20 AM: They have been a staple on every NBCU upfront — the Kardashian sisters. This year is no exception. Three of them — Khloe, Courtney and Kendall — are onstage introducing the reality NBCU package.
11:25: NBC’s Olympics host Mike Tirico touts the network’s coverage of the upcoming Summer Olympics, with a large group of American female Olympian gold medalists walking onstage to a standing ovation.
11:30: The stars of NBC News come out in a weirdly dramatic fashion on a dark stage, each taking a turn to speak once a spotlight is pointed on them. They tout NBC’s resources, scale and roster of reporters as well as their “passion” in covering stories. Brian Williams is back on the upfront stage after a few years out of the spotlight, talking about the upcoming “most consequential Presidential election in American history.”
11:35: The cast of This Is Us is here, celebrating their three-year pickup and introducing a similarly tear-jerking new drama Council Of Dads.
11: 40: Big applause for Law & Order: SVU star Mariska Hargitay, whose series is going into its record-breaking 21st season. She speaks of the show’s legacy. “It broke network taboos, told stories that had been hidden in the shadows long before the movement to end sexual violence had a hashtag.” She introduced new procedural dramas Bluff City Law and Lincoln.
11:45 AM: After the stars of New Amsterdam introduce another new NBC drama, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, The Good Place star Ted Danson comes out. “By the end of the evening I will sleep with one of the actresses on this series,” he quips about the trailer that just played, which featured his wife Mary Steenburgen.
“Hi, I’m legendary actor Ted Danson,” he says, noting that legendary is an “automatic upgrade” once an actor hist 70 — the moniker becomes “iconic” at 75 and “a national treasure” once the thesp turns 80, so Danson says he hopes NBC would keep him employed for 10 more years. Danson introduces a package of NBC comedy history, which, of course starts with him on Cheers.
11:50: Tina Fey and Amy Poehler come out. “Welcome to the 150th Golden Globes,” the former Globes hosts say, before lamenting that awards shows seem to not need hosts anymore, with the job outsourced to “high-end refrigerators.” They tout Mr. Robot as an example of NBCU’s diversity with robots able to have their shows and vowed to continue to “poop out hits.” They introduce the new NBC comedies, with Perfect Harmony getting laughs.
2 PM: Seth Meyers is back for his fourth set at the NBCUniversal upfronts, or, as he put it, “one of the the longest-running shows on NBC.” He takes\ shots at NBCU’s still unnamed OTT platform, which in 2022 will stand for “Oh, that thing.” He hopes that NBC and not parent Comcast’s name will be in the moniker for the new platform, because “no one has had to wait for four hours for an NBC guy to show up.”
He asks for applause for Kathy Lee Gifford, “the first person ever to leave the Today show willingly.” He also suggests that, after NBC rescued canceled Brooklyn Nine-Nine last season, “I heard next week HBO is airing its last Game of Thrones. We should pick that up! I can’t believe they canceled it. I think that show is very popular.” (Here is a full rundown of Meyers’ best jokes..)
2:15 PM: After one final pitch by NBCU ad sales maven Linda Yaccarino and a music performance by The Voice coaches, the presentation is over, clocking in at 105 minutes.