At the event last year, Gary Newman quipped that New Fox was so new even he and fellow chairman Dana Walden didn’t know what it was in one of the presentation’s best zingers. A year later, the new iteration of Fox with new leadership in CEO Charlie Collier took the same old stage at the Beacon to give their pitch to advertisers why the newly independent network is a good investment.
As expected, there were heavy NFL plugs — Fox is broadcasting the Super Bowl in 2020 — hype for the arrival of WWE Smackdown Live and a whole lot of Masked Singer mentions.
Here’s how it went down:
4 PM ET: The presentation will likely be late — there is still a line of people with umbrellas going around the block in the pouring New York rain.
4:06 PM: The show has not started yet — the announcer just teased “a big surprise at the end of the presentation.”
4:15 PM: We’re off. The presentation starts with a trip down memory line via a video mashup of legacy and current Fox series. And yep, there are plenty of snippets from The Masked Singer.
“Here we are, as far from the beginning as we are form the end. Our story is not over…..On this day and in this moment, we start a whole new story.”
4:20 PM “What would you do if you had the chance to start all over again?” Fox Entertainment CEO Charlie Collier says opening the presentation, calling Fox the “ultra-rare opportunity to create a company from the ground up” before pointing at his new bosses, Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch, who are in the audience.
He lists the building blocks of Fox, and yep, The Masked Singer is among the first ones, right there with the Super Bowl and the NFC Championship. “Ladies and gentleman, welcome to the start-up company!”
4:25 PM: Collier brings out head of ad sales Marianne Ganbelli and head of sports Eric Shanks. The two engage in the first round of “Fox 5”, a game that is supposed to be an ongoing theme throughout the presentation when a person has to describe something in five words. One of the first subjects — 9-1-1 “Ryan Murphy Procedural but better.”
4:30 PM: After a pitch by Ganbelli, which too had Masked Singer references, a teaser for the upcoming 90210 reunion series. The cast, sans Shannen Doherty, come out. “So thrilled to be here,” Jennie Garth says, quickly assuring everyone, “don’t worry, Shannon will be on the show.” We are still playing the Fox 5 game. “This time, there’re no virgins,” Tori Spelling says about 90210, drawing the biggest laugh.
4:35 PM: Joe Buck and Alex Rodriguez, pitching the World Series, engage in some “questions from the audience” with The Masked Singer star Jenny McCarthy doing her best Jennifer Lopez groupie with Rodriguez, and Jason Biggs, who stars in new comedy Outmatched, going after Buck for perceived Mets bias.
4:45 PM: Fox introduces the first new drama, Not Just Me, about accidental sisters who discover they are related after a pioneering fertility doctor used his sperm on hundreds of women. Or in Fox 5, per the cast members, “God complex gone awry” and “Dad gave at the office.”
4:55 PM: Fox’s second new drama this season is Prodigal Son, starring Tom Payne as a criminal psychologist and Michael Sheen as his serial-killer dad. Fox 5: “Imagine dad as Hannibal Lecter,” and “Daddy’s top rule – no knives.”
4:50 PM: A college football presentation with presenters somehow devolves into a discussion about Reggie Bush’s biceps and men’s calves.
5 PM: It’s only Day 1 of the upfronts but we already are seeing double. WWE star John Cena and comedy actress/producer Amy Poehler, who took the stage at the NBCUniversal upfront hours ago, are now pitching for Fox (WWE Smackdown Live and new animated series Duncanville, respectively).
5:05 PM: Some cringeworthy comments by Terry Bradshaw during onstage banter among NFL presenters tied to the Super Bowl. In one, he references his stint on The Masked Singer, where he says he was “kicked off by Alan Thicke and the little short guy from Japan.”
UPDATE: Bradshaw has later apologized to Ken Jeong for his “insensitive remark.”
5:10 PM: Rob Lowe comes out to introduce the new 9-1-1 spinoff, 9-1-1: Lone Star, in which he plays a New York cop going to Austin. Or, per Lowe (in five words): “Blue state comes to red state,” “NYPD meets Austin City Limits” and “Big fan of Ryan Murphy.”
5:15 PM: Big applause for Stephen Dorff following a trailer for his first network series, Deputy.
5:20 PM: A lot of laughs for new Fox comedy Outmatched, about the parents of genus kids. A little awkward banter between stars Biggs and Maggie Lawson, whose Fox 5 are, “Tired mom, thank you vodka” (Lawson), “Tired dad thank you Viagra” (Biggs).
5:25 PM: Collier, who oversaw AMC during the run of Mad Men, introduces “friend” John Slattery, the former Mad Man co-star who headlines new AI drama series NeXt. “Playing your little game,” Slattery, holding a glass, mutters when Collier brings up Fox 5. The actor eventually obliges, “Everything is watching you.” (I counted 4 words.) Live cameras show dozens of attendees on the big screen before a trailer for the little unsettling NeXt plays.
5:30 PM: Fox wanted Filthy Rich on the Fox schedule and you can see why. The trailer plays like Empire.
5:33 PM: Justin Timberlake, executive producer of new game show Spin the Wheel, is ribbing Collier for hovering over. (“I know who won’t be at the upfronts next year,” he says once Collier finally walks off the stage.)
5:35 PM: After a plug for The Masked Singer, the big prize is announced — two tickets to the 2020 Super Bowl for someone in the audience who guesses right the identity of a masked singer. The mystery celebrity, donning the Deer consume from Season 1, performs “Luck Be a Lady.” Judges’ guesses: Joe Namath and Justin Timberlake. It was Namath.
That is the end of the Fox 2.0’s first upfront presentation.