UPDATED with wrap-up: The first Walt Disney Company Upfront Presentation offered a newly bulked-up media company flexing its Madison Avenue muscle at at David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center. The first upfront since Disney’s merger with most of 21st Century Fox showcase all of its ad-supported brands: ABC, ESPN, Freeform and their new corporate siblings FX Networks and National Geographic.
The presentation included Mr. Upfronts himself, Jimmy Kimmel, who took the stage for a 16th time in 17 years.
Here’s how it went down:
4:10 PM ET: We’re off, slightly later than usual expected following a “pre-show experience,” also known as a massive queue.
4:15 PM: An impressive opening clip full of fireworks and clips full of shows that haven’t previously been seen together including Lost, Sons of Anarchy, The Good Doctor and ending with that moment in Nat Geo’s Free Solo.
4:17 PM: Bob Iger is front and center in Lincoln Center, getting a round of applause from the crowd, with chairman of DTC and International Kevin Mayer also giving shout-outs to Peter Rice and Dana Walden.
4:22 PM: Disney sales chief Rita Ferro highlights a collaboration with Google across 10 Disney brands. After Fox’s upfront claim about tech giants buying TV time, it’s the latest flipping of the tech/old-media script, our Dade Hayes says.
4:33 PM: The New York Giants’ Eli Manning and Saquon Barkley are in the house to talk rivalries. Scott Van Pelt, host of ESPN’s SportsCenter, jokes about the size of Barkley’s legs, meaning that two out of three upfronts presentations have included gags about male calves.
4:44 PM: Chris Rock appears in a video to talk about his forthcoming stint on Season 4 of Fargo; he reveals that his mob boss is called Loi. The comedian joked his kids asked why the producers asked him. FX boss John Landgraf says production starts this fall for a launch in early 2020.
4:47 PM: FX gives the first glimpse of Alex Garland’s sci-fi murder mystery Devs. Alison Pill and Nick Offerman star, with the latter, saying, “I wouldn’t even say the Devs team knows what the Devs team does.” We’ll find out later this year. Maybe.
4:50 PM: Keegan-Michael Key is onstage to plug NatGeo’s reboot of Brain Games. He truly confuses the audience by asking if they can remember a phone number read out by Ryan Seacrest.
5:02 PM: Brian Grazer is a man of great accomplishment. One of those accomplishments is not mastering the TelePrompTer. The Genius producer brought passion for the anthology show’s upcoming Aretha Franklin series but struggled mightily with each sentence. (DH)
5:10 PM: ESPN’s Kenny Mayne lands the first proper roast of the day, mocking Disney’s “ad sales priorities” and also the first, and likely only, mention of Black Mirror producer Endemol Shine Group. “What the hell is that? I’m sure they’re nice people.”
5:14 PM: Mayne adds, “We’re so transparent that you can probably joke through our bullsh*t.”
5:30 PM: Modern Family’s Julie Bowen comes onstage to introduce ABC Entertainment president Karey Burke, who, clad in a bright red suit, joked, “Clearly, I’m the only one who thought it was a good idea to dress in my network’s colors.”
5:35 PM: Apologies for the patchy blogging; the Lincoln Center’s WiFi is mixed-ish, at best.
5:40 PM: Tiffany Haddish is on tape to tell the room about her take on Kids Say The Darndest Things. “That’s right I said darndest. I’m a white man from the 50s now. It’s going to be f*cking hilarious. I intend on getting paid like a white man,” she says.
5:42 PM: Steve Levitan and the entire cast of Modern Family are on stage to celebrate the final season of the sitcom. “Ten years and four network presidents…” he starts before jumping into some heartfelt comments about the show.
5:45 PM: Burke scores one of the best zingers of the day as she highlights the return of Fresh Off the Boat. “Still starring Constance Wu,” jokes Burke.
6 PM: Two hours in and Burke acknowledges the reason people are still here is to see Jimmy Kimmel roast the network.
6:05 PM: Kimmel opens by saying he’s looking forward to saying that NatGeo and FX shows “suck” in addition to ABC series.
6:07 PM: “Remember last year when you gave Les Moonves a standing ovation.”
6: 10 PM: “The Obamas are making TV shows and Trump is running the country. If this isn’t some Freaky Friday situation.”
6:19 PM: “You guys have had enough of this bullsh*t, right?,” asks Kimmel as he introduces a final musical performance from John Mayer. That’s John Mayer, whose song inspired an ABC drama that has not been picked up by ABC. At least, he looks happier to be here than The Voice‘s Adam Levine did at yesterday’s NBCUniversal event.
6:24 PM: We’ve been here for two and a half hours and Mayer has started playing a second song.