This has become a Deadline upfront tradition. Last year, we got archrivals Ari Greenburg of WME and Adam Berkowitz of CAA to hug it out in a photo for the site, which sparked a caption contest. Twelve months and hundreds of client and packaging wars later, here they are again, all smiles, after an upfront presentation. Who says there can’t be world peace?
Here is the second-annual honor roll of the best and brightest at the broadcast upfront. First off, to all who got their pilots picked up to series — congratulations. You’re already winners. This is a list of those who took their upfront success to an extra level:
Whitney Cummings: The undisputed queen of Upfront 2011. She is behind two new comedy series that are among the highest-profile new half-hour entries next fall. She created, stars in and executive produces her eponymous comedy for NBC, which was assigned the network’s best comedy slot, following The Office. She also co-wrote on spec with Michael Patrick King the CBS comedy 2 Broke Girls, which broke records as CBS’ best-testing pilot (comedy or drama) ever. Both were the first comedy pilots to get a series order at their networks. Cummings, who also has a talk show in contention at E!, will serve as an executive producer on 2 Broke Girls but will be full-time on Whitney, which was in first position. I hope that doesn’t impact 2 Broke Girls, which King is expected to run/co-run, because the pilot indeed looks great. Honorable mention in the category of creators with multiple projects for Andrew Reich and Ted Cohen. One of their two ABC pilots, Work It, was picked up to series, while the other, Smothered, is very much in contention for midseason.
What a comeback for J.J. Abrams! After his high-profile NBC drama Undercovers went bust last fall, some questioned whether the networks will continue to bet on him. But bet they did this upfront, with both pilots he produced, CBS’ Person of Interest and Fox’s Alcatraz, going to series. Person of Interest instantly became one of the most anticipated new fall series when CBS made it its new Thursday 9 PM anchor. The network also said it was its best-testing drama pilot ever. And over at Fox, Alcatraz prevailed over several high-profile pilots to land one of only two drama series spots. Then, as icing on the cake, Abrams’ modestly rated but well-liked Fox sci-fi series Fringe got a renewal for next season, bringing the producer’s series for next season to three.
We already told you what several advertisers thought of NBC’s and Fox’s upfront presentations. As for the last two major networks, the people with whom we spoke were much more impressed by CBS than ABC and identified four shows that seem to have a better-than-even shot at succeeding: CBS’ 2 Broke Girls, How To Be A Gentleman and A Gifted Man, and ABC’s Man Up. Some dinged ABC for providing little insight into the eight shows the network will introduce this fall. “I guess you throw something against the wall and hope,” says Brad Adgate of Horizon Media. By contrast, he says that CBS demonstrated that “the shows they’re really high on are protected” in time slots where they either face anemic competition or where they are flanked by hits. Targetcast’s Gary Carr says that CBS “did a great job” of explaining the strategies behind its five new shows. ABC, he added, ”was down and dirty — one hour with no entertainment and no celebrities.”
The CW Network introduced Upfront Week’s two most ambitious new ploys to keep digitally savvy viewers from skipping past its ads. The first is a Bingo-like game called CWingo: Viewers will go to CWTV.com or Facebook to find a card with images from a show, and cross off squares when the image on the card matches what’s on the screen. “Watching commercials earns viewers more squares,” CW entertainment president Dawn Ostroff told advertisers today. Winners will receive prizes, of course. Another new service, called Shoptick, also will enable advertisers to reward viewers who watch their commercials. CW shows will have a visual cue telling viewers to turn on their smartphones before the Shoptick ad airs. Spots will ask consumers to do something to ”identify that they’re watching the ad,” Ostroff says. CW’s efforts to lure young viewers who watch shows online to also watch commercials appear to be paying off. The network says 94% of the digital media ads run to completion. Execs say that online viewing of CW shows is up 55% this year and online viewing time is up 175%. Only 7% of these people also watch the shows on TV.
The symbolic passing of the baton at the CW was done today at the network’s upfront presentation, which featured both outgoing entertainment president Dawn Ostroff and newly appointed president Mark Pedowitz. “I’m sorry to say that this is my last CW upfront,” Ostroff said in her intro. “We’re moving to New York, so look out, my husband and I, our four kids and two dogs may become your neighbors.” She introduced Pedowitz, who was upbeat in his short speech before bouncing things back to Ostroff, who laid out the schedule for next season. “I believe in the The CW, its people, its programming, its affiliate body and advertisers,” Pedowitz said. “I love its enormous growth opportunity.” It was very classy for the CW to introduce new topper Pedowitz but let Ostroff do the main presentation, a far cry from other broadcast executive changeovers pre-upfront, like the appointment of Steve McPherson at ABC a few years back, when the new person takes all the credit and their predecessor is not even mentioned at the presentation. So when Ostroff said, “I’m going to assure you that the transition will be a seamless one,” for once it didn’t sound like just an executive cliche.
New original series:
THE HEART, SHE HOLLER
The Heart, She Holler is a new live-action soap opera about folk who ain’t never used soap or seen an opera. It’s a satire on the emotional Hee-Hawification of America, set in a town so inbred, the folks have become almost supernaturally wrong. The series is produced by PFFR, and stars Patton Oswalt and Heather Lawless. The Heart, She Holler premieres this fall on Adult Swim.
When he took the stage for his first ABC upfront presentation, the network’s new president Paul Lee was quick to bring up the event’s main attraction. “When Anne Sweeney called me about this job, I asked myself, ‘Do I really want to be humiliated by Jimmy Kimmel in front of hundreds of people?’ The answer was: ‘Absolutely’ ”
Right away, Lee, who was visibly nervous, branded the network’s new lineup “pure entertainment,” so he began presenting ABC’s fall schedule with Thursday night, showcasing new 8 PM anchor Charlie’s Angels. “I’ve wanted to remake Charlie’s Angels since I was 14,” Lee said. He explained the decision to schedule the remake Thursdays at 8 PM with the fact that it will be the only scripted drama in the slot (besides CW).
Tim Allen was on hand to promote his new ABC comedy Last Man Standing. “It’s about a man in a women’s world. Its original name was The Paul Lee Story.” That was not the only jab at his new boss. “You can dump the accent, you got the job,” he told British-born Lee.
After the clip for ABC’s new cross-dressing comedy Work It, Lee justified his decision to pick up the show with, “So sue me, I’m a Brit,” segueing to “Talking about cross-dressing, here’s Jimmy Kimmel.”
Kimmel was his usual irreverent self. Here are some of his top barbs:
Fox picked up where it left off at last year’s upfront presentation — with a music performance by actors from Glee. Unlike last year’s closing number, which featured the main cast of the show lipsynching, this time, it was Warblers who kicked of the proceedings with a live performance of Hey Soul Sister.
In another repeat from last year’s presentation, Glee star Jane Lynch served as an emcee as her track suit-loving character Sue Sylvester. She first introduced the casts of Fox’s new and returning series who walked out on stage one by one as “spoiled, well tanned, overpaid, underworked” brats whose trip to the upfront presentation has cost the network “75 first-class plane seats and more presidential suites than a Saudi bachelor party.”
How important is Simon Cowell’s X Factor to Fox? The show was showcased at the very top of Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly’s schedule presentation. “Others may imitate, but there is really only one Simon and only one X Factor.”
The X Factor crew came out in full force, led by Cowell. He was joined by fellow judges Paula Abdul, Cheryl Cole and L.A. Reid and hosts Nicole Scherzinger and Steve Jones. Also walking on stage with them was American Idol’s Randy Jackson, reuniting with his former co-judges Cowell and Abdul. Said Cowell, “Randy, wrong show, this is the new one.”