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Fox’s Upfront: Most Improved Player

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This year, Fox’s upfront presentation was an all-business, snappy rundown of the network’s new shows and its schedule. At the beginning, we were told, ‘24’-style, that the following would take place between 4 and 5 p.m. And it did, despite the fact that Fox had a slew of new shows to run through.

In other words, it was very different from last year’s, which felt like one of those end-of-the-world events that destroy lives. (Among several other misfires at the presentation, Brad Garrett, star of the then-new show ‘’Til Death,’ did a stand-up act in which he trashed Fox stars Paula Abdul and Ryan Seacrest. But the biggest problem was the venue, the Armory on Park Avenue, which was like a giant, sweaty bat cave.)

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On Thursday afternoon, Fox Entertainment President Peter Liguori paid oblique homage to last year’s mess when he said that he was pleased to be back within the ‘friendly confines’ of the City Center on 55th Street. And though Garrett was among the Fox stars paraded quickly in front of the audience, blessedly neither he nor any other actor was asked to give one of those awkward speeches that barely ever work at these things. Garrett, also mindful of last year, pantomimed to the audience by waving his hands that he would not be speaking this year -- it was funny.

Also of note: Liguori, who renewed only ‘’Til Death’ out of the scripted programs he had developed for this past season and canceled a bunch of poorly reviewed others, admitted that last year he and the network didn’t go with the shows they really loved, and picked badly.

Honesty. Weird.

So ended the week of the five English-language network upfronts. Except for ABC -- which featured a participatory game of bingo and Mark Indelicato of ‘Ugly Betty’ singing ‘One’ from ‘A Chorus Line’ -- the networks were more low-key than in previous years.

Was it the uncertainty about the effect of the digital world on network television? The slightly terrifying drop-off in viewership in recent months? The dark clouds gathering on the labor front, as the Writers Guild’s contract expires at the end of October?

We’ll let you know!

--Kate Aurthur

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