The highs and lows of NBCUniversal’s upfront presentation
NBC had the thankless task of kicking off upfront week on Monday morning, a time slot that has lent some recent presentations a painfully undercaffeinated vibe.
That was not the case at Radio City Music Hall, where NBCUniversal bucked tradition by showcasing its entire portfolio of broadcast, cable and news programming in a single, two-hour presentation pitched squarely at deep-pocketed media buyers.
The (mostly) high-energy show highlighted programming on mother ship NBC as well as sister networks including Telemundo, Bravo, USA, E! and CNBC. The presentation was a blur of sizzle reels broken up by appearances from current and future NBC stars like Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, Mariah Carey, Miley Cyrus and Arnold Schwarzenegger, as well as several dozen scantily clad Carnival dancers. Although it wasn’t necessarily that informative -- after a while it was hard to tell which shows were new or returning, or even on which network they were airing -- it was, as upfronts go, entertaining.
FULL COVERAGE: TV Upfronts: Cancellations, renewals and new series orders
Best Broadway parody
NBC hasn’t broadcast a live version of “Hamilton” (yet), but that didn’t stop the network from cashing in on the smash hit. Clad in his finest colonial garb, “Tonight Show” host Fallon kicked off the morning with a “Hamilton” parody that took some jabs at NBC programming blunders and lampooned the traditional posturing of the annual presentations. “Welcome back to upfronts week, watch the networks lying through their teeth,” Fallon sang to the tune of “You’ll Be Back.”
“Ten new shows appear this fall, the word Chicago appears in them all,” he continued.
“At least we can say we’re the network that fired Donald Trump,” he crooned.
“Late Night” host Meyers wrapped up the event with a monologue that was easily as entertaining as Fallon’s musical bit. He thanked the “Tonight Show” host for providing him with a strong lead-in. “If I had to follow ‘The Tonight Show Starring Linda Yaccarino and the Future of Branded Content’ I have to think it would affect my ratings,” he said, zinging NBCUniversal’s ad sales chairwoman and her jargon-heavy pitch.
Meyers also took aim at NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt, whose duet with Dolly Parton at last year’s upfront left attendees scratching their heads.
“So many great acts have graced this stage,” Meyers said. “Sinatra, Beyoncé, Parton and Greenblatt. I might be wrong about that, but that might be the last time they performed together.”
Most accurate summary of the upfront experience
This one also goes to Meyers, who quipped, “Watching sizzle reels at upfronts is like meeting your brother’s new girlfriend at Thanksgiving: She seems great, but you don’t want to get too attached because chances are she won’t be around next fall.”
Worst attempt to emulate the Oscars
In a ham-handed attempt to give the proceedings a bit of razzle-dazzle, a red carpet (that was actually blue-gray) was rolled out in Rockefeller Center.
Best attempt to emulate the Oscars
More successful was a bit featuring “Saturday Night Live” star Kate McKinnon, who broke out her spot-on Ellen DeGeneres impression to re-create 2014’s famous Oscar selfie with NBCUniversal talent, including Jennifer Lopez.
Most conspicuous by their absence
Fallon may have joked about NBC’s Windy City-centric lineup in his opening act, but the presentation didn’t actually feature any shows with Chicago in the title, including the latest installment in the franchise, “Chicago Justice.” (Also missing in action: Pretty much anything on Oxygen, Chiller or Esquire.) Instead, USA’s critically beloved, buzzworthy hacker drama “Mr. Robot” was mentioned almost as frequently as the upcoming Rio Olympics and “Sunday Night Football.”
Best comedic performance
Cyrus reminded everyone at Radio City Music Hall that when she’s not compulsively sticking out her tongue, she can be pretty darn funny. Appearing alongside Alicia Keys to promote their upcoming stint as judges on “The Voice,” she killed with a self-referential, seemingly improvised joke about her unpredictable reputation.
Best supporting performance
This honor goes to the bare-shirted men who carried Carey, clad in a skimpy rhinestone bodysuit, onstage to plug her new E! reality series, “Mariah’s World.” If there’s one thing Mimi knows, it’s how to make an entrance.
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