TV’s jam-packed marathon week in New York City came to a close in the wee hours of Friday morning, finally shut down by a few stalwarts grooving on the dance floor at CW’s annual private party at Park Avenue Spring.
Ad buyers were wined and dined throughout the week, as network execs did their best to sell their new shows. This year’s Upfronts saw some big changes from last year — some for the better, and some, well, not so much.
Here is the good, the bad and the worst of Upfronts 2016:
Best triple-threat: “Quantico” star Priyanka Chopra opened up ABC’s Upfront presentation with a song-and-dance number that proved she’s an absolute star. The former Miss World may have just launched her “Priyanka for ‘Dancing With the Stars'” campaign.
Worst shoutout: But we couldn’t help but cringe when Chopra kissed up to her bosses (who surely handed her this script): “Shoutout to a few people I love — Bob Iger! Ben Sherwood! Channing Dungey!”
Best girl-power duo: Rachel Bloom and Gina Rodriguez teamed up for an opening act at the CW’s Upfront that was equal parts funny and inspiring. Speaking of the slowly improving number of female showrunners with the “Jane the Virgin” lead, the “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” creator-star said, “Surprising considering we’re half the world, I don’t know why it’s taken this long ’cause we’re like 51% of Earth.” (Seeing the back-to-back Golden Globe winners next to each other was a great reminder of the CW’s momentum and star-making power.)
Most heartfelt show-seller: Kiefer Sutherland told the ABC upfront audience that some of his greatest joy has been working on television, but he wasn’t looking to come back — until he read the “Designated Survivor” script. “I found myself on page 25 and I said, ‘S–t.’ I realized I was potentially holding the next decade of my life in my hands.”
Best Donald Trump diss: As expected, everyone from Samantha Bee to even the Powerpuff Girls delivered Trump jabs, but the winner came from Jimmy Fallon, who said, “At least we’re the network that fired Donald Trump.”
Best back-atcha moment: …But Jimmy Kimmel’s follow-up was even funnier. At the ABC Upfront, Kimmel took aim at NBC’s “Celebrity Apprentice” choice of Trump replacement in Arnold Schwarzenegger: “Should a guy who knocked up his maid be put in charge of an apprenticeship program?”
Best standup: Jimmy Kimmel. Click here for his best lines. (Honorable mentions go to the hilarious Seth Meyers, Billy Eichner and Samantha Bee at Turner’s upfront.)
Worst standup: Kevin James at the CBS Upfront. (Sorry, Kevin.)
Best street food: The CW had red-headed servers passing out mini apple pies and french fries from “Riverdale’s” Pop’s food truck to promote the upcoming Archie Comics-inspired show.
Cw passing out food from Riverdale's Pops food truck outside #Upfronts2016 yummy apple pie pic.twitter.com/4Roxzq9M0C
— Cynthia Littleton (@Variety_Cynthia) May 19, 2016
Best snack: NBC’s consolidated Upfront was long, but they had water bottles and chocolate-covered pretzels waiting on each seat in Radio City music hall to avoid “hangry” ad buyers. (And reporters!)
Best joke: Meyers delivered a ton of zingers at the NBC Upfront, but this is our favorite: “Watching sizzle reels at the 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.”
Cheesiest joke: Fox chief Gary Newman introduced new show “The Exorcist,” saying, “This show is going to turn heads.”
Most overused stunt: Hamilton. Three networks paid homage to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway hit — NBC, ESPN and CBS — and it got a little old after the third time.
Best “Hamilton”: Despite the overused stunt, we’ll give the nod to James Corden for the best take on Hamilton at CBS’s presentation, when he sang “We just want your Hamiltons.” That said, Jimmy Fallon’s funny spoof caught Miranda’s eye. (We checked, and NBC does not have the full version available.)
Anyone got the full version of this badboy https://t.co/oif89NCYo7
— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) May 17, 2016
Worst theme song: CBS’s “Eye Way.” The Frank Sinatra-inspired melody didn’t help CBS shake that stodgy image.
Loudest cheers: Fox had Beacon Hall howling for nearly every one of their new trailers, especially upcoming comedy “The Mick,” which stars Kaitlin Olson.
Worst stench: The Adult Swim party, which is held at Terminal 5, smells like a fraternity house. The packed room of fratty junior ad buyers didn’t help matters — nor did Nicki Minaj taking the stage 40 minutes late.
Best knock at another network: “They decided to pick up ‘The Exorcist’ when Gary and Dana looked at their ratings and started projectile vomiting.” — Kimmel on Fox’s Dana Walden and Gary Newman.
Best knock at your own network: “18-49 isn’t our target demo — it’s the number of people who watched ‘Wicked City’ last season.” — Kimmel
Worst stunt based on a previous stunt: Fake Ellen selfie at NBC’s mega Upfront
Best executive diss: It’s a tie between Fox showing this picture of “Lex Moonves,” and Kimmel saying: “Fox has ‘Lucifer,’ which you know is based on the life of their founder, Rupert Murdoch.”
Fox upfront : "Lex Moonves"! pic.twitter.com/kj7FWRxyrL
— Michael Schneider (@franklinavenue) May 16, 2016
Best use of animals: Joel McHale’s “The Great Indoors” has a baby bear in the pilot.
Worst use of animals: ABC’s new comedy “Downward Dog,” which features, yes, a talking dog. The canine star did not play well during the Upfront. New president Channing Dungey was a pure delight, but when she closed the presentation with a talking dog, the Upfront ended on a “ruff” note.
Best first-timer: Despite Dungey’s over-reliance on the dog, the new prez won over the room, sharing her childhood obsession with TV. New CBS president Glenn Geller also impressed at his first Upfront.
Worst empty buzzword: “Connection” at ABC’s Upfront
Worst thoughtless buzzword: “Subprime video” at Fox’s Upfront, a jab at digital advertising which recalled the 2008 financial crisis. But Toby Byrne gets credit for the least awkward performance by an ad exec.
Biggest diva: Mariah Carey, who got carried out Cleopatra-style by two shirtless men onto the NBC Upfront stage to promote her upcoming E! reality series “Mariah’s World.” (She also showed up at the very last minute on the carpet, wearing full sequins and large sunglasses.)
Best sport on the red carpet: Kristen Bell. “The Good Place” star’s overnight flight from LA to NYC was delayed, so when she landed late, she opted to take the subway (instead of sitting in traffic with a driver) so that she wouldn’t miss the NBC Upfront carpet.
Best live music: Fox put on quite the show with live performances from the cast of “Empire” and the new cast of “Star.”
So they sound really good…#Empire's @JussieSmollett and @YazzTheGreatest take the stage at #FOXUpfronts pic.twitter.com/UlX8uNmkrx
— Elizabeth Wagmeister (@EWagmeister) May 16, 2016
Best “they saved this show” moment: The audience cheered loudly at the mention of “American Crime” Season 3 at ABC’s Upfront
Best wifi: The Turner Upfront not only had coffee, donuts and yogurt parfaits for attendees at their morning presentation, but also free wifi — the best treat for reporters covering Upfronts.
Daniel Holloway, Cynthia Littleton and Debra Birnbaum contributed to this report.