Upfronts Diary Day 2: Seen and Heard During TV’s Biggest Week

Priyanka Chopra
ABC/ Ida Mae Astute

Variety’s TV team brings you all the news and dish from TV’s biggest week of the year.

After a jam-packed first day, ad buyers were back at it with ESPN kicking off day two of 2016 Upfronts. Up next is Univision’s presentation, and Tuesday will wrap up with ABC’s day, headlined by Jimmy Kimmel, per usual. This year marks newly minted president Channing Dungey‘s first time on the Lincoln Center stage. Tuesday evening will be filled with more agency parties from ICM Partners’ dinner on the west side to Verve and Gersh’s gatherings.

Stay in-the-know with our daily Upfronts Diary, and keep refreshing the page for new updates throughout the day and night.

ESPN Upfront presentation, Minskoff Theatre, Tuesday morning

ESPN’s upfront kicked off with a nod to the Broadway show “Hamilton,” marking the second time in two days networks have referenced the theater phenomenon. (First time was at NBC’s upfront with Jimmy Fallon spoofing the show.) However, ESPN’s version was not a spoof — the musical’s Grammy Award-winning and Tony Award-nominated artists Daveed Diggs and Leslie Odom, Jr. opened and closed the presentation with an original performance written and created exclusively for the event. ESPN ad sales chief Ed Erhardt seized on their efforts to tell the audience how ESPN specializes in live, individual moments that are hard to duplicate elsewhere.

ESPN made its entrance into late-night more pronounced when Scott Van Pelt, host of the midnight “Sports Center,” told the audience that his show captured more men between 18 and 34 than Kimmel, Fallon, Stephen Colbert or James Corden. “We beat them all, and I’m as shocked as you are,” said the host, who has retooled the wee-hours “Sports Center” with more of a freewheeling bent since taking it over in September.

ABC Upfront presentation, David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center, Tuesday afternoon

“Quantico” star Priyanka Chopra opened ABC’s upfront, taking the stage in a sequined red get-up for a major song-and-dance number. “Stay tuned for ‘Quantico’ the musical,” boss Ben Sherwood quipped following her impressive performance.

Sherwood quietly made a dig at Donald Trump. Speaking about Kiefer Sutherland‘s upcoming drama “Designated Survivor” — which revolves around a lower-level Cabinet member who becomes President after an attack kills everyone else in the presidential line of succession — Sherwood said, with a laugh, “It may not be the strangest road to the White House this fall.”

Channing Dungey warmed audience members’ hearts by speaking about her new “opportunity” — aka becoming the new entertainment president of ABC — and sharing memories of her childhood obsession with television. The newly-minted prez won over the room with her genuine demeanor during the entire presentation.

The first teaser of ABC’s upcoming “Dirty Dancing” was shown at the upfront. Dungey introduced the video, saying that she wishes the cast was present — but “turns out someone put baby in a corner.”

Sutherland introduced the first look at his upcoming show “Designated Survivor,” and told the room that he wasn’t planning on returning to TV, before he read the script. “I found myself on page 25 and I said ‘s—.’ I realized I was potentially holding the next decade of my life in my hands,” he said.

Jimmy Kimmel roasted the other networks, during his annual set. But first, he knocked ABC’s former president Paul Lee. Describing the upfronts as an annual “family reunion,” he asked, “Where is Uncle Paul?” He continued, “I hate to see anyone, especially a British person lose his dental plan.”

For the rest of Kimmel’s jokes, click here.

ICM Partners dinner, Colicchio & Sons, Tuesday night

ICM’s annual private downtown dinner on the west side attracted top execs and TV stars, including ABC’s Sherwood and new prez Dungey, hot off of her first Upfront. Fox’s Peter Rice and Warner Bros.’ Peter Roth were at the intimate cocktail gathering and seated dinner, plus “24: Legacy’s” Corey Hawkins, who’s getting a ton of early buzz, “The Blacklist” spinoff star Famke Janssen, WWE star John Cena and “Transparent’s” Amy Landecker.

Verve party, Cannibal, Tuesday night

Verve co-founders Bryan Besser (left) and Bill Weinstein celebrated the upfronts Tuesday night with a feast at Cannibal in Manhattan’s NOMAD district that included a whole roasted pig and a host of other comfort foods. Partygoers including Bruce Helford and Rock Rueben, co-creators of Kevin James’ CBS comedy “Kevin Can Wait,” and “Still Star-Crossed” exec producer Michael Goldstein munched home-made potato chips and sausage bits as the upfront marathon hit the halfway mark. Other Verve-ers including TV agents Chris Noriega, Felicia Prinz and Zach Carlisle toasted the end of a busy pilot season and the last mile of staffing season, while discussing their favorite pilot teasers shown during upfront presentations.