Television’s marathon week in Manhattan came to a close just as the clock struck midnight Friday morning at the CW’s annual private party, which moved to a new location in midtown for 2017. The soirée, per usual, was filled with relieved advertisers and exhausted entertainment execs who could finally celebrate the end of Upfronts.
NBC kicked off the four-day run, followed by Fox, ABC, Turner, CBS, and the CW. Some of the presentations were great, while others could have used some improvement. Fox may want to invest in a new late-night franchise just to have a host to trot out every year at this time. Stephen Colbert, James Corden, Seth Meyers, and Jimmy Kimmel (in absentia) were among the highlights of the CBS, NBC, and ABC gatherings.
Here is the good, the bad, and the worst of Upfronts 2017:
Cheesiest line: NBC’s ad chief Linda Yaccarino opened up the week Monday morning at NBC’s presentation, but she quickly won the first award of the upfronts with the cheesiest line: Speaking about Steve Burke “passing the torch” to her to open the upfront, she quipped, “the brand is already on fire.”
However, CBS’ Jo Ann Ross was a close second. She came out on stage playing a trumpet and said, “Welcome to CBS, where we’re not afraid to toot our own horn.”
Over-achiever: James Corden. The jolly Brit did two upfronts on the same day — Turner and CBS — to promote “Drop the Mic” at TBS and “The Late Late Show” at CBS, respectively. At CBS, he got extra points for coming in a Star Trek uniform and Vulcan ears.
Best musical number: Remember that “Will & Grace” musical tease? Who knows if NBC’s revival series will end up featuring a musical, but last week’s video was teeing up a well-received musical act that brought the original four cast members out to Radio City Music Hall.
Best tear-inducing moment: “This Is Us” took over a huge portion of time during NBC’s upfront. A pre-taped video featured viewers sharing their experiences of watching the hit show, and then the entire ensemble cast surprised them — and then surprised Radio City by walking out on stage. And no, there was not a dry eye in the theater.
Best cape: CW’s Rob Tuck came out in a green cape with a money sign, deeming himself “Sales-Man.”
Most phones: Kim and Khloé Kardashian graced the stage during E!’s portion of NBCUniversal’s upfront to plug the 10th anniversary of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” plus younger sister Kylie Jenner’s upcoming reality series, “Life of Kylie.” Unfortunately, the ad-buying audience may not have heard anything they had to say because they were just too busy taking pictures.
Best Trump jab: “Late Night” host Seth Meyers made a valiant effort (“This week is the definition of fake news. TV executives talk about new shows like Trump talks about healthcare,” he quipped during his standup routine at NBC), but it’s Stephen Colbert who takes the Trumpiest prize for zingers: “There’s really only one word to describe this president, and the FCC has asked me not to use it anymore.”
Best Mike Pence jab: Seth Meyers, however, did have the best Pence joke: “The big news is that NBC is reviving ‘Will & Grace,’ and when he heard that, someone had to revive Mike Pence.”
Best mocking of your own network: Seth Meyers did his annual standup routine at NBC’s upfront, and he held nothing back when it came to his own network. “Steve Harvey was supposed to be here, but no one was brave enough to knock on his dressing room,” he quipped about the “Big Little Shots” host. He took aim, gently, at the Billy Bush-“Today” flap, the “Will & Grace” revival, and even the most sacred cow of NBC, “This Is Us.” Noting that the drama was the first NBC show to rank No. 1 in the Nielsen ratings in 13 years, he joked “a better name would be ‘This Is Unlike Us.'”
Best greeting: “This is one heck of a third day at work,” Fox’s newly promoted president of advertising revenue Joe Marchese said in launching the network’s presentation at the Beacon Theater.
Worst joke: Fox Sports’ Joe Buck riled up the crowd a few times during Fox’s presentation, except his crude anti-women jokes about his ex-wife were inappropriate and offensive to many in the audience.
Worst use of time: Buck’s segment was part of the 44-minute Fox Sports portion of Fox’s upfront presentation — yes, 44 minutes. Dedicating so much time to sports was an odd choice, overshadowing the most important content of the upfront: Fox’s new slate of primetime shows.
Best cast mashup: To promote the new scheduling move of pairing “Empire” and “Star” together on Wednesday nights, the casts of both shows joined forces for one mega-mashup. The ladies of “Star” were joined by “Empire’s” Serayah, Jussie Smollett, and Bryshere Y. Grey, who impressed with a moonwalk. Jussie ended the number dancing up against Fox boss Dana Walden.
Best snack: Cookie war! It’s a tie between chocolate chip cookies that were passed out by Gordon Ramsay at Fox’s upfront and cookies passed out by Wendi McLendon-Covey, in full track suit garb as Beverly from “The Goldbergs,” at ABC’s presentation.
Best “Glee” throwback: Lea Michele opened up ABC’s Upfront singing a song, bringing back memories of “Glee” — except the actress is no longer on Fox; she’s starring on ABC’s upcoming comedy “The Mayor.”
Worst performance: Though Seth MacFarlane is extremely talented and his voice sounded great, his opening number at Fox’s upfront fell flat, compared to other performances during the week, such as Stephen Colbert at CBS and James Corden at Turner.
Best actor emcee: Anthony Anderson opened ABC’s upfront and was charming as always. He introduced Ben Sherwood as “the whitest person in America.”
Best start to a farewell tour: The cast of “Scandal” graced the stage at Lincoln Center during ABC’s day to officially announce the show will be ending after Season 7. Kerry Washington gave a powerful speech alongside her fellow Gladiators. “We are and always will be citizens of Shondaland and ABC,” she promised.
— Elizabeth Wagmeister (@EWagmeister) May 16, 2017
Best coined term: “The Disney difference,” stated by Sherwood. He said, “Being part of the Disney family is what sets ABC apart from its competitors when it comes to storytelling, real moments, corporate synergy, and brand partnerships.”
Best bromance: Shaq, Conan O’ Brien, and Anderson Cooper, who had a fireside chat during Turner’s upfront and cracked up the audience with their charming chemistry.
Most awkward moment: If the “Roseanne” revival looks anything like the cast’s big surprise debut at upfronts, the actors may want to brush up on their chemistry together. The original TV family came out on a couch, reminiscent of their original set, but their bit felt unrehearsed and underwhelming.
Best fuchsia suit: Jon Batiste, who opened CBS’ upfront with his band and then led the crowd down the street to the Plaza Hotel after-party in high-stepping New Orleans fashion.
— Elizabeth Wagmeister (@EWagmeister) May 17, 2017
Best hidden skill: In a pre-taped video opening CBS’ upfront, Colbert danced around with CBS talent, including Charlie Rose who (with a stunt double) did a few backflips. Colbert also impressed with a high kick during his song-and-dance number on stage at Carnegie Hall.
Best ’90s throwback: Backstreet Boys performed at ABC’s upfront, closing out the show to promote the network’s upcoming reality singing competition “Boyband,” on which Nick Carter will serve as judge. There’s no better way to keep your network top-of-mind than by having ad-buyers exit the upfront humming “Everybody.”
Harshest disses: CBS skewered some of their competitors from NBC’s Megan Kelly, who will be competing against Oprah on “60 Minutes,” and former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly. “Who would have predicted Stephen Colbert would be No.1 in late night and Bill O’Reilly would be doing a podcast in his underwear?,” quipped Leslie Moonves.
Best souvenir: To celebrate the new reboot of “Dynasty,” the CW sent attendees home with champagne gummy gears and chocolate caviar.
— Elizabeth Wagmeister (@EWagmeister) May 18, 2017