×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Fargo,’ ‘Modern Family,’ Aretha Franklin and More: 5 Things We Learned at Disney’s Upfront

The newly merged suite of Disney networks held its first ever “Disney Upfront Experience” on Tuesday, featuring segments devoted to ESPN, FX, Freeform, ABC News and ABC. Highlights included comedic bits from ESPN’s Kenny Mayne and ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel, while singer John Mayer closed the show with two numbers. Here are some tidbits gleaned from the festivities:

FX reveals Chris Rock’s “Fargo” character name: There’s still plenty of secrecy behind Noah Hawley’s long-awaited fourth season of “Fargo,” but we now know the name of the character that Rock will be playing: Loy Cannon. Cannon is the head of a Kansas City crime syndicate in the 1950s. According to FX Networks CEO John Landgraf, production starts this fall on the new “Fargo,” with an early 2020 premiere.

In a pre-taped video, Rock said he had long been a fan of the “Fargo” TV show, and even his kids thought it was “cool” when they found out, via Google, that their father had joined the latest edition. “It’s organically funny,” Rock said of the show. “Even if I wasn’t in it, [I would have] the exact same level of excitement.”

Legendary record executive Clive Davis has joined National Geographic’s “Genius: Aretha” as an executive producer: Davis joined fellow executive producers Brian Grazer and Suzan-Lori Parks on the Disney upfront stage to recount his 40-year friendship with the Queen of Soul. “After we met in 1979, she already was the Queen of Soul,” he said. “We talked about working together to reinvigorate her career.” That led to more No. 1 records and Grammy Awards in the 1980s and 1990s, he noted, “inspiring musicians all over the world how long a career could last. Aretha was truly a gift, one that will carry on for countless generations. I was always aware that she would forever be a part of history.”

Besides Davis, the Aretha Franklin estate, run by her niece Sabrina Owens, is also on board. “With Aretha, I wanted to understand, what does the ‘Queen of Soul’ really mean?” Grazer said. “We have since learned a lot about her … [she] changed the entire definition of soul.”

Modern Family” earned a rare upfronts standing ovation: Co-creator Steve Levitan and the long-running sitcom’s stars hit the Lincoln Center stage one last time to reminisce about the show’s decade-long run — and the ABC 2009 upfronts presentation, when the network screened the entire pilot for advertisers. Levitan quipped that it was “four network presidents ago,” and indeed “Modern Family” outlasted Steve McPherson, Paul Lee, Channing Dungey and now Karey Burke. Also, 10 years ago, “streaming was something you did in the bathroom.”

That decision to screen the entire pilot at the upfronts was a gamble — other networks have done similar stunts in the past, only to see those shows falter. But that upfront set the stage for “Modern Family’s” quick ascension to hit status. “Much to our relief, this room laughed in all the right places,” Levitan said. “Twenty-two minutes and all of our lives changed forever. We all consider it one of the best days of our lives.”

ESPN’s overtime per diem is $58: At least, that’s according to “Sportscenter” anchor Scott Van Pelt, who headlined ESPN’s portion of the Disney upfronts. Van Pelt noted that after the 4 p.m. event, he was heading back to the studio, where he’ll anchor his usual midnight episode — following the network’s coverage of Game 1 of the NBA Western Conference finals. In noting his long work day, he joked that since Disney CEO Bob Iger and ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro were both in the audience, he’d ask to get his full per diem approved right then and there. “$58! I’ll take what I can get,” he said.

It’s still going to take time to get used to the Disney/FX juxtaposition: Outside Lincoln Center, posters promoted the wide variety of programs from Disney networks like ABC, Freeform, ESPN, and new siblings FX and National Geographic. But the posters also featured the Disney logo — and it was a bit jarring to see the iconic company’s logo next to some decidedly un-Disney-like series like FX’s “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” Then there was the poster for “Mr Inbetween,” which featured a gun — definitely something you don’t usually see next to the word “Disney”:

CREDIT: FX/Disney

More TV

  • Alicia Keys23rd Annual Hollywood Film Awards,

    Alicia Keys Will Return as 2020 Grammy Awards Host

    Alicia Keys will return as the host of the 62nd annual Grammy Awards. Keys hosted the awards show for the first time in 2019. She will become the third woman and the first female music star to host the show twice. Keys has won 15 Grammy awards and is second only to Paul Simon as [...]

  • AMERICAN HORROR STORY: 1984 -- Pictured:

    'American Horror Story' Recap: '1984's' 'Final Girl' Revealed

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Final Girl,” the finale episode of “American Horror Story: 1984.” The final episode of “American Horror Story: 1984” is appropriately called “The Final Girl,” a reference to the term given to that one (usually virginal) young woman who manages to survive the massacre in most [...]

  • Lady Antebellum and Halsey53rd Annual CMA

    Halsey Puts the Extra Lady in Lady Antebellum in Elegant CMA Awards Medley

    Halsey is increasingly proving herself a woman for all seasons in her varied TV appearances and awards show collaborations, and Wednesday’s CMA Awards telecast was no exception, as she ingratiated herself into the country vocal trio Lady Antebellum for some flawless four-part harmony on a medley of two of their respective hits. She and Lady [...]

  • The Bachelor

    TV News Roundup: ABC Announces Premiere Date for 'The Bachelor' Season 24

    In today’s TV news roundup, ABC announced the premiere date for “The Bachelor” Season 24, while Showtime set a date for Eddie Griffin’s new comedy special. CASTING Freeform announced that it has cast the pilot for “Last Summer.“ Chiara Aurelia will star as Jeanette and Mika Abdalla will star as Kate in this “unconventional thriller” about [...]

  • Mandalorian Pose Stranger Things

    'The Mandalorian,' 'Pose,' 'Stranger Things' Among Nominees for Top TV Publicity Campaign

    The Disney Plus series “The Mandalorian,” three other streaming series, and two FX series have been nominated by Hollywood union publicists for the year’s top publicity campaign. “Catch 22,” “Fosse/Verdon,” “Pose,” “Stranger Things” and “When They See Us” picked up the other nominations. The nominees for the International Cinematographers Guild Publicists’ Maxwell Weinberg Award for [...]

  • Paradigm's Liz Morentin portrait session in

    Paradigm's Executive VP of Communications Liz Morentin to Exit Agency

    Liz Morentin is stepping down from her role as executive vice president of communications at Paradigm, Variety has learned. According to an individual with knowledge of the situation, Morentin’s departure was amicable and she will stay on at the agency through the end of the year to help with the transition. No replacement has been named at [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content