Pete Davidson, Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers and ‘SNL’ Stars Throw a Few Zingers at Peacock and NBC

NBCUNIVERSAL UPFRONT EVENTS -- 2022 NBCUniversal Upfront in New York City on Monday, May 16, 2022 -- Pictured: Seth Meyers, “Late Night with Seth Meyers” on NBC -- (Photo by: Eric Liebowitz/NBCUniversal)
Eric Liebowitz/NBCUniversal

The network upfronts are back — sort of. NBCUniversal kicked off the return of in-person upfronts presentations to advertisers, the first since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And just as the conglom had started to do even before the pandemic, the presentation was more about the company as a whole, and less about individual networks (except for a lengthy performance-based pitch for “Bravocon”).

The event didn’t even mention NBC’s fall schedule or timeslots, instead focusing on NBCU offerings, divided by genre. Still, a lot of the old upfronts-style trappings remained, from suits touting their wares to stars coming out and making cracks about their corporate owners.

“TV is the only place where you can lie through your teeth about how great everything is and call it upfront,” Seth Meyers quipped. “Let me be upfront with you. Half the shows won’t make it through the year… I don’t need to tell you, the last few years have been transformative — not just for the TV business but across all industries. We need to be inventive, agile, forward facing… and yet this is still how we’re doing upfront!”

The NBCUniversal upfront opened with Kelly Clarkson performing “Queen of the Night,” which comes on the eve of her bid to become queen of the daytime. Clarkson, of course, has become a signature personality in the NBCU stable, as host of “The Kelly Clarkson Show” — about to be upgraded to prime timeslots on NBC-owned stations this fall — in addition to her stint as judge on “The Voice” and host of “American Song Contest.”

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“The Tonight Show” star Jimmy Fallon then welcomed the audience of media buyers while also delivering a few wisecracks at his corporate boss.

“There are roughly 6,000 people in this room right now, which means statistically speaking, six of you have signed up for Peacock,” Fallon quipped. “I’m kidding, Peacock is incredibly successful. We have over 60 million users, ‘The Office,’ ‘Miami Vice’ and our newest hit repeat, ‘Yellowstone.’ How about the reboot of ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.’ Did we nail the timing of that or not?! Nailed it!”

“I’ll only be here for a minute or two, or as it is known in our industry, CNN+. Yes, CNN pulled off the impossible. They created a streaming service that made Quibi look good. But I’m not here to make fun of CNN+, because today’s presentation is only scheduled for a couple of hours now.”

Later, “Saturday Night Live” star Pete Davidson appeared to promote his upcoming Peacock series “Bupkis,” based on his own life. “I am here so that the media will start paying attention to me,” he quipped.

“I’ve done a lot of projects that reference my life because that’s kind of all I can do,” he added. “One of the things that sucks about that though is my family members, they often get to play themselves because of, you know, the low budget situation. So, my mom is starting to think of herself as a real actress. And that’s why it makes me extremely happy to get to introduce the woman who will be playing my mom — Edie Falco.”

Said Falco: “Finally, I get to play an overwhelmed mother of two living in a world of corruption. Except this time, it’s Staten Island. So when is it that I get the free Peacock password? That’s where it’s streaming right?”

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Davidson then went a touch blue: “We’re going to be on Peacock, a streamer that’s responsible for so many great shows like ‘MacGruber’ and the reruns of ‘The Office.’ So look out for our new show, streaming on the ‘Cock! Get ready to be filled with long, thick stories!”

“Late Night” host Seth Meyers came at the end to share even more bon mots: “I’ll tell you some bad news: That was New York Mayor Eric Adams. Due to 20 Bravo celebrities being in town at the same time, New York City has run out of wine… I know it sounds like a made up term but ‘Bravolebrity’ is actually the highest number you can blow on a breathalyzer.”

More: “That’s not to say NBC isn’t embracing the future. Next year promises exciting new shows and ideas like ‘Law and Order,’ ‘Fresh Prince of Bel Air,’ ‘Night Court’ and ‘Quantum Leap.’ NBC has given a full series in order for ‘Quantum Leap’ in which the hero will travel through time to stop the ‘This Is Us’ family from buying that Crock Pot. Slow Cooker! I’m pretty confident I’m gonna be here in two years announcing the ‘This Is Us’ reboot. ‘That Was Them.'”

“We’re joined today by the talented cast of Peacock’s ‘Bel-Air,’ a pretty dramatic reimagining of the ‘Fresh Prince of Bel Air.’ And we were also treated this year to a pretty dramatic reimagining of Will Smith.”

And the final jokes from Meyers: “‘Young Rock’ will be back next season. ‘Young Rock’ is like ‘Young Sheldon,’ but for people who’ve had sex. It was a great year for live events on NBC this year. The Super Bowl, the Olympics, the Golden Globes… I don’t want to pick on the Golden Globes and pile on the Hollywood Foreign Press but you have to work pretty hard to have less diversity than the Winter Olympics.”

Mid-way through the upfronts, producer Will Packer came out to discuss original movie content on Peacock, but before that, acknowledged this weekend’s domestic terrorism in Buffalo and across the country. “I want to add my voice to that the entire NBCUniversal family in acknowledging the tragedies of this past weekend, of course in nearby Buffalo and California as well. Our most sincere thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.”

“NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt told the audience that he was immediately traveling to Buffalo after his presentation to cover the aftermath of the mass shooting murders by a white supremacist targeting Black patrons at a supermarket in that city.

“All the events in the world today, from this weekend’s horrific attacks in Buffalo and Southern California to the pandemic, to war Ukraine, all remind us of the importance of journalism,” Holt said. “Of bearing witness, pursuing facts, telling stories of will and determination, whether in a supermarket parking lot here at home, or from the rubble of an unprovoked attack on a sovereign nation.”

Upfronts comedy bits also included a pre-tape from the “Saturday Night Live” writers known as the “Please Don’t Destroy” troupe. The trio (Ben Marshall, John Higgins, and Martin Herlihy) traded recommendations about lesser-known Peacock series like “Old Urkel” and “Voice The.”

In NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell’s inaugural presentation at the company upfront, the exec referred to NBC as “No. 1 TV portfolio by total audience, period.”

Susan Rovner, NBCUniversal Television and Streaming chairman of entertainment content, discussed the company’s move to a year-round development process for NBC and touted development with writers including Rian Johnson, Damon Lindelof, Tara Hernandez, Seth MacFarlane, Julie Plec, Tina Fey and more. “We are uniquely situated to take their dreams and make them come true on screen,” she said. “With our eight distinct brands, there’s nothing we can’t offer.”

After a clip celebrating the final episode of “This Is Us,” airing on May 24, out came “Dancing With Myself” hosts Shakira and Nick Jonas to talk about their new show, followed by “Barmageddon” exec producers Blake Shelton and Carson Daly, discussing their new USA Network series, which will be hosted by Nikki Bella (who also joined them on stage).

Introducing NBCU’s comedy lineup were Ana Gasteyer (“American Auto”), Nicole Byer (“Grand Crew”), Sarah Hyland (the “Pitch Perfect” spinoff series “Bumper in Berlin”) and Mayan Lopez (“Lopez vs. Lopez”).

Dick Wolf’s “Law & Order” and “One Chicago” stars including Mariska Hargitay, Sam Waterston, Taylor Kinney and others then stepped out to introduce the company’s new dramas, including “Quantum Leap.” That was followed by “La Reina del Sur” star Kate Del Castillo to discuss Telemundo.

The cast of “Bel-Air” touted their show as Peacock’s “biggest original series ever” and teased the return of the show with Season 2 next year.

Later, Laverne Cox introduced a segment on live events and specials, including the new Dolly Parton holiday movie “Mountain Magic Christmas.”

[caption id="attachment_1235268470" align="alignnone" width="1000"]NBCUNIVERSAL UPFRONT EVENTS -- 2022 NBCUniversal Upfront in New York City on Monday, May 16, 2022 -- Pictured: (l-r) Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons, “Top Chef”; Tom Schwartz, Tom Sandoval, Ariana Madix, “Vanderpump Rules”; Malia White, “Below Deck Mediterranean”; Gizelle Bryant, “The Real Housewives of Potomac”; Josh Flagg, “Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles”; Karen Huger, “The Real Housewives of Potomac”; Garcelle Beauvais, “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills”; Teresa Giudice, “The Real Housewives of New Jersey; Daisy Kelliher, “Below Deck Sailing Yacht”; Tracy Tutor, “Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles”; Kenya Moore, “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” -- (Photo by: Eric Liebowitz/NBCUniversal) Eric Liebowitz/NBCUniversal

Andy Cohen then hosted a bit of a dance showcase/performance art piece touting “Bravocon” and the network’s signature shows including “Top Chef,” “Vanderpump Rules,” “Below Deck,” “Southern Charm,” “Million Dollar Listing,” “Project Runway” and “Real Housewives.” Stars from each franchise also appeared.

Cris Collingsworth, Mike Tirico and Maria Taylor came next, promoting NBC Sports and “Sunday Night Football.” To tout the WWE, The Miz and Bianca Belair also appeared, followed by Telemundo’s Andrés Canto to discuss the World Cup, airing on Telemundo and streaming on Peacock.

After NBCU Chairman of Global Advertising and Partnerships Linda Yaccarino gave her pitch to advertisers, Miley Cyrus ended the presentation with a performance of “Wrecking Ball” and then her version of Madonna’s “Like a Prayer.”

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Eric Liebowitz/NBCUniversal

Earlier in the morning, NBC revealed its fall 2022-2023 lineup, which includes “La Brea” occupying the current Tuesdays at 9 p.m., home of “This Is Us,” as well as the “Quantum Leap” reboot series taking the coveted post-“The Voice” launchpad. Also new this fall is George Lopez’s freshman sitcom “Lopez vs. Lopez,” which will air on Fridays starting in November.