The venue was the same, but Paramount Global’s inaugural upfront presentation at Carnegie Hall took a very different approach compared to the CBS presentations of old.
Jo Ann Ross, longtime CBS ad sales chief, still opened the show without pomp and circumstance, introducing an event that was designed to run an hour playing off the them of CBS’ signature newsmagazine “60 Minutes.” In reality, it ran about an hour and 20 minutes.
In what has become a theme of the upfronts this year, media buyers spent much of the hour watching pre-taped pieces, sprinkled with in-person pitches from talent and executives. Rather than focusing on new series clips, it was “60 Minutes” anchors producing and hosting what were in essence branded custom content videos for their corporate parent.
(“The Late Late Show” host James Corden came out at 5:09 p.m. ET noting how, well, the “60 Minutes” idea didn’t quite work as planned.)
CBS News’ Scott Pelley introduced a “60 Minutes” style package that featured Paramount talent including Miranda Cosgrove (“iCarly”) and “The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah also promoting the company’s portfolio.
Media buyers watched a serious of promotion spots extolling other properties and genres as well. “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl introduced another package from the newsmagazine highlighting Paramount entries including MTV’s “The Real World” and “Jersey Shore,” CBS’ “Survivor” and “The Amazing Race,” VH1’s “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and others.
“We created this genre that is going to outlive all of us,” “Survivor” host Jeff Probst said in the clip. “They haven’t knocked ‘Survivor’ off the top of the mountain. And when I say ‘Survivor,’ I mean me,” he quipped. To which Phil Keoghan, Julie Chen Moonves, Snooki and others jokingly responded that they’re taking him on.
Norah O’Donnell later hosted an entire package devoted to Tyler Perry. Bill Whitaker fronted the segment “Time for Change,” about BET CEO Scott Mills and his initiative “Content for Change.”
Gayle King introduced a package about the return of westerns — of course, led by Taylor Sheridan’s “Yellowstone” and its spinoff “1883.” King introduced “Yellowstone” stars Kevin Costner and Kelly Reilly, followed by other stars of the Sheridanverse, including David Oyelowo, star of “1883: The Bass Reeves Story,” and “1883” stars Tim McGraw and Faith Hill.
Jessica Chastain and Michael Shannon introduced a clip from “George & Tammy,” which will air on Paramount Network, Paramount Plus and Spectrum Originals.
And then came Sylvester Stallone, star of Sheridan’s “Tulsa King.” “I know good writing when I see it,” he said. “It was gold. It had characterization, it had empathy, it had romance. And it had true heart.”
The upfront also included a brief routine by “The Late Show” host Stephen Colbert, who made the requisite “NCIS”/”CSI” jokes (suggesting “NCIS: Hearts Abishola” was on the way). The host also referenced his recent double bouts of COVID-19.
“Recently I had COVID twice,” he said. “Give me COVID once, shame on you. Give me COVID twice, stop giving me COVID. I’m super immune now, I could lick each and everyone of you. If that’s what it takes to get ad time on ‘Blue Bloods.’”
“Let’s Make a Deal” host Wayne Brady showcased a faux game show, featuring “CBS Mornings” anchors Tony Dokoupil and Nate Burleson, along with actress Nicole Byer (who yes, has been at virtually every upfront presentation this week) answering questions about Paramount Global.
Later, Corden riffed about the company’s offerings, but also acknowledged his recent announcement that he would end “The Late Late Show” next spring. But first, he had some fun with that game show riff.
“So many historic performances have happened right here on this stage. The Beatles, Judy Garland, Paramount’s upfront promotional game show ‘Climb that Mountain,'” he said. As the audience laughed at the dig, he quipped, “What are you going to do? Fire me?”
“As you may know, this is my last year at the ‘Late Late Show,'” he said. “But there’s a quote that’s been helping me through this difficult time: ‘Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because you won’t have to cover another American presidential election.’
“I’ve loved being part of the CBS family. I love being part of the Viacom family. I love being part of the Viacom CBS family. I love being part of the Paramount Global family, and I love being part of whatever name they give us next week.” He then turned serious: “This is my final upfronts. It’s the last time I do this here at Paramount and I just want you to know how incredible the people that I work for here are. They really, really are. And I know that this is often a time where people will come out and they’ll roast the network heads and things like that. But the people here at this place to this network, they are they’re incredible. Kelly Kahl and Thom Sherman, David Stapf, Amy Rosenberg, Nick Bernstein, George Cheeks, Bob Bakish. The amazing teams of people who work alongside them. It’s been one of the greatest moments of my life. They are always respectful, dignified. And I knew when I decided to leave the show that I’ll never work somewhere like this again.”
Rather than showcase clips from most new shows, the “Star Trek” franchise stars Patrick Stewart, Anson Mount and Kate Mulgrew discussed “setting a course” to Paramount’s upfronts website to watch clips and trailers, while titles of the conglom’s new shows floated across the screen in the background.
The Eye network still took the lead in the presentation. Midway through, Ross introduced the cast of breakout hit “Ghosts,” who were in character and performed a musical… about performing a musical in Carnegie Hall.
“NCIS: Hawai’i” star Vanessa Lachey introduced a quick roundup of CBS’ fall schedule — making Paramount Global the only upfront so far to actually reference a primetime lineup, complete with timeslots. (An element that used to be the cornerstone of upfront presentations and have mostly now disappeared from these events.)
Drew Barrymore, who hosts a daytime talk show for the conglom, ended the upfronts by congratulating Corden for his run, and then introducing a performance by Mickey Guyton and Leann Rimes.