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The NBC Upfront, And The Upfronts In General

Posted by: Jon Fine on May 15, 2007

Random observations regarding NBC’s upfront. (Note: I arrived late and thus missed some key previews. Those security dudes mean business.)

—The remake of Bionic Woman frankly seems ludicrous to me, and, judging from the chuckling around me in the cheap seats, I was not the only one who felt this way. Minor points awarded for having the main character’s deaf sister listening to the MC5 in the trailer, though. (Yes, you read that sentence correctly.) It does look like they spent a bajillion dollars on it, though, for good or ill. I say this even after factoring in the six massive high-def screens NBC deployed onstage at Radio City Music Hall, which made everything look good. It struck me that NBC Programming head Kevin Reilly stressed the show’s “mindblowing visuals;” the nets may not have figured out the Web but they’ve realized everyone has massive high-def TVs!

—Jerry Seinfeld looks more or less exactly the same, and remains, to my ear, generally unfunny. (He was, far and away, the least funny actor on Seinfeld, although his self-regard onscreen and off suggests this thought never occurred to him.) The digital shorts he shot for NBC to promote his upcoming movie “The Bees” did little to change my mind.

—I was going to say that justifying “The Biggest Loser” as ”it changes who [the show’s contestants] are” was the most cynical moment of the entire event. (Which is saying something, by the way.) Then I saw the come one for “The Age of Love,” reality-show-in-waiting—as in, not yet on the schedule—that pits a bunch of twentysomething women against a bunch of fortysomething women to win the heart of the extremely good-looking male tennis star Mark Phillipoussis. “Will he pick a kitten or a cougar?” the announcer panted. I should have taken note and seen what other attendees’ reactions were, but I was too sunken into my own cringe.

—Why would they not put on the schedule a Randy Jackson-hosted reality show—“World Moves”—a show that pits teams of dancers from various countries against each other, one that comes with an American Idol-style voting component to boot? Good question.

What I remain more interested in is this: how much longer can the upfronts go on? They’re redundant events that require the networks to spend literally millions of dollars. “I’d give it two more years,” said one sharp-dressed attendee at the massive party NBC threw in a series of fancy indoor and outdoor spaces in Rockefeller Center. “No one gives an [expletive] about it anymore.”

Reader Comments


May 15, 2007 6:55 PM

Amazing how quickly things are changing. These Upfronts were everything, and now, nothing. But I can't help but feel a little gleeful at the erosion of the networks' power.


May 17, 2007 10:47 AM

Interesting. What do you all think is causing it to shift and no longer have value? I'm not sure it's the networks losing power. Maybe it's that information moves fast enough and through so many channels, such events are no longer really necessary?

I'm not sure. But, that's interesting.


May 17, 2007 3:21 PM

The Big 3 networks have been losing power since their peak in 1969. I believe that the in-person Upfront makes little sense in a networked world- that's computer networks. I believe that if the networks can't deal with advertisers getting weekly "upfronts" via incremental changes than the system is fundamentally flawed. While I LOVE the Fall Preview Specials and the New Fall Season more than any person alive today, I must admit that the British system won and we will see 12-16 episode "seasons" without reruns, shows regularly going over 22:26, etc.

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