Fox Upfront Wins Over Crowd With '24' Reboot, Megyn Kelly Cameo

Gary Newman is interrupted by applause at the mere mention of 'Legacy,' as Fox takes aim at its competitors and debuts several well-received trailers.
Frank Micelotta/FOX
The stars of 'Empire' at Fox's upfront

Less may be more, as far as trailers are concerned. Following NBCUniversal's marathon presentation earlier Monday, Fox did not have an easy task of holding media buyers' attention during their own hour-plus showing uptown at New York's Beacon Theatre. But its comparatively dwarfed roster of clips played especially well, between live musical performances (the casts of Lee Daniels' Empire and Star) and a cameo by Megyn Kelly.

Fox TV Group chairmen and CEOs Dana Walden and Gary Newman, who really took their time onstage, not so subtly began the generous serving of spiel by touting everything the network has accomplished since the start of their tenure. (Mentions of pre-fall-2014 programming was almost nonexistent, elder statesman Homer Simpson excluded). Before segueing into trailers, they praised their sophomore (Gotham, The Last Man on Earth, Empire) and freshman (Scream Queens, Rosewood, Lucifer) classes — though the latter isn't exactly as brag-worthy.

In all fairness, Fox has the benefit of a more intimate venue and fewer projects to highlight, but there's no arguing with how well the trailers for its new series played with the Beacon crowd. The comedies got more laughs, the dramas got more applause and 24: Legacy is now the week's high bar for upfront enthusiasm. Gauntlet thrown.

Here are five things you must know:

Empire Remains a Top Priority
One year later, the tone is no less celebratory for Empire. But, instead of closing the presentation this year, castmembers Jussie Smollett, Bryshere Y. Gray and Serayah, joined by music producer Ne-Yo, helped kick things off with a rowdy medley of tracks from the show. They paved the way for Walden and Newman, with the latter cracking, "Let's see the cast of NCIS do that." Echoes of Empire also finished the event, when a preview of Lee Daniels-produced Star ended with a medley from its central trio. The show looks decidedly grittier than its producer's previous Fox creation, but it was nothing but sequins and smiles when the cast of Star sang and danced their way through a cover of Prince's "I Would Die 4 U."

Buyers Are Psyched for More 24
Hollywood may be underwhelmed by — or perhaps just plain tired of — the industry's ongoing IP love affair, but the ad community appeared plenty excited for the return of the familiar. Mere mention of 24: Legacy drew unprompted, enthusiastic applause from inside the Beacon. And shortly after a sea of men in orange Prison Break jumpsuits welcomed buyers into the theater (last year's greeters: Scream Queens sorority girls), stars Wentworth Miller, Dominic Purcell and Sarah Wayne Callies generated sizable cheers on their way to the stage. Lethal Weapon and The Exorcist garnered warm reactions as well.

The No. 3 Net Has No Qualms Mocking the Competition
Fox was not afraid to take a few shots at its rivals, with CBS hardest hit. Without a late-night host to do the skewering, the network turned to Homer Simpson. In a pretaped Simpsons bit, tied to the animated show's 600th episode, Homer referred to CBS' viewers as "walking zombies." (At other times during the panel, Newman flashed a shot of Gotham villain "Lex Moonves." Simpson ribbed NBC with a somewhat dated joke about how he'd take a shot at NBC but "I don't think they're on anymore." To be sure, Newman and Walden weren't off-limits either: "I recorded this two months ago, so I assume you still have your jobs — congratulations! If it's just one of you now, please know that I always thought you were the smartest and best looking and I told James and Lachlan [Murdoch] so many times." And neither was their network: "For thousands of years, ad-supported television has been the backbone of civilization, but that model has come under fire from a surprising new rival: good television. Rest assured, Fox is up for the challenge. This year, they had huge successes like Grease Live! and the West Coast feed of Grease Live! They innovatively responded to the challenge of ratings by stopping the releasing of ratings."

Don't Trust That Digital Math
Broadcast wasn't the only target. Last year at the network’s presentation, Fox ad sales president Toby Byrne took aim at the net’s cable competitors. This time, he went after claims from online competitors. Using Fox Sports broadcast of the World Series, which was watched by 14 million viewers, he said a YouTube video — he didn’t say which one — claiming the same number only netted just under 2,000 views. So, using YouTube measurement math, the World Series would have posted 6.8 billion views. “That makes the World Series quote a bargain,” he quipped. Byrne also noted that "millennials spend 80 percent of time watching television content." Like Linda Yaccarino did earlier in the day at the NBCUniversal upfront, Byrne talked up several in-house measurement tools that promise to deliver buyers targeted audiences across all the devices and platforms consumers are using.

Big Fox Is In the Megyn Kelly Business, Too
There was really no reason for Megyn Kelly, resident Fox News all-star, to pitch media buyers on her first broadcast special just 26 hours before its premiere — other than to show just how invested Big Fox is in the anchor. Kelly strolled on stage to remind the crowd that her special includes that sit-down with Donald Trump. "He was more personal and more open than I ever expected him to be," she said, adding that the interview includes a few "shocking moments." For now, you'll just have to take her word for it. Kelly's brief appearance did not end with a clip.

Keep up with all the renewals, cancellations and new series pickups with THR's handy scorecard and follow the pilot crop status here. For full Upfronts 2016 coverage, go to THR.com/upfronts.

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