TV Upfronts: THR Live-Blogs CBS' Presentation
Get minute-to-minute updates from our staff inside Carnegie Hall as Leslie Moonves and Nina Tassler present the network's new and returning fare to advertisers.
After announcing its 2014-15 schedule and talking to reporters during an early morning conference call, CBS took its turn in presenting the network's lineup to Madison Avenue ad buyers during an afternoon presentation Wednesday at Carnegie Hall.
The Hollywood Reporter's TV Team is inside Carnegie Hall and brings you all the action as CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves and CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler pitched their slate. Refresh for all the latest insights. (Check out NBC's live-blog here, Fox's here and ABC's here).
4 p.m. -- Prompt start! The week's award for most unabashedly hilarious self-parodying exec goes to Jo Ann Ross. The president of network ad sales opens the show with her face rendered onto Pink's body for her high-flying Grammy routine. "Try" is replaced with "Buy." A stream of puns and ad-friendly metaphors follow.
4:02 -- Ross proves once again she is a good sport. Her opening taped bit leads semi-flawlessly into an onstage dig at cable. "I was not dangling from a weak little strand of cable," she said to chuckles, noting instead that she had the sturdy support of broadcast.
4:05 -- Sure, there's some Grammy talk -- but CBS is the first network this week to open its presentation so primarily focused on its own original programming in primetime, late-night and news. Football only gets the most casual mention in the opening sizzle reel. And this is the network that spent a fortune on a mere seven Thursday-night games to help launch its fall season.
4:06 -- Let the record show that CBS is using its lowest-rated show (albeit its most critically adored) to open this presentation (The Good Wife).
4:08 -- "Talk about a clusterf---." Those words were uttered by Alicia Florick (Julianna Margulies), who was joined by her castmates, in another taped bit about the ad community's myriad choices. From there, Eli (Alan Cumming) gave Ross a run for her money when he appeared onstage to perform a lyrically modified version of "Wilkommen" from Cabaret, in which Cumming is currently appearing on Broadway. There was nipple-rubbing involved, much to the delight of the highly enthusiastic ad buyers.
4:13 -- The king of CBS -- and, well, TV -- arrives, and already he's plugging both his ratings (still the most watched network) and his big moves, which included killing off a lead on The Good Wife, announcing David Letterman will soon retire and scooping up Thursday night NFL rights for the fall.
4:15 -- Moonves is avoiding arbitrary numbers or social-speak. There are no stats on DVR or streaming, tweets or likes, only the assurance that more people are watching TV than ever before. His message is clear: He's in the business of bringing content to consumers.
4:17 -- More football talk. Moonves smells a forthcoming ratings victory -- and he likes it.
4:20 -- And heeeeeere's the self-congratulatory NFL promo! The cast of The Big Bang Theory -- in a recycled promo from last year -- and a slew of other CBS actors, all clad in jerseys, padding and -- is that a cup? -- appear in a spot to welcome the CBS Sports crew.
4:21 -- Phil Simms, James Brown, Bill Cowher, Deion Sanders and Tony Gonzalez join Jim Nantz onstage to gloat about football -- and to tower over Moonves.
4:23 -- David Letterman's swan song begins ... now. The clip reel shows funny moments as well as touching ones, including his post-Sept. 11 monologue.
4:26 -- Letterman struts out onstage to a standing ovation from the orchestra seats. "I have been coming to these things for 30 years, I have no idea who you people are," he says to big laughs.
4:26 -- The Monday crew (NBC, Fox) really missed the boat on the Solange-Jay Z story. No presentation from the the past two days has failed to include a crack about Beyonce's elevator-raging little sister.
4:30 -- Twist! Letterman leaves the stage, after a stellar dad joke about a moth and a podiatrist, with no news on an end date for his Late Show run. Guess we'll have to wait.
4:34 -- Tassler gets her turn, and she does so in a bright orange suit. Up first: summer TV talk. "Let me assure you, there's no place like Dome," she jokes of her sophomore hit, Under the Dome, before touting big "get" Halle Berry in this summer's companion show Extant. Clip time!
4:38 -- Extant star Halle Berry graces the stage to profess her "love, love, love" for Tassler, and she's dressed in her normcore finest. ("Normcore," look it up.)
4:43 -- In promoing new sports-crazed Boston family comedy The McCarthys, Tassler notes, "It's not easy to get accepted into the CBS comedy family." Just ask the cast of How I Met Your Dad. Too soon?
4:48 -- Tassler sets up a great gag from the crowd when she mentions they have New Kids on the Block members Donnie Wahlberg (Blue Bloods) and Joey McIntyre (The McCarthys) in their talent portfolio. "We've got the right stuff," screams McIntyre, an ode to the boy band's 1998 single.
4:49 -- Daytime gets a big plug (60 Daytime Emmy noms! Ratings growth!), before Tassler shifts to drama. The Good Wife seems to get outsized attention in the clip reel. These are the ad buyers, not Emmy voters, Nina.
4:53 -- Tassler kicks it off with Kevin Williamson's Stalker, which she suggests is the "scariest show the network has ever done." And, well, the trailer seems to confirm that.
4:55 -- Another fun fact: Stalker marks the second new series this week to get a promo with a creepy cover of Blondie's "One Way or Another." It is, after all, the unofficial stalking anthem.
4:57 -- Madam Secretary, another Beltway series starring Tea Leoni as the secretary of state, is being billed as an ideal Good Wife companion on Sunday nights. It's hard to believe only 15 years ago no White House show had ever worked on broadcast TV. (The West Wing changed that.)
5:04 -- Tassler is fully committed to the puns this evening. For NCIS: New Orleans, she calls picking up the two-part backdoor pilot to series a "big, easy decision."
5:05 -- Back to song choices for a minute. Every network in the Big Four used Pitbull and Kesha's "Timber" at least once in their presentation. Fox was the only network that booked Pitbull to perform live, so at least they have that!
5:07 -- Battle Creek may not have a time slot, but the show is getting a nice shout-out. No surprise, Tassler doesn't miss an opportunity to note that this show hails from red-hot Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan — who won't be involved (shhhh!) and isn't on hand because he is involved in AMC's Better Call Saul spinoff — and House's David Shore. Not plugged: pilot director Bryan Singer. Guess he's not much of a selling point these days ...
5:19 -- So, Battle Creek got teased despite not having a time slot (the Gilligan factor, we assume), but Matthew Perry's similarly unscheduled The Odd Couple got nothing. No clip, no slot, no mention. Guess that's what happens when you recast two of your five leads.
5:26 -- OK, there it is. She mentions The Odd Couple, along with other returning shows (Mike & Molly, The Mentalist) waiting in the wings. Still, no clip. Also lacking air time, Letterman replacement Stephen Colbert. We know the afternoon was all about honoring Dave, but nothing?
5:27 -- And that's a wrap for the most watched network; 90 minutes and out. Open bar time.