TV Upfronts: THR Live-Blogs ABC's Presentation
After releasing a schedule with high expectations riding on Once Upon a Time spinoff Wonderland, ABC presented its 2013-14 lineup to Madison Avenue advertisers Tuesday at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center with late-night fixture Jimmy Kimmel setting the stage for Anne Sweeney and Paul Lee. Follow along with The Hollywood Reporter's Editor-at-Large Kim Masters as she live-blogs the presentation from inside the theater.
4:14 It's show time at Lincoln Center. We start with a taped Scandal send-up with Jimmy Kimmel as the president's gatekeeper. He fends off Kerry Washington but Anne Sweeney emerges (instead of Scandal star Tony Goldwyn) as the president. Kimmel reveals: Paul Lee … isn't British. Dancing With the Stars? They're not stars. Anne Sweeney? Steals Diane Sawyer's clothes and is wearing her eyelashes. Comedy from the usually mechanical Sweeney! It's very different. She's more at ease than in years past and comes on stage getting a laugh as she waves to Sawyer, who is in the audience. Sweeney leads with strength and mentions Kimmel (applause) and introduces the Good Morning America team to more cheers. It's a good move when your primetime is fourth in the key 18-49 demo. She tells the advertisers not to fear the future. Her shout-out to the retiring Barbara Walters in the audience produces a standing ovation.
4:18 Sweeney is touting an initiative called Watch ABC. She introduces "ABC's Gladiator," the president of sales Geri Wang. Note: Sawyer quickly slips out. Shhh.
4:29 Like everyone, ABC pushes the effectiveness of multiple platforms -- and it's working on measuring viewing on mobile devices. Wong cites favorable stats: ABC's performance among women in the demo and an affluent audience. Fourth place? ABC isn't eating any humble pie. Another tape, this one a montage of shows with swelling music. It's not short. Here's a very casual Lee, who has ditched the tie. He says the only thing that matters is "the power of our storytelling" and calls ABC "the No. 1 brand in television." (By some measure.) Lee cites Scandal, the number one drama on Thursdays at 10 p.m. He mentions limited-run series and scheduling runs of shows to avoid repeats in both the fall and January. He touts a 12-month cycle and the importance of the brand in a cluttered world.
4:36 Lee runs through ABC's returning shows and talks about "a really strong development year," same as he told reporters early Tuesday. He's naturally excited about Joss Whedon's Marvel show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Adam F. Goldberg's semi-autobiographical comedy, The Goldbergs, screening a five-minute cut-down. The antecedent of this is Malcolm in the Middle or Roseanne, this time with Jews. Jeff Garlin as the dad is stealing every scene. This is playing well, as you'd expect when they offer a five-minute preview. Definitely the best response of the upfronts to date.
4:53 Lee plays clips from Malin Akerman comedy Trophy Wife. This is asking us to root for a hot blonde trophy wife. How big is that demographic? Muted response. Lucky 7 seems more in line with ABC's bread and butter soaps. It's about the 99 percenters, Lee says, but the heroes join the 1 percent when they win the lottery. This is another drama that could be a great movie concept. Is it a show? Can it break through the clutter? Maybe. No wild applause. The advertisers aren't sure, either. Comedy Back in the Game with stars James Caan in a father-daughter duo who coach a softball team comprised of misfits. This one gets laughs and applause. Lee then introduces Rebel Wilson of Super Fun Night, which was rolled from CBS last year. She says in monotone: "Thank you, Paul Lee for that hilarious introduction." She does a few funny minutes. Conan O'Brien is producing the show, about three girlfriends but Wilson says it's the anti-Sex and the City for reasons that have to do with what they eat that aren't suitable for publication in a family organ like THR. She promises not to do "a Lena Dunham." She earns applause from advertisers and introduces the clip, which plays very raunchy and earns laughs. Now the Once Upon a Time spinoff. 'Nuff said about that, you know what you're getting with Wonderland.
5:03 Lee introduces the Scandal cast, which advertisers like (no sign on just how many of the buyers are tweeting). There's a sneak preview from Thursday's second-season finale. It's short but something very scary happens to Kerry Washington's Olivia Pope. Lee then turns to promote his Friday lineup, which now featured the critically panned The Neighbors. He quickly moves to Sunday's "deeply classy" limited series, the 13-episode Betrayal. Lee says it's all ABC. Hear that, ladies? Suds! Romance! Kiss me, I can't resist you! Finally, Kimmel is up next. I'm not even going to try to keep up with this on a live blog but we promise to publish the jokes. Lee says Kimmel's move to 11:35 p.m. has gone to his head and made him "insufferable." The upfronts can't live without him.
5:18 I have to say, fourth-place ABC's willingness to let Kimmel skewer the network every year stands in stark contrast to Bob Greenblatt's thin-skinned emails about Leno's jokes about NBC. Read the monologue. Really. Lee returns after Kimmel kills, this time pitching The Quest, a new reality show two years in the making. It looks like Dungeons and Dragons on TV. Then there's Sunday's Resurrection, a limited series about folks returning from the dead. It looks very intriguing. Next up is Mind Games, a new procedural from never-say-die showrunner Kyle Killen (Awake, Lone Star) which stars Steve Zahn and Christian Slater as brothers who run an unusual firm that individuals can hire to get people to change their minds. One of these days, Killen will get there. Maybe this one? The applause seems hopeful. Killer Women from executive producer Sophia Vergara (Modern Family) is a procedural that features a tough, hot Texas Ranger (Battlestar Galactica's Tricia Helfer) that seems pretty cartoonish. But ABC has to keep Vergara in the (modern) family. Mixology is among the comedies waiting in the midseason wings. It's one of ABC's young loser ensemble comedies that could work depending on the writing and ensemble. It scores a couple o' laughs. Applause isn't wild, though. We're over an hour in. Lee is bringing it home by introducing Joss Whedon and cast of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Whedon (The Avengers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) says, "I'll be brief." He says he was born in a lab and raised on Marvel comics. He says S.H.I.E.L.D. is the "next part of the Marvel cinematic universe" and adds it isn't "an Easter egg to hide things in" but an organic development with all the elements that make the Marvel movies fly. Hopes couldn't be higher for this one; it's an example of the brand thing that Disney does and hopes to do for ABC. Lee returns to wrap things up and we're over and out at 90 minutes.
Email: Kim.Masters@thr.com; Twitter: @KimMasters