Anonymous Ad Buyer Appraises the Upfronts: Stop Telling Us You're No. 1
"We all have research departments; we know who is No. 1 and who isn't."
This story first appeared in the May 29 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
I'd like to voice all the things — good and bad — that buyers feel about the upfront but never get the chance to say. So I'll start with a critically important plea: Stop the live music performances! I appreciate the effort to put on a show, but the performers are singing their hearts out to a theater full of blank-faced suits who have no interest or are too afraid to dance in front of their co-workers. End this awkward interaction and give us more clips. A second plea: No more jokes from CBS about practice and Carnegie Hall — every year there's at least one. And one more plea: Enough of telling us you're No. 1. Everyone is No. 1 in some way. But we all have research departments; we know who is No. 1 and who isn't. And at a time when data is getting us to richer audiences than just adults 18-to-49, it's virtually immaterial.
Fox's Grandfathered and The Grinder both look like genuinely funny shows that fit well together on the schedule. They're a little more mature than some of Fox's recent comedies but should do well. And ABC's Dr. Ken won the consensus of funniest show of upfront week.
It's disappointing to see that NBC — the network of Seinfeld, Cheers and Friends — only has two comedies on its entire schedule. Instead, it seems heavy on live and theater-based programming. Will it work? NBC better hope Dolly and The Wiz are more Sound of Music and less Peter Pan.
CBS goes lowbrow with Life in Pieces, which feels like an attempt at Modern Family, filled with death and vagina jokes. It didn't strike the right note.
It's exciting to see The X-Files (Fox) and Heroes (NBC) are coming back with original creators and actors. Both have had time to reinvent themselves and should return strong. As for Uncle Buck (ABC) and Coach (NBC) — who's clamoring for remakes of a 25-year-old movie and a show that ended 18 years ago? I'm not sure about The Muppets (ABC); everyone seems sold on it, so maybe I'm in the minority, but it didn't work for me.
CBS' Code Black may not be entirely original, apparently settling in between ER and Grey's Anatomy, but with an extremely strong cast and a pulse-pounding promo clip, it seems poised for success. NBC's Heartbreaker, on the other hand, looks like a weak version of a Shonda Rhimes show despite the talented Melissa George in the lead.
Finally, I think I speak for everyone here: Please keep Jimmy Kimmel on the air so he can carry on skewering his network, other networks and the entire upfront process. That's the highlight of the week.