Here we go:
Best Upfront trends: 1) Pre-presentation performances. From acapella group Vassar Devils at Pop's breakfast to that trio of singers/songwriters opening BET's night -- Steve Lovell, Kevin Ross and Elle Varner – singers set the stage. 2) More celebrity and show creator/producer participation, especially at press-directed events.
Worst Upfront trends: 1) Networks participating last year not doing anything this year, not even a press debriefing! 2) Barring the press from events, including Pivot and Oprah Winfrey Network. Boo to you!
Best NewFront trend: More variety in presentation formats, including Broadway-style parodies of topics from social media to Big Data.
Worst NewFront trends: 1) Participating companies (more than a third this year) not responding to press requests for credentials to their events, including Yahoo, Fullscreen and Endemol Beyond. Plus, none of the companies holding events sidestepping Newfronts, such as Vox Media, encouraged press to attend. 2) Programs continue to be announced without indication when they'll premiere.
Missed opportunities: 1) AMC abstaining from the scene after its extraordinary immersive presentation last spring. 2) Hallmark Channels/Crown Media abruptly cancelling its annual press lunch, despite a wave of successes (Christmas and Valentine's Day original movie ratings, etc.) worth calling attention to. 3) Syfy following fellow NBC Universal channels USA and Bravo/Esquire/Oxygen in doing a press event. 4) YouTube, in front of 2,400-plus people at Madison Square Garden, saying nothing about future programming there. 5) No participation from the multicast networks, including Bounce TV.
Noticeable absences: 1) Cartoon Network and Boomerang at Time Warner's Madison Square Garden showcase of Turner nets. 2) Sprout at NBCUniversal Cable's coming attractions-formatted event at Javits Center.
Welcome back to the fold: 1) Spike TV with Dwayne Johnson, Ben Kingsley and that “Lip Sync Battles” clip of Anne Hathaway rocking to Myley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball." 2) TV One's well-organized press lunch at Helen Mills Theater/Event Space, marred by waiters serving lunch while programming chief D'Angela Proctor detailed new series ahead.
Best Upfront/NewFront debut: Whistle Sports at Hard Rock Cafe. Energetic, well-paced and plenty of breakfast chow.
Best downsized event: Discovery Communications’ breakfast inside On the Park, just around the corner from the venue for its spectacular presentations of recent years, Jazz at Lincoln Center's Rose Hall.
Best new Upfront venues: 1) The pristine and restored Rainbow Room, used by USA for its star-packed press breakfast. Let's see it get more usage in 2016. 2) SIR Stage 37, home to ABC Family's unveiling of its new "Becomers" strategy.
Worst new Upfront venue: Ma Pence for National Geographic Channel/Nat Geo WILD's luncheon. Fantastic food (still remember those veggie rice cakes, gnocchi-style) but cramped seating. Too small overall.
Best new NewFront venue: Four World Trade Center, used beautifully by AOL and highlighted by the multi-screen video wall and Cinerama-like presentation room.
Worst new NewFront venue: Dark, gloomy portion of Milk Studios for Mode Media. Loved the watermelon juice and tuna sliders though.
Best Upfront/NewFront presenter/presentation: John Green, author of "The Fault in Our Stars." Controversial, thoughtful and pungent all the way, encouraging advertisers to support content worthy of support, whether they get headlines or not. His big point: If creators don't get backed by sponsors, they'll find other ways to win audiences -- and sponsors risk losing them.
Most controversial Upfront/Newfront opening: MTV unleashing "Scream" with an unforgettable poolside turn by Bella Thorne.
Best celebrity participation: 1) Jerry Seinfeld's question-and-answer sessions at Crackle and Hulu. 2) Isabella Rossellini riffing on anything on during Ovation's showcase. 3) Dwayne Johnson kicking off Spike TV as chief executive Kevin Kay.
Worst celebrity turn: Steve Buscemi's "Park Bench" sketch going nowhere midway through AOL's event.
Best celebrity hosts: 1) “NBA on TNT” hosts Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O'Neal had the Turner audience breaking up. 2) “Saturday Night Live” co-star Taryn Killam at Hulu. 3) Idiotest host Ben Gleib at GSN.
Best Upfront/NewFront non-musical moments: 1) Former President Bill Clinton's interview kicking off Univision's event, inventing a new buzz-term -- radical inclusion -- in the process. 2) The ultimate Big Data explanation from ESPN's Kenny Mayne. 3) John Legend's manager reflecting on Legend's career at Pop. 4) National Geographic's NewFront photographer roundtable.
Worst Upfront/NewFront non-musical moment: Collective Digital Media's scripted interview involving a Harper's Bazaar editor and a trio of video content makers. Had one not seen the teleprompter in the back of SVA Theater, one would have thought everyone was speaking off the top of their heads. This idea should have never, repeat never, gone past discussion.
Best Upfront/NewFront musical moments (pop music division): 1) Jessie J's three-song MTV showcase, concluding with megahit "Bang Bang." Again, someone give this superstar a weekly TV variety series. She can do it. 2) Bruno Mars closing YouTube's affair with "Uptown Funk." 3) Daddy Yankee's workout of a show within Telemundo's presentation. 4) Echosmith wrapping up Nickelodeon's event.
Best Upfront/NewFront musical moments (Broadway tune division): 1) "Gotta Share," Collective's all-too-true take on social media. 2) Sneak peek of the opening number for the SpongeBob SquarePants musical Nickelodeon is developing for Broadway. If that Tina Landau-directed song is a good clue for what's ahead, SBSP is destined for Times Square stardom. 3) Azteca America's “Chorus Line”-style number involving its key executives.
Special Upfront/NewFront music recognition: Yolanda Adams and Kirk Franklin's superb rendition of "I Believe I Can Fly" in honor of Bobby Jones, about to wrap his long-running BET gospel series. Beautiful and heartfelt.
And last but not least:
Best electronic device turn-off announcement: "We have drones watching you." Thank you, Crackle.
Until the next time, stay well and stay tuned!
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