For years, Nickelodeon's Upfront event has been a popular fast-paced morning affair. So the programmer's decision to move its annual presentation last week to late afternoon--and throw a post-show reception--may have discombobulated a few folks so bent on ritual. Just as many of us do semiannually when moving our timepieces forward or back an hour, as was the case last Sunday.
How did Nick's change of time work out? To the analysis we go...
Venue: Let's say this off the bat: Jazz at Lincoln Center inside Time Warner Center, either Frederick Rose Hall or that atrium-style space with the beautiful view of 59th St. and Central Park in front of you, is as perfect an Upfront stage as it gets. Sensational presentation resources on tap, and I've never seen any programmer over the years bomb out in both rooms when it comes to the visuals. In this case, case being Rose Hall, someone at Nickelodeon had the idea to resurrect Cinerama, the famed 1950-1960s technology where a film takes up three screens. But with some twists: separate the screens on stage by two small stairways (for talent to get on and off-stage) and mix animated orange Nick logos running together on the three screens with individual one-screen sequences, all to DJ music. Very retro, extremely fun, and that was pre-presentation. Grade: A-plus
Presentation: The time of day didn't impact Nick's pace one whit. As always, Nick kept things moving, lots on the programming news and little on the "here's how our ratings stack up against our competition" chatter. The network let most of its talent do the talking, whether ICarly stars Miranda Cosgrove and Jerry Traintor, or Victorious star Victoria Justice, who also started the show with her first live singing performance, her new single "Beggin' On Your Knees." Divide the best line award between Victorious co-star Matthew Bennett (who plays a budding ventriloquist) and Kenan Thompson, the former Nick series fave now on Saturday Night Live. Bennett: "My dummy is not with me today. He hung out with the Avenue Q crowd and, uh, things got out of control." Thompson: "I want to remind everyone of the time I owned this network. Hello, winning!" Nick also continued its tradition of wrapping things up with a star song turn. Oscar-winning singer Jennifer Hudson sparkled with her voice and looks. Grade: A
News Value: No shortage of new program announcements, with at least six new series launching between now and mid-2012, and most current shows getting renewed. There was even a well-received sneak peek at Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a top attraction for 2012-13. Some attention was paid to coming attractions on Teen Nick and Nick at Nite, especially the introduction of a daily Teen Nick programming block re-showcasing all those classic Nick attractions from the 1990s, from Rugrats to Kenan & Kel. The crowd buzzed over that...and if they read the fine print in the press release afterward, they might not be so buzzed. The block runs from midnight-to-2 a.m. Big surprise: no time devoted to sister networks Nick Jr. and Nicktoons. What...not even a minute for Dora the Explorer? Post-event releases clarified the Nick Jr. outlook, but not the picture at Nicktoons. Grade: A-minus
Host: No sole host, as noted before. Duties were spread around Nick president Cyma Zarghami and her troop of on-camera stars, with a cameo from always buoyant ad chief Jim Perry (wonder if he's met his namesake, the host of Card Sharks and Sale Of The Century). Liked Traintor's sequence of appearing as himself and as his toon self on T.U.F.F. Puppy. Grade: A
Overall Grade: A No matter what time of day Nick runs an Upfront, they've got the formula on pulling off a successful presentation. Load up on the clips, on-camera talent and programming news, all topped off with a superstar singer (previous Upfronts featured Alicia Keys and Nick alum Alanis Morrisette).
As for Nick's after-reception, no skimping there. Plenty of good food (sushi and veggie dumplings were the standouts) and talent watching out there.
* Upfront and other observations from the passing parade:
*ABC Family's Upfront event, following Nickelodeon's display, was quite informant. How quite you say? No presentation at all. Just a get-together at Beauty & Essex, a two-story swanky bar (with beautiful spiral staircase and glass chandelier) on Manhattan's Lower East Side. Despite pouring rain, ABC Family draws a big crowd to their offbeat affair. The stars of their four new series this summer (Switched At Birth/The Nine Lives of Chloe King/The Lying Game/The Great State Of Georgia) showed up for conversation and red-carpet interviews. If there was a presentation, you probably would get two takeaway points: 1) First-run fare three nights a week this summer, a new network milestone. 2) ABC Family, under new president Michael Riely, will introduce new series year-round, not just in the summer. Look forward to what program development Riely and his team will set in motion to accomplish that mission.
*News that Showtime has engaged controversial Satanic Verses author Salmon Rushdie to write a series pilot, Next People, suggests that David Nevins, that channel's new head programmer, will not move in tried-and-true directions on his watch. This proposed series will deal with various aspects of U.S. society, and that's all we know so far. Can't wait to report more.
*In case you didn't read The Washington Post last week, the makers of Detroit 1-8-7 want to put up a Southland-like fight to stay afloat on basic cable if ABC doesn't renew the gritty police drama later this spring. Rationale: drawing 6-7 million viewers a week is just dandy for cable, if not for ABC (bringing up the broadcast rear in its Tuesday at 10 p.m. time period). Likely takers: USA, TNT, AMC, FX.
Until the next time, stay well and stay tuned!
Simon Applebaum is host/producer of Tomorrow Will Be Televised, the Internet-radio/podcast-distributed program about the TV scene. The program runs live Mondays/Fridays at 3 p.m. Eastern time, noon Pacific time, over www.blogtalkradio.com, with replays on www.blogtalkradio.com/simonapple04, and podcasts (ITunes.com and other Web sites arranged by Sonibyte). Have a question or reaction? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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