With assistance from Electric Light Orchestra, welcome back my friends to the show that never ends known as Upfront event season.
Between now and mid-May, an assortment of television networks will trump their new primetime programming selections for fall and beyond. Most networks involved have made this public ritual before, while some will be new to the process and a few will re-enter after considerable time away. No matter what interest you have with Upfronts, figure on a record-shattering number of new series announcements.
Upfront newcomer TVOne kicked off the 2011 cycle a year ago with a well-received lunch at Cipriani's Grand Central Station stop. Leave it to another newcomer for the same honor last week: Nickmom, the all-new primetime lineup on preschool-focused diginet Nick Jr., showing mothers the funny starting this fall.
As we did last year, we'll rate these presentations in four categories: venue, format, news and host, then wrap with an overall grade.
Venue: Edison Ballroom, the former Supper Club on W. 47th St. near Times Square, is the kind of place well-suited to play home to comedians or intro a network's comedy-minded daypart. The setting is intimate, with booths on the sides and a balcony. Nick touched up the modest stage with a centralized purple wall of playthings, lounge chair for mom and high chair for baby. However, you had to sit in the center of each row to really appreciate the surrounding. Grade: 4 Jacks
Presentation: If you're going to do programming created for moms by moms who make a living with humor, of course you place your chips on stand-up mom comics. Nickmom spaced a trio throughout its pitch, Caroline Rhea leading off, Sherry Davey midway and Wanda Sykes at the close. Topical laugh honors goes to Rhea: "Love Eli Manning. I know what it's like to score (conceive a child) with seconds left on the clock." Sykes had the crowd in stiches with her kid-raising views and Davey scored with jibes on Oliver Twist and its musical adaptation Oliver! Unusual touch: a video on Nickelodeon's "UnMommed" research experiment, separating mothers from their family for a weekend. Grade: 4.5 Jacks
News: Not much to sink into, because only one series is finalized and much more isn't, including the premiere date. Like many other stand-up showcase series, NickMom Night Out will rise or fall depending on how good the comics and their material are. Of the developing prospects highlighted via clips, The Jodi & Kate Show (featuring a pair of video bloggers), Mommy Double (parenting reality program) and Oblivious (on-location game show) look the most promising. Wish there was a clip of The 5th Hour, a proposed morning show satire headed by Daily Show co-creator Madeliene Smithberg. Did detail solid ad support from Johnson & Johnson, Target and General Mills, joining previously-announced advertiser Reckitt Benckiser. Grade: 2.5 Jacks
Host: Nickelodeon Group president Cyma Zarghami moved things along well, and didn't get fazed following Rhea's intro of her as a "kick-ass rocking chick." When was the last time a TV network leader walked on stage with such an attribute? Any guesses? Grade: 4 Jacks
Overall Grade: 3.5 Jacks Right length, comedians on their "A" kid-raising game and a solid presentation. Now if we only had the key details (all/most programming in place, premiere date).
There's a lot of great things to say about Smash, which launched on NBC last week. Broadway talent in every aspect of the series from writing to songwriting, a nifty pulse on the musical-making process and breakout turns by Katherine McPhee and Megan Hulty. I'm pulling for the audience out there to embrace Smash on its own terms, not as a Glee-type alternative (which it isn't). I'm also pulling for all involved to deal immediately with what's missing from this series: diversity. Again, as was the case with every new fall scripted series on NBC, CBS, The CW and Fox, not one lead actor of color and few supporting actors of color. Not to mention chorus singers and dancers of color. As shows like In The Heights, Sister Act, Memphis and other current/recent Broadway musicals demonstrate, diversity rules. Come on Smash, show us the color.
5 Jacks – Excellent
4 Jacks – Very Good
3 Jacks – Good
2 Jacks – Fair
1 Jack – Poor
0 Jacks – Worse than bad
Until the next time, stay well and stay tuned!
Simon Applebaum is producer/host of Tomorrow Will Be Televised, the weekly Internet-distributed radio program covering the TV scene. Simon cal be reached at email@example.com.
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