Upfront Update: Cartoon Shows More Funny, While Hallmark Touts Martha and Maya - Simon Applebaum

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Cover image for  article: Upfront Update: Cartoon Shows More Funny, While Hallmark Touts Martha and Maya - Simon Applebaum

Cartoon Network and the newly-named Crown Media Networks pairing of Hallmark Channel/Hallmark Movie Channel produced their NY upfront events within hours of each other March 23. We begin with Cartoon, since the Time Warner-run service went first on breakfast patrol that day.

Venue:Very rarely do you get one place involved in two presentations from channels of like genre. Jazz at Lincoln Center nabs this rare honor for Nickelodeon's event early in March and Cartoon's spectacle a few weeks later. Once again, this place rises to the occasion--this time greeting Frederick Rose Hall spectators with a morphing collection of animated faces. The breakfast food in the adjoining rooms, headlined by grilled cheese mini-sandwiches and doughnuts, was pretty good. Grade: A

Presentation: Animated characters interacting with live channel executives throughout the event. Why didn't anyone think of that before? Sure enough, someone at Cartoon finally did and the result was both smooth and funny. Honors on the animated side went to characters fromAdventure Time With Finn & Jake and The Regular Show. Our best line from a toon goes to an Adventure Time character's spot-on summary of how Upfronts work: "You lock people in a room and tell them things...Less (trouble) than a Julie Taymor production." Clip standout:The Mad ShowspoofingGlee and High School Musicalin a single boundGrade: A-plus

News Value: Plenty of highlights, starting with the birth this summer of DC Nation, a block of new animated series based on titles from Time Warner's DC comics' line. Green Lantern will be first out of the chute, timed with the release of the new live-action 3D film of same name. Slight bummer: no info on what other DC characters will be involved. The network will take another stab at live-action comedy with Level Up, about three high-school videogame lovers who accidentally unleash a virtual world on Earth. On the flip side, Cartoon's flirtation with live-action dramas appears over for now. Tower Prep and Unnatural History are history, and there's no replacement in the pipeline. DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg showed up to praise How To Train Your Dragon, the series, coming to the channel next year. Another of the 13 new animated series to follow is The Amazing World of Gumball, developed by Cartoon's United Kingdom-based service. Using live-action backdrops, this looks like a perceptive satire on day-to-day living. Grade: A-minus

Host: Cartoon president Stuart Snyder and content officer Rob Sorcher split the responsibility, holding up well next to their animated sidekicks. However, we suspect the toon characters will negotiate for a bigger presence next year, especially the faux-erudite pair from The Regular Show. Grade: A

Overall Grade: A The network wanted people to get animated about their offerings in the year ahead. Mission accomplished...using animation to make the case. On to our second player, Crown Media Networks:

Venue: A number of banks along the first few blocks of Madison Avenue were turned into restaurants or event facilities in the 1980s. Eleven Madison Park, across from Tompkins Square Park, is a class standout both in decor and food. Crown Media brought press reps to an upstairs meeting room for its showcase, a room projecting simple serenity. Nice salmon for lunch. Grade: A

Presentation: "You can be comfortable with what you see," affirmed Hallmark Channels chief executive officer Bill Abbott. The comfort level for Hallmark's network duo comes from growing audiences to family-suited content all year, plenty of original movies over holidays, and lately, a big ratings pick-up for Martha Stewart's daytime daypart on Hallmark Channel.

More than 500 hours of first-run material during 2011-12, 160 hours-plus coming from Stewart's corner, will keep the growth momentum, maintained Abbott and programming executive vice president Michelle Vicary. Good balance of speeches and clips; no gaffes. Grade: A

News Value: It's become an annual ritual to ask Hallmark executives the obligatory question of getting into the scripted TV series field. Until now, the answer was a flat no, made-for-TV movies will be our only scripted domain. For the first time, Hallmark didn't dismiss or diss the idea. "It is something we're looking at," Vicary said, adding that discussions over a number of projects are happening. That admission alone spikes the grade for this category, and leads me to predict that Hallmark will introduce its first scripted series next year. As for the near-term, Hallmark Channel will bring the distinguished author/advocate Maya Angelou to primetime TV with The Spirit Table, while Hallmark Movie Channel doubles its output of new films from 4 this year to 8 next. The mothership channel also will do its first musical movie, The Music Teacher, in 2012. Grade: A-plus

Host: No-frill attitude from Abbott and Vicary, delivering their presentations with ease and poise. Grade: A

Overall Grade: A Solid on all counts. For everyone who believes Hallmark Channel will play home to new scripted series someday, you have reason to believe your someday is approaching.

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. Tomorrow runs live Mondays/Fridays at 3 p.m. Eastern time, noon Pacific time over www.blogtalkradio.com, and on replay 24/7 at www.blogtalkradio.com/simonapple04. The podcast edition is downloadable on any mobile device via ITunes.com and 17 other Web sites arranged by Sonibyte. Sponsorship for both the BlogTalk Radio and podcast editions are available. Have a question or reaction? E-mail it to simonapple04@yahoo.com.

Simon Applebaum is producer/host ofTomorrow Will Be Televised, the weekly Internet-distributed radio program covering the TV scene. Simon cal be reached at simonapple04@yahoo.com.

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