You could say the pair of upfront events happening last Tuesday were at opposite ends of a spectrum. Let's leave it to you to define the spectrum.
Venue : Breakfast hour at Sony Club, the gorgeous 35th floor space of Sony's Madison Avenue building. Plenty of french toast, bagels and melon served. In a fun touch, table-tops in the presentation room were lined with show titles and logos. Grade: 4.5 Jacks
Presentation : With the network readopting its original title Game Show Network in recent months, management declared the genre and spins on it will be the focus from here on. "By the end of 2015, we'll have triple the amount of original programming on the network from (now)," promised chief executive David Goodhill. "And the quality of the shows will be as good as anything on the air." Ratings are up double digits from a year ago, and more than 70 advertisers made their first GSN buys the last 12 months. In what's becoming the thing to do at events directed at press this year, GSN brought in some of their top on-air talent, including Mark Labbett, "The Beast" mastermind from growing favorite The Chase. One tall, towering and engaging presence, Labbett weaved throughout the channel's showcase. "You try six years to come with a culture of management intimidation -- and then you meet this guy," Goldhill noted early on. Mr. L and Chase host Brooke Burns supplied repartee and joined their GSN colleagues for a live demo ofIdiot Quiz, where pairs of contestants put their logic (or lack of) to the test. Need we say who correctly answered one of this show's clever brain-teasers? Choice video: HystericalMind of a Man sequence featuring a fake-tipsy panelist. Grade: 4.5 Jacks
News : Idiot Quiz , hosted by comedian Ben Gielb, goes on this summer. It Takes a Church, first disclosed at last year's event, finally makes it June 5. (Congregants at parishes nationwide find potential mates with guidance from fellow churchgoers.) One more summer or early fall series debut: Body-painting competition series Skin Wars, hosted by Rebecca Romijn. Pilot work has started on App Wars, a Shark Tank-like forum for new app ideas (could double as a smart TV app generator) and Say What?, which matches the game of Telephone with memory exercises. Of four shows in development, GSN appears very taken with The Line, a quiz taped around the country involving people on line to play the quiz for big cash. The last episode would be produced live if a series results. Grade: 4 Jacks
Hosts : Three-way effort from Goodhill, programming chief Amy Introcaso-Davis and ad sales senior exec John Zaccario. All buzzed in their portions well. Pay attention to Greib, an understated yet fun talent. Grade: 4 Jacks
Overall Grade: 4.5 Jacks Best press-directed effort yet, thanks to breaking the speech and videos combination up with the live mini-game and celebrities showing up.
Venue : The Ziegfield Theater, New York City's last-remaining art deco movie palace on W. 54th St. It holds more than 1,100 seats. There was plenty of popcorn and soda for all. Grade: 5 Jacks
Presentation : If you're looking for formal presentations where execs do all the talking and upcoming shows dominate, look elsewhere. ABC Family is heavy on the unconventional. Try last year: a panel session on making great series from the creators of Switched at Birth, Pretty Little Liars, etc. With Pretty a Twitter darling, hundreds of teen and millennial fans of this series packed the Ziegfeld with their smart phones and laptops, gathering to watch the fourth season finale on the big screen, plus see the cast and producers on stage the hour before in a live table read of the episode's first three acts. The crowd was so fired up about tweeting away and catching the cast live, new ABC Family management limited their on-stage time to less than three minutes. Good move. Our early 2014 stroke of genius award goes to whoever came up with the live table read. The actors made the most of the opportunity (with some fun off-the-cuff banter), the audience hung on every plot turn and everyone appreciated how the finished version of those scenes came out. Grade: 5 Jacks
News : Zip until “PLL” announced its summer season five premiere date after the episode ended. Grade: 1 Jack
Host : Rachel Smith, the entertainment anchor of syndicated weekend series On the Red Carpet, did a nice job keeping spirits high and the tweet counts in view.
Grade : 3.5 Jacks
Overall Grade: 3.5 Jacks The live read/season finale combo worked. So did the Twitter result -- more than 1.6 million tweets for the night, about two-thirds during the finale. At one point, more than 26,000 people reacted per minute. One thought: If you repeat this next year, include scenes from an upcoming new series to build up attention.
5 Jacks - Excellent
4 Jacks - Very Good
3 Jacks - Good
2 Jacks - Fair
1 Jack - Poor
0 Jacks -Worse than bad
Next up: National Geographic Channels and IFC.
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