Upfront Update: Mundo on B'Way, Discovery's Mini-Engagement And TBS/TNT, the Year After - Simon Applebaum

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Our latest trio of presentation recaps/reviews starts with...


Venue: For the first time, Spanish-language TV's two main players brought their annual upfront events to Broadway theaters. In Telemundo's case, the Al Hirschfeld on W. 45th St., named afterTelemundothe legendary cartoon chronicler of the stage world. The lobby may be a tight fit for a big crowd, but the theater is gorgeous. With Telemundo, the stage featured a raised white platform in the shape of a "T", with the vertical end reaching into the audience like a gangplank.Grade: 5 Jacks

Presentation: A comprehensive mix of factoids on the Latino marketplace with videos of upcoming series, put forward in arresting fashion. One initiative was especially effective: setting up each telenovela clip with actors recreating a 30-second bit against a computer-generated recreation of the show's key location. Another class touch: bringing out celebrated Latino singer Jose Jose, subject of an upcoming novela based on his life, for a quick acknowledgment. Grade: 4.5 Jacks

News: The Voice will produce a spin-off Ninos edition for Telemundo, featuring kids ages 6-to-14. A second new reality competition series, Yo Me Llamo/My Name Is...gives amateur singers or songwriters a shot at stardom by recreating the musical icon inspiring them. Of the six novelas running this coming season, El Rostro de la Venganza/The Face Of Revengeappears the most innovative of the group, containing elements of The Fugitive and 21. The network will offer more than 170 hours of Summer Olympics coverage from London, and introduce Todos Somos Heroes/We Are All Heroes, where musical stars salute community heroes in various walks of life. Sister net mun2 may have a summer winner in Dub Latino, a weekly look at celebrity car culture. Grade: 5 Jacks

Host: New Telemundo president Emilio Romano handled his upfront debut in smooth, energetic fashion, assisted by chief operating officer Jacqueline Hernandez. Grade: 4 Jacks

Overall Grade: 4.5 Jacks Keep the Broadway production values coming next year and beyond.

Discovery U.S. Hispanic (Discovery en Espanol/Discovery Familia)

Venue: You rarely see the auditorium inside The New York Times' center building on 8th Ave., a block away from Times Square, quite like the way people catching this event did. The stageDiscovery+Networksresembled a bubbly diorama, the kind you see in art museums or for modern dance performances or as backdrops in aquarium tanks. With this diorama, you project videos in the center instead of hanging a big screen up. Grade: 4.5 Jacks

Presentation: Here's a word I've never used in these columns to describe what went down--minimalist. This was as simple and bare a situation as you've ever seen with these gatherings. Two executives wax about Discovery's Spanish-language channels for a few minutes, then go right to a parade of videos, one after another, with no pause for context or elaboration. Return to the stage for some closing thoughts, and send everyone home. In someone else's hands, this could be ingredients for a fiasco. Because Discovery has few peers making video clips which keep your eyes glued to a screen (as witnesses of its annual April multi-net event easily vouch), you enjoyed the clips. Yet you were disappointed Discovery's execs didn't pipe in at all. Grade: 2.5 Jacks

News: At least two of Discovery en Espanol's more notable new series--both made-in-the-U.S.--were left off the clip showcase. Batalia De Ingenios pits 12 people in creative, mental and physical endurance tests for the opportunity to take a year off from work and do as they please, while Hard Kicks depicts the daily life of a professional soccer league. Here's where some words from a Discovery exec could fill in the gap.Separately, we did get to learn about 2111, an ambitious series using a variety of production techniques (including 3D and computer animation) to visualize how Latin America cities function 100 years from now. The program returns for a second season this fall, and Discovery should consider running it in English on Discovery Channel or Science Channel. Another news series worth placement on radar screens: 10 Anos Menos/10 Years Younger on Discovery Familia. Grade:3 Jacks

Host:0 Jacks

Overall Grade: 3 Jacks Videos alone, even as tremendous as Discovery produces them, doesn't an effective showcase make.


Venue: If the event highlights the pair of entertainment channels from Time Warner's Turner division, you know it will be at Hammerstein Ballroom, the opulent showplace on 34th St. near Penn Station and Madison Square Garden. Last year, Hammerstein played host to an event where if anything technically could go awry, it did, from no sound on videos to no videos running on cueTNT+-+TBSand the audience left in the dark for minutes. As if to make amends, the room looked brighter than usual in blue, cloudy tones, with purple drapes on the ceiling.Grade:5 Jacks

Presentation: It takes a lot of guts for a programmer to open their show reminding attendees of the mess they endured the previous year. That's right, open the show. Takes even more guts to rehash and try laughing it off. So, via the best opening video of any upfront yet, TNT/TBS did just that with bits involving Conan O'Brien, other personalities from both channels and network bigwigs, led by president Steve Koonin and top programmer Michael Wright. "Still suffering from post-traumatic upfront performance," O'Brien noted to Koonin, wearing a classic deadpan frown. And for a kicker, Koonin wheeled out a 1950s overhead projector on stage, staying apologetic and having the projector plus a "cardiac defibulator" on hand if snafus erupted this year. They didn't, not one. Repeat, not one. TNT, then TBS, reeled off scenes from their new series, accompanied by brief welcomes or remarks by cast members on stage. One top line came from new TBS series star Deon Cook of Black Box--"Finally, black people will get to speak up and know everything about the Bethany Frankel show." Sullivan & Son star Steve Byrne offered two: "My mother is Asian, my father is Caucasian, so that makes me (pause) Caucasian... It took two years to get this show on the air. It takes two minutes to make a baby." O'Brien returned live near the end to deliver more riffs on TV and life, including a hilarious bit on Craigslist entries from media heavyweights. Grade: 5 Jacks

News: TBS and TNT let all the upcoming series premiere details out of the bag pre-event. Did offer clips of their respective new reality programs, just a week after press releases came out. Grade:2 Jacks

Host: Wright did most of the hosting, passing the baton off to Koonin and other Turner executives every so often. He's become one of the more polished programming executives holding court, staying clear and on message. Grade: 4.5 Jacks

Overall Grade: 4.5 Jacks Comeback kid of the 2012 upfront scene. One new series announcement not leaked to the press the week before, and you're looking at the 5 Jack trick.

5 Jacks - Excellent
4 Jacks - Very Good
3 Jacks - Good
2 Jacks - Fair
1 Jack - Poor
0 Jacks -Worse than bad

Next up: The CW, Vme and MTV Tr3s

Until the next time, stay well and stay tuned!

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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