Upfront Update: NBC Finds the Place and The Voice - Simon Applebaum

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Away we go with this week's closing blitz of TV upfront presentations, starting with...


Venue: What a difference both a year and difference scenery makes. The network's forum at the New York Hilton ballroom last May came off disjointed, partly because the layout and atmosphere of the place came off dull, too corporate and stuffy. Move over to Radio City Music Hall, one of theNBCgrandest entertainment showplaces anywhere on the planet, with its wide stage, bright walls and art deco look, not to mention sensational production expertise, and you're halfway home to scoring a knockout with your presentation. "It doesn't compare to the splendor of the Hilton," quipped Marianne Gambelli, NBC's network ad sales president on stage. Did miss The Roots, the house band of Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, serenading the crowd in funky fashion as they entered the room. Grade: 5 Jacks

Presentation: Another shift from a year ago. Where the discussion of NBC's state by executives on stage last May was often apologetic and wistful, as if the network was preparing for a funeral, programming chief Bob Greenblatt and his colleagues went for the bright side, going with right track talk. "The Voice is the cornerstone of the future for us," he said. "I'm feeling very optimistic that we're getting the goods." NBC went musical to deliver that message throughout its night-by-night fall lineup breakdown, not only with performances from The Voice and Smash talent, but a video parody suggesting the entire lineup will sing and dance for better ratings, where even Meet The Press moderator David Gregory gets into the act (sure nominee for top 10 upfront event moments). "I'm not hijacking the network and turning everything into a musical," Greenblatt declared post-parody. Special note: The video crew from NBC, Radio City or both exhibited absent-minded behavior from start to finish, to the detriment of many attendees and possibly people watching a Webcast of the event. For stretches early on, Greenblatt and other NBC executives were not projected through the on-stage monitors, so people in the back rows and upper levels couldn't see them clearly. And at critical moments in The Voice and Smash numbers, the monitor feed went from live camera shot to a logo or starry backdrop. Production 101 no-pass. Grades: 4.5 Jacks for the presentation; .5 Jack for the video effort.

News: Sitcoms plenty of them, is NBC's big bet for the season--four out of seven nights with at least one comedy hour (Tuesdays through Friday). The big news here is more than one, if the audience react is a barometer, could score. Whitney left the crowd in dead silence last May, Up All Night near so. This fall's newbies may do better, especially the Wednesday combo of Animal Practice (with the best adorable chimp in years) and Guys With Kids. Revolution, J.J. Abrams' speculative drama, also generated buzz. After a glaring absence of diversity last year with not one new scripted series with a lead actor of color, NBC has Anthony Anderson co-starring inGuys With Kids and Megan Good headlining midseason dramaInfamous. A step forward.Mockingbird Lane, the dramedy makeover of The Munsters, remains a contender for midseason placement, with a pilot due to shoot this week. Separately, NBC Entertainment chairman Ted Harbert delivered one news tidbit after another in his segment, advocating live-plus-7-day ratings and year-round reporting. "We can't wait, and wait some more, for Nielsen to do it," he said. As for Dish Network's new DVR feature, where users can cut commercials on programs they've recorded with the touch of a button, "this is an insult to broadcasting, to our joint investment in programming, and I'm against it," Harbert responded. Grade: 5 Jacks

Host: Greenblatt put his best foot forward as main host, being genial and moving the pace along with choice wisecracks along the way. "If you hate your Blackberry, (Revolution) is your show," for one. Grade: 4 Jacks

Overall Grade: 4 Jacks Big leap up from last May's Hilton effort, supported by better venue and format approach. Had the in-venue video crew been on its game, the overall grade would rise at least a half-Jack.

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

Next up: Univision and ESPN

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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