Other television networks featuring the kind of programs TruTV makes a living from "deliver controlled reality and aimless personalities, otherwise known as crap." The quote comes from Marc Juris, TruTV's executive vice president and general manager, midway through his New York Upfront event pitch last week. The case Juris was out to make: as edgy as his channel can get in subject matter, TruTV scores because the subjects are riveting, real folks Was the case well-delivered or aimless? Read on...
Venue: Best Buy (formerly Nokia) Theater on the corner of Broadway and W. 44th St. was dressed in white for its first 2011 Upfront booking. White carpet and walls in the lobbies; white seats inside the theater. The theater look had a patriotic tone, with red screens on stage and blue all over the back walls. Bringing this grade down: someone ran with the idea of serving mini-bites to the crowd too far. If the Guinness people kept records of the smallest bacon/cheddar cheese burgers or other finger foods available before the ceremony, what was available here would be a contender. Even Tom Thumb would feel cheated. Grade: B
Presentation: Good mix of executive banter (year-over-year ratings/advertiser progress), clips and program details. Some clips displayed on that red screen received a 3D-like treatment through effective expansion to walls on either side of the screen. TruTV's recent first-ever presentation of NCAA men's basketball tournament games (March Madness) was not treated in overboard fashion by Juris. Turner Sports president David Levy did provide an exception, labeling Tru "the U Conn of cable." Maroon 5 wrapped the proceedings up with a half-hour set, demonstrating to all this band is no one-trick pony or hit wonder. The lead singer does a great cover of Tina Turner's What's Love Got To Do With It. Grade: A-minus
News Value: Three of the new series featured show breakout audience potential. Semi-Pro from NFL Films follows the world of semi-professional football players and their families; Breaking It Big offers a pair of professional Guinness World Record coaches on the road to whip people into shape for breaking various records (with an ingenious triggered if they don't); and Impractical Jokers unleashes four childhood friends with a knack for pranking each other on the rest of civilization. One Jokers scene, where all four take turns playing cashier at a checkout stand, had the audience in hysterics. Wipeout reruns from ABC will join the lineup this fall. However, a towing business series set in Miami's hip South Beach district (executive produced by Jennifer Lopez) got passing attention, and Motoclash, about the most dangerous motorcycle competition in the world (Ridley Scott, Tony Scott and David Zucker among the producers) got no mention at all. Grade: B-plus
Host: No one, repeat, no one at the executive suite of TV networks is more comfortable, or more funny, in front of a presentation crowd than Juris. He smoothly blends the punch lines with the pitches, the vital stats and the clip intros. Boy, can he pitch punch lines. Try these on: "Unlike Spider-Man, I promise you no one will get hurt...We're using less energy than James Franco at the Oscars...More than 100 blue-chip advertisers joined TruTV over the last year, and in the case of Taco Bell, nacho-chip..." We rest the chip, er case. Grade: A
Overall Grade: A-minus Juris and the overall presentation tone carries the day here. Now can we get munchies we really can munch?
Next up: The annual multi-network showcases from Scripps Networks and Discovery Communications.
More Upfront/non-Upfront observations from the passing parade:
*Style entered the Upfront calendar for the first time last Tuesday with a press breakfast, the first Comcast-owned channel to involve new collaborators NBC Universal. Wish we could say more, but the invitation to attend didn't come our way. That will not be the case next year, a Style PR executive assures us.
*As we get ready to close out April, Lifetime, A&E, History, AMC and Lifetime are among the channels yet to schedule an Upfront event of some kind. One available week to do it: May 9-13...breakfast/lunch/afternoon/evening times all in play.
*The latest ThinkTank comments from Jack Myers this week are worth repeating. Venture capitalists (along with angel investors and incubators) are missing the boat by not making TV programming and content investments, on the order of what they do for the Internet and other industries. Time to destroy the paradigm of non-participation this community dwells in forever, and give creators of next-generation TV the funds, resources and coaching to benefit us all.
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. The program runs live Mondays/Fridays at 3 p.m. Eastern time, noon Pacific time, over www.blogtalkradio.com, with replays at www.blogtalkradio.com/simonapple04. Podcast information is available at www.sonibyte.com. Have a question or reaction? E-mail email@example.com.
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