Upfronts week is an exciting time for any TV fan. Sure, it’s technically about networks selling their shows to the advertisers that keep the money in their pockets, but for us, it’s about finding out what we’re going to be watching next season … and what we won’t be watching.
To impress the ad agencies and their clients, networks pull out all the stops. They introduce their new shows and hype up their old ones in big presentations — complete with previews, skits, and songs. They throw lavish parties. Most importantly, they trot their biggest stars out to perform, mingle, and pose for photos with fans.
Day One: LAX to JFK
This year, Upfronts week didn’t get off to such a great start. Our travels from Zap2it‘s home in Los Angeles to New York City were interrupted when two flights between LAX and JFK were canceled due to equipment failures on the planes.
Just when we were about to get grouchy about it, we realized that we weren’t the only ones frustrated in the airport. We were joined by celebs galore! Finally, after being stuck on two separate standby lists, we all managed to hop a flight. “Parenthood’s” Dax Shepard, Jason Ritter and Erika Christensen were on board. So were Gillian Jacobs and Yvette Nicole Brown from “Community.” We were most excited to see “Arrested Development” star Will Arnett, and Ryan Hansen from “Veronica Mars” and “Party Down.”
Our favorite moment was when “Community” began over the in-flight entertainment system, and someone from the back of the plane shouted, “This is awkward!”
All the stars bonded, laughing and joking together throughout the flight. When we finally de-boarded in New York, Christensen said, “So where should we all have breakfast tomorrow?” and Arnett joked, “And that was the last they ever saw of each other.”
Shepard and Hansen were discussing Kristen Bell – Shepard’s fiancee and Hansen’s BFF — having dropped her phone in the toilet at an Invisible Children fundraiser the night before. The good news is that the fundraiser raised over $340,000 for Bell, Shepard, and Hansen’s charity of choice.
We headed home to get some shut-eye, but the stars rushed off to a party to welcome the latest additions to the NBC family. They were all good sports about the flight delays — but when you’re as gorgeous as Jacobs, Brown, and Christensen, who cares about a little plane hair?
Day Two A.M.: NBC
We hit the red carpet at the Hilton Hotel bright and early. The entire hotel was plastered with NBC banners. It looked like it had been shrink-wrapped with Donald Trump’s and Tina Fey’s headshots. (Also, there was a car at one end of the red carpet. How in the world did they get a car into a third-floor conference room at a hotel in midtown Manhattan?)
When the stars showed up, madness ensued. Tina Fey looked much more put together in person than she does in the giant “Date Night” billboard in Times Square, just down the street.
“Parenthood” siblings Lauren Graham and Peter Krause did not look like they were feeling very brotherly (or sisterly) toward one another. We’d say that the rumors of these two dating are definitely true.
“Perfect Couples” star Olivia Munn is nothing like her uptight character — she was so energetic that she practically bounced down the carpet. In the middle of our interview, she grabbed our camera away. “This is cool,” she said. “Was it on sale? Where’d you find it? Write it down.”
“Friends With Benefits” co-stars Danneel Harris, Jessica Lucas, and Ryan Hansen walked the carpet together.
Later on, newlywed Danneel showed us the gorgeous bling on her finger — her longtime love Jensen Ackles officially put a ring on it on May 15. “Two days ago!” she said excitedly while we freshened up our makeup in the bathroom. “Just two days!” In fact, the couple found out that Harris’ show had been picked up on Friday night, just 24 hours before the wedding, and postponed their honeymoon so that she could make it to the Upfront.
As for her “Supernatural” husband — he did accompany her to NYC, of course, but hung out back at their hotel while Harris was in promotion mode.
After the presentation — which included a musical interlude by Jimmy Fallon — we all enjoyed an extravagant lunch. Stars from “The Office,” “30 Rock,” and “Parenthood” gathered in a photo booth to take pictures with fans, who chowed down on sushi and ice cream as they lined up for shots with their favorite casts.
Day Two P.M.: FOX
The FOX show was at the gorgeous Beacon Theater, and what a show it was. FOX’s presentation was a spectacle in itself. First, all of the network’s stars graced the stage. The casts of “Glee,” “Fringe,” “Bones,” “House,” and new shows “Lonestar” and “Running Wilde” were on stage — plus more familiar faces, like Seth MacFarlane, Colin Hanks, Bradley Whitford, and Bradley Whitford’s mustache.
We were particularly glad to see David Boreanaz, showing up to do his job despite some scandal and trouble in his personal life. We weren’t sure if he’d go into hiding like Tiger Woods and Jesse James did, and it’s always nice to see a star act professional even in the midst of media scrutiny.
Hugh Laurie opened the show, charming the room immediately. Later on, FOX President Kevin Reilly was about to come on stage, but his party was crashed by Sue Sylvester! Jane Lynch herself stormed the stage in her signature track suit, with her bullhorn in hand. She was making Reilly do some lunges back stage, because he’s “quite the lady.”
We got a bit of an early sneak peek of “Glee’s” Lady Gaga episode. We’re even more excited than we were before, and we didn’t think that was possible.
To close the show, the entire “Glee” club got on stage to perform “Like a Prayer.” Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, Dianna Agron and the rest of their cohorts were in top form, especially because just a few days later they would kick off their “Glee: Live” tour. They were dressed in the jeans and red shirts that they often perform in, and everyone sounded fantastic live.
The FOX party was in Central Park, so everyone hopped on buses to head over to the tent. (Except for Michele, who apparently took the opportunity to travel back in time to 1992. There’s no other excuse for the lipstick she was wearing when she showed up at the Central Park tent.)
This party was phenomenal. Fans had the opportunity to drink cotton-candy lac
ed martinis and pose with the stars of “Glee,” “Bones,” “Human Target,” “House,” and the other FOX favorites.
We almost got in line to pose with the “Fringe” cast, but we got a little shy at the last minute. What? We still haven’t gotten over Joshua Jackson‘s “Dawson’s Creek” character, Pacey. We may have been a little star-struck. And by “a little” we mean that we were completely frozen and couldn’t speak.
Day Three: ABC
Not to be a downer, but the ABC Upfront presentation was, well… kind of boring. The network opted not to fly its stars in for the event. However, “Lost” hero Matthew Fox was in town to promote the series’ finale, so he did stop by the Upfront presentation to introduce “My Generation” and “No Ordinary Family,” two shows that ABC hopes will fill the hole “Lost” will leave in its schedule.
They did show a goodbye montage for “Lost.” In it, Fox said, ““I’m so honored and proud to have been a part of it and I couldn’t have imagined it coming to an end in such a beautiful way.”
Luckily, a few of the “Modern Family” stars were also in New York to pick up their Peabody Award. Ed O’Neill, Sofia Vergara, Julie Bowen, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and Eric Stonestreet presented the network’s collection of new comedies.
The highlight of ABC’s presentation (and the only part that wasn’t totally dull) was Jimmy Kimmel‘s comedy. He took the stage and completely skewered the other networks. Here are some of our favorite quotes from his set:
- “What did you think of the FOX upfront? Is it me or did Fox finally come out of the closet yesterday? They’re very ‘Glee’-ful.”
On FOX’s announcement that the post Super Bowl timeslot will go to “Glee”: “Apparently,
they’re trying to set a new Guinness World Record for most drunk
43-year-old guys saying “What the f*** is this?” all at once.”
- On “Undercover Boss”: “Here’s a hint for employees of chain restaurants. If your new bus boy
comes and speaks English, he’s probably the CEO of Fuddruckers.”
- “I think [ABC President] Steve MacPherson said it best earlier when he said we’re
looking for shows to break the mold…and then introduced a new medical
drama from Shonda Rhimes.”
- “I love ‘Lost’ and I’m going to miss it. Watching ‘Lost’ is what I
imagine it must be like to be trapped inside the brain of Paula Abdul.”
- “Network television is in flux. It’s been in flux for some time now. You
might say we’re completely fluxed. That said, at ABC we want to give you
a good hard fluxing for hours, from every conceivable position.”
Day Four: CBS
Jet lag was getting the best of us when we hailed a cab to Carnegie Hall for the CBS presentation on May 19. When we hopped out of the cab a few blocks away from the venue, we nearly bumped into Joan Rivers. Her face is much scarier in person… it terrified the sleepy right out of us.
In the spirit of connecting with its audience, CBS displayed random tweets about its shows on the big screen while audience members found their seats. Meanwhile, they played a few hit songs over the loud speaker. We have to say… we didn’t think the first song we’d ever hear in Carnegie Hall would be “Tik Tok” by Ke$ha. (We still really, really wish it wasn’t.)
Les Moonves got his Charlie Sheen joke in early. “I’m so happy to be here today,” he said, taking the stage. “I’m even happier I didn’t have to come out here and try to sell you ‘One and a Half Men.'”
They followed that up with a sketch that’s got a title we can’t write on this blog. Let’s just say it wasn’t that funny, but it did give us some insight into why the network picked up “$#*! My Dad Says.”
Jim Parsons from “The Big Bang Theory” came out on stage as his character, Dr. Sheldon Cooper, and attempted to explain a bunch of complicated algorithms that had something to do with ratings and advertising and other corporate blah-blah-blah. Finally, he sighed and hollered backstage to Moonves. “These people don’t need someone with a doctorate in science. They need a juicebox and a nap!”
William Shatner showed up later on to present “$#*! My Dad Says,” but his speech was interrupted by Dr. Sheldon Cooper creeping back onto the stage. As the audience laughed, Sheldon accosted Shatner with the biggest hug ever. “I have so many questions for you,” he said, in awe.
“I have so many answers,” Shatner replied. They strolled off stage together, a match made in TV heaven.
Tons of network stars attended the after party at Lincoln Center. We were ecstatic to see Neil Patrick Harris – especially after his epic appearance on “Glee” the night before – along with his “How I Met Your Mother” co-stars Josh Radnor and Cobie Smulders.
Also in the house were LL Cool J and Chris O’Donnell, Donnie Wahlberg, Tom Selleck, Bridget Moynahan, Juliana Marguiles, “Moonlight” (and “Hawaii Five-0”) hottie Alex O’Loughlin, and the entire cast of “The Big Bang Theory.”
One of our favorite moments from the event was when we spotted “The Good Wife” star Matt Czuchry giving a big hug to Melissa McCarthy, who will star in this fall’s “Mike and Molly.” There’s nothing like a mini “Gilmore Girls” reunion to make us smile!
Day Five: The CW
When we got the Madison Square Garden for The CW’s Upfront presentation at 8 a.m. on Thursday morning, fans were already lining up outside the barricades. And why not? The guest list included some of the hottest faces on television, including Chace Crawford, Tom Welling, Tristan Wilds, AnnaLynne McCord, Kristoffer Polaha, Ian Somerhalder, Nina Dobrev, and Paul Wesley.
Most of the stars stopped to pose for cell phone pictures and hugs, signing autographs on their way back stage to rehearse their presentations.
What a scene it was back there! When “Nikita” star Maggie Q stepped on stage to greet the audience later, she fanned herself. “I don’t think any of you understand how good looking it is backstage,” she said, adjusting her top. “I had to push the A-cups up a little. They’re like ‘we exist’!”
The show opened with Katy Perry performing her hit “Hot and Cold” and her newest song, “California Gurls,” which she announced will be the CW’s summer anthem for their new marketing campaign. It’s stuck in our heads already! Katy’s performance was awesome — it even got the room full of stodgy marketing execs up on their feet.
When CW’s President of Entertainment Dawn Ostroff announced that “Gossip Girl” and “90210” would be sharing Monday nights, stars Chace Crawford and AnnaLynne McCord came onstage for their East Coast/West Coast Battle. The dialogue they read off of the teleprompter was painful. Luckily, they’re nice to look at, so nobody cared.
Robert Buckley and Polaha were next to represent “One Tree Hill” and “Life Unexpected” teaming up on Tuesdays. “I got to tell you, Rob, the grey suit you’re wearing? It’s like pop-goes-the-blue-eyes,” Polaha sang, to the tune of “Pop! Goes the Weasel.” After interviewing Buckley on the red carpet, we’d be inclined to agree. Dang.
In addition to Maggie Q for “Nikita,” Ashley Tisdale and Aly Michalka took the stage for “Hellcats,” as did Wesley, Dobrev, and Somerhalder for “The Vampire Diaries.”
Finally, Tom Welling stepped into the spotlight. Though he was in town mostly to promote “Hellcats,” which he’s executive producing, he talked to us a little bit about “Smallville” joining up with “Supernatural” on Friday nights this fall. “I’m thrilled to be reunited with my friends Jensen and Jared on Friday nights,” he said. “One way or another, we will save the world.”
Hey, we believe it.
Photo Credits, from Top: Getty, Getty, Getty, Fox, Getty, ABC, CBS, CBS, CW, CW