The NBC Upfront, And The Upfronts In General

Random observations regarding NBC’s upfront. (Note: I arrived late and thus missed some key previews. Those security dudes mean business.)

—The remake of Bionic Woman frankly seems ludicrous to me, and, judging from the chuckling around me in the cheap seats, I was not the only one who felt this way. Minor points awarded for having the main character’s deaf sister listening to the MC5 in the trailer, though. (Yes, you read that sentence correctly.) It does look like they spent a bajillion dollars on it, though, for good or ill. I say this even after factoring in the six massive high-def screens NBC deployed onstage at Radio City Music Hall, which made everything look good. It struck me that NBC Programming head Kevin Reilly stressed the show’s “mindblowing visuals;” the nets may not have figured out the Web but they’ve realized everyone has massive high-def TVs!

—Jerry Seinfeld looks more or less exactly the same, and remains, to my ear, generally unfunny. (He was, far and away, the least funny actor on Seinfeld, although his self-regard onscreen and off suggests this thought never occurred to him.) The digital shorts he shot for NBC to promote his upcoming movie “The Bees” did little to change my mind.

—I was going to say that justifying “The Biggest Loser” as ”it changes who [the show’s contestants] are” was the most cynical moment of the entire event. (Which is saying something, by the way.) Then I saw the come one for “The Age of Love,” reality-show-in-waiting—as in, not yet on the schedule—that pits a bunch of twentysomething women against a bunch of fortysomething women to win the heart of the extremely good-looking male tennis star Mark Phillipoussis. “Will he pick a kitten or a cougar?” the announcer panted. I should have taken note and seen what other attendees’ reactions were, but I was too sunken into my own cringe.

—Why would they not put on the schedule a Randy Jackson-hosted reality show—“World Moves”—a show that pits teams of dancers from various countries against each other, one that comes with an American Idol-style voting component to boot? Good question.

What I remain more interested in is this: how much longer can the upfronts go on? They’re redundant events that require the networks to spend literally millions of dollars. “I’d give it two more years,” said one sharp-dressed attendee at the massive party NBC threw in a series of fancy indoor and outdoor spaces in Rockefeller Center. “No one gives an [expletive] about it anymore.”

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