ABC's Meat and Potatoes Upfront

It’s three days into TV networks’ upfront week and I’ve got to ask, what happened to all the web and mobile stuff? Over the past couple of years, networks always included a bunch of gee-whizzy, we-get-digital add-ons in their pitch to advertisers. Perhaps networks are paring down the frills in the bad economy. Such stuff was conspicuously absent from the Fox and ABC presentations, as were the usual big celebrity performances.

ABC gave a two hour-long, meat-and-potatoes upfront presentation yesterday, featuring shows, shows, and more shows. There was a trailer for Eastwick, a Desperate Housewives wannabe (this time the women are witches!), the full “first act” of spooky-like-Lost show Flash Forward, in which everybody in the world blacks out for two minutes, 15 seconds, during which they see two and a 15 seconds of their lives six months into the future (they also get into a ton of traffic accidents), and the full pilot of a comedy called Modern Family, which features a gay couple, a regular married-with-kids couple, and an old-white-man-with-a-young-hispanic-wife couple, all of whom happen to be, hey, related. Even though I was at an upfront, I started to feel guilty about how much TV I was watching during the workday.

During the show Jimmy Kimmel brought some levity, making caustic jokes about the upfront process. 90% of these shows would be canceled, he quipped. ““Every year we lie to you and every year you come back for more. You don’t need an upfront. You need therapy. We completely lie to you, and then you pass those lies onto your clients.” Over at the NYTimes Arts Beat blog, Dave Itzkoff describes uneasy laughs and the occasional gasp during the monologue.