NYC Upfronts: ABC

MiC guest blogger Helena Shelton of PHD shares her experiences at the 2010 Upfronts in New York: ABC unveils its fall programming strategy, with a focus on comedy, 'event TV,' and pumping up its 10 p.m. timeslot.


The only thing worse than rain in New York City is trying to get a cab in the rain in New York City. It was still pouring at 3:30 p.m. when we arrived at Avery Fisher Hall for the ABC Upfront amid a sea of black umbrella-carrying ad execs.

ABC started out with a little booster presentation, saying that TV remains the most effective platform to reach millions of consumers and that they’re committed to exceptional content. They spoke to integration delivering impact, about how much Americans love their TVs and that there are more TVs in America than there are households.

The strategy for the network’s fall programming was threefold: to ‘attack’ the 10 p.m. timeslot with two new dramas; add more comedy with three new shows; and focus on ‘event TV’ with two big idea projects.

As the clip for the first new drama, police series Detroit 1-8-7, was set to roll, you could hear a few thousand media types gasp when it didn’t work – we’ve all been there, a big presentation and then a tech malfunction. Once things were back on track, we were introduced to the show, which is about cops in Detroit doing what cops do, shot doc style.

Next was The Whole Truth, starring Rob Morrow (Numbers), which is a crime drama focusing on what happens during a trial from the perspective of both the defense and the prosecution. Off the Map was a drama about doctors in the Amazon doing good things for the locals and then came Body of Proof about a top surgeon (played by Dana Delany) who goes to work as a coroner after a terrible car accident. Each of the new shows got decent (but not enthusiastic) applause from the crowd.

Following the clips, Matthew Fox from Lost came out next to talk about how great Lost has been, they ran a clip featuring the entire cast talking about how great the show was and how it changed their lives and then they talked more about Lost and the show’s finale airing this coming Sunday. There was more focus on Lost than the new dramas they had produced.

The network’s ‘event TV’ presentation was next with a new drama No Ordinary Family, starring The Shield‘s Michael Chiklis, about a family that survives a plane crash and gets superpowers. It was okay, but certainly not what I would call ‘event TV.’ The second offering under the ‘event TV’ banner was a faux documentary style drama Generation Me following a bunch of graduates from the class of 2000 to see what events changed their lives. Again, not sure why these shows are considered ‘events.’

Jimmy Kimmel was next – now that was an event! He opened up with ‘we know you have money this year, so don’t act poor’ the only reference so far to the recent recession. He did a very good job trashing the other networks and even his own. Kimmel’s routine earned the most enthusiastic applause so far.

They then ran a clip from Modern Family and had the cast come on stage to introduce ABC’s three new comedies. The first one, Better Together, was the weakest of the three. It follows three couples in a family - the youngest just got engaged after seven weeks of dating, a sibling that has been living with her boyfriend for nine years, and their parents, who have been married for 35 years. The second, Mr. Sunshine, stars Matthew Perry (Friends), and follows the life of a manager of a San Diego sports arena – this clip had some good moments. The last one was Happy Endings about a group of friends (cast includes Elisha Cuthbert and Damon Wayans Jr.), and the events in their lives (familiar?) it was very funny and had the biggest reaction from the crowd, and me.

The whole thing was over in just one hour and we were back out in the pouring rain. ABC does not host any parties. One friend summed it up for me as ‘it’s the year of cop dramas and relationship/Friends-like shows.’ She’s right. General consensus in the wet crowd was that ABC did a good job and for the most part their shows looked good.

Wonder what CBS will do on Wednesday. But first, a night out in NYC, and what happens during Upfronts week in NYC, stays in NYC.