My first time at the upfronts: Bailey Wilson

J3/UM Canada's manager of broadcast investments dishes on her favourite new shows, late-night network parties and photos with Donnie Wahlberg.

Bailey Wilson is manager, broadcast investments, at J3/UM Canada and occasional blogger for MiC. Here, she shares her first experience at the NYC upfronts, an event she has been looking forward to attending since she first started in media, she says. 

There’s always a sense of excitement in the air in NYC, and upfront week just adds to it. Everywhere you look, networks are promoting their new shows and NBC is all over the video screens in the back of all the cabs. 

All the media buyers are running from presentation to lunch to presentation, all the while trying to find time to start their network negotiations. I flew in on the weekend with a nice Sunday to explore the city before kicking off the upfronts on Monday.

The week started off with the presentation from NBC, hosted in the gorgeous Hilton Ballroom, a small venue compared to the others, but with a beautiful decor and chandeliers. It was an early start, 11 a.m., and went on for about two hours. 

I thought the presentation was good, Seth Myers and Jimmy Fallon were both funny. The executives seemed a little obsessed with the success of The Voice, which they are bringing back in January 2012. The network had some good-looking new programs, including one of my favourites this year, Up All Night, starring Christina Applegate and Will Arnett as two partying parents who have a baby. It looks hilarious.

Afterwards, my J3 NY colleagues had to head back to work so I went to the lunch after-party solo. They decorated the venue like the Playboy Club, in honour of the new Eddie Cibrian show of the same name. Purple velvet backdrops made the venue look very elegant, and there was tons of food and drink.

I obviously passed up the food and lunchtime cocktails to celebrity gawk. The casts of Community, Parenthood, Parks & Rec, Smash and Chuck were there, plus a few others. Guests could also have their picture taken with the chair from The Voice, which, to my surprise, quite a few people actually did.

There was only an hour or so until the Fox upfront so I grabbed some lunch and headed over to The Beacon Theatre, yet another beautiful venue. Fox had assigned seating, so people weren’t fighting over seats like I saw at the other events. 

The Fox presentation was star-studded, opening with a performance from Glee‘s all-boy private school choir, the Warblers, followed by a hilarious intro from Jane Lynch. The whole cast of The X Factor was there and I think it will do very well when it premieres in the fall. I like the idea of airing The X Factor and American Idol in the same time slot in back to back seasons. My other favourite from Fox was New Girl starring Zooey Deschanel (also starring former MuchMusic VJ Hannah Simone – yay Canadians!). 
After the presentation Fox had buses to take us to Woolman Rink in Central Park. The party was in a massive tent and was fabulous. Everything was orange, pink and purple. There was again lots of food and drinks as well as photo stations set up around the tent. I didn’t know ahead of time, but apparently Fox is the biggest party of the year with a huge dance floor, and some of my co-workers stayed late into the night. Our fellow Canucks had graciously offered to take us out for dinner so we headed out around 7:30 p.m. for a delicious meal at Fresco by Scotto.

Tuesday, before heading to the ABC presentation at the Lincoln Centre, I had a lovely lunch with one of our partner agencies. The buildings are gorgeous and right next to the Juilliard School (Save the Last Dance anyone?).  The presentation was only about an hour, seemed a bit rushed, and they didn’t address their daytime changes with the cancellation of both All My Children and One Life to Live.

The highlight of the presentation was definitely Jimmy Kimmel’s hilarious and sarcastic stand-up routine making fun of us for coming back year after year even when all their new programs get cancelled. Revenge (staring Emily Van Camp) was the only ABC program that I was excited about. But I was thrilled to see my new favourite, Happy Endings, was renewed for a second season. (If you haven’t already, you should definitely check it out.) There was a dinner reception event following the presentation for top-level executives and clients. We grabbed a delicious dinner close to our hotel and watched The Good Wife finale with a bottle of wine.

Wednesday we were invited to lunch at La Grenouille – it was the cutest French restaurant with amazing food. Now it was time for CBS! CBS seemed to be the hardest ticket to get in town but I was lucky enough to secure one the day of.

The presentation was by far the best of them all. The stage was filled with massive LED screens that projected special effects and clips of the show. The executives all seemed relaxed and way less rehearsed than at the other networks. The presentation opened with a hilarious/slightly corny Blue Bloods spoof where the Regan family was tracking down the thief who stole the CBS’ fall schedule (ended up being Regis Philbin). CBS was the only network to talk about its daytime schedule, mentioning its continued success with long running shows The Young and the Restless and The Price is Right

My favourite new show from CBS was Two Broke Girls, from producer Michael Patrick King (Sex and the City), with CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler informing us it tested better than any other show in years. The network had celebrities from all its hit shows, including Ashton Kutcher who did a good job at speaking respectfully about filling Charlie’s role on Two and a Half Men.

After the presentation we were bused over to the tent at the Lincoln Centre for the party of all media parties. My New York friends aren’t nearly as excited as me to get to these parties – they headed to a bar for a few drinks until the crowds died down while I hopped on the first bus I could. 

The tent was similar to the one at Fox and had about 10 VIP areas roped off, labelled by show, where the casts were hanging out. Eventually lineups formed and you could take your picture with the stars. Anyone who knows me would know I was ecstatic to take my picture with Donnie Wahlberg of New Kids on the Block and Blue Bloods fame.

The specialty channel Adult Swim was having an event that night where Jay Z was performing (I unfortunately couldn’t attend) so everyone left CBS around 10 and again I was on my own. The rain had picked up and it was impossible to find a cab so I spent some time speaking to the security guards and I guess they felt bad for a lone Canadian girl and one of them walked with me under an umbrella to the next main street and stood with me until he could flag me a cab.

I wasn’t able to attend The CW upfront on Thursday and there was no event afterwards. Thursday I enjoyed a mostly rain-free day in NYC, visiting my favourite area, Greenwich, with my fellow Canadians and getting ready to head home.

The NYC upfronts are like Torontos, but on huge dose of steroids. As I repeatedly told my coworkers while I was here, ‘My nine years of late nights have finally paid off!’ My experience at the upfronts was unbelievable, I will forever be grateful to everyone who helped make this trip happen.  I truly hope everyone can experience them at one point in their media career. Now it’s back to Toronto to see what the Canadian networks have bought and have in store for us!