It’s a wrap: Criger calls the upfronts

MediaCom’s chief investment officer, Sylvia Criger, sums up the upfronts and shares which shows she thinks will make it, and which won’t.

The US upfront week is over and we survived to tell the tale(s). The overall vibe was positive despite the biblical rainstorms. The shorter presentations were a welcome change. Sitcoms, fairy tales and nostalgia were the main trends of the week, with the usual sprinkling of musicals and dramas.


We saw a surfeit of sitcoms, close to 20! Some are destined to sink quickly, like the many “emasculated men” sitcoms, which is an unfortunate, unfunny trend. The worst was Work It, about two men who dress like women to find jobs – Bosom Buddies did it so much better. A definite miss. And Tim Allen returns as a man’s man surrounded by women in Last Man Standing. It’s a bit dated, as is Tim, so I give it a thumbs down. 

My favourite was Free Agents, starring Hank Azaria, about the aftermath of an office one-night stand. New Girl is about a klutzy divorcee who moves in with three men and it could do well – the script and Zooey Deschanel were funny. Allen Gregory is an animated, quirky comedy from Fox about a little kid who’s mentally much older; it should appeal strongly to young adults. The hands-down best title? Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea, a mid-season replacement based on Chelsea Handler’s comedy.


There’s lots of escapism this year with two fairy tale shows – Grimm and Once Upon a Time. Grimm is about a cop who has the ability to see real fairy tale creatures causing trouble, while Once Upon a Time follows characters who live in our world and also in fairy tales, complete with witches, bearded dwarves, etc. ABC gets kudos for taking a chance on something new.

Terra Nova from Spielberg is about humans travelling from a dying earth to the age of dinosaurs – shades of Jurassic Park! Given the production delays and high cost, this one should be a hit. From Fox and J.J. Abrams we have Alcatraz, about prisoners who disappeared from Alcatraz in the ’60s, now reappearing with mysterious motives. I think it will disappear quickly. NBC’s Awake is an interesting show about a cop who lives parallel lives. His wife exists in one dimension and his son exists in the other and we’re not sure which one is the real one.

Unforgettable is about a female NYPD detective who remembers everything except the day her sister was murdered. A Gifted Man is about a surgeon who gets advice from his dead ex-wife – it was better than it sounds. Eagerly awaited is Touch, with a kinder, gentler Kiefer Sutherland as the father of an autistic boy who sees the future in numbers.


Blame it on Mad Men – the ’60s are back with a vengeance! NBC’s The Playboy Club is about bunnies and mobsters. Three Angels, a remake of Charlie’s Angels, is very ho-hum despite all the frenetic action. ABC’s Pan Am is all about the (questionably) glamorous life of pilots and stewardesses back in the day. I don’t think any of these will survive.


Bound to be a hit, it’s The X Factor with Mr. Smug himself, Simon Cowell and ditzy Paula Abdul. Smash is another musical starring Debra Messing and Anjelica Huston, and it’s about what it takes to produce a Broadway musical.

One of my personal favourites from the week was Person of Interest from CBS, starring James Caviezel as an ex-CIA agent who teams up with a billionaire to stop crime in NYC – a big job! I also loved the cat fights in Good Christian Belles, a soap set in Dallas with Annie Potts and Kristin Chenoweth – meow!