The Upfronts Post-Game Show

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Give me your Hamiltons: James Corden with the cast of “Hamiltons”

What we learned from television’s most rockin’ week

Now that the parties have been held, the red carpet has been rolled up, and the song and dance routines have been performed, it’s time to get to serious business: sell suckers… er… I mean advertisers on the 42 new television shows scheduled to debut in the 2016-17 season. Yours truly’s thoughts on the overall health of network prime-time TV:

– More laughs this year than last. While NBC and Fox are downplaying yuks this year (and CW continues to ignore it altogether,) CBS and ABC have invested more in the genre, with the Tiffany network restoring a comedy block on Monday nights and ABC doing likewise on Tuesdays. However, the style of sitcom among each network is different: CBS is adding more multi-cams, while ABC is investing in single-camera comedies.

ABC will have ten comedies on its fall schedule- the most in several years. Despite what you’ve read elsewhere, the move to have ten comedies on ABC’s fall schedule is NOT unprecedented. In 1989, ABC had a whopping sixteen sitcoms on its fall schedule. By January 1990, the number dropped to twelve – notably the cancellation of Sunday night sitcoms Free Spirit and Homeroom, replaced by short-lived drama Elvis and – America’s Funniest Home Videos.

– Dramas still dominate. Despite comedy’s inroads, dramas still dominate network schedules: the genre takes up over half of the shows in primetime with eleven of them debuting this fall.

– Reboots, remakes still in demand. Love ’em or hate them, reboots and remakes are still around and three are on the schedule this season. Last season saw the successful revival of The X-Files on Fox and Full House on Netflix, and the forgettable reboot of Heroes, which was an already forgettable show to begin with.

– Unusual concepts we haven’t seen in a long time are being tried out. Give the networks credit for trying something different concepts this year – ABC with Downward Dog (with the story told from the dog’s point-of-view – in color, I hope)  and Fox with Son of Zorn. But this isn’t the first time we’ve seen this on television – in 1991, ABC had Baby Talk with events narrated from the baby’s POV – just like in the film Look Who’s Talking. The series was critically derided and lasted one season and a half. In 1968, NBC had a Sunday evening series titled The New Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn, blending live-action with animation (from Hanna-Barbera), although it was the three kids who were the humans against an animated backdrop and avoiding an animated character named “Injun Joe” every week (I’m not making this up.) The series was later rerun as part of the Banana Splits syndication package.

– Upfront presentations were nasty this year. And boy, were they ever. Fox taking potshots at CBS (with a bald Les Moonves), CBS firing back, and Jimmy Kimmel targeting almost everybody at ABC’s upfronts. Were these shows produced by Randy Michaels? Many online commenters were unhappy with the tone of some of the upfront presentations, which were more concerned about making viral-video and Instagram moments than pitching the crowd on why they should buy their networks. Yours truly doesn’t mind the rivalries – after all, its what makes the business great. But leave the Morning Zoo antics in radio.

Advertising, Television

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