Highlights from the Recent Network Upfront Hooplaby
The clamor for hundreds of millions of big-name marketer shekels has begun between the advertising industry and the various television networks. Who will come out the winner in this game of chance? This intrepid reporter believes that the television viewer will ultimately be the victor in this free-for-all as the programming scientists at the big networks have concocted a glorious hodgepodge of exceptional and thought-provoking concepts sure to entertain, enrage, and atrophy the masses at once.
However, as we all know the upfront isn’t all work and no play. Indeed, it has increasingly become an alluring affair of lavish spreads in which mercenary stars of television past and present hock their employer’s new wares to drunken 25-year-old marketing brats. The highlight of the upfront parties these past few weeks, aside from the sneak peaks of the new programs themselves, were the pigs-in-a-blanket, and I’m not referring to the hors d’oeuvres. In fact, one industry executive, fat as a hog and high as a kite, was discovered in the bathroom of Tavern on the Green wearing nothing but a cape while receiving oral pleasure from a network salesperson. Yet, amid all the hoopla and debauchery that has become the network upfront season, there were, undoubtedly, some impressive new series on display. The following is a network-by-network summary of what viewers can look forward to in the coming months.
CBS is poised to make a run at the season’s ratings championships with an exciting new lineup. They are also set to challenge the 10-spot on any given night with seven new spin-offs from their hit “C.S.I.”, including “C.S.I.: Pembroke High,” “C.S.I.: Neverland,” and “C.S.I.: Teenage Males Who Spend Obscene Amounts of time in the Restroom.” David Caruso will star in each, until his exponentially increasing megalomania will, yet again, incite him to flee to Hollywood, where he will translate his mediocre television skills to atrocious B-movies.
CBS also plans to unleash the following four all-new, hysterically funny, family-friendly sitcoms that pair schmucky husbands with their sexy wives in suburbia:
“Sloppy Dimwit with Sexy, Sassy Wife”
“Suburban Mismatched Newlyweds”
“Loveable Schmoe and Chick Who’s Out of His League”
This season on the Tiffany network, there will be domestic antics aplenty centered on household chores, the battle of the sexes, kids saying the darnedest things, and, of course, the wacky in-laws! How do those ladies put up with their husbands’ misadventures? They probably drink heavily. Alone, during silent afternoons while the tots are napping and the older kids are at school. Then they dream of tawdry extramarital affairs they don’t have the courage to pursue.
The network, still reeling from the unfortunate demise of John Ritter, has been forced to adapt on the fly. Mission accomplished, as they deliver a coup with the hottest new reality show to hit the networks since “Voodoo House”:
“James Brown, ’Nuff Said.” Cameras follow James Brown on a daily basis. And if that weren’t entertainment enough, the crew hasn’t told James that his personal chef laced his morning martini with LSD. ’Nuff said, indeed.
In an unprecedented move, the FOX channel has decided to revolve its entire season around its smash-hit, “The O.C.” The two crown jewels of FOX’s new lineup are the quick, flashy, teen-angst melodramas, “Caterpillars” and “The W.C.”.
“Caterpillars” tells the animated adventures of a prepubescent Peter Gallagher’s eyebrows, and their madcap escapades on the West Coast forehead. Phantom Planet provides the elegantly rollicking theme song.
Meanwhile, “The W.C.” is a soap about a wealthy, harbor-front toilet community, where everything seems sunny and perfect, but beneath the lemon-scented exterior, there are families torn asunder by inter-marital strife, sexy affairs, and oodles of sappy melodramatic teenage angst. It’s “The O.C.,” only moister. Phantom Planet provides the elegantly rollicking theme song.
The Peacock Network, panicking from the loss of “Friends” and the potential backlash against the Joey Lawrence, er, uh, Joey Fatone spin-off aptly named “Joey,” has gone in a courageous new direction. Their new “Things That Are Vaguely Important” programming focus is highlighted by “My So-Called Hepatitis” in which they follow a young case of Hep-C that goes unloved and unnoticed in an inner-city school. Featuring a friendly, fashionable, flamboyant homosexual as its guide, the hepatitis struggles to share its gift with everyone it comes in contact with.
Perhaps the best new show of the coming season also belongs to NBC. “I’m Smahtah, Elect Me” is a reality show that follows presidential-elect-hopeful John Kerry as he sets out to prove he is smarter than George W. Bush, and that he also has hairier balls. Focus group feedback has led to discussions of a potential spin-off featuring Kerry’s campaign manager and his quest to hold a Mental Olympics between Kerry and Bush, modeled after the “Billy Madison” mental decathlon. This is reality TV at its finest.
The Also-Ran Networks
Last but not least, we have the WB and UPN. UPN has evolved from its former “we air nothing but Star Trek spin-offs and Conan-wannabes” days to include programming that features new Star Trek spin-offs and sassy black folks. In fact, the WB programming was described by one industry muckety-muck as “a delicious frusion of sassy black folk and nervous white teenagers. Sassy blacks and dorky whites. Throw in Method Man and Redman and—presto! Network gold!” He was referring to the new sitcom “Here Comes the Neighborhood,” in which a rich white family moves into Redman’s neighborhood in downtown Brick City, NJ. Hilarity ensues as Redman teaches the new family’s teenage daughter all the slang necessary to become the local project’s ho.
Not to be outdone, the highlight among UPN’s newcomers is “Star Trek: Enterprise: The Real World vs. Andromeda” which will feature intergalactic Olympic-style events between such noted stars as former MTV boytoy Eric Nies and “Star Trek” plaything Leonard Nimoy.
Nick Jezarian is coŽditor of Teen Better Homes & Garden.