The WGA strike robbed the 2023 TV upfronts week of its pizzaz (but not necessarily its pizzas, there was plenty of passed food at the parties). All the writers were otherwise engaged in midtown Manhattan as WGA members picketed each upfront presentation thus far, and pretty much canceled Netflix’s altogether.
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At the Disney/ABC upfront at the Javits Center, we saw about 100 strikers outside ahead of the event. Scheduled to start at 4 p.m., organizers asked attendees to arrive by 2:30 to get through security. Other events had similar security setups, but opened the doors 60 minutes ahead of the curtain. Disney is a particularly popular event to attend, but the company was probably happy to have guests inside before the picket line got too long and loud.
Once inside the massive venue, we got the upfront minus the joy: No actors, no comedy monologues. That’s a particular bummer here, as Kimmel is the clear standout of the upfronts every year. Even in 2022, when a positive Covid test kept him in Los Angeles, his live-streamed stand-up was better than any in-person performance we got. (Seth Meyers, second-best part of the upfronts, also sat out NBCUniversal’s Monday presentation in solidarity with the writers.)
Introduced last year as “the king of late night” by Rita Ferro, Disney’s president of advertising sales and partnerships, Kimmel quipped, “I don’t know what multiverse I’m king of late night in, but I appreciate it. And let’s have another round of applause for Rita, the queen of bullshit.”
Kimmel may not statistically be the king of late night, according to Nielsen ratings (Stephen Colbert takes total viewers, and it’s Jimmy Fallon among adults 18-49), but he’s definitely the king of the upfront. Watch his masterful 2022 upfront monologue below.
This year, Ferro introduced all-time great tennis player Serena Williams, who has a docuseries coming to ESPN. Former NFL punter and current podcast host Pat McAfee followed with the non-surprise announcement that he is moving “The Pat McAfee Show” to ESPN this fall. McAfee did his best to connect but beyond a few bros in the crowd, it wasn’t quite his audience. The newborn-baby photo McAfee pulled out at the end got the requisite applause.
The upfront also featured a half-dozen teasers for Marvel and Lucasfilm series including “Secret Invasion,” (“Hawkeye” spinoff) “Echo,” and “Loki” Season 2. For Lucasfilm’s upfronts debut, attendees watched a teaser-trailer for upcoming series “The Acolyte,” “Skeleton Crew,” and “Ahsoka.”
After, Pixar shared footage from its first-ever series, “Win or Lose.” Hulu, which ordered 20 new episodes of “The Kardashians,” shared the trailer for “Only Murders in the Building” Season 3. Following a samurai sword-fighting stunt in the aisles, FX shared footage of its most-expensive series ever: “Shogun.”
Earlier on Tuesday, ABC revealed its fall TV schedule; it was all unscripted, save “Abbott Elementary” reruns on Wednesday nights.
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