The ABC upfront presentation at Lincoln Center started with an American Idol video, with a number of network talent, including Robin Roberts, Freddie Highmore, Mark Cuban and Roseanne Barr, singing. Barr won with her version of “My Way,” earning the honor of kicking off the upfront show.
Barr then stepped on stage and introduced Ben Sherwood, co-chair, Disney Media Networks and president, Disney/ABC Television Group. If you are playing a drinking game based on how many times ABC execs mention Roseanne, Sherwood said, you’re in luck. “You’re welcome,” he added.
Sherwood mentioned ABC having the No. 1 new drama in The Good Doctor, No. 1 new comedy in Roseanne, and the top reality show in American Idol.
Clips of marketers talking about the merits of ABC, and Freeform, ads, then filled the screen.
Rita Ferro, president of ad sales, came out speaking of “breaking down the silos” at ABC, Freeform and Disney. She singled out ABC News, including Good Morning America and World News Tonight.
Robin Roberts, George Stephanopoulos, Michael Strahan, David Muir and Amy Robach then stepped on stage. Stephanopoulos said “the stakes are high” in world news, but the GMA crew is up for the challenge.
“It’s not lost on me that I get to have a conversation with America” each weeknight, said Muir, who called it an honor and a privilege.
Added Roberts, “Not a day goes by when we don’t cherish our relationships with each other, and with our audience.”
An ABC News promo, with John Goodman doing the voiceover, was shown. It played up the “straightforward” nature of the news department’s reporting.
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Tom Ascheim, Freeform president, was next, talking about drama Siren and comedy Grown-ish. He explained the network’s “A little forward” motto, and said Freeform is all about originality, authenticity and fearlessness. Advertising on Freeform, he said, represents an opportunity to tap into “the most influential generation.”
Yara Shahidi of Grown-ish came out next. The Millennial generation, she said, voices their “opinions, concerns, hopes and fears.”
Karey Burke, executive VP of programming and development at Freeform, said the network has ordered a new comedy from Kenya Barris, called Besties. Freeform has also ordered a second season of Siren. Trailers for The Perfectionists and Cloak & Dagger were shown.
Holiday stunts “31 Days of Halloween” and “25 Days of Christmas” also got promoted, before the presentation shifted back to ABC.
Freddie Highmore spoke about The Good Doctor, acknowledging ABC’s history of “grounded and diverse” storytelling. He then introduced Channing Dungey, ABC entertainment president. She said Good Doctor succeeds, with an average of 22 million total viewers, because it is “authentic, relatable, incredibly compelling and buzzworthy.”
She then turned to Roseanne—drink, if you’re playing the drinking game—and mentioned its hot return to television. Great shows, she said, remind us all of how much we have in common, despite our differences.
Dungey also singled out medical drama Grey’s Anatomy and American Idol, before turning to the new shows, including Dancing With the Stars Juniors, featuring child stars strutting their stuff, and talk show The Alec Baldwin Show.
For the fall schedule, Fresh Off the Boat and Speechless shift to Fridays, another night of comedy for ABC. Comedy The Rookie airs on Tuesdays; Dungey called it “brand defining.” Nathan Fillion stars as a rookie cop of an atypical rookie age.
Fillion stepped on stage, and said, even if some in the audience do not know who he is, “I’m probably a pretty big deal to your mom.”
Trailers for comedies The Rookie, The Kids Are Alright and Single Parents, and drama A Million Little Things, rolled.
Late night host Jimmy Kimmel then stepped out, after missing last year’s event due to the health issues of his newborn son. “He’s doing much, much better than network television,” he said.
“What a week it’s been for you guys,” said Kimmel. “NBC gave you jazz hands, Fox gave you JAZ Pods.”
Kimmel talked about Comcast stepping in to break up the Disney-Fox deal, and Roseanne. Sticking with the reboots topic, he admitted he was psyched for Murphy Brown on CBS, and acknowledged how rare it was to see anything Brown on CBS.
Kimmel then mentioned Marvel’s Inhumans, saying it was the only unsuccessful project with Marvel in the title. Midseason show Whiskey Cavalier, he said, has the worst name since Cougar Town. “Should we cancel it now?” Kimmel added.
About ABC’s new shows, Kimmel said, “Some of the comedies are not that funny. Some of the dramas are hilarious.”
Kimmel then had some fun with NBC’s Chicago night. “Chica-Go to another fucking city already,” he suggested.
Signing off, he said, “Thank you for listening, and I wish you all a Whiskey Cavalier.”
Dungey then returned to talk about midseason shows, including The Fix, Schooled, Grand Hotel and Kimmel’s beloved Whiskey Cavalier.
“Thanks Jimmy!” said Dungey before that trailer played.
Ryan Seacrest then introduced Bebe Rexha, and some American Idol finalists, for the hour and fifty minute presentation’s closing number.
Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.
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