Upfront Week: Broadcast TV Overcomes Every Challenge, Says Moonves

Jon Batiste and Stay Human got the CBS upfront presentation started at Carnegie Hall with a musical number, before a video, featuring the cast of Young Sheldon, led into Jo Ann Ross, CBS president and chief advertising revenue officer, stepping on stage.

Ross spoke about other networks’ initiatives to decrease advertising. “We do not believe that advertising is ruining the television business,” she said.

Ross also mentioned the new data product CBS DNA, short for data and audience.

Next up was a video featuring John Malkovich, of all people. The story had Malkovich losing on poker night at Leslie Moonves’ house, resulting in him having to present at the CBS upfront. Malkovich was having some trouble with industry jargon. “What the f*** is addressable TV?” he groused.

Moonves, CBS Corp. chairman and president, then came out, and addressed the challenges facing broadcast TV. “Broadcasting has responded to every single challenge” over the years, he said, including the VCR and DVR.

Moonves then introduced Kelly Kahl, entertainment president, noting that he’s the only boss Kahl has had, except for Kahl’s father when he mowed the lawn as a boy.

Mom stars Anna Faris and Allison Janney talked up Murphy Brown. The show starts in September, airing on Thursdays.

“Our hiatus is finally over, and we have so many stories to tell,” said star Candice Bergen.

She told the journalists in the room, “It’s an honor to play you.”

Kahl then introduced Late Show host Stephen Colbert, who he described as “a big part of the national conversation.”

Colbert mentioned Rudy Giuliani joining the Trump administration. “They’re so close, they finish each other’s prison sentences,” he quipped.

Talking up his network, CBS has seven of the top 10 comedies on TV, said Colbert. “The other three are on Fox News,” he added.

Star Trek: Discovery cast member Sonequa Martin-Green promoted select CBS All Access original shows, including Star Trek: Discovery, The Good Fight, No Activity and Strange Angel.

Thom Sherman, senior executive VP of programming, mentioned “making our big tent even bigger.” He spoke of new comedies such as The Neighborhood, the Cedric the Entertainer series about a white family moving into an African-American neighborhood in Southern California. Cedric then came out, and described his character as half Archie Bunker and half George Jefferson.

Damon Wayans Jr. stepped out to chat about Happy Together, about Wayans’ character and his wife taking in a worldwide pop star he remotely knows who is hiding out from paparazzi.

The Neighborhood and Happy Together lead into Magnum P.I. on Mondays.

Jim Nantz, Tony Romo and Tracy Wolfson then strode on stage to talk football. They talked up Super Bowl 53. “Our team is definitely ready,” said Nantz.

James Corden, host of The Late Late Show, was next. Corden spoke of an idea for a show that he said Moonves, Kahl and Sherman told him sucks. Young Corden is the title. He said the show offers two hot concepts in television: A chubby, friendly funny guy, and stealing someone else’s idea. Corden added that Young Corden is a crime procedural set in a hospital.

Sherman spoke about summer game show TKO Total Knock Out, from Kevin Hart.

New dramas include God Friended Me, with Brandon Micheal Hall and airing Sundays, Magnum P.I., with Jay Hernandez, and FBI, from Dick Wolf, airing on Tuesdays.

The midseason includes returnees Man With a Plan and Instinct, and new shows The Red Line, The Code and Fam.

And 90 minutes after it began, the CBS presentation wrapped.

Michael Malone

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.