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NBC's new-sked presentation trumps Fox's

Ad execs are "America's True Heroes" and "The Bright Shining Sun in our Money Universe" because "who else could convince Americans to get insurance advice from a [expletive] duck?" Alec Baldwin gushed in a taped message at the start of NBC's unveiling of its new primetime plans to advertisers Monday morning.

Baldwin -- in his other life as "30 Rock's" Donaghy, the vice president of East Coast Television and Microwave Programming for NBC-parent General Electric -- urged the 2,000 Madison Avenue suits to get drunk at the NBC lunch to follow, and blow off Fox's afternoon unveiling of its new schedule, noting they would not really get to meet Stewie because he's a pretend person, and "House" star Hugh Laurie is only "pretending to be American - just like our president."

Baldwin's opening act was one of the funniest ever seen at a broadcast network upfront presentation (This week is Upfront Week, when the broadcast net's pitch their new shows to ad execs to get them to buy commercial time in the shows "up front").

But Baldwin was hampered by the Hideous Convention Ballroom at the TImes Square Hilton hotel in which NBC was forced to hold its upfront this year. Once upon a time, NBC's upfront presentations at the splashy Radio City Music Hall were among the most highly anticipated each year. But a couple years ago, NBC decided to do away with its upfront presentation and instead hold meeting with ad execs in conference rooms at its 30 Rock headquarters. Fortunately, most of the NBC braintrust behind that idea are gone now, and NBC has returned to Upfront Week. But Radio City Music Hall had already filled its dance card for this year -- and next, we're told. So NBC had to muddle through with this convention-hotel ballroom, up two escalators from the lobby. NBC Universal Television Entertainment chaiman Jeff Gaspin tried to get the crowd over being in the totally non-glam, buzz-kill room with a couple bar mitzvah jokes. It didn't nearly do the trick.

Gaspin began to unspool all 13 of NBC's new fall and midseason series, with an assist from the network's entertainment division chief Angela Bromstad who, while one of the most talented programming development execs in the industry, badly needs to have an NBC page jab her with a pin in the fleshy part of her leg when she's speaking publicly. Listening to Bromstad speak in public is like listening your mother read you bedtime stories -- it can put you out in five minutes.

It's a credit to the new programs that after all the clips were shown, advertisers and TV critics in the seemed genuinely interested in some of them. Most pointedly the new Monday "Lost"-cum-"24"-cum-"Heroes" drama "The Event." A long-ish clip of that show started with an assassination attempt on the president of the United States, played by Blair Underwood:

The Assassination Plot is not The Event, intoned On Screen Guy,
Then Jason Ritter loses his girlfriend at a resort hotel, only it's not what you think, she's really disappeared.

The Disappearance is not The Event, intoned On Screen Guy,

Then there's a massive CIA cover-up.

The CIA Cover-Up is not The Event, intoned On Screen Guy.

The Next Event Is Upon Us, On Screen Guy wrote, in conclusion.

Please, oh please, let it have a beginning, middle and end.

Second biggest crowd-pleaser: JJ Abrams's new Wednesday 8 o'clock show "The Undercovers" -- and not just because JJ actually convinced the No Black Characters network to put on a show with not one but TWO African American actors in the lead roles. Although that is pretty remarkable.

Based on the clips, "Undercovers" looks very sexy - and JJ definitely does sexy like nobody's business -- if a little "Hart to Hart"-ish, and everyone was a'twitter when the clip was over.

After NBC's post-presentation lunch, the mob of ad execs migrated further uptown to attend Fox's presentation. Fox should have won Monday's battle of the upfront presentations, just by virtue of having held it in the gorgeous old Beacon Theater on the Upper West Side.

Fox's event seemed zippier than NBC's -- maybe because they trotted out all their new and returning show stars, which always wows ad execs, and because the cast of "Glee" performing live Madonna's "Like a Prayer" (NBC executives, in contrast, bragged that they "don't not feel compelled to do any big musical numbers so you don't have to sit through that").

But every year, Fox can be counted on to produce Upfront Week's most boneheaded presentation snafu. This year, it happened when Fox's presentation was over, and hundreds of people in the upper seating levels of the Beacon Theater were held prisoner by theater security for what seemed an eternity, but was probably more like 20 minutes. One security guard explained to the TV Column, who was among the captive, that they had been told by Fox to detain attendees on the upper floors because they wanted to first get all the ad execs in the theater's orchestra level onto the buses they'd hired to take people to the Fox party in Central Park.

So NBC wins Monda's Upfront Presentation derby -- because holding people captive in the upper regions of a building is extremely not-okay.

By Lisa de Moraes  |  May 17, 2010; 6:35 PM ET
Categories:  TV News  
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Running fourth (in total viewers) in a five-network race

Posted by: gpoi | May 17, 2010 8:26 PM | Report abuse

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