NBCUniversal, Fox unveil fall lineups to launch upfronts week in New York

NBCUniversal and Fox staged glittery productions filled with stars, singers, dancers and bright lights as they unveiled their new fall schedules in New York to kick off upfronts week, the annual commercial sales pitch to advertisers.

One clear highlight for NBC’s presentation at Radio City Music Hall in New York City was touting its rescue of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” following its cancellation by Fox last week. Andy Samberg, the star of the police comedy, trotted on stage to express his excitement with NBC welcoming the series into its fold for a sixth season.

“I got my start on NBC” at “Saturday Night Live,” Samberg said in a humorous address to the audience of advertisers and media buyers. “I’ve always considered it home. And five years ago, when NBC passed on ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ and we went elsewhere, it was hard for me. So hard, in fact, that I made sure to call every single NBC exec to tell them to go straight to hell. I even called some junior execs and laid into them too.”

Proof? “I called Bob Greenblatt, Bob Greenbutt to his face,” Samberg teased, referring to the network’s entertainment chief. “That was childish, and I want to say to everyone in this room that his butt is not green, it’s great. He’s Bob Greatbutt…. It genuinely feels great to be back on NBC.”

NBC’s prime time lineup was just a portion of the marathon presentation, which for the third consecutive year combined a pitch of its content from all of NBCUniversal’s networks, including E!, Bravo, USA, CNBC, Syfy and Telemundo, into one presentation for advertisers.

Much of NBC’s portion was anchored once again by “Late Night” host Seth Meyers. His set took aim at NBC, throwing barbs at the network’s scooping up of “Brooklyn Nine Nine” (“It still feels a little bit like NBC is Fox’s deadbeat friend. ‘Hey, are you gonna finish that? Can I have it?’”), The “Today” show’s” Matt Lauer scandal, and the takeover of its entire Wednesday slate by Dick Wolf’s “Chicago” drama franchise. Meyers suggested that NBC stands for “Nothing But Chicago.”

Programming wasn’t his only target. Meyers noted that advertisers paid $5 million for a 30-second commercial spot during the last Super Bowl.

“That is a lot, considering Donald Trump only paid $130,000 to Stormy Daniels for the exact same amount of time,” he quipped.

Meyers also poked fun at television’s recent penchant for resuscitating shows of yesteryear. He suggested those in the room spare a thought for “the shows that weren’t renewed, the pilots that weren’t picked up, and the shows from the ’90s that weren’t revived.”

He quipped, “I mean, if you had a show in the ’90s and your phone didn’t ring this week, you must’ve been heartbroken,” he said, later joking that NBC would soon be reviving “ALF,” except that this time around the furry star is “a climate change denier.”

Mostly, though, the network highlighted its hits. “Will & Grace” stars Debra Messing and Eric McCormack touted the success of the show’s revival and reminded advertisers that the comedy has been renewed for two more seasons.

And the cast of “This Is Us,” which continues to be a ratings stalwart for the network, also appeared, —accompanied by a prepackaged video discussing the Super Bowl episode of the series that revealed the mystery surrounding patriarch Jack Pearson’s (Milo Ventimiglia) death.

Also featured during the presentation were clips of new shows including “Abby’s,” a new comedy from Mike Schur (“The Good Place,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”) and the Amy Poehler-produced comedy, “I Feel Bad.”

But the two-hour-plus presentation wasn’t all about NBC.

The procession of stars across NBCUniversal’s portfolio of talent who took the stage also included Busy Phillips, plugging her new E! talk show, “Busy Tonight,” and “El Recluso” (“The Inmate”) star Ignacio Serricchio, promoting Telemundo’s new political thriller “Prisionero Número Uno” (“Prisoner Number 1”) about a Mexican immigrant deported from the U.S. who, after criticizing Donald Trump, becomes famous and is elected the president of Mexico.

Andy Cohen, host of “Watch What Happens Live,” revealed the network would be expanding to seven nights of originals. He also broke the news that the reality competition series “Project Runway” would be returning to its original home base at Bravo, where it ran from 2004 to 2008, after airing for nearly a decade on Lifetime

Fox also unveiled its fall lineup Monday. The network, which made its bones more than 30 years ago by putting on bold, edgy programs that targeted a young audience, celebrated the face of the “new Fox”– 64-year-old TV and movie star Tim Allen.

The network’s schedule is its first since parent company 21st Century Fox announced that it would sell its TV and movie production assets to the Walt Disney Co. If the deal goes through, the Fox network will be more dependent on sports, news and live-event programming.

Allen’s last sitcom, “Last Man Standing,” which ran for six seasons on ABC but was dropped last year, is returning on Fox this fall, a head-turning choice in the 2018-19 TV schedule. The series is owned by 21st Century Fox’s TV studio, which has successfully sold the show to broadcast and cable channels.

But the multi-camera family comedy series is a break from the quirkier single-camera comedies and daring animated fare the Fox network has been known to favor over the years.

When Allen’s program, in which he plays a sporting-goods retail executive and father of three daughters who sneers at political correctness, was canceled last year, conservative pundits claimed it was done in by Hollywood liberals who disagreed with star’s own right-leaning political views.

“Last Man Standing” was actually dropped by ABC because the network was losing money on the show. The network was unable to sell ads on the program at a high enough rate to cover the cost of the license fee paid to Fox’s TV studio.

Fox Television Group co-chairs Dana Walden and Gary Newman said during a conference call Monday that the network wanted to pick up the program last year but did not have an appropriate spot on the schedule for it. This year, the network will put the show on Friday, when executives believe it will benefit from promotion on “NFL Thursday Night Football,” which moves to Fox this fall.

Walden said ABC’s recent success with the revived “Roseanne” was a reminder that in Allen, Fox has a “huge comedy star” in its fold who also has the potential to appeal to a broad audience.

She said “Last Man Standing,” which averaged around 8.5 million viewers in its last season on ABC, was never heavily promoted on that network.

“We always wondered how it would do if it was prioritized more,” she said.

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Twitter: @villarrealy

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