The 2010 TBS/TNT Prime Upfront Presentation: A Recap
Seriously, Turner isn't starting off the third day of Upfront Week well by handing out Grande-sized cups with espresso quantities of coffee. For a person who typically orders Venti, that's just cruel.
We busy ourselves with small talk, small coffees, and small muffins, in our small seats. But here comes video Conan, and nothing about him is small anymore. His hair: big, but not in a characteristically Conan way; his beard: big; his belly: very big. And he's wallowing, big time -- until he gets "the call," and tells them, "In shape? Of course, I'm in shape." Then the "Rocky" music kicks in, he gets on the treadmill, takes off his shirt, takes off his fat suit (while he's running on the treadmill), and he's back. And here he is, Turner's biggest off-season signing. And he's here to sing us a song.
Conan? Hey, Conan! You DIDN'T sign with Fox. You don't have to sing here. TBS is VERY FUNNY, remember? So now I'll have "On the Road Again" in my head all day, until another song comes along later and it surfs right out of there. But more on that in a later review.
Right now, Conan quips, probably pretty sincerely, that "the plot of 'Lost' is more plausible than the last year of my life." And he's probably also honestly looking for help from us -- anybody, really -- who can really explain the whole thing to him. He also threatens that his TBS show will be essentially a remake of "Hee Haw." Somewhere, Roy Clark rouses from his nap.
David Levy, Turner's President of Sales and Sports, enters to state that they're not a "TV company," they're a "content company," headlined by the Conan signing and the addition of NCAA basketball and the March Madness tournament to the network.
EVP and COO of Turner Entertainment Ad Sales Linda Yaccarino puts some context around things. Literally, since she tells us that they believe in "in context:" "TV in Context," "Life in Context" (brand integration within Turner promos), and "Brands in Context." Turner is full-on with the idea of brand integration, so try to remember that.
Steve Koonin, Turner upfront rock star and president of its Entertainment Networks, explains to us why they choose to participate in the traditional broadcast networks' week rather than the usual cable upfronts. He gives us a reach parable, and we respond with an understanding nod. A voice in the back yells out "Freebird!" Mr. Leno is quickly detained and escorted out.
Actually, Mr. Koonin takes a second to "thank a certain NBC employee" for two of the organization's biggest shows: "Conan" and "Southland."
Programming chief Michael Wright introduces the new Turner series, with the added bonus of "original content four nights of the week," and then he quickly mentions "Big Bang Theory," though presumably NOT original episodes of that particular CBS sitcom. But he did mention some new shows: "Are We There Yet?" (buddy/family sitcom with Terry Crews and Ice Cube, based upon Mr. Cube's movie); "Glory Daze (a college freshman in the '80s comedy); and "Neighbors From Hell" (your standard "demons come from hell to keep earth from cracking open, releasing hell on earth, which would be bad for the Underworld"-type animated sitcom).
TNT has added "Rizzoli and Isles" (a crime/medical examiner drama starring Angie "Mrs. Jason Sehorn" Harmon and Sasha Alexander); "Memphis Blues" (Jason Lee remains in the South as a cop in Memphis -- ironically, without Earl's mustache); and "Franklin and Bash," (two young hotshot, play-by-their-own-rules lawyers who "shake up" a staid law firm, starring Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Breckin Meyer), all slated for fall.
Summer 2011 brings us TNT's biggest scripted event. You could tell it's big because a)it has Steven Spielberg and b)the network unleashed both dry ice fog AND lasers into the audience (there was roughly a 40% mortality rate among the advertisers). The rest of us now have an unnatural fear of Lasik ads. It's called "Fallen Skies," a sci-fi drama about an alien invasion starring Noah Wyle.
Turner traditionally brings out nearly all of its series' stars to face the audience for a minute or two, with varying degrees of success. Let's just say we hope the on-screen chemistry is better than the on-stage chemistry, because most of the banter had all the charm and entertainment value of a census questionnaire. Kyra Sedgwick read from the heart (she seemed scared to death, the poor little thing -- I was going for a sort of "Closer" feel to that, so read it in a woman's voice with a Southern accent, OK? Thank you very much.) Ray Romano (with his Men) and Angie Harmon seemed the most comfortable onstage.
But it was probably George Lopez, Conan's new "second chair" of late night on the network, who had the line of the night, which went something like this: "Fifty years ago, another redhead and Latino made TV history. Now it's going to happen again with Coco and Loco!"
Clearly, the man could use some more coffee. I know I could. Venti please, Turner. I'll keep it in context: that means "large."