Commentary

Media X: The Universe, Remotely

"There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable," wrote Douglas Adams. "There is another theory which states that this has already happened."

I'm sure it's happened.

There is no other explanation for SyFy.

Seriously, what the frak?

I think the Universe owes us all some answers. And, since it's May and the upfront is upon us like constipation, here's another question:

What is the purpose of an upfront if there are no parties?

Or to be precise, just teensy-weensy, sometimes even by-invitation-only parties?

It's not like media buyers are the most exciting bunch in the world. They dress badly, and they all speak in that weird buyer battle language, the one with all the abbreviations and the fractions and the arcane research phrases. They could use a little loosening up, especially since they're all going to have to fight with creative agency executives for seats at the bar at the 4A's uni-conference next year and endure the heads of Young & Rubicam and FCB droning on about how they're preparing for the future.

Besides, with no drinks, shrimp or Very Berry Cosmos at the Tavern, aren't the fall schedule announcements just meetings? Albeit with TV actors?

And if, as we're hearing, the total take on this year's edition of media's not-so-merry go-round will be down 15% or more, isn't this the exact time you want to throw an over-the-top, senseless, shameless party? You know, like Jerry Zucker used to throw before karma caught up with him?

If we throw enough parties, the consequent rise in the fortunes of caterers, shrimp sellers and Very Berry Cosmo mixers might even pull our poor, addled country out of recession. This could bring back the clients that want the upfront killed. And it would silence the yowling from media agency executives about how the upfront needs to be upgraded. (It doesn't. But don't you miss David Verklin?)

I'll tell you who should be throwing parties. Cable.

Turner and ESPN are unveiling their schedules in competition with their much-diminished broadcast bêtes noire this week, a Universe-altering precedent. And why not? Cable's scripted shows are fresh and fun and their characters kill, curse and eat with their mouths open. The networks still offer us endless iterations on the police consultant/detective who is not right in the head, mutated forms of "ER" and "Dancing With" retired football players, over-the-hill singers and a Jackass.

And the mad dash to find the next great network sitcom?

That should be the next great network sitcom.

There's nothing funnier than watching a desperate broadcast executive trying to do something smart on purpose. You think it's a coincidence that Les Moonves is starting to look a lot like Mel Karmazin? And his network's the good one.

Still, I'm confident that the Universe will answer all of our upfront questions eventually.

But not the one about the SyFy Channel.

Some things are just too bizarre and inexplicable to ever understand.

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