With Scripted Stars MIA, Upfronts Rely On Reality Stars, News Anchors

The Writers Guild strike has chased away the scripted stars from this year’s Upfronts.

In their place are sports personalities, network newsies, the host of “The Bachelor,” a pair of Kardashians and many more who work in content that is not reliant on WGA writers.

As a result, the unscripted stars crossed the picket lines outside the Upfront venues in New York, while the scripted stars showed support for the people who write their shows by not showing up.

Their absence was lamented on Wednesday by Casey Bloys, chairman and CEO of HBO and Max content, at the Warner Bros. Discovery Upfront.

“Let me just start by saying I am hopeful that a fair resolution is found soon with the writers that would, of course, return talent to this stage [and], let’s be honest, making this a far more entertaining show,” Bloys said. “Until then you’re kind of stuck with me and my clips.” 



On Tuesday, Disney’s sprawling Upfront at the Javits Center was heavy on sports personalities and sports stars as the ESPN portion of the presentation batted lead-off and lasted more than 30 minutes of the Upfront’s two-hour length.

The highlight may have been an appearance by courageous NFL player Damar Hamlin of the Buffalo Bills, who nearly died on the field January 2 when he suffered cardiac arrest after making a tackle.

A healthy Hamlin appeared on the Upfront stage with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman (all three pictured above) as the two long-time football broadcasters promoted next season’s “Monday Night Football” on ESPN.

Not surprisingly, since ESPN is not a network of scripted shows, the ESPN presentation featured a parade of sports personalities including Serena William -- promoting a new docuseries, “In the Arena: Serena Williams” -- NBA star Donovan Mitchell and ESPNers Hannah Storm, Buck and Aikman, and podcaster Pat McAfee.

Then came another sports star, former NFL quarterback Jesse Palmer, host of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” on ABC since 2021, to announce a new take on “The Bachelor.”

Titled “The Golden Bachelor,” this new “Bachelor” brand extension will center on a male senior citizen looking for love among a group of women who are similarly looking for love. 

Next up was the Kardashians to promote the upcoming third season of their docuseries on Hulu, titled simply “The Kardashians.” 

Before exiting the stage, Palmer gallantly presented each of them with the enduring symbol of the “Bachelor” franchise, a red rose.

If memory serves, every single person who appeared on the Disney Upfront stage declared that they were “thrilled” to be there. 

Midway through it, I regretted that I hadn’t counted the number of times I heard the phrase “thrilled to be here” because that would have been a fun factoid.

Meanwhile on Monday, the NBCUniversal Upfront at Radio City Music Hall relied entirely on personalities outside the scripted sphere.

From NBC News came “The Today Show’s” Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb, Willie Geist of “Sunday Today” and MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” anchor/correspondent Tom Llamas, MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle (“The 11th Hour”) and Joe Kernen and Andrew Ross Sorkin from CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

Early in the presentation came a video in which producers of NBCU scripted shows were seen in interview bits talking about their shows, their creative processes and the like.

These included Dick Wolf (producer of the “Law & Order” and “Chicago” shows on NBC) and Rian Johnson of Peacock’s “Poker Face.”

This video carried a disclaimer so as not to give offense to the WGA: “All interviews were captured in April 2023 prior to the writers’ strike.”

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