CBS Upfront Goes Big, Broad and Goofy with Hip-Hop Opera, Cupcakes and Eli Manning

Les Moonves — the "mack daddy behind this whole CBS phenomenon" — and his cohorts take a self-congratulatory tone at the network's upfront

For its upfront presentation to advertisers, CBS went big, broad and a little goofy – words that also describe many of its shows.

The network’s upfront at New York City’s Carnegie Hall on Wednesday had the feel of a big, grinning victory lap – and not just because it included Super Bowl-winning quarterback Eli Manning parading his trophy.

Network CEO Les Moonves jokingly questioned whether the most-watched network needed to do an upfront at all.

Critics sometimes hold up their noses at the middle-of-the-road quality of CBS hits like “Two and a Half Men” and “2 Broke Girls,” and the formulaic approach of its procedurals.

At ABC’s upfront Tuesday, Jimmy Kimmel cracked that CBS has its finger on the pulse of people with barely any pulse, a dig at the relatively high median age of its large audience.

But broad works and CBS’ upfront, like its schedule, almost always went for mass appeal over edginess.

Guest Tim Tebow dropped in for a video that also included David Letterman, Regis Philbin and "2 Broke Girls" stars Beth Behrs and Kat Dennings.

They ran down the aisles of Carnegie Hall in their waitress uniforms from the show bearing boxes of cupcakes like the ones their characters hope to build into a biz.

How goofy did it get?

Joe Ann Ross, president of CBS Networks sales, also walked out in a "Broke Girls" waitress outfit, promising cupcake-sweet returns on advertisers’ investments

“Sorry we don’t deliver. We over-deliver,” she said. “ It’s always my pleasure serving you, even in uniform.”

Then there was an opera song that “NCIS: Los Angeles” star LL Cool J turned into an updated version of 80s’ hip-hop anthem “Rock The Bells,” with lyrics praising CBS.

He introduced Moonves as the “mack daddy behind this whole CBS phenomenon.”

“Mad respect to my main man LL Cool J,” said Moonves, because there’s no comedy broader than a middle aged man talking hip-hop talk.

Why the self-congratulatory feel? Because CBS not only leads in total viewers but, according to Moonves, leads by the largest margin of any network in 23 years.

The network is also close to matching Fox, which is top rated in the 18-49 demo, in the ratings.

CBS is making few changes to its lineup next season, largely because of the success of its current one.

It will air the AFC Championship Game, Super Bowl and Grammys just weeks apart, which was the excuse for Manning to drop by the upfront for an interview with sportscaster Jim Nantz.

The network also offered advertisers the customary look at its new lineup. That meant they got a first look at how the new Sherlock Holmes drama “Elementary” will update the old Holmes.

Remember the original’s fondness for cocaine? The current Sherlock, played by Johnny Lee Miller, is a recovering addict under the watchful eye of Lucy Liu’s Watson.