7 Things Scene and Heard at NBC’s Upfront Event

Upfronts 2015: Bob Greenblatt accompanies Dolly Parton on the piano; Neil Patrick Harris unveils epic prank on media buyer

Last Updated: May 11, 2015 @ 12:35 PM

Follow that, Dana Walden and Gary Newman.

The Fox TV Co-Chairmen and CEOs will have a hard time topping NBC Chairman Bob Greenblatt during Fox’s late-afternoon upfront event on Monday. The NBC broadcast boss not only opened his own earlier event with a solid joke — taking a shot at the shoddy Javits Center, ironically (or not) where NBCUniversal’s cable upfront will take place on Thursday — he later performed the hell out of a Dolly Parton classic on the piano.

The unimpressive Jacob K. Javits Convention Center was also where the NBC broadcast network’s 2014 upfront event took place, before readers think it was purely a shot as his cable counterpart Bonnie Hammer.

Here are 7 things TheWrap saw and heard during NBC’s Monday upfront event:

1. Greenblatt Rocks, Dolly Parton Rolls
Legendary musician Dolly Parton took the NBC stage mid-presentation dressed, by her own admission, not terribly unlike the network’s peacock mascot. While there to sell airtime for “Coat of Many Colors,” her first of several upcoming music-inspired TV movies on the channel, Parton of course took some time to entertain the crowd the way she does best. Guitar in hand, Parton opened with the title track that inspired the upcoming television movie, much to the delight of the Radio City Music Hall crowd. But then it was turned up another notch when a suit got involved.

Parton called on friend Greenblatt to sit at the piano and accompany her on “I Will Always Love You,” a song written and recorded by Parton though popularized even further by Whitney Houston. (To the point, Parton quipped: “She can have the credit, I’ll take the money.”) The NBC exec handled himself masterfully, receiving a standing ovation from the crowd of media buyers, NBC employees and television reporters. That said, Parton probably didn’t hurt in lifting the audience out of their chairs.

2. Neil Patrick Harris Pranks
When Neil Patrick Harris is on your roster, you’d better parade him out for a live event. Harris was indeed on hand for NBC’s upfront, plugging his new prank series “Best Time Ever.” The actor and his crew actually staged a terrific original hidden-camera assault on media buyer Melissa Shapiro, who happened to be celebrating her birthday in the crowd on Monday.

Harris and several high-ranking NBC employees got in on the levity, rolling videotape of Shapiro at a business lunch the other day, totally oblivious to the fact that Harris and his lesser-known accomplices were serving her in disguise. It was probably a funnier moment in person than it appears on the page, and was a top-notch trick to encourage commercial spending.

3. Jimmy Fallon Jokes
Jimmy Fallon joined the event for just a few moments, contributing about a joke and a half in his trademark “Tonight Show” suit. First, he assured the day’s host Greenblatt that he’s done a great job and they’ll “miss him.” (Greenblatt isn’t going anywhere, hence the half joke.)

Then, the new late-night king dropped an even better one: “We do five shows a week,” Fallon said of his “Tonight Show.” “That’s like a whole season for most NBC shows.”

4. Nick Cannon Spins
Cannon, who’s no stranger to Radio City Music Hall thanks to his “America’s Got Talent” gig, was up on the balcony DJ’ing the NBC event from beginning to end — though he admittedly had a pretty big break during the longwinded sales pitches.

Cannon was dressed to the nines per usual, prompting Greenblatt to joke about lending the “Wild ‘N Out” star his fedora for the day. Cannon proved to be a fine disc jockey and a decent hype man — maybe he’ll add yet another job to his overloaded resume.

5. Sports/Olympics Take Center Stage
Pimping for NBC Sports and 2016 Olympics coverage on stage were Michael Phelps, NASCAR star Jimmy Johnson and “Sunday Night Football” announcers Cris Collinsworth and Al Michaels. Collinsworth made a slightly veiled remark about DeflateGate that the crowd seemed to enjoy, but it probably wouldn’t serve up much context in print, so we won’t even try. Suffice it to say, he appears to expect a Tom Brady suspension.

Phelps excited the crowd with his presence and offered a little U.S.A. pride with the claim that he is faster than ever in the pool and ready for Rio in 15 months.

6. Jenna Fischer Laughs, Cries … at Herself
Adorable star of “The Office” Jenna Fischer is back on NBC in the upcoming limited-run comedy “You, Me & the End of the World,” which also stars Rob Lowe and is already wrapped. She, like many stars of the new slate, was in the crowd to mug for the camera after the network rolled a teaser from the show.

While most simply smile, nod and wave, Fischer was seen wiping away tears of laughter — either at the clip she just watched of her own show, or perhaps something a co-star whispered in her ear just before hitting the jumbo screen. Either way, we won’t hold it against her.

7. Brian Williams Is M.I.A.
There was no mention of suspended NBC News anchor Brian Williams — like, none whatsoever. That’s probably not shocking considering an upfront event is essentially a network’s pep rally — we just thought you’d like to know.

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