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.
45 First Looks at New TV Shows From the 2015-2016 Season
"Superstore" (NBC): The show was picked up by NBC on May 7, and features America Ferrera and Ben Feldman in a comedy revolving around a unique family of employees at a super-sized megastore. Together, they tackle the day-to-day grind of bargain hunters, riot-causing sales, and snooze-worth training sessions. Ferrera’s casting marks her return to series TV since wrapping her award-winning role on ABC’s “Ugly Betty” in 2010.
"Crowded" (NBC): Sean Hayes and Todd Milliner executive-produced “Crowded.” The show features empty nesters Mike (Patrick Warburton) and Martina (Carrie Preston). After 20 years of parenting, they are finally reclaiming their wild side. But when both of their grown daughters unexpectedly move back in, they are forced to scratch their plans to move to Florida.
"Supergirl" (CBS): The series, from Berlanti Productions in association with Warner Bros. Television, will revolve around Kara Zor-El (Melissa Benoist), who escaped Krypton amid its destruction years ago, and has been hiding the powers she shares with her famous cousin, Superman, since arriving on Earth. But now at age 24, she decides to embrace her superhuman abilities and become the hero she was always meant to be.
"Truth Be Told" (NBC): The self-described “unabashed” comedy follows two diverse couples who are both neighbors and best friends. The show comes from producer Will Packer (“Ride Along”) and director Pam Fryman (“How I Met Your Mother”).
"Chicago Med" (NBC): “Chicago Med”, revolves around the day-to-day chaos of the city’s most explosive hospital and the courageous team of doctors who hold it together. They will tackle unique new cases inspired by topical events, forging fiery relationships in the pulse-pounding pandemonium of the emergency room, and through it all, familiar faces from the Chicago police and fire departments will intertwine as this third team of Chicago heroes hits the ground running.
"Heartbreaker" (NBC): The show, based on the real life and achievements of Dr. Kathy Magliato, is a character-driven medical drama that follows Dr. Alex Panttiere (George), an outspoken world-renowned heart-transplant surgeon and one of the few women in her field.
"Blindspot" (NBC): The show explores a vast international plot that explodes when a beautiful Jane Doe is discovered naked in Times Square, completely covered in mysterious, intricate tattoos with no memory of who she is or how she got there. There’s one thing that’s very clear, however: the name of FBI agent Kurt Weller, emblazoned across her back. Catch "Blindspot" Mondays at 10EST on NBC.
"Coach" (NBC): The new offering picks up 18 years after the original ABC series went off the air, with Nelson’s Fox in the present day and retired from coaching. However, he is called back to become assistant coach to his own grown son, who is the new head coach at an Ivy league school in Pennsylvania that is just starting up a new team.
On August 31, NBC pulled the plug on the project after filming a pilot episode.
"The Grinder" (Fox): Rob Lowe stars as beloved TV lawyer Dean Sanderson, with Fred Savage starring as his brother, Stewart. When his series ends, he finds himself at a crossroads in life and decides to move back to his home town. "The Grinder" airs Tuesday at 8:30EST on FOX.
"The Catch" (ABC): This new Shondaland thriller follows a woman about to get married and about to get conned. Unbeknownst to her slippery fiancé, our heroine (Mireille Enos) — who investigates fraud for a living — is not all she claims to be. When the fiancé’s expertly planned con collides with her perfectly constructed lies, they plunge into a dangerous game of cat and mouse. Based on the novel from Kate Atkinson.
"Lookinglass" (Fox): The drama follows the morally corrupt and retired cop Ray Pritchard (Rob Kazinsky) given a second chance at life when he is brought back from the dead. He’ll have to choose between his old lifestyle and new sense of purpose while navigating the complicated relationship with his “creators”: an antisocial Internet billionaire and his bio-engineer twin sister.
"Cooper Barrett's Guide to Surviving Life" (Fox): After a particularly calamitous experience, 26-year-old Cooper Barrett (Jack Cutmore Scott) turns to camera and, using cautionary tales from his own life, episode by episode, helps the youth of America survive the ridiculous disaster that is life and love in your 20’s.
"Lucifer" (Fox): Based on the DC Comics character, Lucifer (Tom Ellis) who, bored and unhappy as the Lord of Hell, resigns his throne and abandons his kingdom for the beauty of Los Angeles, where he gets his kicks helping the LAPD punish criminals.
"Minority Report" (Fox): Based on the feature film, the drama takes place 10 years after the end of Precrime in D.C.. When one of the three Precogs struggles to lead a “normal” human life, he remains haunted by visions the future. When he meets a detective haunted by her past, she just may help him find a purpose to his gift. "Minority Report" airs Mondays at 9EST on FOX.
"The Muppets" (ABC): This latest incarnation will explore the Muppets’ personal lives and relationships, both at home and at work, as well as romances, break-ups, achievements, disappointments, wants and desires in documentary style. Catch "The Muppets" Tuesdays at 8EST on ABC.
"Of Kings and Prophets" (ABC): An epic Biblical saga of faith, ambition and betrayal as told through the eyes of a battle-weary king, a powerful and resentful prophet and a resourceful young shepherd on a collision course with destiny. The show has been delayed for casting reasons.
"Quantico" (ABC): A group of young FBI recruits, all with specific reasons for joining, battle their way through training at the Quantico base in Virginia. As the show intercuts between their hidden pasts and their present training, it also flash-forwards to the near future, where one of the recruits will turn out to be a sleeper terrorist responsible for the most devastating terrorist attack on US soil since 9/11. "Quantico" airs Sundays at 10EST on ABC.
"The Real O'Neals" (ABC): Dan Savage’s semi-autobiographical spectacle revolves around a picture-perfect family turned upside down when the youngest son comes out of the closet. What seems like the end of their idyllic life turns out to be the beginning of a bright new chapter when everyone stops pretending to be perfect and actually starts being real.
"Rosewood" (Fox): The investigative drama centers around the brilliant Dr. Beaumont Rosewood, Jr. (Morris Chestnut), the top private pathologist in all of Miami. In his lab, he finds secrets in the bodies of those usually dismissed. Despite being surrounded by death, Rosewood is obsessed with life and it frustrates the cynical female detective he often works with, but she can’t argue with the results his perspective provides. Catch "Rosewood" Wednesdays at 8EST on Fox.
"Uncle Buck" (ABC): Based on the 1989 movie, Uncle Buck is a multi-camera family comedy about a childish man (Mike Epps) who learns how to be an adult by taking care of his brother’s kids in a very childish way.
"Blood and Oil" (ABC): The biggest oil discovery in American history (bigger than Texas and as big as Saudi Arabia) has triggered a geopolitical shift and an economic boom in North Dakota on a scale not seen since the American 1849 Gold Rush. This series tracks the epic pilgrimage of a young, ambitious couple to the oil fields of the Bakken seeking their fortune and a better life — a classic tale with modern twists. As we follow their trials and tribulations in a modern day “Wild West”, they negotiate a colorful ensemble of roughnecks, grifters, oil barons, criminals, and fellow prospectors against a stark and beautiful backdrop. "Blood and Oil" airs Sundays at 9EST on ABC.
"Wicked City" (ABC): This character-driven, true-crime procedural explores sex, politics and popular culture across various noteworthy eras in L.A. history. Season one focuses on two LA cops in search for a Bonnie & Clyde-esque serial killing team amidst the rock-and-roll, coke-infused revelry of the 1980s Sunset Strip. "Wicked City" premieres October 27 on ABC.
"The Player" (NBC): From the executive producers of "The Blacklist" and starring Wesley Snipes and Philip Winchester ("Strike Back," "Fringe") comes an action-packed Las Vegas thriller. A former military operative turned security expert is drawn into a high-stakes game where an organization of wealthy individuals gamble on his ability to stop some of the biggest crimes imaginable from playing out. "The Player" airs Thursdays at 10EST on NBC.
"Code Black"(CBS): Based on the award-winning documentary by Ryan McGarry, "Code Black" is a new medical drama that takes place in the busiest, most notorious ER in the nation. The staggering influx of patients can outweigh the limited resources available to the extraordinary doctors and nurses whose job is to treat them all – creating a condition known as Code Black. "Code Black" airs Wednesdays at 10EST on CBS.
"Rush Hour" (CBS): A reimagining of the hit feature film franchise, this new buddy-cop drama follows maverick LAPD detective Carter and by-the-book Hong Kong detective and master martial artist Lee, who knock heads when they are forced to partner together in Los Angeles.
"Life in Pieces" (CBS): This new single camera comedy follows one big happy family and their sometimes awkward, often hilarious and ultimately beautiful milestone moments as told by its various members. "Life in Pieces" airs Mondays at 8:30EST on CBS.
"Angel From Hell" (CBS): A comedy about Amy (Jane Lynch), a colorful, brassy woman, who insinuates herself into Allison’s organized and seemingly perfect life, claiming to be her "guardian angel." "Angel from Hell" premieres November 5 on CBS.
"Limitless" (CBS): Based on the feature film, the new drama follows Brian Finch, who discovers the brain-boosting power of the mysterious drug NZT, and is coerced by the FBI into using his extraordinary cognitive abilities to solve complex cases for them. Catch "Limitless" Tuesdays at 10EST on CBS.
"Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" (CW): “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” stars Rachel Bloom, who also serves as an executive producer on the show, as a woman who may be going crazy when she gives up everything to move to West Covina, CA in an attempt to find happiness. Aline Brosh McKenna and Marc Webb will also act as EPs. "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" premieres October 12 on the CW.
"Containment" (CW): “Containment” is set in the aftermath of a mysterious and deadly epidemic breaks out in Atlanta and stars David Gyasi, Christina Moses and Chris Wood.
"Legends of Tomorrow" (CW): DC's “Legends of Tomorrow” stars Victor Garber, Brandon Routh, Caity Lotz, Dominic Purcell and Wentworth Miller, all reprising superhero or supervillain roles they first played on “Arrow” or “The Flash,” along with newcomers Arthur Darvill, Franz Drameh and Ciara Renee.
"Scream Queens" (Fox): The anthology series revolves around a college campus grappling with a series of murders and the sorority girls wrapped up in the chaos. Ryan Murphy, creator of "Glee" and "American Horror Story," writes and produces. "Scream Queens" airs Tuesdays at 9EST on Fox.
"Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris" (NBC): Neil Patrick Harris hosts his own variety show that will feature sketches, musical numbers, mini game shows, hidden camera pranks and celebrity appearances.