There was one name on everyone’s lips at ABC’s upfront presentation in front of advertisers Tuesday: Shonda Rhimes.
The event kicked off with video parody featuring various ABC characters taking a class with Viola Davis‘ “How to Get Away With Murder’s” character, called “How to Win With ABC.”
“I should pay tribute to the person who’s paying for this shindig… Shonda Rhimes, where are you at?” Disney Media Networks co-chairman Ben Sherwood joked at the top of the show, kicking off a long string of kinda-kidding, kinda-not riffs on the prolific showrunner being responsible for the network’s meteoric rise from fourth place to first over the course of one season.
A calendar of shows was shown on the big screen, with each programming block marked with “Hold for Shonda;” Jimmy Kimmel, in his annual roast of the network that hosts his late night show, joked that “saying ABC’s success is only partially due to Shonda is like saying the success of ‘Thriller’ is only partially due to Michael Jackson.”
ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee also touted the network’s diversity, jokingly adding “The Muppets” to ABC’s list of diverse shows, which includes returning comedies “black-ish” and “Fresh Off the Boat” and new sitcoms “Uncle Buck” and “Dr. Ken.”
“We are committed to diversity at every level of our organization. Except ‘The Bachelor,’ we’re going to keep that one white,” Kimmel joked. “We’re so diverse, when CBS drives by us, they lock their car doors.”
Kimmel also took shots at his own parent company in skewering “The Bachelor” and spinoff “The Bachelorette,” which this season will feature potential suitors voting between two potential Bachelorettes.
“This season we’ll have two bachelorettes. We’ll have two women, and 25 guys, like ‘The Avengers,'” he said, referencing recent criticisms lodged against Joss Whedon‘s blockbuster sequel. “The men are gonna vote and then one of the two women, the one who wins, will be selected to hand out roses. But the real winner, as always, is feminism.”
ABC may have had a clear theme at their presentation, but that didn’t stop Kimmel from skewering Fox for doing much the same, heavily touting their breakout hit “Empire.”
“Last year when we were in last place, we said it wasn’t so bad but now that Fox is in last place… they suck right?” he quipped. “But they do have ‘Empire.’ Did they mention that in their presentation?”
The presentation concluded in rather surreal fashion with Montell Jordan making a surprise appearance on stage, singing a parody of his hit song “This Is How We Do It,” geared towards ABC, as dozens of network stars came out to dance on stage — none more enthusiastically than “Grey’s Anatomy” star Ellen Pompeo.