CBS held court at New York City’s Carnegie Hall on Wednesday afternoon for the network’s upfront presentation to advertisers, meaning we’re officially in the home stretch of upfront week.
CBS’ upfront began with the usual bit from sales chief Jo Ann Ross — this year we saw “Young Jo Ann” ride in the car with the “Young Sheldon” cast including Ian Armitage and Zoe Perry, who then joined her on stage. CBS aired trailers for new series including “The Neighborhood” (more on that below), “FBI” “Happy Together,” “God Friended Me” and its reboot of “Magnum P.I.”
Read below for six takeaways from CBS’ presentation this afternoon.
After morning no-show, Les takes the stage
Usually it’s not a big deal when the chief executive of CBS shows up at the upfront, but considering the corporate drama CBS and Shari Redstone’s National Amusements are currently embroiled in, it was a bit more noteworthy. Moonves skipped this morning’s pre-upfront breakfast, but following a video introduction with John Malkovich, he was given a standing ovation as he came out on stage.
“Good afternoon, everyone! Thank you, thank you. How about that John Malkovich? People say I’m scary. So, how’s your week been?” he said, quickly addressing the elephant in the room.
Around the same time a Delaware court granted CBS and Moonves a temporary restraining order against Shari Redstone and her holding company, National Amusements.
Through National Amusements, Redstone owns roughly 79 percent of the voting power in CBS and Viacom, which she has been trying to push to merge.
The restraining order will prevent Redstone and National Amusements from getting involved in CBS’ dealings while the media company decides what permanent action it wants to take to diminish Redstone’s control over the company.
“Anyway, for years I’ve told you I’m only out here for a few minutes, and this year, perhaps, for the first time, I actually mean it,” added CBS’ top exec on the upfront stage.
Murphy Brown welcomed back
Although there was no trailer for its “Murphy Brown” revival, CBS aired a “where are they now” clip that showed what Candace Bergen’s character and the rest of her “FYI” news team have been up to the past 20 years. Bergen and the rest of the original cast, including her now-adult “son” Jake McDormand, briefly took the stage as well.
“It’s so great to have the gang back together,” said Bergen. “We’re really sorry it took so long between season 10 and 11.”
Re-casting can be awkward
CBS’ first new series trailer was the Cedric the Entertainer starring “The Neighborhood,” and while it looked fine enough, there was one small problem: Josh Lawson, who played the role of Dave Johnson in the pilot, is being replaced by Max Greenfield. This isn’t the first time CBS has played a trailer featuring an ousted lead (anyone remember when they ran “Man With a Plan” with Jenna Fischer?). Honestly the whole thing was a bit awkward.
John Malkovich was cursing and confused by advertising lingo
CBS may air on broadcast TV, but at its upfront, it took page of sister cable network Showtime and let the curse words fly. During the pre-taped video with Malkovich, he dropped a slew of F bombs. His best one was probably something every ad executive in the audience has uttered at least once or twice. “What the f—- is addressable TV?”
Stephen Colbert has a warning for Steve Bannon
If you’re a TV network has a late night host, by upfront week law (we think) you have to trot that host out to make jokes to the ad buyers in the audience. CBS brought out “Late Show” host Stephen Colbert to joke about his own network’s new obsession with revivals, that messy legal battle with Viacom, and, of course, get in some jabs at his least favorite presidential administration of all time.
After welcoming ad buyers and any former Trump officials that were looking for jobs with CBS, he had a word of warning for Steve Bannon.
“‘The Amazing Race’ is not what you think it’s about.” In referencing how much has changed since he came out on this same stage a year ago: “You had no excuse if you were caught googling Stormy Daniels.”
Read more of Colbert’s best jokes here.
James Corden has a pitch
Not satisfied with one late night host, CBS brought its other late night host in James Corden, who used his three minutes on stage to pitch his own series. “If I’m honest, everybody has said it sucks but they’re wrong.” So he decided to go straight to the money. The pitch: Young Corden. As described by Corden, it’s a crime procedural that takes place in a sexy hospital, so basically every single CBS jammed into one.
In “pitching” the show, Corden touted that it combines the two hottest things right now: “A chubby friendly guy and stealing someone else’s idea.” And don’t worry, there is a part for Rob Lowe.
“Of course there is, what are we idiots?”
That’s a wrap from Carnegie Hall, now off to see if they let Moonves into the after-party at The Plaza Hotel. We’ll see you tomorrow for the CW and their DC Comics superheroes.