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From Lee Daniels to ‘Downward Dog': TV Ad Buyers Predict Best/Worst New Series

What people buying commercial time really think about the fall shows

The 2016 upfronts are officially (and mercifully) over.

Now it’s time for negotiations, as advertisers and media buyers gobble up commercial time across the new fall schedules — but those talks all depend on how well-received the incoming freshman series have been. TheWrap already identified which new shows we’re looking forward to most.  Now we share what outside experts from other sides of the business think.

Linda Ong, chief executive officer at entertainment and media branding firm TruthCo., sees a ton of potential in NBC’s midseason show, “Emerald City,” which she qualified as “a cross between ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and ‘Game of Thrones.'” Ong also praised the series and the network for taking “big steps” in diversity practices for 2016-2017 — hiring Tarsem Singh to direct that show, for example.

“The shows that I think are going to do well this season are the ones that seem really unique and different — and have a different P.O.V.,” she stated, also naming NBC’s dramedy “This Is Us” as another of her top new shows to watch. “I think NBC overall did the best job…of representing a more inclusive sensibility. It felt more natural — rather than very segmented or forced or token-istic.”

ABC’s slate was less inspired, one industry insider who wished not to be identified, told TheWrap: “They played it too safe.”

And that’s exactly NOT the way the fourth-place rated network should play it. To be fair, ABC made numerous strides in diversity over previous seasons, and having a talking dog show in 2016 – the comedy “Downward Dog” – probably isn’t all that “safe.” Plus, this wasn’t new Entertainment chief Channing Dungey’s development pipeline, it was still predecessor Paul Lee’s — an important consideration.

“Downward Dog” had people snickering in the wrong way, dissing the show about a working woman and her dog who expounds on life and philosophy from his safe perch at home while she’s busy at the office.

ABC’s saving grace? “Designated Survivor” stunned the entire ballroom. That lengthy Kiefer Sutherland clip was maybe the best-received of the entire broadcast upfronts week. Ong also threw in the network’s “Speechless” as one sitcom she plans to keep an eye on.

Fox’s Beacon Theatre event was a lively and engaged one, with new comedies “Son of Zorn,” “The Mick” and “Making History” all drawing memorable laughs.

Plus, “Star” did not disappoint following an “Empire” performance — and that’s a good sign. Ong said she sees the Lee Daniels‘ follow-up attracting a similar African-American audience — and she praised the series for being “conceived as inclusive” of diversity, rather than just casting that way for the sake of checking boxes.

One local TV programming advisor — who wished to remain anonymous — classified Fox’s new slate as “well-thought out.”

The highest potential that source saw was from the Kaitlin Olson-starring “The Mick,” which could hit the syndication sweet-spot, with broad appeal among those aged 25-54, along with some young male impact. Probably too young and too male though, the person thought, was the ambitious animated/live action comedy “Son of Zorn.”

TV top dog CBS continued to do what it does best — a common refrain we heard in conversations with decision makers — and that’s about as high of praise as Leslie Moonves and co. needs.

“CBS is very good at knowing their audience,” Ong offered.

Our station advisor agreed, opining that “Kevin Can Wait,” for example, is exactly what CBS should be putting on the air. The rollicking Carnegie Hall crowd — alive even towards the end of a long week — seemed to concur.

Wednesday afternoon’s event consisted of such a satisfied group of media buyers and potential advertisers, they even forgave the so-called Tiffany Network for what felt like the week’s 10th “Hamilton” performance.

Finally, it was the CBS co-owned CW’s turn to show off its stuff, closing out a busy upfront period with an event that both individuals specifically cited in this piece walked away from impressed.

“[The] CW is building on the core strength with DC [Comics] programming leading off four nights and using them on two nights to launch new shows,” our station advisor summed up, adding that there was a “good response to the presentation by the people in the hall.”

Archie Comics adaptation “Riverdale” played very well in the room, and the New York City Center crowd seemed to dig “No Tomorrow” as well.

Of course, the real votes will come in terms of commercial spend. It will be months before we truly find out how advertisers voted with their wallets, though readers can read a pretty good predictive piece here.