By Michael O'Connell Posted May 20, 2009, 4:22 PM EDT
With neither network committing to a full-on upfront, ABC and NBC split Tuesday this year, with one basically concluding festivities immediately following the presentation and the other just taking advantage of a critical mass of buyers by hosting a comedy event at Town Hall.
ABC's presentation got off to a late start—by almost a half hour—but attempted to keep the pitch from getting too dry by bringing out Jimmy Kimmel to lampoon the network and the upfronts. Twitter users inside Avery Fisher Hall got particularly frenzied when Kimmel told the audience, “Every year we lie to you and every year you come back for more.” Some pondered if it was “professional suicide,” but most chimed in to say Kimmel is their ”favorite part of the ABC upfront every year.” ABC also went a step beyond its competitors by screening an entire pilot at the conclusion of its spiel. The audience got a look at the first episode of the sitcom Modern Family.
The network stuck to its promise of modest entertaining again this year, with a few private dinners around Midtown, including one for more than 100 people at Center Cut, but few of those events went too late. NBC's Night of Comedy, it's only showing at Upfront Week after making presentations earlier in the month, kicked off at 9 p.m., treating an audience of 1,500 to performances by its comedic talent.
Among those on hand for the event were Jimmy Fallon, Conan O'Brien, Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld, and much of the cast of Saturday Night Live. NBC News anchor Brian Williams even played M.C. for the event, which culminated in a performance by the Roots, the house band for Fallon's late-night show. The only thing missing was anything resembling the upfronts. Having announced its fall lineup earlier in the day, NBC passed on making an obvious sell of its programming. Instead, the abundance of mic time for Jay Leno was intended to boost confidence in the network's polarizing decision to devote five hours of its fall programming to the exiting Tonight Show host.