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EVENT REPORT

TV Networks Host Jokey Upfront Week Events

The networks mocked themselves and their competitors while coaxing advertisers with an array of marketing ploys and good, old-fashioned entertaining.

CBS took a whimsical approach at its upfront presentation, with the cast of Avenue Q poking fun at competing networks.

Photo: CBS Photo

Television networks mocked themselves and their competitors during Upfront Week, the annual parade of big-name talent, top executives, and—of course—promotional parties, all meant to entice media buyers to purchase airtime for the fall lineups.

NBC kicked off the week at Radio City Music Hall on Monday, with Saturday Night Live’s Tina Fey and Amy Poehler doing a “Weekend Update” skit poking fun at the network’s program choices. Jamie Foxx, who will be doing a special for the network, concluded the presentation, singing “America the Beautiful” to clips of the Olympics to tout NBC’s coverage (begging us to wonder: how long is his tour of singing engagements at events going to last?). After the presentation, Catering by Restaurant Associates fed the crowd at an after-party at Rockefeller Center.

Tuesday, ABC took over Avery Fisher Hall—a new venue for the network’s presentation. To showcase Desperate Housewives, the hit of which the network couldn’t be more proud, creator Marc Cherry performed a Busby Berkeley-style musical number with the female cast members. Later, the network presented the cast of Lost with a thunder and lighting display. ABC News special events director Roger Goodman directed and co-produced the presentation with Barry Goodman of Little Lane Productions.

ABC's guests conveniently moved from Avery Fisher Hall to the Tent at Lincoln Center for a reception planned by Brenda Major, the net’s vice president of conference planning and special events. The tent and adjacent outdoor spaces accommodated some 2,200 people, who dined on a selection of hot and cold passed hors d’oeuvres from Restaurant Associates. There was also an array of hand-rolled sushi and a buffet that included plantain-crusted grouper and a mixture of greens with soba noodles and crispy tofu in a Thai coconut milk sauce.

To show off the network’s fall promotion colors, Helena Cresci of Florea used royal blue and bright Granny Smith apple green for decorative touches—bright green wooden towers displayed bear grass on top and rows of cymbidium orchids underneath. Apple green fabric covered the park’s outdoor seating areas, and royal blue fabric cloaked bike racks.

A troupe of Latin dancers in brightly colored costumes kicked off Spanish-language network Telemundo’s presentation Tuesday in the theater at Jazz at Lincoln Center, which featured speeches in Spanish and English. The packed after-party in the Atrium had Latin-inspired dishes like ceviche from Great Performances, which piled glassware in heaps on bars for a deconstructed look and servers dressed in T-shirts bearing the network’s new logo: “Hecho para ti” (“Made for you"). Rock and pop band Cracked Ice performed in the Allen Room. Bob Holmes, executive producer and executive in charge of production for NBC special projects and events, oversaw the presentation; and NBC Universal’s Tom Nolan, director of corporate events, and Alison Katz, manager of corporate events, put together the party.

Also Tuesday, the WB presented at Madison Square Garden, with a show put together by co-presidents of marketing Bob Bibb and Lew Goldstein, and overseen by Dean Norris, senior vice president of special projects and on-air production, and Jessica Rippoll, vice president of special projects and on-air production. Norris and Rippoll also put together a party later that evening at the W New York for executives, talent, and advertisers.

Wednesday at Carnegie Hall, CBS flaunted its status as top-rated network by having the cast of Avenue Q spoof the other networks with puppets modeled after their execs. George Schweitzer, president of the CBS marketing group, and his team produced the upfront, which ended with Aretha Franklin singing “Respect” before guests headed to a party at Tavern on the Green. Anne O’Grady, executive vice president of the CBS marketing group, oversaw the party, which, due to the pleasant weather, was able to spill into the restaurant’s outdoor spaces.

Fox’s lively, fun, and very well-attended upfront and after-party on Thursday was planned and presented by Tomiko Iwata, vice president of special events; George Oswald, senior vice president of creative services; Josh Mark, director of special event production; and Danielle Ring, associate director of special events. More than 2,200 media buyers turned out at the City Center to see the network’s presentation, with a Star Wars spoof titled “Sales Wars,” and a live performance by American Idol winner Fantasia Barrino with the Harlem Gospel Choir.

Guests were then shuttled to the Boathouse in Central Park for an after-party packed with food, entertainment, and celebrities. Los Angeles-based event design and production company Angel City Designs represented the network’s youthful image with cotton candy and an arcade section with a customized penny press. DJ Johnny Knight, live band Boogie Knights, and boat rides on the lake given by members of the New York University rowing team entertained guests. A blue and chocolate color scheme tied it all together.

An impressive array of food stations was set up around the venue, displaying a wide menu selection devised by Astra West managing partner Spero Plavoukos and executed by the Boathouse staff. The dinner selection included salads, carving stations, sushi, and seafood; and for dessert, many flocked to the sundae waffle station or picked up bags of handmade caramel popcorn.

UPN boasted about its shows to advertisers—among them the much buzzed-over Chris Rock show Everybody Hates Chris—with a big production at Madison Square Garden. The network’s executive director of marketing, Kris Kunze, and event production firm Along Came Mary Productions planned an after-party at the Copacabana.

GOL TV, a new all-soccer network, used the week showcase its programs to 125 buyers with a breakfast presentation at Le Parker Meridien. Eileen Montalvo, the network’s executive vice president of sales and marketing, worked with Taylor Creative to design the event.

Amidst the network parties, various entertainment agencies took advantage of the frenzy to promote their companies. The William Morris Agency held a party Monday at the Four Seasons restaurant, with execs like Les Moonves from CBS and Jeff Zucker of NBC Universal. The Gersh Agency hosted a huge crowd Tuesday at B.E.D. New York with Gotham, L.A. Confidential, and Hamptons magazines, and talent agency Alliance hosted a party the same night around the corner at Marquee. And as Upfront Week wound down on Thursday, That 70’s Show’s Wilmer Valderrama hosted Heineken’s Green Sessions promotional tour kickoff party at Skylight.

Alesandra Dubin, Mark Mavrigian, & Anna Sekula

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