LOS ANGELES In what has become an upfront tradition for ABC, this year’s presentation marked the third time the network tapped into on-air talent to entertain guests with live song-and-dance numbers. Like the New York upfront that came a few days before it, the May 20 presentation in L.A. took its cue from the 2005 upfront, which featured the Desperate Housewives gals dancing alongside series creator Mark Cherry as he sang “Beautiful Girls,” and last year’s follow-up, which had William Shatner crooning his take on the song as “Beautiful Boys.”
This year’s routine had Ugly Betty cast members belting their own version of A Chorus Line’s “One” in front of 1,500 guests, many them international program buyers and television executives. (The West Coast event targets the international market, while the East Coast one was geared toward the domestic media buyers and journalists.) A stream of tuxedoed dancers—as well as a chorus line of bespectacled performers dressed in Guadalajara ponchos like the one Betty wore in the pilot—were also onstage as the cast sang modified lyrics that told of Betty’s unkempt eyebrows and fashion faux pas.
Russell Harris Event Group, which was hired by the network’s executive director of marketing, Evelyn Geraci, erected the 100- by 150-foot European clear-span presentation viewing tent on the Walt Disney Studios lot, taking care to design three-tier seating so that every audience member had a clear sight line of the stage. The event production company also took on the post-presentation outdoor celebration on 10,000 square feet of the lot, with six ABC television-show-themed buffets, including a Lost station decorated with bamboo and a Grey’s Anatomy one with a sterile all-white color palette appropriate for the hospital drama. The series’ stars manned their corresponding buffet areas, mingling with guests who posed for photos with them throughout the night.
While attendees dined outdoors, the viewing tent was converted into a nightclublike lounge area in less than an hour. Folding chairs were swapped for white ottomans, cocktail tables, and serpentine couches, and teams brought in a dance floor and a 16-foot circular bar. Stage lighting, sound, and decor had to be quickly reworked for a closing performance by the Go-Go’s.