Answering the burning questions

May 21, 2001  •  Post A Comment

The broadcast networks’ upfront week invariably produces questions that go well beyond “How much is that 30-second commercial window?”
Electronic Media has the answers-in most cases.
Which actors’ names are most likely to give reporters and listing editors spelling nightmares?
This is a no-brainer: newcomer Mahershala Karin-Ali of NBC’s “Crossing Jordan” and Arija Bareikis, the star of Fox’s midseason “Emma Brody.”
What onstage jokes defy repeating in family-friendly print?
That’s another no-brainer. That would be “Monday Night Football” quipster Dennis Miller’s definition of a bear market.
What was the most often heard line during the upfront marathon?
A) “We’re No. 1,” which was repeated by practically all the networks.
B) “The clips don’t do justice to the show.”
C) Both of the above.
What has CBS Television President Les Moonves tagged as the most likely candidate for a short run?
“`Emeril,”’ said Mr. Moonves. “I love Emeril’s restaurant, and as an actor, I’m sure he’s a wonderful cook.”
What scheduling stunner stood out most?
It was, by general consensus, ABC evicting “20/20” from Fridays at 10 p.m., a slot into which CBS immediately slipped “48 Hours.”
What was the least unexpected scheduling move?
Apart from the multiple editions of “Survivor,” it’s probably Fox’s decision to join the attack on NBC’s Thursday night schedule with another edition of “Temptation Island.” “We’re going in behind CBS,” Fox’s Gail Berman said.
Who stood out front at the upfront?
Tisha Campbell Martin of ABC’s “My Wife and Kids,” because she is very pregnant, and Sharon Leal of “Boston Public” on Fox, because she also is noticeably pregnant. “Law & Order: SVU’s” Ice-T stood out in a black and white windowpane plaid suit, a garland of chains on his chest and spectator shoes. “Spin City’s” Heather Locklear stood out in a white, man-tailored shirt knotted snugly over midriff-baring tight white pants.
What was the most unexpected upfront sighting? That would have to be the appearance of Rick Lazio, who last November lost a bitter battle for a New York Senate seat to then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. He was a college roommate of ABC Entertainment Television Group co-chairman Lloyd Braun, who was spotted ribbing and jabbing and tickling Mr. Lazio at ABC’s post-upfront bash at Bryant Park Grill.
What was the best display of clout? When Viacom Entertainment Group Chairman Jonathan Dolgen stepped outside Madison Square Garden a few minutes before UPN’s presentation was about to start and spied a long line of advertisers waiting in line for the closed and tightly guarded doors to open, he shouted, “That’s not right … open ’em,” and within a minute the guards had melted away, the doors were opened and the advertisers were streaming inside.
Biggest revision to a mission statement? That would be either be “Buffy” creator Joss Whedon’s recollection that his show’s original mission statement had been “Destroy UPN!” (“We’ve modified the plan,” he said at UPN’s upfront presentation), or it would be NBC sales executive Keith Turner’s jape that they would really have something at Pax if only they could just get “some sex and violence” on the air.
What were the biggest whoppers of the upfront parade? Pick one.
A) ABC Entertainment Television Group Co-chairman Stu Bloomberg’s sign-off that he and partner Lloyd Braun “made a concerted effort to avoid spin” in their presentation?
B) Fox executives’ promises to keep upfront remarks brief?
C) NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker’s revelation “I’m going to miss He Hate Me,” the only breakout name in the not-so-late and not-at-all lamented XFL?
What was the most mystifying upfront statement? Mr. Braun’s concluding upfront remark: “It is, quite simply, a television schedule.”
Was there any network that didn’t take a posthumous shot at the XFL? Let’s see. CBS’s Mr. Moonves, in search of a setting for “Survivor IV,” said it had to be “the most desolate, barren, uninhabited place on earth” and then decided that would be an XFL stadium. He also said the island had to be “empty and leaderless for years, not unlike the Fox Broadcasting Co.” CBS Sports honcho Jim Nantz said of his network’s fare, “People said, `Who’s gonna watch this with the XFL out there?”’ Even NBC itself took a shot, with Mr. Zucker saying he could guarantee that his Saturday night would fare better than XFL Saturdays did last winter.
What was the best upfront metaphor employing the sport of bowling? “We’re giving up our gutters [to NBC],” said Mr. Moonves of CBS, “but keeping our balls.”
Who had the best vision of the year 2031? That’s a tie between the UPN’s Dean Valentine, who predicted that in 30 years “Buffy” would be his network’s “Diagnosis Murder;” and WB actor James Van Der Beek (“Dawson’s Creek”), who predicted that in 30 years he won’t be able to recall the difference between his real high school and the “fake one.”
What would a kindlier, gentler “Weakest Link” look like? Pax, which will be airing the series in reruns, provided one answer in a brief promo reel in which Anne Robinson says sweetly, “You are the weakest link, but don’t feel too badly,” then offers the departing guest a consolation cup of tea.
Just what was the original reality show anyway?
A) “Candid Camera” (said by Jeff Sagansky at Pax)
B) The Winter Olympics (said by Jeff Zucker at NBC)
C) The Cousteau specials of the ’60s (said by James Cameron at ABC)
Doesn’t it just break your achy heart?
Country singer Billy Ray Cyrus, star of Pax’s signature series “Doc,” said that acting on TV “kinda fulfills my purpose,” to which Mr. Sagansky replied after the sincere actor had left the stage: “Actually, [next season] we’re going to work him to the bone.”