The Insider Goes To Market

May 22, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Every mid-May, N.Y. City becomes TMI City, and the overload of information dispensed by the networks at their upfront presentations to advertisers inevitably produces questions that only The Insider can-or would-answer.

Who won the battle of the bands, the battle of the biting-the-hand-that-feeds-them comics and the battle of the gross-out images this year?

NBC and CBS notably had none of their late-night comedians present or much accounted for.

But Mandy Patinkin, the oh-so-serious Broadway performer and star of CBS’s “Criminal Minds,” wins this year’s Tom Lehrer Songbook Award with a cheesy, straight-faced spoof of a commercial for a “Criminal Minds: Greatest Hits” album featuring “Stranglers in the Night” and “(I’m Gonna) Tie You Up, Buttercup.”

Mariah Carey was a two-fer. The CBS audience at Carnegie Hall was treated (if you’re a fan) to a surprise musical appearance and a too-close look at her skeevy hair, thanks (not) to the city-block-size hi-def screen that was otherwise a real treat. Memo to Jennifer Love Hewitt: Let the extreme hair wars begin.

For the second year in a row ABC’s late-night man Jimmy Kimmel left no network executive or franchise unscathed, including the “consumer optimizer” of which ABC executives were so earnestly proud.

Other highlights:

Brad Garrett, who stars in Fox’s “‘Til Death,” referring to precariously wrapped “American Idol” judge Paula Abdul and saying “It’s great Bellevue has a shuttle”; and dissing his former CBS boss (and former actor) Leslie Moonves as having “peaked as Bad Guy No. 2 on “the $6 Million Man.”

Chris Rock, the man behind The CW’s “Everybody Hates Chris,” shouting major obscenities to make buyers and affiliates feel like they were getting concert-quality comedy and the ritual abuse on which they thrive.

Last year’s upfronts sounded like one long TV executive scuffle. How was it this year?

Well, it was sort of like last year … with a little milder venom and less specificity.

NBC executives endured a lot of “friendly fire.” “The Office’s” Steve Carell sharpened the point of recurring rumors that Entertainment President Kevin Reilly is a high-paid temp worker and screamed “bulls**t” at Bob Wright, who, being the good GE executive he is, laughed it off.

At NBC, former actor Mr. Moonves was accused of being “Deal or No Deal’s” banker. At MyNetworkTV, he was accused of wanting to star in one of its five-nights-a-week potboilers. At CBS, James Woods taunted him as a bad actor and an unpleasant personality.

NBC Universal Television Group CEO Jeff Zucker referred to David Letterman’s NBC “Late Night” archives as “what we call the good years.” Mr. Zucker argued good-naturedly to The Insider that that was not a shot because it was true.

I have to submit nominations for the first-ever Give It a Rest Award. Whom would you suggest?

Coincidentally, The Insider would offer up husband-and-wife team Bradley Whitford and Jane Kaczmarek. He just ended an eight-year run in “The West Wing” and is joining another NBC-Aaron Sorkin ensemble, “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.” She just ended a seven-year run in “Malcolm in the Middle” and has been added to the cast of “Help Me Help You” on ABC.

We strenuously urge you not to consider nominating Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who died and broke Izzie’s heart on “Grey’s” but who will continue to live with the Winchester boys on “Supernatural”-and all he had to do was step across that prime-time grid line in TV Guide.

Any pleasantly surprising faces in the crowd last week?

As a matter of fact, there was the ruddy and relaxed face of the executive who launched both Fox Broadcasting and The WB, Acme Communications founder Jamie Kellner, who told The Insider he’s been spending a lot of time about his new boat and with his wife. That well-tanned face absolutely lit up at the CW’s affiliates dinner Wednesday night when he spied Stephen Collins, the big daddy of the big brood on “7th Heaven,” which was canceled by The WB and recently resurrected by The CW.

At the same party, Joel Silver, a producer of The Insider’s beloved “Veronica Mars,” said that the third season will find the intrepid Ms. Mars-SPOILER ALERT!!!!-matriculating at local Hearst College, having lost the competition for the Kane scholarship. So Logan-CHEMISTRY ALERT !!!!-will be around.

Is this going to be a himbo-dacious season or what?

At CBS, the new series are sooooooo watchable. In “Smith,” we’ve got series virgin Ray Liotta and prodigal “Guardian” alumnus Simon Baker, who has never looked happier or better. The Insider thanked CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler, who said of Mr. Baker: “Two words: Shirt off,” a promise the clips made good on. Mr. Baker spent a lot of time on the beach. Then there’s Skeet Ulrich in “Jericho.”

Kyle Chandler, who palpitated hearts on ABC’s “Home Front” and CBS’s “Early Edition,” is back and NBC’s got him in “Friday Night Lights.” He’s as easy on the eyes as ever and he’s stoked as the high school coach in this series spinoff of the movie of the same name.

ABC is bringing Taye Diggs (and his irresistible smile and eyes) to ABC in the midseason “Day Break” and Tim Daly in “The Nine.”

Add all these to all the returning examples of unreconstructed men and this definitely looks like a season for guy gazing.

It’s not like The Insider to make us wait for the fashion do’s and don’ts. Wipe that drool off those triple chins and tell us wassup and wassdown.

Keep your Abercrombie & Fitch shirts on. The Insider was getting to that. She’ll start with the positives: Julia Louis-Dreyfus was the role model in her simple white-on-white cocktail sheath, minimal jewelry and strippy but understated sandals.

Blonde Ashley Scott of “Jericho” brightened the CBS upfront with a fluid and vibrant red print halter dress that relied on color and cut to stand out.

“America’s Next Top Model” Tyra Banks looked Fab. U. Lous. She kept it simple-which we all know she often doesn’t do. The hair was great (no period hairstyles). The top was on the tiny and tight, but all right, side. The pants had a palazzo cut, a Mark Burnett-jeans crease and a tux stripe down the outside seam.

Incoming “Today” co-anchor Meredith Vieira strode confidently onto the NBC stage in a gray pantsuit she said was an expensive loaner from the network, which had asked her to leave the tag in the jacket in case it had to go back. She was joking about how after nine years with the women of ABC’s “The View,” it was either go to “Today” or go lesbian. But she wasn’t joking about the price tag. The Insider peeked at the tag at the party after the NBC presentation. It was $1,950 worth of Armani.

Outgoing “Today” co-anchor Katie Couric fared less well in The Insider’s informal poll. Her black suit didn’t seem to fit. It weighed her down and it covered up her and her fab gams.

Finally, though it truly pains The Insider to say it, Tuesday was a really bad hair and wardrobe day for Chandra Wilson, “Grey’s Anatomy’s” marvelous Dr. Miranda “the Nazi” Bailey. Words fail.

What looks as if it will be the new TV term next season?

“Short dramatic series” instead of “telenovelas.” The latter never crossed the lips of MyNetworkTV executives during their first-ever presentation. The Insider is going to shorten that mouthful to SDS. On second thought, maybe not.

Did The Insider miss anything at last week’s upfronts?

She missed the traditional Moonves film, which led to the annual Zucker film, and she missed the indescribable image of seeing then-Fox Sports Chairman David Hill in dance hall drag.

She also missed a lot of sleep and anything that smacked of a regular meal.