4.0 jacks for Bravo; 4.5 jacks for Discovery - Simon Applebaum

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Published: April 11, 2013 at 08:34 AM GMT
Last Updated: April 10, 2013 at 08:34 AM GMT

By Simon Applebaum

Again we have a pair of upfront events happening last week. They involve one channel dishing out a brief pitch and lots of party, and a group of networks with no shortage of original content worth pitching about.


Venue : The network finds no shortage of unique places year after year to stage Upfront, finding another winner in Stage 37, close by the Jacob Javits Center on W. 37th St. An aqua carpet and giant string ball from a tent-top placed outside welcomed the crowd. Small groups were brought in at a time to watch a video, then ushered into the big room, resembling elements of a desert island, populated by the channel's array of personalities. Choice delectables were all over the place, from rice paper rolls and apple slice-topped chicken cubes to meat and fish buns. In a bow to vegan or cholesterol-watching people in attendance, there were veggie versions of the rice rolls and buns. Grade: 5 Jacks


Presentation : Not much aside from the welcoming video. Bravo president Francis Berwick and programming chief Andy Cohen made brief remarks from a DJ tower looking down on the crowd. Both cited Bravo's rise to top 10 cable network status among various demographics. A few sentences later, back to the dining, networking and IPhone picture-taking of all those Bravo personalities.Note: Bravo did a special breakfast presentation for press the day before; this reporter was not invited to that event. Grade: 3 Jacks

News : Seventeen new unscripted series to crow about, premiering between May 1 and December 31. Among the most promising: Newlyweds: The First Year, covering four couples during their first 12 months of marriage; Taking Atlanta, about up-and-comers in that city's fashion, housing and arts scene, and Thicker Than Water: The Tankards, about gospel singer Ben Tankard and his family. The news that didn't break: Bravo finalizing its first scripted series to run this fall, which was widely anticipated. Big bet is on Rita, featuring Breaking Bad co-star Anna Gunn. Three projects were added to the scripted development roster: Girlfriend's Guide To Divorce, High & Low and Heiresses. Grade: 4.5 Jacks

Host : No one--the scenery did the talking. Grade: 0 Jacks

Overall Grade: 4 Jacks When it comes to splashy gatherings, Bravo can whip them up with anyone. That ability somewhat counters the lack of formal upfront protocol. Tasty cod rice paper rolls or chicken buns with radish topping sure helps.

5 Jacks - Excellent
4 Jacks - Very Good
3 Jacks - Good
2 Jacks - Fair
1 Jack - Poor
0 Jacks -Worse than bad

Discovery Communications

Venue : Two things you know off the bat about Discovery's annual upfront ritual. One is where you'll go see it--Jazz At Lincoln Center's Rose Hall, numero uno in demand for such ceremonies because of its staging capabilities. The staging can be as simple or complex as desired. Simple ruled this time, with one big video screen center stage and small panels on either side. BET Discovery Networksmoves in next Tuesday night, and you can expect one or two more networks showing up here before late May. Grade: 5 Jacks


Presentation : A long, two-hour-plus showcase is the other thing you know, given the 13 channels in Discovery's portfolio. The annual trick is how to showcase them and entertain simultaneously. This time, the game plan led off with a big trick: aerialist Nick Wallenda walking a tightrope across Rose Hall's balcony, in promotion of his live Discovery Channel special this summer (where he'll tightrope above the Grand Canyon). No problem for him. Then came a switcheroo--Discovery Channel, usually the last network showing its wares on stage, going first. Oprah Winfrey Network, first last time, flip-flopped with Discovery, with Tyler Perry alongside Oprah to introduce that channel's new shows. Throughout, each channel's executives or talent served as segment hosts, connected by clever black-and-white videos from Discovery CEO David Zaslav. Others on-hand: NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon, Morgan Freeman, William Hurt and Honey Boo-Boo (plus mom). A performance from pop star Collie Collait (another thing you don't see from Discovery) wrapped things up. Grade: 4.5 Jacks

News : Take your pick of upcoming series to follow, whether The Huntsmen, Hidden Kingdom and Survival (Discovery); Family S.O.S. With (former Supernanny) Jo Frost (TLC); Epic (Destination America); Surviving Evil, hosted by actress Charsma Carpenter (Investigation Discovery); Catch and Release (Animal Planet), Americarna (Velocity) or Running From Crazy with Mariel Hemingway (OWN), produced by Oscar-winning documentary director Barbara Kopple. Several series originally announced at last year's event, but have yet to launch, turned up again, including the James Woods-hosted This Changes Everything on Science Channel (coming this November). OWN also offered clips of both Tyler Perry series premiering next month (sitcom Love Thy Neighbor and drama The Haves and the Have-Nots). Out of this year's picture: The Hub and 3net. Isn't it time for them to get their own events? Grade: 5 Jacks

Host : All the Discovery service executives on stage represented their services well. Grade: 3. 5 Jacks

Overall Grade: 4.5 Jacks This organization continues to produce one of the most comprehensive and entertaining events of its kind on an annual basis. With all the original programming in their corner, that's not easy.

5 Jacks - Excellent
4 Jacks - Very Good
3 Jacks - Good
2 Jacks - Fair
1 Jack - Poor
0 Jacks -Worse than bad

Until the next time, stay well and stay tuned!

Simon Applebaum is producer/host of Tomorrow Will Be Televised, the radio program all about TV. Tomorrow runs live Mondays and Fridays at 3 p.m. Eastern time, noon Pacific Time on, with replays available at A weekly TV series edition will soon premiere on the new UBC-TV network.

Have a question or reaction? E-mail it to, or tweet @UBCSimonTWBT.

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