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CBS Upfront Update: Dog and Pony Show, Minus the Pony
May 14, 2008  | By David Bianculli
Partway through the CBS upfront presentation at Carnegie Hall, Entertainment President Nina Tassler promoted one of her network's new summer entries, a reality series called The Greatest American Dog, by having an actual dog run across the stage and greet her, then wait for its cue to exit, stage left.

It was a typical network dog-and-pony show -- only without the pony.


Instead, there was Craig Ferguson of The Late Late Show, who hosted the event with much more enthusiasm and humor than it may have deserved. After a lengthy presentation by others about the "multimedia cyber experience," a complementary approach embracing TV, the web, mobile devices and video games, Ferguson retook the stage and said, "Thank you, guys, who are very enthusiastic about things I don't understand."

The place I was looking to be enthusiastic was when CBS showed actual clips from the shows on its new schedule. For summer, it's noteworthy that CBS made room to present its dog show, but not to risk showing its controversial, upcoming free-love 1970s-vintage Swingtown to the assembled advertisers.

And for midseason, CBS showed scenes from Harper's Island -- and instantly popped whatever magic bubble that might have been generated by the show's description earlier in the day. That's why getting these first impressions is so helpful --- and, often, is so depressing.

For the fall season, CBS unveiled five new series -- two comedies, three dramas -- and, as noted in the last blog, made one of its biggest scheduling moves by attempting a second night of sitcoms. The crowd at Carnegie Hall reacted very positively to one comedy, Worst Week.

To me, though, I'll have to reserve judgement on that comedy, and on a couple of the dramas, until I see the entire pilots. So far, I've yet to see a single new series whose first taste was so intoxicating that it earned the "most promising" honor right out of the box.


But there's still Fox, so there's still hope. Last year, ABC's Pushing Daisies wowed me that early. The year before that, so did NBC's 30 Rock.

All I want -- all I'm looking for -- is another first-impression thrill like that. Stay tuned. I am.






Toby OB said:

Could it be that the networks aren't generating that much excitement for next season because they're expecting another strike, this time by the actors? I haven't been following the negotiations this time around as much as I did when the WGA walked, but I can't see how the networks could work themselves up with much enthusiasm if it's possible the season may be cut short. (Or started at all.)

Maybe that's why there wasn't much "pony" at the CBS upfronts, or at any of them. Maybe they're holding back until after any threat of a strike (or actual strike) is over?

It just seems strange, but I can remember when Upfronts Week used to an exciting time to read the insider news, only topped by getting that old Digest-sized Fall Preview TV Guide! (Yeah, I know, but the TV Guide ritual is a thing of the past, and upfronts may not long be a thing of the present... -- David B.)

Comment posted on May 15, 2008 9:39 AM

Chris Collins said:

I'm happy to hear that CBS is going to try a second comedy night! Especially given how good their Monday night line up is. That seems to be the only bright spot...

It feels like post-strike everyone is being very conservative in everything they are doing, except in giving second chances for things like Pushing Daisies.

Comment posted on May 15, 2008 9:44 PM

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