TV Upfronts: Ritual Gives Glimpse of Fall Shows

Television networks have begun their annual ritual of presenting their fall seasons to advertisers. ABC is trying out a series based on the cavemen characters from the Geico commercials, while NBC is taking a supernatural angle.

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ANDREA SEABROOK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Andrea Seabrook.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michel Norris.

In New York this week, ABC is seeking advertisers for a new comedy based on characters taken directly out of an advertisement: the caveman from those Geico commercials.

(Soundbite of TV ad)

Unidentified Man #1: Thank you, Jaime, for dressing up. I appreciate the effort.

Unidentified Man #2: Oh, I was going to wear this regardless.

Unidentified Man #3: Yeah, I was wondering what Reba McEntire would look like if she was a (unintelligible).

Unidentified Man #1: Please, don't use that word.

Unidentified Man #3: It's okay if we use it.

Unidentified Man #1: It's not okay. You can't change the negative stereotype if you're out there reinforcing it.

Unidentified Man #2: "Magnum P.I.," magpie, Sir Magalot, mag-aroni(ph) and cheese.

NORRIS: That's one of a batch of new shows being unveiled this week in an event called the Upfronts. All the networks are there, and they're hoping advertisers will like what they see, like it enough to pay big bucks to advertise on those shows.

NPR's Kim Masters is there. And Kim how did that caveman show go over?

KIM MASTERS: You know, you have to picture the Lincoln Central packed with advertisers. I don't think they were overwhelmed by it. I think when the show is aired, people will check it out. But I don't know and we'll have to see whether it sustains for a season or more.

NORRIS: Now, Kim, this is just one of many new shows that ABC is rolling. What else did you see?

MASTERS: Well, ABC has a lot of, sort of, soapy, sudsy shows like something called "Dirty Sexy Money" with Donald Sutherland and the guy from the "Six Feet Under," Peter Krause. They also have the much anticipated spin off from "Grey's Anatomy," it's called "Private Practice." And in that show - as we're about to hear - this is about one of the doctors, Addison Sheppard, leaving Seattle, going to Los Angeles and looking for a new life.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Private Practice")

Mr. TIMOTHY DALY (Actor): (As Pete) Have you ever thought of finally trading sunnier clients, Addison?

Ms. KATE WALSH (Actress): (As Addison Montgomery) Sunnier your client? Now, we see why you have to type to pick up women.

Mr. DALY: (As Pete) Great. We thought you have a very strict no consulting rule here now.

NORRIS: You know, there is, I guess, a rule in television that if something is successful, you're probably going to see a whole lot of it. A lot of reality shows, a lot of those serial shows and, I guess, there's now an effort to replicate the success of "Sex and the City" this time on the network.

MASTERS: Yes. ABC has a show from the creator of "Sex and the City," Darren Star. It's called "Cashmere Mafia." It stars Lucy Liu. And that is pitted against an NBC show, "Lipstick Jungle," is from Candace Bushnell. She's the author of the column that inspired "Sex and the City." And "Lipstick Jungle" is based on a book by Candace Bushnell and it stars Brooke Shields. And in this little clip here, Brooke Shields is trying to cope with her kids and her successful job.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Lipstick Jungle")

Ms. BROOKE SHIELDS (Actress): (As Wendy Healy) Hector, make (unintelligible) get on the phone.

Unidentified Man #1: I grabbed it.

Ms. SHIELDS: (As Wendy Healy) Oh, damn it. Wait. Here.

(Soundbite of child crying)

Ms. SHIELDS: (As Wendy Healy) Listen to me. Listen to me. Now, the CEO of the company that owns my company, is on the phone. So please, get dressed.

Unidentified Man #2: Okay, come on, Sandy.

Ms. SHIELDS: (As Wendy Healy) And nobody's allowed to yell mommy for the next 10 minutes.

Unidentified Man #2: Okay.

Unidentified Man #3: Shall I put him through? I'll put him through.

Ms. SHIELDS: (As Wendy Healy) No, no, wait. Wait. Wait. Not yet. No.

Unidentified Man #4: Wendy. Is that you, Wendy?

NORRIS: Now, Kim, we've heard about ABC. We've heard about NBC. We haven't heard much about CBS. What's happening over there?

MASTERS: CBS is, you know, they say they're in a position of strength. They have a lot of strong shows and they are going to reach for some incredibly corky material. They have a show called "Viva Laughlin," which is based on a British show called "Viva Blackpool" and it takes place in Laughlin, Nevada and it is a drama with comedy and music. So that will be…

NORRIS: Music. You said music.

MASTERS: I said music. And there are also going to have a thing called "Kid Nation," which has 40 kids separated from their families for 40 days in some kind of a town and they have to make their own rules. And this is a reality show. It sounds a little bit like "Lord of the Flies," but they are very high on it. And they claim that it is very uplifting.

NORRIS: Kim, do me a favor, look into your crystal ball, which among these shows is going to be the breakout hit?

MASTERS: Okay. So what, you're setting me up for embarrassment but I'll say "Bionic Woman."

NORRIS: Oh, wait. I'm having déjà vu.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MASTERS: You are. But it's very high tech this time. And I have to say I didn't think it sounded like much of an idea, but the clips seem to play pretty well. You know, they've updated it quite a bit.

NORRIS: All right. We're going to hold you to that. Thanks, Kim.

MASTERS: All right. Bye. Bye.

NORRIS: That was NPR's Kim Masters, reporting from the Upfronts.

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