TV Networks Hope To Lure Advertisers At Annual 'Upfronts' This week, networks present their new fall shows and strategies at the annual upfronts, in the hopes of raking in an estimated $9 billion from advertisers. Reboots and remakes are prominent this year.
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TV Networks Hope To Lure Advertisers At Annual 'Upfronts'

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TV Networks Hope To Lure Advertisers At Annual 'Upfronts'

TV Networks Hope To Lure Advertisers At Annual 'Upfronts'

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

After just one season, CBS canceled its heavily promoted series "Rush Hour," an adaptation of the movie franchise by the same name. But never fear, there are other remakes coming to the small screen this fall, "The Exorcist" and "Lethal Weapon." Welcome to the TV Upfronts. That's the annual gathering where broadcast networks reveal their new shows to advertisers in hopes of seducing them into buying commercials.

NPR TV critic Eric Deggans is in New York amid the star-studded presentations. Good morning.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: What are you seeing there that excites you about what's coming this fall?

DEGGANS: Well, at this point, you know, all we're seeing is these two and three-minute trailers that the networks put together. And of course, they can make anything look good. I'm still mad because they got me excited about "The Muppets" series with this great presentation last year. And then when the show debuted, it was so terrible it barely lasted a season. It just got canceled. But ABC has a dramedy that looks interesting called "Speechless" with Minnie Driver as the mother of a son with special needs.

And he's played by an actor with cerebral palsy. Fox is reviving "24" with an African-American star, Corey Hawkins, from "Straight Outta Compton." And we got another new show coming to Fox, "Shots Fired," that looks like it might be about the investigation of a black police officer who kills a white person. So that's all interesting.

MONTAGNE: OK then, well, let's talk about the other two network starting with NBC.

DEGGANS: So there's not much going on there. NBC's got three new fall shows, including this comedy called "The Good Place" with Ted Danson and Kristen Bell. And they only ordered about 13 episodes as opposed to the traditional 22 or 25 episodes, which networks are doing more this season. You know, the networks, they can't air reruns anymore. People would rather watch old episodes by streaming or watch them on demand. So the networks have to order more shows, and they tend to feature those shows in midseason, not in the fall.

MONTAGNE: And CBS, which is the number one network, will it stay on top from what you've seen?

DEGGANS: Well, you know, what's interesting is CBS has had to deal with people making fun of how old their viewers are. Jimmy Kimmel made fun of them that way. And Seth McFarlane made fun of them that way here in New York at presentations by ABC and Fox. But what's interesting is that they're also number one in viewers aged 18 to 49. That's a younger demographic, and that's a demographic that advertisers love. That's very important.

So this fall, they're going to try to stay on top. They're going to focus more on comedy. They've got these new shows with Kevin James, Matt LeBlanc, Joel McHale. And the one thing you'll notice about all those names, is that all those people are guys. And they're all white. And I asked the new president of entertainment at CBS about this. And he pointed to a midseason show called "Doubt" that have Katherine Heigl in it.

It has Laverne Cox, who will be the first transgender actress to play a transgender character on network television, and Dule Hill, an African-American actor. But it almost feels like they put all their diversity in one show. And then, of course, they also will have this version of the movie "Training Day." You'll remember Denzel Washington played a corrupt cop in the movie. Well, Bill Paxton, a white actor, is going to play that role in the TV show. So it's kind of interesting what they're doing there.

MONTAGNE: Well, "Training Day" gets us back to these movies being turned into TV shows. Again, "Lethal Weapon" and "The Exorcist." What's up with that?

DEGGANS: Well, the Upfronts are always balancing this tension between fresh, new ideas and safe concepts that have high brand recognition. I mean, the networks are selling advertising time. And they're trying to get $9 billion out of advertisers. So you don't spend that money on untested show concepts or actors the public doesn't know. Fox's "Empire" is a great example, though, of something fresh and new that just came out of nowhere and was a big hit.

And that's what really works on television.

MONTAGNE: NPR TV critic Eric Deggans. Thanks very much.

DEGGANS: Thank you.

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