Back to the Upfronts

Hosted by

This is Associated Press TV writer Frazier Moore watching television for KCRW and, as always, being upfront with you.

Now, by "upfront" I mean "straightforward ... frank," a definition somewhat at odds with each broadcast network as it throws its annual upfront presentation for advertisers to announce its new fall lineup of shows.

Let's face it: frank, straightforward talk could be in short supply at these splashy ad-sales shindigs. Instead, "thrilled" and "excited" are the operative words from network execs in describing how they feel about their new shows' potential.

No doubt the excitement level was high at the first upfront, NBC's, staged this very afternoon at the glorious Radio City Music Hall, followed by a gala party letting media buyers hobnob with NBC stars.

Hmmm, the party should be hitting its stride right about now.

But harsh reality looms, possibly as soon as the first weeks of fall, when many of those exciting new shows already will be failing to excite the TV audience.

I don't mean to spread bad vibes or, goodness knows, to mock network execs for their exuberance.

It's just that I've been looking back at autumns past, taking stock of the dozens of flops that arrived with similar, um, excitement.

Here's just one: Woops!, which was the title of a Fox sitcom where someone's toy detonator set off a nuclear warhead that wiped out everyone on Earth -- that is, except the show's six characters. Woops! had a very short half-life in Fall 1992.

Let's move ahead to 1995 and UPN's action-adventure Deadly Games, where a young scientist invents a video game, then, during a lab accident, the game comes to life and cyber-villains are turned loose on an unsuspecting world. Since they were programmed to kill and destroy, they HAVE to be quickly rounded up. But the show was canceled first.

In September 1997, CBS premiered a sitcom called Meego, with Bronson Pinchot as a 9,000-year-old alien whose spaceship crashes to Earth, after which he becomes the zany caretaker for a widowed father's three children. Meego lasted a month (in Earth-time).

Just one more example. Dellaventura starred tough guy Danny Aiello as a private detective defending the underdog. His catch phrase: "If you need me... I'll be around."

Dellaventura wasn't around long.

It's weird. So many shows, introduced with such fanfare, then seen by an audience that, however small by TV standards, likely would have totaled in the millions. Yet those shows, neither good nor particularly bad, lived fleetingly in limbo and ended up counting for nothing. They were bounced from the schedule, not to mention our brains, by the next TV thing. Then the next. And the next.

I'd like to think in the ecology of TV, these are the biodegradable shows. Not necessarily a cultural pollutant. Just vanishing without a trace.

I mean, these are shows I watched and wrote about, yet had no recollection of until I dug back into my files.

And now the cycle of excitement starts again.

It's a safe bet that one short year from now, shows announced this very week at the upfronts you'll have already forgotten about - or never noticed, maybe even WHILE you were watching them!

On the other hand, a year from now we all might be hooked on something new and unexpected, as cool in its own way as Heroes or Ugly Betty this year.

And that, of course, is what REALLY is exciting.

Watching television for KCRW, this is Associated Press TV writer Frazier Moore.

Banner image: Heroes, NBC