TV Upfront

'Roseanne' may be No. 1, but Kimmel steals the show at the ABC upfront

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The master of ceremonies
The master of ceremonies Credit: ABC

After missing ABC's upfronts presentation last year, Jimmy Kimmel had plenty of ammunition stored up.

The late-night host dominated the alphabet network's presentation at Lincoln Center on Tuesday, poking fun at Fox's new ad formats, the decline in TV ratings and influx in reboots of old series.

Kimmel thanked the audience for the support and well wishes for his son, who underwent heart surgery shortly after his birth. "You'll be happy to know he is doing much much better than network television."

Then he got down to telling some jokes:

"Our new slogan is 'Forward Together.' Hillary Clinton had a yard sale, and she let us have that for almost nothing."

"Our company is in the midst of negotiations to buy Fox. It seemed like a done deal, and then last week, Comcast, like the surprise ex-boyfriend who shows up on 'The Bachelorette' right before she gets engaged, shows up and weasels its way into our business. We got peacock-blocked, is what happened."

"'Roseanne's'success proves that the older and crazier you are, the more today's audience likes you. That's why we're proud to announce our new show: 'Gary Busey Proves 9/11 Never Happened.'"

"You can't even cancel anything; it doesn't mean anything anymore. It's like the McRib — it just comes back."

"The reason Fox is calling [shorter commercial breaks] Jaz pods? They wanted to find a way to shorten commercial breaks and appropriate black culture at the same time."

"I have to admit I'm excited about 'Murphy Brown.' It's refreshing to see anything brown on CBS."

The evening kicked off with a taped video of an "upfront audition" where stars of ABC and Freeform (formerly ABC Family) shows like "The Goldberg's," "The Bold Type," "American Housewife" and "The Good Doctor" did an "American Idol"-style audition to be selected to open the upfronts presentation. Fittingly, that honor went to Roseanne Barr, who "wowed" the "Idol" judges by singing her own version of Frank Sinatra's "My Way."

Barr introduced Disney Media Networks co-chair and president of Disney-ABC TV Group Ben Sherwood: "Here's the guy who really writes all of my tweets."

"Roseanne," TV's most-watched entertainment program, has certainly given ABC plenty of bragging rights.

"If anyone came to play a drinking game based on how many times we mention 'Roseanne,' you're welcome," Sherwood said.

"The last time we had the No. 1 show was 24 years ago," he continued. "That's a bit of trivia we've conveniently forgotten to mention in the last 24 years."

In what has become an antiquated tradition, ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey went through a night-by-night schedule of ABC's fall lineup. It's a practice most networks have abandoned as time shifting became a bigger part of viewing habits.

This was the first time Freeform was incorporated into ABC's upfront presentation. The channel got a good chunk of screentime even if most people in the audience had never heard of its programming.

Kimmel summed it up: "I've been a big Freeform fan since 20 minutes ago when I learned what it was."

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