Ad Age's Freeloader ranks this year's upfront parties, judging the best food, entertainment and celebrity access.
NBC: 8 SHRIMPDATE: Monday, May 17
THE VENUE: Hilton New York
FOOD AND DRINK: A full open bar strategically designed to entice media buyers to "get too drunk and skip Fox's presentation," per a knee-slappingly hilarious comedy bit from "30 Rock"'s Jack Donaghy (aka Alec Baldwin). Plus pasta chefs and tables full of sandwiches, sushi and an ice-cream bar.
CELEB ACCESS: If you stayed long enough, you could snap a photo with the casts of virtually all of NBC's new and returning shows. Plus, where else could you find Donald Trump, Jerry Seinfeld, Alec Baldwin and the President of the United States (aka "The Event"'s Blair Underwood) all in the same room?
FOX: 7.5 SHRIMPDATE: Monday, May 17
THE VENUE: Wollman Rink
FOOD AND DRINK: Traditionally the most extravagant culinary event of the week, Fox spared no expense in feeding its guests with enough barbeque, french fries, sushi, candied apples and ice-cream sandwiches to prompt even the most svelte young media buyer to book a trip to the gym.
CELEB ACCESS: More restricted than usual. "Fringe," "House" and several other Fox shows made their casts available for party pictures, but the rest were housed in a private-access tent above Wollman Rink. "Idol" judges Randy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi were rumored to be among the roped-off stars.
MTV: 7 SHRIMPDATE: Tuesday, May 18
THE VENUE: Edison Ballroom
FOOD AND DRINK: In keeping with the party's "Jersey Shore" theme, all refreshments were decidedly Italian-American -- meatball sandwiches, spaghetti and hot dogs were at the top of the menu, while uniquely-Jersey beverages such as watermelon vodka and Red Bull-infused mixed drinks lined up at the bar. As a bonus, the waitresses sported Snooki-inspired poufs in their hair, while the men rocked Pauly D-esque ultra-gelled 'dos.
CELEB ACCESS: The cast treated guests to a dance contest, spray tan-enhanced makeovers, pictures and other interactive activities. It was the fulfillment of virtually any Situation-related dream.
TURNER ENTERTAINMENT: 9 SHRIMPDATE: Wednesday, May 19
THE VENUE: Del Posto
FOOD AND DRINK: Fans of this Mario Batali favorite in the Meatpacking District often flock to the lavish bistro for its expert pairings of fine Italian wines with some of the best hand-cooked pastas and grilled meats this side of the New Jersey border. Turner's second annual lunch was no exception -- stars and press dined on fresh radicchio salad, generous portions of grilled salmon and chicken and enough pasta to have "Dark Blue" star Dylan McDermott scooping up thirds.
CELEB ACCESS: The best of the week. Each table was guaranteed to feature at least one celebrity, including Kyra Sedgwick, "HawthoRNe" star Jada Pinkett Smith and megastar husband Will Smith, Ray Romano, Dylan McDermott, George Lopez, Molly Shannon and Angie Harmon. New TBS host Conan O' Brien made a quick cameo but fled the scene before salad was served.
CBS: 7.5 SHRIMPDATE: Wednesday, May 19
THE VENUE: Lincoln Center
FOOD AND DRINK: Going back to its Lincoln Center roots, CBS made an appropriately big return to the Upper West Side staple with a giant open bar at the tent's epicenter and a host of delicacies such as lamb shank, tuna tartare and an assortment of cheeses.
CELEB ACCESS: Open booths where fans could snap pictures with the stars of shows such as "The Good Wife," "Hawaii Five-O," Tom Selleck's "Blue Bloods," new sitcom "Mike & Molly," William Shatner of "$#*! My Dad Says" and "How I Met Your Mother."
ADULT SWIM: 8 SHRIMPTHE DATE: Wednesday, May 19
THE VENUE: Gotham Ballroom
FOOD AND DRINK: The venue's limited bar access kept beverage distribution to a relative minimum -- particularly once cold beer ran out after 10:30. Food was also scarce, with ill-conceived upscale snacks being served when most people just wanted a light dessert.
CELEB ACCESS: Performer M.I.A. allowed several fans to dance with her during her top-notch performance while Adult Swim talent such as Tim and Eric from "Tim & Eric's Awesome Show! Good Job!" could be seen scattered throughout the crowd.