Freeloader Gets His Grinch On

A Holiday-Party Roundup

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NEW YORK ( -- Is it just Freeloader or was it a disappointing year for media holiday parties? Maybe our expectations were a little high after this year's upfront season was anything but scaled-back in terms of party planning. NBC and CBS had nary a major network star attend the parties at their respective headquarters, while Lifetime, Hallmark Channel and Discovery kept things low-key with intimate soirees at off-site locations. ABC, meanwhile, canceled its festivities altogether. And we should probably be grateful we didn't get an invite to Viacom's party this year after news of a new benefit plan for freelancers put roughly half the guest list in a decidedly Grinchy mood.
Discovery invitation

Discovery invite.

But Freeloader has never been one to turn up our nose completely at any event where top execs, cocktail weenies and an open bar can all be found in the same room. So here's our roundup of the 2007 holiday party season -- now 100% eggnog-free!

NBC: In the same studio where "Saturday Night Live" is televised ("From Studio 8H in Rockefeller Center ..."), the folks at NBC did the food part right with tasty hors d'oeuvres as well as a shrimp-cocktail station and cheese-and-cracker plates. There was plenty of room to maneuver as executives from throughout NBC Universal whizzed toward -- or, just as often, away from -- an eager-to-chat reporter. Most years, a few celebs can be spotted in the crowd -- Tina Fey or Jack McBraye, aka Kenneth the Page from "30 Rock." Not so this year, and many blamed the writers strike. NBC CEO Jeff Zucker even joked that this year's party was being filmed for possible prime-time airing in case original programming dries up.

CBS: This party has become a pretty regular affair. CBS PR honcho Gil Schwartz serves up average-Joe food -- pigs in blankets, hamburgers, deviled eggs and other hot hand-held delights. The writers strike no doubt kept talent from showing up (past attendees have included everyone from Katie Couric to Howard Stern to David Lee Roth), but the recent death of syndication-TV executive Roger King prevented several key CBS execs from attending as well -- including President-CEO Les Moonves. Talk about a double bummer for a holiday-party guest list.

Hallmark Channel: At the most upfront-esque of this year's holiday parties, Hallmark corralled all the junior media buyers and a few reporters at Murray Hill nightspot Barna, where Regis Philbin made a cameo to plug his appearances on the network in the new year. Other key execs, such as Hallmark CEO Henry Schleiff, also left early, making Hallmark's party the most low-pressure environment in which to get drunk on free booze. Realizing this, Freeloader left after one cocktail to save face.

Lifetime: Our vote for best holiday shindig of 2006, Lifetime's intimate affair in publicist Meredith Wagner's Upper East Side apartment has always been a Freeloader favorite. This year, Wagner had new digs on Fifth Avenue with a Central Park view and a more sprawling layout where guests could enjoy food, drink and writers-strike gossip with elbow room to spare. Some network talent showed up -- including Matt Titus, the host of next year's "Matchmaker" -- but we were most impressed by the appearances of Ms. Wagner's dog and dog walker. Now that's the crowd we'd expect at a true Manhattan holiday party.

Discovery: The folks at Discovery took us by surprise with their gathering this year, held at the swanky Campbell Apartment in Grand Central Terminal. Key execs from all 13 Discovery networks were on hand, but the party never seemed too crowded or too stuffy. Plus a few of the networks' hosts showed up, including Stacy London and Clinton Kelly of TLC's "What Not to Wear." Freeloader takes pride in the fact that Ms. London asked us, unprompted, what we thought of the party's decor, considering the woman has made a career out of giving others advice on how to look. She then asked if we needed a drink, but we politely declined, as we were already on our fourth. Thanks, Discovery!
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