Adages - The upfront gets burlesque: Bring on the drag queens!

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This year, TV's annual rite of spring, the prime-time upfront presentations, were giddy and gay, as in, yes, homosexual. At NBC's pitch in the Metropolitan Opera House, Jeff Zucker, entertainment prez, was digitally inserted into an episode of "Friends," giggling like a silly boy, hiding under the sheets in bed with Matthew Perry. And the cast of "Will & Grace" performed a ham-fisted Vegas revue, singing Abba's "Dancing Queen" ("We've got dancing queens!"), with couplets rhyming "homo" with "promo," and so on.

At Carnegie Hall, CBS introduced a new sitcom, unfortunately named "Two and A Half Men," in which a mom announces she's a lesbian, which busts up her family, forcing her son and husband to move in with his brother Charlie Sheen. ABC hung the largest pink flag: Not only did gender bending Harvey Fierstein and the cast of broadway show "Hairspray" perform live at ABC's Radio City event, but Chairman Lloyd Braun announced he signed Harvey to develop a TV project.

"Yes, Harvey will be playing a mom," Lloyd said. ABC also introduced a show called "It's All Relative" pitting the blue-collar family of Reid Scott against his girlfriend's white-collar gay male parents. An offended media executive complained to Adages about all the upfront gaiety: "The networks say they're going after the pink dollar, but really they're just making fun of us."

Really, now

Michael Davies, the bloke who brought us "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" from the U.K., was not upbeat about the upfronts. "They're retreating to safety," he told Adages at the annual William Morris upfront party at The 21 Club in New York City. He alleged the networks are caving in to advertisers, rather than catering to a majority of viewers who love alternative (read "reality") shows. The new scripted shows that clog all the broadcast schedules don't work, he said, and most will fail.

The Donald, aka Donald Trump, had a different opinion. He was at 21 with his girl Melania Knauss and her sister, visiting from the Czech Republic, on either arm, and a TV deal for a new Mark Burnett reality show, "The Apprentice," with NBC in his pocket. The Don was thrilled about the NBC upfront. "First one I've ever been to, just fantastic," he gushed to Adages, then turned to his girl, "You should have seen it. The cast of `Will & Grace' did this extraordinary song and dance."

Whoopi Goldberg and Jesse Ventura sat in a corner and talked. Whoopi was not upbeat-and not approachable. Earlier in the evening, after she pitched her new show at the NBC upfront, she hugged Jeff Zucker and whispered in his ear. "I hate this sh**." She was miked, and although no one heard in the Met, her words were audible on the live feed to the Peacock offices.

The navigator

Michael Kassan, the self-employed marketing middle man, literally missed the boat when a last-minute trip put him in London as Richmond Events' Marketing Forum ship, the SS Adonia, sailed from New York's harbor on May 7. Eager to catch the cruise to nowhere, Michael flew back to New York, drove down to Atlantic City, and commandeered a boat for "a small fortune" to intercept the ship. Michael was first spotted emerging from the heavy fog climbing out of rust-bucket tugboat after a 35-minute chug across the sea. Michael was just in time to lead a marketing workshop. After all that effort, let's hope the gaggle who attended found his session useful.

Contributing: Laurel Wentz

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