NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Upfront week offers lots of showbiz and shrimp -- sort of the ultimate Freeloader event. We score the network parties on a scale of one to 10 cosmos.
NBC: May 14
The Venue: The Summer Garden at Rockefeller Center
Food and Drink: We get it: NBC's got a lot of catching up to do this year. But couldn't someone have mapped out the refreshments a little bit better? A crowded tent made it hard to get from booze to buffet, but a traveling assortment of appetizers such as wontons and mini hamburgers was able to tide us over. But once we were finally fed, a hearty portion of beef, bread and potatoes awaited us.
Crowd Control: Most of the guests spilled out into the party's big, open space to enjoy the gorgeous, sunny weather. But a lack of available tables and booths made it hard to consume anything without standing.
Celeb Access: In keeping with the party's intimate feel, the stars of "Heroes," "30 Rock" and "The Office" freely mingled with guests for photo opps and upfront gossip. The charming Damian Lewis, star of detective series "Life," chatted us up in line at the food table. At one point we even found the ladies of "Lipstick Jungle" sharing a booth with a few prospective buyers, clearly dishing on their plan of attack for "Cashmere Mafia."
Overall Score: 7 cosmos
ABC: May 15
The Venue: A fairly spacious tent set up right below the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center, across the plaza from Avery Fisher Hall, with the party overflowing outside under sunny skies.
Food and Drink: In what Freeloader took as an ironic nod to the shrimp quota, big bowls full of ice and jumbos were parked prominently on the two well-stocked bars situated conveniently in the middle of the tent. Food, much like ABC's programs, seemed designed to appeal to the gals: Florida grouper with sweet-pea puree and some sort of lentil salad, alongside several other salads.
Crowd Control: Very smooth transition from the presentation -- the finale included buckets of confetti while a (very loud) marching band escorted attendees out to the plaza. Inside the tent, there was a bit of a crush at the bar, but once that settled down, it was fairly easy to cruise around.
Celeb Access: Strict security around the celebs, including "Grey's Anatomy" folks (Meredith, Christine, Bailey, McSteamy, Alex, Callie and the Chief) and the new cast of "Private Practice" (Kate Walsh, Tim Daly, Taye Diggs), who were ushered in by beefy guard types to velvet-rope areas where they stood for pictures with guests. "Lost" cast members (Ben, Locke, Jack, Kate, Claire, Sayid and Sawyer) proved popular, especially with the females ("Sawyer is hot!" one attendee yelled in Freeloader's ear as she whipped out her camera phone and asked to stand in front of us). And, well, yes, we kind of had to agree. But the velvet-rope pens reminded us of zoo exhibitions. Please don't feed the celebrities!
Overall Score: 8 cosmos
CBS: May 16
The Venue: Tavern on the Green
Food and Drink: It seemed like there was a bar and a food table at every corner, a nice change of pace from NBC. And there were plenty of fixin's, too. Grilled tuna, sushi, roast chicken and about five different desserts guaranteed we wouldn't go hungry. Like CBS shows, a meat and potatoes table filled with mashed potatoes sprinkled with cheese and bacon, creamed spinach, and three kinds of carved meat (beef, ham, turkey) satisfied traditionalists. Also, pigs in a blanket were passed around -- yum!
Crowd Control: With everyone trying to get out of the rain, there was simply no luck maneuvering around this one. Trying to make your way to the food table was like parting the Red Sea. We know the folks at CBS and Tavern on the Green can't be expected to have keen meteorological skills, and the rain was hardly their fault, but a tent would've been nice. Luckily, we've learned how to throw some 'bows when it gets time to shove through packs of people.
Celeb Access: The folks at established hits such as "CSI" and "Without A Trace" were no-shows, which left only new stars for photos. Jimmy Smits and Rita Moreno worked the "Cane" station, while Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco held down the fort for "The Big Bang Theory." There were so many people, though, it was hard to muster the energy to plow your way over.
Overall Score: 4 cosmos
Fox: May 17
The Venue: Wollman Rink in Central Park
Food and Drink: Three specialty drinks (including the Number One, a cosmo for the 18-to-49 brand marketer) and food for all tastes: veggies, salmon and good old beef sliders; parmesan fries (really yummy); sushi and roast meat; plus chocolate bonbons on sticks and an "a la mode" station with gelato and hot fudge over warm chocolate-chip cookies and brownies. Booze seemed to outnumber food by a significant margin, however, which was fine in this case, coming at the end of a long week.
Crowd Control: Three big tents and one common area meant there were more places for people to roam. So even though the party had quite possibly the largest attendance, the breathing room was preferable to some of the earlier parties.
Celeb Access: There were so many stars it was hard to keep track. Even when they weren't doing shifts at one of the photo booths, you could still snap quick digital pictures with the likes of Kelsey Grammer, Patricia Heaton, Parker Posey, Lauren Ambrose, Anthony Anderson, Julianna Margulies, Peter and Bobby Farrelly, and Cole Hauser. And Brad Garrett, who just hoofed it on over from the presentation at New York City Center Theater with the rest of the crowd, was behind us in line at the party entrance.
Overall Score: 9 cosmos