Upfront 07

Quick Like a Fox

A Streamlined Presentation, a Parade of Stars

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- When you need to get out of a jam, who else do you call but Jack Bauer. And so it was that Fox opened its upfront presentation with a video of Entertainment President Peter Liguori calling everyone's favorite go-to fixer to find out how to keep advertisers and agency folk happy during the fifth upfront presentation of the week. Jack's advice (dispensed while diffusing a bomb): "Keep it to an hour. ... You're on the clock Mr. President." And remarkably, he did.
Photo: Fox

Thanks to Jack Bauer, Fox entertainment president Peter Liguori was on the clock.

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Then up on the screen flashed: "This is taking place between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m."

Parade of stars
And it did. After a quick parade of stars that included Jeff Foxworthy, Kelsey Grammer, Patricia Heaton, Juliana Margulies, Carrie Fisher, Robert Sean Leonard and Parker Posey, President-Sales Jon Nesvig whirled through the many sports offerings, including Nascar, Daytona 500 (and its 50th anniversary race), Major League Baseball and the World Series and, of course, the Super Bowl. (Mr. Ligouori later told attendees that its break-out hit "House" would be given the prime slot immediately following the Super Bowl this year.)

This year, Fox will offer advertisers the ability to use MySpace to extend their Super Bowl buy. "We've heard from you again and again that this kind of broad reach and brand building taken down to the personal level is a winning formula," Mr. Nesvig told attendees. He also very briefly mentioned the new online video venture with NBC and News Corp., but gave no details, and told attendees Fox.com would be launching a new video player.

Real laughs for 'Back to You'
Then Mr. Liguori came back out to introduce the new shows, promising that this year his development team had not green-lighted any shows unless they really loved them. And getting a lot of love was "Back to You," starring Kelsey Grammar ("Frasier") and Patricia Heaton ("Everybody Loves Raymond") as once popular local news anchors in Pittsburgh back together again. "On air, they're a perfect fit. Off air, well let's just say things get thrown," Mr. Liguori said. The clips got enthusiastic applause from the audience, and several real laughs. It will be paired with "Til Death," the returning sitcom starring Brad Garrett, also formerly of "Everyone Loves Raymond."

A show midseason, "The Return of Jezebel James" starring Parker Posey and from "Gilmore Girls" creator Amy Sherman Palladino, also was well received by the audience. Ms. Posey plays a successful book editor who has to ask her slacker sister if she would carry a baby for her.

A Farrelly brothers comedy, "Rules for Starting Over," was politely received after clips revealed that one of the four divorced friends looking to get back into the dating pool goes on a disastrous date with a woman who shares her life with an orangutan.

Band contest
Reality series were up next, and the first mimics "American Idol." "The Search for the Next Great American Band" (which Mr. Liquori said was prompting a search for a shorter title) will hold auditions around the country to find a band to win a recording contract. But unlike "Idol," there are no age restrictions and any style of music will be considered. That was also politely received.

"Nashville," a series which follows seven hopefuls as they try to break into the country music world, is from the producers of "Laguna Beach" and is much more of a narrative reality show than contest. That was a bit more warmly received.

Chef Gordon Ramsay is back with a new series, "Kitchen Nightmares," where he travels the country to reform restaurants on the brink of failure. "Hell's Kitchen" will also return for a summer run. Another summer series from Mark Burnett and Stephen Spielberg, "On the Lot," is a contest for aspiring filmmakers.

New dramas
Mr. Liguori saved the dramas for last, and attendees responded enthusiastically for the most part to the four new shows: "K-ville," set and filmed in New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina, follows police trying to take back a city still struggling to recover; "New Amsterdam," a story of a New York detective who's secret is that he has lived since the founding of Manhattan, when, as a soldier who saved an Indian woman's life, he was put under a charm that allows him to live without aging until he finds his true love; "Canterbury's Law," starring Juliana Margolies ("ER"), is a law drama that will be shot on the streets of Manhattan; and "The Sarah Connor Chronicles," a sci-fi adventure series based on the "Terminator" films.

As Mr. Liguori was wrapping up on stage, his cellphone rings. It's Jack Bauer: "You've got to get out of there, Mr. President, time is running out." So he did, ending the week with the shortest presentation of them all. Well done, Mr. Liguori.
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