The curtain closes on the 2015-16 TV season this month, but not before ABC, CBS, The CW, FOX and NBC go for the full reveal at their upfront presentations May 16-19. The upfronts are basically lavish parties the networks throw in New York City to get Madison Avenue to buy commercials so your DVR can skip through them.
Network executives unveil the shiny new programs coming in the fall season in an effort to keep the traditional ad-supported TV dinosaur breathing for another year. We find out which pilot projects get new series orders. We find out which shows are returning and if they’ve been moved to a new day or time (not that time slots are as significant in the age of TV Everywhere). We also find out which series aren’t coming back without the networks explicitly calling them “canceled.”
The upfronts are a carnival of adspeak, jargon and ratings spin. We’ll hear lots of things about “The Demo” and “Live Plus 7.” Networks will take “big, bold swings” trying to “eventize” everything. In 2014, CBS announced it was doing away with “midseason” in favor of “later in the season.” This year, we’re expecting to hear more discussion of “Peak TV” — the idea that the TV universe has expanded to maximum sustainable size and awesomeness, and it will soon collapse in on itself.
For us in the entertainment press, the upfronts are like Christmas. We start getting pilots to watch “FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY; NOT FOR REVIEW.” We start separating the wheat from the chaff for our fall previews. We get to praise/criticize networks over cultural diversity in content and casting. And we get to lament the lack of original ideas, with reboots, adaptations or spinoffs as some of 2016’s most anticipated “new” series: Cruel Intentions (NBC), Chicago Justice (NBC), Marvel’s Most Wanted (ABC), MacGyver (CBS), Training Day (CBS), 24: Legacy (FOX), The Exorcist (FOX), Lethal Weapon (FOX), Frequency (The CW), Taken (NBC), and shows based on Archie comics (The CW) and Nancy Drew books (CBS).
Illustration: Nate Reysen