A week and a half ago the FX networks held their spring upfronts at the Lucky Strike bowling alley in New York City. Upfronts, if you are not familiar with the term, are events where networks invite current and potential advertisers to see the demographics, statistics, and potential return on investment the advertiser could benefit from if they support the programming of the network. It's a businesss meeting, chock full of presentations and are usually followed up with a meal, drinks, and schmoozing with network executives, TV showrunners, writers, and talent. FX, as is typical of the network, takes the idea of the upfronts to another level by renting out an entire bowling alley, commissioning show-specific jerseys, and pitting teams of cast and crew against each other. Compare that to the stodgy rubber chicken events the other networks seem to be content with and you can understand how
A focus of the FX upfronts presentations were how well the network's programs are doing in social media. Evidently their shows enjoy very active members on their facebook fanpages, excellent trending on Twitter, and is the top rated network on GetGlue. FX primarily targeted other basic cable networks and shows in their presentations, calling out TBS and AMC specifically. TBS showed a shocking decline in their viewership, losing 8-44% on their scripted shows, perhaps the show deals TBS made with Conan O'Brien's production company will result in a reversal of this trend. The presentations seemed to be well-received by the advertisers, including upfront specific video messages from show talent, including Charlie Sheen, who was, admittedly, very funny.
At the party I had a chance to speak to "Sons of Anarchy" showrunner, Kurt Sutter, about the upcoming season of the show. Sutter said that he had the first four episodes well established, but with work still to go on them. If there is one thing that is remarkable about the show, it's how much like a family the cast and crew operate. In close attendance were Katey Sagal, Maggie Siff, Charlie Hunnam (who celebrattes his birthday today), Theo Rossi, Kim Coates, Mark Boone Junior, and Dayton Callie - these guys are tight with each other. Dayton Callie and Theo Rossie were standouts on the "Sons of Anarchy" PaleyFest panel several weeks ago, and their enthusiasm for the show and its upcoming season was still very evident in New York. Callie revealed that his house is a popular hangout with this very real gang of performers on the show, "I thought everyone was just being really friendly with me, but then I realized that they loved my swimming pool," he joked.
A lane down from "Sons of Anarchy" were Jon LaJoie and Steve Rannazzisi from "The League," the most innovative comedy on basic cable as their improved dialogue has demonstrated each season. Per the numbers that FX showed, "The League" has really established its own audience over the last season and a half, making the network feel confident enough to continue to experiment with other comedies, like "Louie." Rannazzisi has just completed a move to New York but will still be playing Kevin on the show. LaJoie continues to crank out very funny and hugely popular self-produced videos and hinted that he might be touring again later this year, keep your eyes on his website for more info.
The other most-family-like group at the FX upfronts was the 2-time Peabody Award-winning "Justified" team, composed of showrunner Graham Yost, and stars Timothy Olyphant, Joelle Carter, Walton Goggins, Natalie Zea, Nick Searcy, Erica Tazel, and Jacob Pitts in attendance, and pretty serious about bowling. Gregarious and excited about how well-received the show has been received this season, I couldn't get too many details out of them other than the fact that we will, thankfully, be treated to Natalie Zea in tonight's season finale, which is excellent and shouldn't be missed under any circumstances.
Did Charlie Sheen and Russell Brand show up and get mobbed? Yes. But what was more fun were the subtle details of the night, such as seeing what an excellent bowler Chris Parnell is, how gracious and beaufitul Jessica Walter is in person, and Glenn Howerton of "It's Aways Sunny" politely dealing with a crowd of admirers and still managing to knock down some pins. The insanely busy Louis C.K. still made time to come by and say 'hi' to who he needed to in order to make the network happy as "Louie" is in full production right now. When I asked how his new editor, Susan Morse, was working out, C.K. told me "I can't wait to see what Susan does but we're still plotting out the season and trying to shoot as much as we can," before disappearing to get ready for an early shoot the following morning, proving that the celebration and fun of showbiz is balanced by a lot of hard work.
DVR This! Some good news this week is that Fox has renewed "Raising Hope" and "New Girl," HBO has also moved ahead to renew "Game of Thrones" for a third season (why the delay?). Speaking of "Game of Thrones," has anyone else noticed that recaps of the show on most websites fail to note that there is a sex scene or nudity every 7 minutes? It's HBO, there should be sex scenes and nudity, but it would be great if even 50% of these scenes in "Game of Thrones" had anything to do with character or plot development. | Lots of great late night this week, and "Chelsea Lately" has returned from hiatus.
Tonight - "New Girl" (Fox @ 9pm), "Deadliest Catch" season premiere (Discovery @ 9pm), Get Carter (1971) (TCM at 9pm), "Raising Hope" (Fox @ 9:30pm), Chris Franjola & Loni Love on "Chelsea Lately," Jim Gaffigan on Letterman.
Wednesday - "Best Friends Forever" (NBC @ 8:30pm), "Modern Family" (ABC @ 9pm), "NOVA" Deadliest Tornadoes (PBS SoCal/KOCE @ 9pm), "Don't Trust the B---- in Apt. 23" series premiere (ABC @ 9:30pm), "Justified" season finale (FX @ 10pm), "Psych" (USA @ 10pm), "Ugly Americans" (Comedy Central @ 10:30pm), Josh Wolf & Jen Kirkman on "Chelsea Lately", Albert Brooks on Leno, Joel McHale & the Ting Tings on Fallon.
Thursday - "Community" (NBC @ 8pm), "30 Rock" (NBC @ 8:30pm), "Scandal" (ABC @ 10pm), Arden Myrin with Jeff Wild & Brad Wollack on "Chelsea Lately", Larry David & Jim Gaffigan on Conan, "Eagleheart" season premiere (Adult Swim @ 12am), Tina Fey & John Slattery on Fallon.
Friday - "Real Time With Bill Maher" (HBO @ 8pm), "Fringe" (Fox @ 9pm), Julia Louis-Dreyfuss on Letterman.
Saturday - "Being Human" (BBC America @ 9pm), "Saturday Night Live" with Josh Brolin as host and Gotye as muscial guest (NBC @ 11:25pm)
Sunday - "Frozen Planet" (Discovery @ 8pm), "Bob's Burgers" (Fox @ 8:30pm), "The Killing" (AMC @ 9pm), "Nurse Jackie" (Showtime @ 9pm), "The Big C" (Showtime @ 9:30pm), "Game of Thrones" (HBO @ 9pm), "NYC 22" series premiere (CBS @ 10pm), "Eastbound & Down" (HBO @ 10pm), "Mad Men" (AMC @ 10pm), "Girls" series premiere (HBO @ 10:30pm)
Monday - "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations" Kansas City season premeire (Travel @ 9pm)
Other Media "Eagleheart" returns to Adult Swim on Thursday and the show's star will be on Marc Maron's WTFpod that day as well, in the meantime enjoy Maron's 1.5+ hour chat with David Cross. | "Community" fans will want to hear Gillian Jacobs on the JV Club podcast. | Veteran comedian Jake Johannsen guests on FitzDogRadio podcast. | "Justified" showrunner Graham Yost is on KCRW's "The Treatment," not to be missed!
Events Tonight at 9pm at the Moving Arts theater, it's LA 6, Vivid, with performances by Maria Bamford, Eddie Pepitone, Chris Fleming, and more. | Don't forget that comedian Amy Schumer headlines the Hollywood Improv on Thursday. | The Paley Center in Beverly Hills will be opening their Television Out of the Box exhibit later this week with a huge expanse of costumes, scripts, props, and interviews illustrating the journey of television over the last 60 years. The show is a must for "ER," "Friends," and "Smallville" fans but there are tons of other TV shows represented - check out the website for more details.
Releases Comedian Jim Gaffigan is following in Louis C.K.'s stead, and was, in fact, counselled by C.K. on how to release his new 75+ minute special, Mr. Universe, online, at his website. Mr. Universe becomes available for download on Tuesday, April 11th, and is entirely self-produced and self-released by Gaffigan. 20% of each sale goes to charity and that's right off the top, not after he makes his money back, proving that one of the cleanest comedians out there is not only innovatively hilarious, but also noble, despite the complete lack of pigmentation.