Where to begin? There were the trapeze artists, who perched on giant rings hung from the ceiling and stretched into improbable positions. There were the burlesque dancers, who took off exactly enough of their outfits to stay suitable for basic cable TV (actually, let's say basic cable after 10 p.m.). There was the drunk ad buyer who jumped into an empty trapeze and had his friends spin him around until he fell off. And there were the fire breathers.
Usually the upfront event that leaves attendees half-deaf for 16 hours with beer stains on their suit coats is Adult Swim's concert bash during broadcast week (acts have included—seriously, now—M.I.A., Jay-Z, T-Pain and Kanye West), but BBC America may have set a new bar on Thursday evening with a Dionysian party at the Skylight Soho that improved on the cable network's Studio 54-themed shindig last year, and then some.
As guests entered the venue, actors playing a messy game of cards (War? Go Fish? 32-card Stud?) studiously ignored them while girls in feather-trimmed cabaret outfits flirted with buyers and journos. Around the venue—a warehouse space called The Skylight Soho—attendees put on plastic trilby hats and fake opera glasses and tried the authentically British food, which is to say sausage rolls and chicken tikka masala, among others. The girls in the rings offered sparkling wine refills to anyone who asked.
It was as crowded as BBC America's parties have ever been. Last year's upfront celebration grabbed a lot of attention, being the network's first, and this year the network simply avoided the announcements phase of the presentation altogether and opted to liquor up its audience until the rowdy crowd started horsing around with the props. About 20 buyers stopped talking long enough to listen to evp of media sales Mark Gall and general manager Perry Simon thank them for being there, but by and large the party continued uninterrupted. "Have some more of Mark's drinks and eat Mark's food!" laughed Simon. The crowd obeyed.
At about 8:50 p.m., enough of the entertainers had dismounted the trapezes that a gentleman in an unbuttoned flannel shirt over a T-shirt—we'll call him "Dawson"—hopped up into one of the rings hanging from the ceiling and, as a coalition of BBC employees tried to decide what to do about him, Dawson solved the question for them by asking bystanders to spin him around in the trapeze until he toppled out of it (he was unhurt, albeit very pleased with himself).
Then the velvet curtain serving as the room's fourth wall went up, and a girl in a tight red dress started waving wreaths covered in fire around her head while shirtless male dancers belched gouts of flame and flicked burning bullwhips at the audience. When the show ended, the performers bowed and beckoned everyone into the performance area, which turned into a dance floor.
In summary, BBC America kindly requests that you enjoy The Thick of It, a farce about bureaucrats caught up in the machinery of American-British diplomatic relations; Doctor Who; and several cooking shows starring Gordon Ramsay.