Kimmel Skewers ABC Rivals in Traditional Upfront Bit

Chat show host cracks that annual sales pitch is 'bullshit'

In what has become a snarky rite of spring, ABC late-night host Jimmy Kimmel on Tuesday afternoon affectionately skewered his network, before turning his sights on the competition.

Speaking at the tail end of ABC’s 2012-13 upfront presentation, the star of Jimmy Kimmel Live wearily upbraided media buyers, telling the likes of Mindshare CEO Antony Young and MagnaGlobal chief Tim Spengler that he was getting tired of having to deliver his annual message to the advertising community.

“I’m sick of it. I’m sick of new shows. I’m sick of the old shows. I’m sick of research. I’m sick of demographics. I’m sick of Anne [Sweeney]. I’m sick of Paul [Lee], and I’m getting sick of you,” Kimmel beefed. “How many times do I have to tell you that this is bullshit? This is bullshit.”

With that, the comic launched into a five-minute bit that saw him ridicule some of ABC’s more egregious miscues. According to Kimmel, the jaw-droppingly awful comedy Work It signaled ABC entertainment group president Paul Lee’s inherent disdain for Americans. (Aping Lee, who is British, Kimmel tutted, “It’s utterly asinine! I reckon the Yankee nitwits will gobble it up! Pip pip!”)

Of course, Kimmel reserved his sharpest barbs for the other broadcast networks. NBC got the worst of it, as Kimmel mocked the network’s newly minted monkey star and the gimmickry that underlies The Voice. “Spinning chairs and a monkey—this truly is the golden age of television,” Kimmel joked, adding that the capuchin co-star of Animal Practice was NBC’s first feces-hurling diva “since Gary Busey appeared on Celebrity Apprentice.”

Kimmel also scored a few points against CBS, which enjoys unparalleled reach but also is the oldest-skewing network on the air. (Per Nielsen, the median age of the CBS audience is 57 years, or about 11 years older than Fox. Then again, at 53 ABC is no spring chicken either.) “CBS: they really do have their finger on the pulse … of viewers who have almost no pulse,” he said.

Also getting a laugh was Kimmel’s assertion that CBS leads the industry in delivering “the coveted 18 to 49 trips to the bathroom demographic.”

Kimmel’s been lampooning the desperation of Upfront Week for years, and this time around his shtick was particularly well timed. Like NBC and Fox before it, ABC has gone all gooey over comedy, ordering up four new sitcoms and launching a third night of laughs.

Starting in November, ABC will pair sophomore comedy Last Man Standing and the new Reba McIntire multicamera series, Malibu Country. Both shows are broad family comedies and could find an audience on Friday nights opposite NBC’s more lacerating battery (WhitneyCommunity).

Midseason comedies include the TV Guide listings editor’s worst nightmare, How to Move in With Your Parents (for the Rest of Your Life), and The Family Tools. The “boomerang generation” comedy stars Sarah Chalke as a beleaguered single mother who is forced to live with her folks (Elizabeth Perkins and an ominously earringed Brad Garrett), while Family Tools appears to be a somewhat more manic gloss on Home Improvement.

Over on the drama side of the ledger, Revenge is moving from Wednesday nights to the Sunday 9 p.m. slot, where it will lead out of freshman hit Once Upon a Time, while veteran hospital series Private Practice will be shuttled from Thursdays at 10 p.m. to the late Tuesday stretch. There, it will lead out of the apt pairing of the rambunctious ensemble comedy Happy Endings and the hilariously amoral newbie, Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23.

Both Happy and B—- had spent time as the Modern Family lead-out, but the two acerbic comedies didn’t mesh well with the sweet-and-sour (and occasionally saccharine) antics of the Pritchett-Dunphy clan. Claiming the plum post-Modern Family slot is the aliens-among-us comedy The Neighbors.

The only trouble with the Happy B—- is that she’s about to face a rash of competition in that Tuesday 9-10 p.m. slot, going head-to-head with NBC newcomers Go On/The New Normal, and Fox’s established hit New Girl and lead-out The Mindy Project.

Of the six new dramas on ABC’s plate, the most accomplished appears to be The Last Resort, a Shawn Ryan-penned thriller that stars Andre Braugher as the captain of a nuclear sub who’s been ordered to fire on Pakistan. When he refuses, Braugher and his crew make a run for it. Also promising is 666 Park Avenue, a horror/suspense offering that gives off a sort of Upper East Side Rosemary’s Baby vibe. Lastly, the sudsy musical drama Nashville pits country crooner Connie Britton (in the Shelby Lynne role) against Auto-Tuned upstart Hayden Panettiere (think Bizarro-World Taylor Swift).

While country music is the most popular genre in the U.S., it’s probably the most polarizing as well. According to Networked Insights research, that innate prejudice could prevent people from sampling Nashville. At the same time, Britton is one of the most popular TV actresses of the day, thanks to her roles in Friday Night Lights and the recent fright fest American Horror Story, and her appeal could cancel out the mixed reactions many viewers have to Panettiere.

The three mid-season dramas are the estrogen-soaked Mistresses, starring Alyssa Milano and Yunjin Kim; the woman-with-a-past mob thriller Red Widow (Radha Mitchell); and The Zero Hour, a globetrotting mystery that marks Anthony Edwards’ return to prime time.

One franchise you won’t see on ABC this year is the long-gestating Guillermo del Toro/David Eick adaptation of The Incredible Hulk. Lee said the project wasn’t ready in time to earn a place on the 2012-13 schedule, but added that he hopes that Hulk and another Marvel franchise might make it to ABC at some point in the following year.

While the real dance between buyers and sellers isn't likely to begin until early June, Kimmel warned the assembled agency heavies that he wasn’t in the mood to hear them cry poor. “We know you have $9 billion to spend … and we want it.”

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