Kimmel Skewers ABC in Upfront Bit

It’s what he does, people

Jimmy Kimmel on Tuesday evening trotted out his now-familiar shtick for media buyers, taking jabs at home network ABC with a monologue that neatly skewered the very underpinnings of broadcast TV.

And as was the case two years ago, when a tone-deaf New York Times blogger totally missed the point, this year’s routine was again greeted with a very literal-minded incomprehension.

Noting that Kimmel’s “barbs were particularly sharp,” one blogger reported that the comic mocked the crowd and his superiors when he accused them all of having rather short memories. “Remember all those shows we were so excited about last fall? We canceled all of them,” Kimmel cracked. “And yet here you all are. I think you may have a gambling problem.”

Kimmel’s right on the money—after all, ABC just canceled a raft of freshmen series, including V, No Ordinary Family, Off the Map, Mr. Sunshine and Detroit 1-8-7. And naturally, these shows were well hyped during last year’s upfront event. That’s sort of the point of these exercises.

But to suggest that Kimmel’s bosses weren’t in on the fun, that they hadn’t vetted the script before he addressed the SRO crowd at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall, is nothing short of preposterous. That’s the deal with Kimmel: He’s been lampooning ABC since he did a few minutes of stand-up during the network’s 2005-06 upfront.

Yep, we’re talking seven years of tradition. Not only is Kimmel’s act far from subversive, but it’s also become as much a part of the fabric of the ABC presentation as the unveiling of the fall schedule.

Questions of authenticity aside, Kimmel saved his best japes for the competition. In a brutal jab at NBC, the comedian noted that the network would sell commercial time on GroupOn this year. “You can get a 30-second spot on The Office and a Thai massage for 45 bucks,” he snarked.

Then, turning to the older-skewing CBS, Kimmel noted that the network wasn’t losing viewers to the DVR or to cable so much as to creeping inevitability. Or as he put it, “natural causes.”

Speaking of time's relentless march, new programming chief Paul Lee did an exemplary job in his first at-bat, unspooling the total presentation over the course of a single hour.

Despite the tidy format, ABC had plenty to talk about Tuesday evening. Unlike NBC, which took two hours the day before, ABC let the video do much of the talking. The show began with a clip from Charlie’s Angels, which will lead off Thursday nights in the 8 p.m. slot; the short glimpse of Angels v. 2.0 was greeted with a good deal of enthusiasm.

Pan Am provided another longing glance back at a supposedly better time—1963 was probably paradise if you weren’t an African American, a woman, or JFK—and while period pieces are always a hard sell, the thing certainly looks like a million bucks. Once Upon a Time will lead out of season 437 of America’s Funniest Home Videos; oddly enough, it’s the second fairy tale-themed drama of the 2011-12 season, joining NBC’s Grimm.

Tim Allen’s return to TV (Last Man Standing) seemed watered down and reductive, although it was like something out of Monty Python compared to lead-out Man Up, a caveman comedy designed to sell the fallacy that (a) all men are stupid and (b) women are smarter, but not by much, considering how much time they want to spend with men.

Much more promising is the new fish-out-of-water comedy Suburgatory; that said, the clip that garnered the most laughs was for Apartment 23, a raunchy comedy about female friendships starring Veronica Mars and Gilmore Girls alum Krysten Ritter. (In keeping with ABC’s apparent desire to snatch up every pilot with the word “bitch” in the title, the show was originally sold as Don’t Trust the Bitch in Apartment 23.)

Speaking of bitchery, the much buzzed-about sudser Good Christian Belles (aka Good Christian Bitches) has been shifted to midseason. While the Lincoln Center crowd offered some polite applause after the clip, it didn’t elicit a tremendous amount of laughter.

Perhaps the most promising new entry on ABC is the midseason supernatural thriller The River. Developed by Paranormal Activity writer-director Oren Peli, this horror show seems to promise jolts along every meandering bend of the pilot.