TV Upfronts Start with WGA Protests, Seth MacFarlane’s ‘Ted,’ and No Linda Yaccarino

The ongoing Writers Guild of America strike has taken to the TV upfront presentations, and NBCUniversal was first in line for a picket line.

Ahead of the company’s Monday morning upfront presentation, the first of the week, hundreds of protestors surrounded New York City’s Radio City Music Hall. Signs read, “We are not in ‘Severance,’” “Here’s a pitch: PAY US!,” “Don’t Piss on My Legs and Tell Me It’s Streaming,” as well as “Who wants to watch ‘The Real Housewives of David Zaslav’?” citing the Warner Bros. Discovery CEO and the push for reality TV sans writers.

Inside the building, Seth MacFarlane’s teddy bear “Ted,” who is soon coming to NBCU’s Peacock via series, kicked things off with a funny and very R-rated song-and-dance number. The animation was done “months ago,” one insider told IndieWire — so, well before the strike. That also informs the shot Ted took at Twitter for “letting the crazies back” onto the platform. The line got a huge laugh in the room full of advertisers, largely because NBCUniveral’s former ad-sales chief Linda Yaccarino just left to become CEO of Twitter late last week. Due to the production timeline, the line was a “total coincidence,” our source said.

Ted’s other best lines included a “Cosby Show” joke, as well as a rejected “Netflix and Chill” ripoff tagline, “Peacock and Fuck,” for NBCU’s streaming service.

Yaccarino, a rock star in the media-buying world and a legitimate celebrity during upfronts week, was supposed to follow the “Ted” cold open, IndieWire is told. But due to her Twitter talks leaking (and then escalating into an actual announcement), she bowed out of the event and exited NBCUniversal early. Mark Lazarus, the chairman of the company’s television and streaming businesses, took her place on stage. He acknowledged the elephant in the room, and thanked Yaccarino for her years of contributions.

Mark Wahlberg in Seth MacFarlane’s “Ted” movie, coming soon to Peacock via series©Universal/Courtesy Everett Collection

Writers will get their next chance to picket outside of Fox’s Monday afternoon presentation at Manhattan Center. No matter how that goes, the WGA’s impact on the upfronts has been felt the most by Netflix, which switched its planned in-person presentation to a virtual event for pedestrian safety. The WGA has been sharing its picket plans with the NYPD, the guild told IndieWire.

Disney’s upfront is Tuesday, Warner Bros. Discovery has Wednesday, and The CW wraps things up on Thursday.

It is not just presentations being impacted by the Writers Guild of America. Since the strike began May 2, multiple productions have halted in solidarity with the demonstrations. Upcoming seasons of fan-favorite series like “The Last of Us,” “Yellowjackets,” “Severance,” and “P-Valley” have stopped production, while “House of the Dragon” and “Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” have continued filming their respective second seasons sans showrunners. We’ve yet to see the full impact of the strike, though also on Monday morning, Fox failed to share a fall schedule with the media.

The WGA strike took effect after six weeks of unsuccessful negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, representing the likes of Netflix, Disney, Apple, NBCUniversal, Warner Bros., Paramount, Amazon, and more. Writers are demanding better pay, residuals structures, and protection against AI as a replacement tool for their work, among other concerns.

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