I started out doing a story on mun2's upfronts as a segue to a story on how shows make it to TV at all. But then, as many stories do, it led into another direction and ended up in the heart of the Grammy Museum surrounded by Jenni Rivera's belongings, and her family.
And I realized the two are linked. mun2 is a cable channel that is geared towards young Hispanic America with many of the older demo coming to the table for certain shows: shows like Jenni Rivera's I Love Jenni; a show which remains on the mun2 schedule as she was already filming when a freak plane crash took her life on December 9, 2012. Everyone was shocked at the tragedy, and mun2 had the risky job of being a network heavily invested in the Rivera's. General Manager of mun2 Diana Mogollon remembers the day well.
"When the horrific events evolved in December we were all in shock," she recalled. "There was no playbook to tell us what to do next. We deferred to the family and they reached out to us to touch base and regroup. We were all so close. We all met and decided together. The family wanted us to do what Jenni would have done -- finish what we started, honor her legacy by not stopping and seeing the show through."
Of course mun2 is more than the Rivera network, it has a host of other popular shows returning and some pretty interesting ones on the horizon. They, like the other networks, have been rolling them out at upfronts, which is why news of TV shows' fates has been in the news of late; high profile cancellations as well as new adventures for all the networks on cable and broadcast and now the web.
The road is long and hard for a show to even get that far, the upfronts. It all starts with an idea. That idea is then pitched, either to a manager, agent or to executives at various networks (if you can get a meeting). Very few items are "bought in the room" meaning there's a pitch, they turn and say yes, let's do this, and away you go. No, if the person you're pitching likes it, then they have to "pitch up" the corporate ladder. After a few more pitch meetings, a pilot or a sizzle reel is ordered. A reel is a three minute look at what the show will be, shot professionally, with a budget. These pilots, reels and their stars are then presented to advertisers in various cities (New York, Los Angeles, Miami and others) to see if they'll bite. If they do, a series order of a certain number of shows is placed. If they don't respond well but the network believes in the show, it can still get green lit. Others that don't make the cut and older shows are cancelled at upfronts (not renewed announcements). It's the seasons of the TV biz. Pilot season (beginning of the year) when shows are pitched. Upfronts in April and May, when pitches have been shot. Then production and debut usually in the fall.
"I'm exhausted just by hearing you go through the process," Magollon told me on my radio show as I went through the above for her to make sure I had it right. "Yes, you know exactly how this is done. The process can be very daunting, but it does let an idea be cultivated and fostered and eventually be a success. The batting average for most is very low but at mun2 we are almost 100 percent. What we develop and bring is connecting and working."
"The new stuff is building on the genre of reality, pioneering the genre of Celeb-reality, " she continued. "We have Larry Hernandez, he's amazing. He's coming later this year. Fernando Vargas the boxer lives in Vegas with his wife and four kids, and that's another show we have coming this year. And we have Horoscopos, about two incredibly talented sisters in regional Mexican music, very much like Jenni, and it's really amazing. We have more music, more fun. It's a special mix that mun2 has for that young audience."
And the audience is young indeed.
"We have the fifth youngest median age in all of cable, an age of 29, that's young! And we deliver to the most bilingual audience out of all cable. For now we are staying laser focused on this demo across all platforms," Mogollon concluded.
And mun2 isn't the only one having upfronts. TNT's just had theirs and announced "one of the best police dramas ever made" (their statement) will NOT be renewed, Southland. That's a mistake and hopefully another network will see that. The legacy networks, ABC, NBC, CBS have all been busy adding, subtracting, as well as cable, and web. This includes YouTube announcing new programming on subscription channels. It's a busy time in the TV business as it is the business of television that is being done.
Back at mun2 there's no doubt Rivera's show and any spinoffs (already there's been Chiquis 'n Control featuring one of Rivera's daughters) are still important because Rivera's stardom has only increased and her position galvanized in both the Latino culture and world wide. It's that stardom, that interest, that led the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles to launch Jenni Rivera: La Gran Señora opening Mother's Day, May 12 (free to all mom's) and continuing for a year.
Prior to opening, the family viewed the exhibit and I was lucky enough to sit with two of Jenni's siblings, Juan Rivera and Rosie Rivera. The rest of the family will see the exhibit on Mother's Day, the kids, again prior to opening.
Rosie and Juan walked through the exhibit on the third floor of the Grammy Museum. Costumes and memorabilia from Michael Jackson, Dionne Warwick, Whitney Houston, CeeLo Green and so many others fill the floor. And an entire wall is Rivera. The media was not allowed to film while Juan and Rosie saw the exhibit. And I was there as a supporter, a friend. When I saw Rosie, crouched down to read a note, tears falling from her eyes, I knew that was THE shot. But I didn't take it, because some things are better left alone.
"It's overwhelming," Rosie later told me. "To see the costumes, full life, you want to break through the glass and just hug them and smell Jenni and remember her. She was a strong woman, such a great entertainer, but it's her heart, her soul, her living the philosophy that it is better to give than to receive that is on display here as well. And that is what is important."
Juan couldn't agree more. "Some of the things I haven't seen before myself, and I'm always so interested in how she found time to do things," he told me in between media outlets filtering in a private room where we sat for hours as press came in and out. "She worked 24/7 and yet, she'd answer a fan letter. There's one out there that says 'Pete (Salgado, her manager), see what the label can do for him,' she wanted to help this fan, she took time to care. That's just how my sister was."
This love is echoed in the questions from the press that come in and out, from the majors, ABC, CBS, AP, Telmundo, Televisio on and on questions about Rivera and her connections to the fans.
And behind the scenes, in the room, is a family. A brother making fun of his sister and her soon-to-be-born baby (Rosie is seven months pregnant) by posting a picture of a baby dinosaur and labeling it her ultrasound. A sister making her brother say his REAL full name and then laughing, "Did mom hate you?" And the politics. What outlets get interviews, who has to be cut for time. Hanna Bolte from mun2 in the room along with Jenni's long-time friend and manager Pete Salgado, making sure journalists stay on topic, the exhibit, and don't drift in to waters the family may not be ready to address yet. (One wanted to know if Jenni appears to the family in dreams and if so, what she says. Really? You now want footage or a recap of their dreams?) It's a media day for sure, but an emotional one.
"Of course it's hard," Rosie told me. "I mean, it's my sister's stuff, and she's only been gone months. But for Grammy to approach us... you know, Jenni almost gave up singing once. She said, that's it, I'm done. And then she and her kids were watching the Grammy Awards and her kids said to her, you can do that mom, that could be you. So she vowed to start again, to live their dream of seeing her at the Grammys. Now, there's a whole exhibit for a year at the museum next to her idols, Michael, Whitney... she would be so honored, so filled with joy at all of it. So, it's mixed emotions for sure. So happy to be seeing this, to be a part, to continue my sister's legacy, but also, missing my sis a little more today," she added.
And then the press junket is over, Salgado off to conduct the business of managing an artist who has passed, Bolte off to more upfronts, Rosie and Juan off to mom's for lunch and then back in production next week on the final season of Rivera's show. A show mun2 is hoping not to recreate in the coming years, but find stories as compelling as Jenni's to bring to the network. Given what I heard all day from family, media and fans, it's going to be tough. Magic like Rivera's happens rarely, lighting in a bottle so to speak. Capturing lighting is what the upfronts are all about, bringing to TV the next big thing.
And Grammy Museum is making sure many will remember the very big thing that Rivera was, and remains.
The exhibit is up for the next year opening Mother's Day, free to mom's that day. For more information go to Grammy Museum to see what mun2 has in store go to mun2 and to get all the breaking news on what shows are picked up and which are being cut do what I do and subscribe to Deadline.com
Photos by Karel