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By now we all know how it went down: At last year's upfronts, NBC golden boy Jeff Zucker was so confident about his network's prospects for the Fall season that he stood on a stack of Bibles, swore that their already high ratings would increase, and taunted the Lord himself to strike him down if Joey didn't deliver post-Friends salvation to his advertisers. Then God, who always has quite a sense of humor about such matters, obliged Zucker with a well-placed thunderbolt to the top of the executive's distinguished bald head.

This year, a fourth-place, humbled NBC donned their hair shirts and begged for forgiveness. From the LAT "Web Notebook" from the upfronts (if they called it a blog, they'd have to pay the union dues), more tales of contrition (second entry from top, 6:30pm):

Perhaps never in the history of television has one network been so thoroughly "sorry." First, NBC President Jeff Zucker stood before the press and didn't even try to mince words about his network's fall from first to fourth place, announcing, among other things, that "we stunk up the joint" on Tuesday nights.

"We totally get it," Zucker told the assemblage, a small, contrite variation on the small, bullish maestro who stood on the same stage last year, promising another year of must-see TV... "In prime time this year, we did not have the season we wanted to have, or that we said we would," Zucker apologized. [...]

Then a video lampoon of the year had NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly screaming, "The horror! The horror!" as characters from last year's tanked "Father of the Pride," "Aloha" and "LAX" floated around him.

Perhaps most effective at communicating NBC's contrition was a short film directed by Lars von Trier, in which departed Friends Lisa Kudrow, Courteney Cox-Arquette, and Jennifer Aniston surrounded the two executives and beat them bloody with a variety of gardening tools, while Frasier's Kelsey Grammer watched from a lawn chair, cackling in his signature baritone while being serviced by a peacock. The movie is currently being adapted for television as a mid-season replacement.