Press Tour ’12 Live-Blog: NBC Executive Session with Robert Greenblatt

01.06.12 6 years ago 11 Comments


PASADENA – After two-days of PBS, welcome to the “Let’s Live-Blog Everything”  portion of the Television Critics Association January press tour. 

We’re kicking things off with NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt, who’s sure to get questions about the failure of “Prime Suspect,” the benching of “Community” and the network’s hopes for “Smash.”

Click through for the minute-by-minute fun… 

9:45 a.m. Everybody around me is perplexed that NBC is playing the “2 Broke Girls” theme song. I’m perplexed that people recognize the “2 Broke Girls” theme song.

9:51 a.m. Don’t worry, y’all. Sepinwall’s gonna ask about “Community.” He probably won’t get an answer, but he’s gonna ask.

9:52 a.m. Robert Greenblatt takes the stage and makes an obligatory joke about our tepid applause. “We had a really bad fall, worse than I hoped for, but about what I expected,” Greenblatt admits, while adding that he appreciates how respectful we’ve been towards him and his staff.

9:53 a.m. “The good news about NBC today is that we now have new owners,” Greenblatt says, emphasizing Comcast’s patience and deep pockets. He says that he’s been given all of the resources he needs.

9:54 a.m. Mariska Hargitay isn’t leaving “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” which we already knew. But we get a taped message from Mariska, who is very excited about one of the show’s upcoming guest stars… Mr. Harry Connick Jr. He’s playing an assistant deputy attorney. “I’m really excited, because I get to talk like an educated person,” Connick says. It’s not-so-subtly implied that there’s going to be romance between his character and Hargitay’s. We even see footage of them kissing. WOO! Or something. Harry Connick Jr’s arc will be four episodes.

9:56 a.m. “Community” will definitely be back later in the spring. Greenblatt wants to make it clear that the show will be back and isn’t just disappearing from the schedule forever.

9:57 a.m. “The truth is that these shows aren’t enough to turn NBC around right away,” Greenblatt says of the new shows this season that he’s proud of. That list includes “Smash” and “Grimm” and also “Prime Suspect.”

9:58 a.m. NBC has already picked up five pilots for spring. All of the news about those pilots broke already, but Greenblatt promises more pilot pickups next week. “Now, you can have at me,” Greenblatt says, opening the floor for questions.

9:59 a.m. Does Comcast being patient mean that NBC will also be patient with struggling shows? “I’m going to try to do that,” Greenblatt says, but he emphasizes that we no longer live in an age in which shows really build audiences. He references “Prime Suspect” as an example of a show where they were never going to be able to build an audience for it.

10 a.m. What does “Community” have to do to return for a fourth season? Greenblatt is curious to see what something else will do on Thursdays at 8 p.m. “It’s really going to be a matter of looking at what happens with the six comedies we’ve got coming,” Greenblatt says of scheduling for the rest of this season. Regarding a renewal, he says that he will have to look at scheduling needs and pilot development, but he promises the decision won’t be made until closer to the upfronts in May.

10:02 a.m. “We love Ricky,” Greenblatt says of Mr. Gervais and his Golden Globes hosting. “We’re very excited to see what he does this year.”

10:03 a.m. I’m just going to go back and forth between calling this “a.m.” and “p.m.” for the rest of the live-blog. Try not to be confused just because I’m confused.

10:04 a.m. Can Greenblatt continue to rely on his gut for development at NBC rather than Showtime? “The ratings for a program really don’t corollate to the bottom line,” Greenblatt says of premium cable, referencing “Prime Suspect” as a show that would have been a hit for Showtime. 

10:05 a.m. Spending on development question. Can NBC can sustain? “If we come up with ‘Modern Family,’ we could have spent twice as much and it would have been worth it,” Greenblatt says, comparing development to gambling. “You really don’t know what is going to work.” He adds that, “Obviously it’s much better to just develop hit pilots and if we knew what those were ahead of time, we would spend accordingly.”  He adds that given their position, it just makes sense that NBC would spend more on development than higher rated competitors, though he hopes the network will be able to spend less in the future.

10:08 a.m. What’s up with Ryan Seacrest’s future at NBC? Greenblatt compares Seacrest to Chelsea Handler as a “big asset” within the new corporate family. “I think the goal at the moment is… look, we’d love to keep Ryan Seacrest in the family,” Greenblatt says, though he calls anything about Seacrest to the “Today Show” premature, saying that the top priority is to keep Matt Lauer around. Greenblatt calls Seacrest “a piece of talent,” which he means as a compliment, suggesting a possible interview show in the future might be viable or interesting.

10:10 a.m. What are the network’s realistic expectations for “Smash”? “I think that ‘Smash’ is going to be very important for us,” Greenblatt predicts, but he prefers not to view it as a “make-or-break” show. The network is proud of “Smash” and happy to give it the network’s one real lead-in in “The Voice.” “Hopefully the synergy of the night will invigorate both shows,” Greenblatt figures. He adds that the conventional wisdom about only needing one hit show to turn things around is no longer true, that you need three or four hits, “‘Smash’ could be one of those.” Greenblatt talks about how “Smash” will have a cable-esque launch. He’s talking about promotion and advertising, not ratings, incidentally. “‘Smash’ is a real asset for us and you’re going to see a full-court press, including promotions in the Super Bowl,” Greenblatt promises, but again emphasizes that it’s not make-or-break.

10:14 a.m. “Smash” is premiering on Xfinity, which is part of the cable-esque roll-out. It is, in fact, part of the “sampling” strategy that Greenblatt pushed at Showtime. “I know they’re apples-to-oranges, but one could say that that was a contributing factor to explosive growth at Showtime over the years,” he says. Greenblatt also points out that “New Girl” wasn’t hurt by a pre-premiere online roll-out. 

10:16 a.m. “‘Prime Suspect’ is a disappointment. Creatively, I really loved that show,” Greenblatt reflects, calling it his biggest disappointment of the fall. The fall reminded NBC of how hard it’s going to be to break through and bounce back. It’s easier to do that on cable, he insists. Greenblatt ponders whether Maria Bello’s “Prime Suspect” character might have been “too cable” for network audiences, but “Maybe I should just blame the hat and move on.” 

10:18 a.m. Does Greenblatt have theories on why “The Voice” clicked? “I think you’re always surprised, to some degree,” Greeblatt admits. “We thought we had a really good show. We would have been happy with a 3 rating or a high 2 rating, compared to other shows that we have. And the fact that it exploded was a surprise and a nice one,” he says. He declines to say disparaging things about “X Factor,” proving that there’s a big appetite for shows of this time. “We’re really trying to focus on the excellence of the music, of the vocalists,” he says, pointing out what makes “The Voice” different. He gives a lot of credit to the judging/mentoring panel who were music experts “as opposed to personalities.”

10:21 a.m. Greenblatt says that NBC may move to a move cable-y model of shorter seasons. “I don’t know that every show benefits from 22 episodes stretched over nine months,” he says, though he doesn’t know what this will mean on a practical level. “I think there are going to be some shows that benefit from compacted schedules and putting them on either in the fall or spring and the resting them and bringing them back the following year,” he explains. “The Voice” will have 15 episodes in the spring without preemptions.

10:23 a.m. RETRANS QUESTION! I’m gonna nap…

10:24 a.m. Regarding “Whitney” and “Up All Night” swapping, Greenblatt says that the network thinks that “Up All Night” is “creatively strong and getting stronger.” The network obviously hopes to grow “Up All Night” by giving it one of the network’s few lead-ins in “The Office.” Greenblatt says the network is happy with what “Whitney” did and he’s aware of the backlash against the laugh-track on “Whitney.” “I’m pleased with ‘Whitney.’ Like with every new show, you find the show the more episodes you do,” Greenblatt swears, teasing that the show’s first Wednesday episode is “really strong.” 

10:27 a.m. Is Greenblatt worried about Howard Stern on “America’s Got Talent”? “Aside from his radio persona, he’s a very thoughtful, very intelligent person and he’s a huge fan of the show and he wants to be a really good judge,” Greenblatt says. “I think he’s gonna be a great judge. He takes it really seriously. I don’t think he has, for a second, any plans to be a shock jock judge,” he continues. Is he worried that Stern might overwhelmed the show? “I’m not concerned about it. I guess we’ll see how it plays out. I don’t think his plan is to usurp the show and make it the Howard Stern Circus.”

10:29 a.m. What went wrong with “Playboy Club”? And was the mistake with “Prime Suspect” calling it “Prime Suspect”? Greenblatt says the original British “Prime Suspect” creator loved this version and Greenblatt wasn’t worried that people would make comparisons. “I think ‘Playboy Club’ was just a rejected concept. You never know when you’re developing these things,” Greenblatt says. “I don’t think people were that fascinated by that milieu and that place and maybe it was a little too obscure for them.” And regarding “Free Agents,” Greenblatt says he liked the show and Hank Azaria, but great elements don’t always equal a hit show. “I’m really not surprised about anything going down these days,” he adds.

10:31 a.m. Greenblatt says that the network may have to scale back some of its super-sized reality shows. Regarding “Fear Factor,” Greenblatt says, “People like to see the snake cage and the swallowing of the bees. What can I say?” He suspects “Fear Factor” will probably come and go as needed in the future.

10:33 a.m. Any chance “Grimm” might move to another night? “Possibly,” Greenblatt says, openly. “It’s done incredibly well on Friday, which I know is unfortunately the graveyard of the week and maybe someday it won’t be.” He suspects “Grimm” could either move to 8 p.m. on Friday or to another night, though at this moments, there’s no plan.

10:34 a.m. Are there any demos NBC is going to target as being underserved by other networks? He references “Community” as an example of the good and bad side of targeting niches in that way. “We have these conversations all day long,” he says. “Yeah. We have to, to some degree, do the thing nobody else is doing. But it has to be broad.” 

That’s it for Greenblatt… Sepinwall’s gonna do analysis…

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