NBC Executive Session with Robert Greenblatt Press Tour Live-Blog

Our final network executive session of the January 2014 Press Tour  — And my last live-blog of this press tour before heading to Sundance — is NBC’s panel.

Naturally, we have NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt, but as he sometimes likes to do, he’s being joined by NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke and President of Late Night, Alternative & Whatnot Paul Telegdy.

It was a fairly decent fall for NBC, plus they have the Winter Olympics coming, plus they have a big late-night shift coming, so there will be plenty to discuss. 

Click through…

9:19 a.m. Robert Greenblatt begins by saying that “in general” it’s been a good year so far. “All in all, I feel like a lot of progress has been made for us this year,” he says. For the first time in 10 years, they’ve won the fall two years in a row. And they aren’t down. Season to date, this was their best fall since 2007. In total viewers, they’re up 10 percent and they’re second behind CBS. Even without sports, NBC is tied with NBC in the 18-49 demo. He’s pleased with “The Blacklist” and boosts to Tuesday with “Chicago Fire.” Wednesday is up and “Parenthood” has improved the Thursday 10 p.m. slot.

9:24 a.m. NBC is doing another musical next year and next December 4 will be… “Peter Pan.” Whee! NBC has a history with the musical. Zadan and Meron will return.

9:25 a.m. NBC is ordering a new series called “Emerald City,” a modern reimagining of “The Wizard of Oz.” It’s about a 20-year-old Dorothy. Some characters will be familiar and some you’ve never seen before. Production will begin this summer. It will be 10-episodes and NBC hopes to have it for midseason.

9:27 a.m. NBC is also picking up the 8-hour miniseries called “The Slap.” It’s about a family that’s torn apart when a child is slapped at a BBQ. Jon Robin Baitz is writing.

9:28 a.m. NBC has ordered a pilot for “State of Affairs” starring Katherine Heigl. Joe Carnahan will direct the pilot.

9:27 a.m. NBC has ordered the comedy pilot “Old Soul” [working title] to star Natasha Lyonne from Amy Poehler. “We feel she’s a part of the NBC family,” Greenblatt says of Poehler. They’ve just signed a three-year overall deal with Poehler.

9:29 a.m. Last year, NBC had a tough First Quarter, Greenblatt admits. But this year, things will be different. One difference: “Blacklist” wasn’t pulled for three months and has more January episodes. He feels good about the launch of “Chicago PD” and looks forward to crossovers from “Chicago Fire” and also “SVU.”

9:31 a.m. Greenblatt says that they’re in Year 3 of a 3-to-5-year turnaround. But he feels good about what they have in place both on air and on the executive team.

9:32 a.m. Jimmy Fallon will apparently be announcing his first “Tonight Show” guests later today. Jay Leno’s last guests will be Billy Crystal and Garth Brooks. Jimmy Fallon will also drop by “The Tonight Show” for a passing of the baton in Leno’s last week. Greenblatt pays tribute to Jay Leno for being a fixture at the network for over two decades. “I’m very much hoping will enter into a new relationship with him after ‘The Tonight Show,'” he says of Leno, thanking Jay for making TV history and doing it with class.

9:37 a.m. “We’ve being very respectful of him,” Greenblatt says of Jay Leno moving forward. They’d like to have specials or whatever.

9:37 a.m. They haven’t shot the next cycle of “Celebrity Apprentice” but they’re shooting it this spring.

9:39 a.m. “The genre audience proves to be a loyal one,” Salke says. “Emerald City” going straight to series shows that commitment. “They’re not grim,” Salke says of the prospects for “Grimm.” 

9:39 a.m. They know when the Emmys will be, but he doesn’t want to say.

9:40 a.m. Is NBC still tied to a comedy block on Thursdays? “Yes and no,” Greenblatt says. “Anything is open for discussion,” he says. “It’s just been in existence for so long that everybody assumes that’s what it should be,” he says. However, he says they’re committed to bringing comedy back. He calls Thursday difficult and praises CBS for how well they’ve handled the night.

9:41 a.m. “I think we use the word miniseries when something is close-ended and can’t continue,” Greenblatt says. He mocks “Under the Dome” for being a miniseries and then continuing. This isn’t true, but whatever. He says “Slap,” for example, is close-ended. “Emerald City,” however, could either be over after 10 episodes, or it could continue to draw from other L. Frank Baum books and continue. He admits he doesn’t know the distinction. “The definition of these with awards are considered is very dicey,” Greenblatt says. He mentions “Sleeper Cell” at Showtime as something designed as a miniseries that then became a series. He’s worried about being defined by the Academy and getting stuck. He calls “American Horror Story” a “limited series with a twist.” Promotion is a challenge. He says if you make them the best, they’ll promote themselves. “I’m excited that we’re all back in this form again, because there are certain stories that are shorter in length or close-ended that otherwise wouldn’t be made a couple years ago,” Greenblatt says.

9:45 a.m. Are there any changes coming for “The Voice”? Paul Telegdy says that they examine the ratings closely and it’s a show that they’ve already evolved in many ways and that the format has already changed. “I think for the upcoming season we will be live for slightly fewer weeks and we are making adjustments to the format for the middle,” he says. Telegdy says that The Steal worked well. “It’s something that we work on every day,” he says, noting that you could make a thousand small changes. He claims that Shakira and Usher’s return is “much anticipated.” 

9:47 a.m. How are they making episodes available going forward? “I know it’s conventional wisdom that every show should be available now,” Greenblatt says. “All of us are grappling with how many episodes to have available OnDemand and how many people we put on Hulu,” he says. “I hope at some point this will all be decided and clear,” Greenblatt says, but he doesn’t expect it’ll ever be uniform. They don’t want to cannibalize the linear number. “In six months it’ll probably be different than it is now. It’s stuff that we grapple with every day,” he repeats.

9:49 a.m. Has NBC put in a bid on the Thursday NFL package? “No comment,” Greenblatt says of the confidential discussion. “We love the NFL,” Greenblatt says. “We’d love to have more NFL games and Thursday night games might be really interesting to us,” he says.

9:50 a.m. In lieu of “Celebrity Apprentice” on Sundays, of course, NBC has “Believe” and “Crisis.” Yes, he’s worried about getting people to new shows on that tough night.

9:51 a.m. How will entertainment inject itself into the Olympics? “We try to make those crossover links whenever we can,” Greenblatt says, but there isn’t a lot of talent going over to Russia. He promises “really fun promos.”

9:52 a.m. “I want Miley Cyrus,” Greenblatt jokes of his “Peter Pan” casting. They’ve just started talking about actors. They don’t want the names getting out there before they’ve made offers.

9:53 a.m. The new Amy Poehler comedy has a focus on senior citizens, so they think it’s a different way to go in the comedy landscape. 

9:54 a.m. Another “Peter Pan” question. Have there been copyright issues with Disney? And do they have wire worries? “You’re gonna see the wires,” Greenblatt promises. “I think it’s part of the charm of the show,” he says. “We’ll do what we can to disguise them,” he adds. “Many shows on Broadway have flying in them,” he says. He says Peter Foy’s Flying by Foy is the company that does the flying effects. They will most likely use him. Again: This is not a musical of the Disney animated movie. 

10:00 a.m. “We’re obviously not happy about a .6 for any show, especially for Michael J. Fox. We like that show. We like Sean Hayes’ show a lot. Creatively, we think those are good shows,” he says. “We’re gonna still work hard to see what we should do on Thursday night,” Greenblatt says. “‘Parks and Rec’ and ‘Community’ are also great shows,” he says, claiming they like them. “I think both of those shows are, you know, are strong possibilities for returning,” he says. He says that they’re “bullish” on the future of both shows. So I put my live-blog down and ask, “What does “bullish” mean?” Greenblatt says he’s going out on a limb. “Parks and Rec” is going to have a seventh season,” he says. We’re all a bit shocked to hear that said so frankly. That doesn’t mean that “Community won’t also get another season, Salke adds. So… I got “Parks and Rec” a seventh season today. What did you do?

10:01 a.m. They may move “Michael J. Fox” around the schedule a little bit, but they’re not optimistic.

10:02 a.m. “Everything’s relative, but it’s actually done better on Thursday at 10 than several things we’ve had there,” Greenblatt says of “Parenthood.” He’s “hopeful” they can get it to another season.

10:03 a.m. “I actually love pilots,” Greenblatt says of the strength of Pilot Season. “In a lot of cases, I think a pilot can be really valuable,” he says. He admits, though, that they may make more pilots off-cycle to get more big stars. Ellie Kemper, by the way, counts as a “real star.”

That’s all, folks…