Press Tour: July 2014 NBC Executive Session Live-Blog

07.13.14 4 years ago


It's Sunday (July 12) morning and it's showtime for NBC's day at the Television Critics Association press tour. 

For the second straight tour, NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt, NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke and President for Late Night and Alternative at NBC Paul Telegdy have mostly positive news to report, so we'll see what news they have to break and if there's anything bad we can find to bring up.

You may recall that it was this same trio back in January that I goaded into promising a renewal for “Parks and Recreation” (a renewal that would have happened whether I opened my mouth or not). 

Let's see what happens this year.

8:40 a.m. NBC is in first place, which can only mean one thing… Bacon at TCA breakfast!

8:45 a.m. The intro clip package refers to The NBC Resurgence. hard to quibble.

8:49 a.m. Robert Greenblatt was just in Chicago for his mother's birthday. Bad weather in Chicago. “We've had a pretty great season so far this year,” Greenblatt says. Even without the Olympics, NBC would still be No.1. NBC is No.2 in total viewers and up 27 percent year to year. The momentum has continued in the summer thanks to “America's Got Talent.” 

8:51 a.m. First piece of NEWS: “America's Got Talent,” “American Ninja Warrior” and “Last Comic Standing” have all been renewed.

8:51 a.m. Greenblatt is very pleased with “Night Shift.” He wants to note that after final numbers last week, the “Extant” premiere only equalled “Night Shift” in the key demo.

8:52 a.m. NBC is happy with “Tonight Show” and “Late Night.” “All is great in late-night,” Greenblatt crows. 

8:53 a.m. An additional $300 million came into NBC at upfronts. Woo.

8:54 a.m. Red Nose Day is a charity thing in England. NBC will do an American version in May. It's an all-day event leading up to a three-hour broadcast special. There will be comedy and music and stuff. “This is just another way that we can give back,” Greenblatt says, calling NBC “pro-social.” Funny or Die will be part of NBC's plans, but it's not instantly clear how.

8:57 a.m. Don't forget… NBC is doing “Peter Pan: Live” on December 4. Christopher Walken will play Captain Hook. Woot. I'm not sure why Greenblatt is acting like we'll be shocked that Walken is a song-and-dance man. We know this. “I can guarantee you that he's going to bring his own spin to Captain Hook,” Greenblatt says, teasing tap-dancing. I hope they have cue cards handy.

8:59 a.m. Salke and Telegdy join Greenblatt on the panel.

8:59 a.m. The first question is about NBC's not taking ads with the word “abortion” and about TV not depicting abortions on TV. Greenblatt calls it a “hot button issue that people are still afraid of.” Greenblatt was on “Party of Five” back in the day and he reminds us about an abortion-contemplating arc on that show that FOX caved on 20 years. “I don't think we cop out like that anymore, but I still think writers and producers are nervous about it, because it really does divide people. But I think we've made progress,” Greenblatt says.

9:02 a.m. They're asked about “The Michael J. Fox Show.” What mistakes were made? Greenblatt snarks about cable networks declaring their shows hits after a season. He admits that Thursday was tough and they knew that going in. He felt that Fox would help overcome challenges, but it showed how tough the night is. “We looked at all the signs,” he says. There were weeks where CBS was in repeats and they still didn't get a bump, nor did the Sean Hayes thing. “Those two shows were particularly heartbreaking,” Salke says. Greenblatt says he'd do it over again, if he didn't know the outcome.

9:04 a.m. Are “A to Z” and “Marry Me” close-ended comedies? Salke thinks that “Marry Me” isn't close-ended at all. “Both shows are an attempt to capture a romantic comedy that we don't think is on the air,” Salke says. Salke adds that “Marry Me” is a romantic comedy about relationships extending into the full ensemble. “I don't think the day they get married means the show's over,” Greenblatt says. “They're really writing their life,” Salke says of Casey Wilson and David Caspe.

9:07 a.m. What was NBC's threshold for summer success, particularly when it comes to comedies? “I think we're going to make comedy decisions in the next few weeks,” Greenblatt says. It says that success is “all relative.” He goes back to praising “Night Shift,” but also praises CBS for “Under the Dome.” “We used to just throw the shows on in the summer that we didn't have much faith in,” Greenblatt says, noting that now the network has lead-ins like “Talent,” which helped “Night Shift.” Greenblatt says, “I don't know” regarding whether or not they'll renew any of the new summer comedies.

9:09 a.m. What is Nancy Heigl doing as a producer on “State of Affairs”? Salke praises Katherine Heigl's mother as a big part of the process, saying that the star relies on her mom in life and it's been a good partnership. “It's not surprising when the mother walks in the door with her, because we knew that they're a set,” Salke says. “She's a partner in her life,” she adds, referring to their “natural short-hand.” Nancy Heigl has been consulted on the material, but she wasn't at meetings pitching the season. “She's not been disruptive in any way that I can think of,” she says.

9:11 a.m. Back to the “abortion” question, specifically the “Obvious Child” ad that was rejected. Greenblatt says three ads were submitted, one didn't use the word “abortion” and they selected that one and something happened. But he thinks that they don't have a specific policy on the word or the topic. And are creative folks bringing storylines along these lines to them more or less regularly? “When it's brought to us, I think we embrace them,” Greenblatt says of shows like “Parenthood” and “Friday Night Lights.” “We would just want to make sure that we were smart about it and that it was handled appropriately,” Salke adds.

9:13 a.m. What was the takeaway from the Maya Rudolph special? “It was a show we're really proud of,” Telegdy says, talking for the first time. “On balance, we really enjoyed the experience,” he says, calling it an “imperfect first episode,” but they're in discussion with Maya about maybe bringing the show back at midseason beyond. The question are about music versus sketches versus stuff happen in the studio. It's unclear if it would be a special or a regular weekly show or what. Greenblatt says they were happy with the ratings, particularly that it sustained its audience. “It felt vey different and we got a lot of positive feedback about it,” Telegdy says, referring to Maya's passionate fanbase and whatnot.

9:15 a.m. Has NBC adjusted Thursday expectations because of CBS' Thursday football package? “I adjust my expectations every day,” Greenblatt says. He notes there are only six games and says that it's an opportunity because CBS' strong comedies won't be airing, which will give the network a comedy opening. He hopes that “The Biggest Loser” will be helpful as a lead-in and stuff. He mentions that Liz Brixius has been brought in to run “Bad Judge.” He says they like the new comedies a lot. Telegdy says they knew this was coming and they're used to counter-programming against football on Monday. Greenblatt speculates that the Thursday games won't do the kind of ratings they've been getting for football on Sunday.

9:18 a.m. Does NBC care about not getting Emmy recognition? “I think emotionally, we all care,” Greenblatt admits, claiming there's no evidence that you get any more viewers from nominations or wins. “Cable has the advantage of doing material that's darker, more interesting on some levels. You can go into subject matters that feels cooler than some of the stuff that we can do,” Greenblatt says. He suggests we can debate if James Spader is as good as some of the other actors in his category, but that it won't do any good.

9:20 a.m. What's up with “Celebrity Apprentice”? They've produced a season, but Telegdy has no announcement about when it will air. “We have a wealth of new material, both scripted and unscripted, and as of yet we haven't figured out the perfect place for 'Celebrity Apprentice' to go,” Telegdy says. Greenblatt says that a brief hiatus helped “Biggest Loser” grow again. “I think that we've been adjusting the mix on the NBC network,” Telegdy says, referring to the balance between scripted and unscripted.

9:22 a.m. NBC isn't doing multi-cam this fall. Why not? “There's a generation of writers and producers who have gone away from the multi-cam,” Greenblatt says. He claims that 9 out of 10 writers come in and want to do multi-cam. At midseason, “One Big Happy” is multi-cam. And the still-in-development Bill Cosby comedy is a multi-cam and Salke notes that's still a project they're high on. “I really hope we can balance the scales a little bit,” Greenblatt says. 

9:24 a.m. Salke says the Cosby thing is a multi-generational family show with Cosby as the patriarch. His character has three daughters. “It's just a classic big extended family sitcom,” Salke says. Mike O'Malley is one of the writers working on the Cosby thing and Salke wants O'Malley to play a role as well, as one of the spouses to one of the daughters.

9:25 a.m. “I'm not going to grouse about the Emmys. Let's bring back the Cable ACE awards, how about that?” Greenblatt cracks. “Do I think 'The Blacklist' should be in that list of dramas? Yes. Do I think James Spader should be in that list of actors? Yes,” Greenblatt says. But he isn't in favor of changing the rules. 

9:26 a.m. On a structural level, where is NBC at on diversity issues? “We are committed to this and we talk about it all the time,” Greenblatt says. While we have three white people on our panel now, Greenblatt suggests that below them, it's a very diverse group. “We want to reflect the world and we really do want to push forward on all fronts, not only the faces you see on shows, but behind the camera,” Greenblatt says. “We really try to get people into the system, which I know is the biggest barrier,” he adds of bringing in creative talent. Salke says they literally talk about this all the time. The new co-lead on “Constantine” will be a “authentic Latina actress,” Salke says, suggesting they've found the right actress.

9:29 a.m. What up with NBC's “Blacklist” strategy and the long midseason hiatus? They want to give “Blacklist” eight or nine days per episodes in production and they don't want the show to run behind. He suggests that they could have done something similar to last year with nine fall episodes, a few episodes in January and then more later. Instead, they're using the Super Bowl to attract eyes and then giving it a spring run on Thursdays. NBC has a high volume of shows and the dramas are always behind on production. “You don't want to cut corners on shows,” Greenblatt says. There will be a “big hook” in the last fall “Blacklist” episode before the pre-Super Bowl hiatus. Greenblatt reminds us that the Super Bowl Week episodes will be a bit two-parter.

9:32 a.m. Our first mention of “Hannibal.” Greenblatt calls it one of the best shows they have creatively. “And we still struggle to find an audience for it,” he acknowledges. “If this were on a cable network, the small audience wouldn't matter and it would be deemed more successful than it is on our network,” Greenblatt says. He isn't sure why they can't get five or eight million viewers to watch it. “They just pitched the next season and it blew us away,” Salke says. She says they have research suggesting people view it as a cable show on NBC.

?9:33 a.m. The Cosby thing is still being written. It won't be on before the end of this season “unless everything accelerated and moved quickly,” Greenblatt says. But it could be summer or fall.

9:34 a.m. “We missed it while it was gone,” Telegdy says of “Last Comic Standing.” He notes that “Last Comedy Standing” had effectively been a talent search for NBC. 

9:35 a.m. FOX is going to be naming A New Greenblatt, a questioner notes. Does Greenblatt have any advice for FOX's new entertainment chief? “First of all, you have to love the medium. If you don't really want to be in the broadcast TV landscape, you shouldn't be,” Greenblatt says. “Every show is a challenge to put together,” he says. “You have to find the best people you can.” “The volume is the killer,” Greenblatt says of the number of shows you have to produce in his job, again referencing the small output that cable networks have. “You have to have great upper-management,” he notes. 

That's all, folks…

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