The Television Critics Association’s summer press tour kicked off the broadcast networks presentations Monday in Beverly Hills, where Bob Greenblatt appeared for his first official meeting with the press as NBC’s new Entertainment Chairman.
The former Showtime executive, who was introduced on stage by “Community” star Joel McHale after an entertaining monologue, spoke openly about NBC’s fourth-place status and their strategy to reinvigorate the network, while reminding everyone there are some bright spots among the peacock’s feathers (“The Voice,” “America’s Got Talent,” the return of football).
“It’s been a very challenging six months for us,” Greenblatt said to reporters. “We’re working hard and aggressively to turn it around, but it’s not all bad news.”
Of the upcoming programming slate, Greenblatt is optimistic about NBC’s fall offerings: “I think the theme, if I put a word to it, is exciting.”
Here are the highlights of Greenblatt’s discussion with TV critics:
The Big Announcements:
~In alternative reality TV news, former “Will & Grace” star Sean Hayes is returning to NBC, both as a producer and in front of the camera. Hayes will be producing a pilot for “Celebrity Game Night,” where contestants are paired with celebrities to play games. Hayes is also in talks to develop a sitcom in which he will star. “It’s time for him to star in a comedy again,” Greenblatt said.
~The second season of “The Voice” now has a premiere date: It will launch on Sunday, Feb. 5th – right after the Super Bowl. Moving to Monday nights this season, “The Voice” will air the next night with a two-hour episode in its new time slot, followed by the debut of the highly anticipated drama “Smash” at 10 p.m.
~There will be a Christmas special this year starring Michael Buble, produced by Lorne Michaels (“Saturday Night Live”).
~Also in development is a big one-hour firefighter drama from Dick Wolf (“Law & Order” franchise) and a new project from “Voice” coach Adam Levine. There are also new development deals in place with Will Ferrell and Adam McKay’s Gary Sanchez Productions in their first deal with a broadcast network, as well as one with Greg Daniels (“The Office,” “Parks and Recreation”).
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On the Network’s Goals:
“To rebuild this schedule. We’ll be very aggressive with upscale shows that appeal to our audience, and that are more desirable for advertisers, and that restore NBC to its leadership in quality and attention-getting shows. In a holistic view of the year, we’re looking at Olympics a year from now, we have summer strength [with 'America's Got Talent'], we have a strong fall, I think, and a really strong mid-season with “The Voice,” “Smash,” and the Super Bowl.”
On the New Line-up of Shows:
“What we’re trying to do is inject some excitement into the schedule and, in general, coming from the cable world as I have, there’s been a loss of excitement in broadcast. Our new shows are original, attention-getting, high quality.”
On NBC’s Expectations for “The Office,” Post-Steve Carell and Mystery Guests to Come :
“Shows goes through transitions as they age and losing Steve is one of those. James Spader is completely different than Steve, in his own iconoclastic acting style; his character is really unique and a perfect fit for that mix. It will cause adjustments for the cast…some new actors will be coming in besides Spader. Creatively reinventing the show will make the writing staff get back on their game and refocus on what the show is. I would be thrilled if it continued what it was doing ratings-wise, even though aging shows erode.”
Watch “The Office” Search for New Candidates:
On Clarifying the Status of “Law & Order: SVU’s” Mariska Hargitay:
“She’s in every episode [this season]. She’s not dropping down [as had been mistakenly reported]. We have brought in a few new cast members [to replace departing Christopher Meloni], but Mariska is there in every episode and it’s my goal to make sure that continues past this season.”
On Defending “The Playboy Club” (one Utah affiliate is refusing to air the drama):
“I think every other affiliate will be airing the show. I guess I wasn’t surprised; the brand is polarizing, even thought the show isn’t all that revealing, shall we say. That affiliate also doesn’t show ‘SNL’ either.”
“It’s an energized soap opera. I don’t think it will feel like ‘Mad Men’ when you ultimately see it. What it has is a recognizable brand attached to it, and it’s a fun soap with a mob element, a crime element … it’s the right kind of thing for us to try.”