The Television Critics Association is back for its winter tour. It’s the time of year when the major networks and their shows talk about their fall performance and preview what’s to come midseason and beyond. Of the big four networks, NBC was up first today and man-o-man was the Peacock’s chairman of entertainment Bob Greenblatt happy to see a sea of press because this marks the first time in a long time that his network has something positive to really talk about. NBC’s had a great fall as they currently find themselves the #1 network in the adults 18-49 demographic and #2 in total viewers (still trailing CBS). “What a difference a year makes, right?” he exclaimed toward the crowd packed with press and critics. “I’m going to bore you with statistics because I’m not sure when I’m going to have the chance to do this again.” The major stats are as follows: for the first half of the season, NBC is up 24 percent and 19 percent in the 18-49 demo and total viewers, respectively. The net can thank the ultimate Monday pairing of The Voice and Revolution for their recent success, as well as high ratings for Sunday Night Football and their surging sitcom Go On. In 2012 FOX entertainment president Kevin Reilly accused the heads of the other major nets of having their heads up their asses. Greenblatt responded directly today with the most publicist quote to come out of his panel: “I can guarantee you, we don’t have our heads up our asses,” he said.
Greenblatt and NBC entertainment president Jennifer Salke used the rest of their time to discuss specific shows, new ones and old. Jump after the break for the bullet-point breakdown. (Click here for more…)
Today NBC kicked off the 2012 Upfronts, an annual event where the big four networks present their upcoming slate of new programming to advertisers and the press. The Peacock unveiled 12 new series coming to the network next season; seven comedies and five dramas. Half will premiere this fall, and the others will wait for midseason. Jump after the break to get more information about all of the new shows including synopses, cast and creator/executive producer listings, and clips.
Also posted after the break is NBC’s 2012-13 programming schedule. The three most significant changes to the schedule include Whitney and Community moving to Friday nights paired with Grimm and Dateline NBC; The Voice gets a second cycle in the fall; and Smash is being held again for midseason.
NBC entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt explained Community‘s move to Friday: “I know that most people in our industry think Friday is a graveyard but we don’t really believe that. If you don’t build it they won’t come. We got some traction with Grimm, it’s the No. 1 18-49 on Fridays. We thought if we have a base there, let’s see if we can give Grimm a lead-in with these shows that actually have fan bases–including Whitney.” … He added, “[Community] has its faithful audience and they will follow it to the ends of the Earth. And I really wanted to do something to invigorate Friday because we love Grimm. So I thought, let’s move a show where the audience will move with it. I actually look at the positive side of it, although no good deed goes unpunished.”
While The Office and Parks and Recreation were picked up and given full 22-episode full season orders, other comedies like 30 Rock, Community, and Up All Night were handed smaller 13-episode orders; and this has led to speculation about whether or not NBC plans to phase these shows out sooner rather than later. Greenblatt addressed this: “[The Thursday night comedies] have a really strong following [but] they don’t have a large enough audience. They’re still shows that mean something to this network…I think on the Thursday night shows, ‘broad’ is synonymous with ratings…we’re always trying to be broader.” … He added, “a 13-episode order does not mean a death knell to the show.” So fret not, my friends. (5/14 update: It has been confirmed that the upcoming seventh season of 30 Rock will be its last.)
On why the network is saving Smash for midseason, Greenblatt wants the second season to air uninterrupted with not a single hiatus, like FOX started doing with 24 by premiering it in January instead of September. The plan is for the musical drama to produce 15-18 episodes every season as opposed to the standard 22. Also, the network wants accomodate new showrunner Josh Safran (Gossip Girl). Explains NBC’s Jennifer Salke: “New showrunner Josh Safran is coming in–he’s awesome. And we wanted him to get a chance to own [it] and get in there and have an ownership stake in the show — not just put a gun to his head and [tell him], ‘You gotta get going!’ So we wanted him to be able to stand back and have a real creative discussion about what he wants the season to be and be a big part of that.” (Click here for more…)
2012 Winter TCAs: NBC’s Bob Greenblatt on ‘really bad fall’, hope for success with ‘Smash’, the return of ‘Community’
Last week at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour NBC was the first big network to publicly shed light on its fall TV season performance and hint at where they’re headed in 2012. NBC entertainment president Bob Greenblatt didn’t waste anyone’s time with these opening words. “We had a really bad fall, worse than I’d hoped for but about as I expected,” he said. “People say the only way to go is up which I believe is true, but there is a long way to get there.” He continued, “We had few strong lead-ins — our most recent scripted hit is six years old [30 Rock]. Some of our older hits lost cast members [Law & Order: SVU and The Office].” He also blames the network’s overall ratings decline on “the fact that we have few strong lead-ins.” He added, “There was no great revelation or shocking epiphany about fall expect it just [reinforced] how hard it is to break through.” Later he spun things positively acknowledging the recent NBCUniversal/Comcast merger. “But the good news is we now have new owners, they’re investing in our business, not only with financial resources, but with their patience.”
NBC’s major disappoints this fall were Prime Suspect, The Playboy Club, and the Hank Azaria comedy Free Agents. Greenblatt made sure to share his thoughts on each failed project. On Prime Suspect: “[It] was probably the biggest disappointment. Was it too cable, was [Maria Bello’s character] too abrasive? Maybe I should say it was the hat and move on…the audience wanted to be entertained with comedy and fairytales [this fall], and there wasn’t appetite in the country for a hard-hitting cop show.” On The Playboy Club: “ “Was Playboy Club too dark? I don’t know. I think it was a just a rejected concept…I know everybody thinks we sat in a room and said, ‘Oh, we have a show like Mad Men, let’s put that on.’ We thought going into the period would interest people, but I don’t think people were that fascinated by that milieu and place.” And finally on Free Agents: “I’ll go on record stating I liked it. Am I surprised that it went down? I’m really not surprised about anything going down today.” Though comedies Whitney and Up All Night haven’t become ratings hits yet, Greenblatt is confident that in time they will find bigger audiences.
The NBC chairmen went on to share his excitement about upcoming drama Smash, and at the same time he made sure to keep expectations at a realistic level. “I think that Smash is going to be very important to us,” said Greenblatt. “I don’t believe it’s a make or break show for us. I think we’re all proud of it and we’re excited to see what it can do. If I had a dime for every time someone said to me, ‘You just need one hit…’ I think in this day and age you need four or five shows to start to turn things around. Smash could be one of those. If it isn’t, it’s not like we’re going to go into receivership. But we do think it’s special and it can break through the clutter.” He noted that the musical will have a ratings advantage since it will be attached to one of the network’s “few and far between” lead-ins in The Voice.
He also discussed the future of cult-favorite Community. “When I announced our midseason changes last fall and took Community off the schedule, I failed to explicitly say that it would be back,” he said. “I want to expel any notion that it is just disappearing off the schedule.” It has been confirmed that season 3 will resume this spring. He continued, “Community was moved to 8PM a couple years ago and that’s an incredibly competitive time slot now on Thursday and I’m really curious to see what something else [30 Rock] would do there. I don’t know if it makes sense to ask it to start off the night again. We’ve tried to migrate some comedies to Wednesday this year. It’s a matter of looking at what happens with the six comedies we’ve got at midseason, to figure out where Community makes the most sense.” And when can viewers expect to hear news of possible renewal? “We’re just going to look at the success of what pilots yield, what the scheduling needs are and make that decision closer to the upfront [in May],” Greenblatt explained.
Greenblatt went on to share his thoughts about other NBC programming. Here are some choice quotes. On Howard Stern joining America’s Got Talent: “I have headaches about a lot of other things but that’s not one of them. I think he’s going to be a great judge and take it seriously. I don’t think his plan is to usurp the show and make it the Howard Stern Circus.” On the status of Fear Factor: “People like to see the snake cage and the swallowing of the bees. What can I say? We’re always happy to have those ratings. It’s [a show] that will probably come and go [on the schedule] as needed.”
The former head of programming at Showtime ended the panel like this. “The beauty of cable is the ratings for a program really don’t correlate to the bottom line. At Showtime, Prime Suspect would have been picked up in the third episode, it would have been declared a hit and it would have been in production for four or five years.” With broadcast TV, “You can’t be as cavalier about, ‘Oh we love the show. We’re just going to keep it on as long as we want.’ That’s the big dilemma that I’m in.” He concluded, “We have to figure out how to cease up on that and not end up in a narrow place.”
Can new midseason shows like Smash, Awake, The Firm, and Are You There, Chelsea? help lift the Peacock out of the ratings rubble and into a better place? Like many things in life, time will tell.