NBC takes spotlight at Television Critics Association press conference

As the only broadcast network to boast gains this season


Prachi Gupta
January 7, 2013 7:15PM (UTC)

The Television Critics Association 2013 Winter Press Tour is underway, giving its core membership base of journalists and writers the chance to learn about future developments at TV's biggest networks. So far the big star of the tour, which kicked off last week and runs through mid-January, has been NBC.

NBC has been the only broadcast network to record gains this season, pulling in 24 percent more viewers aged 18 to 49 than it did the season before -- whereas CBS, ABC and Fox actually lost viewership (by 13 percent, 4 percent and 23 percent, respectively). The AP notes that this is NBC's first such victory since 2003. Although CBS is still the top network overall, NBC has inched up to the No. 2 spot from No. 4. NBC Entertainment's chairman, Bob Greenblatt, said of the recent success, “What a difference a year makes," adding, “Last year I came out and said we had a really shitty fall. Well, I’m not saying that now.” He also took the opportunity to throw a jab at Fox head Kevin Reilly, who recently said about network executives, “A lot of us have our head up our asses.”  Greenblatt quipped, "That may be true at the other places but I can guarantee you we don’t have our heads up our asses.”

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The LA Times notes that NBC's boost in ratings is in part thanks to "Sunday Night Football" and "The Voice," but also credits "several promising freshman shows" like "Revolution" and "Go On."

But can NBC stay on top? Although Greenblatt took the opportunity to boast, the AV Club notes that next season might turn sour for the network unless its strategic changes prove to be successful, arguing that "now NBC has no more football games to air" and that "Revolution" and "The Voice" are gone until March. In other words, as NBC works to revamp and improve some of its struggling shows ("Up All Night" and "Smash") a lot will ride on the changes NBC discussed yesterday -- more below:

On new show "Hannibal" and violence:

Greenblatt attributes the rise of serial killer dramas to the success of  Showtime's “Dexter,” and his own network will join the trend, adding "Hannibal" (based on Anthony Hopkins' fictional serial killer in "Silence of the Lambs") to its slate. “We try to be mindful, and we are sensitive to it,” Greenblatt said of violence in programming. He noted that "Hannibal" will not depict any grisly murders, but rather, the aftermath of the crimes. But Greenblatt emphasized that “I don't think you can make the leap of shows about serial killers causing the violence that we have in our country." Instead, he says, “There are many other factors, from mental illness to guns" and that "movies and video games" require examination, as well.

On new shows:

Aside from "Hannibal," "Do No Harm" and "1600 Penn" are among the network's most anticipated new shows. As Vulture notes, the pitch for "Do No Harm" is "'House' meets 'Dexter.'" Said executive producer David Shulner, "Robert Louis Stevenson's 'Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' holds up well … we used a lot of stuff straight from the source and tried to incorporate that into the show."

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"1600 Penn" will be a comedy starring a dysfunctional family living in the White House, taking cues from Aaron Sorkin's "The West Wing."

On NBC's comedies:

-- Greenblatt hinted that "Community," the beloved comedy that's lost so many of its stars (writer Megan Ganz, producer Dan Harmon, actor Chevy Chase), may live for another season. Greenblatt said, "We’re absolutely hopeful it will lead to a fifth season," adding, “I’d love nothing more than to see it continue.”

-- Greenblatt is not concerned with rival network ABC moving Jimmy Kimmel to an 11:35 p.m. time slot, competing with NBC's Jay Leno. “We just extended Jay,” Greenblatt said. “All of those conversations [about succession] are a little premature."

-- "The Office" finale will not feature Steve Carell. “He [Carell] left in the way he wanted to leave, and he and Greg [Daniels] talked about it, and I don’t think he will. There’s maybe a little Hail Mary pass on a cameo, but I think the decision would be compromising his schedule," said Greenblatt.

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Other revamps and changes:

The freshman drama "Revolution," which has been off the air since last year, resumes its first season on March 25. Executive producer Eric Kripke said of the second half, "We felt we could pick up the pace of stunning revelations ... It will be more shocking, more often."

"Smash" "hasn't changed all that much," according to new executive producer Joshua Safran. "Many of the elements that people loved about 'Smash' are still there. It's bigger, has more music, is younger." "More music" also means more diversity in music: "We will have a bigger worldview. We want to represent that." Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson will also make multiple appearances.

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In perhaps the biggest change, Emily Spivey's comedy "Up All Night" is getting yet another remake. “That was a show that wasn’t performing the way we needed it to … but a talented cast like that doesn’t grow on trees,” said NBC president Jennifer Salke. She called the show "an experiment," adding, "and we think it’s one worth taking.” Greenblatt suggested a major overhaul of the show, saying, “I think it’s going to be starkly different." “The same characters, but I think there may be a high-concept twist to it," he added.


Prachi Gupta

Prachi Gupta is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on pop culture. Follow her on Twitter at @prachigu or email her at pgupta@salon.com.

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