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October 31, 2014

TCA Report: NBC Exec Talks 'Smash' Debut, 'The Voice' Return & 'Playboy' Controversy

by Maureen Ryan, posted Aug 1st 2011 3:00PM
Smash, NBCTalking to critics at the Television Critics Association press tour Monday, new NBC entertainment president Robert Greenblatt took the right tack: He modestly called attention to the network's few bright spots, he didn't assert that the network would roar back this fall, and most importantly, he had Joel McHale from 'Community' relentlessly mock the Peacock Network well before Greenblatt even took the stage.

It was a wise move, and a way of acknowledging NBC's many problems without turning the Greenblatt session into an inquisition about the last decade of shoddy, brain-melting mismanagement at NBC. Well played, sir.

Some news came out of the session: Greenblatt said the second season of 'The Voice' will premiere Feb. 5, after the Super Bowl. The next episode of the singing contest will air Feb. 6, which is the same night that NBC's well-received mid-season pilot 'Smash' will premiere.

The only mini-controversy that Greenblatt had to address related to 'The Playboy Club,' one of the network's new dramas for fall. One affiliate in Utah has refused to air the program, but Greenblatt noted that the same affiliate does not air 'Saturday Night Live.'

"I guess I wasn't completely surprised," Greenblatt said "That brand name is a little polarizing."

Greenblatt added that 'The Playboy Club' is "not at all that revealing ... When you look at that [Utah] market, they have decisions to make for their own audience. It didn't really surprise me, but I think everything else will be intact" in terms of the rest of NBC's affiliates running the program." (Later in the day, at a panel for 'The Playboy Club,' executive producer Chad Hodge said another network affiliate in Utah had picked up the show.)

Speaking more generally about his plans for the network, Greenblatt said that new NBC owners Comcast had a different concept of the network than former owner GE.

"There was a sense it was a declining business and let's just manage the decline and hope we can get the best out of" that, Greenblatt said. His job was to "restore NBC to its leadership position in quality."

He said that 'Smash' "may be the most adventurous show that we do, and it may be the most narrow show we do," Greenblatt said. "It's hard to know where we'll come out on the continuum there."

The ethos he's bringing from his time as an executive at Showtime is to find writers whose voices the network loves "and do everything you can to stay out of their way," Greeenblatt said.

A few other bullet points from the session:

* Michael Buble will host a December holiday special for the network. As Greenblatt noted, many reality shows like 'The Voice' are really just variety shows and NBC would like to air more shows like that.

* Though he wouldn't name names, Greenblatt said other actors will be coming to guest on the new season of 'The Office.' They won't be on the level of new star James Spader or some of the actors who appeared on the show last year, but there will be an array of guest stars in the new season.

* Contrary to some news reports 'Law & Order: SVU' star Mariska Hargitay will appear in every episode of the show's new season. She has cut back a bit on her workload and will be working fewer days per week, but "I don't think you'll notice" a difference in terms of her appearances on the show, Greenblatt said.

* In addition to 'Smash,' Greenblatt indicated 'Prime Suspect' was another pilot that represented NBC's new direction. Greenblatt said it felt "fresh." That might not have been the best choice of words, given that the show is based on a British cop show that's a couple of decades old.

* One goal is to "transplant" off Thursday nights and make multi-camera comedy respectable again, Greenblatt said.

* Greg Daniels, executive producer of 'The Office,' has signed a new overall deal with Universal Media Studios. He'll work on developing new comedies and dramas but also animated fare (Daniels used to be executive producer of 'King of the Hill').

* The network has also signed a development deal with the production company owned by Adam McKay and Will Ferrell.

* Dick Wolf, head honcho of the 'Law & Order' empire, is developing a firefighter pilot for the network.

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