TCA 2010 Day Four: NBC gets past Tonight, looks to tomorrow

Photo by Chris Haston/NBC
BEVERLY HILLS, CA– What a difference six months makes.
When last we left press tour, in January, the NBC executive session was like stepping into a shark tank. Critics smelled blood, with NBC Universal chairman Jeff Gaspin and entertainment president Angela Bromstad dead in the water after the Leno at 10/Conan the Tonight  temp fiasco.

Both, however, did an exceptional job difusing that bomb. Gaspin, in particular, put on a master class in grace under pressure, appearing forthright and unguarded, answering every question as directly as he could.
The elegant pair earned a measure of respect (not total respect, mind you–hey, we’re critics), so the mood in the room was far less predatory this summer. Gaspin did get asked about Dick Wolf’s reaction to being told the original Law & Order was toast after 20 seasons. He allowed it wasn’t one of his most pleasant office encounters, but that Wolf was professional and they had moved on.
Getting a 13-episode order for the latest L&O brand extension, Law & Order Los Angeles (nicknamed LOLA), surely took some of the sting out for Wolf. (More about that session in a later post).
After all the hullabaloo last year, there was very little talk about late night. Gaspin came prepared with stats showing Tonight was 22% ahead of Letterman the last two quarters (in 18-49-year-old viewers). Not mentioned was the alarming errosion in viewers for both shows.
It made life easier for Gaspin and Bromstad that all the screwing up this week was happening at the other networks. Asked about reported rumours of sexual harassment being behind Stephen McPherson’s swift exit from ABC, Gaspin actually had the balls to joke about it, dryly suggesting “I’ve had no experience with it personally.” You could almost feel the heat coming off McPherson’s red face even though he’s a million miles from press tour.

Gaspin and Bromstad have their scrum faces on

As for Ellen DeGeneres surprise adios over at Fox and Idol, Gaspin did think that, with Simon also gone, the “Death Star” has taken a hit. He’ll be less fearful trying out shows opposite it next winter, he suggested.
As for news Steve Carrell is exiting The Office when his contract expires at the end of this season, Bromstad gave assurances the plan is for the show to go on without him. Yanking ER off the air once Clooney left the show would have been a dumb move, she said. Besides, “I couldn’t face my 14-year-old son if The Office went off the air.”
Critics wondered how the kid felt about Conan O’Brien.
NBC had plenty of casting and programming news to spill. There will be a live episode of 30 Rock this season, with two versions performed to serve both coasts. Terrence Howard will join Alfred Molina as the new DAs on Law & Order: Los Angeles, or LOLA as the kids call it. And Rob Lowe is getting slapped into Community as a regular, recreating his guest role as a state auditor from last season.

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