NBC is back, baby, as TCA hits network stride

Peter Pan - 2014BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.–Look for more cowbell when NBC presents Christopher Walken as Captain Hook in Peter Pan Live. NBC Chairman Bob Greenblatt made the casting announcement Sunday morning at the executive session of his network’s portion of the TCA press tour.

NBC had great success last Christmas with their first Broadway re-do, The Sound of Music. Greenblatt did not name who would play Pan, but said in his post-conference scrum that it would be a woman. (Mary Martin starred in the original Broadway production as well as NBC’s televised version in the ’50s). He really wanted Kristen Bell, but she is expecting her second child and being swung around on stage on wires is not really recommended.

Resurgent NBC had plenty to crow about this press tour. They emerged No. 1 in A25 -54 and were up 10% in that demo year-to-year, the only broadcast network to show growth in 2013-14. They’re having a strong summer, too, with America’s Got Talent and their Ninja Warrior and Last Comic Standing efforts (all renewed already for next summer). The scripted series Night Shift is also off to a promising start. There’s been nothing but good news in late night, too, with both Fallon and Meyers trouncing the competition. Greenblatt says it is NBC’s strongest summer launch in 14 years.

Unfortunately, their Canadian summer pick-up, Working the Engels, did not contribute to that lift. The Andrea Martin starrer is no more popular in the U.S. than it was in Canada.

There was much discussion during the exec session about the Emmy Awards and the steep decline of broadcast nominations. Greenblatt stated the obvious, that cable enjoys a big award show advantage doing darker, cooler shows.  “At the end of the day, should we debate James Spader is one of the best actors working anywhere and didn’t nominated? Sure, we can debate that. I’m not sure what good that does.”

NBCUniversal Events - Season 2014
NBC chairman Robert Greenblatt

Greenblatt feels shot-in-Toronto Hannibal is a dark drama that would get plenty of Emmy attention if it was on cable. “We’re keeping it going” for a third season, he says, noting the series is still struggling to find a wide audience. “Three million might watch it on Showtime or 2 million on another cable network, and that’s okay. The minute you try to do something that is dark and subversive and frightening and gets into that territory, you start to peel away the mass audience. It’s just the way it is.”

Somebody who still cares asked about Celebrity Apprentice. Apparently there’s a whole season in the can that’s never been shown. It might turn up in a year’s time, or when Trump stops mouthing off about running for president, or never.

A few details about the upcoming Bill Cosby show were shared. The Cos’ will play a grandfather who goofs on his kids and grandkids. He’ll have three grown daughters. Mike O’Malley is among the producers and NBC hopes he’ll also  play a role in the series, perhaps as one of the spouses. “It’s just a classic, big extended family sitcom,” says NBC entertainment president Jennifer Salke.

There was talk, too, of single-camera vs multi-camera comedies. Just as Canadian networks seem to be embracing the form, it seems as if NBC has abandoned multi-cams this year with their new laffers Marry Me, A to Z and Bad Judge. Greenblatt says a generation of TV writers have grown up with single-cams shows like The Office and Modern Family and that’s all they want to do now.

NBC does have a couple of multi-cam studio audience comedies in development, including Undateable and One Big Happy; Ellen DeGeneres is a producer on the latter.

One Response to “NBC is back, baby, as TCA hits network stride”

  1. Ally Oop

    The only returning NBC show I’ll be watching is Parenthood, which is in its final season. I plan on checking out A to Z, State of Affairs, Emerald City, Allegiance, Constantine and Odyssey although of those, only State of Affairs has a timeslot that might do well. Everything else will likely sink.

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