NBC Day One: The Networks Move In

Something changes at TV Critics Press tour once the broadcast networks move in.

After a week of cable and public television offerings of all kinds of things – series, movies, documentaries and events – here comes full days dedicated largely to the new shows of the fall schedules.

Security increases. Dozens of guys in dark suits representing the network show up, adding a pall to the event. Branding goes bananas. And the shows, sadly, are not quite as good.

The big networks that ought to set the tone for broadcasting excellence instead are racing to hew a middle-of-the-road path.

Recently installed NBC entertainment chief Robert Greenblatt came to the network from Showtime, where he reinvigorated programming there.

But coming to badly wounded, fourth-place NBC six months ago, he pretty much inherited their development schedule and was left to choose, tweak and cast to make it what he could.

The results show a couple of highlights in among comedies with Christina Applegate and Will Arnett in the baby series “Up All Night,” and Whitney Cummings, whom Greenblatt called the new “It girl” in the title role of “Whitney,” one of two comedies she’s on this fall (though the only one on NBC).

As much respect as he has in the TV community, Greenblatt isn’t quite a dynamic presence on press tour. In a beige sports jacket and soft voice, with no jokes or cutting remarks about other networks, he’s quite different from previous NBC heads (didn’t Jeff Zucker used to employ fireworks in his presentation).

But he might just be overwhelmed.

“I made more pilots in this past pilot season than in the last seven years working at Showtime,” he sais, “which is not a joke.”

He made a few announcements: A development deal with Greg Daniels (“The Office”) that will include animation (he’s formerly with “The Simpsons”); the rebuilding of NBC Universal Studios, the return of Sean Hayes to star in a comedy; Adam Levine, the coach on “The Voice,” in development for a new show as well – and a Christmas special from Michael Buble.

But mostly he introduced the long and mostly deadly panels of the day. “The Playboy Club,” meant to be the example of “injecting excitement into the schedule” instead looked like a bad “Mad Men” period piece with teensy costumes for women and a lot of bogus talk of empowerment.

“Free Agents,” a comedy with Hank Azaria about a newly dating divorcee, seemed a little better, but trying too hard. It’s an adaptation of a British series, where the constant sexual references don’t seem quite so out of place. “Up All Night” seems to be a hit, despite its Wednesday night placement; its retooling to change Maya Rudolph’s job to a talk show host seems calculated to use her talents even more; Christina Applegate who plays the mom in the comedy, will now be her producer.

And “Prime Suspect,” which Greenblatt calls “a really good example of the kind of franchise show that feels fresh” was held up as the kind of show he wants to do.

But despite the name, the procedural has little to do with the Helen Mirren original except for a female detective at its center.

“The next session will be grim,” a PR person said. But he was referring to the Friday night fantasy also within a cop show, “Grimm.”

The day of panels ended with the retooled staff of “The Sing Off” which will expand to a full season and add Sara Bareilles to the judging panel after Nicole Scherzinger left to judge “The X Factor.”

The NBC party was a way upscale party at a hot restaurant Bazaar that featured stars of the various Universal cable properties including the casts of the NBC show. And if Greenblatt was in the crowd, he didn’t stand out.

This entry was posted in General. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.