If this year was the warm up, next season will be the true test of NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt's command at the troubled network. Greenblatt and his key lieutenant, NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Nicholson Salke, have ordered a whopping seven new comedies and five dramas.
NBC's marketing department is going to be busy this fall. The network will rely on its Summer Olympics coverage to launch some of those new shows, and hopes to use the power of The Voice to launch others. "We've got a lot of bricks for the new house that we're building," says one insider. Here's a short Q&A with Greenblatt about his plans for next year.
TV Guide Magazine: You showed restraint this season in waiting until January to bring back The Voice. Why air it again so soon in the fall?
Bob Greenblatt: This year was borne more out of not putting on the show in the fall so soon after it ended its first season. We were always thinking about having two cycles down the road, we just didn't want it too early. We wanted to expand the format, see how that played out, and we just feel like, how can we not deploy our strongest show in two cycles? Like every other reality show does.
TV Guide Magazine: What are some of the changes? Are all the judges returning for both cycles?
Bob Greenblatt: We've got deals with all the judges for the next two cycles. And we will be figuring out shortly about all their scheduling and touring and recording needs. Doing two cycles a year I think is not something they contemplated in first go round. So we've got to figure that out. But I'm hoping they'll all be back and we're going to continue to refine the show so we get the best version of it. We've got great changes afoot for the battle rounds and a number of episodes where you'll get to see the contestants perform week after week. We're talking about being really smart about further refining the format.
How is NBC's comedy strategy changing? Talk about the decision to open up Tuesday and Friday.
Bob Greenblatt: Comedy is king for me, it's the genre that everyone loves. These things go in waves but there is a big comedy boom now. We just had a great, great season of development with our comedy pilots. We have a new comedy team and certainly Jen Salke, our new president. They had a great year, and there are actually more pilots we're not picking up that that I could easily pick up.
TV Guide Magazine: You're already picking up quite a few though, looking at the volume of your orders. This is going to be a busy year for your marketing department.
Bob Greenblatt: But here's the thing, let's look at what you mean when you say "volume." There are only six new shows on the fall schedule. That's fewer than we had last year and certainly less than other networks have had in the past. And the way we're scheduling these, I think they have a fighting chance at succeeding. Certainly we'll spend an enormous amount of money marketing them. But the priority of those Tuesday night comedies [Go On and The New Normal] in the 9:00 hour come out of the lead-in of The Voice, which will give them a fighting chance. There's only two more comedies on the fall schedule [Animal Practice and Guys With Kids], and they are at 8:00 on Wednesday, where we've actually had some traction. They happen to be two shows that are very accessible, broad, big family comedy ideas. One of them through Jimmy Fallon and the other driven by a monkey that is probably going to be the most talked-about character on our new season. And then a drama and a strong lead-in on Monday behind The Voice for J.J. Abrams [Revolution] and a new Dick Wolf show [Chicago Fire]. We've got a lot of volume for midseason, but that hopefully will be deployed very intelligently as well. But for the fall, we were very smart. There are a lot of moves, but they have a lot of potential help with their lead-ins.
TV Guide Magazine: What's your report card on Smash? It's not on the fall schedule. How will it evolve with a new showrunner?
Bob Greenblatt: It is not on fall schedule primarily because were going to give a new drama The Voice lead in, that was just a given. When I look at the reality of getting this show delivered week in and week out without using a lot of preemptions, it just became a bad checkerboard of repeats and originals in the fall. And we decided, let's do what we did this year, a run of episodes, clear, no repeats and give it the opportunity to grow. Creatively I couldn't be more excited. We've got Josh Safran coming in [as new showrunner] and everyone else is still there. I think it will only improve in terms of storytelling.
TV Guide Magazine: What was your one note to Josh coming in to Smash?
Bob Greenblatt: It was, keep the essence of what we love about the show but we've got to tell more compelling, arced stories for the characters.