NBC didn't improve its overall ratings this past season, but network chairman Bob Greenblatt remains positive.
"How good is it to celebrate being flat? At this point in our business, flat is the new up," he said Saturday at the Television Critics Association fall previews. Greenblatt pointed out that the other Big 4 networks (ABC, CBS and FOX were all down ) and dubbed the 2012 season as the "Year of Improvement," citing that it was the network's most competitive season in the past nine years.
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NBC won 16 weeks this past season, up from the mere five weeks the previous season. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights improved over last year, and six shows, including The Voice and America's Got Talent, added 3 million viewers or more in time-shifted viewing.
Check out the rest of the highlights from the NBC executive session:
Events of the year Adding to its event limited series programming of A.D.: After the Bible, which was announced last month, NBC is developing four more major events. The first is a Hillary Clinton four-hour miniseries starring Diane Lane. Nope, President Bill Clinton hasn't been cast yet. Also expect an updated Rosemary's Baby, a series based on Stephen King's The Tommyknockers and Plymouth, a story about the landing of the pilgrims at Plymouth Rock.
Deep in the heart... Revolution's move to Austin for the second season was a decision made after the show felt it had mined shooting the exteriors in North Carolina. "This is a nomadic show with no standing sets," Greenblatt said. "The show and Warner Bros. thought it would be good to move to Texas for a second season."
In the game Part of NBC's "event" strategy includes more live programming, such as The Million Second Quiz, which is a 'round the clock game show that runs for two weeks. "At its heart it's a test of endurance," Paul Telegdy, NBC's head of alterenative and late-night programming said, "a David and Goliath story as champions are unseated."
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Out of fashion Sorry, but Fashion Star is dead. "We didn't renew it and didn't put it on the schedule," Greenblatt confirmed.
Canceled comedies NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke acknowledged a less tolerance for struggling comedies, but expressed disappointment that Ryan Murphy's comedy The New Normal never really clicked with viewers, despite critical acclaim. She noted that in each episode, Murphy tried to push through an idea "in a more issue-oriented way" that may not have helped its ratings. As for the Matthew Perry vehicle Go On, Greenblatt addressed its move to Thursday nights. "It really fell off big from January on, he said. "The Thursday night [shift] was just an attempt to see, 'Well, maybe we can get some interest elsewhere,' and it didn't do any better. It wasn't just a Thursday airing that we thought, 'Oh it's not going to work.' It started to lose its ground months before that."
Family-oriented Thursdays Speaking of what is arguably the most competitive weeknight on television, Greenblatt defended placing The Michael J. Fox Show in the 9:30/8:30c slot by trying to "build a family night with family shows... leading into Parenthood at 10 p.m." As for Parenthood's chances of faring well in a timeslot that puts it in direct competition with ABC's Scandal and CBS' Elementary, he added, "The competition is really tough all over the place, so we're always worried about it. At a certain point you just have to look at your own lineup and do the best you can. Scandal is a big hit show. It's a hard thing to go against, but we have to do something to come back to that Thursday 10 o'clock time period and we thought we'd move a show that we love that seems to have a strong following."
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Farewell, Jay Leno Although Leno will be leaving The Tonight Show, making room for Jimmy Fallon, there has been an uptick in his ratings. "We predicted that when we announced his final year there would be a ratings boost [as a farewell], " Greenblatt said. "We'd love him to stay on at NBC in some capacity" a la Bob Hope, but nothing official has been decided. He added, "We really believe in Jimmy Fallon. ... He's seasoned, he's a Grammy winner, he's an Emmy winner, he's ready to go. It seemed like this is the right time to do it."
Saturday Night Live shakeup Although the late-night sketch comedy show recently lost Jason Sudeikis, Fred Armisen and Bill Hader, Greenblatt isn't worried for the new season. "SNL goes through these upheavals every few years. Lorne Michaels is really good at re-seasoning ... we're confident that he's going to do that again for us. It is what it is. He's hunkered down and doing the job looking for the next generation."
Hannibal lives on Despite Hannibal's mediocre ratings, NBC renewed it for a second season. "We recognize that the show really pushes the envelope a lot," Salke said. "We wanted to send a message to [executive producer] Bryan Fuller and [director] David Slade that we support a huge, risky event like that."
"Thank Grimm It's Friday" Although Grimm's move to Tuesday helped boost NBC's performance on that night, the network shifted it back to Friday, leading into the new drama Dracula. "Every time we move it ... we hear it from people, 'Why take it off Friday?'" Greenblatt said. "We took it to heart and we tried to build a night with a little more genre with Dracula. ... we felt a genre thing has juice on Friday night."
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All vamped up "I'll take any vampire fans I can get," Greenblatt said about picking up Dracula, a show he feels isn't too graphic for broadcast. Salke added, "When he's not eating the people, it gets a lot less graphic ... fans are used to seeing vamps feed, not fileting a body organs like in Hannibal. It's romantic, epic."
Lack of female leads Greenblatt conceded that NBC had developed several female-oriented shows, but didn't put them on the schedule. Salke pointed out that Betsy Brandt's character, who plays Michael J. Fox's wife on his comedy, shares equal screentime with him.
Celebrity Apprentice's future Another season hasn't been greenlit yet because Telegdy said casting is a process that requires "restocking of the celebrity pond." He added that despite host Donald Trump's controversial, outspoken nature, the network supports his right to free speech. "He is in the business of creating his own headlines, and we are in the business of creating ours."
Are you excited about NBC's new season? What will you watch? What will you miss?