NBC Chairman Robert Greenblatt is pleased with the network's third-place finish for the 2011-2012 season and is looking forward to the Olympics and fall. "We had a great spring. I couldn't be happier with what happened," he told reporters assembled for the the Television Critics Association's fall previews Tuesday.
Part of that optimism will extend to how the network will utilize the Summer Olympics as a springboard to promote full episodes of its fall shows, revamping The Voice, Community and Smash and re-evaluating its overall comedy strategy. Let's break it down:
Olympics sampling: Prior to the official premieres of its new fall shows, NBC plans to offer full-episode, commercial-free samplings of comedies Go On on Aug. 8 and Animal Practice on Aug. 12 during the Olympics. In addition, a special six-minute tease of the fall drama Revolution will air on Saturday, Aug. 4 following the swimming competition, which NBC hopes will feature U.S. gold medalist Michael Phelps, should he make it that far in the competition.
Rocking the vote: NBC has planned two Saturday Night Live election-themed specials for Thursday, Sept. 20 and Sept. 27.
The Voice, now with more chair action! "It's a challenge for anyone producing one of these shows to keep it fresh or keep it vibrant," said Paul Telegdy, who heads unscripted and late-night. "We think we've thought of some ways to do that [involving the] buttons and chairs ... We've found ways to keep the competition between the judges going through the latter stages of the competition." He also pointed out that Season 2 champ Jermaine Paul had yet to release his album, therefore his post-win success could not yet be gauged. "In terms of returning the focus of the show to the contestants, that's obviously something that we discuss with the talent and we're confident that we have a plan for The Voice," he added.
Community's 13-episode pick-up, move to Fridays: The limited-episode order allows the network to get more comedies on the schedule, "which isn't to say that we couldn't at some point decide to extend those seasons later," Greenblatt said. "I would love nothing more than for Community to have a following on Friday and be able to continue it." On the firing of creator Dan Harmon, Greenblatt would only say, "Every so often it's time to make a change with a showrunner. Sometimes you want to freshen a show, no disrespect to anyone."
Comedy strategy: Greenblatt also noted that the Thursday comedies are a bit narrow, and that NBC will be seeking to broaden their comedy programming appeal. Jennifer Salke, president of NBC Entertainment, agreed, saying NBC is in an "awkward stage" regarding its comedy brand. She described three new comedies thusly: The New Normal is Glee creator Ryan Murphy's "love letter to families" and is "warm-hearted and accessible"; Animal Practice is the network's effort to work animals organically into a show; and Go On is a "soulful comedy that can make you laugh, make you cry."
Smash, Season 2: "I'm gonna say this for the record: I'm inordinately proud of Smash on so many levels," Greenblatt said, "but the complexity of producing that show every week is incredible. That said, it's a big soap with a number of characters and arcing story lines. And with every soap, every season, relationships end... I think we were inconsistent, going back and forth with some things... We just started shooting Episode 1, there are some great new story lines and we're really excited about it." Also, Jennifer Hudson was confirmed to appear in three of the first four episodes when the show returns.
What do you think of NBC's comedy strategy? Do you think revamping The Voice and Smash will help?