Mariska Hargitay, Carson Daly
Mariska Hargitay will be lightening her workload during the next season of Law & Order: SVU, but NBC boss Robert Greenblatt says viewers won't be able to tell.
"You will not notice anything," Greenblatt said Monday, while speaking to reporters during NBC's fall TV preview session. He added that while the actress, who recently adopted a child, will be "lightening her load in terms of shooting days," her alter ego Olivia Benson won't be any less of a presence on-screen. (Benson will be promoted to a supervisor position in the 13th season, a shift that prompted headlines earlier this year suggesting Hargitay would be returning in only a reduced capacity.)
"I don't think anything is going to change on screen," Greenblatt said, adding that his goal is to have Hargitay remain on the show well beyond next season. "She's going to be in every episode." (At the same time, Christopher Meloni, who played Benson's partner Elliot Stabler, has left the series and new detectives have been brought in. They'll be played by Kelli Giddish and Danny Pino.)
Greenblatt also announced that the second season of singing competition The Voice — "a very welcome and unexpected hit" for the network — has landed TV's most coveted launch pad. It will return after the Super Bowl on Feb. 5. New series Smash, a musical starring Debra Messing, Anjelica Huston and American Idol runner-up Katharine McPhee, will premiere at 10/9c on Feb. 6, following the second episode of The Voice.
Elsewhere in news of NBC's more successful franchises, Greenblatt said he'd just attended a table reading for the new Steve Carell-less season of The Office and left confident that James Spader, who will play a new head of Dunder-Mifflin, could carry the banner, albeit a different one. "He the perfect fit in the mix... I think he is completely different than Steve. He's got his own iconoclastic acting style," Greenblatt said. "It will be a slight adjustment for the rest of the cast as things move around," but the transition has created a "refocused" writers room. In terms of ratings expectations, Greenblatt said he'd be "thrilled" if the show maintained its current levels of viewership.
Looking forward at NBC, Greenblatt outlined what's coming up, his hopes for a piece of the animation game and why he's not worried about The Playboy Club:
Sean Hayes, Michael Buble, Dick Wolf and Will Ferrell, have projects in the pipeline. Hayes is working on a comedy pilot in which he'll star. "It's early days, but we're honing in on an idea," Greenblatt said. "Sean is a good friend and I think it's time he came back" in front of the camera. (Hayes has kept busy as a producer on NBC's upcoming Grimm and TV Land's Hot in Cleveland.) Pop star Michael Buble, meanwhile, will star in a holiday special produced by Saturday Night Live maestro Lorne Michaels. Wolf is developing a firefighter drama for the network, and Ferrell and Adam McKay's Gary Sanchez Prods. (HBO's Eastbound and Down) have signed a deal to develop comedies.
NBC wants its own hit animated series. In the hopes of getting just that, the network and Universal Media Studios have signed Office creator Greg Daniels — whom Greenblatt referred to as "one of the founding fathers of our Thursday night comedy lineup" — to a development and production deal calling for him to develop shows in a variety of genres, but specifically in animation. Before The Office, Daniels created and executive produced Fox's King of the Hill.
Playboy problems? Last month, NBC's Salt Lake City affiliate KSL-TV said it would not carry NBC's upcoming drama The Playboy Club. The show has since laded a new home on KMYU, but the Parents Television Council is still urging other affiliates to drop the show. Greenblatt said he isn't worried. "Every other affiliate will be airing the show," he said, saying KSL-TV's decision didn't surprise him. "They don't program Saturday Night Live" either. And as far as the comparisons to Mad Men, Greenblatt said the confusing the two period dramas is unlikely. Playboy Club is "much more of an energized soap opera... I don't think it will feel like Mad Men when you ultimately see it," he said. "It's a fun soap with a mob element, a crime element..."
What's next for NBC? Check out Prime Suspect and Smash. Greenblatt pointed to the upcoming remake of Prime Suspect, starring Maria Bello as a tough detective trying to thrive in the boys of club of the police department, as a good example of the kinds of shows he's looking to put on NBC. (Greenblatt spent the past several years running programming for cable network Showtime.) "It's a big genre show, but it feels fresh," he said, explaining that it's a cop drama driven by a strong "iconoclastic" female lead in Bello's character. Another example is Smash, a mid-season drama from executive producer Steven Spielberg set against the mounting of a new Broadway show. It will feature original music (unlike the popular Top 40 fare found in Glee). "Smash may be the most adventurous show we do, and it may be the most narrow show we do," he said.
NBC is grateful for The Voice and The Sing-Off and The Biggest Loser, but... The network wants more scripted hits. While tipping his hat to America's Got Talent, which is in the middle of its strongest season ever, and The Voice, Greenblatt said "there's no negative to the reality stuff," but that he would also like to "rebalance" the schedule with "scripted shows that become long lasting hits. We're focused on that pretty extensively."