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NBC Does Not Take Responsibility for Donald Trump

Who knew The Apprentice could lead to this?

Megan Vick

Donald Trump was a public figure long before selling The Apprentice to NBC, but there's no doubt the reality show turned him into a national celebrity.

Does that make NBC responsible for Trump's current presidential campaign? NBC president Robert Greenblatt doesn't think so.

"We were happy to have a show that was doing really well, with a guy who was a big TV star. It's impossible to predict where it goes from there," Greenblatt said in response to a reporter's question during the Television Critics Association fall previews on Tuesday. "It surprised us, where it went from there. I don't think there's a correlation from one to the other. It is interesting he went from one to the other."

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The Apprentice may have helped make Donald Trump a household name in middle America, but at the end of the day, it's the voters and the press that put him on the podium he has now.

Greenblatt also added that, should Trump lose the election in November and wish to return to his television career, he would "never" be allowed back on The Apprentice, as long as Greenblatt's running the network.

Here are the other highlights from the NBC panel.

1. Why Heroes: Reborn didn't work: NBC is definitely on the reboot bandwagon, but the peacock network struggled to find success with a Heroes revival series. Greenblatt admits that Heroes: Reborndidn't have the success NBC hoped for because it tried to reboot the whole premise instead of bringing back the full original cast.

"It's a lot easier and you get a big head start if you bring the original cast break. [Fox's] The X-Filesand Prison Break are almost foolproof if you get those stars," he said. "Doing something like Heroes, which was a complete new set of characters, and starting the story over is a lot more difficult."

2. More movies as TV shows: Despite the lackluster response to Heroes, NBC is still leaning into the reboot bandwagon, specifically with turning popular movies into TV shows. Greenblatt confirms that the network's take on Aaron Sorkin's A Few Good Men is still in the works, but producers are still a few weeks away from announcing the casting for the parts famously played by Tom Cruise and Kevin Bacon.

NBC also still has a television version of Takenin the works, but with a different spin. "Taken is the same character, but he's 30 years younger. You're seeing the origin of where that Liam Neeson character came from, but it's set in the present day," Greenblatt said. "We love that character and we love that imagining of where he came from and how he became who he is."

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3. The state of comedy at NBC: Comedy has had a hard time at NBC since the collapse of Must-See TV Thursdays a few years ago. The network is hoping to revitalize the comedy brand with unique shows like Superstore and Mike Schur's The Good Place.
The thing we learn about comedy every single season is that, it's a really hard genre to watch no matter how good the shows are. We're trying to be very strategic about it," Greenblatt explained. "We think that Superstore is really something special. It did extraordinarily well at 8 o'clock in January on Monday night."

Now, NBC is moving Superstore to Thursdays, "which we know is a tricky night," Greenblatt admits. "CBS has Thursday Night Football for the first few weeks, which means at 8 o'clock there's an open window for comedy. Let's see what happens there."

4. Maya and Marty may return: NBC aired six episodes of the variety series Maya and Marty this summer in hopes of finding better success with the format than it did with Neil Patrick Harris' Best Time Ever. The show wasn't a summer blockbuster, but the NBC team is taking a step back and evaluating what to change for a hopeful Season 2.

"We were pretty pleased with the ratings. You always wish for more ratings. It did well. Can you sustain that?" Greenblatt said. "Is there a different way we can come at it? We're in that phase of taking a step back and doing a postmortem."