NBC’s Robert Greenblatt Talks About the Future of the Network; Updates on THE OFFICE, PLAYBOY CLUB, THE VOICE and More

     August 2, 2011

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Prior to the NBC presentation at the TCA Press Tour, the networks new Chairman of Entertainment, Robert Greenblatt gave a glimpse of what he sees in the future of what is currently the fourth place network. Here are the most interesting points:

  • NBC has made development deals with both executive producer/writer/director Greg Daniels (The Office, Parks & Recreation) and Gary Sanchez Productions (the production company of Adam McKay and Will Ferrell).
  • Sean Hayes will be stepping back in front of the camera for an NBC comedy in 2012, while a one-hour drama about firefighters is being developed with Dick Wolf (Law & Order).
  • The hit singing competition The Voice will return on February 5th, following the Super Bowl, and the mid-season musical drama Smash, from executive producer Steven Spielberg, will premiere on February 6th
  • Greenblatt was not surprised by the controversy caused by The Playboy Club, as the brand name can be polarizing for people.
  • NBC is hoping to under-expect but over-deliver on the upcoming season of The Office, with all of the changes and the addition of James Spader to the cast.
  • The Office is important to the network, but they are approaching it with realistic expectations while the writers work to refocus what the show will now be.
  • The goal is to expand comedy to more nights than just Thursday, and make multi-camera comedy shows popular again.

Hit the jump for a lot more:

Formerly President of Entertainment for Showtime Networks, Greenblatt has been in his new position at NBC for six months now, after being dropped into pilot season at the end of January. Since then, they’ve made a major new development and production deal with Greg Daniels – one of the founding fathers of our Thursday-night comedy lineup, with The Office and Parks & Rec – to develop all kinds of programming, but with an emphasis on animation. They’ve also just made a deal with Gary Sanchez Productions, the production company of Adam McKay and Will Ferrell, which is their first deal with a broadcast network.

Additionally, the network is in early development with Sean Hayes to come back in front of the camera, in a comedy for NBC next year. And, they are working on a new one-hour drama concept about firefighters, with Dick Wolf and Danielle Gelber, and written by Michael Brandt and Derek Haas.

NBC’s most recent hit, The Voice, will premiere its second season following the Super Bowl on February 5th, with a two-hour installment the following night, which will lead into the premiere of the highly anticipated musical series Smash, from executive producer Steven Spielberg.

Here are some highlights from the interview portion:

Question: Other than the one station, do you have any indication that anybody has a problem with The Playboy Club? What was your reaction to that?

GREENBLATT: I think every other affiliate will be airing the show and on board. I guess I wasn’t completely surprised. That brand name is a little polarizing, even though I think the show isn’t at all that revealing. But, that station in Utah doesn’t program Saturday Night Live. When you look at that market, they have decisions to make for their own audiences, and it didn’t really surprise me. But, I think everything else will be intact.

Why do you think something like The Playboy Club will be broad enough to be a network hit, when a cable show like Mad Men doesn’t get high ratings?

GREENBLATT: I have great respect for Mad Men, but in spite of the setting and the period being similar, The Playboy Club is much more of an energized soap opera, which is a genre that works really well. The tricky thing with soaps is the repeatability. But, I don’t think The Playboy Club will feel like Mad Men when you ultimately see it. What I think it has going for it is a recognizable brand that’s automatically going to draw attention to it, good or bad. It’s a really fun soap that has a mod element and a crime element, so I think it’s the right kind of thing for us to try.

What are your expectations for The Office, moving forward with the new lead and the changes there?

GREENBLATT: My expectations are always very measured, so that we can under-expect and hopefully over-deliver. The Office is very important to us. It’s our #1 show, in all kinds of demos. Shows go through transitions as they age, and losing Steve [Carell] is one of those. I was at the first two episodes’ table reading a couple weeks ago, and I think James Spader is completely different than Steve. His own iconoclastic acting style is really unique, and I think he’s the perfect fit in that mix. It will cause some slight adjustments for the rest of the cast, as things move around. There are some new actors coming in, besides Spader. But, the glass is always half-full for me, when you look at creatively reinventing something or going through a transition. I think it makes the writing staff get back on their game, and everybody has to refocus on what the show is. I would be thrilled if it continued to do what it was doing, even though as shows age, they usually erode. We will have to see what happens without Steve, who we all think the world of.

the-office-james-spader-sliceWhat can you say about the other new actors joining The Office?

GREENBLATT: I don’t mean to be coy. This is a playground for really extraordinary comedy actors, which you saw in the last few episodes, where we had everybody from Will Arnett to just this list of people that came. I think there’s going to be a few people that are going to come and guest-star, as the season goes on. There are probably some names of comedic actors that are not that well known, that are in the comedy community, that are going to show up on the show.

Is there a show that epitomizes what you’re looking for, in the future?

smash-nbc-logoGREENBLATT: I inherited most of the shows that were in development, but I think Prime Suspect is a really good example of the kind of franchise show that feels fresh because we put a very iconoclastic character in the center of it, and it has a directorial vision and a writers’ vision in it. I think we’re going to try a lot of different things. I don’t know that I could land on one thing. Smash is a show that is maybe the most adventurous show that we have, and it ultimately may be the most narrow show we do. It’s hard to know where we’re going to come out on the continuum there.

What are your overall plans and view of comedy?

GREENBLATT: Comedy is a goal for us. We’ve got to have more of it, and we’ve got to transplant it off of Thursday. I’m really eager to see if we can bring respectability back to the multi-cam, which seems to have been, aside from CBS, almost a dirty word. We’re trying that with Whitney and Chelsea, later on in the year. If I had my dream scenario, we would be putting new comedies on Wednesday, in the fray of what that lineup is on ABC. With Christina Applegate, Will Arnett, Maya Rudolph and Lorne Michaels, we have as good a bet as we can make on Wednesday night. We have to be patient and put the amount of marketing into it that we need to, and just hope we can get a foothold.

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