As part of the TCA Press Tour presentation for NBC, Chairman of NBC Entertainment Robert Greenblatt and President of Entertainment Jennifer Salke took some time to talk about their comedies and dramas, both with their present line-up and what’s to come. During this interview, they touched on when viewers might expect to see Hannibal (from show creator Bryan Fuller and starring Hugh Dancy as Special Agent Will Graham and Mads Mikkelsen as Dr. Hannibal Lecter), how they’re going into production on Dracula (with Jonathan Rhys Meyers in the lead role) and pre-production on the Blackbeard series Crossbones (from Luther creator Neil Cross), how they approach violence in their programming, their upcoming series with Michael J. Fox, their approach to keeping people aware of Revolution, after a four-month hiatus, and how they feel about the changes to Season 2 of Smash. Check out what they had to say after the jump.
ROBERT GREENBLATT: We have four major scripted series debuting within the next four weeks, with the premieres of Deception, 1600 Penn and Do No Harm, and the return of the second season of Smash. Beyond that, we also have Hannibal and Save Me, which might hit the schedule before the season is over, pending how everything else plays out. And we go into production on Dracula, with Jonathan Rhys Meyers, in a couple of months, with that show being ready for Fall. Plus, we’re in early pre-production on Crossbones, our big Blackbeard series that was created by Neil Cross.
If Hannibal doesn’t premiere by the end of this season, will you hold it for Summer or Fall?
GREENBLATT: It’s to be determined on the scheduling of it. It could be a summer show. When you look at all the great cable shows that are on in the summer, I think it could fit really nicely in that world. It’s really well-crafted.
What is the approach of that show?
JENNIFER SALKE: It’s very unique. With Bryan Fuller’s imagination and the production value that he’s brought to a procedural show, which obviously has on-going serialized aspects, it’s like a procedural you’ve never seen before. There’s a lot of big fans of it. So, we haven’t decided what to do with it yet, but we do love it. The character that you’ll be following is the Will Graham character, who has to be pulled into these violent crimes, and they take an incredible toll on him. He’s the definition of a gentle soul, who’s really sensitive. It’s not a shoot ‘em up show. It’s really difficult to explain because it’s incredibly unique. But, it’s not gratuitous, in the way you might be thinking.
GREENBLATT: Obviously, we were all stricken, as everyone was, with that horrible tragedy [in Newtown], as well as all of the other tragedies that we’ve seen over the last few years. I think it weighs on all of us. Most people at this network have children and really care about the shows that we’re putting out there, so it’s always on our mind. This just really brought it to the forefront. Parenthood is a really great example of a show about a family who love each other and grapple with all of the issues in life. So, we’re conscious of the amount of violence and the amount of edge in our shows. Obviously, in the cable world, you can do all kinds of things that are no-holds-barred. There are still a lot of parameters in broadcast television that we think about, not only as a company that has responsibilities to the FCC, but as people who have families.
SALKE: We are able to look at individual episodes, strategically and ahead of time, and really try to make the best decision for those episodes without strangling creators, but being responsible and respectful.
Is the Michael J. Fox show just a pilot, or is it going straight to series?
SALKE: It is going straight into series, so it’s a first episode, and then they’ll move forward from there.
What is that show about?
SALKE: It’s an incredible show. Michael came in and pitched us the show, and it’s completely inspired by his life as a father and a husband and a family man who is grappling with his disease. In this case, he’s not an actor, but he’s a newscaster who’s recently stepped down, at the beginning of the pilot, to deal with his disease. As is true in Michael’s life, there is a new medication that he’s taken that’s enabled him to really function in a way that’s much more acceptable to him to be able to put himself out there. So, the story of the pilot is actually him coming back into the seat at the news with a special-interest story and a lot of great, fun guest casting and the family rallying around him. At the end of the day, he approaches his life and his work with a lot of irreverence, and he laughs at himself and his kids joke about him. People have deified him and put him on a pedestal in the world, and his family has a lot of fun with that, as does he.
The track record of serialized dramas going off the air for several months, and then coming back, is pretty much uniformly terrible. How are you going to keep people aware that Revolution is coming back, and what are you going to do to bring the audience back in the Spring?
GREENBLATT: Is it uniformly terrible or just uniformly terrible for terrible shows? The safer play for us was to make sure Revolution was strong and continues strong for the next few years. We didn’t want to put on one episode in January, and then have three repeats, and then have two more episodes, and try to stretch the last 10 episodes through four months of the schedule. Without trying to make this a bigger headline than it should be, it’s a little bit more of a cable model. With cable, the audience is fine to see two seasons of Breaking Bad, with eight episodes in December and then 10 episodes in June. If you market it properly and have the goods, and then you can run them all in a row without repeats, I actually think that’s the better long-term play.
In terms of revamping, what are your expectations for Smash and how do you feel about what Josh Safran has done to change the show?
GREENBLATT: We’re very excited about the second season. My only worry is not having as strong a lead-in as it had the first season. The show was an unqualified success for us, in its first season, and all I want to do is continue that into the second season. In some big ways, it’s a different show, but it is also very much the same show, which you’ll see more about as it unfolds.