NBC: Greenblatt Wants To Find His New 'Voice'Network’s new entertainment chief strives to nurture hit singing competition while launching 12 rookies 5/23/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern
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STRATEGY: Hoping to stoke a turnaround by opening a new night of
comedy and holding some assets—including rare NBC hit The Voice—
Battling against the high expectations many in the industry
have for him may be the toughest task facing new
NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt, but at
least he already heads into next season with a new bullet
in his gun. So it seems savvy that Greenblatt says despite
announcing 12 new series for 2011-12, his top priority is
nurturing The Voice so that it has a long-term shelf life.
While Greenblatt would love to find a new hit among
the dozen rookies, he’s made it clear there’s only so much
that can be done in one season.
And he won’t say this, so we will:
Since a lot of NBC’s development
slate was under way before he
came in with the new Comcast
management, he will get something
of a pass if the fall tanks. So
for next season, Greenblatt’s goals
are turning The Voice into a multiyear
juggernaut and expanding
comedy beyond Thursdays.
Cementing some longevity for
The Voice was a big driver for holding
the singing competition until
midseason, when it will take over
the Monday 8-10 slot from The Sing-Off, establishing the
night as a season-long destination for the genre. Sound
familiar? It’s what Fox is doing with the twin scheduling
of American Idol and The X Factor. Hot pilot Smash, which
Greenblatt brought from Showtime, will be held for midseason
to get the plum post-Voice lead-in, a good thematic
and audience companion for the musical drama.
The Sing-Off has performed solidly in short December
runs the past two years, “getting a sizable audience with
no promotion and no marketing,” Greenblatt told B&C,
earning the show a weekly-format berth next season.
Greenblatt’s other big play is opening up a new night of
comedy on Wednesdays. Two new comedies, Up All Night
and Free Agents, will anchor the new block; Greenblatt is
hoping the sitcom chops of stars Christina Applegate and
Hank Azaria will be enough to make these shows selfstarters.
“We’re not fooling ourselves—it isn’t going to be
easy,” he told B&C. “We’re going to have to be patient and
spend a fair amount of money trying to get an audience
to that time period in comedy.”
Launching new dramas has been a headache for NBC
as of late, as none (count ’em, none) of last fall’s five rookie
dramas survived; midseason entry Harry’s Law, which
execs admit was an accidental success, is the only one
returning. Four of NBC’s six new dramas will air at 10
p.m., a tricky time period for all of the nets. The Playboy
Club will get the post Sing-Off slot in fall; Smash and The
Firm will premiere in midseason; and Prime Suspect will
take the hour on Thursdays (the spot once occupied by
ER), in a bid to reestablish the night for NBC.
Following in the footsteps of Fox and CBS, NBC will
schedule scripted programming on Fridays this fall,
shifting perennial bubble show Chuck from Mondays
to Fridays for the series’ 13-episode final season, leading
into new fantasy drama Grimm. “I thought if we
have a chance of transporting an audience to Friday
night, it might be with something that has a real loyal
following,” Greenblatt said.
Other new series slated for midseason, but not yet
scheduled, are drama Awake and comedies Are You There
Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea; Best Friends Forever; and Bent.
With so much change in the schedule, it was necessary
to keep some elements in place, Greenblatt said. Tuesday
is returning intact with The Biggest Loser and Parenthood,
as is much of the Thursday comedy block, with Community,
Parks & Recreation and The Office leading into new
laffer Whitney (30 Rock will return in midseason).
Sunday Night Football also remains scheduled for the
fall, although NBC has a contingency plan to produce
“high-quality, live-event reality shows” to fill out the
Sunday lineup should the return of the football season
be delayed due to labor negotiations. If the net doesn’t
end up needing the shows for Sundays, they could be
used as filler for scripted shows that flop. “There are
any number of places they could go,” Greenblatt said.