NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt spoke publicly for the first time about the decision to scrap the planned comedy with Bill Cosby. During his executive session at the TCA winter press tour Friday, Greenblatt said the high number of rape allegations directed toward Cosby compelled him to scrap the project.
“Fifteen women came out and accused him of what they accused him of,” Greenblatt said in response to a question about why NBC stopped development on the project. “We’d heard some of those accusations and we knew there were a couple of settlements and what not. It didn’t seem to be the sort of thing that was critical mass. When we realized that there seemed to be so much more of it, it wasn’t something where we could be like ‘Oh, we’re not sure.’” Saying he didn’t “want to be the one that says guilty until proven innocent,” he added, “But when that many people come out and have similar complaints and it becomes such a tainted situation, there was just no way to go forward.”
A first draft of the script was never delivered on the project.
When one reporter asked how many allegations it took to reach critical mass, Greenblatt responded, echoing part of the question “Yeah, you want me to put a number on it? Fifteen yes, two no.” As the back-and-forth continued, Greenblatt said, “All I can tell you is there’s a lot of people who have been in business with Cosby for 25 years, and go ask them the same question. I just answered what I could answer. I didn’t think it was a problem until it became, you know, critical.”
The Cosby issue was broached in Greenblatt’s opening remarks, when he joked, “First I want to say were developing a series with Bill Cosby and a miniseries about Hillary Clinton.” The first Cosby question came a few minutes later when Greenblatt was asked whether it was safe to say that the network would never work with Cosby again. “Yes, I think that’s safe to say,” he responded.
Greenblatt also acknowledged NBC’s struggles to establish new comedies. “I’m here to tell you that we are really challenged with the comedy brand that we’re trying to build on the network,” he said. With freshmen A to Z and Bad Judge already canceled, sophomore About a Boy posting poor ratings, and lone bright spot Parks & Recreation heading into its final season, the network is looking to shift from single-camera comedies to multi-cameras.
“Some of the best shows on NBC in its history were multi-cams,” Greenblatt said. “We drifted into single-camera territory for the right reasons. We’re going to try some multicams now.”
With The Blacklist slated to move to Thursday nights in February, Greenblatt is prepared for the possibility that the show’s live-plus-same day ratings will take a hit. He spoke to the importance of strengthening Thursday night, where the network has performed poorly in recent seasons’ ratings, for advertisers and, by extension, for the network.
“We think that while the move of Blacklist is certainly risky, the only way to realy reinvigorate that night is jump start it with something like The Blacklist,” he said, comparing the move to similar ones made in the past by CSI at CBS, Grey's Anatomy at ABC and The Simpsons at Fox. “The audience is going to shift the show and watch it when the want. Hopefully it will be a big enough live number to help turn the tide on that night.”
Greenblatt said NBC has picked up the option for 1978 Universal film The Wiz and is considering producing a live musical version of either it or The Music Man this year. Either would be the third live musical for NBC in as many years. Asked whether it was a good idea to schedule the three-hour version of Peter Pan — which NBC aired in December — on a school night, Greenblatt joked, “Well, let me answer the Bill Cosby question.” He went on to say that while ratings fell short of what The Sound of Music garnered in 2013, “I really didn’t expect that they would be, because I never really expected The Sound of the Music would be what it was.”
Other highlights from session included:
• NBC entertainment president Jennifer Salke, who joined Greenblatt onstage, said the network is considering experimenting with new comedy formats as it looks to reestablish itself in the genre. “We’re talking about doing a live comedy. We’re talking about what’s a limited comedy series that we could attract big stars to.”
• Discussing freshman comic-book adaptation Constantine, which never received a full-season order but has not yet been officially canceled, Greenblatt said, “We got on the bandwagon of these shows based on comic books. Maybe there are too many of them. It’s a popular series of comic books, but it’s not The Flash. It’s not Batman.”
• Greenblatt said “the odds are great” that dramas Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D. will be renewed. Of a possible Chicago Med spinoff, he said the network is in the early stages of “seeing if there’s a show there that could spin off into itself.”
• Greenblatt said that drama Hannibal "is going to be back in the summer." The series' third season had yet to be scheduled.