Nellie Andreeva

NBC topper Bob Greenblatt had a message for his Fox counterpart Kevin Reilly who, in a moment of unfiltered honesty during a recent HRTS luncheon said about network executives, “A lot of us have our head up our asses.” From his perch of leading the No.1 network in adults 18-49 this fall, Greenblatt declared, “That may be true at the other places but I can guarantee you we don’t have our heads up our asses.”

The barb came during Greenblatt’s opening remarks at TCA where NBC’s ratings turnaround was front and center. “What a difference a year makes,” Greenblatt said upon taking the stage this morning. “Last year I came out and said we had a really shitty fall. Well, I’m not saying that now.” He went on to “bore you with statistics (about NBC’s improbable fall reign) because I’m not sure when I’m going to have a chance to do it again.” The network is facing rough sledding in the first quarter without The Voice and Revolution, and Greenblatt was cautious about his expectations for the ratings performance in the next three months while also touting NBC’s “very robust midseason plan.”

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Overall, “we’re ramping up production dramatically,” Greenblatt said, giving updates on some of the network’s upcoming shows. The network is gearing up for the first table read on the Michael J. Fox comedy, which will premiere in the fall, with drama Dracula also eying a fall launch. The Michael J. Fox show, which will produce the first episode of its 22-episode order, followed by a break before filming on the rest of the episodes, stars Fox as a family man who, like the actor, is grappling with a disease. Having stepped down from a job as a local news anchor, the character, also like Fox, is returning to work after a new medication helps him manage the effects of his illness. “He approaches his life and his work with a lot of irreverence,” NBC entertainment president Jennifer Salke said. The network is in early pre-production on pirate drama Crossbones, while Hannibal Lecter series Hannibal is well into production on its 13-episode order. The two may be summoned later this season if programming needs arise. If not, Hannibal is a possibility for summer, Greenblatt said.

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NBC brass said they are not worried by the move of ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live to 11:30 PM where it will go toe-to-toe with The Tonight Show With Jay Leno. “The reason we’re not so concerned is Jay’s legacy as the incumbent No.1,” Greenblatt said. “The biggest concern I’d have is the loss of (ABC newsmagazine) Nightline in that time period that frees up viewers.”

Greenblatt was asked about the network’s late-night succession plans amidst speculation that NBC is already prepping 12:30 AM host Jimmy Fallon for a move to 11:30 when Leno’s contract expires. “We just extended Jay and it would be disingenuous to extend him and talk about succession plan,” Greenblatt said. All of those conversations are a little bit premature.”

Greenblatt also was asked to discuss the network’s policy on onscreen violence in light of the recent string of shootings, culminating with the Newtown massacre. “I think it weighs on all of us,” Greenblatt said. “It’s always in our minds, this just brought it to the forefront.” He later questioned the link between serial killer series (Greenblatt put Dexter on the air at Showtime) and the recent killings. “I’m not a psychologist, but I’m not sure you can make the leap that a show about a serial killer (is connected) to the violence in this country…. I don’t think you can make the cause and effect argument.” He went on to say that “I think Criminal Minds is worse than Dexter ever was and suggested that “I would also look to movies and dare I say video games.”

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Greenblatt and Salke were asked about the decision to stick with single-camera comedy Up All Night and revamp it to a multi-camera format after the show underperformined for a season and a half and had its creator depart, along with two showrunner changes in the past six months. “That was a show that wasn’t performing the way we needed it to… but a talented cast like that doesn’t grow on trees,” Salke said. “The cast and crew were itching to be able to really perform. This is an experiment, and we think it’s one worth taking.” After the session, Greenblatt teased that Up All Night will undergo dramatic creative changes. “I think it’s going to be starkly different,” he said. “The same characters, but I think there may be a high concept twist to it.”

Greenblatt was optimistic about the future of NBC’s sole daytime soap, Days Of Our Lives. “I think Days will stick around,” he said. “I don’t want to say that officially yet, but I don’t think it’s going anywhere.”

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Greenblatt was also upbeat about keeping Revolution off for four months before a return for a string of uninterrupted originals. “It’s a little bit more of a cable model but if you market properly and have the goods, then you can run them all in a row without repeats,” he said. “I think in the long run that’s the better play.”

Visibly gleeful about NBC’s strong performance, Greenblatt also got a little bit philosophical on stage, noting that he follows the “first be best, then be first” mantra of Grant Tinker who led NBC’s 1980s turnaround.

TV Editor Nellie Andreeva - tip her here.