Nothing like having Hollywood pals, huh? Out of work MTV scripted boss David Janollari crashed and burned last fall. Now he’s been saved from the witness protection program thanks to a 3-year, first-look deal at Universal TV overseen by his former producing partner Bob Greenblatt. From 1996 to 2003, they did Six Feet Under, Elvis, American Family. Former ABC chief Stephen McPherson did the same thing, recently signing a deal with Fox reuniting him with 30-year good friend Kevin Reilly.
NBC chairman Bob Greenblatt jumped right into the late-night controversy during the network’s upfront presentation this morning in NY, announcing a change in the network’s late-night plans as he took the stage at Radio City Music Hall. “I will be stepping down in 2014 to take over The Tonight Show, and Jay Leno will be taking my job”, he said. The presentation opened with a video featuring Parks And Recreation stars Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman. “Hi, I’m Shakira,” Poehler said, shelling out advice on what show Middle America likes. “There is no bigger show on TV than The Voice“, she said. Deadpanned Offerman, “I prefer a show called The Silence where you have a black screen and no sound”. Poehler also touted the success of Revolution, a show about people living in the wilderness with no electricity or power. “I’d watch it, provided it’s not a show and is called Camping“.
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Greenblatt acknowledged NBC’s ratings woes this past season. “It’s been a roller-coaster season”, Greenblatt said. “We made progress”, he added, noting the network’s finish as No. 1 in the fall for the first time in nine years. But then, “we had challenges in the first quarter and our share of midseason disappointments” before “bouncing back in April”.
The NBC boss also said that once again there will be two cycles of The Voice, with the fall one launching on September 23, the opening night of the season. Cycle 2 will start immediately following the Winter Olympics.
The first applause of the day came for Greenblatt’s announcement that Community is coming back for 13 episodes. The second one? For Michael J Fox, whose new series will air on Thursdays. It was the first new NBC show introduced by Greenblatt before he handed things off to NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke.
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Bob Greenblatt Touts NBC Ratings Success, Declares “We Don’t Have Our Heads Up Our Asses”, Talks Violence & Late Night: TCA
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.”
We told you first last month that Showtime SVP Programming Pearlena Igbokwe may reunite with her former Showtime boss Bob Greenblatt at NBC. Igbokwe left the pay cable network after 20 years in June after her contract was up. She replaces Laura Lancaster, who is becoming a consultant. Here’s NBC’s release:
UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. – July 9, 2012 – Veteran program executive Pearlena Igbokwe has been named Executive Vice President, Drama Development for NBC Entertainment, it was announced today by Jennifer Salke, President of NBC Entertainment, to whom Igbokwe will report. She is replacing Laura Lancaster who will segue into a consultancy role to help with the transition through drama development season.
In her new role Igbokwe will oversee the development of all NBC dramas.
“Pearlena has forged an impressive track record over her successful career that has earned her the admiration of the creative community,” said Salke. “She will bring a unique perspective to development that will help us reach our goal of once again making NBC the home of some of the best and most respected dramas on television.”
Igbokwe comes to NBC from Showtime, where she worked closely with Robert Greenblatt, Chairman of NBC Entertainment, for seven years.
Out of the Hilton Hotel ballroom and back into Radio City Music Hall, NBC is presenting its first schedule developed by chairman Bob Greenblatt and his team. It features four nights of comedy and a total of 10 half-hour series. The programming part of the presentation opened with a video featuring former SNL Weekend Update co-anchors Jimmy Fallon and Tina Fey “previewing” NBC’s lineup for next fall via DVDs sent to them by Greenblatt, who Fallon thought was “the Asian judge on The Voice.” The preview featured the casts of such NBC series as Law & Order: SVU, The Office, Grimm, and 30 Rock doing musical versions of their shows. The highlight: Meet The Press anchor David Gregory belting out a tune surrounded by a group of showgirls.
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The presentation kicked off with a performance by Smash stars Katharine McPhee and Megan Hilty and the emergence onstage of the four Voice spinning chairs. One by one, they turned around to reveal Voice stars Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green and Adam Levine sitting in the first three and Greenblatt in the last.
Known for his love for Broadway, Greenblatt, for whom Smash has been a passion project, felt right in his element on the Radio City Music Hall stage. But he was quick to note that “despite speculation, I’m not hijacking the network and turning everything into a musical.”
Greenblatt presented the network’s new shows in tandem with NBC entertainment president Jennifer Salke or, as Greenblatt referred to it, “the next Channel 4 team.”
NBC’s once high-flying reboot of Fear Factor will make a humble exit as a regular series tonight with a rerun replacing an episode pulled by the network amidst controversy. The episode, Hee Haw! Hee Haw!, would’ve probably made it to air had it not been for NBC hosting a GOP presidential debate. The Fear Factor episode, originally slated for January 23, was pre-empted for the debate and moved to January 30. Then last Thursday, January 26, TMZ posted a story about a stunt in the episode described in the NBC synopsis as one where “the teams put themselves to the test eating the unimaginable.” According to TMZ, the unimaginable was donkey semen and urine. Controversy ensued, and late Friday night, NBC sent out a scheduling advisory listing another episode, which originally aired January 2, as replacing Hee Haw! NBC entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt today addressed the controversy with a statement: “I reviewed the episode late last week and decided it was a segment we should not air.”
There was no elephant in the room during NBC’s executive session at TCA’s winter press tour today because chairman Bob Greenblatt shot it down right away. “We had a really bad fall, worse than I’d hoped for but about as I expected,” was Greenblatt’s first line onstage. “People say the only way to go is up which I believe is true, but there is a long way to get there.” The new NBC chairman made no bones about the network’s poor ratings performance this season, including from NBC’s new shows, which he blamed on a lack of strong lead-ins, an aging returning lineup and major cast changes on flagship series Law & Order: SVU and The Office. But “the good news is that we have new owners willing to invest not only with financial resources but with patience,” Greenblatt said, referring to Comcast and NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke.
Greenblatt, who came from pay cable network Showtime, attributed the demise of some of NBC’s new shows to the challenges of the the broadcast model, noting that canceled Prime Suspect would’ve been renewed at Showtime after three episodes and would’ve probably run on the cable network for 4-5 seasons. Greenblatt started several sentences with “The beauty of cable”, playing up pay cable’s advantage with a smaller volume of shows that allows all of them to get a significant marketing push and cut through the clutter as well as the different cable economics that allow quality shows to run for years despite low ratings. Greenblatt said that in his first season at NBC he delivered “four times as many good shows as I ever delivered at Showtime” in one year, listing such series as Prime Suspect, Whitney, Up All Night, Grimm and the upcoming Awake and Smash. But he was quick to note that he is not sure if “these shows are enough to turn NBC around. I hope they’re the beginning of new foundation to move us in the right direction.”
Prime Suspect‘s failure to click with viewers “was probably the biggest disappointment,” Greenblatt said. “Was it too cable, was (Maria Bello’s character) too abrasive? Maybe I should say it was the hat and move on.” In the final analysis, it seems like “the audience wanted to be entertained with comedy and fairytales” this fall, “and there wasn’t appetite in the country for a hard-hitting cop show.” Greenblatt was more blunt about NBC’s other canceled new fall drama, The Playboy Club. “Playboy was just a rejected concept,” he said. “We thought going into the period would interest people, but I don’t think people were that fascinated by that milieu and place.” As for the high-profile midseason entry Smash, Greenblatt tried to downplay expectations. “I don’t think it’s a make-or-break show, but it’s a really good potentially long-term asset for us.”
Greenblatt also dispelled any notion that Community has been effectively canceled when the network pulled the cult favorite from its midseason schedule.
EXCLUSIVE: NBC is China-bound. The network has bought a cop drama project set in Shanghai from writers Cyrus Voris and Ethan Reiff. The project is about a pair of fugitive recovery agents working in China’s (and the world’s) largest city, population 23 million. It stems from a blind script deal Voris and Reiff had at NBC and will be produced by Universal TV. Voris and Reiff had been thinking about doing a cop show set in China for a while, and separately new NBC entertainment president Jennifer Salke had been looking to do a show set in the Asian country for some time, originally as top development executive at 20th TV. UPDATED: Voris and Reiff have an extensive background and knowledge of China working on Chinese-themed projects, including co-writing the story for DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda, which was set in old China. The new project reunites UTA-repped Voris and Reiff with NBC chairman Bob Greenblatt. The two co-created and executive produced the Showtime drama Sleeper Cell, which ran for two seasons while Greenblatt was at the helm of the pay cable network.
EXCLUSIVE: After months of speculation, its official: Showtime’s long-time PR head Richard Licata is following his former boss Robert Greenblatt to NBC. Licata has been named to the newly created post of EVP Communications for NBC Entertainment, reporting to Entertainment Chairman Greenblatt. He is expected to start in September. There has been a lot of chatter that Greenblatt would bring close associates from CBS/Showtime to NBC after the no-poaching clause in his deal expired this month. While Licata is the only one with a deal in place, there also have been rumblings about CBS TV Studios’ development executive Bela Bajaria possibly getting a job at UMS. In his new position, Licata will be responsible for the strategic creative development and execution of all programming and media relations initiatives for NBC and Universal Media Studios. In addition to overseeing program publicity, talent relations, photography, events, and awards campaigns, Licata will serve as NBC Entertainment’s chief press officer, responsible for press outreach and relations pertaining to industry issues and public affairs. He will work closely with veteran executive Rebecca Marks, EVP Press and Publicity, who will continue to head day-to-day operations for NBC and UMS.
“There is no one in the television business more perfect for this job than Jennifer Salke,” said Greenblatt. “I’ve known and worked with her for many years and have the utmost respect for her creative instincts, her relationships with talent of all kinds, and probably most of all, her taste. Her incredible tenure at Twentieth Century Fox Television (TCFTV), where she was instrumental in developing two of network television’s biggest hits, ‘Glee’ and ‘Modern Family,’ is unmatched. This is truly a significant moment for NBC as we continue to rebuild the network from top to bottom and put together the best possible team.”
Salke will report to Greenblatt and will be responsible for Primetime and Daytime programming, with Drama Development, Comedy Development, Current Programming, and the Casting department of NBC Entertainment reporting to her.
It looks like NBC and Dick Wolf have finally cracked the case of what to do with the cast of Law Order: SVU. After a tumultuous month that saw series staples Mariska Hargitay decide to stay in a reduced role and Christopher Meloni decide to depart altogther, the network today announced it has signed former Chase star Kelli Giddish and former Cold Case regular Danny Pino to play the show’s new detectives. The announcement was made by NBC Entertainment chief Bob Greenblatt. “Kelli and Danny are two great actors who will join a proven cast headed by Mariska Hargitay as this exceptional series heads into a very promising 13th season,” Greenblatt said. Added exec producer/creator Wolf: “I’m very pleased that we have two amazing actors joining the cast. I know this combination will give us the opportunity to explore the world of SVU with new eyes.”
Pino was one of five actors to test for the role vacated by Meloni, who already has signed on to a big-time part in Warner Bros’ Superman redo Man of Steel. He played Senior Detective Scotty Valens on seven seasons of CBS’ Cold Case, and more recently guest starred on USA Network’s Burn Notice. Giddish starred on the short-lived NBC series Chase last season and has appeared in guest-star roles on both SVU and Law & Order: Criminal Intent, so she knows some of the terrain already.
Since NBC Universal’s TV studio Universal Media Studios spun off Universal Cable Prods in 2008, the mothership studio had been developing and producing pilots and series for NBC and occasionally for other broadcast networks, while UCP had been supplying affiliated USA Network and Syfy and, starting last year, other cable networks. But things started to change over the past few months. Like a starfish that regenerates into two whole sea stars when cut in half, UMS and UCP are each becoming a full-service TV studio supplying both broadcast and cable networks and could potentially compete with each other.
This spring, two drama projects developed by UMS that didn’t get pilot orders by NBC were taken out to cable networks by producers and agents with the studio’s permission. Both shows — a medical drama from writer Amy Holden Jones and the BermanBraun-produced 1-800-Autopsy, from writers Adam Armus & Kay Foster (Heroes) and based on a real-life guy who performs private autopsies — landed at Lifetime. But instead of handing them over to UCP, UMS kept the two dramas and plans to produce them if they go to pilot and series. “We are in the process of rebuilding the studio, and the strategy is to beef up studio operations,” one insider said. “We made projects we think we can produce for Lifetime at a good price and would have asset value for us as a third-party producer.” As an indication of the growing stature of UMS, which new NBC chairman Bob Greenblatt referred to as “our re-emerging studio” in announcing the three-year pod deal with Peter Traugott this morning, UMS is expected to get its own topper for the first time since Katherine Pope exited as part of a December 2008 executive shakeup. UMS is not at a stage of actively selling to third parties and will not seek out writers who develop specifically for cable. But if there are opportunistic projects in-house that would be right for cable and UMS can produce them in a way that would allow it to recoup its investment, the studio plans to go for it as long as the projects are first shopped to sibling networks USA and Syfy. That was done with the two medical dramas that ultimately went to Lifetime.
Had this expansion been in place two years ago, Doug Liman and Dave Bartis’ Hypnotic may have stayed at UMS, where the company had been based for five years. Back then, a couple of Hypnotic’s projects got a pass at NBC. Liman and Bartis walked the street and set them up at USA and soon moved their company from UMS to UCP. One of those projects became the USA series Covert Affairs, which just started its second season. Another Hypnotic project originally developed for NBC was I Just Want My Pants Back, which recently went to series at MTV with UCP producing, the studio’s first series for a non-NBCU network. UCP, which also has a pilot starring Carrie-Anne Moss in contention at Lifetime, has its sights on broadcast next as it is looking to become a full-service studio producing for all cable and broadcast networks. “Our original focus is on cable,” UPC co-head and USA co-president Jeff Wachtel said. “But with our expanded roster — including Hypnotic, Steve Franks, Jack Kenny, Michael Rauch, Andrew Lenchewski — we want to take shows where they have the best chance to succeed.”