NBC executives talked about the state of the network at the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour, and they addressed the futures of "Community" and "Smash," changes to "The Voice" and the departure of Ann Curry from "Today." Here are the highlights:
- Robert Greenblatt, chairman of NBC entertainment, didn't sound too worried about airing "The Voice" twice a year. "Almost every reality franchise does two cycles a season, and one could argue that 'American Idol' and 'X Factor' are the same show in many respects -- one in the fall, one in the spring. We're obviously cautious," he said about expanding the show throughout the year, but executives said that they've toyed with the format to make it more exciting. Top reality executive Paul Telegdy wasn't specific about those changes, but indicated that in the new season of the singing show, "the famous red chairs" and the button-pushing would continue to appear even later in the season. "We've found exciting ways to keep the competition between coaches going through the latter stages of the competition," Telegdy said.
- Jennifer Salke, the president of NBC Entertainment, got a question about Ryan Murphy's new show, "The New Normal," which has already been the subject of some protests. "He is a guy that pushes the envelope," Salke said of Murphy. But she added that the show, which is about a gay couple and their surrogate, is the "Glee" creator's "love letter to families." "It's by no means centered on just the gay couple in the middle," Salke said, and the title isn't meant to indicate what's normal and what isn't. "A normal family isn't a gay family, it's just a different family, and I think we see that around us every day," Salke said.
- Greenblatt only briefly addressed the controversy that erupted over the ouster of Ann Curry at "Today." "I respectfully yield to the NBC News Division [when it comes to that topic]," Greenblatt said. "My heart goes out to those people, including Ann and everybody who went through that transition." In any event, he's not worried about "Today's" future and thinks broadcasting from the Olympics will keep the show at the forefront of the morning pack.
- Is "Go On" just a "Community" retread -- which seems like an odd direction to go in, given "Community's" ratings problems? Salke said that its setting in a grief-therapy group is "less specific" and "has tons of heart," so she's not worried about the comparison.
- Greenblatt said that he was "inordinately" proud of "Smash" and recognized that it had a huge array of production challenges, given how much original music and choreography it featured. Where the show didn't fulfill its potential was in the "arcing of the storylines and the consistency" of those stories, Greenblatt noted. In other words, if the show was going in a particular direction with a character, "Smash" needed to continue "in a really interesting way with that arc. I think we were going back and forth with some things." He wouldn't address whether the much-mocked son of Debra Messing's character, Leo, would be ditched, but he said that all characters are looked at in terms of whether they and their storylines have outlived their usefulness.
- Executives noted that the network is premiering some shows during or right after the Olympics and using the sporting event as a promotional platform for new shows, many of which will be available on multiple digital platforms as well. "We feel like we have to make as much noise with our programming as we can and get as many eyeballs as we can," Salke said. Having said that, Greenblatt noted that NBC finished last season third in the important 18-49 demographic. He said that the 2003-2004 season was the last time NBC finished above fourth.