NBC's Bob Greenblatt: ‘SNL’ Diversity Moves ‘Being Finalized’

NBC's Bob Greenblatt: 'SNL' Diversity Moves 'Being Finalized'

Decisions coming soon on the “Sound of Music” follow-up and adding to the “Saturday Night Live” cast

NBC entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt says news is coming soon about two of the biggest stories surrounding his network this season: How it will follow the huge success of the “Sound of Music,” and efforts to diversify “Saturday Night Live.”

“SNL” this week confirmed that it held a series of recent auditions to address its lack of a black woman cast member, which has been a subject of criticism and self-mockery on the air. That could mean a black, female face sooner rather than later.

“I'm not really the person to talk about it. But I think it's close to being finalized, and you'll be hearing about it shortly,” Greenblatt told TheWrap.

Also read: ‘SNL’ Auditions Black Women on Heels of Criticism

He also says the network has narrowed down its choice of next year's follow-up to “The Sound of Music” to one of three musicals.

One story he thinks gets too much attention? The transition of “The Tonight Show” from Jay Leno to Jimmy Fallon in February. “I know everybody is looking for the big car accident to happen over and over again,” he said.

Also read: ‘Sound of Music’ Ratings: 5 Milestones It Hit for NBC

NBC's biggest news is that the network leads in the key 18-49 demographic and is second in total viewers this fall. NBC was also tops in the demo this time last year – but fell hard to third.

Greenblatt talked to TheWrap about why this year may be different, Michael J. Fox and Sean Hayes’ disappointing Thursday ratings, and what show he kind of wishes was on NBC.

Also read: NBC's Jennifer Salke on Why ‘The Blacklist’ Has ‘the Goods,’ and Keeping Faith in Michael J. Fox

First, congratulations. Both on “Sound of Music” and the season so far.
Thanks. We feel good about it, which is not always the case.

With “Smash” and some high-profile castings, you've done more than any other network to bring Broadway to TV. Does the “Sound of Music” success validate that strategy?
I do like this world and beyond that, it really isn't just me wanting to put it on because I like it. I really do think that it can speak to an audience. “The Sound of Music” just proved that in a big way. I'm happy if there are kids in Ohio or Illinois, like I once was, who see this musical. And if it's the first musical they see and it opens their eyes, that’s a great thing.

Any word on the next one?
We are circling in on a couple of titles that I'm not really ready to discuss yet because I don't know if we can get the rights. We're narrowing it down. The good news is, people are so curious about what we're going to do next. I'm getting emails and calls from everywhere, even from some people in foreign countries who are friends of mine, saying do this show or do that show. Some of them are good ideas and some of them are crazy, obscure ideas. People seem really interested. We're going to zero in on something good in the next couple weeks.

You're number one this season, but you were number one this time last year, too. You may be in a better position this year because you have the Winter Olympics coming up. Why do you think you're in a better position than a year ago?
We had another year of planning and another year of things going in the right direction. …This group has only been together a couple seasons. Last year what we accomplished in the fall was great, but we knew the spring was going to be really difficult. “The Voice” was going to be off, it was the first time we produced “The Voice” twice in a season, we had to figure out how we were going to produce the show, it's a massive show. How do we time it? It had to be off for a number of months for a variety of reasons. There were a lot of things that dictated the spring last year. And this year we've had the benefit of another year of planning and thinking and we’ve been able to do some things differently, the Olympics aside.

That’s a great thing to have, but “The Voice” is coming back five weeks earlier than it did last year, “Blacklist” is a show that I think is the real deal, and it's showing real independence from the lead-in. We're going to test it in January with three original episodes without “The Voice” lead-in. And I hope it's going to do really well. We didn't do that last season with “Revolution” because we felt the show should live with “The Voice,” so it was off for nine weeks. So I think we've got some better building blocks, we've had some more time to plan, and the Olympics is a whole other thing we could talk about for half an hour. That's a whole shot in the arm promotionally for not only everything on the air but the five new shows we're going to launch in February and March.

You need momentum in this business. We had it in the fall. And to keep getting those jolts of momentum are important.

“SNL” confirmed that they had a showcase recently looking for black women to join the cast. Have you talked to Lorne Michaels about increasing diversity?
We talk about it all the time. Lorne has been very much on the record about this kind of thing. He's got his time frame in mind and I think all that's going to play out exactly the way it should.

Is the time frame this season? Next season?
I'm not really the person to talk about it. But I think it's close to being finalized, and you'll be hearing about it shortly.

NBC seems to stick with certain actors through thick and thin. Sean Hayes is one example, Michael J. Fox is another – you've had a decades-long relationship with him. Even if the ratings for their Thursday shows may be down, it feels like you're in a relationship with them.
I've been here two years. I'm not in a relationship with them. They've both been on the network before. They both wanted to come back to the network and we wanted them back and I think they're both really bona fide comedy stars and talents. So it's easy for us to say, let's do shows with both of them. But it's not like we've been here all this time together.

Has anything surprised you about Jay Leno's “Tonight Show” handoff to Jimmy Fallon?
Only the degree to which the press seems insatiable about writing about it. Clearly it's been a legacy and it has a very checkered past in terms of transitions. I know everybody is looking for the big car accident to happen over and over again. But none of it surprises me. We expected it. It's very tricky to make one of these transitions because you want to be honorable and respectful to everybody and that's our goal.

Is there any new show on another network this year that you wish you had on NBC?
No. [Laughs.] On another broadcast network? I'd be happy to have any hit from a broadcast network. Unfortunately, there aren't that many. “Sleepy Hollow” seems to be a real strong show. And I will say that “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” is a show that we produce for the Fox network, and there's a part of me that would love to have it on the NBC network. It will be a great piece of business for us if it becomes a hit on the Fox network, so it's important that it went there. But I love that show and we'd be happy to have it here, too.

 

  • brando

    It's funny that SNL is being pressured to hire certain cast members, yet it hasn't bothered anyone that the show hasn't hired a good comedy writer for 20 years!

  • Jimmy Reagan

    I'll just say it again, since it applies here too: I'm all for natural diversity, but what's going on now is forced hiring and social terrorism, and it's sickening.. Every commercial HAS to feature ONE black actor and they must not be presented in a way as to make them look foolish – that honor is left to whatever white person is cast in the commercial. It's subtle, it's reverse racism and it's subliminal. If it weren't so forced, it wouldn't be a problem.. but it is so painfully calculated and underhanded. Try watching commercials and you'll see what I mean…

    As far as SNL, I have NO problem with the cast hiring a black female if one is qualified and is funny enough.. and if it's systematically refusing to hire balck actresses, that's wrong and another story too; but JUST to have a “black female” because of pressure is totally insipid. There's already two black males on the show, so it's not like black people aren't represented.. Hey, there's no Asians on SNL either, but I bet more Asians than black people watch SNL… and I am sure are are just as big a minority as blacks.. and there's no little people on there either.. What about handicapped ?? Where's that outrage?? Where does it end??

    Maybe there's no black females because the ones who applied weren't funny..They have two black males. Black people make up less than 15% of the population and are now behind Latino and Asians, however, they don't get as much commercial and TV air time. The majority in this country are still white people..It's a basic fact, deal with it. The LGBT community is pretty big too, again, not featured on everything.. If this were about more whites on BET or opening the Source or Soul train Awards to white categories, we'd be told it's ridiculous.

    I consider myself a moderate left leaning liberal, but this ultra P.C. stuff is out of control.. We're so quick to call something racist, when most times it's not. We aren't talking about anyone's basic rights or people being persecuted or harassed; we're talking about forced hiring.. I'm just sick of this double standard. Sometimes there are no blacks on shows, sometimes there are no whites on shows..That's life…That's life..I don't tell my friends, “unless someone of color is coming with us, we can't go.. we have to represent”..NO. Sometimes it just is what it is. And the ones screaming the loudest about this are the racists. Get over it and yourselves…

    • Jhm813

      In Living Color and MadTV were diverse and funny. SNL just isn't – it has its moments but really it should have been cancelled in the 80s.

      • john doe

        EXACTLY.

  • Thaddeus Mensch

    No one says that Haiti, Detroit, Japan, or the NBA need ‘Diversity’
    Everyone says that Germany, Ireland, and NASA need ‘Diversity’
    ‘Diversity’ just means fewer White faces
    Diversity is a code word for White genocide

  • TV101

    Commentor Thaddeus: you obviously haven't been watching network television for the past 15 years. There hasn't been any diversity at all. With all due respect, your post, as it relates to broadcast television, is a bit over the top. The truth is, SNL isn't hasn't been diversified in a long time. This discussion has been going on for a long time in the media. For whatever reason SNL hasn't hired any woman of color in a very long time and people just noticed. I'm white and actually have noticed the opposite on television of the last 15-20 years. Black characters haven't been cast as leads. And when they have been cast, they've been criminals more often than not. I'm not even that political and I am around mostly white people and I noticed this! The networks have had diversity departments in place for years. This is not new and dare I say those departments haven't been doing their job. Its a bit concerning to read your post frankly, perhaps you should get out and look around this country… not all white people. Cheers and good luck to seeing NBC get back on top,

  • john doe

    “SNL” this week confirmed that it held a series of recent auditions to address its lack of a black woman cast member.
    Well, she better be a lesbian so they can cover ALL the bases.

    • SNLer96

      They've got a lesbian cast member and a lesbian writer.

  • Jim Davis

    With a cast the size of SNL's I do think there is a lack of diversity, and it should be addressed! It is my humble opinion that NBC a/la Greenblatt; has committed the most blatant firing due to age discrimination in the history of TV with the Jay Leno fiasco!