NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt knew reporters at Friday’s Television Critics Association press tour would ask about Bill Cosby.
He opened the network’s executive session with, “We’re developing a comedy with Bill Cosby and a miniseries about Hillary Clinton.”
The crowd laughed about the failed projects that topped off a past TCA session. He added, “Last year?”
When asked whether the network will never go into business with Cosby, 77, again, Greenblatt curtly answered, “Yes, I think that’s safe to say.”
Then, came the grilling. What was the decision process like when the network decided to drop its comedy in development with Cosby?
“It didn’t seem to be the kind of thing that was critical mass [last year],” he explained. “When we realized there was so much more [to the allegations], we realized we couldn’t go forward.”
Greenblatt wasn’t out of the weeds yet. Another reporter wondered what it took for NBC to stop ignoring the allegations. What constitutes “critical mass?”
“Do you really want me to answer that?” a clearly angered Greenblatt retorted. “15, yes. Two, no.”
Things were much cooler for Greenblatt and NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke as they fielded other questions from the reporters:
On their next live musical: NBC has optioned the rights to “The Music Man,” which it’s currently weighing. But, it’s also just acquired rights to “The Wiz,” as well. One will be the network’s next live musical following “Peter Pan Live.” Regarding “Pan’s” ratings, Greenblatt said he didn’t expect it to do better than “The Sound of Music Live!”
On the return of “Hannibal”: The series will return for the summer.
On the chances of Constantine’s return: “We wish the show would’ve done better live,” Salke said. “It has a big [delayed] viewership and a younger audience. We love the show and it’s safe to say we’re still talking about it.”
Greenblatt added, “We got on the comic books bandwagon. Maybe, there are too many of them.”
On the future of “Chicago PD,” “Chicago Fire” and a rumored “Chicago Med” spinoff: Both “Chicago” shows will come back. NBC’s looking at “Chicago Med.” “It’s an experiment to see how these characters work out,” Greenblatt said.
On low-rated “State of Affairs”: Greenblatt is “disappointed” in the Katherine Heigl series’ ratings. ‘It looked really strong and promising,” he said.
Salke added, “State of Affairs” became more serialized as episodes went on and it “might be worth looking at” if audience wasn’t connecting with central story.
On rollout of streaming and video-on-demand initiative TV Everywhere: Greenblatt said, “We’re committed to TV Everywhere and moving forward on it. We’re rolling out to more affiliates, market-by-market. It’s a slower process.”
On whether the consistently low ratings of “Parenthood” make similar shows less desirable to produce: “I can’t definitively say yes or no to that,” Greenblatt said. “When you have a show with a talented cast and as finely crafted as ‘Parenthood,’ which we have, it’s hard to do something like this. It never found an audience.”
Salke added, “The show didn’t get what it deserved.”
On the low-rated “About a Boy” and the future with creator Jason Katims: “We love Katims,” Greenblatt answered. “‘About a Boy’ is going to come off [the schedule] to make room for multi-cams. ‘About a Boy’ is not over with.”
“We’re developing things with Katims,” Salke pointed out.
On steering away from NBC’s Thursday comedy block to dramas: The network hasn’t been able to get comedies to pop on that night. “It’s a desirable night for advertisers,” Greenblatt said. “It should be a big, exciting night of television. Moving ‘Blacklist’ is risky, but it seems like it’s the only way to reinvigorate that night, to jumpstart with ‘Blacklist,’ ‘Allegiance,’ and ‘The Slap.'” He added that the network doesn’t expect “Blacklist” to get a “larger audience” Thursdays at 10 p.m. At the same time, he points to other networks that have been able to get dramas to work on Thursdays, specifically ABC with “Grey’s Anatomy” years ago. “I tip my hat to ABC,” Greenblatt said.
On difficulty launching hit comedies in general: “It’s been a couple of years of trial and error,” the chairman said. “We delivered shows like ‘A to Z,’ that was received well critically, but it’s really hard to bring audience back. We’re trying more multi-cams. Some of the network’s biggest hits have been multi-cams.”
On having any regrets about allowing “Parks and Recreation” go after returning to higher ratings: “We were heartened by those numbers,” Greenblatt said. “It was a good idea to do two episodes back-to-back. The time is right to end it. All those actors are being pulled to other things. It’s getting increasingly hard [to keep the cast].”