After weeks of speculation that dominated party conversations during the upfronts in New York, NBC today confirmed that head of comedy development Tal Rabinowitz is leaving the network. NBC will revert to combined drama and comedy development and current departments. Head of drama development Pearlena Igbokwe is being named EVP of Drama Programming, which will encompass both development and current operations. Head of current Vernon Sanders is being named EVP of Comedy Programming and will head up development and current operations for comedy series. Sanders will continue to oversee returning dramas during this transition. Both will report to NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke. Rabinowitz was the first new top programming executive brought in by NBC chairman Bob Greenblatt in May 2011, a couple of months after he took the reins of the network in early 2011. Salke joined two months later. NBC has struggled with comedy, with no freshman series making it to second season this past season and only one, About A Boy, accomplishing that this year. The comedy drought has not been limited to NBC, with none of the broadcast networks able to produce a hit the past two seasons. Meanwhile, Igbokwe, who joined NBC in 2012, has been a rising star at the network with a string of strong new series, including The Blacklist, Chicago Fire and its offshoot Chicago P.D. “I’m excited about this new structure because I believe it will strengthen our programming by essentially eliminating the often difficult handoff going from the development of a new show into the current process,” said Salke. “Also, I believe that we have two of the best and most creative executives in the television business in Pearlena and Vernon, who will now be the chief lieutenants of scripted programming from the inception of an idea through the life of a show. I also want to thank Tal Rabinowitz, who has been an invaluable comedy resource for us during the rebuilding of this network, for her passion and dedication to this company for the past three years.”
NBC has been going back-and-forth between having a dedicated current department and combined drama and comedy divisions handling both development and current. NBC previously folded current operations, run by Erin Gough Wehrenberg, into comedy and drama development in 2008. It restored a separate current department in June 2010, months before Greenblatt came on board, with Sanders as head. NBC’s move follows similar consolidation implemented by Fox in March under Terence Carter (drama) and Suzanna Makkos (comedy).