NBC’s 2014-15 season freshmen series are mostly flotsam and jetsam — only crime dramedy The Mysteries Of Laura surviving, though decisions on American Odyssey and AD: The Bible Continues have been put off (which doesn’t sound so promising). And the network that once owned comedy continues its retreat, with just two half-hour series on the fall slate, though, notably, both are multi-cams – and Undateable’s going live. For fall on NBC, the big deal is big events, aka Heroes Reborn and Best Time Ever With Neil Patrick Harris.
But, maybe most notable at NBC’s Upfront this morning was the 800 lb gorilla that was in the room at Radio City Music Hall – or wasn’t, depending on your source. NBC’s presentation this year did not include a dog-and-pony segment about its news operation, and no word on the fate of suspended Nightly News anchor Brian Williams. No one at NBCUniversal had ever suggested an announcement would be made at the Upfront clambake, though that had not stopped the media from speculating the network would have to say something. They speculated a lot. The lack of a news segment at NBC’s upfront was an eyebrow raiser among reporters, but not unprecedented. And, previous news segments at NBC’s upfront tend to have focused on new on-air talent joining Today show, what’s up with NBC News’s primetime show Dateline, etc.
Here’s how NBC pitched its new primetime slate to media buyers and station execs:
8 AM PT: NBC’s Upfront Presentation, finally back at Radio City Music Hall, Opens with video of primetime and late night program stars, lip syncing. “It was a tough call between Javitz and Radio City Music Hall,” NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt joked. After noting last year’s presentation book 17 minutes to show its first new series clip, Greenblatt queue’s up Blindspot in six, getting the “most coveted timeslot” on Monday at 10 PM after The Voice. Greenblatt hopes media buyers will remember Blindspot, not just because its the first Upfront clip you saw” but because it looks like a high quality feature film….”We had some ups and downs this year but finish no. 1 again in the demo for second years in a row,” he reminded advertisers.
8:13 AM: Verrrrry long clip shown on Heartbreaker. Wednesday staying intact. Greenblatt mentions of Mysteries of Laura, Law & Order:SVU, and Chicago PD gets big round of applause.
8:16 AM: Greenblatt promises they’re doing right by Blacklist on Thursday next season, after not so much this season. Heroes Reborn clip has massacre, guy cutting his hand off, rampant special effects. Wesley Snipes’ The Player clip is super stylish.
8:23 AM: For a while now we’ve wanted to add live comedy” to the lineup, Greenblatt said, of his new Friday slate. The recent live Undateable “was a blast for everyone involved.”
8:27 AM: Time for a break from primetime lineup: “We’re all going to miss you buddy. You had a good run,” Jimmy Fallon says to Greenblatt as he takes over. Tonight Show’s five original shows a week, is “like a whole season for most NBC series,” Fallon snarks. And then, a minute later, he’s gone. That was short!
8:31 AM: Midseason talk: Greenblatt touts two multi-cam comedies for midseason. In re Coach, “hopefully enough of you out there remember,” Coach its first time around, Greenblatt said, adding of NBC’s Parenthood star, “We love Craig T. Nelson.” No clip on that show, but clips on Patrick Warburton’s Crowded and Eva Longoria’s Hot & Bothered, America Ferrara’s Superstore went over well.
8:41 AM: Chicago Med clip very well received in the hall. Greenblatt wasn’t kidding when he said this Upfront presentation would be much shorter than last year. This is moving at quite a clip. Game of Silence clip shown.
8:48 AM: Only “quick behind the scenes” piece available on Shades of Blue because of Jennifer Lopez’s schedule, Greenblatt says. Fox had its press phoner shortly before this presentation started, talking about the end of American Idol. And finally for midseason, Greenblatt trots out NB’s new comedic show about apocalypse, called You, Me and the End of the World, “or what I sometimes refer to as The Upfront,” Greenblatt jokes.
8:55 AM: Greenblatt cites “diversity” talking about his next live holiday movie, The Wiz. They have just started casting and are looking for an unknown to play Dorothy. Because family viewing is “under served,” Greenblatt said, they made a deal to dramatize some of Dolly Parton’s songs. Parton takes the stage and begins to talk about growing up in a family of “horny hillbillies” which maybe is not what Greenblatt meant. “My mamma had one on her and one in her” for her whole childhood, Parton said, accounting for her large family. Parton is wearing something very tight, very shaggy, and very vivid. She tells Greenblatt she was going for was “a miniature version of the NBC peacock.” Greenblatt describes it as “pretty great.” Then she sings Coat of Many Colors which is the first of her songs being dramatized by NBC. She gets a partial standing ovation. Greenblatt asks her to sing another tune.
9:02 AM: Bob Greenblatt takes to the piano to accompany Dolly Parton singing I Will Always Love You. Parton explains she sometimes has dinner at Greenblatt ‘s house in Beverly Hills, which she describes as “the prettiest house you’ve ever seen” and he insists is “not that great.” After dinner, she says, sings and he accompanies her on his big piano. “Of course we’re usually drinking,” Parton notes. She also makes sure the media buyers knows this is her song, not Whitney Houston’s. ” She can have the credit; I just want the cash,” Parton quips. This time she gets a full on standing ovation. “Get that money out!” Parton tells the crowd.
9:14 AM: NBC Sports presentation trots out Michael Phelps. He’s back in training, he said, “because I wanted to. That’s the only reason I came back – to swim….It’s the most engaged I been, in everything I’m doing, in years.
9:19 AM: Greenblatt begins to wind up NBC Upfront’s return to Radio City Music Hall with Neil Patrick’s new live variety show Best Time Ever. “It’s going to be a fun, high energy grab bag,” he says. Then he demonstrates on media buyer Melissa Shapiro, who apparently did not realize the doorman at the Manhattan restaurant at which she ate when she arrived for Upfront week was Harris, and the busboy was NBC Broadcasting chairman Ted Harbert – all caught on video. Harris tells media buyers the show will be like that — and may also include horny hillbillies.
9:34 AM: Bob Greenblatt wraps things up: NBC still is No. 1 in the demo, has a “huge volume” of “great new shows,” next year is an Olympics year, The Wiz “is going to be big.” NBC is “still relevant and meaningful,” Greenblatt said, despite all new technology, or any that “will ever be invented,” because of its ability to ” give viewers extraordinary moments to share and remember. “