TCA: NBC’s Bob Greenblatt On Broadcast TV’s Emmy Woes, Thursday Challenge, Abortion Ad Controversy, ‘Community’ Comeback

Days after the broadcast networks slipped to a new Emmy low, with only two best series nominations between comedy and drama and no drama series in the top category for a third consecutive year, NBC topper Bob Greenblatt was asked about the struggle to get broadcast dramas that produce 22 episodes a season the same Emmy consideration that cable and online shows receive despite making only 8 to 13 episodes a year.
Cable can be darker, more interesting, feels cooler than some of the things we can do, it’s just a fact of life,” he said. The snubs for broadcast dramas included NBC’s freshman The Blacklist and its star James Spader. “Should we debate the fact that James Spader is one of the best actors working who is not nominated? At the end of the day, I’m not sure what good it does,” Greenblatt said.
Abortion was a main topic at the executive session in light of the controversy over NBC’s rejection of a trailer for the movie Obvious Child because of the use of the word “abortion” in it. Greenblatt recalled how, during his tenure at Fox, he and his team caved in and changed a storyline that would’ve had Neve Campbell’s character having an abortion. “I don’t think we cop out anymore but writers and producers are still nervous about it because it is an issue that divides people,” he said. “But we made progress.” Added NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke, “We would not avoid the issue but would see that it is handled appropriately.”

Asked about the demise of The Michael J. Fox Show, Greenblatt and Salke listed all the different ways they tried to boost the show, including changing time slots and lead-in. “It reinforces how difficult a night (Thursday) has been for us,” Greenblatt said. Surprisingly, he is not fazed by CBS airing  NFL football that night beginning this fall. “I see it as a bit of an opportunity,” he said. “CBS won’t have a big hefty comedy lineup, which is potent, it gives us a little bit of openness to comedy.” Additionally, NBC is betting on a modest but proven performer, The Biggest Loser, as a lead-in to its new Thursday comedies.

As for the now former NBC Thursday comedy Community, which was recently picked up by Yahoo after NBC canceled it in May, Greenblatt called that “a great, extraordinary deal.” “We are co-owners of the show, we’ll be making money on it right away,” he said. (NBC owns about half of Community, which is produced by Sony TV). “It just didn’t make sense for us to have another season of it for that level of viewership.”

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