Upfronts 2012: THR Live-Blogs NBC'S Presentation
8:01 a.m. Still in fourth place, NBC is preparing to sell the first slate that bears the full imprint of chairman Bob Greenblatt. The schedule revealed in a conference call Sunday met with some skepticism from critics. Here at Radio City Music Hall, with advertisers packing the house, maybe playing songs like “I’m Going Down” and “I Have Nothing” doesn’t set the righttone?"
8:03 a.m. Donald Trump and his hair are in the house!
8:05 a.m. NBC top sales exec points out that Radio City Music Hall is a big step up from the Hilton ballroom, where the upfront was held last year. She also mentions highlights, ending with Smash—but literally has to prompt the audience to applaud.
8:17 a.m. End of Smash number segues to reveal of judges from The Voice -- sans Blake Shelton's good showmanship. Here's Greenblatt, plugging Smash again. That's love.
8:22 a.m. Greenblatt: "I'm not hijacking the network and turning everything into a musical."
8:25 a.m. Greenblatt says NBC will end “in a photo finish” with ABC for third place. That’s progress -- still a long way to go. Says The Voice will feature more red chairs as the season wears on to keep viewers engaged longer. Not sure how that works. The network “excelled” with comedy," he says. “If you only take one thing away from this morning, I hope you’ll walk out thinking we have some real comedy strength.”
8:31 a.m. Greenblatt starts to walk through the schedule. "We will own Sundays in the fall [thanks for football] and Mondays have been reinvigorated with The Voice." Wants to attack Tuesday and Wednesday nights to build "four-night momentum." He introduces his number two, Jennifer Salke. Neither one of these has a high-energy presentation style. They talk about excitement in a very monotonous way. Salke intros clips from the new J.J. Abrams show, Revolution --”our highest testing drama pilot” -- that plays across all demos. Storyline: the world is losing power—forever. Plane crashes—traffic is worse than L.A. bad. Militias rise. Sooo creepy. The world goes dark! But there seems to be some kinds of Preccciouss. It’s silver. Mysterious.
8:35 a.m. Decent applause for the J.J. Abrams show. Salke hands to Greenblatt. “We’re the new Channel 4 News Team!” he jokes. Time to talk Tuesday night—Go On with Matthew Perry and The New Normal from Ryan Murphy. Perry’s a guy whose wife died but Salke says the show is not a downer. It’s funny when he goes into group therapy. The love interest is the therapist. A few solid laughs. Maybe.
8:38 a.m. Salke intros The New Normal and reminds us that she worked with Murphy on Glee. This is single mom who moves in with a gay couple (we did mention Ryan Murphy, right?) and becomes their surrogate. Ellen Barkin is the disapproving grandma. Not a ton of laughs. Salke says the show “will make a lot of noise.” And hands off to Bob. Greenblatt says Murphy may have talked Obama into supporting gay marriage. A shameless attempt to steal credit from Biden.
8:45 a.m. Greenblatt talks summer programming—the Olympics, of course, and America’s Got Talent with Howard Stern. Sixty-eight of the summer schedule is original, more than any of the other broadcast networks, he says. Now, Wednesday. Big changes to take advantage of the hoped-for momentum on Tuesday. Back to Salke, who introduces sitcom Animal Practice, starring the network’s highest-testing character of the year—and it’s a monkey. This is the House-like vet. Justin Kirk of Weeds stars. This guy treats cobras and tigers, it seems. Busy. Flash to the audience on the monitors—there’s the monkey! The advertisers are amused.
8:50 a.m. Guys With Kids -- the show from Jimmy Fallon.Guys of all colors, who have snugglies and strollers. Huge laugh track. Hard to tell if anyone in the room is actually laughing. This is a "fantastic family comedy hour," Salke says. Followed by Law & Order: SVU. Maybe the kids can stay tuned for the sex crimes. After that, Chicago Fire from Dick Wolf. Gives you a Backdraft flashback. Some beefcake firefighters wih some E.R. on the side. Oh! Mayor Rahm Emanuel has a cameo.
8: 55 a.m. Okay—Greenblatt takes Thursdays. Says people were relieved when Up All Night, Parks and Rec, The Office and 30 Rock were renewed. Says will be “explosive story twists” on The Office next year and there’s still juice in the network’s top-rated scripted show. He pays homage to “comic genius” Tina Fey as 30 Rock heads toward the finish line. The network is putting very low-rated Rock Center on Thursdays at 10. This was once the E.R. slot—so that tells you what you need to know about dramas at 10 p.m. Friday is Grimm, Whitney and Community. “Conventional wisdom says to avoid putting expensive programming on Friday night,” Greenblatt says. But he says, “If you don’t build it, they won’t come.” Greenblatt makes a few little forgettable quips and complains, “I’m not getting any laughs ouf of you today.”
9:00 a.m. Paul Telegdy, reality chief, comes out to talk reality. He reminds the crowd that there will be two Voices next year. Runs through some offerings including the Eva Longoria-produced matchmaking show, Ready for Love. “Thousands of women have submitted themselves for consideration.”
9:03 a.m. Chairman Ted Harbert spends a few minutes reminiscing about the old days of TV. Notes that NBC spent $15 billion on sports in the past year and extols the news operation. Says Greenblatt has “invested heavily in his primetime schedule” and says “NBC can win.” As for the Comcast merger, he says it has been working out great. The company has fantastic synergy. They call it “symphony.” He continues: “We can no longer ignore time-shifting.” he wants to consider using ratings that include DVR watching up to seven days after original broadcast. He also slams DISH’s commercial-skipper, HOP. “This is an insult to our joint investment in programming and I’m against it.” Harbert says he’s the worst opening act ever—and out.
Tape of Fey and Fallon pretending to take a peek at Greenblatt’s promo DVDs. They watch several fake musical promos featuring stars like Rainn Wilson and Amy Poehler singing about their shows. “This is what Bob Greenblatt is doing?” Fey asks. “He’s lost his mind,” Fallon replies. Obviously Greenblatt is trying to Reagan his adoration of the musical. The singing and boogeying David Gregory gets big laughs.
Segue to live Kat McPhee and Megan Hilty singing that Smash song. They are good!
9:07 a.m. Carson Daly, host of The Voice, introduces this season’s winner, Jermaine Paul. He wasn’t supposed to win—Juliet Simms was a favorite. But he’s singing and he believes he can fly and touch the sky.
9:26 a.m. Greenblatt is talking a number of mid-season replacements. Salke is introducing clips. This is a very long presentation. One assumes the advertisers want their lunch. For sure the reporters are thinking about it. Salke is introducing clips and says these are not so-so shows but strong programming. Among them: lots and lots from the Anne Heche comedy, Save Me. The character cheats death and develops powers and talks to God and finds joy. Quirky. “Very original,” Salke says.
Another comedy: 1600 Penn, a political comedy. Having developed New Girl, Salke reminds us — but that was at Fox — she has found the New Boy—Josh Gad, from Book of Mormon. He plays the President’s goofball son and does get a few laughs. And then, Dane Cook in Next Caller as a heartbroken shock jock. “Your show sucks and your ratings are garbage,” his boss (Jeffrey Tambor) tells him. But things do get better—at least in the show.
Drama: a medical show called Do No Harm. They call it “Jeckyll and House” at the network. Apparently the doctor has a condition that turns him into a wild and crazy guy at night—not in a good way. Hard to see how this can be sustained over a season of television. Last new drama (yay!) is a “sexy soap,” Infamous. Meagan Good—a woman of color in the lead! She goes undercover to solve her friend’s murder.
Salke wraps it up saying, “I hope you share my enthusiasm” in such a flat tone that the audience actually laughs! One of the funniest moments in a presentation now pushing two hours.
One more plug for—you guessed it—Smash. McPhee and some other Smash talent sing the audience out with a big gospel number.
Pray, NBC, pray.