NBC Takes Its Bow and Nobody Kicks It From Behind (Analysis)

Robert Greenblatt | NBC

The upfront will mark NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt's debut as the face of the troubled network. Look for him to acknowledge the Peacock's ratings struggles and push a "rebuilding" theme.

Maybe the biggest surprise of the Bob Greenblatt Victory Tour, aka NBC’s appearance at the Television Critics Association press tour, is that it wasn’t interrupted.

All this chatter in the forest about “You’re going to get killed from January onward” did not materialize, which suggests those intent on that kind of carping are going to play sniper instead of public bomber.

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Instead, what Greenblatt got from the assembled folks who cover television and the critics who play judge was a varied, sort of interesting little chat. Hey, that’s the best outcome one could have expected, at NBC, on this lovely Sunday.

Credit goes to Greenblatt, too, for keeping up his history of being open and honest with us and not spinning too hard or outlandishly about the possibilities of future success. He’s been blunt before -- saying in effect that NBC has had terrible years, has blundered in past attempts at a turnaround and, most importantly, that it would take a while to complete the resurrection of a once-proud network.

In fact, before he read off all the positive numbers, Greenblatt joked that we should allow him the pleasure since he didn't know when he'd get to do it again. 

On Sunday Greenblatt was again about as open as could be. When he went into the traditional and expected numbers-spinning, there actually wasn’t too much spin. NBC did well with the Olympics, with NFL games and with The Voice, but it also had a number of surprising freshman successes. He had a right to stand up there and gloat because -- let’s not kid ourselves here -- NBC has earned it. It found a formula in some shows (Revolution, Go On, etc.) that seemed to work, and others that are competing strongly.

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By all means, raise both hands and high-five your ass off (nobody, including Greenblatt, actually did that, unfortunately). The whispers are still in the wind, however, even if they didn’t come out via microphone. There’s not much buzz about NBC’s midseason bench, Fox and others are expected to surge, and on paper and through tea leaves it certainly appears NBC is primed for a stumble.

Perhaps none of that cynicism rose up because, well, you really can’t guarantee anything in television. None of us know what will be embraced by the masses. If we knew, every network would be larded with bloated demo numbers and there’d be a stock-ticker outside of every corporate building showing how the ratings numbers were rocketing like fireworks skyward.

Oh, and critics would be programmers.

But since nobody really knows what will work or not, maybe there was a little hesitation in the room to predict doom. It’s also clear there’s not much at other networks working everybody into an expectant lather (The Following is being mentioned a lot mostly because it’s gory and scary, not so much because it’s really good -- which it’s not.)

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Besides, maybe it’s too early in the TV press tour to be really outsize in our jadedness and crankiness. And in some ways it was nice to see Greenblatt, who has worked hard at one of the most difficult reclamation projects in television and who has always been straightforward with critics, to have his moment in the sun and not have it rained on.

Email: Tim.Goodman@THR.com

Twitter: @BastardMachine