NBC Execs on the Fate of 'The Carmichael Show,' an Olympics Boost and the Benefits of Stability

Bob Greenblatt - Publicity - P 2016
Art Streiber/NBC

Bob Greenblatt is poised to take another victory lap when he meets with Madison Avenue buyers Monday morning at NBCUniversal’s super-sized upfront bazaar.

Though he'll have to share the platform with cable, the NBC Entertainment chairman will no doubt boast about his broadcast network's stability from the Radio City stage, a point none of his rivals have the stats to back up this year. NBC, once an industry punching bag for its perennial fourth-place standing, is expected to round out the season just one to two tenths of a point behind a Super Bowl-boosted CBS — and if the big game were excluded, the former would likely be No. 1 among the coveted 18-49 demo. What’s more, the franchise-heavy network is returning five sophomore series, including breakout Blindspot and Dick Wolf’s Chicago Med.

“We’re feeling very good and bullish about what we’re doing for the fall,” Greenblatt noted Sunday during a conference call with reporters, adding later to muted laughs: “I’m dancing a jig.”

Here are the highlights as Greenblatt and his fellow executives gave their pitch a test run with the press:

Carmichael’s Fate

To the delight of many of the call, Greenblatt said he remains committed to keeping the critically adored The Carmichael Show on NBC's schedule. He confirmed that the holdup came down to the series' episode count, with lead studio 20th Century Fox believed to be willing to settle for 13 episodes while his network only wants 10, and (at least to date) won't budge. "The studio always wants more episode than the networks do," Greenblatt said. "You get into a second season of a show and there are contractual obligations that are in that contract, most of which are based on antiquated ways of doing business." That said, the exec said he was "hopeful" he'd have news to share in the coming days, but when exactly that would be remained an open question. 

A Not-So-Bold Approach to Fall

While multiple reporters pressed Greenblatt on the lack of new shows scheduled for fall, he used his pre-upfront platform to stress that that stability should be perceived as a sign of strength. “We just didn’t need to overturn the schedule … because we have extraordinary and remarkable stability,” he said, noting at another point during the call, “For the first time in awhile, we feel like we’re not just throwing shows against the wall hoping for the best.” When reporters continued to press on the decision, suggesting that somehow the stance indicated a lack of confidence in the new fare, Greenblatt wondered aloud why others weren't placing the net's lack of needs in the “positive column” as he had, adding, "I couldn't be happier that we don't have to do a lot."

The Olympics Boost

Sorry, Dick Wolf, it seems Superstore is the series poised to get the biggest boost from NBC’s Olympics platform this summer. Both Greenblatt and entertainment president Jennifer Salke showered the America Ferrera comedy with praise, with Greenblatt noting that an original episode would air within the Summer Games. When, exactly, is still being sorted out. Also revealed: Better Late Than Never, a travel-reality show featuring William Shatner, Henry Winkler and George Foreman, will nab a post-Games slot, while several other series — new and returning — will get some high-profile plugs throughout the Olympics' weeks-long run.

Speaking of Comedy...

Sure, Salke acknowledged that NBC has historically struggled with its comedy brand — they've been "course-correcting" for a couple years, she said — but she insisted that the network had come closer to figuring out what that brand might be with the success of the slightly broader Superstore. "We finally feel like we’re in a sweet spot," Salke said, before throwing out terms including “smart,” “sophisticated” and “funny” to define the brand in 2016. She then added that NBC will once again rely on strong comedic voices a la Tina Fey and Mike Schur, whom Greenblatt called the network’s “favorite creator.” 

The Significance of Stacking Rights

Greenblatt confirmed that in-season stacking rights to his shows — as opposed to simply a rolling-five — were of increasing importance to his business, particularly as the landscape grows increasingly crowded. He suggested he was pleased with the network's progress in that area, revealing that NBC has "been able to work through successfully with the various studios getting those rights," before adding, "It's kind of order of the day, and the studios know it." 

Some Open Questions — and a Few Answers

Greenblatt noted that his team had not yet made a decision on the fate of the Sony-produced Cruel Intentions reboot, reiterating a line about the network's "embarrassment of riches." Also unclear: whether Grimm's sixth season would go beyond 13 episodes. (The exec noted that they had two other genre options in Emerald City and Midnight, Texas to slot in on Friday nights, should they so choose.) What they have landed on is a January launch for The New Celebrity Apprentice, with Greenblatt noting that it will help lift the network between cycles of The Voice.