TV Upfronts: THR Live-Blogs NBC's Presentation

Robert Greenblatt

"'Tonight' ... not the cash cow it was in the Johnny Carson days."

Following Sunday's schedule announcement, NBC was the first network to formally kick off Upfronts Week in New York with its morning presentation. 

11 a.m. It's go time at Radio City Music Hall. For the first time -- even the oldest among us can remember -- NBC did not have a conference call with the press ahead of its presentation. They're selling to the advertisers and the virtual-ink-stained wretches must fend for themselves. It may improve focus for beleaguered NBC executives but it doesn't scream confidence.

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11:19 The Roots are warming up the crowd -- very loudly. They introduce NBC Broadcasting chairman Ted Harbert. He notes that there are 18 upfront presentations this week alone. Too many, he says before introducing sales president Linda Yaccarino. She highlights James Spader drama The Blacklist, The Michael J. Fox Show and Blair Underwood's Ironside remake among the new fare. In the past two years, she notes, Comcast has spent more than $23 billion on content. The numbers segue into a video of Amy Poehler as Parks and Recreation's Pawnee councilwoman Leslie Knope doing a year in review. She hypes The Voice as well as drama Revolution and pitches a show called Pawnee Fire, a nod to NBC's recently greenlit Chicago Fire spinoff Chicago PD.

11:25 NBC entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt is introduced. "Just glad I made it to the podium before the applause died down," he begins, humbly. He jokes that he will step down in 2014 to become host of The Tonight Show and Jay Leno will be taking his job. Some advertisers might be thinking it's worth a try. Greenblatt mentions The Voice and advertisers applaud. There's a video of the voice judges. Says Greenblatt: "It was a bit of a roller coaster season for us but I think we made really good progress." He mentions that NBC is just behind Fox for No. 2 among the advertiser-coveted adults 18-49 demographic. And that factoring out sports, NBC is flat while the competition is down. Yes, flat is the new up.

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11:37 Greenblatt says NBC will use football and The Voice in the fall to launch new shows, such as The Blacklist (which landed the post-Voice slot on Mondays that helped launch Revolution). In February, the Olympics provide another launch opportunity for programming including Ironside. He runs through the schedule briskly. And then introduces The Michael J. Fox Show. Fox is in the audience and waves from his seat. The clip plays: Fox is a newsman with Parkinson's and there are some funny Parkinson's jokes that get big laughs. Yes, Parkinson's jokes. The audience applauds. Those jokes need to be used selectively but they worked in the clips. Next out is NBC entertainment president Jen Salke -- brighter out of the gate than her somnolent performance last year.

11:48 Salke introduces NBC's new comedy crop. First up: Mike O'Malley vehicle Welcome to the Family. A few laughs and light applause but NBC cuts straight to a clip from Sean Saves the World with Sean Hayes and Alice's Linda Lavin. Oops. It's quiet in here. The canned laughter is very audible. Hayes gets a couple big laughs with gay jokes and some physical comedy but overall, a lukewarm response to the clips. Salke then introduces Jason Katims' About a Boy comedy remake. The cute kid (fresh off 1600 Penn) is in the audience and gets an "aw." The clip is sort of low-key amusing; the audience seems moderately amused. It's like an audible "maybe" in here. And then The Family Guide, which is about a kid with a blind father. Quiet in here again. The Parkinson's jokes played better.

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12:04 Salke turns to drama, starting with midseason shows -- specifically J.J. Abrams' Believe, which features a cute little girl with special powers. She's in danger! Seems like familiar as a premise, but who knows? Rand Ravich's Crisis is next. It features the creepy kidnapped kids in jeopardy premise. Seems like the audience is shrugging -- could either be the clips or that we're at the hour-mark of the presentation. The clips from dramas seem a bit generic; hope there isn't a quiz where they play the clips and you have to say which was which. Now the fall dramas: "A fresh take on Dracula." Another one! But Salke notes it's from "the classy producers of Downton Abbey." Looks very soapy with sex and gore. Definitely missing the Dowager Countess one-liners here. Very moderate applause. Ironside: Blair Underwood plays the Raymond Burr part. Guy to Detective Ironside: "What the hell is wrong with you? There are procedures, dammit, and they need to be followed!" It's like that. Underwood seems more pretty than gritty. Finally, The Blacklist with James Spader, which many dubbed one of the best scripts of pilot season. They saved best for last. Spader seems very at his ease as a former FBI agent gone rogue gone kinda good guy with a young female protégé and a few moves from the Hannibal Lecter school of creepy mentorship. The Takeaway: Blacklist and The Michael J. Fox Show by far played best in the room. As for the presentation, not dazzling but efficient and a huge improvement from last year's endless debacle.

12:47 NBC touts sports, then Greenblatt is back to congratulate Leno before announcing that Jimmy Fallon will takes over as host of The Tonight Show during the second week of the Olympics. Neither Leno nor Fallon is here though newly installed Late Night host Seth Meyers is -- and the advertisers clap with enthusiasm. Reality and late-night chief Paul Telegdy takes the stage to introduce a clip package from the network's late-night fare. Of course NBC is selling "the final season of Jay Leno." There's a video of Fallon -- he says he'll take all email questions about The Tonight Show and proceeds to share Greenblatt's email address. Then he and Leno share a duet, "Eight Months More" -- to the tune of Les Miserables. (More NBC Universal promotion? Leno sings ,"Who knows? They might beat Univision!" Naturally, that draws big laughs. Next up are a series of clips from the network's unscripted fare. The presentation is starting to feel very long -- it's lunch time, folks! I'm going to retract that comment about efficiency if this isn't it. Greenblatt returns to pump Carrie Underwood's three-hour live performance of The Sound of Music, which he wants to be the event of the holiday season when it bows Dec. 5. The executive tells the restless audience that he's wrapping up because, "I promised everyone that we would beat last year's time." Yes! But that's not hard. Not done yet, he thanks all the execs at NBC and quips, "Now I'm going to thank every person in the audience, individually." But not really as the presentation wraps and we're over and out.

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