NBC shifts focus to development, primetime

Entertainment chief Gaspin says 'the goal is to rebuild'

Suddenly, NBC seems like the stable one.

With ABC rocked by entertainment president Steve McPherson's abrupt departure, and Fox in the midst of "Idol"-pocalypse as the network scrambles to play judges roulette, NBC's usually high-drama press tour executive session seemed downright serene.

TCAs 2010  
"We're trying to rebuild, and we recognize some of the mistakes that we've made over the past several years," said entertainment chairman Jeff Gaspin. "We put a lot more money into development this year. We believe we have a lot more stability in the network than in quite some time."

Gaspin reflected on the changes at the network this past year, during which the network briefly turned its 10 p.m. hour over to Jay Leno and lost long-time talent Conan O'Brien to TBS.

"We made too many changes too quickly from a position of weakness," Gaspin said. "And so it was a self-fulfilling prophecy. The goal is to rebuild, get stronger. And then, if we need to make changes at that point, it will be several years down the line. We'll have more information, but we won't be working from such a position of weakness, which really jeopardized some of the decisions that we made."

After the panel, when asked about making any new late night changes, Gaspin said, "I'm done with late night for now. I'm going to focus on primetime."

Given Simon Cowell's departure from Fox's ratings titan "Idol," Gaspin said he said there may be an opportunity for rivals next year.

"I do think 'Idol' could pose an opportunity but I don't think it's specific to a music show," he said. "We don't have to be afraid necessarily to put a good show up against it."

One critic expressed some concern about NBC's most promising fall pilot, "The Event," which critics have worried might suffer the same fate as ABC's similarly ambitious "FlashForward."

"We are going to do everything in our power to guard against the 'FlashForward' [problems]," said entertainment president Angela Bromstad. "We take those lessons very seriously. Audiences and critics will be rightly be skeptical."

Critics also inquired about midseason superhero drama "The Cape" and whether the network learned any lessons from "Heroes."

"'Heroes' was a great show and we had four tremendous years with that and it was a very good business for us," Bromstad said. "One of the things that we found was so much about the discovery of their powers in the first year, this is really more of a procedural and this character in 'The Cape' doesn't have super powers."

Regarding Steve Carell leaving "The Office" at the end of next season, Bromstad said the writers have a plan in place to weave his departure into the show's storyline that will build a mystery around who his replacement will be.

Gaspin added that there's no plans to move another Thursday comedy, "Community," even though CBS' top-rated "Big Bang Theory" was going into its slot this fall.

"'Big Bang' is a great show, and it's going to do very well on Thursday night," Gaspin said. "I'm hopeful that there's room for two comedies. Their audiences are somewhat different, but 'Community' has been there for the year. The audience is accustomed to watching it there. We're going to wait and see what happens."

The executives were asked a couple times about McPherson's departure, with one critic awkwardly asking if the duo have any "experience" with sexual harassment.

"Me? No," said programming president Angela Bromstad, drawing laughs. "I have no inside information about anything going on at ABC."

"I've not had any experience with it personally, and not been involved in any case of it," said Gaspin.

Also, NBC made a few announcements:

-- With the traditional September premiere week turning into a particularly intense shoot-out this year with nearly every new program premiering during the same week, NBC is launching a couple shows early with a sneak preview of Jimmy Smits legal drama "Outlaw" after the Wednesday finale of "America's Got Talent." Also, the second season of "Parenthood" will launch early, Sept. 14, after the second-to-last episode of "Talent."

-- The "30 Rock" cast will perform a live episode on Oct. 14.

-- Rob Lowe now a full-time cast member on "Parks & Recreation."

-- Peter Berg and Sarah Aubrey's production company, renewed its overall development deal with Universal Media Studios. Deal includes a pilot for U.K. import "Prime Suspect."
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