Pilots Package: dialogue with Kevin Reilly
EmptyThe Hollywood Reporter: With several series, "Heroes," "The Office" and "Deal or No Deal" working, how close is NBC to a complete turnaround?
Kevin Reilly: We're at a point where one hit, or a couple good solid shows will lift all the ships. Network TV is still a circulation game in which success begets success. Next fall we will have a few more protected time slots which is key. We have a couple of strong nights that provide launching pads, which enables the whole schedule to hold together.
THR: Last year, you revamped your entire schedule shortly after you presented it to the advertisers. Can we expect major scheduling changes for next season?
Reilly: We had to seriously rework our schedule following ABC's move of "Grey's Anatomy," but we were fairly stable once we did that. We didn't do a lot of willy nilly tweaks week to week. The philosophy I believe in is the steadier the better. I'd be surprised if we have to redo the schedule this year the way we did last year. Thursday night feels cohesive, Monday is solid at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. with "Deal or No Deal" and "Heroes" and Friday has been working fairly well. There may be a tweak or two, but I prefer to put shows in time slots and leave them alone. For instance, there was a school of thought to move "Heroes" when Fox's "24" came on, but we felt that, while we were looking at a powerhouse show in "24," we had the biggest new series of the year in "Heroes," and that we would be OK keeping the show in its time slot. We're going to do more offensive than defensive programming.
THR: With the exception of "Heroes," this season has been tough on new serialized drama series. How did that affect your choices on the one-hour side?
Reilly: This year we managed to keep the same quality with concepts that are slightly more accessible. We have concepts that, if executed well, have the potential to be broad-based.
THR: The concepts of almost all of your comedy pilots seem way out there. Was that a deliberate effort?
Reilly: Truthfully, we didn't set out to do that exclusively, but we just couldn't get excited about the same old same old, like another show about a young couple and their single neighbor. It felt these are not the things that would cut through the clutter and work for us, especially in nonprotected time periods. We were looking for distinctive shows that would be self-starters much like "My Name Is Earl," which was a big concept and a self-starter.
THR: Unlike other networks, you didn't aggressively pursue big-name actors to star in your pilots. Why is that?
Reilly: I'm excited about the quality of actors on our pilots. We didn't get hung up on stars. Some of the actors — like Matthew Lillard — have a profile, and Damian Lewis was someone everybody had been chasing for years to do a pilot. But we're not bringing back last year's television star.
THR: What is the status on some veteran series that are on the bubble like "Law & Order," "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" and "Scrubs"?
Reilly: There are ongoing conversations on the two "Law & Order" series. It is going to be both a creative and a business decision. They are expensive shows. As for "Scrubs," I love the show, it has been tremendous having it as part of our Thursday comedy lineup. But I think it will go down to the wire, it is a fairly expensive show.