TCA: Burning Questions for TV's Top Execs

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From left: Bob Greenblatt, Kevin Reilly, Nina Tassler, Paul Lee

Each of the Big Four chiefs will have some explaining to do as they meet with television critics from July 24-Aug. 7: "American Idol"? Shrinking viewership? Dumping Leno?

A version of this story first appeared in the Aug. 2 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

With the networks set to peddle their new fall wares for hundreds of journalists gathered at the biannual Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills, there are no shortage of questions to be asked. 

NBC entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt will be the first broadcast chief on the hot seat when his network kicks off the broadcast portion of press tour this Saturday. The others will follow, as the assembled media will no doubt grill the industry's top execs about shrinking ratings, executive departures and bold -- if foolish -- programming choices. Here are the top queries coming their way:


Kevin Reilly, you had us eating out of your hands at the winter TCA tour, and that was as you fielded questions about your crappy fall. Work that voodoo magic when we ask you about your new bound-to-be-controversial comedy Dads, which already has members of the media lashing out on Twitter. (Sample tweet from BuzzFeed’s Kate Aurthur: "Ooh, @DADSonFOX followed me. Hey, @DADSonFOX, why are you SO RACIST?"). And you’re not going to be able to get through your half-hour panel without addressing the much-needed do-overs at American Idol and The X Factor, the departure of reality guru Mike Darnell and the future of Glee in the wake of co-star Cory Monteith's tragic passing.


This should be a cakewalk, Nina Tassler. You ended the year No. 1 in all meaningful demos. In fact, you're doing so much better than the competition that we'll be hard-pressed to find our angle. We'll try, though. Someone will push you on the racist remarks in the Big Brother house. Or maybe the fart jokes on fall comedy The Millers. Also of interest: the fact that you're attempting to launch a two-hour comedy block on Thursdays, the most lucrative night of the week. Oh, and with the late-night maneuvers at NBC, expect a question about the future of CBS' lineup. And while for the first time in a long time you can grace the TCA stage without an onslaught of questions about the latest Two and a Half Men controversy, we will be asking about the show’s female lead that you’ve yet to cast.

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We're going to leave you alone about Smash, Greenblatt. Let bygones be bygones. The Leno-Fallon switcheroo? That's still fair game. In fact, we could lose our jobs if we don't come back with a satisfying answer on why you decided to dump the long-reigning ratings champ, so start prepping. You can expect a question about fired-and-rehired Community creator Dan Harmon (he did call you "Darth Vader," after all). Dismal summer ratings for shows like Siberia also could come up. As for your new crop of shows, someone in the crowd likely will inquire about your hefty 22-episode order for the Michael J. Fox show. Is he healthy enough for that type of commitment? And is America prepared to laugh with him as he makes a brave return to TV?


Paul Lee, Madison Avenue likely ate up your whole "We may be the No. 4 network in ratings, but we're the No. 1 brand" spiel at the upfronts, but not us. You'll need to address that shrinking viewership. What else? We know you loved Happy Endings, and we know it didn't perform. That won't stop us from asking about your decision to cancel the little-watched darling. We might ask about the decline of former critical hit Revenge or who else will pop up on Marvel's Agents of SHIELD, too. And about the new shows, of which you have eight (!) launching later this year -- how many is too many?