NBC executives held court Sunday at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour in Pasadena, where they fielded questions about Revolution‘s huge hiatus, perhaps cuing up too much of The Voice, Hannibal‘s possibly too-dark subject matter and other hot topics.
But first, network chair Robert Greenblatt thoroughly touted his winning fall, buoyed in large part by Sunday Night Football, The Voice and both TV’s No. 1 new drama (Revolution) and comedy (Go On).
“The strategy [of airing The Voice in fall] worked — and I think it worked better than any of us thought it would,” Greenblatt said. Among the supporting data: NBC is up 24 percent season-to-date in the 18-49 demo versus 2011-12 and up 19 percent in total viewers (and is the only broadcast network to rise in either measure); this fall, NBC won or tied for No. 1 in 12 of 14 weeks, including an 11-week winning streak; and the Peacock is the only major whose median age is getting younger (now 48.4). (Even The CW is rising, now at 41.2, he crowed.)
All told, The Voice has boosted Mondays 176 percent (and Tuesdays 44 percent), while Revolution is besting Castle and Hawaii Five-0 in every demo. Go On lead-out The New Normal is regularly beating its sitcom competition, Parenthood has bested Vegas five out of their last six face-offs, Chicago Fire is the only new drama to improve on its premiere numbers (and multiples times at that), and Grimm, when it’s on, is Friday’s top-rated show.
That said, Greenblatt acknowledged that there is work to do on Thursdays, where its sitcom line-up does well with certain young demos but otherwise fails to make a dent.
Then, fielding questions, these topics were covered:
REVOLUTION‘S HIATUS | Asked to defend what was positioned as a “uniformly terrible” decision to bench a popular new genre show for several months, Greenblatt retorted, “Is it uniformly terrible, or uniformly terrible for terrible shows? The safer play for us,” he argued, “was not to do what I think is equally bad, to put on one episode, then three repeats, then one on, one off…. If you market properly and have the goods, and you can run them all in a row… that’s the better long-term play.”
WILL THE VOICE ECHO HURT? | Speaking to the decision to air The Voice twice a year — and the possibility of viewer fatigue — Greenblatt said, “We haven’t really written that [pattern] in stone. If we feel for some reason we’re hurting the franchise, we could very well adjust that.” Plus, he noted that rotating in new coaches Shakira and Usher for Season 4 will provide a “very distinctive flavor.”
THE UP ALL NIGHT REVAMP | NBC entertainment president Jennifer Salke admitted that pulling the sophomore comedy off the air for a long stretch to reconfigure it as a traditional three-camera sitcom is “a bit of an experiment… but it’s one we’re taking.” Series leads Christina Applegate, Will Arnett and Maya Rudolph — the likes of which Salke said “are not growing on trees” — “were itching to really perform in a way [and] we all felt a live audience would be the best solution to that.”
WHEN WILL HANNIBAL AIR? (AND IS IT TOO VIOLENT?) | Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal, as well as Save Me (starring Anne Heche), “might” debut by the end of the season. If not, Greenblatt said Hannibal “could fit really nicely” into the summer season. Salke described Fuller’s take on the early days of Hannibal Lecter and the FBI agent, Will Graham, who dogged him as “really well-crafted” and “unique,” while Greenblatt rebuffed the suggestion that now, post-Sandy Hook, is not the time for a show about a serial killer. For one, having once lorded over Showtime, he argued that “Criminal Minds is worse than Dexter ever was.” Plus, on Hannibal, “There is a lot of violence around the show, but you don’t see lots of acts of violence.” Salke added, “It’s not a shoot-‘em-up kind of show. It’s not gratuitous in a way you might be thinking.”
COMPETITION FROM KIMMEL, LENO’S SUCCESOR | Greenblatt said, “We anticipate some kind of impact” from ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live moving up a half-hour sooner to compete head-to-head with The Tonight Show, but noted that in the half hour the shows have always overlapped, “Jay virtually always beats Jimmy.” (“The bigger concern I’d have is the loss of Nightline,” he commented. “I’m not sure [those viewers] will go to Jimmy.) As for buzz that Jimmy Fallon might take over for Leno sooner rather than later, Greenblatt noted that Leno’s contract has just been extended, so “those conversations are a little bit premature.”
ON DECK: DRACULA, PIRATES AND ALEX P. KEATON | Dracula (starring Jonathan Rhys Myers) will be ready for a fall launch; Crossbones, a pirate drama, is heading into preproduction; and Michael J. Fox’s new comedy, which like Dracula and Hannibal was ordered straight to series, will have its first table read soon. In the more immediate future, NBC has ordered for this summer 13 episodes of Camp, a dramedy series in the tradition of Meatballs and Dazed & Confused.