NBC Bosses Talk THE VOICE, SMASH, and COMMUNITY Changes
July 25, 2012 by Marisa Roffman
There are quite a few new shows coming to NBC this fall, but when the network executives took the stage for their Television Critics Association panel on Tuesday, some of the most noteworthy things they had to say were about the state of their returning shows.
For NBC’s hit singing competition series, THE VOICE, one of the biggest changes to occur is that the show will now get two cycles a year. And while the risk of overexposure is there, Robert Greenblatt, Chairman, NBC Entertainment, was optimistic that won’t be the case.
“I will just say that almost every reality franchise does two cycles a season, and one could argue that AMERICAN IDOL and X FACTOR are the same show in many respects, one in the fall and one in the spring,” Greenblatt said. “So, you know, we’re obviously cautious about expanding it. But we’ve also done some things to the format which, I think, are going to ensure that it is an even better show in the fall and can sustain through the spring.”
Paul Telegdy, President, Unscripted & Late Night at NBC, added that there will be a few tweaks to the series to keep viewers engaged, even as they get twice as much of the show.
“It’s a challenge for anyone producing one of these shows to kind of keep it fresh and keep it vibrant,” Telegdy said. “And we think we’ve come up with some great ways to do that that will sustain us through the fall…without getting into absolute specifics, when you look back at the season, of course, you look at the points in the where the show changes pace and ways to kind of excite the viewers. And one of the exciting things about THE VOICE is obviously the famous red chairs and the button-pushing. And we found exciting ways to keep the kind of competition between the coaches going through the latter stages of the competition.”
Hmm…any guesses on what that might be?
It’s no secret COMMUNITY will undergo a couple major changes in the upcoming — not only is the series is moving to Friday nights (for a shortened season), but they lost their showrunner/creator Dan Harmon. Still, Greenblatt defended the moves the network made.
“COMMUNITY is a show that has been always on the bubble and we decided to bring it back again and see what a fourth season will do for us,” Greenblatt said, admitting that he hopes the network is able to find a more broad audience for its comedies. “But the reason that we did 13 episodes of that and a couple of our other shows is because we really wanted to get more comedies on the schedule and we picked up a number of new comedies for the fall and mid season, and we just sort of laid out the number of episodes we would need of things in order to get new shows on and thought let’s do shorter seasons of these shows, which isn’t to say we couldn’t decide at some point to extend those seasons…I think the fans of COMMUNITY are going to get the same show that they have loved from the beginning. Every so often, it’s time to make a change with a showrunner, and you sort of evaluate the creative and how the show is run and how the writing staff works and sometimes you want to freshen the show. And we just decided that it was time to do that on COMMUNITY, and no disrespect to anyone.”
And while 30 ROCK is officially done after this year, Greenblatt wasn’t willing to officially shut the door on COMMUNITY.
“I would love nothing more than COMMUNITY to have a following on Friday and to be able to continue it,” he said.
While some people may have gotten a little weary with SMASH’s creative direction, Greenblatt defended the series.
“I’m going to say this for the record: I’m inordinately proud of “Smash” on so many levels,” he said. “The complexity of producing that show every week is just incredible. And as a producer as a television producer and as a Broadway producer, which I once was, I am in awe of what we can do on that show every week. That said, it’s a big soap with a number of characters with arcing storylines, and in every I think in every soap, at the end of the season, relationships end, and people leave the show. And you look at characters and evaluate whether they’re great characters or not or whether they have a future in the show. And we did all of that. And we had some ups and downs creatively as the season went on, which is true of any show. Just compound that by the production that we go through in terms of original songwriting and recordings, and all that is happening simultaneously.”
Still he could concede there were some improvements they were hoping to see in SMASH’s second season.
“I think where we didn’t do as good a job as I hope we do this year and I think with the new showrunner [former GOSSIP GIRL boss Josh Safran], we will do better is the arcing of the storylines and the consistency of going in one direction with a character and continuing in a really interesting way with that arc,” Greenblatt admitted. “I think we were inconsistent, going back and forth with some things. But pound for pound, that cast, those six central characters and now the new people that we’re bringing to the show Jeremy Jordan, who’s currently a star on Broadway in “Newsies”…we have Jennifer Hudson in three of the first four episodes. There’s some other people coming, but the heart of that show is Debra [Messing] and Anjelica [Huston] and Christian Borle…So we’re really, really excited…There are some great new storylines, and I’m really excited about it.”
Are you hopeful COMMUNITY will still be the same show? Do you think there will be a THE VOICE overload on NBC? And are you still hooked on SMASH?
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