Several hours after NBC ended their winter Television Critics Association panel on Friday, we are still wondering what exactly we are supposed to feel about it. Should we praise a network, and its head Robert Greenblatt, for their honesty — or should be blast them for some of the illogical moves they have made to get them to this point?
In analyzing Greenblatt’s discussion from reporters, what we ultimately find is a mixed bag that really goes along with the current uncertain future of a struggling network.
On “Community” – Yes, we all know that the ratings for the show are poor, and Greenblatt was at least kind enough not to rub it in the faces of critics who have been crying all over their keyboards since the study group was left off the mid season schedule. While there was a glimmer of hope courtesy of the re-announcement that “Community” will return at some point this season, Greenblatt did not say when — and he also said that decisions on a season 4 would have to wait.
The debate when it comes to “Community” is not necessarily whether or not the show should be canceled, mostly because it already would be if it was airing on any other network. Rather, the issue at hand here seems to be why this is the show that gets kicked to curb over “Whitney” — a show that Greenblatt expressed some confidence in during the press conference. While “Whitney” has slightly better ratings, it benefits heavily from both a lead-on of “The Office,” and the fact that it does not compete directly against one of the most-popular shows on all TV (and another comedy) in “The Big Bang Theory”). There are few people out there who get excited for a singular episode of “Whitney” like they do just about every other comedy on NBC’s slate.
Ultimately, the hope here is that they eventually try both “Whitney” and “Community” out in the same 8:00 p.m. Wednesday time slot at some point in the spring. Let the shows battle it out, and the one with the greater amount of success should stay. (Of course, we are putting a good bit of stock in all the Greendale Human Beings out there to watch without “Big Bang” looming.)
On “America’s Got Talent” – Greenblatt seems confidence that Howard Stern is not only going to be able to bring the show to a new level, but also that he will scare people away. We’re not so sure.
TV executives and critics on the east and west coast occasionally fail to remember middle America — a blue-collar region that has made “Two and a Half Men” into a hit. Some of these families are religious, and some are protective. We’re well aware that Stern can handle himself fine in this environment without offending anyone, but the issue here is that some people may not even be willing to give Howard and his massive contract a chance.
On “Smash” – This musical has a great cast featuring everyone from Debra Messing to former “American Idol” star Katharine McPhee. It is also one that Greenblatt is investing a great deal into in hopes it becomes a hit. However, he was also smart enough here to admit that it, like his attempt to bring “Prime Suspect” to America, could be a failure and they have to move on.
On new additions – There were a couple of key announcements related to NBC’s shows at the TCA event. First, that Harry Connick Jr. will be making an appearance on “Law & Order: SVU” — and then, that a score of artists including Kelly Clarkson, Ne-Yo, Lionel Richie, and more will be advising certain coaches on “The Voice” this coming season.
Overall, the most interesting (and also entertaining) thing that Greenblatt said during the entire event were the words “we had a bad fall.” While not everyone may like this sort of blunt honestly, we love that he was willing to admit the failures of “The Playboy Club” and “Suspect.” While the ratings may not be there at times for NBC, we love a network that has given shows like “Chuck,” “Community,” and “30 Rock” time to shine when other networks would have already sent them to the “brilliant but canceled” TV graveyard next to “Firefly” and “Arrested Development.”
With this in mind (and even with their mistakes — see “Whitney”), and since the network has given some of our favorite shows time, shouldn’t we give the network a while to sort this out?