NBCUniversal at TCA: We’re Number 3! We’re Number 3!

NBC Entertainment President Robert Greenblatt talks to the press at TCA.

NBCUniversal held its TCA presentations for its broadcast and cable platforms on Tuesday and Wednesday. Here are the highlights:

– NBC executive session: On Tuesday, NBC chief Robert Greenblatt addressed the media and touted the upcoming Summer Olympics, which opened in London on Friday – not to mention the brand new series he gets to peddle during the Games. The most bizarre part of his speech? Greenblatt proudly proclaiming NBC’s third-place finish, ahead of ABC (time to cue up the “Celebration” record”…) Greenblatt was optimistic about this fall’s schedule, thanks to heavy promotion during the Games.

As for The Voice, the hit reality-competition series has made some tweaks to endure itself through two cycles, according to reality czar Paul Telegdy.

Greenblatt also said NBC needs to broaden out its sitcoms – currently, much of the genre is single-camera, critically acclaimed shows with little mainstream audience appeal. Four new comedies debut this fall – two of them (Go On and Animal Practice) launch August 8 and 12, respectively.

– Here come the shows: First up was Guys With Kids, a new comedy from producer Jimmy Fallon featuring three dads who live in the same building who aren’t exactly fathers of the year. Tempsett Blesdoe (The Cosby Show) and Jamie Lynn-Sielger (The Sorpanos) also star. Fallon said at the tour the series was originally pitched as DILFs (don’t ask what that means).

Remember the movie My Baby’s Daddy? This is what this sitcom is like. And you know one of the stars of the movie, Anthony Anderson? Well, he’s in this show, too. Small world, isn’t it?

– Next up was Dick Wolf’s new drama Chicago Fire, and it has nothing to do with the real-life soccer team of the same name. Wolf said this series is no fire-of-the-week drama. Wolf said this is a series with multi- characters and multi-story arcs, and returns to the successful “NBC platinum drama.” The series is more reminiscent of FX’s Rescue Me than NBC’s successful 1972-77 series Emergency! (which performed respectably well on Saturdays opposite CBS’ All in the Family.)

– Imagine living in a world where all forms of energy were extinguished. No phone, no lights, no motor cars – not a single luxury. But this isn’t Gilligan’s Island. It’s Revolution, a new science-fiction drama from Lost creator and Avengers‘ director J.J. Abrams. Viewers at home get to see people try to deal with getting food, changing weather conditions, and trying to survive. Think of it as a worldwide blackout: according to tweets from TV Guide, co-exec producer Jon Favreau put TV over movies as he pointed out there is room for smart sophisticated storylines on the tube as opposed to the big screen as it has become “more restrictive”, and hoped the show would break new ground.

And it wouldn’t be a J.J. Abrams program without flashbacks, as Revolution will have them every episode up until right after the blackout.

Revolution is a type of show made in the LostHeroesBattlestar Galactica mold – a serialized drama with a built-in fan base. But while many would proclaim this as the next Lost, Revolution could wind up as the next FlashForward. Don’t worry, we’ll still have Gilligan…

– Up next is Ryan Murphy’s new comedy The New Normal, in which a blended gay couple tries to start a family with help of a surrogate. Murphy (who is openly gay) said about the hot potato issue, according to E!: “I remember Thanksgivings when I was growing up and my grandma would say jaw-dropping things and we would call her out on it. It felt very familiar to me. Hopefully it will feel familiar to other people.” He is referring to the character Ellen Barkin plays on the show, who has a rather negative opinion on gay couples having children.

While this concept is groundbreaking in a way, you would wonder how viewers in Middle America (outside of Chicago) would react to this show. Already, a conservative group is threatening to boycott the show. But the good news is, boycotts rarely succeed, judging by the ill-fated protests against Married… With Children and Jerry Springer in the past. And yes, we also get to see NeNe Leakes (of Real Housewives of Atlanta fame) make her acting debut in a regular series – she was in episode of Glee last year, where as Murphy also is showrunner. So he’s Randy Michaels now?

– Next was Matthew Perry and Go On, a new sitcom about a sportscaster trying to move on after someone close to him passes, and so he joins a support group. Said Perry:  “I gravitate toward sort of broken characters who try to be better people.” No kidding. This show is like The Bob Newhart Show – without the laughs or Bob Newhart. And didn’t Perry play a guy who managed a sports arena in Mr. Sunshine in a somewhat similar premise? Wow, network television doesn’t get any original than this. And this show “previews” on August 8, days before the Olympics end. Please NBC, stop interrupting our Olympics fun for one of your dumb, unfunny new sitcoms. See you in The T Dog Media TV Hall Of Shame, Perry.

– And then there’s Animal Practice, the new sitcom set in a vet’s office, and features… a monkey. Here’s what “star” Justin Kirk said about appearing opposite a monkey, via TV Media Insights: “I was told when I asked her handler, Tom, who is the man behind the woman, I said, “What’s the best way to ingratiate myself to Crystal, and bond with her?” And he says, and I think he’s told others of us, “Ignore her. Don’t try to grab her,” and I said, “I’ve been doing that all my life. So it shouldn’t be difficult.”

But what the press wanted to see was Crystal The Monkey, the real star of the show. And at the end of the panel, there she was on top of a mini-ambulance with sirens and lights blaring, waving to the crowd as she passed by.

Its nice for the major networks to recycle crap that’s failed from the past – remember Me and the Chimp or Mr. Smith, both with monkeys as supporting characters? Yeah. It’s no surprise when I looked at the IMDB on the cast and crew the show and saw Randy Michaels’ name listed as executive producer (I just can’t resist, can I?)

– NBCUniversal had just two of its cable networks at TCA: Style announced the renewal of reality series Big Rich Texas for another season, and ordered a Georgia spinoff for the show. Style also announced it will televise the 9th annual Style Awards this September during Fashion Week in New York City, in conjuction with PenskeMedia and IMG. Reality series Giuliana & Bill and Tia & Tamera (Mowry) will return with new episodes in October, and Style acquired off-network rights to CW’s Gossip Girl. I’m certain you’ll watch.

– Oxygen signed Fall Out Boy’s Peter Wentz to host a second season of Best Ink, a tattoo competition, a greenlighted a new reality show for Extra co-host Maria Menounos, and announced the dates for two new series: My Shopping Addition and Hollywood Unzipped: Stylist Wars, both set to premeire on Sept. 25 and Sept. 27, respectively.

And the rest… NBC is bringing back SNL Presidential Election primetime specials, scheduled for Sept. 20 and Sept. 27… NBC has ordered 10 episodes of a Dracula revival – the last time there was a regularly-scheduled Dracula series was during the 1990-91 season in first-run syndication.

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