TCA: Plenty on the plate for NBC

NBCNBC and two of its cable networks  took to the stage last weekend at the TCA Winter Press Tour in Pasadena to tout its post-Olympic schedule – which contains a major realignment of its late fringe schedule.

While NBC has improved its programming under Entertainment President Bob Greenblatt, there are still many weak spots, including Thursday night.

– Executive session: I’m guessing Greenblatt would rather go through a lobotomy than to talk to journos at TCA. But he did anyway, the trooper he is. Like other network chiefs, Greenblatt supports the pilot process, debunking what Fox said earlier in the week. Greenblatt addressed the low rating struggles for Thursday night’s Michael J. Fox Show and Sean Saves The World, neither are likely to return with their sub-one adults 18-49 rating. One thing that could greatly improve Thursday is a new package of NFL games, but Greenblatt declined to say if his network was interested (they reportedly are.)

After being prodded by critics, Greenbaltt came out and said Parks & Recreation would be renewed for a seventh season, while the jury is still out for a sixth season of Community. While this would no doubt please fans of Parks & Rec, you have to question this move given the show’s average 1.1 adult 18-49 rating. Greenblatt was fortunate he was facing critics and not Wall Street investors when he made this announcement.

Community earned a 0.5 household rating last week in its first year of off-net syndication, far, far behind its nearest competitor in the off-net sitcom category. At least Community is in syndication; Parks isn’t, at least on broadcast, and there are no plans to sell it to stations. And yes, NBC still has Community opposite The Big Bang Theory and American Idol.

A more pressing question the critics should’ve asked was…why are they still on the air? While they are very good shows, keep in mind this is a business first, and its a harsh reality people need to face.

Greenblatt made a bunch of programming announcements during his presentation; those will be covered in the Quick Hits & Bits section below.

– To the panels: NBC introduced new single-cam comedy Growing up Fisher, produced by Jason Bateman, who is also the show’s VO. Fisher is about a kid who covers up his dad’s blindness until he gets a seeing-eye dog when his parents divorce (Huh?) The show is based on the real-life childhood of DJ Nash, who created the show and is an exec producer. Critics didn’t seem impressed with the show – many questioned the premise, with one even mistaking it for a drama.

Fisher premieres after the Sochi games’ closing ceremonies, February 23 then settles into its regular Tuesday night time slot after The Voice two nights later.

– Next up was Chicago P.D., Dick Wolf’s new cop show based and shot here in the Windy City. As opposed to the last Chicago cop show shot here (Fox’s Chicago Code), PD is a more gritter look at Chicago’s police force. PD is a spinoff of Wolf other Chicago-based show (Chicago Fire), with a few crossovers planned. Another crossover episode with another Wolf show, New York-based Law & Order: SVU.

Wolf also had a take on Chicago’s real-life crime and gang problems, which attracted negative national and international headlines over the last few years. Via Deadline: “The situation has gotten more in hand, but not going to talk specifics about Chicago police which has a difficult time as it is. I think they’re doing as good a job as expected under the specific social pressures of Chicago,” said Wolf. “It’s a cop show. We’re not up here promoting social agendas, this is a hard edged cop show.” Wolf went on to praise Chicago and its residents, saying it is the “Heart of America” and has values that most Americans appreciate (except for extreme left-and right-wing pundits) over the coasts.

And this Chicagoan thanks Wolf for the compliment.

– The next panel was Believe, a new drama from J.J. Abrams about a relationship between a young girl with supernatural powers and an ex-convict who tries to protect her. The series remained on track despite the revolving door of showrunners, with original exec producer Mark Friedman departing last summer, and his replacement Dave Erickson departing last month and now succeeded by Jason Cate. Abrams pointed out the departures were a part of the creativity process.

– Next up was Crisis, featuring former X-Files star Gillian Anderson’s return to television. Here, a group of school kids on a field trip are taken hostage while some of Washington’s power brokers find themselves in a international conspiracy. “The machine of the season is what will you do for your child,” executive producer Rand Ravich told critics at the TCA gathering. He said he and his writing staff paid no attention to CBS’ Hostages, a similar-in-tone serialized show which wrapped up its storylines in its first (and only) season. Crisis’ have the same plan, but would leave an opening if the series is picked up for a second season.

Crisis premieres on Sunday March 16, which is being paired with Believe, which debuts on March 10.

–  NBCUniversal-owned USA Network brought out a pair of shows to USA, the first of them is new comedy Sirens. Based on the British series on the same name, the single-cam comedy follows three Chicago EMTs (Michael Mosley, Kevin Daniels, and Kevin Bigley) where highjinks occur. Show co-creator and former Rescue Me star Denis Leary – who probably isn’t used to this type of “press conference”, said he and business partner Jim Seprico. Both were approached by the creators of the British series to develop and pitch an American version and Leary happily obliged.

Sirens premieres March 6 on USA after the season premiere of hot property Suits, who also held a panel featuring the entire cast. USA’s Sirens, of course, is not related to the 1993-94 ABC and 1994-95 syndicated female cop drama of the same name (and this version featured Liza Snyder, who went on to star in the CBS sitcom Yes, Dear.)

Quick Hits & Bits:

– Fresh off the success of The Sound Of Music, NBC’s next live musical is Peter Pan, and should air sometime this fall.

– Jay Leno leaves The Tonight Show for good on Feb. 6, with Jimmy Fallon, Billy Crystal, and Garth Brooks as the final guests. Fallon takes over the reigns with Tonight on Feb. 17, with the show relocating to New York City, its home until 1972, when the series moved to Burbank, Calif. Fallon’s guests for the first night are Will Smith and U2.

– Meanwhile, SNL alum Seth Myers take over Fallon’s old Late Night gig on Feb. 24. His first guest is fellow SNLer (and former Chicago resident) Amy Poehler.

– NBC is bringing back Celebrity Apprentice, with production beginning this spring.

– The new Esquire network (based on the lifestyle magazine) announced several new shows and projects in development, including an interview show called My Friends Call Me Johnny, where the Esquire Network president (Jean Pigozzi) flies around the world to ask intimate questions of his closest celebrity friends. Cronyism at its best, people.