NBC To Fly With ‘Peter Pan’ As Turnaround Takes Root
NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt came to the Television Critics Assn. session on Saturday with a slew of programming announcements, none more anticipated than the decision to make “Peter Pan” its next live musical production.
“Peter Pan” will air Dec. 4, with “Sound of Music Live” exec producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron back at the helm.
“Get ready for flying children and state-of-the-art effects,” Greenblatt told the scribes during his exec Q&A in Pasadena. And he hinted that they are already closing in on a male actor to play the title role. He noted that the role in the musical version has often been played by a woman — but not always (“Hint, hint,” he told reporters.)
The interest among journos in the live musical announcement was indicative of the importance of the runaway success of the Dec. 5 “Sound of Music Live” telecast to the network.
Internally, it’s seen as the strongest evidence that the turnaround at NBC is well on its way. Even more than a hot series, which NBC has fielded this year in “The Blacklist,” the fact that the Peacock could get people to show up for a one-time special event indicates that viewers are paying renewed attention to NBC. The 19 million-plus viewer turnout for “Sound of Music Live” vastly exceeded internal projections, and that has been a huge confidence boost for network execs.
To wit, Greenblatt seemed more relaxed and less defensive than in past TCA appearances. He joked easily with NBC Entertainment prexy Jennifer Salke and Paul Telegdy, president of latneight and alternative programming, who joined him on stage.
“I’ve always said the turnaround would take three to five years,” Greenblatt said. “We’re just beginning year three and we have some real momentum this year.”
Thursday night is NBC’s single-biggest trouble spot this year. Greenblatt acknowledged that the heavily revamped comedy block is struggling, particularly “The Michael J. Fox Show” and “Sean Saves the World.” But with some prodding from reporters, Greenblatt went “out on a limb” and confirmed “Parks and Recreation” will be renewed for a seventh season, which marks a turnaround for the show that was expected to be in its final season.
“We’re really unhappy that we can’t find an audience for (‘Michael J. Fox’ and ‘Sean’) in those time periods,” he said. He left open the door to scheduling shifts.
Greenblatt mostly dodged questions about the prospect of NBC landing a Thursday package of NFL games that the league is shopping to networks at present. “We’d love to have more NFL games,” he said. “Thursday night games might be really interesting to us.”
The NBC topper was asked about his feelings on pilots and the pilot season process, which has running theme of TCA this year ever since Fox’s Kevin Reilly made a strong statement about bypassing tradition this year.
“I actually love pilots,” Greenblatt said, noting that NBC’s frosh drama success this season, “The Blacklist,” would not have been as strong a property without the refinement that comes with producing a pilot. But he agreed with Reilly’s assertion that more development should be spread out beyond the January-April pilot season.
“If we can make (pilots) off cycle and get a star no one else has — that’s half the battle,” he said.