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Peacock Feather: Jeff Gaspin and Angela Bromstad Oversee NBC's Executive Session at TCA Winter Press Tour

NBC made the right call in trotting out Jeff Gaspin to answer questions alongside Angela Bromstad at this morning's NBC executive sessions here at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour in Pasadena.

While critics were eager to get some answers on the still-developing schedule changes afoot at the network (which would have Jay Leno potentially moving to a half-hour timeslot at 11:35 pm--after the local news--and Conan moving The Tonight Show to 12:05 am, followed by Jimmy Fallon at 1:05 am), there wasn't the same baying for blood that marked the August appearance of Bromstad and reality czar Paul Telegdy.

Anticipating the need for concrete information about the Leno-O'Brien situation, Gaspin began the session by stating unequivocally, "I can confirm that, starting February 12th, Jay Leno will no longer air at 10 pm." He also confirmed reports that the current proposal has Leno shifting to 11:35 pm, Conan retaining The Tonight Show title and moving to 12:05, and Fallon moving to 1:05 am. (As for where that would leave Carson Daly, Daly will be a part of "the NBC family regardless of what happens," said Gaspin.)

In other news, Gaspin announced that NBC will go back to the traditional upfront presentations and has settled on the morning on May 17th for their upfront (so long, "in front!") and that the Jerry Seinfeld-produced reality series The Marriage Ref will air immediately following the closing ceremonies of the Olympics.

And J.J. Abrams will be directing the pilot for espionage drama Undercovers, marking his first television pilot directing gig since he helmed the pilot for ABC's Lost.

The potential latenight switch will net at least two additional hours of drama, another of reality, and another hour of Dateline in the 10 pm timeslot through the week. Gaspin, meanwhile, said that he will working on the schedule until the last possible second. Of the decision to put Jay Leno at 10 pm in the first place, Gaspin said, "We wanted an alternative to 10... We still think it's a tough time period. I think, over time, it might have grown."

As for how long it might take for NBC to bounce back from its downturn, Gaspin said, "I almost don't care how quickly it happens as long as it happens."

"Everyone knows we are struggling in primetime," said Gaspin. "But we have Biggest Loser, great Thursday night comedy lineup with The Office and 30 Rock [and new comedies Community and Parks and Recreation], we still have Law & Order...Beyond that, have to work harder. We are happy with the quality of the shows we have on the air... but we want to see bigger ratings."

As for what's coming up, NBC touted the new drama series Parenthood, which launches in March, and said that there were some other projects, including the David Tennant-led legal dramedy Rex is Not Your Lawyer, that could "theoretically" be ready in time for March. (Or Rex could be in contention for an early fall slot on the schedule.) Executives will watch a cut of pilot of Rex is Not Your Lawyer this week. Gaspin said he is "not sure" if Rex or other contenders will make it on the schedule this spring.

"Instead of trying to reinvent, going back to basics is probably best," said Gaspin. "We are not going to do 5 new dramas at 10 pm." Gaspin said that he has "complete confidence" in his development team, while Bromstad said, ""We have absolutely dedicated our resources to fortifying and building up our development slate... We have been able to bring tremendous talent back to NBC."

"We've had a great working relationship with Warner, great talent, Sony... It's been a tremendous year for us," said Bromstad, who announced several pilot pickups, including (courtesy of the NBC release):
  • Prime Suspect: Based on the award-winning BBC series centering on a courageous female detective who investigates complex mysteries in a politically explosive big city. Casting will be announced later. The pilot is produced by Universal Media Studios and ITV. Hank Steinberg (“Without a Trace”) and Erwin Stoff (“The Blind Side”) are the executive producers.
  • The Rockford Files: the successful NBC drama from the 1970s is re-imagined by executive producers David Shore (“House”) and Steve Carell (NBC’s “The Office”). The title character, Jim Rockford, remains a roguish private eye who tackles the dangerous, quirky and unpredictable cases that no other detective wants to handle. The pilot is from Universal Media Studios and Carousel Productions.
  • The Event: a thriller with a unique storytelling device that features multiple points of view concerning a decent, regular fellow who battles against mysterious circumstances that envelope a larger conspiracy. Universal Media Studios produces the pilot that includes Steve Stark (“Medium”) as the executive producer; Nick Wauters (“The 4400”) is the co-executive producer/writer. Casting will be announced later.
  • Undercovers: a domesticated husband and wife return from years in retirement and are re-activated as CIA agents. As they work together for the first time on new cases, they discover new aspects from their past - even as they re-ignite their passion for each other. J.J. Abrams (“Lost,” the 2009 feature film “Star Trek”), Bryan Burk (“Lost,” “Star Trek”) and Josh Reims (“Dirty Sexy Money”) are the executive producers; Abrams and Reims are the writers. The pilot is produced by Warner Bros. Television and Bad Robot Productions.
  • Chase: a new action-procedural drama from Emmy Award-winning executive producer Jerry Bruckheimer (the “CSI” franchise, “The Amazing Race,” “The Pirates of the Caribbean” feature films). “Chase,” based on a real-life group and set in the American Southwest, follows a crucial fugitive apprehension team comprised of U.S. Marshals that tracks down the nation’s most notorious criminals. Tension builds as the cat-and-mouse game of the ultimate search escalates in each episode. The series is from Warner Bros. Television and Jerry Bruckheimer Television. Joining Bruckheimer as executive producers are Jennifer Johnson (“Cold Case”) and Jonathan Littman (“CSI,” “Cold Case”).
  • Kindreds: created by Emmy Award winner David E. Kelley (“Boston Legal,” “The Practice,” “L.A. Law”), follows a curmudgeonly ex-patent lawyer and his group of misfit associates as their lives come together to form an unconventional kind of law practice. The series is from Warner Bros. Television and David E. Kelley Productions. Kelley is the writer and executive producer.
  • Love Bites is an hour-long romantic comedy produced by Universal Media Studios and Working Title Films. Writer Cindy Chupack (“Sex in the City,” “Everybody Loves Raymond”), Timothy Bevan & Eric Fellner (both for “Love Actually,” “Bridget Jones’ Diary”) and Shelley McCrory are the executive producers. Casting and producer credits will be announced later.
  • Untitled Adam Carolla comedy project: features the humorous radio and TV personality Carolla (“The Man Show,” “The Hammer”) as a contractor who sets out to re-build his life following a divorce. The pilot is produced by Universal Media Studios and BermanBraun. The executive producers are Carolla, Kevin Hench (The Hammer”), Jon Pollack (NBC’s “30 Rock”), Jimmy Kimmel (“The Jimmy Kimmel Show”), Gail Berman (NBC’s “Mercy”), Lloyd Braun (NBC’s “Mercy”), Daniel Kellison (“The Jimmy Kimmel Show,” “The Man Show”) and James Dixon (“Ace in the Hole”).

There was no mention of midseason comedy 100 Questions or sci-fi event miniseries Day One. Additionally, NBC has not indicated when it will return Friday Night Lights to the schedule, though Gaspin has indicated that the series will become available to them beginning March 1st.

(UPDATE: NBC has since indicated that Day One will air as a two-hour backdoor pilot only and 100 Questions will air before the end of the season.)

Asked about whether Heroes will return for a fifth season, Bromstad said, "Heroes is a show that we love and so we are sitting down with Tim Kring and he is pitching his view of the new season." Once they look at the current crop of pilots, they will make decision on the fate of Heroes. But it's looking likely that it will be returning, said Bromstad. "

As for Southland, which has moved to TNT, Bromstad was slightly cagier. "Southland was a really tough decision," said Bromstad. "However, we did launch the show at 10, it did fall off considerably in ratings because of its serialized nature... It probably found a better home in cable."

"We have to remember that it's not like we ripped off a bunch of high-performing dramas at 10 pm to put Leno on," said Bromstad, who clearly didn't recall Law & Order: SVU used to air in that timeslot.

Speaking of Wolf's franchise, it's highly likely that the original flagship will continue on past this season. "It's highly possible that Law & Order will go on beyond this year," said Bromstad, who pitched Dick Wolf an LA-based Law & Order series, which he is lovingly referring to as LOLA (read: Law & Order: LA).

And, lastly, David Hasselhoff's replacement on reality competition series America's Got Talent has been named: it's Howie Mandel. Mandel will join returning judges Sharon Osbourne and Piers Morgan along with host Nick Cannon.

All in all, Gaspin definitely brought poise and confidence to the executive session, answering questions honestly and not offering double-talk when he was unaware of the answer or didn't have one yet. Certainly, a huge improvement over last press tour's disastrous executive session. Can NBC turn their fortunes around? Time will tell but they are clearly willing to shake things up and slay some sacred cows in order to attempt to achieve their goals.

Stay tuned.


V. Salt said…
Didn't J.J. Abrams direct an episode of "The Office" a few years ago?
Anonymous said…
Oh please god let 'Rex is not your Lawyer' get picked up.... please please please NBC!!!!
susie que said…
"Instead of trying to reinvent, going back to basics is probably best..." Um, yeah. I'd say that's "probably" a good idea after such a disastrous season.
Beckacheck said…
Doesn't Chase sound like the exact same show as Wanted from a few years ago? The one with Gary Cole, Ryan Hurst, and Rashida Jones. As I remember, it didn't suck.

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