During a Thursday panel at SeriesFest in Denver, NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke spoke frankly when she said that the network’s comedy brand had gone from “must see” TV to “No. 5 or 6 behind Telemundo.” There’s been no official comment from Telemundo on that sick burn.
Lamenting the loss of mainstays like 30 Rock and The Office a few years back, the network desperately tried to replace the shows with a new roster of half-hour sitcoms, few of which took hold. What followed was “a couple years of over-correction” by the network, who tried and failed to push sitcoms like The Michael J. Fox Show, Growing Up Fisher and Mr. Robinson with little success.
“The comedy brand got a little murky for us,” said Salke, but the network is hoping to change that now. The new direction for NBC’s comedies is “smart, specific, a little sophisticated and not too sweet.” Spearheading that effort are new shows like Great News (produced by 30 Rock’s Tina Fey,) DC Comics’ Powerless, and the Ted Danson/Kristen Bell sitcom The Good Place.
As part of that effort to once again make NBC an incubator for great comedy, Salke swore that “we won’t cancel shows quickly,” as was the case with shows like Telenovela, Mr. Robinson and Crowded.
On the topic of censorship, Salke and fellow panelist Lauren Ash (of NBC’s Superstore) said that the censors were backing off. “It’s cool how far they’ve let us go,” said Ash. “We get the scripts and think, ‘This won’t make it,’ but it does! It feels a little more relaxed.”
The network, according to Executive VP of Comedy Development Tracey Pakosta, is trying to “take bigger swings;” it’s hoping to create bigger, bolder shows with big-name talent and plenty of room to breathe. To drive home that point, Pakosta cited the upcoming Trial and Error, the legal comedy starring comedic acting royalty John Lithgow.
“We’re getting great talent to come to network TV which people said you couldn’t do anymore,” said Pakosta.
Whether this new approach to comedy will work for NBC remains to be seen, as their new slate of comedies has yet to come to air. If all goes as planned, however, this fall could see the beginning of a new era of comedies for the network.
[H/T] The Hollywood Reporter