Even if Donald Trump loses the race for the American presidency, there isn’t room for him back at his old stomping ground.
“He will never be back on the Celebrity Apprentice, as long as I’m here,” NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt told reporters. Would Trump be welcome to star in another show on the network? “I have no idea at this point.”
Did “The Apprentice” and “Celebrity Apprentice” play a role in Trump’s ultimate candidacy? Earlier this summer, NBC’s alternative programming president Paul Telegdy told us “yes.” Greenblatt said he was less sure there was a correlation.
“[‘Doonesbury’ creator] Garry Trudeau was predicting Donald Trump would run for president 15 years before,” he noted. “I think it surprised all of us that [Trump] would want to do this. I guess that’s what’s great about this country.”
Meeting with press on Tuesday at the Television Critics Association press tour, Greenblatt and NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke touted NBC’s recent strengths, including three years straight as the No. 1 network among adults 18-49 on a 52-week schedule.
The most difficult spot for the network remains half-hours, however. After riding a “comedy rollercoaster” in recent years, Greenblatt and Salke hope the network’s audiences are ready to laugh again.
“I think were back in our sweet spot,” said Salke. After attempting to broaden the Peacock’s comedy brand with shows like “Crowded” and “Truth Be Told” (both of which quickly flopped), the network has moved back to more upscale half-hours like “Superstore” and the new “The Good Place,” starring Ted Danson and Kristen Bell.
Salke said the network has learned many lessons about sitcoms in recent years: “You should still go for the sophisticated, smart, great creators’ point of view,” she said. “You may not please everyone. Comedy is polarizing by nature. You don’t want to end up in the middle. When superstore came out, you felt a collective breath across the company. This feels back to an NBC smart, specific show that has heart but isn’t soft.”
Greenblatt is especially bullish on “Superstore,” and cited internal NBC data that tallies the show’s long tail: Just as many people have viewed an average episode of “Superstore” after four months as they have on an episode of “The Voice.” NBC is pairing “Superstore” with “The Good Place” on Thursdays at 8 p.m. this fall: “We know [Thursday] is a tricky night, but CBS has football there for several weeks, so there is a window for comedy.”
On the drama front, Salke announced three new projects in development. “Waking Lions,” from writer Gideon Raff (“Homeland”) and based on the book of the same name, is a thriller about a Beverly Hills doctor who inadvertently hits and kills a pedestrian and decides to flee the scene. The victim’s wife finds him and decides to blackmail him instead of turning him into the police. Keshet and Universal Television are behind the show.
NBC has also given a pilot production commitment to “Salvation,” from Warren Leight and Paul Haggis (who is directing). The show centers on a hospital that must figure out how to make life-and-death choices when a hurricane hits New York. Sony Pictures TV is behind the show.
Also in the works: A new FBI-centered show, set in New York, from Dick Wolf. Asked if there could be a fifth Chicago-set show from Wolf, Greenblatt said never say never. “Everytime I think Dick Wolf has finished what he started he comes up with a new idea,” he said. But, he added, “I think we’re gilding the lily if we go beyond [3 spinoffs].”
Salke confirmed that contracts have been extended on NBC’s “Cruel Intentions” redux, and that the network aims to have the show push boundaries when it comes to sex. A third season of “Aquarius,” on the other hand, is looking unlikely.
In other news, NBC is still casting the lead roles on Aaron Sorkin’s new TV take on “A Few Good Men,” and hopes to have an announcement with in a week. And variety series “Maya and Marty” could come back, but the network’s execs are first “trying to figure out can you sustain that,” Greenblatt said. “It’s a new show every week, it’s like doing another SNL.”
Additionally, NBC is still looking to see if there’s room to squeeze new primetime editions of “Weekend Update” in the lead-up to the presidential election. But NBC may not have space on its schedule this time, unlike past presidential years.
As for the decision to tap Jimmy Fallon as host of the Golden Globes, Greenblatt agreed that the choice is a move away from the almost roast-like level of past hosts Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.
“It will be Jimmy,” he said. “It will be fun, clever fast. Will it be satirical and biting? I don’t think so, but I don’t want to speak for him. It will be Jimmy.”
Coming off the most-watched season of “America’s Got Talent” in five years, the network has renewed all four of the show’s judges for next season, including new panelist Simon Cowell (who is also the creator and executive producer of the format). The show’s other judges include Howie Mandel, Mel B. and Heidi Klum. Host Nick Cannon is also back.
NBC will premiere “The Voice” with a special half-hour episode immediately following the Olympics Closing Ceremonies on Aug. 21. “That will carry over to the September launch of the series,” Greenblatt said.
Also, NBC also plans to air the two-hour special “Tony Bennett Celebrates 90: The Best Is Yet to Come” on Tuesday, Dec. 20 at 9 p.m. ET. The special will performances from Andrea Bocelli, Michael Bublé, Aretha Franklin, Lady Gaga, Billy Joel, Elton John, Diana Krall, k.d. lang, Rufus Wainwright and Stevie Wonder as well as a performance by Bennett. Also guesting: Alec Baldwin, Steve Buscemi, Kevin Spacey, John Travolta, Bruce Willis and Homer Simpson.