TCA: Greenblatt Hopes to Retain Leno, Talks Future of Thursday Night Comedy Block

Complete Coverage: Winter Press Tour 2014

Pasadena -- NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt expressed hope that Jay Leno would remain with NBC in some capacity after his forthcoming departure from The Tonight Show and addressed the future of NBC's longstanding Thursday comedy block, during NBC's portion of the TCA winter press tour Sunday.  

"I would love him to do specials with us," Greenblatt said, adding that the network is attempting not to pressure Leno, given his stated desire to not address his next career step until after he leaves Tonight. "We’ve had ideas about other sort of shows he could host." He also said that the final guest on Leno’s last Tonight Show, scheduled to air Feb. 6, will be Billy Crystal. Garth Brooks will be the musical guest.

Fielding several questions about the network’s Thursday night comedy block, Greenblatt responded to one with an unexpected proclamation. "I’ll go out on a limb: Parks and Rec will have a seventh season." He didn't go as far with a Community renewal, but hinted it would return. 

He expressed disappointment in the ratings for freshman Thursday night comedies The Michael J. Fox Show and Sean Saves the World. "We’re really unhappy that we can’t find an audience for them," he said, but stopped short of issuing any definitive statement on their futures. 

He also was noncommittal in response to questions about the future of NBC’s longstanding Thursday night comedy block. "I think anything is open for discussion, and the legacy of the comedy block—it’s just been in existence for so long that everybody assumes that that’s what it should always be," Greenblatt said.  "We’re going to take a really close look at that. We may shuffle the whole deck in terms of genres. At the same time this is a network that historically has been very strong in comedies and we’re committed to trying to bring that back."

The recent decision by Fox's Kevin Reilly to abandon the pilot-season process continued to be a major topic. "I actually love pilots," the NBC exec said, adding that hit drama The Blacklist may not have ever made it to air had it not been for the pilot, having come from a relatively inexperienced writer. "I don’t think the pilot is a flawed concept," he said. "It’s how you get the best cast and the best directors."

Greenblatt declined to comment on whether NBC has bid on the NFL’s Thursday night football package, citing the sensitive nature of those talks, but did say "We'd love to have more NFL games." 

Greenblatt issued a barrage of programming announcements, including Peter Pan being the next live musical. Casting for the network’s production has not yet been announced, but speaking to reporters onstage after his session, Greenblatt hinted that the title character would be played by a male actor. (In the stage version, Peter is traditionally played by a woman.)

As to the availability of episodes online and VOD, Greenblatt said each of the networks has its own agenda to address even as they face common challenges. "All of us are grappling with how many episodes to have on demand, how many episodes to put out on Hulu." He added, "I don’t think you’ll ever see uniformity across our business. We have lots of issues that we grapple with—‘Are we going to cannibalize a linear number?’ versus ‘Will you be able to catch people up [on old episodes so that they will begin watching live]?’"

Greenblatt was joined on stage with NBC entertainment president Jennifer Salke and Paul Telegdy, president, alternative and late night programming, NBC entertainment.

Stephanie Robbins contributed to this report.