NBC could look dramatically different come January, the next time the Peacock sits down with the nation’s TV critics.
But for what was likely its final TV Critics Assn. press tour pre-Comcast merger, NBC for once got to enjoy a gathering remarkably free of controversy — no latenight explosions, no big executive shuffles, no controversial scheduling plans.
“It’s good to be back with TCA, especially under different circumstances than the last time,” said NBC Universal TV Entertainment chairman Jeff Gaspin, who stepped on stage in January into the vortex of the net’s “Tonight Show” mess.
“I guess I should also thank ABC for creating the headlines this time,” he quipped.
Hollywood continues to buzz over potential executive shuffles at NBC post-Comcast merger, particularly given the ongoing rumors that former Showtime entertainment prexy Bob Greenblatt could be in line for a top role there. Some industry wags believe Greenblatt has already discussed a job with Comcast chief operating officer Steve Burke.
But asked specifically whether he has talked with Greenblatt, or if he has been told of talks with Greenblatt, Gaspin was emphatic: No.
Actually, his complete answer was “No, no, no, no, no.”
“I know Bob well,” he said. “We were on the board of Sundance together. I see Bob occasionally but, no, we have not had conversations.”
Peacock insiders continue to insist that talk of a major executive alignment is much ado about nothing, and there’s not enough overlap between the two companies for much to change.
Still, most expect NBC honcho Jeff Zucker to depart at some point after the merger — even though the exec recently signed a deal to stick around — and believe that Comcast has other designs on change as well (such as the aforementioned Greenblatt).
“I don’t know what the future holds, so it’s hard for me to speculate,” Gaspin said. “I’ve known Brian (Roberts) and Steve (Burke) for years. I think they’re tremendous executives, and I’m excited about the prospects.”
Addressing the recent primetime turmoil at the net, Gaspin admitted he believed NBC “made too many changes too quickly from a position of weakness. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Our goal is to rebuild, get stronger.”
Last January, NBC’s session was dominated by the Conan O’Brien mess; this time, the subject of latenight didn’t come up until the end of the executive conference, when Gaspin pulled out a sheet of stats to defend Jay Leno’s “Tonight Show” ratings.
“In the fourth quarter of last year, ‘Tonight Show’ and ‘Letterman’ were tied,” Gaspin said, referring to O’Brien’s tenure. “In the second quarter (this year), (Leno) has held a 22% advantage. And in the third quarter, it’s also been a 22% advantage.”
Comparing Leno and O’Brien’s “Tonight Show” ratings “are apples to oranges,” Gaspin said.
Beyond that, Gaspin said he’s moved on from worrying about the latenight wars — and intimated that NBC won’t be putting up a fight should O’Brien want to move some of his old “Late Night” and “Tonight Show” bits — which are the intellectual property of NBC — to his Turner gabber.
Gaspin said he also doesn’t have any issues with Emmy nominee O’Brien playing a role on next month’s Emmycast — broadcast by NBC — “just not as host.”
In other programming news, Angela Bromstad said “The Office’s” exec producers have mapped out a plan to fill the void left by Steve Carell, who departs after this coming season.
NBC announced plans to air a live episode of “30 Rock” on Oct. 14. and confirmed that Rob Lowe has been made a regular cast member on “Parks and Recreation.”
Also, the Peacock plans to premiere several shows early: “Parenthood” will return Sept. 14, after the penultimate “America’s Got Talent” episode. The next night, Sept. 15, “Outlaw” will get a sneak peek behind the “Talent” finale. “Outlaw” moves to its regular Friday slot on Sept. 17.
“The Apprentice” is back on Sept. 16. Also, NBC will debut “Law and Order: SVU” with a two-hour seg on Sept. 22; newbie “Law and Order: Los Angeles,” which just finalized its casting, bows now a week later, on Sept. 29.
Also, as previously noted by Variety’s Facts on TV Pacts roundup, Universal Media Studios has signed deals with Peter Berg’s and Sarah Aubrey’s Film 44, as well as with the team of Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald.