Jeff Gaspin thanks ABC for 'creating headlines this time'
NBC is switching up its fall launch plans, pushing several premieres up a week to take advantage of its “America’s Got Talent” finale.“Parenthood,” “The Apprentice” and newbie “Outlaw” will now get an advance peek a week before premiere week, the Peacock said Friday. NBC also announced plans to air a live episode of “30 Rock” on Thursday, Oct. 14. And the network also confirmed that Rob Lowe has now been made a regular cast member on “Parks and Recreation.” Compared to recent TV Critics Assn. press tours, NBC entered its session on Friday remarkably free of controversy — no late night explosions, no big executive shuffles, no controversial scheduling plans. “I’d like to thank ABC for creating the headlines this time,” quipped NBC Universal TV Entertainment chairman Jeff Gaspin. Gaspin and NBC primetime entertainment prexy Angela Bromstad were asked about the sudden exit of ABC’s Steve McPherson — and specifically, whether allegations of sexual harassment at the network were a Hollywood problem. “I’ve not had any experience with it personally,” Gaspin said. “I’ve not been involved in any cases.” Addressing the other hot topic of this press tour — Fox’s “American Idol” revamp — Gaspin said he saw opportunity as that talent competish undergoes major changes. “Perhaps we don’t have to be afraid of putting what we think is a good show against it,” he said. Addressing the recent primetime turmoil at the network, Gaspin admitted that he believed that 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.” Gaspin said he felt the Peacock had finally stabilized — both on the screen and in the boardroom. But he also admitted that the fallout from NBC’s impending acquisition by Comcast is still a great unknown. “I don’t know what the future holds, so it’s hard for me to speculate,” Gaspin said. “But I’m excited about the prospects. Having other executives in the media space to have conversations about what’s going on and different ways to approach the future is going to be valuable.” Asked specifically whether he had approached — or knew of any talks with — former Showtime Entertainment prexy Bob Greenblatt to join NBC, Gaspin answered, “no, no, no, no.” In January, NBC’s session was dominated by the Conan O’Brien mess; this time, the subject of late night 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, (Leno) has held a 22 percent advantage. And in the third quarter, it’s also been a 22 percent advantage.” Comparing Leno’s and O’Brien’s “Tonight Show” ratings “are apples to oranges,” Gaspin said. The exec also said he didn’t think O’Brien’s new show would impact “Tonight,” but be more affected by “The Daily Show,” “The Colbert Report” and Adult Swim. Beyond that, Gaspin said he’s moved on from worrying about the late night 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 new 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, Bromstad said that “The Office’s” executive producers have already mapped out a plan to fill the void left by Steve Carell, who departs after this season. She also said there were never any plans to end the show after Carell left. “Would we have ended ‘ER’ when George Clooney left?” Bromstad asked. “That would have been a shame. This is a tremendous ensemble cast. I’d be sad ending the show.” As for the sked changes, “Parenthood” will now return at 10 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 14 after the penultimate “America’s Got Talent” episode. The next night, Wednesday, 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 also back on Thursday, Sept. 16 at 10 p.m. Also, NBC will debut “Law and Order: SVU” with a two-hour episode on Sept. 22; newbie “Law and Order: Los Angeles” bows now the following week, 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.