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NBC Chiefs Talk Jimmy Fallon, Ricky Gervais, Live TV and Comedy Momentum

NBC is banking on generating some comedy traction with solid starts for this month for “Telenovela” and “Superstore.” Execs also have high hopes for the return of “The Carmichael Show,” the provocative half-hour that was a sleeper summer hit for the Peacock.

NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt talked up NBC’s fall ratings momentum, the network’s continued experimentation with live programs and his take on Ricky Gervais’ outing Sunday as host of the Golden Globe Awards during his Q&A Wednesday at the Television Critics Association winter press tour.

But one of the first questions Greenblatt fielded was a pointed inquiry about “Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon, amid reports that Fallon’s off-screen lifestyle is to blame for the minor injuries that the host has suffered during the past year. On Wednesday, NBC announced a new deal with Fallon’s late-night companion Seth Meyers, keeping him on “Late Night” through 2021.

Greenblatt was adamant that NBC has no concerns about Fallon’s ability to host “Tonight Show.”

“I think Jimmy’s going to be fine for many years to come. I often say he’s going to be here longer than me being here and probably a lot of you in your jobs,” he told reporters. “I think Jimmy’s great, and we love Seth, and it’s a great duo. And so far, so good.”

Joining Greenblatt in the Q&A was NBC’s entertainment president Jennifer Salke and late-night and alternative president Paul Telegdy. The trio were supportive of Gervais when asked for their opinion about his performance at the Globes. But they stopped short of declaring that the caustic comic would be back to host again next year.

“When you book Ricky, you know what you’re in for, and I think he delivered a very, very good Ricky Gervais hosting of the Golden Globes,” said Telegdy. We haven’t made any decisions about the return of Ricky. We’ll talk to him and we’ll see what happens.”

Greenblatt added: “I think Ricky made a decision about returning, but we haven’t made that yet.”

On the comedy front, Greenblatt said he was gratified by the early response to Eva Longoria’s “Telenovela” and “Superstore” and anticipating the return of “Carmichael Show” in the spring. “Carmichael” is by design a provocative look at race and class through the eyes of a young couple and a boisterous African-American family. The show starring Jerrod Carmichael had a six-episode run in the summer that delivered a strong enough rating and pop culture buzz to earn a renewal.

“We really believe in the vision, the creators behind the vision, and the execution of the show we’ve seen so far,” Greenblatt said. ‘You can’t walk away from that. It feels special.”

NBC is committed to experimenting with live TV programming, something Greenblatt has emphasized as a differentiator for broadcast TV in a sea of competitors. But the returns have been mixed so far. NBC served up a hit with its “Wiz Live” musical in December. But Neil Patrick Harris’ “Best Time Ever” live variety show was axed after its initial eight episodes. And live sitcom “Undateable” has delivered lukewarm numbers on Friday night.

“We’re just experimenting with a lot of things. I think we would love to do more live sitcoms,” said Greenblatt. “We talked about doing live drama, and not just for the sake of that, but if it is additive to the process.”

Salke added that she asked Dick Wolf, the network’s most prolific drama producer, if he would consider a live episode. His response? “Absolutely not,” Salke said.

On the unscripted front, Telegdy said plans to revive “The Apprentice” with Arnold Schwarzenegger were on schedule. Producer Mark Burnett is in the midst of casting the reality show that challenges contestants to impress as entrepreneurs. The series is expected to film in the spring and air next season.

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