NBCUniversal’s investigation at “America’s Got Talent,” spurred by judge Gabrielle Union’s exit amid complaints of a toxic work environment, should wrap up by the end of January, NBC Entertainment chairman Paul Telegdy told the Television Critics Assn. press tour crowd in Pasadena on Saturday.
“I’m very confident that if we learn something… we will put new practices into place if necessary, and we certainly take anyone’s critique of what it means to come to work here incredibly seriously,” said the network exec.
As Variety exclusively reported last November, Union had urged “America’s Got Talent” producers to report to human resources a joke that guest judge Jay Leno had made during taping about Koreans eating dog meat. She and fellow judge Julianne Hough were also said to have gotten excessive notes on their appearance, including that Union’s hairstyles were “too black” for the “AGT” audience.
Who will fill Union judging chair on “America’s Got Talent” is still unknown at this stage. Telegdy said he is unable to discuss the investigation while it is still ongoing.
When pressed about Union’s replacement, he responded that “inclusion is about celebrating; diversity is occasionally a numbers game linked to the Census,” he said, touting his enthusiasm for the talent competition show. “We take both incredibly seriously.”
Commenting on “Saturday Night Live’s” hiring and subsequent firing of Shane Gillis last fall, following the controversy over the comedian’s history of racists comments on his podcast and elsewhere, Telegdy praised “SNL” boss Lorne Michael’s decision-making.
“It was a learning moment for a lot of people,” he said. “How quickly Lorne acted and subsequently what happened, again is a testament to how we act as a company.”
Gillis’ comments on his podcast, “Matt and Shane’s Secret Podcast,” included use of slurs and denigrating comments about women, Asians, Muslims and the LGBTQ community. Gillis later issued a statement on Twitter that said he “pushes boundaries” and “sometimes miss[es],” and that he is “happy to apologize to anyone who’s actually offended by anything I’ve said.”
Telegdy said that he is sure specific vetting practices are being put in place at “SNL.”
“Vetting people is very triggering for people who live in a world of free speech and comedy,” said Telegdy. “And I just ask all of you to care about what’s truthful and what’s funny, what performers are given permission to do. That it is an enormously fine line and a gray area, and who polices that are normally the performers that throw their careers under a bus if they make a wrong decision.”
He said he was reminded of Ellen DeGeneres’ speech at the Golden Globes about how much she had sacrificed for her comedy career, and that the Gillis situation was “the exact reversal of that.”
But there is a lesson there in “what you shake down in someone’s past and what you hold them accountable for… We acted fast, Lorne did the right thing, and going forward we think we’ll be able to rightfully be accountable,” he added.
Amy Poehler surprised the crowd at the start of the executive session by introducing Telgedy, posing as NBCUniversal communications head Chip Sullivan. She announced that she and Tina Fey would be returning as co-hosts of the 2021 Golden Globes, and that “Making It” would return for a third season.
Among another announcements, Telegdy disclosed that Kenan Thompson’s new comedy series, “The Kenan Show,” has been delayed in order to allow more time for development
At one point, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson attempted to FaceTime the TCA audience, but after a technical glitch, Telegdy took the reins and made the announcement a straight-to-series order for a Nahnatchka Khan comedy titled “Young Rock.” The show, inspired by the action star’s childhood, will star Johnson.
Touting the network’s upcoming coverage of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Telegdy announced that it would be paired with the launch of a Jimmy Fallon-hosted series, “That’s My Jam,” inspired by his musical segment from “The Tonight Show.”
NBC will also debut a new nature program from BBC Studios Natural History Unit, “The New World,” which launch straight out of the closing ceremony of the 2024 Olympics.
Upcoming programming includes a new season of singing competition show “The Voice,” featuring Nick Jonas as a new judge, and three new seasons of “New Amsterdam.”
“At NBC, our vision is clear: where the audience has one choice, man choices, we are the mainstream one,” said Telegdy, calling NBC’s programming “timeless and timely.”
“We’re not just programming for the year, we’re programming for the decade,” he said.