NBC Entertainment chief Bob Greenblatt came to Winter TV Press Tour 2013 to talk about his network’s remarkable ratings turnaround in the fall — from fourth place to first among the four English-language broadcast networks, the only one of the four that’s up compared with last season, and the only broadcast net with an audience median age younger than last year.
TV critics, on the other hand, wanted to talk to him about TV violence and its connection to the mass shootings at Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo., and — paradoxically — why NBC was keeping its semiautomatics-vs.-swords drama “Revolution” off the air so long. They also wondered how Greenblatt expected ABC’s late-night host Jimmy Kimmel to fare when he moves to 11:35 p.m. on Tuesday, against NBC’s own Jay Leno, and how soon NBC planned to dump Leno.
“Obviously we were all stricken, as everyone was, with that horrible tragedy, as well as other tragedies we’ve seen over the last few years,” Greenblatt said.
But, he noted, there’s a lot more violence on cable TV, which is not so constrained by Federal Communications Commission regulations on these matters, and that NBC’s new serial-killer series “Hannibal” isn’t even on the air yet.
“I’m not a psychologist; I’m not sure you can make the leap from a show about serial killers causing the problem with violence in our country,” Greenblatt said.
“There are many other factors, from mental illness to guns.”
“Our children are growing up with these shows,” the critic despaired, noting “Hannibal” is just one of three serial-killer shows that will be in the lineup, including Fox’s upcoming “The Following” and Showtime’s “Dexter” (which Greenblatt used to oversee when he headed that pay-cable network).
“I think [CBS’s] ‘Criminal Minds’ is worse than ‘Dexter’ ever was,” Greenblatt countered.
(Contacted for comment, a CBS rep told the TV Column, “We welcome a thoughtful discussion on this issue, but responding to a deflective comment from a competitor seems trivial to a matter such as this.”)
“I don’t know that . . . you can make the cause-and-effect argument” about TV programming, Greenblatt insisted. But then he suggested that the critics “look to the movies and, dare I say, at video games” in their finger-pointing.
Meanwhile, reports of Leno’s departure are premature, Greenblatt said.
Noting that the network recently extended Leno’s contract, he said, “it would be disingenuous to extend it and at the same time talk about a succession plan.” Greenblatt was responding to reports that NBC had a plan in place to replace Leno with Jimmy Fallon at 11:35 p.m. when Leno’s contract comes up in a couple of years.
Trump’s behavior during the presidential campaign does not concern NBC, Greenblatt said when one TV critic suggested that it should.
“We live in this country where you can say anything you want as long as you are not harming other people,” Greenblatt said.
“We talked him out of running for president — wasn’t that enough?”