So once Greenblatt said he wanted to make it very clear that “Community” has not been canceled — as some have speculated after it was taken off the schedule — they curled up peacefully at his feet like a litter of puppies for the rest of his Q&A session.
Still, it didn’t hurt that he tossed them some verbal kibble: “I really appreciate how respectful you have been toward me personally and my staff,” he said.
The puppies wagged their tails.
Most of the rest of his time onstage, at the Langham hotel in Pasadena, was spent Seriously Managing Expectations for the rest of the television season.
“People say the only place we have to go is up . . . but there’s a lot of work to do before we get there,” Greenblatt said.
On the other hand, if he were still running programming at the pay-cable network Showtime, he said wistfully, they’d be calling him the season’s “genius” for launching the upcoming musical drama series “Smash,” the Christina Applegate comedy “Up All Night,” the Whitney Cummings sitcom “Whitney” and even the now-canceled cop drama “Prime Suspect.”
The reporters nodded in agreement, except when he mentioned “Whitney.” They hate that one, no matter whether it’s on cable or broadcast.
At Showtime, Greenblatt said, “Prime Suspect” would have been picked up and renewed after the third episode and declared a hit — and it would be in production for three or four seasons.
Realizing he sounded maybe a shade too regretful, Greenblatt joshed: “The subhead of my talk is, ‘The Beauty of Cable.’ ”
Then, he joked, “I’m done with cable — it’s a dying business and ruining the culture of America!”
After that, it was back to managing expectations:
NBC had few strong lead-ins off of which to launch new series. “Our most recent scripted hit is six years old,” he said of “The Office.”
He was even tepid about the upcoming “Smash” — a.k.a. “Glee” for adults, a.k.a. The Season’s Most Talked About New Series.
“I think ‘Smash’ is going to be very important to us. I don’t believe it’s a make-or-break kind of show for us,” he said. “We’re excited about what it could do.”
But, he hastened to add, it no longer takes just one hit series to turn around a network. Now, he said, “you need four or five shows to turn things around. I hope ‘Smash’ is one of those shows.”
But, “if it’s not, it’s not like we’re going to go into receivership,” he said.
One reporter screwed up the courage to ask whether Greenblatt thought he’d spent too much money developing this season’s crop of new shows, given NBC’s ratings performance in the fall.