Former Fox, Showtime executive Greenblatt is named to turn around NBC

By Lisa de Moraes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 18, 2010

Here in Washington we like to think that the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission are still reviewing the merger of Comcast and NBC Universal - so quaint. But out in the real world, Comcast went ahead Thursday and announced its new lineup of NBC Universal TV suits, so they can go out and start ordering pilots for the 2011-12 TV season.

Coincidentally or not, outgoing NBC Universal Chief Executive Officer Jeff Zucker - who was told there would be no room for him in the merged company - took a parting shot at the network Thursday when he told a crowd at an industry confab in New York that his biggest mistake while running the company was the lousy choices he made when looking for suits to run NBC's entertainment division. They, of course, would include the people now in those jobs. Nicely played, Jeff!

To the surprise of no one - it had been speculated for weeks and weeks - Robert Greenblatt, the former Fox broadcast network development executive turned independent producer turned Showtime programming chief, is the guy who has been named to try to turn around the once-dominant network, which hasn't been a major prime-time player ratings-wise, since - oh, look at that! - Zucker ran NBC programming. (This season, NBC is in fourth place among broadcast networks in terms of audience size and tied for third with ABC among 18- to 49-year-olds, who are to advertisers what catnip is to cats.)

Back in his childhood, when a development exec at the then-very-new Fox broadcast network, Greenblatt was involved in the development of such shows as "Beverly Hills, 90210" and "Melrose Place," "The X-Files," and "Party of Five."

As an indie producer, he is maybe best known as one of the guys behind HBO's "Six Feet Under" and CBS's "Elvis" miniseries starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who would go on to star in Greenblatt's "The Tudors" at Showtime.

While at Showtime, Greenblatt is credited with bringing the pay cable network such shows as "Weeds," "Dexter," "Nurse Jackie," "United States of Tara" and "The Big C."

The Hollywood Reporter, a trade publication, noted Wednesday that during Greenblatt's tenure, the pay cable network was transformed from an "HBO wannabe" into a "respected," though"far smaller," HBO competitor. Which sounds like the same thing to me. The trade mag also gushed that "it's not clear whether any mortal can save NBC, but if anyone has a shot, it might be Robert Greenblatt."

When he joined Showtime, it had about 13 million subscribers. When Greenblatt left, it was hovering around 18 million, and a chunk of that increase is surely owing to Greenblatt's program development. TV critics adored his Showtime work, as did the TV academy, which began paying notice to Showtime series at Emmy time.

Thursday was also the day Zucker's biggest programming-chief mistake - Ben Silverman - announced in the trades that he has just sold his latest TV project to VH1. It's a reality series about four women struggling to get their lives back together as their husbands do time in the slammer for mob-related activities. It's called "Mob Wives."

The man's a genius.

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