LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- NBC will follow its election tradition this fall with two half-hour "Saturday Night Live" specials on Thursday, September 20 and September 27 at 8:00/7:00c. Said announcement was made by NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt at the start of the network's executive session at the TCA Summer Press Tour. Greenblatt also revealed all six of its new fall shows will be made available on NBC.com, Hulu; iTunes, Amazon and Xbox Live several weeks prior to their on-air premieres (read the story).
Other hot topics from the panel, which also included Jennifer Salke (President, NBC Entertainment) and Paul Telegdy (President, Alternative and Late Night Programming, NBC Entertainment):
-- Greenblatt on airing two cycles of "The Voice" per year: "One can argue that 'American Idol' and 'X Factor' are the same show in many respects, one in the fall and one at spring. So we're obviously cautious about expanding it. But we've also done some things to the format which I think are going to ensure that it is an even better show in the fall and can sustain through the spring." Telegdy added those changes include the show's trademark chairs: "We've found exciting ways to keep that kind of competition between the coaches going through the last stages of the competition."
-- Salke on what the title for "The New Normal" suggests: "The title isn't meant to push the idea that that's a more normal family than everyone else... as [co-creator Ryan Murphy] would say the 'Normal' family isn't a gay family, it's just a different family and I think we all see that, all around us, every day."
-- "I think we're in a transition with our comedy programming and trying to broaden the audience and broaden what the network does," Greenblatt said about its new comedy offerings. "Those Thursday comedies, which the critics love and we love, tend to be a bit more narrow than we also would like as we go forward."
-- "The reason we did 13 episodes of that - and a couple of our others shows - was because we really wanted to get more comedies on the schedule," Greenblatt indicated about "Community's" abbreviated order. Adding, "which isn't to say we couldn't decide at some point to extend those seasons longer."
-- Greenblatt on Dan Harmon's exit as showrunner of "Community": "I think the fans of 'Community' are going to get the same show they have loved from the beginning. Every so often it's time to make a change with a showrunner and you sort of evaluate the creative, how the show is run, how the writing staff works and sometimes you want to freshen the show. And we just decided that it was time to do that on 'Community,' no disrespect to anyone." As for the show's overall future, Greenblatt said, "I would categorically not rule out that it's not the last season, does that make sense? I would love nothing more than 'Community' to have a following on Friday and to be able to continue."
-- "These shows, especially the Thursday night shows, are just great shows... and we couldn't be prouder of them," Greenblatt said about the lineup. "And yet, I think given what's happened to the network over the past four or five years, in terms of just the general decline across the whole week and the loss of circulation, I think we just can't get the biggest audience for those shows." He would later add that, "I don't want to say anything negative about what Tina Fey does or 'Parks and Rec' or 'The Office,' those are great shows, but I think - and it's probably a challenge for every network these days, especially in comedy - to broaden and that's what we're trying to do."
-- On why the perennially low-rated "Rock Center with Brian Williams" is being kept on Thursdays: "You sort of look at what you have at the beginning of the week and you can't do everything in a season," said Greenblatt. "So Thursday is a challenge that we're going to continue to work on over the year."
-- "As a television producer and a Broadway producer, which I once was, I am in awe of what we can do on that show every week," Greenblatt said about "Smash." "That said, it's a big soap with a number of characters with arcing storylines." Adding, "I think where we didn't do as good a job as I hope we do this year - and I think with the new showrunner we'll do better - is the arcing of the storylines and the consistency of going in one direction with a character and continuing in a really interesting way with that arc. I think we were inconsistent going back and forth in some things."