When NBC announced its broadcast schedule for the fall of 2016, the lineup featured a glimpse of the past. And it wasn’t the time-travel adventure series Timeless: For the first time since 2013, the network would lead its Thursday-night lineup with comedy. With Superstore and The Good Place set to restore “the NBC comedy DNA we’ve been determined to rebuild” (so says Robert Greenblatt, chairman of NBC Entertainment), discussion at the Television Critics Association press tour turned to why the network has to restore its storied comedy brand in the first place. What had Greenblatt and NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke learned from their experiments in appealing to a wider audience? When you peacock comedy, as Greenblatt and company did back in 2012, what’s the takeaway?
“The thing we learn about comedy every single season is it’s a really hard genre to launch,” Greenblatt said, after sarcastically suggesting that Animal Practice was due for a reboot. And following a few years where NBC failed to launch any comedies that could inherit the domain of The Office, 30 Rock, Parks And Recreation, and Community (not to mention Friends, Seinfeld, Cheers, etc.), the network was relieved when Superstore found an audience in the winter of 2016. “You felt a collective breath across the company,” Salke said of the show, which, when four months of viewership numbers are factored in (because that’s how TV math works in 2016), had a premiere audience that rivals The Voice.
As for that whole “peacock” thing: “The loved comedies were finding their natural ending,” Salke said of the sitcoms that found themselves competing for airtime with Animal Practice, Go On, 1600 Penn, Welcome To The Family, Sean Saves The World, The Michael J. Fox Show, and other series that didn’t live to see a second season. As for Superstore, “finally this feels back to an NBC, smart, specific show that has heart,” said Salke, attributing the same qualities to The Good Place, the new Kristen Bell-Ted Danson fantasy-comedy from Michael Schur. The current status of Intensive Karen, meanwhile, remains unknown.