After brief remarks from NBC broadcasting chairman Ted Harbert, NBC’s upfront presentation to advertisers at Radio City Music Hall kicked off with the two stars of Smash, Megan Hilty and Katharine McPhee, singing (or lip-synching–the exact notes sounded terrifically familiar) the series’s signature song, “Let Me Be Your Star,” while the red chairs from The Voice loomed behind them. All four chairs eventually turned around (The Voice‘s symbol for a song successfully executed) and Voice stars Christina Aguilera, Cee-Lo Green, and Adam Levine were seated, along with NBC entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt.
The whole to-do was a symbol of just what significance NBC has placed upon its musical series on Monday nights, a night on which the ailing network has finally become competitive. “The number one goal,” said Mr. Greenblatt, “is to attach Tuesday and Wednesday nights”–a mission, hinging upon momentum carried from night-to-night, that seemed at odds with Mr. Harbert’s remarks.
“We can no longer afford to ignore time-shifting,” Mr. Harbert had said, urging the audience of ad buyers to take into account a show’s performance on DVR over seven days. He also implied NBC’s season finish (it will either be fourth or, thanks to its broadcast of the Super Bowl, third) was the result of a broken system that takes only a season, and not the summer, into account. It may not be coincidental that Mr. Harbert’s call for a year-round measure of network success comes before NBC’s Olympic broadcast this summer.
“We are in a photo finish for number 3–not number 4,” said Mr. Greenblatt, and noted that the network was doubling down on comedies while putting out a final 13 episodes for consistently low-rated 30 Rock. Those ten comedies on air in the fall are to include Animal Practice, about (per NBC entertainment president, recently recruited by Mr. Greenblatt, Jennifer Salke) “a sexy veterinarian and his crazy practice.” It co-stars “a two-foot bundle of mischief named Dr. Zaius,” a monkey who was sitting in the audience. Guys with Kids will follow Animal Practice, and was created by Jimmy Fallon. “He’s no dummy,” said Ms. Salke. “He knew the fastest way to a pickup was to cast four adorable babies.” Another show, Go On, will return Friends star Matthew Perry to NBC
The most heavily touted new drama is Revolution, in the plum post-Voice slot on Monday nights (Smash is being saved for the winter). “We went to the man who’s synonymous with ‘outside the box,’” said Ms. Salke. The show is produced by J.J. Abrams, whose previous show with NBC, Undercovers, was swiftly canceled. After presenting the new comedy and drama series, the execs let the current winner of The Voice sing “I Believe I Can Fly.”
“I keep harping on how long it’s going to take to rebuild this network,” said Mr. Greenblatt. “But we’re gonna do it, I promise.”