TCA: NBC says Donald Trump “absolutely not” returning to Celebrity Apprentice

James White/NBC

“I want to open it up and see who has the first question about Donald Trump,” quipped NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt at this morning’s NBC executive session panel at the Television Critics Association (TCA) press tour. Greenblatt had already, in his opening remarks prior to taking questions from assembled journalists, addressed the situation regarding NBC’s relationship, or lack thereof, with Donald Trump in terms of The Celebrity Apprentice, but he knew there would be follow-ups.

Greenblatt had this to say about The Celebrity Apprentice in his opening remarks: “Due to circumstances that everyone here is aware of regarding our host [laughter from the reporters] — I should say former host — we will not be producing a new edition of the show this season, but it will be back for the ‘16-‘17 season with a new host. We’ve actually been overwhelmed by a number of really exciting people who have come forward and are interested in taking over the show. You’ve heard some of the names bandied about. Some of them are simply not true, but I also don’t want to speculate on any specifics today because we haven’t gotten that far in the process. As soon as we settle on someone, we will get the word out, and something tells me that will be big news.”

Of course, that wasn’t exactly the end of it. As Greenblatt predicted, the first question that arose was, of course, about Trump, wondering if The Donald has been abolished from NBC altogether.

“I don’t know that we’ve even thought beyond Apprentice and the pageant businesses,” responded Greenblatt. “That’s a good question. I don’t know the answer. I don’t think somebody who is running for president and might possibly be the next leader of the free world will be completely banned from any activities at NBC, but we’ll just have to see how this plays out. I honestly don’t know what else he might want to be in business with us. And at the moment, we’re sort of separated.”

Continuing to beat a dead horse, reporters later on pressed again, wondering if there might even be the slightest chance of Donald Trump returning to The Celebrity Apprentice.

Greenblatt: “I’m going to end this with two words, and then we’re going to move on. Absolutely not.”

Although that executive session was early in the day, it still wasn’t the first Trump reference today. That came during Jay Leno’s panel, where he was discussing his new CNBC series Jay Leno’s Garage, premiering Oct. 7. In the show, Leno test-drives various cars with celebrities and ordinary people, and looks at not only automotive past, but future technologies. Questions came up to Leno about whether he misses late night, and he’s content where he is now. But, like Stephen Colbert was a few days earlier, reporters if a comedian like Leno must be bursting with Trump jokes that he is unable to release now that he doesn’t have a late-night show. When given the chance to come up with a Trump joke, Leno obliged: “It’s interesting watching this whole thing unfold. I mean, it’s like I think he and Jeb Bush are the frontrunners. It’s kind of like the race between the tortoise and the bad hair, you know.”

In non-Trump-related NBC news:

* Greenblatt announced that Leno’s successor to The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon, has been locked in for six more years as host, through Fall 2021.

* More casting for NBC’s The Wiz Live! (Dec. 3) was announced; Ne-Yo plays Tin Man; Elijah Kelley plays Scarecrow; Common appears in a non-singing comedic role as Gatekeeper to Oz.

* Rihanna was announced as a key advisor to all coaches this fall on The Voice.

* NBC has acquired the rights to the animated How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which will start airing on the network this holiday season.

* American Ninja Warrior has been renewed for a fifth season.

* Mike Schur (Parks and Recreation) is doing his next series with NBC, with a working title of A Good Place. It’s about a woman wrestling with what it means to be good.

* Tina Fey and Robert Carlock’s next series will also be for NBC, created by Tracey Wigfield, who was Tina and Robert’s protege on 30 Rock. (She won the Emmy for writing the series finale of that show with Tina.) It’s an untitled, slightly autobiographical comedy about an up and coming millennial woman working at a cable news network where her mother happens to get a job after going back into the workplace.