At this morning’s NBC executive session at the summer Television Critics Association (TCA) press tour, Robert Greenblatt, Chairman of NBC Entertainment, broke down his network’s news for the upcoming season. One of the highlights, coming in January, is the return of The Celebrity Apprentice, with new host Arnold Schwarzenegger. Discussion of that naturally led to a question about that show’s former host, Donald Trump, who is now the Republican presidential nominee, and who seems to be in that position largely thanks to his reality show fame. Greenblatt was asked if the current state of things has caused any sort of reflection as to the role that television plays in creating celebrity, and the real-world implications of that, such as what we are now seeing during this political season.
“Well, first I’ll say I can’t believe we got all the way through this without getting to that question,” joked Greenblatt before considering the question further, and coming up with a delicate answer.
“Isn’t the role of television to create celebrity in the world?” Greenblatt continued. “That’s kind of what every show does, right? … I think it’s certainly interesting, and we do talk about it. You know, Bedtime for Bonzo helped Reagan sort of become a national prominent figure. Garry Trudeau was predicting that Donald Trump would run for president 15 years ago, before [Trump] was on The Apprentice. So we’re happy to have a show that was doing really well with a guy who was a big TV star. And it’s impossible to predict where it goes from there. I think it surprised all of us that he would want to do this, but I guess that’s what’s great about this country. But I don’t think that there’s really that much of a correlation of one to the other. I think he’s been a prominent figure for so many years that it’s probably not surprising that he would embark on this kind of journey. But it is interesting that, you know, he was on the show for so long and now he’s sort of on the national stage the way he is.”
Greenblatt was a little more firm in a post-session scrum with reporters, when he said — sticking to the comment he made at last summer’s TCA tour — that, as long as Greenblatt is with NBC, Trump would never be allowed back on Celebrity Apprentice, even if he loses the election.
Looking back, I guess that wasn’t entirely Greenblatt’s only Trump reference of the morning, as he did start the session with a joke about how NBC is “Making television great again,” which fell flat among the crowd. 🙁
Other NBC Entertainment news from this morning:
- The Voice will introduce new mentors Alicia Keys and Miley Cyrus in a blind auditions special airing after the Olympics closing ceremony on Aug. 21
- Speaking of The Voice, Greenblatt said that a kids’ version of the competition show is possible and has been talked about
- Jennifer Salke, president of NBC Entertainment, said that while Heroes Reborn did not perform the way they would have liked, NBC is still open to trying something like that with other titles.
- NBC’s Taken, based on the hit films, features the same character Liam Neeson played, and is a prequel (with that character being 30 years younger), but yet still set in the present day. Yeah, we’re kind of confused, too.
- Chicago Justice, which will be the fourth in NBC’s very popular Chicago franchise, will bow in midseason. Greenblatt thinks adding more shows to the franchise may be “gilding the lily,” but he doesn’t count out Dick Wolf if he has more ideas.
- NBC will be producing an all-star tribute special to legendary singer Tony Bennett in honor of his 90th birthday (which is actually Aug. 3). The program will shoot in September for a Dec. 20 airdate.
- Jimmy Fallon will host the Golden Globes ceremony, airing in January on NBC
- All four America’s Got Talent judges, including Simon Cowell, will be back next season.
- Regarding OTT offerings from NBC, Greenblatt said, “we know that some kind of OTT digital strategy is going to happen. … we spend a lot of time talking about what we’re going to do in this space. I’m not ready to talk about anything today definitive, but hopefully, in the next couple months, we’ll have something to talk about, which I think could be really exciting.”
- NBC Sports’ Jim Bell, Mary Carillo and Bob Costas were via satellite from Rio to discuss the Olympic Games, which start later this week. Naturally, questions were raised about how NBC will cover some of the horrible stories coming from the area, and Costas admitted that it would be “impossible in some cases” not to mention serious issues that are directly impacting competition. He specifically pointed out the problems with Zika and dirty water in the open-water events, with athletes in those events given the advice to just try to keep their mouths closed (which is a nice trick if you can do it).