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NBC gets schooled after banning 'Glee' cast from Thanksgiving parade

October 13, 2009 |  5:02 pm

GLEE_LAT_6

"Glee" may look like an unassuming show about a bunch of high school dorks, but it's a killer. Seriously. Throw anything at it and the Fox show comes out on top.

The latest proof comes courtesy of NBC's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which was foolish enough to cross the little show that could. If you are among the small band of desert-island dwellers who have not yet heard, allow us to recap: The entire cast of "Glee," including stars Lea Michele and Matthew Morrison, was invited to perform at the Nov. 26 event. This could have been a great promotional opportunity, given that last year's parade averaged 21.7 million total viewers, according to the Nielsen Company, or about three times what "Glee" has been doing.

But note that we said "could have been." Alas, it never was. Apparently parade organizers had extended the invitation without checking with NBC first. And surprise, surprise -- network executives thought it was a terrible idea. Since when does a network help promote a rival show? So before you could hum the opening riff of "Don't Stop Believin'," the "Glee" crew's invitation disappeared.

Others might have cried, but this is where the "Glee" people got tough. Stories started appearing everywhere. Deadline Hollywood blogger Nikki Finke opined that NBC was staffed by "morons." Observers started asking why "American Idol" runner-up David Archuleta was allowed to sing at last year's parade. And then "Glee" executive producer Ryan Murphy kicked in with a public statement to Entertainment Weekly: "I completely understand NBC's position, and look forward to seeing a Jay Leno float." Take that, Jeff Zucker

NBC has gotten totally drubbed in the media, which these days isn't that unusual. The network has probably made matters worse by not talking publicly about its decision. But the thing is, it does have a point. As an NBC insider says, it's standard operating procedure for networks to avoid showing talent from rival programs. The sole exception is news programs and late-night talk shows, and even there uneasy truces are easily broken, as we've seen recently with "The Jay Leno Show." And since the "Glee" performance was likely to be a virtual infomercial for the show, it's understandable why the thought made NBC programmers queasy. 

But the real point here is an object lesson in how "Glee" -- probably the most ingeniously and tirelessly flogged new show this season -- turned what could have been a minor reversal into a major PR windfall. As Jon Stewart might say, "Well-played, sir. Well-played." 

--Scott Collins

Twitter: scottcollinsLAT

Photo: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

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