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Upfronts 2012: NBC aims to look beyond music

May 14, 2012 | 12:20 pm

Katharine McPhee, left, and Megan Hilty perform at NBC's upfront.


NEW YORK -- NBC is not going to turn into one big musical.

The troubled network relaunched its hit “The Voice”  this year after the Super Bowl. That helped bring in big numbers for the show’s early episodes and made it a nice lead-in for the network’s heavily hyped midseason musical drama “Smash” —  which, though by no means a ratings powerhouse, pulls in solid numbers. 

So it makes sense that music from both shows was rampant at NBC’s upfront presentation to advertisers held at Radio City Music Hall on Monday. 

“Smash” stars Katharine McPhee and Megan Hilty performed the ballad “Let Me Be Your Star,” before being joined onstage by “The Voice” judge s— Adam Levine, Cee Lo Green and Christina Aguilera — in their signature red revolving chairs (which will get more air time when the series returns in the fall).

 Advertisers were even shown a clip, introduced onscreen by “30 Rock’s” Tina Fey and late night host Jimmy Fallon — imagining what the upcoming season might look like if it went through the “Smash” machine: with a montage showcasing actors from “Parks and Recreation,” “The Office,” “Law & Order:  SVU” and even “Grimm,” belting out mid-scene.

Then there was a performance by “The Voice” winner Jermaine Paul. And yet another performance by Katherine McPhee.

But there’s no need to break out the headphones.

“I’m not hijacking the network and turning it into a musical,” Greenblatt assured.

This season has witnessed a number of high-profile and costly disappointments for the network, including dramas "The Playboy Club, “Prime Suspect" and “Awake,”  and comedies "Free Agents" and "Are You There, Chelsea?" -- all of which are not returning. 

“It’s no secret that we have many challenges ahead of us … but we’re going to do it,” Greenblatt said, acknowledging that the network is not where he’d like it to be.  While its prime-time viewership was up slightly this year, those high numbers came largely because of the Super Bowl, which was the most watched program in television history.

Greenblatt said he’s “very optimistic” that a “stellar” season lies ahead. The lineup will include seven new comedies — four of them premiering in the fall, including Ryan Murphy's ultra-modern family comedy “The New Normal” and Matthew Perry's TV return in “Go On” — and five dramas, with J.J. Abrams’ “Revolution” getting the plum post-“The Voice” spot on Mondays.

The big strategy for the network, Greenblatt said, is creating a schedule that flows, with the No. 1 goal placed in beefing up its Tuesday and Wednesday lineup to build momentum into the Thursday and Friday. And comedy is their way to do it, saying it will expand the reach of its schedule.

If not, maybe there is something to be said about a musical network?


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Fall TV: A 'Community' without its creator Dan Harmon? Just maybe

--Yvonne Villarreal

twitter.com/villarrealy

Photo: Katharine McPhee, left, and Megan Hilty perform at NBC's upfront. Credit: NBC/Virginia Sherwood

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