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TCA Press Tour 2013 NBC Panel Report

NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt talks about the “Community” Season 5 prospects, the end of “The Office,” the upcoming “Hannibal” and the new “Dracula” series.

Sunday was NBC’s day with the Television Critics Association at Winter Press Tour. Bob Greenblatt addressed the TCA in an executive session, yet nobody asked about “Community.” We didn’t get the mic in the session, but we went up to Greenblatt after the panel to find out more.

After a number of troubling scheduling shifts for “Community,” we asked Greenblatt if where he’s placed it now gives him hope for a fifth season of the show after this one. His answer was reassuring.

“Yeah, absolutely,” said Greenblatt. “I’m always hopeful for a show to continue. We co-own it, the company, and I’d love nothing more than to see it continue.”

Greenblatt was then asked how Chevy Chase’s departure would impact a future season of “Community.” Greenblatt said Chase is in all but two of season four’s episodes. “I think we’re early on in that. Actors come and go on a lot of shows and this is a big ensemble so I don’t think that’s in any way going to be a big negative about the future of the show.

As for the current season with new show runners, Greenblatt says everything looks A-okay. “Look, I don’t know that I’m the ‘Community’ expert but I think you’re going to see relatively the same show that you’ve seen before and I hope that’s a good thing. Maybe there’s a little bit more heart built into it but we didn’t fundamentally change it.”

Should season four be “Community”’s last, Greenblatt definitely wants to keep Joel McHale in the NBC family. They have not signed any development deal but Greenblatt is interested.

“We’ve not started talking to Joel yet but I definitely want to. If ‘Community’ doesn’t go forward, and even if it does, for the future, I think he’s great. We don’t have any official plan.” That wouldn’t even half to be a comedy. McHale could do an hour long drama. “I see him in anything. I think he can do whatever he wants.”

With the series finale of “The Office” approaching, Greenblatt was asked if he’s hopeful Steve Carell would return. “I’m hopeful but I don’t think he will. He left in the way that he wanted that character to leave and I think he and Greg [Daniels] have talked about it. I don’t think he’ll be back. There’s maybe a little Hail Mary pass on a cameo but I think the decision is that it’ll go out without him compromising his exit.”

During the panel, Greenblatt said that the network’s “Hannibal” TV series, with Mads Mikkelsen as Dr. Lecter, Hugh Dancy as Red Dragon agent Will Graham and Laurence Fishburne as Jack Crawford, could air as early as the summer. We followed up after the panel about the structure of the show. Red Dragon, like Silence of the Lambs, has Dr. Lecter in prison advising the FBI. Subsequent books and movies focused on Lecter himself on the lam or his prequel. The show will keep Lecter in an advising capacity, but not quite where we see him in the movies.

“In our series, the first season he’s not in prison,” related Greenblatt. “This is before he even goes to prison. He’s a serial killer, we the audience know, but Will doesn’t know yet. Will discovers that along the way. In fact, it’s a relationship between Hannibal and Will and a really good one because Hannibal’s such an expert and Will needs his expertise. So Hannibal is not in jail at the beginning of our series. I don’t know where that fits in the pantheon of the tale but that’s the first season.”

The structure of Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs lends itself to a “CSI” style case of the week format, with Dr. Lecter giving cryptic knowledge every time. Greenblatt said the case of “Hannibal” is more serialized, with some episodic opportunities.

“There’s a big overriding case for the first season with a lot of other cases along the way,” noted Greenblatt.

During the panel, NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke spoke about creator Bryan Fuller’s take on the series. “It’s very unique,” Salke said. “With Bryan, his imagination and the production value that he’s brought to a procedural show which obviously has ongoing serial aspects, it’s a procedural like you’ve never seen before.”

“Dracula” starring Jonathan Rhys Myers as Dracula, is in production for the fall on NBC. After the panel session we asked Greenblatt how the show’s creators will go beyond the Bram Stoker novel.

“I think we have a great writing staff,” said Greeblatt. “It’s great to tap into the pre-existing title and that basic story but that’s a pretty thin story. It’s going to be over I think before our first season is over. They’ve already invented new stuff that has nothing to do with Bram Stoker. Like any show, you build it as you go.”

They are also drawing on historical influences like Vlad the Impaler. “They are, and the Ottoman empire and all kinds of historical things at the turn of the century,” added Greenblatt.

Greenblatt also addressed the decision not to move forward with the “Munsters” reboot “Mockingbird Lane.” “We just decided it didn’t all come together to yield a series. It was beautiful, it was original, creative and just ultimately didn’t all come together. It just didn’t ultimately creatively all work. We felt great about that cast and it looked amazing. It’s a very tricky tone to strike because we tried to make it not just a sitcom and a silly, old fashioned one at that. We tried to make it an hour which automatically has more dramatic weight than a half hour. It’s hard to calibrate how much weirdness vs. supernatural vs. family story. I think we just didn’t get the mix right.”

During the panel, Salke also discussed the new Michael J. Fox show that already has a 22 episode season order for the fall.

“Michael came in and pitched us the show,” she said. “It was basically and completely inspired by his life as a father and a husband and a family man who is grappling with his disease. In this case he’s not an actor but he’s a newscaster and he’s recently stepped down at the beginning of the pilot to deal with his disease. As in Michael’s life, there’s a new medicine he’s taken to enable him to function in an acceptable way to put himself out there. At the end of the day, he approaches his life and his work with a lot of irreverence. He laughs at himself, his kids joke about him. He said, ‘Whenever my teenage kids in the house and they hear banging in the bedroom, they say dad’s either taking a nap or having sex with mom.’ People have deified him and he has fun with that.”