NBC at TCA: The weekend in review

The “Smash” team — including (front row, from left) stars Debra Messing, Katharine McPhee and Megan Hilty — talked to critics about the new show at the TCA press tour on Friday.

The networks of NBC Universal met with TV critics about their midseason offerings at the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, Calif., over the weekend and offered plenty of insight into the upcoming schedule — if not when some critics’ favorites will actually appear on the schedule. The highlights:

NBC

“Community” (Return TBA)
“I wanted to dispel any notion that it’s quietly disappearing from the schedule,” Robert Greenblatt, Chairman of NBC Entertainment, said of the cult comedy. Exactly when it returns to the lineup depends on the performance of the NBC comedies currently on the schedule. As for a fourth season? “I don’t know,” he said. “Those are hard questions to answer at this point.”

“Awake”
(Premiere TBA)?One of the strongest pilots shown by all networks, “Awake” stars Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy from the “Harry Potter” films) as a cop who survived a car crash and now seems to live two realities: In one, his wife survived, while in the other, only his son lived. Isaacs calls the concept “a fantastic ‘what if.’” While critics give it the thumbs up, it has yet to find a home on NBC’s schedule.

“Smash”
(Premieres Feb. 6 at 10 p.m.)
The most buzzed-about midseason pilot stars Katharine McPhee and Megan Hilty as Broadway wannabes vying for the role of Marilyn Monroe in a musical based on the legend’s life. The drama has impressive theater pedigree — including series creator Theresa Rebeck (“Seminar”) and Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (“Hairspray”) — but owes a small debt to that other musical drama on TV. “When Ryan Murphy did ‘Glee’ he broke a great barrier,” says “Smash” executive producer Craig Zadan, who produced the film adaptations of “Chicago and “Hairspray.” “He allowed the networks to really believe that there was room for drama, comedy, and music in one show week after week. I don’t think that any of us feel that the show is like ‘Glee,’ Zadan adds, “but we feel grateful to ‘Glee’ for opening that door.”

“The Voice”
(Premieres Feb. 5 at 10 p.m.)
Why did “The Voice” catch on with audiences while other new singing competitions (ahem, “The X Factor”) failed to capture the zeitgeist? “This show has replaced the idea of finding people who really cannot sing and know they can’t sing and making a mockery of that,” executive producer Mark Burnett says. Judge Christina Aguilera says none of the celebrity mentors would have agreed to do “The Voice” if “ridiculing someone or poking fun at their inability to sing or lack of talent” had been part of the gig. “That’s not in support of the business,” she says. “It’s not in support of anything we do as artists, and we wouldn’t be a part of that.”  

Bravo

“Kathy”
(Premiere TBA)
Kathy Griffin will bring her outspoken take on pop culture to Bravo in a weekly talk show. The one-hour “Kathy” will feature gossip, stand-up routines, celebrity interviews and taped segments. The comedian will also tape two new one-hour comedy specials for the network this year, bringing her total to 15 original specials for Bravo.

“Watch What Happens: Live”
(Sundays through Thursdays, 11 p.m.)
Bravo executive/“Watch What Happens: Live” host Andy Cohen debuted the five-night-a-week schedule of his talk show last night. How is he going to keep up the party vibe? “Four words: Ralph Fiennes Pajama Party. … Me, Ralph Fiennes, Holly Hunter in PJs in the Clubhouse. That’s one of the ways,” he says of the special episode slated for Jan. 20. Other plans include adding Sandra Bernhard as a correspondent, a bigger studio, expanded guest roster and continued interactivity with the audience. “We’re the only live show in late night,” he says. That gives us so much flexibility and room for fun.”

Follow Amber Ray on Twitter @amberatmetro


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