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TV or not TV
Scott D. Pierce
Scott D. Pierce writes about television for the Salt Lake Tribune. Vice president of the Television Critics Associationn, he's covered TV in Utah since 1990.

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(Courtesy photo) Robert Greenblatt, Chairman, NBC Entertainment, isn't happy about the current state of the Emmys.
Attention, critics — NBC is in business to make money

There's a certain contingent of TV critics who are taking it quite personally that the folks running NBC are trying to do their jobs.

Those jobs require putting shows on the air that lots of people watch so that they can sell advertising for lots of money. Nobody has been doing a real good at that at NBC for years.

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And heaven forbid that should in any way affect critical darlings like "Community" or "Parks and "Recreation" or "The Office" - what one critic called "boutique comedies."

Breaking news, here. NBC wants to be a big-box store, not a boutique.

"I think we're going to transition with our comedy programming and try to broaden the audience and broaden what the network does," said NBC Entertainment chief Robert Greenblatt. "Those Thursday comedies, which the critics love and we love, tend to be a bit more narrow than we'd ultimately like as we go forward."

Case in point: "Community." The show has limped along in the ratings for three seasons. The only reason it's still on the air is that NBC's ratings have been so miserable. The same numbers on CBS and "Community" would have been gone in six weeks or less.

And the show's creator/executive producer seemed almost to be thumbing his nose at the network, refusing to worry about ratings at all. Which is why he was replaced.

In a perfect world, a good show could stand on its own merit. But there's no for-profit business that can afford to ignore the bottom line.

"'Community' is a show that has been always on the bubble and we decided to bring it back again and see what a fourth season will do for us," Greenblatt said. "And I think the fans of 'Community' are going to get the same show that they have loved from the beginning."

Well, nobody actually believes that. But if Greenblatt didn't think the new people running that show could bring in new viewers, he would have just canceled it - although moving it to Fridays will make it tough.

"I would love nothing more than 'Community' to have a following on Friday and to be able to continue it," he said. Which has to be true.

"These shows, especially the Thursday-night shows, are just great shows," Greenblatt said. "I mean, they're award winning and incredibly sophisticated and clever, and we couldn't be prouder of them.

"And yet, given what's happened at the network over the last four or five years in terms of just the general decline across the whole week and the loss of circulation, we just can't get the biggest audience for those shows," Greenblatt. "They do tend to be a little bit more narrow and a little bit more sophisticated than I think you might want for a real broad audience."

NBC is trying to "transition" to shows that attract a bigger audience. It's a logical goal, although I don't think they're going to get there this fall with the crop of mostly sub-par new comedies.

And Greenblatt and his team are trying to figure out if there are ways to get more people to watch the shows they already have on the air. Which, again, is going to be tough.

But network television is a business. Good shows don't always succeed. Sometimes they get canceled.

Shows I like get canceled. It's frustrating, but it's television.

Get over it.



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