NBC at TCA: ‘Will & Grace’ Deletes Its Past, Why ‘This Is Us’ Is Staying on Tuesdays and More

This is Us
Ron Batzdorff/NBC
Pictured: (l-r) Mandy Moore as Rebecca Pearson, Milo Ventimiglia as Jack Pearson in NBC's hit drama This Is Us

During Thursday morning’s Television Critics Association summer press tour, NBC had more than a few things to cheer about with its strong schedule going into the 2017-18 season, not the least being last season’s breakout hit, This Is Us.

With 11 Emmy nominations for the first season of the Dan Fogelman family drama, Robert Greenblatt, Chairman, NBC Entertainment, said that “these kind of game changers just don’t come along very often. Not only was it the No. 1 new series in the [18-49] demo, but it now currently ranks as the No. 5 entertainment show in total viewers in all of television, broadcast or cable.” Besides Greenblatt, NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke and Paul Telegdy, President, Alternative and Reality Group, NBC Entertainment, were also present during the session.

In addressing the fact that This Is Us was announced as moving to Thursdays during May upfronts, but then quickly put back on Tuesdays, Greenblatt explained that interruptions this fall due to Thursday night football airings helped them reverse that initial decision. “We all collectively agreed that maybe that interruption was not the best choice for the show,” he said.

With the much-anticipated return of Will & Grace, which began production on Wednesday, the question arose as to whether the network is already looking beyond the 12 new episodes that will begin airing next month.

“I would say I hope there is more to come, and that would be the greatest outcome of this whole thing,” Greenblatt said. “We did the first table read yesterday, [and] it’s the same show and it was hilarious. It’s a joy.”

Salke added that this reboot made sense to the network for the “why now” factor, but stated those decisions need to make sense to happen for other potential rebooted series. “We’re not going to make a reboot just for title familiarity,” she said.

But what of that series finale in 2006 that showed an older Will (Eric McCormack) and Grace (Debra Messing) meeting after a 20-year estrangement when their respective kids go to college? That ending has been erased so the essence of the show would remain intact.

“The rebooted episode they did on the internet [last October during the Clinton/Trump presidential campaign] was just the old show. It was like you drop back into the older show,” Greenblatt said, adding that original ending won’t be completely swept under the rug. “There’s jokes about [the original ending] in the first episode. I don’t think you want to see them with aging children. We love the essence of the older show…there’s a creative way as to why they’re still living together. We just wanted to [acknowledge] the old show.”

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Did the network have any regrets about ending the critically acclaimed The Carmichael Show? “Looking at the show with Jerrod [Carmichael] and feeling like, what’s the long-term plan, and is there a route for real big success with the show, the collective decision was that maybe it was best to let the show end,” Salke explained. “I have to say, personally, for all of us, it was a really hard decision that wasn’t made on one side of things. It was one of those difficult decisions…you wish the show did better and that you had a great place for it.”

NBC also announced a new initiative called “Female Forward,” which focuses on female directors and a commitment to work towards gender parity amongst directors for scripted series on the network. The initiative is being led by Salke in partnership with director Lesli Linka Glatter (who is helming episodes of the upcoming Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders) and will give 10 female directors the opportunity to shadow on up to three episodes of an NBC series, and then an in-season commitment to direct one episode of the series shadowed.

“It’s been a collective and urgent goal of ours to identify more female directors,” Salke said in a statement released after the executive panel. “We strongly believe women can and should be at the forefront of telling compelling stories, and I hope the guaranteed directing component will have real impact on our shows as well as the industry.”

The final two episodes of The Carmichael Show air August 9 beginning at 10/9c, NBC

This Is Us, Season 2 Premiere, Sept. 26, 9/8c, NBC

Will & Grace, Season Premiere, Sept. 28, 9/8c, NBC

Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders, Series Premiere, Sept. 26, 10/9c, NBC