NBC came prepared to the Television Critics Association summer press tour on Thursday, announcing a “Female Forward” directors initiative focused on finding and developing female television directors.
The initiative is being spear-headed by NBC President Jennifer Salke in partnership with Lesli Linka Glatter, who has directed such series as Mad Men, Homeland and NBC’s upcoming Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders. The program, which will launch in earnest next season, will give 10 female directors the opportunity to shadow the director of an NBC series for up to three episodes, culminating in an in-season commitment to direct at least one episode herself.
“There are far too few female directors, and we are excited to grow this program over the years,” said Salke on stage.
At last summer’s TCA, FX Networks CEO John Landgraf announced that FX was focusing on increasing the number of female directors with whom it works.
CBS, conversely, ends up fielding many questions from reporters and critics at TCA but never seems deliver answers that satisfy the crowd.
NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt also addressed the short-lived move of This Is Us to Thursday nights before the network then rethought the decision and moved the show back to Tuesday.
“We went into scheduling with the great idea to take our biggest hit show and rebrand Thursday,” said Greenblatt. “We all got excited about it. After the dust settled, we looked really closely at the football schedule and talked ourselves into doing six episodes of This Is Us and then a Christmas episode and then bringing the show back in January.
“But we sat down with [creator] Dan Fogelberg and talked through the upcoming storylines for the series, and we thought ‘is that the best way to run the show for rabid fans who we hope will come back in droves?’ And we all collectively agreed that interruption is not the best thing for the show, so let’s move it back to Tuesday.
“I think The Voice into This Is Us into Law & Order True Crime: Menendez Murders will be as compelling a lineup as any,” said Greenblatt.
NBC doesn’t have many new shows on its schedule this fall, because “we are doing well and didn’t have much need for many shows in the fall,” said Greenblatt, but it is reviving hit sitcom Will & Grace. The cast reunited last October for a digital episode created to encourage people to vote, and the cast and creators enjoyed it so much that they realized they would be interested in returning to the program for a second run.
NBC initially ordered ten episodes of the revival and then expanded it to 12. The new run will ignore the finale, which saw Will (Erik McCormack) and Grace (Deborah Messing) falling out for 20 years and not reuniting until their respective children meet at college. Ideally, Greenblatt said, this new version of Will & Grace would return as a series.
“I hope there is more to come,” he said. “That would be the greatest outcome of this whole thing.”
[A version of this story also appears at Broadcasting & Cable]