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January 16, 2015

NBC on the defensive about scrapped Cosby show

Today at a Television Critics Association Winter 2015 Press Tour panel, which tends to be a bit like a mid-year parent-teacher conference (read: a chance for television press to rip into major networks' programming), NBC was pressured to further explain its delayed decision on Cosby's since-scrapped network sitcom.

Responded NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt:

“Fifteen women came out and accused him of what they accused him of. ... While over the years we heard some those accusations and knew there were a couple settlements and what not, it didn’t seem to be the thing that was critical mass. When we realized there seemed to be so much more of it, it wasn’t something where we could go, ‘Oh, we’re not sure.’ He hasn’t been proven guilty of anything. I don’t want to be the one who says, ‘Guilty until proven innocent.’ But when that many people come out and have similar complaints, it causes such a tainted situation there was no way we could move forward with it. The good news is, unlike Netflix which had a special to run, we were developing a script—we didn’t even have a first draft … I’m glad we’re out from under that.”

The reporter also pressed Greenblatt in an (likely sardonic) attempt to understand at what point accusations reach the level of "critical mass" in question, asking for a specific number of accusers necessary to red-light a sitcom. The answer he received from Greenblatt came out a bit testy, to put it mildly.

Greenblatt's response, courtesy of Entertainment Weekly:

“Yeah, you want me to put a number on it?” Greenblatt shot back, seeming irritated. “Fifteen ‘yes,’ two ‘no.’ Yeah, you want me to answer that question? All I can tell you is there’s a lot of people who have been in business with Cosby for 25 years and go ask them the same question. I just answered what I could answer. I didn’t think it was a problem until it became critical.”

Last November, NBC got flak for waiting a day after Netflix canceled its own Cosby programming. At the time, according to Reuters, NBC opted to not address the allegations at all in its statement canceling Cosby's project. Though no script was ever turned in, the project was to be written by Mike O’Malley ("Glee," "Yes, Dear") and Mike Sikowitz ("The Wild Thornberrys"). 

While on the subject of Cosby, see this fascinating essay over on from the daughter of a Temple University graduate, who tells her mother's story about flying to Philadelphia to star in an episode of the Cosby-hosted (and ill-fated) game show "You Bet Your Life," returning with a rather ... uh, awkward story.