BEVERLY HILLS

"We need to be in the event business."

That's the new mission statement of NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt, who believes broadcast television has to swing for the fences in order to stem its ongoing decline in ratings.

Along those lines, NBC on Saturday announced plans at the Televisions Critics Association press tour for four splashy projects, including a four-hour saga about Hillary Clinton starring Oscar nominee Diane Lane in the title role.

Also in the NBC pipeline: A four-hour "update" of "Rosemary's Baby" and "Stephen King's Tommyknockers," along with a limited series called "Plymouth," about the Pilgrims' journey across the Atlantic. The latter project is being produced by Mark Burnett, who is also doing a sequel to his highly successful miniseries, "The Bible," for NBC.

Diane Lane arrives at the 2004 Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hills Hilton in Los Angeles, California, on Sunday, January 25, 2004.
Diane Lane arrives at the 2004 Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hills Hilton in Los Angeles, California, on Sunday, January 25, 2004. (KRT PHOTOGRAPH BY STAFF/ABACA PRESS )

As for his network's stagnant ratings, Greenblatt pointed out that, at least NBC is holding fairly steady while other broadcast rivals experience dips.

"Flat is the new up," he proclaimed.

Other highlights from the NBC executive session:

-- Greenblatt defended the network's timing of the late-night transition between Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon, even in the face of a recent ratings surge for Leno.

He said the ratings boost for Leno was predictable ("Fans are going to rally for him" in his final year) and that Fallon is "seasoned and ready to go."

Greenblatt said NBC also very much wanted to tie the move to the upcoming Olympics, which will serve as a promotional "booster rocket." He added that he wants Leno to remain some kind of presence with NBC, a la Bob Hope.


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-- The NBC boss expects a "huge initial turnout" for "The Michael J. Fox Show," but hopes it can maintain some momentum beyond that. "Comedy is frustrating," he said, referring to the disappoingting cancellations of "The New Normal" and "Go On."

Added NBC Entertainment president, Jennifer Salke: "The tolerance for shows struggling is shorter than it's ever been. It's frustrating that you can't take the time to nurture a show the way you might want to."