Last summer at the 2014 Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour, NBC was as proud as its peacock logo to confirm it was moving ahead on a script to bring Bill Cosby back to TV, in a show that would be a sort of extended version of his original family sitcom. Flash-forward to the executive panel during the 2015 TCA Winter Press Tour, and NBC Chairman Bob Greenblatt was singing a different tune.
"First I want to say that we're developing a miniseries about Hillary Clinton with Bill Cosby," the executive joked in his introduction, attempting to diffuse any potential questions from the room ... to no avail. It didn't take long for reporters in the room to follow up on the issue, lobbing a softball question to open the conversation.
"Is it safe to say there won't be any future projects with Bill Cosby given everything that's happened?" one reporter posed.
"Yes, I think that's safe to say," Greenblatt responded smoothly.
The next question on the subject didn't go over as well, when another reporter asked what the conversations leading up to the decision to not move forward on the series were like, and what changed for them.
"Fifteen women came out and accused him of having done what they accused him of doing," Greenblatt continued. "Over the years we heard some of those accusations and we knew there were a couple of settlements and whatnot. It did seem to be the sort of thing that was ... critical mass. When we realized there seemed to be so much more, we went, 'We're not sure.' He hasn't been proven guilty of anything. So I don't want to be the one who says the guy is guilty until proven innocent, but when that many people come out, it becomes a tainted situation."
Greenblatt was, of course, referring to the allegations from various women claiming Bill Cosby drugged and or sexually abused them over the years. Several high-profile people have since spoken out against the comedian, with model Chloe Goins recently pursuing criminal charges.
But the executive's seemingly flippant response that a couple of women weren't enough to consider cancelling the show (as opposed to a staggering number like 15) didn't sit well with some in the room. Another reporter followed up, wanting to know what the benchmark number would be before NBC would have actually looked into the situation further.
"Fifteen yes, two no." Greenblatt responded, visibly upset. "Do you really want me to answer that?"
"It's a serious question," the reporter responded.
"All I can tell you is that there are a lot of people who have been in business with the man for 25 years," Greenblatt responded, pointing out that those people needed to be asked about the situation too. "All I can tell you is that I didn't know it was a problem until it became critical."
The executive also noted that the series was only ever in development, and that NBC didn't actually receive a script. It was never approved to go into production.
"I'm glad we're out from under that," he added.