NBC TCA Session Blog: Winter TV Forecast — Betty White, Chelsea Handler & ‘Community’s’ Return

NBC is showcasing the television programs set to join the airwaves this winter, and beyond, at the Television Critics Association Winter Session, in Pasadena, and Access Hollywood is in the ballroom.

The stars from NBC’s winter lineup, including the highly-anticipated “Smash,” as well as “The Firm,” and “Are You There Chelsea,” are taking the stage.

Here’s our rundown of what’s happened so far:

Informal Session: “Betty White’s Off Their Rockers”

Move over Ashton Kutcher!: Betty White, 89, is taking a group of senior citizens and punking the younger generation in the comedy hidden camera series, “Betty White’s Off Their Rockers,” hitting NBC later this year. “The strategy of this show is it’s the seniors pranking the young people, instead of they’re the poor ones being taken advantage of,” Betty said at her TCA panel breakfast session. “Don’t sell them short. They’re just hip enough and mean enough to want to get even. I think it’s kind of the reverse psychology of the poor old senior, ‘Hey, we’ve got a sense of humor too, warped as it may be.’” Clips of the show, previewed on Friday for journalists, showed the younger generation left slack jawed by the senior antics in this raucous reality show (think lots of elderly sex comments). Betty also addressed her upcoming 90th birthday on January 17, which NBC is shooting a special for this Sunday night. “I keep trying to explain, don’t give me any credit. I didn’t do anything. It just happened. I didn’t accomplish anything; it just came up on me. But I’m blessed with good health, and for that I’m deeply grateful,” she said. “Betty White’s 90th Birthday: A Tribute to America’s Golden Girl,” featuring Ellen DeGeneres, Morgan Freeman, Tina Fey, Ray Romano, Seth Meyers and Tracy Morgan, airs on January 16.

Session No. 1: Executive Session

“AGT” Won’t Be “The Howard Stern Circus!”: He’s known for his outrageous mouth on his Sirius XM Radio show, but Howard Stern will be showing a different side on “America’s Got Talent” this coming summer, according to NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt. “Aside from his radio persona, he’s a very thoughtful, very intelligent person and he’s a huge fan of the show and he wants to be a really good judge,” Greenblatt told reporters. “I don’t think his plan is to usurp the show and make it the Howard Stern Circus,” he added. In other NBC news, Bob said he doesn’t expect a major shakeup with the “Today” show, despite those Ryan Seacrest rumors. “I think all of that is premature,” Bob said of the Ryan-to-“Today” talk. “I think it’s our hope and belief that Matt [Lauer] will stay on the show beyond the end of his contract… I think the No. 1 priority is Matt on the ‘Today’ show, and simultaneously, figuring out how to take Ryan and keep him in the family.” And, speaking of the family, “Community” is in. Bob revealed the show hasn’t been canceled at all, and will return in the coming months – time slot to be announced.

Session No. 4 “Are You There, Chelsea?”

Keep It In The Family: “That 70’s Show’s” Laura Prepon takes on the role of Chelsea in funnywoman Chelsea Handler’s new comedy for NBC, and Chelsea, plays her sister, renamed Sloane. “We had to change her name for legal reasons so my own family can’t sue me,” Chelsea said during her portion of the press tour. Although her sister is bossy, angry and pregnant in the pilot, the E! late night host said her real life sister is OK with that. “She’s thrilled, surprisingly,” the star said of the portrayal. Her job as writer, evening host, etc., will keep Chelsea in only seven of the 13 episodes, and she’s OK with that. “It’s Laura’s show really and ultimately… It ended up being a really fun character,” she said. “I’d love to be in as much as I can, but I have some other jobs.” Speaking of “Chelsea Lately,” she added, “I like my E! show, I like being under the radar.”

Session No. 6 “Smash”

As Much Fun As “Will & Grace”?: “The amount of fun that I’m having on this show is so ridiculous, it’s off the charts,” actress Debra Messing told reporters about playing Julia Houston, one of the songwriting team, tapped to pen a Marilyn Monroe musical in the behind-the-scenes Broadway-themed drama “Smash.” “This cast is so accomplished… We’re working really hard but we’re laughing a lot,” she added. It’s also been delightful work for British actor Jack Davenport, known stateside, for playing Norrington, the guy who didn’t get the girl (Keira Knightley) in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, and more recently, Lloyd Simcoe in ABC’s ill-fated “FlashForward.” In “Smash,” the Brit plays the demanding, manipulative, genius director of the Marilyn Monroe musical — an acting departure. “When I read the pilot script, I think my previous befuddled form thought, ‘Oh, I’m never gonna get that job,’ and I had to plead my case, and yes, it isn’t a character that’ I’ve played [before]. No one’s asked me to play sociopath for ages,” he laughed. “Smash,” also starring Katharine McPhee, Anjelica Huston and Megan Hilty, premieres on February 6 at 10/9c after “The Voice.”

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