With cable television taking more chances with edgy content, NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke said it was important for the network to let producers know that it too will stand by programs that push the envelope.
Responding to a question at the semi-annual Television Critics Assn. press tour in Beverly Hills about the violence and darkness in NBC's new drama "Hannibal," Salke said, "we need to send a message to the community and the creators that we would support a show like that."
"Hannibal," based on the "Silence of the Lambs" movie, has no shortage of dark imagery as it follows Dr. Hannibal Lecter, the psychiatrist-turned-serial-killer.
NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt, who previously headed programming for the pay cable channel Showtime, added that it was tougher for broadcast networks to get some producers and writers to bring daring projects there.
"The bastard child is now broadcast television," Greenblatt said, while cable is "this shiny new bulb."
Noting that broadcast networks produce far more original comedies and dramas than the typical cable channel, Greenblatt added, "if we could put on one show a year, it’d be the best show we ever saw."
NBC also unveiled plans for several mini-series and event programs including a four-hour mini-series about Hillary Rodham Clinton starring Diane Lane as the former secretary of State and first lady. Given that Clinton is considered a front-runner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, there could be concerns from rivals that the network is giving her potential campaign a boost and run afoul of the Federal Communication Commission's "equal time" rules.
Greenblatt said that while the Clinton mini-series does not have an air date yet or even a script, he thought it would probably be broadcast well before she would publicly announce her candidacy.
Still, the project will likely generate a lot of controversy if it is seen as being too soft or too hard. Greenblatt said he didn't think Clinton would "endorse" the movie.
Several years ago CBS bailed out on airing a movie about Ronald Reagan because of a backlash from his camp. The movie ended up running on Showtime, which reaches far fewer homes. More recently, the History Channel decided against airing a movie about the presidency of John F. Kennedy after pressure from his supporters and family.
Follow Joe Flint on Twitter @JBFlint.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun