Friday Night Death Slot: Ratings circled the drain in Season 2, so starting in April, the remaining episodes aired on Saturdays instead of Tuesdays. The A.V. Club website joked that NBC not admitting that the show was a lost cause and would be cancelled was like parents claiming to a kid that their dog will be sent to a farm rather than put to sleep.
The concept seemed great at first. Playwright and screenwriter Theresa Rebeck, who'd been a co-producer of NYPD Blue, had long tried to sell the idea of a TV series built around putting on a Broadway show. No one was interested until Robert Greenblatt, who's apparently also a theater geek, took over at NBC. The network's lagging ratings and need for something different made it likely her show would be picked up. Then he got Steven Spielberg interested. The $7.5 million pilot episode wowed audiences at the 2011 upfronts and was set to premiere in midseason.
Then things went to hell. Since she'd never run a TV show before, the network and the studio brought in David Marshall Grant, who had the relevant experience, to be her assistant showrunner. She reportedly resented the idea she needed help, and immediately got paranoid, believing Grant was being set up to replace her eventually. Soon she was fighting regularly with not only him but the executives at the network and the studio.
Rebeck insisted on writing the next two episodes by herself. She also eschewed having a writers' room, preferring to work with the writers individually and then rewrite to her pleasure, a process that's worked on other shows. However, during that time, she and the other executives became preoccupied with fending off Spielberg's move to replace Megan Hilty.
They kept her, one of the few things that kept the show's quality up, but meanwhile the writing went off in weird directions. A subplot involving Julia's attempt to adopt a sister for her teenage son, Leo, began taking up a great deal of the show. It was kept in because it mirrored a similar event in Rebeck's own life, and even the network executives knew how personal it was to her and said nothing. Ellis, villainous assistant to Karen's writing partner Tom, somehow became a major character (because Spielberg loved him), as did Leo (whose actor, Emory Cohen, also survived an attempt to recast him). Since there was no writers' room, and the writers thus didn't know what each other was doing, important character moments wound up being redone in episode after episode, making the show campy and unintentionally funny
By the time the third episode was done it was obvious that the show was going the wrong way in a big hurry. Yet Rebeck wouldn't listen to anyone and refused to make any changes, no matter how long and loud they fought with her. Yet the executives, particularly Greenblatt, continued to involve themselves in even minor aspects of production, like the fabric for the Marilyn Monroe costume. His suggestions were actually, according to the writers and crew, useful, to the point that they were hoping Rebeck gave in. "You know it's bad when our last hope was the network," said one.
Spielberg was the only one supporting her after a while, and when the two executives from DreamWorks who'd been keeping him from finding out how bad things had gotten on the show finally let him on it, Rebeck lost even that. Shortly after the show was renewed, she was fired.