Friday is traditionally Take Out the Trash Day for bad news in both politics and entertainment, but with a lot of the national TV press preparing to travel to Pasadena today for tomorrow's start of the TCA press tour, NBC must have decided it was a fine time to announce Ben Silverman's departure from the network.
You can read the whole press release -- which buries the lead by focusing on Jeff Gaspin's promotion to being in charge of all of NBC's TV properties, both broadcast and cable -- and after the jump, I have a few thoughts on the Silverman era and the impact (or lack thereof) his departure will have on NBC...
Like his boss Jeff Zucker, Silverman wasn't a traditional choice to be the head of a network entertainment division. Though he'd worked in TV for a long time and had a good run of success with his production company, Reveille (which has given us "The Office," "Ugly Betty" and "The Biggest Loser," to name three success stories), he was much more of a deal-maker than a developer. He'd see a show in a foreign market that he liked, acquire it, and let other people figure out how to make it work here.
He would talk about how he revered the late Brandon Tartikoff, who ran NBC in its '80s golden era, and there was a period where it seemed like he was trying to recreate NBC circa 1983 with high-concept, cheesey shows like a "Knight Rider" remake and "My Own Worst Enemy." And while Reveille was placed in a "blind trust," Silverman was still making money off of its shows (until he sold it), and he demonstrated an uncanny knack for adding the company's series to his network ("Kath & Kim" being one of the more noxious examples of the trend).
In fairness to Silverman, he did also champion the highbrow, ambitious "Kings," which was one of the best dramas NBC has aired in years. But it flopped just like everything else Silverman tried, and finished up a Summer Burn-Off Theatre run over the weekend.
Because NBC remained mired in fourth place during his tenure, and because he was such a notorious self-promoter and party boy, Silverman became an easy punchline within the industry. Even his bosses at NBC seemed to recognize he was a poor fit for the job, and in recent months had moved him away from traditional programming and development roles (Angela Bromstad and Paul Telegdy were put in charge of scripted and reality shows, respectively) so he could focus on the kind of new media and product integration deals that were his biggest strength.
And because he wasn't so hands-on with the shows and the schedule anymore, I don't know that Silverman's departure is going to have that much of an impact on NBC primetime going forward. The plan to give 10 p.m. to Jay Leno Monday through Friday (which was as much Zucker as Silverman) is already in place, but it's not like Silverman was the lone champion of that move, or of any shows remaining on the schedule.
The Silverman era was a failure, but NBC and Silverman had both more or less recognized this a while ago. The last few months, everyone's just been playing out the string, waiting for Silverman to find another job more suited to his skill set. And now he has, so what was already reality is now official and public.