Monday, July 27, 2009

Bye-bye, Ben: Silverman out at NBC

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.


Lane said...

we need to cut to the chase... is this bad for "Chuck"?

Unknown said...

You almost wonder if this was known prior to the announcement. I know Josh Schwartz made the comment about possibly coming back before 2010. With Silverman out, there could be a shakeup in schedules as well. Interesting to say the least. I don't think this will hinder Chuck at all, but if it does I'll be very upset with NBC.

Alan Sepinwall said...

is this bad for "Chuck"?

Like I said in the post, Silverman's been a figurehead for a while. His departure has no impact on "Chuck," or any other show.

Anonymous said...

Great. Now when is someone gonna wake up and get rid of the albatross around NBC's neck that is Jeff Zucker?

Anonymous said...

Anon-I keep hearing the same comment today about Zucker. I wholeheartedly agree.

olucy said...

Am I the only one who sees the irony of his replacement being named Gaspin?

btw, thanks so much for the EZ Street homage. It was the first show that came to mind when you asked us weeks ago what show we would bring back if we had your Chuck powers. I still miss it and curse CBS.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure Silverman has a big job lined up at the Massingil company. I love that he's out. LOVE IT.

Anonymous said...

About effing time.

Sorry, that doesn't add to the discussion much, but I found his comments during the writers' strike to be completely offensive.

jim treacher said...

Gee, and Silverman seems like such a nice guy.

EZ Streets! I still wanna know how Frenchy wound up on The Island.

Eric Fingerhut said...

Jeff Zucker seems to survive everything, but considering the Conan Tonight Show is already tanking in the ratings, wouldn't a weak start to the new Leno show be the last straw? Or will he still spin that as making money and get promoted to head of GE?

DolphinFan said...

If Mr. Silverman had made any effort to keep My Name Is Earl on the 2009-10 schedule, I would give him some retrospective OFFICE-related praise on the news that he's finished at NBC (I get the economic picture is so horrible that expensive shows without massive ratings are in jeopardy). But from what I can see, not only did he toss Earl overboard, but he killed its future: in the TV business, as far as I can tell, 99% of all cancelled shows have no hope of revival even if they were very good programs because of a general "gentleman's agreement" among TV decisionmakers to respect each other's choices, even if a said choice is asinine and made by someone who's incompetent. Les Moonves doesn't always follow that herd (see JAG and next year's return of MEDIUM) and, well, he's no Ben Silverman when it comes to having successful shows.
NBC gets what they deserve, honestly.

Anonymous said...

NBC--Needs moar Kingz

HArry said...

I agree with anon, Kings was awesome. I did not realize the run had come to an end and I quite cheesed about it.

What do I have to eat to bring it back? lol

Matt Stechel said...

This was my thinking almost exactly--that his leaving really won't effect NBC that much (if at all) for at least five or six months---they gotta play the hand they set up for the fall before they can do anything else.

About My Name Is Earl---and this whole gentlemen's agreement to let cancelled shows stay cancelled---that's crap---a lot of it has to come down to studios and who owns what show these days

(Medium is OWNED by Paramount/Viacon who also Owns CBS--i mean come on you don't have to be a scientist to see that that's the reason Moonves made the effort to pick it up--i mean yes ratings were fine and they'll be even better sandwiched between Ghost W and Numbers on CBS FRIDAYS but still---CBS HAD a notorious hole in that timeslot and MEDIUM is an already known show---its pretty logical move on their part)

Earl of course was a Fox show that somehow ended up on NBC---there was thinking that FOX might take Earl (which it didn't--but even if it did--where on its sked would it fit?? it wouldn't fit with any other show on its current lineup.)

The only thing that prevents more shows from being rescued by other stations is the very thing that doomed it in the first place---ratings---the thinking is usually that it wasn't good enough for one network--then the other network would look stupid for picking up another network's garbage. It sucks In Earl's Case because the show had plenty of life left in it---it should've had a nice easy 6-7 year run if anything----but i don't know for whatever reason (Maybe because Earl was owned by FOX, maybe because ratings were down a whopping 25 % this season)
NBC opted to cast it out and focus on the potential promotability of the new Amy Poehler show (starring that household name Amy Poehler---i'm not kidding when i say that---she may not be a household name--but she's very much a known name--and if Tina Fey is any indication you can't underrated former SNL bigwigs enough apparantly!)

Anyways long story short---NBC is honestly OK----sundays---Football/Apprentice---they'll be fine
Tuesdays---Biggest Loser
Wednesdays---SVU which unless it finally shows its age against the younger Criminal Minds will prob do fine.
Thursdays--Comedies---They're fine.
Fridays---Regular Law and ORder will do more or less what it did there three years ago, where it'll either be moved should anything else fail or it'll stay---its fine----Firday Night Lights is in the wings anyways

The only real questions aside from LENO is MONDAY NIGHTS (Will Heroes be fine? Will CHUCK be fine enough?)
and Will Southland be OK on Friday nights or will it die the way Boomtown and Life did in years past???

if those are maybe the only 2 questions they have aside from the LENO gambit---NBC is in a pretty good place in comparison with say ABC which---have you seen their WEDNESDAY night lineup?? 5 NEW SHOWS IN A ROW???? Not Even A Samantha Who? or a Scrubs in the bunch??? That's ambitious--i give it that--but uhhh i don;t see all of it working exactly. And ABC has a couple of nights like that! (Will Flash Foward really work on Thurdsays next to Grey's Anatomy and against Survivor?---What will happen to them if or when Dancing With The Stars finally collapses---How much longer can they live off the glory of their older shows like Housewives and Grey's??? Abc is in a much more precarious position then NBC--NBC if anything seems more stable then it was a couple years back when they had that Father Of The Pride show, Joey, and Hawaii all tank on them!)

I'm not meaning to knock on ABC but it just seems like from a comparison--NBC seems to be stable enough as it goes into the fall.