Ben Silverman and Marc Graboff, NBC
It was fair to wonder why NBC put Kevin Reilly in the executive ejector seat just after signing him to a new multi-year contract. After seeing the debut performance of his replacement, Ben Silverman
, at the Television Critics Association press tour, we're not wondering anymore.
Instead of doing a rope-a-dope with reporters because he's only been in the job a month, Silverman came out with guns blazing, firing off one programming announcement after another. He even made a deal with legendary sitcom producer Norman Lear
. That's red meat for the TCA, since many of its members love TV the way it used to be.
He's even ignored the mandate NBC chief Jeff Zucker
publicly issued last year that the network was out of the business of programming 8 p.m. with new, expensive scripted sitcoms and dramas. The first scheduling change under Silverman's watch was moving the new, expensive scripted high-tech thriller Chuck
to Monday at 8, leading into Heroes
and turning the night into a block of sci-fi/fantasy dramas.
Silverman doesn't appear to have a cynical bone in his body, despite the challenges facing the broadcast networks. He's young and enthusiastic, but has a healthy sense of TV history. You believe him when he talks about how thrilled he was to make a deal with Lear, who revolutionized prime time when he broke through with All in the Family
. You believe him when tells you with a straight face that he'd love to have Rosie O'Donnell
be a contestant on the new celebrity version of The Apprentice
. He is a born carnival barker.
In recent years, the mood at fourth-place NBC has been darker than an episode of the Black Donnellys
. Everyone at the network will tell you that the mood has lightened up considerably since the regime change occurred. A showman like Silverman buys NBC time until it gets what it needs the most — another big hit.