NBC at TCA: Meet the New Guy
The Singing Bee's Joey Fatone with The Honey Bees by Trae Patton/NBC Photo
He dropped names as diverse as Norman Lear, Uri Geller, Isaiah Washington and Jerry Seinfeld. He teased an all-celebrity version of
(with a half-joking promise to extend an invitation to Rosie O'Donnell). In describing his vision for NBC's immediate and long-term future, the network's boyish new co-chair Ben Silverman showed his affinity for both packaging and programming TV in an enthusiastic debut performance in front of the nation's TV critics on Monday morning.
Though he took the stage alongside the relatively subdued co-chair Marc Graboff, whose expertise is on the business side, this was Silverman's show all the way, and he wasted no time in announcing some surprising programming deals and a few aggressive scheduling changes, including turning Monday into an all-fantasy night and shifting
Friday Night Lights
an hour earlier on Fridays, so it's now cozily hammocked between the strong franchises of a relocated D
eal or No Deal
, which he feels will be re-energized with the addition of Tom Selleck to the cast. Both of these moves make sense to me.
"This was what I always wanted to do. I love television, and I have grown up watching television," says the former agent who evolved from being a master packager of foreign TV formats to executive producer of breakthroughs like
. "I have had an opportunity to represent incredible creative people and the opportunity to produce wonderful television, and I believe that the place I would have the greatest opportunities to make decisions about television shows and enable creativity and have opportunities to find ideas and bring them to market quickest was going to be at a network."
How quickly Silverman can move is demonstrated by his embrace of last week's instant summer hit
The Singing Bee
, which now has been scheduled to follow a 90-minute version of
The Biggest Loser
on Tuesdays, forming a two-hour reality block from 8-10 pm/ET. The promising action-comedy
, originally set for Tuesdays, moves to Mondays at 8 pm/ET, leading into last year's
and the time-traveling
. That's an awful lot of high concept for one night, but for those who still believe in the notion of audience flow, why not? Silverman sees it as a "big night" that can be further helped by promotion during Sunday's football franchise.
Friday Night Lights
, which many fear may suffer without championing from former programming chief Kevin Reilly, Silverman is hopeful that some Emmy attention later this week, along with its critical acclaim and a few strategic partnerships (possibly with a car and soft-drink company) to help with the bottom line, will ensure the future of a show he describes as "a very efficient show to produce." (In other words, it's a lot cheaper to make than
No reason to lose sleep over that one just yet, I suppose, even though some of Silverman's other programming ideas might give a critic pause. In particular:
, a live reality competition fronted by Uri Geller and Criss Angel based on a hit format from Israel that's described as "an intensive search for the next great mentalist." Hmmm, I'm getting a vision of myself changing the channel. But that's just me. And while the prospect of another go-round of
sounds like pure desperation, the notion of an all-star edition, involving celebs from sports, entertainment and fashion who've set up their own businesses, could inject some juice into the long-fading franchise. Silverman says that Trump personally asked him to extend an invite to his nemesis Rosie O'Donnell, and it may be foolish to hope that wiser heads will prevail. (That Silverman and NBC want to be in business with Rosie in some way is very clear.)
More promising is a deal with legendary producer Norman Lear to supervise production of an hourlong comedy "focused on a mother who reenters the work force and is pitted against her late husband's ruthless partner in a money-charged battle of the sexes on Wall Street." Speaking like a true TV devotee, Silverman talked of striking up a friendship with Lear, who "inspired me to go into television," and listening avidly to Lear's stories of his battles to get
All in the Family
on the air.
Among Silverman's other announcements: the addition of
pariah Isaiah Washington to the first episodes of the new
, a smart publicity stunt to be sure; and getting Jerry Seinfeld (who already had a deal to produce "minisodes" for NBC to promote his
feature) to appear as himself in the season premiere of the ratings-challenged
All in all, an impressive first bow to announce that Ben Silverman is going to have quite an impact on the Peacock network at an especially challenging time for the network.