Ben Silverman's disastrous tenure at NBC is finally, mercifully over.
Two years after the Peacock Network hired him to revamp its entertainment programming, the supposed wunderkind is out, leaving to head up a new multimedia development venture backed by Barry Diller's IAC. But it didn't take him nearly that long to wear out his welcome. The warning signs were there from the very beginning.
A former talent agent who made his reputation by adapting foreign TV hits like The Office and Ugly Betty for domestic consumption, Silverman inaugurated his NBC reign with a gesture of arrogance, insisting on maintaining his ownership stake in his production company, Reveille, even though it did business with the network he had taken over. (Silverman later reversed this decision, but only after plenty of criticism.)
A couple months later, he solidified his reputation for tone-deaf obnoxiousness in a self-aggrandizing interview with Esquire, in which he mocked his counterparts at ABC and Fox as "D-girls," or entry-level female development executives hired for their looks rather than their brains. In so doing, he turned himself into Hollywood's No. 1 target, a victim of embarrassing leaks like this video of him singing half naked.
None of that would have mattered, of course, if Silverman had managed to deliver on his supposed promise and mint a couple ratings hits for NBC. But he didn't. Ambitious, expensive shows like My Own Worst Enemy and Kings fell flat in the ratings and were quickly canceled. With NBC languishing in fourth place, Silverman and his boss, Jeff Zucker, were forced to look for other avenues to victory, such as the money-saving creation of a 10 p.m. talk show for Jay Leno and a long-term sponsorship deal with Subway to keep Chuck on the air with the aid of intensive product placement.
Silverman will have a chance to redeem himself working for Diller in a new venture that sounds to be equal parts production company, advertising agency and talent agency. The job may play more to Silverman's strengths, which seem to lie more in deal-making and packaging than in creative conceptualization. Then again, Diller is known more for his initial enthusiasm than for his long-run patience. It could be another short ride for Silverman.
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