Quite a surprise to wake up to this morning: co-chairman of NBC Entertainment Studios and Universal Media Studios Ben Silverman is leaving. The surprise is due to the fact that, not only are we quickly approaching the fall season, but just two weeks ago his employment contract had been extended.
When I first heard about Silverman’s departure, I have to admit that a smile came to my face. Since a young age, I’ve always felt like NBC was my channel. Like your mom or grandma who refers to her favorite soap opera as “my story”, throughout my life I felt like I had become invested in the network. That’s loyalty only a true TV junkie could possibly understand, of course, but hey, that’s why I’m writing a TV blog for absolutely no money and you are not.
Anyway, the majority of my favorite shows were on the network and many of the shows shaped my hopes and aspirations as I grew up. My life long fascination with New York City was constantly egged on watching shows like Law & Order, Mad About You and Seinfeld. The dazzling skyline after the evening news and shots of Rockefeller Center didn’t hurt, either.
When Silverman first took position at the network, I was pretty hesitant. NBC was pretty down at the time, already in final place, and losing big time. What I knew of Silverman didn’t give me much hope. He had produced one of my favorite shows, The Office, but also complete crap like Date My Mom and The Biggest Loser.
I also thought it odd that they would hire someone with so much potential for conflict of interest, considering he would still profit from both his current Reveille shows already on the network and even new ones sold after his move. Trumping even that: not long after taking his place at the company, stories circulated about frat-boy behavior, caged tigers, and lot’s of party-hopping.
Here we are at the end of his reign now and I am a bit conflicted. Should I celebrate? He was the guy that made the ridiculous decision to cancel both Medium and My Name Is Earl and then make it publicly known that he did so because, according to The LA Times “neither the fans nor the advertisers had waged a campaign to save them the way viewers and the Subway restaurant chain did for Chuck.”
Well, yeah, you know, people didn’t wage a campaign to save the shows because no one knew they were on the verge of being canceled. I mean, you know, most networks don’t cancel a highly rated show like Medium for no reason, therefore the fans, even devoted TV geeks who try to stay “in the know” such as myself, would never have imagined that we would be obligated to campaign around every single show they want to return, especially if it is one of the highest rated and most consistent shows on a dying network.
But then there’s also the fact that, without Silverman, Friday Night Lights, easily one of the most brilliant shows to ever grace network television, probably wouldn’t not have made it past it’s first season. Because of the deal Silverman worked out with DirecTV, we are guaranteed new Friday Night Lights up through it’s fifth season.
So there ya go. It’s hard to know what to feel. He made some terrible decisions, acted like an ass, but also created some quality TV. His tenure was not all good or all bad. Not sure if it was even more bad than good or vice versa.
Anyway, we’re not gonna go into all the politics and power shifts involved in his departure. If you’re interested in that side of things, I would suggest reading the Hitfix article about the situation – they lay it all out in an easy to understand way.
Update: While rinsing and shampooing this very morning, I thought of another point I wanted to bring up about Silverman’s reign: the majority of “new” scripted programming on NBC hasn’t actually been “new”. In his time at the network we’ve been treated to really terrible remakes (Bionic Woman, Knight Rider), imports (Merlin, The Listener), or remakes of imports (Kath & Kim). There’s even been a remake of an import remake (Parks & Recreation).
Just kidding about that last one. While the whole mock documentary thing was over long before it debuted, Parks & Recreation definately got better towards the end of the season. At first we kinda passed it off as The Office (US Version) part two, but it kinda grew into it’s own eventually.