July 27, 2009
NBC chair Ben Silverman resigns
NBC Chairman Ben Silverman is vacating his post after two tough years at the helm of the network.
Better known for his hard partying lifestyle than his ability to improve ratings, Silverman’s resignation is welcome news in the entertainment world. During his two years as chief, NBC has ranked fourth-place in the ratings race and seen a slew of bombs like “My Own Worst Enemy” and “Knight Rider” plague its reputation. There’s been talk for months that someone at NBC was going to get the ax (last week the network announced that second quarter profits were down 41% this year), and with rumors of Silverman’s chronic absentia and incessant socializing an easy target, many expected a shakeup on top.
But Silverman is too compelling a personality to be banished for good. He will join Barry Diller in a forming a new media company that will focus on production and distribution.
In a 2007 profile, Esquire described him as “a former producer and agent whose close relationships with talent and unapologetic 24/7 lifestyle are as integral to his success as his knack for developing hit shows.” The only problem was that after he sold his independent production company, Reveille, which brought “The Office” to U.S. audiences and reportedly earned him a $60 million payday, he failed to deliver at the network. According to The Wrap, his vacancy will mean that “there will be a more professional and stable atmosphere [at NBC] which would help any kind of turnaround.” Nikki Finke declared that Silverman leaves behind “a record of abject failure.” And Silverman himself is telling the press that this fall’s television lineup will be his judge—though rumor has it he hired someone else to put together the programming.
According to a copy of an email Finke posted on her website, Silverman sent all his Hollywood colleagues the press release announcing his departure and wrote, “Its go time brother!!!!!!! Let’s rock it out!!!!!”
Silverman grew up in a reform Jewish home in Pittsfield, MA. According to American Jewish Life magazine, his mother Mary was a theater-turned-cable television producer for Lifetime, USA and Court TV. His father Stanley was a musician who composed avant-garde chamber music. Silverman attended Hebrew school and was bar mitzvahed in front of some of his mother’s intimidating theater colleagues, like Joe Papp. “Unfortunately, my voice broke so it wasn’t my most shining performance. I wish I had a rehearsal day on that,” Silverman told the magazine.
Notoriously young for someone of his entertainment stature (and even more famous for acting his age) Silverman told American Jewish Life he was on the hunt for a nice Jewish girl. “Sarah Silverman is going out with Jimmy Kimmel so that’s out. Too bad, we wouldn’t even have to change the stationery,” he told AJL. “There’s an Allison Silverman who’s the showrunner of The Daily Show. I was thinking maybe I should call her for a date.”
Replacing Silverman is Jeff Gaspin, former head of Universal’s cable operations who will now serve as Chairman. Jewish Television Network (JTN) honored Gaspin with a 2008 Vision Award last November, where “Deal or No Deal” host Howie Mandel joked, “It’s a groundbreaking week; just yesterday we elected a black man president, and tonight we’re honoring a Jew in show business.”
Undoubtedly the best part of today’s news is that Ryan Seacrest, a Silverman pal, broke the story on Twitter.