NBC: Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

Fnl_lAs a professional TV pundit, I guess I’m supposed to join my colleagues in wringing my hands over the turmoil in NBC’s executive suite and to profess shock that entertainment chief Kevin Reilly was fired so soon after presenting his handcrafted fall schedule. Yet I think would have been a shock if the network hadn’t fired him, given NBC’s basement-dwelling ratings over the last couple of years.

Similarly, I can’t get agitated over his replacement by hotshot producer Ben Silverman; in terms of taste, they’re really not that different. Reilly is known for greenlighting quality scripted shows (such as The Office, Heroes, and My Name Is Earl) and lowbrow unscripted fare (Deal or No Deal), while Silverman’s company Reveille is known for producing quality scripted shows (The Office, Ugly Betty, The Tudors) and lowbrow unscripted fare (The Biggest Loser). Plus, things won’t be changing much under Silverman, at least not at first; before his ouster, Reilly committed NBC to second seasons of such struggling shows as 30 Rock and Friday Night Lights (shown), so Silverman won’t have a lot of room to make radical shifts in direction.

addCredit(“Friday Night Lights: Michael Muller”)

There are still a couple of questions. The first, raised by blogger Nikki Finke(who’s been all over this story), is whether Silverman can program NBCwhile still keeping one foot in Reveille. But Silverman will have toshare his NBC office with a co-chair, Marc Graboff, whose background isin finance, so maybe that will make multi-tasking (and avoidingconflicts of interest) a little easier.

The second has to do with strategy. While critics (and cults of fans) are happy that 30 Rock and Friday Night Lightsare coming back, the shareholders can’t be too happy about these shows’low ratings. Then again, maybe it doesn’t matter how many eyeballs arewatching these shows, as long as they’re the most desirable eyeballs.NBC seems to be betting that its quality shows can draw more upscaleviewers, and that it can charge advertisers a premium to reach them.(Call this the Jordan McDeere strategy, since it seems to have beencoined by the network programming chief played by Amanda Peet on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.)Still, this is a risky tactic, and Silverman will surely be underpressure to market Reilly’s foundlings more effectively or else dumpthem at the first available opportunity.

Can Silverman lift NBC out of the Nielsen cellar? Can the networkprosper if he doesn’t? Will your favorite NBC shows survive? Stay tuned.

Comments (62 total) Add your comment
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  • Myles

    30 Rock is in a decent spot next year: without having to take on Grey’s and CSI, the show has a decent shot at picking up the My Name is Earl lead-in. That’s smart scheduling on the part of NBC.
    Friday Night Lights, however, was sent to die on Fridays at 10. I don’t see how the show will be able to spark a turnaround in a timeslot entirely contrary to the show’s nature.
    But 30 Rock isn’t entirely safe: where else will The IT Crowd go at midseason except in its timeslot?

  • colbyfan

    I don’t want to be nervous for these shows any more. Just tell us what to buy so we can watch what we like.

  • JoeyJoJo

    But Kevin Reilly was so good looking…

  • Peter

    Oh boy, I think it’s safe to say my ‘Friday Night Lights’ is going to end after this upcoming season. There’s no way Silverman is going to keep Reilly’s old shows… especially if he feels the need to make his own staple shows on the network.
    I’ll treasure every episode of FNL I’m going to get.

  • Joe C

    As Myles said, Friday Night Lights was sent off to die on Fridays at 10:00. Could the new guy give it a better slot/day? Give the show a chance….

  • NineDaves

    i don’t think it’s that people are choosing to watch one show over the other (say, gray’s over 30 rock). i think it’s just that they are choosing to watch one BEFORE the other. on thursdays, for example, i tend to watch survivor from 8-9, then my tivoed episodes of my name is earl and the office from 9-10, then 30 rock and scrubs from 10-10:30. then i come into work the next day and watch ugly betty on abc.com. there are so many good shows, viewers like me almost can’t keep up.

  • NineDaves

    also, if nbc wants to get viewers, why are the holding off on big buzz shows like lipstick jungle? don’t wait until midseason when you’ll be in direct competition with abc’s cashmere mafia. get the buzz straight out of the gate.

  • Joe

    Silverman was interviewed by the Boston Globe (where he’s from) and he said that he was a fan of Friday Night Lights, and that he is waiting for the show to pop. Well, I hope he does whatever he can to make it pop. I would love nothing more than to see this show become a huge hit. It absolutely deserves it.

  • Ceballos

    I’ve never seen Friday Night Lights. I’ve read all the glowing reviews, but I just haven’t gotten around to watching it (sorry).
    Anyway, maybe it’s just because I don’t watch it, but I can’t understand how fans of the show can complain about its timeslot. You’re lucky the show’s back AT ALL! Financially, it made little sense for NBC to bring the show back, and now you’re complaining that it’s on Fridays at 10, an (allegedly) unfavorable slot.
    Two things: First, like Dalton Ross, I think this is good because it lowers what NBC expects of it…and would you REALLY have the show go up against Grey’s Anatomy or Idol or Dancing with the Stars or anything else that would crush it?
    Secondly, Friday nights aren’t a COMPLETE graveyard. Even though I (and i’m assuming lots of other people) don’t watch too much TV Friday nights, SOMEBODY has made shows like Ghost Whisperer and Numb3rs into hits, right?
    Bottom line, be glad the show’s back…and watch it no matter when it’s on.

  • Jason

    I second Ceballos’s comments. I too was happy to see FNL return to the fall schedule and don’t see Friday nights as a bad idea. The expectations for big numbers won’t constantly be dogging it. And besides, would it be so bad if we were to have two quality seasons of FNL and let it go after that? We too often want quality shows to go on for too long. Long runs of television shows are rarely good for quality. There are a few exceptions to this rule.

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    Hi guys
    Who’s the guy in the picture? Isn’t he the cop who was blown up in Grey’s?

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