WHEN NBC hired Ben Silverman in May 2007, he was the hottest executive in the television business, the man who had a hand in bringing reality shows and “The Office” to America. He also happened to be taking a job he had dreamed about as a junior high schooler hooked on television: the top programmer position at NBC.
That’s the lead for a New York Times profile headlined “NBC Hired a Hit Maker. It’s Still Waiting.” The reason for the headline is that, after his hire by NBC, Mr. Silverman has gone from being hot to proving sort of a dud.
Incredibly, I did a word search to see if the article mentioned Fred Silverman. Not so incredibly, there was no such mention. But, 29 years before the hiring of Ben Silverman, NBC hired Fred Silverman as its president. Fred Silverman
was hot because of his success as president of ABC; then, at NBC, he unleashed a string of duds, and in 1981 he got kicked out. (He did some good stuff too, as Wikipedia points out, though at the time I think Brandon Tartikoff got all the credit for Cheers
and Hill Street Blues
The parallels are amazing. Silverman … Silverman. Hot, hired by NBC, not hot … Hot, hired by NBC, not hot. And the two hirings are almost exactly 30 years apart! The only flaw is that Silverman 1’s hotness derived from the kind of show critics describe as “pablum” (Charlie’s Angels, Laverne and Shirley), whereas Silverman 2’s hot period includes The Office, your prestige sort of comedy, alongside genuine crap vehicles like The Biggest Loser.
The other drawback, of course, is that the parallels add up to a king-size “so what.” But there they are and there’s no denying they’re kind of goofy. A decent newsmagazine could stick the word “ironic” in there and get itself a nice paragraph.