Move over, Steve McPherson! There’s a new sexy network prexy in town. Yes, that’s right, as you tubers may have heard, there was a bit of a shakeup at the Peacock net this week. Former NBC president Kevin Reilly exited the network, and of course, with his departure, came a new sheriff: 36-year-old Ben Silverman, who now takes on the responsibility of overseeing some of our very favorite shows, including 30 Rock and Friday Night Lights.
Should we be afraid? I’m thinking no, considering Mr. Silverman’s production company, Reveille, is responsible for such gems as Ugly Betty, The Tudors, 30 Days and, oh right, a little show we all loved called The Office! Here's what else the new Peacock boss had to say in our inaugural meet-and-greet interview...
First of all, congratulations!
Thank you so much! I’m very happy to be here.
Is this something that’s been in the works for awhile?
No, it happened so quickly. It really came together in a matter of days and was finalized this morning. It’s something that, deep down in my heart, I’ve always wanted to do but didn’t really think the opportunity would ever be right for me or that [it would even be a possibility]. So, when I told [NBC Universal CEO] Jeff Zucker that I might be making a move with my company, and he asked if I would potentially be open to coming inside the NBC organization [as a cochairman], I said absolutely.
Just before the holiday weekend, the Hollywood trade papers caught wind of this and got the online rumor mill rolling. Were you on the Internet, paying attention to any of that? Are you an online buzz kind of guy?
Yes, blog land was pretty interesting. There was a lot of misreporting, but I was obviously aware of it. I was in Laguna Beach trying to have a holiday, so that kind of got killed by it, but I absolutely was conscious of it and aware of it, and the fact is, I’m here today and so excited to be a part of NBC.
Your production company is behind some of the best shows on TV right now, including my favorite show,The Office. So, does your new position at NBC guarantee that it will stay on the air through, say, at least 2015?
You know what? It’s going to be The Office all the time. [Laughs.] No, obviously I love The Office, and it’s my favorite television show too. It’s an extraordinary piece of TV, and I am so psyched that I am going to be associated with it still, on this side of the desk. And I love all of my shows. I’m really proud of what Reveille has built and accomplished, and I’m so proud of all of the programming we’ve made. I hope to bring that same passion and ideal into the network and apply it to all of the programs that we’re going to make for NBC.
NBC hasn’t exactly been number one in the ratings the past couple of years, but they have been very supportive of critically acclaimed shows like 30 Rock and Friday Night Lights. Are you going to continue to support that type of programming, or [are we going to have to kill you] do you have a different game plan?
No, I absolutely respect that policy having been a lucky recipient of it [with The Office]. I think that if you get a passionate core that becomes evangelical about a show, its concepts and its characters, then they start influencing other people. If it’s the right passionate core, the audience will hopefully expand.
I know you have said that working for NBC is a dream come true for you, and that you grew up watching the network. What sorts of shows did you watch as a kid?
Well, I loved St. Elsewhere. I loved Hill Street Blues. I loved The Cosby Show. I loved Cheers. Those were all shows that formed my identity and made me laugh and made me cry. My own connection to characters through emotion and narrative story telling has been something that resonates with me, because it influenced me. So, I want to have a consciousness as we develop shows, to make sure that we know we are impacting people and influencing people. You can do that through comedy like Norman Lear does, like The Office does, and you can do it through drama as well.
Yes, as far as new programming is concerned, is there a specific type of show that you’re hoping to bring more of to NBC?
I think I look to Heroes and The Office as exactly the kind of programming that I’d like to continue with and build off of. I think both of those shows are unbelievably high-end quality, but they also have vibrant online lives and unbelievably passionate audiences who know, identify and love the characters. I’m really hopeful that I can continue that and find more shows like that.
—Reporting by Korbi Ghosh