T Dog’s Think Tank: Better days ahead for NBC (2000th post)

The party’s over for Doogie and Partyman.

Post number 2000. Yes, yours truly is finally written his 2000th post after four years.

And what better way to celebrate by writing a Think Tank regarding the departures of biggest boobs to ever grace – or disgrace a media corporation’s executive suite outside of Laurence Tisch. I’m talking about Jeff Zucker and Ben Silverman, the disastrous duo who turned the National Broadcasting Company into a national laughingstock.

As you recall, yours truly wrote last year that the dumb duo needed to go, given NBC’s fortunes were sinking and their decisions were merely bankrupting the network.

Zucker stepped down (or was fired, depending on what website you read) on Friday, when he was told his services weren’t needed by Comcast management, whose company is buying a 51 percent share of NBC from current owner General Electric, subject to regulatory approval (which basically is all but assured.) Silverman left the network last year to work for Barry Diller’s new company, which surprisingly hasn’t imploded yet with Silverman there.

Zucker and Silverman were like a reverse Batman and Robin – screwing up and f ‘n up every step of the way. Jeff “Doogie” Zucker (thanks to Mark Jefferies for the phrase) filled the stereotypical television executive to a T: he loathed by almost everyone, from Madison Avenue to Madison Street, everywhere in between, and extending well into Hollywood.

And his partner in crime, Ben “Party All the Time” Silverman, made such absurd programming decisions, it reminded a lot of people of another Silverman – Fred Siverman – of making these same impaired moves back in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, which were mocked by Al Franken in a Saturday Night Live skit in 1980 called “Limo For A Lame-O”. Ben and Fred aren’t related – but they might as well be. According to various Hollywood trades and gossip sites, Ben Silverman spent more time partying than running a network, earning¬† the nickname “Limo For A Lame-O Jr.”

During their time of terror together, both Zucker and Silverman foisted revivals of Knight Rider, American Gladiators and Bionic Woman on us, the unfortunate viewing public. While these shows were favorites of Silverman when he was growing up, they were middling performers at best when they were on originally.

Of course came the most mind-scratching revival of the Zucker/Silverman era: The return of I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here, a reality show which was a hit in its native Great Britain, but bombed stateside when it aired on ABC seven years ago. With convicted Illinois Governor Rod Blagoveich’s wife participating in the show, it summed up the problems of the state and network television in general. And predictably, viewers weren’t interested.

But the biggest stigma attached to Zucker’s tenure came when NBC announced in May 2009 that the network was stripping The Jay Leno Show in primetime, five nights a week. While NBC thought the program’s ratings performance would be judged like a weekday syndicated strip, it didn’t turn out that way – ratings were completely awful and Leno was back as host of The Tonight Show in March.

But that too came with some controversy, and it cost Conan O’Brien’s job at the network. O’Brien was named host of The Tonight Show in 2004 and would take over for a retiring Leno in 2009, in order to avoid the mess created when NBC gave the job to Leno over David Letterman in 1992, enabling the Late Night host to jump to CBS a year later. But NBC didn’t count on Leno changing his mind. So Zucker gave Leno the nightly 9 p.m. Central slot, angering many Hollywood producers and writers who lost an opportunity to develop hit shows in the time period (full disclosure: yours truly initially backed this plan. Oops.)

NBC became the butt of jokes and the object of scorn of the industry. Zucker stood there and basically defended the network in the whole crazy mess.

But now with both Zucker and Silverman gone, NBC now has a chance to rebuild their brand, which was tarnished by these two idiots. NBC’s new fall state is the strongest it has been in years, thanks to new NBC Entertainemnt Chief Jeff Gaspin (aside from Outlaw, which has to be the dumbest premise for a show in a long time.) New shows from Jerry Bruckheimer and J.J Abrahms have brought back back quality programming to the network – though to be sure, The Apprentice is still around – though not for long and The Marriage Ref and Minute to Win It are both waiting in the wings to annoy us for midseason – but at least we no longer have to sit through moronic programming like Celebrity Circus, Emeril, or Howie Do It.

And with ABC’s fall schedule not particularly impressive (despite the presence of Modern Family and Dancing With The Stars), NBC should be able to take advantage, with The Event off to a good start, The Biggest Loser being solid on Tuesdays, and Thursday night’s comedy block still performing respectively well.

It may be a stretch to say NBC could take third place from ABC this season (thank you, Dancing), but the peacock network has nothing but better days ahead.

Now if we can only get rid of Sam Zell and Randy Michaels from the executive suites of the Tribune Tower. And from the looks of things, their clock is ticking and they will likely be the next to go.

We hope.

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