Hollywood has always been a rather cozy club. Ben Silverman may take Tinsel Town chumminess to intimate levels.
The new co-chairman of NBC Entertainment and NBC Universal Television Studio picked up an award for ABC’s Ugly Betty at the 66th Annual Peabody Awards this week.
"I think this might be the first time a network president is accepting an award for a show on another network," says Silverman, adding that he’ll put his Peabody between his Golden Globe (for Ugly Betty) and his Emmy (for The Office).
Silverman will retain his executive producer credit on Betty.
"It’s part of my deal," he says.
(The finer points of Silverman’s deal with NBC are still being worked out. But essentially, Silverman will be unable to profit directly from any newly developed Reveille series while he’s at NBC.)
Silverman said Betty is the kind of "aspirational" television he wants to bring to NBC. He hasn’t seen all of NBC’s pilots yet, he says, (he hasn’t even moved into his Burbank office yet) but of those he has seen, Journeyman and Chuck stood out on the strength of their leading men, Kevin McKidd and Zachary Levi, respectively.
"There’s a lot of fresh talent that I think is going to break through," he says.
Silverman also accepted a Peabody for The Office, which will go head-to-head with ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy and CSI on CBS next season, a time slot decision that was made by his predecessor Kevin Reilly. It’s a move Silverman supports, he says, citing the show’s popularity among men.
"As a producer I’m comfortable with it," says Silverman. "As a programmer I’m comfortable with it. My boys are not watching Grey’s Anatomy. It’s just too schmaltzy for them."
NBC picked up four Peabody awards, including one for veteran comedy Scrubs, which was on the short list for cancellation at NBC. The comedy, which is produced by ABC Studios (formerly Touchstone Television) costs NBC considerably while generating profits for a rival. ABC was ready to snag the show had NBC passed.
So NBC’s decision to pick up Scrubs for a seventh and final season came down to the "11th hour," says executive producer Bill Lawrence.
"It’s a weird position to be in. It’s such a huge risk to be on a network that has no ownership in your show," says Lawrence. "I would never do it again."
For series star Zach Braff, who has waded into Hollywood machinations with independent films Garden State and the upcoming Open Hearts, the negotiations were nevertheless eye-opening.
"I saw the inner workings of how things go down with the TV business," says Braff. "It was very eye-opening. It’s shocking that it works at all. But at the end of the day, it is a business. I’m learning a lot."