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Ben Silverman

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — It's been a year since the Television Critics Association's last press tour. The writers' strike killed the one scheduled for this past January.

It's still kind of fun to look back at what the People Who Control Your Television told us here in July 2007. The strike changed a lot of things and made a lot of predictions meaningless. But — as is usually the case — the executives at the network having the least success are most haunted by their own words.

And NBC is still in fourth place.

• One of the most insane things critics have heard on press tour in the 19 years I've been going was when NBC executives insisted that, while Ben Silverman had been hired to fill Kevin Reilly's position as head of the programming department, Reilly hadn't been fired.

"He wasn't fired," NBC Entertainment co-chairman Marc Graboff said. "What happened was when Ben became available ... we jumped at the opportunity to bring Ben on board to the company.... Kevin, when that happened, realized or determined, frankly, that there was just no role for him at the company and decided to move on."

Uh-huh. And President Richard Nixon resigned voluntarily.

• You've got to love Reilly, however, who landed on his feet as president of Fox Entertainment.

"You know, no one's really ever fired in Hollywood, are they?" he said. "And no show is ever really canceled. You can pick whatever trade euphemism you want, I segued. I thought about it over the holidays. I want to explore other opportunities. I want to spend more time with my family, which I did for three days.

"All I can say is, however I exited, it actually ended up being very equitable all the way around."

Well, not exactly. He's running the No. 1 network; Silverman is stuck at No. 4.

• Reilly danced around the question of whether he wanted the shows he'd programmed at NBC (before he left) to succeed. His boss, Peter Liguori, did not: "I will help Kevin with that. I want them to all (NBC) be bloody failures."

Ah, honesty.

• And Liguori got in another dig at NBC that had to sting because it's true. "Our sights are not set on the No. 4 network. Our sights are set on the No. 1 network and creating a distance between us and the No. 2 network."


• NBC's Silverman actually managed to say something even dumber. Asked why he signed fired "Grey's Anatomy" actor/homophobe Isaiah Washington for "Bionic Woman," Silverman replied, "When he told me he was available, I was like, 'You are? Wait. I don't understand. What do you mean? You're a huge star on a star television show.' I didn't quite understand what had gone on there."

Yeah. That's believable.

• It was, perhaps, even less believable when Silverman admitted, "I started talking to (Washington) before he was available." Which, as ABC's McPherson pointed out, was "inducement to breach contract." And doing so was "either clueless or stupid."

Or both.

• This had to be embarrassing for Silverman. He put "The Singing Bee" on the fall schedule after its summer premiere "debuted to a huge number." And Reilly questioned "announcing a show on the fall schedule that only had one airing and (then) actually sloughed off in week two." And "Bee" quickly sank in the ratings.

NBC fired Reilly. And hired Silverman. And they wonder why they're in last place?

• "We are incredibly excited to have, as you know, Tom Selleck joining the cast of 'Las Vegas' and feel that that franchise is going to reach new new goals and new heights this year," NBC's Silverman said.

Nope. Canceled. Without resolving a cliffhanger.

• "We think we have found the next great reality format in a world never explored in reality television in America before, 'Phenomenon,"' Silverman said.

Nope. Bombed. Canceled.

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