Tuesday, July 17, 2007

What Are You Doing To Us, Ben Silverman?

No one can accuse NBC's new head honcho, Ben Silverman, of trying to maintain a low profile.

Silverman set the tongues of all the press critics wagging yesterday with some rather eye-opening announcements Monday at the TV critics press tour.

First off, Silverman announced that Isaiah Washington, formerly of "Grey's Anatomy," will be a recurring character on NBC's new action drama, the remake of "The Bionic Woman." Washington will playing a character who may be either good or bad; no mention of the character's views on homosexuality.

It's a curious move to say the least. No one's doubting Washington's talent as an actor, but he's barely removed from the "Grey's" fiasco, and the actor has hardly avoided controversy since being fired for using a slur against gays. In candid newspaper, magazine and TV interviews, Washington has blamed pretty much everyone but himself for his problems.

It's been 24 hours, and no one yet seems to be protesting the move, but that's not necessarily a guarantee that protests won't come in the future. To saddle one of NBC's biggest hopes for the fall schedule with an actor who invites controversy is a bold strategy, to say the least.

Silverman announced that "The Apprentice" would return for yet another season, despite a ratings fall from more than 20 million for its first season down to just over 7 million for the most recent. The "twist," however, is that this will be a celebrity edition, which seems to be the universally recognized sign for any reality show that it's on its last legs.

The new season, which will feature the return of Donald Trump and his progeny, will have celebrities from the business and entertainment world vying against each other.

Generally, these so-called celebrity editions feature B- and C-listers at best, because genuine celebrities tend to be actually working. And, to the surprise of no one, Silverman said he was seriously trying to bring Rosie O'Donnell on board. Hey, at least she's available.

Finally, Silverman had some more cheerful news, announcing that Jerry Seinfeld was returning to the network for a guest shot as himself on "30 Rock."

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: "On The Lot" (Fox, 8 p.m.) bids farewell to two directors. I'm hoping it's Hilary, who has been among the weakest directors in the whole competition, and Shalini, who thinks her pretentious crap is clever, especially last week's debacle about inner beauty or whatever. On the other hand, the contest is decided by the taste of the average American viewer, so I carry almost no hope the correct contestants will be shown the door.

NBC and CBS are foisting more so-called reality entertainment on us. Thank God I've got to work tonight.

Finally, part 2 of "The Bronx Is Burning" (ESPN, 10 p.m.) airs tonight. I'm surprised, but I actually enjoyed this more than I thought I would, thanks in part to the performances of the leads, Oliver Platt (George Steinbrenner), John Turturro (Billy Martin) and Daniel Sunjata (Reggie Jackson). I'm curious to see how the writers will tie in the Summer of Sam subplot, since it seems extraneous right now. You can also catch early action from the 2007 World Series of Poker on ESPN, beginning at 8 p.m.


zodin2008 said...

Yes, Ben Silverman is basically doing whatever he can to generate PRESS...I think it seems he and his partner, Marc Graboff feel any buzz is good buzz. Whether it's BAD (the return of "The Apprentice" and Isiah Washington) or good (return of Jerry Seinfeld).

But I give the guy credit...he has all of us talking about NBC.

Then again, since I can't stand all but 2 shows on the far higher rated CBS network, NBC has always had me in their pocket I guess. I definitely watch more NBC shows overall then any of the other big networks, so I suppose it's less then ironic that NBC is in 4th place.

Jonathan said...

I am by no means knocking the acting ability of Isaiah Washington; he's as good a television actor as most out there. However, it seems a little curious that he got included in the show at this time, and from what I've read he's only signed on for five episodes (Of course, they probably only have a six episode commitment and have already shot the pilot without him). And for Silverman, whether or not people care about Washington one way or the other, his show is getting mentioned in just about every television related article today, so that can't be a bad thing. So, I completely agree with Zodin here.

And as for The Apprentice, I think you nailed it just right, Phillip. This is obviously a last ditch effort to get the show some higher ratings, which I can almost gurantee you it won't. Rumor is they approached the cast of "The Office" to take part which would never happen even if that was true, and as for the Rosie O'Donnell rumor, I wouldn't be suprised if old Ben threw that out there to get more people talking about the show.

Phillip Ramati said...

Well, Washington's involvement could be a bad thing if national gay groups call for a boycott of the show because of his presence.

Also, critical buzz has been pretty decent for Bionic Woman, so why would you distract from positive reviews with negative buzz?