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Where Were You When Ben Silverman Left the Building?

Fox Entertainment division president Kevin Reilly got asked about the departure of NBC Entertainment co-chairman Ben Silverman during Summer TV Press Tour 2009.

Heck, all of the broadcast network entertainment division chiefs are going to get asked about the departure of Silverman during their press tour at-bats.

It's the least TV critics can do for the entertainment division chiefs, given that Silverman dismissed them all as "D-girls" when NBC first hired him.

"D Girls" is a derogatory expression in Hollywood; it means "pretty things in the development department who have no real authority."

CBS Entertainment chief Nina Tassler reminded TV critics of Silverman's D-Girl line when asked her thoughts on the flashy suit's departure.

Now, it's Reilly's turn.

Reilly headed NBC"s entertainment division until Jeff Zucker, who is now president and CEO of NBC Universal, dumped him for Silverman.

"Where were you when you heard about Ben Silverman's decision to leave NBC?" a critic jokes to Reilly.

"The official announcement, or the six-month pre-announcement?" Reilly asks. (The TV industry had been dishing about Silverman's exit for months before it became a reality.)

"I guess his plan all along was to leave?" Reilly cracks. That's a reference to the train wreck that was NBC entertainment president Angela Bromstad's Q&A session, one day earlier.

A TV critics had asked Bromstad to explain what was behind Silverman's departure, and how NBC would be different under the new leadership.

"I think that this has always been Ben's plan to transition back to his entrepreneurial roots, so I didn't think he was looking to be at NBC for a long-term thing," Bromstad said as TV critics erupted in laughter.

They didn't mean to be rude. It's just that the company line had sounded so silly in the news release when NBC announced Silverman's bow-out, barely two years after he was hired -- a very short run even for the TV industry with its notoriously high exec mortality rate.

Now, the company line sounded even sillier when delivered by poor over-coached Bromstad.

Reilly also gets asked about Jay Leno's new NBC 10 p.m. weeknight talk show.

Specifically, a critic wants to know how Reilly would counterprogram "The Jay Leno Show."

If Fox programmed 10 p.m.

Which it does not.

Of course you know, and I know, the answer is: "with hits."

So easy to answer a hypothetical.

But Reilly does not take the easy road. Instead, he talks about the mess that is NBC's primetime:

"It's not about the rating - Jay is going to have success," Reilly says, causing some critics to tweet and blog that "Fox programming chief thinks Leno's show will succeed."

They are what is known where I come from as "missing the point."

"That show is going to do some business," Reilly predicts.

"On certain nights he's not up against very tough competition."

But, Reilly notes, the second half hour of Leno's talk show drops off noticeably in the ratings. This will be a real issue for the local TV stations' 11 o'clock news lead-ins.

"You look at the overall ratings impact. [NBC] is going to struggle at 8:00. I see no show there, other than 'Biggest Loser,' that's going to get things going," Reilly says.

"Struggle at 8:00. Not a lot of powerhouses at 9:00. Modest ratings at 10:00. I think you've got to look at the whole picture," he says.

Then, realizing what a favor Silverman aqctually did him two years ago he adds "I wish him well."

By Lisa de Moraes  |  August 7, 2009; 2:02 AM ET
Categories:  Summer TV Press Tour 2009  
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