Ben Silverman's Five Most Memorable Moments
In the aftermath of this morning's news that now-former NBC co-chairman Ben Silverman is departing NBC , the world of television -- nay, the entire world -- is a far less fun, absurd place. (Actual farewell e-mail blast to his contact list, according to Nikki Finke: "Its go time brother!!!!!!! Let's rock it out!!!!!" That's a twelve--count 'em, twelve exclamation point self-salute.)
Though the bad boy/rock star NBC fun-xecutive failed to deliver on his promise to fluff the molting, faded plumage of the Peacock during his Red-Bull-fueled two-year stint at the top of the network, he did manage to compress a lifetime's worth of highlights into his all-too-brief tenure. As all of Hollywood, exhausted and bleary-eyed from a weekend of pandering to hundreds of thousands of geeks, pauses to reflect on his legacy, we're going to offer our own collection of Silverman's most memorable moments.
1. The Return of American Gladiators and Knight Rider
NBC's faith in Silverman as an out-of-the-box-thinking, maverick programmer paid off in immediate dividends when the green co-chairman -- who, incidentally, eschewed mundane childhood dreams of being a cowboy or astronaut and wished only to one day run the Peacock -- sat down in his new office, closed his eyes, and let his mind drift back to the favorite shows of his youth. Moments later, a nearby window was covered in Sharpie scrawl outlining a groundbreaking development slate consisting almost entirely of these time-tested concepts. Some months later, a rebooted American Gladiators and a reimagined Knight Rider would debut on the schedule; weaker, harder-to-realize ideas, such as Cheers 2008: Back to the Bar and Grandpa Cosby, would not survive Silverman's rigorous development process.
2. The Silverman Blues
Perhaps the most indelible memory of Silverman will be one of the most recent; appearing semi-naked in a YouTube video, while singing the blues to the harmonica accompaniment of a robed sideman, is an image that will tend to linger. The footage from an Aspen Youth Experience Celeb Ski event in 2008, establishing that Ben's rock-star persona was firmly grounded in the Delta Blues tradition, finally surfaced back in May, but will now live in our hearts forever.
3. The Entourage Cameo
It seemed like the perfect match: a TV show obsessed with making the world salivate over glimpses of the glitter-flecked Hollywood lifestyle, and a TV executive who quickly came to personify the high-fiving, champange-glass-clinking, hot-tubbing-with-busty-struggling-actresses-over-stunning-Mulholland-Drive-vistas experience the Entourage brand celebrates. And, finally, Entourage dipped its starf*cking chocolate into Silverman's attention-loving peanut butter, but the resulting mix was a somewhat underwhelming taste sensation: the motor-mouthed, Blackberry-tapping executive was criminally underutilized in his role, given nothing more to do but collide with an annoyed Johnny Drama as he steamrolled across the studio lot, admonishing his fictional Five Towns star to watch where he was going. Perhaps somewhere in HBO's vaults exists footage of a more substantial part, where Silverman threatens, at expletive-laced length, to end Drama's career, right before inviting him to ride around LA in a Hummer limo packed with nymphomaniac strippers. Alas, we may never know.
4. Beijing Ben
No, "Beijing Ben" is not the name given to the Patient Zero who delivered some antibiotic-resistant, tortoise-based flu from China to America. It's the totally cute nickname Silverman BFF Ryan Seacrest (whom by know you probably know broke this morning's big news via his Twitter feed) bestowed upon his pal as he phoned in daily dispatches from the Olympics to Seacrest's radio show. In taking such an active role in his network's Summer Games coverage, he effectively answered critics who accused him of being nothing more than a party-boy dilettante who blew off his responsibilities and used his position to more effectively pursue his jet-setting ambitions. (This should probably be mentioned: He filed all his Olympics dispatches from Peacock One, a private helicopter/four-room luxury hotel that circled Beijing National Stadium for the entirety of the Games, landing only to refuel its Cristal supply and refresh its all-cheerleader waitstaff.)
5. The White Tiger Party
Until the day a network plucks a coke-addled event promoter from Hollywood's club scene and installs him as their head of programming, no TV executive is likely to equal the excess of Silverman's now-infamous "White Tiger Party," in which the newly appointed co-chairmen celebrated the 24 Emmy nominations of his pre-NBC producing career with a self-congratulatory orgy starring --you know where this is going -- a caged white tiger. (There were no reported maulings from the affair, at least by the alabaster carnivore.) More controversial still was Silverman's decision to install the tiger in the position of Senior Vice President For Ripping Your Throat Out If You Don't Totally Love My Ideas, Bro. Unfortunately, the animal's stint at NBC was as bomb-littered as his master's, with the tiger credited with shepherding the ill-fated Clash of the Choirs onto the air in December 2007.