PASADENA, Calif. — Maybe there's something in the water at NBC. Maybe it's the dreaded Zucker Effect.
But it just doesn't matter who's running the network. When that person (or persons) take questions from members of the Television Critics Association, common sense, truth and anything approaching normal human interaction somehow fly out the window.
Two years ago, we were told that Kevin Reilly left his job as NBC's top programmer of his own accord. Reilly begged to differ.
(He landed a much better gig — he's now Fox's top programmer.)
This time around, NBC's president of prime-time entertainment, Angela Bromstad, told TV critics that fired NBC Entertainment co-chairman Ben Silverman's exit from the network was voluntary.
"I think this has always been Ben's plan," she said, eliciting laughter from the critics
Bromstad, for her part, was taken aback by the laughter. But she plowed ahead nonetheless.
"I think it has always been Ben's plan to transition back to his entrepreneurial roots, so I don't think he was looking to be at NBC for a long-term thing," she said.
Yes, and, my plan is to sabotage the Deseret News as much as I possibly can, destroy its reputation and sully its legacy, then return to my entrepreneurial roots. Because I want to be just like Silverman.
Silverman is like the high-school kid who wants to be elected class president to prove that he's popular but has absolutely no interest in actually doing any work. The only surprise is that he lasted two years at NBC despite his utter lack of success and, um, interesting work ethic.
Actually, the only reason he lasted as long as he did is that his boss, NBC Universal President and CEO Jeff Zucker — who fired Reilly just after giving him a three-year, multimillion-dollar contract extension — didn't want to admit he'd made yet another monstrous mistake.
NBC has a history of executives who are, shall we say, less than forthcoming. (Reilly was doomed from the start at NBC; he's an upfront guy.) And, since Zucker was Peter-Principled to a higher job, his successors at the network have been Zuckerized — they're all about the spin and saying as little as possible.
Geez, when he was asked what he thought Paula Abdul's exit from "American Idol" would do to that show, NBC's reality TV chief, Paul Telegdy actually said, "I haven't had time to form an opinion on that."
It's both wildly amusing and vaguely insulting. Like the folks at NBC think TV critics are so remarkably stupid that we'll easily swallow all their baloney.
Bromstad tried desperately to duck and weave when she was asked about what the network's expectations are for "The Jay Leno Show."
"We have a session later on with Jay Leno, and I think that that would be a better question for that session," she said.
Um, the question was for you about what you, as the person in charge of NBC's prime-time schedule, expect from the show.
Of course, sometimes you try so hard to say nothing that you end up saying really silly things. Like telling critics that Bryan Fuller ("Pushing Daisies") returned to "Heroes" last season "to sort of get them back on track." But, after telling us how important he was to the show, Brom-stad told us his subsequent, second departure "doesn't mean anything one way or the other."
And then poor Bromstad — who shouldn't be the one up there but has gotten stuck addressing TV critics — got caught in NBC's inconsistencies.
"I think what is going to be a success for Leno is that it's going to be the 52 cumulative rating for the show. ... It's not going to be determined in the first five days of the show," Bromstad said.
And yet, five days after he took over "The Tonight Show," NBC declared Conan O'Brien the new "king of late night." Which, given his subsequent ratings decline and David Letterman's surge, has ended up embarrassing both the network and O'Brien.
And yet poor Bromstad couldn't bring herself to back off what turned out to be NBC's ridiculous boast. O'Brien still has a slim lead in the younger demos, but is clearly not anything approaching the king of late-night at this point.
Yeah, but. ...
"We sell the 18-to-49 demo. That is the business that we're in," Bromstad said.
Poor Angela. Honestly, I felt sorry for her. And just a little insulted by her.