The build-up to Monday's exec sesh with newly minted NBC toppers Ben Silverman and Marc Graboff (pictured left) was more dramatic than the actual 50-minutes of Q-ing and A-ing. The Hilton's International ballroom was packed, there was an audible buzz in the room and in the lobby outside. A number of top industry agents and execs were on hand, just because....It was rock-star anticipation time. (For a good time read Brian Lowry's review of "The Ben Silverman/Marc Graboff Show.") And get the lowdown on all the news out of the sesh from Variety's TCA avatars Joe Adalian and Michael Schneider.
By any measure, Ben aced his first TCA test, with a lot of help from Marc on those nagging "why'd you sack Kevin Reilly?" questions.
Graboff took those blows for the team, provoking laughter when he asserted in a very lawyerly fashion that "Kevin was not fired," which in point of fact is true. He just got demoted when his boss decided to recruit a new top-top guy.....But that's so late May. (Besides, it's not like Reilly's on the unemployment line. He'll get his TCA turn on Sunday as Fox's new head programmer.)
All in all, Ben turned on the charm ("I've wanted to do this job my whole life"), though it wore a bit when he kept referring to himself and Graboff as "the Jews." It even helped Ben's cause that he showed his mortal-ness in being a little nervous at the outset as he read in a monotone without pause a slew of announcements and surgical skedding changes on the fall lineup. (The move of "Chuck" to Monday 8 p.m. "Heroes" adjacency makes all the sense in the world. I thought so back in May when the lineup was revealed.)
It seemed that the way Ben and Marc handled the Q&A sesh is probably very reflective of how they're working together (and a number of NBC Universal execs I spoke with afterward confirmed this), and if that's the case, it just may work -- providing they get a little luck with some shows. But they genuinely seemed comfortable with each other -- as Ben pointed out they've known each other since Ben was the William Morris agent repping the creators of "Survivor" on that show's original licensing deal with CBS (back when Graboff was biz affairs chief for the Eye.)
Perhaps most intriguingly, the TCA crowd was tres subdued in their grilling of the Peacock duo; It was really more like a light braising. For sure Ben's still in his honeymoon period. I also think the decision to go at 10 a.m. sted the 9 a.m. standard just may have made all the difference.
(The joke around our office Monday morning was: How many Variety reporters does it take to screw in, or up?, a TCA sesh. There were nine of of us in the room: Joe Adalian, Michael Schneider, Brian Lowry, Stuart Levine, Elizabeth Guider, Steven Zeitchik, Michael Learmonth, Jon Weisman and yours truly. And if you counted all of the Variety alumni in the room.....)