The A List: Top slots await rising hotshots

Clutch of go-getters should get that key network call

There’s no television job more coveted — or more feared — than entertainment prexy at a broadcast net.

TV legends like Fred Silverman and Brandon Tartikoff turned the entertainment presidency into the vaunted post it is today. At the height of his reign at NBC, Tartikoff was so widely known he even hosted an episode of “Saturday Night Live.”

After all, the programming chief is arguably the most visible exec in all of TV. When things are good, you wield more power than almost anyone else in the biz. But when things go bad … you’re fired.

That revolving door means there are always a handful of execs waiting in the wings for their shot at carrying on the Silverman/Tartikoff legacy. Development chiefs, scheduling toppers and marketing masters make the usual round of speculation whenever a job opens up.

But given the changing media landscape, entertainment presidents aren’t just groomed within the network ranks anymore. The current crop of programming chiefs are a diverse bunch, including former cable, business affairs and news execs; there’s even a producer and ex-journalist in the mix.

That makes for a wider pool of potential programming chiefs. What follows is a not-at-all comprehensive list of other execs who might create some waves as a network topper–including cable toppers, studio players, reality gurus, popular producers, bigtime agents … and even someone who’s done it before.

Some of these folks may already be at the top of their game, others have already carved out a nice little fiefdom in their own universe. A few of them are almost always mentioned as potential candidates; others might be considered uncoventional choices.

A number of these execs wouldn’t dare give it all up to become a network entertainment president–and others have harbored entertainment prexy ambitions for years.

But all would be fascinating to watch if they were given a crack at one of the networks’ entertainment divisions.

Peter Aronson

uns Arnon Milchan’s TV company — a co-venture with Fox — and helped craft one of this season’s few comedy hits, “The Bernie Mac Show.” With a wicked wit and an eye for talent, he’s quickly proven a worthy replacement for his predecessor, Fox Entertainment chief Gail Berman.

Carole Black

A former marketing exec, Black made the unusual jump to KNBC, where she built the station into a revenue and ratings leader as GM. She then took another big leap, to Lifetime, where she took the brand and turned it into basic cable’s top-rated network.

Mike Darnell

, Helped create a slew of reality successes — “Temptation Island,” “Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire” — that cause dropped jaws among the cultural elite but send viewers flocking to Fox. While the rest of Hollywood worries about their rep, he just gets the job done — critics be damned.

Jeff Gaspin

The man who helped turn “Behind the Music” into a cultural touchstone — and thus put VH1 on the map — is now Jeff Zucker’s go-to guy. He gets credit for launching controversial hit “Fear Factor,” putting the Peacock into the reality game . Brian Graden

Helped the cabler retain its dominance among teens and young adults with out-there programming like “The Osbournes.” While at Comedy Central, Graden discovered the “South Park” guys.

Chris Harbert

Helped Dick Wolf turn “Law & Order” into a franchise smash while negotiating a monster deal for “Buffy” creator Joss Whedon. Kelly Kahl

Helped Leslie Moonves engineer the Eye’s bold raid on NBC’s Thursday stronghold, moving “Survivor” and “CSI” on to the night. More importantly, he’s a chief consigliere to the Eye topper– which means he has the ear of network TV’s most powerful man.

Steve McPherson

He’s managed to serve as ABC’s chief program supplier while still producing product for other webs. Helped create hit “CSI”–even though Disney ultimately let the show go.

Jamie Tarses

A political disaster when she ran the Alphabet’s entertainment division, her creative instincts are on-target: NBC still owes a lot of its current success to “Friends,” a show she developed.

Nina Tassler

Think a track record that includes “Judging Amy,” “CSI” and “The District.” A keen observer of social trends, she manages to find those shows that hit a nerve with the Eye’s core demo of femmes 25-54.

Sarah Timberman

Former Sony exec who helped develop “Dawson’s Creek” and “Party of Five,” now working to move USA beyond its rep as the house that Dick Wolf built.

Rick Rosen

His fingerprints all over primetime, he reps fresh creative minds such as J.J. Abrams and Linwood Boomer. He’s also no stranger to the exec side of the equation, having worked at Columbia and Orion TV.

Dana Walden

A former flack who (along with fellow prexy Gary Newman) has kept TV’s most prolific studio on top. She’s managed to keep 20th a key supplier to all nets while showing the courage to turn down deals that don’t make fiscal sense.

(Josef Adalian and Michael Schneider)

More TV

  • Homeland Season 6 finale

    'Homeland' Season 7 Sets Premiere Date, Drops First Trailer

    There’s no television job more coveted — or more feared — than entertainment prexy at a broadcast net. TV legends like Fred Silverman and Brandon Tartikoff turned the entertainment presidency into the vaunted post it is today. At the height of his reign at NBC, Tartikoff was so widely known he even hosted an episode […]

  • Chris Hardwick David X Cohen

    Chris Hardwick, David X. Cohen Team for Museum Comedy in Development at NBC

    There’s no television job more coveted — or more feared — than entertainment prexy at a broadcast net. TV legends like Fred Silverman and Brandon Tartikoff turned the entertainment presidency into the vaunted post it is today. At the height of his reign at NBC, Tartikoff was so widely known he even hosted an episode […]

  • BETTER LATE THAN NEVER -- "Munich"

    TV Ratings: 'Better Late Than Never' Season 2 Debuts Down Double Digits

    There’s no television job more coveted — or more feared — than entertainment prexy at a broadcast net. TV legends like Fred Silverman and Brandon Tartikoff turned the entertainment presidency into the vaunted post it is today. At the height of his reign at NBC, Tartikoff was so widely known he even hosted an episode […]

  • Steven Victor and Pras

    Pras to Helm TV Series Inspired by Real-Life Stories of Hip-Hop Cops

    There’s no television job more coveted — or more feared — than entertainment prexy at a broadcast net. TV legends like Fred Silverman and Brandon Tartikoff turned the entertainment presidency into the vaunted post it is today. At the height of his reign at NBC, Tartikoff was so widely known he even hosted an episode […]

  • The Walking Dead Season 8 Episode

    'Walking Dead' Posts Lowest Midseason Finale Ratings Since Season 2

    There’s no television job more coveted — or more feared — than entertainment prexy at a broadcast net. TV legends like Fred Silverman and Brandon Tartikoff turned the entertainment presidency into the vaunted post it is today. At the height of his reign at NBC, Tartikoff was so widely known he even hosted an episode […]

  • 'Today' Ratings Continue to Surge After

    'Today' Ratings Continue to Surge After Matt Lauer Departure

    There’s no television job more coveted — or more feared — than entertainment prexy at a broadcast net. TV legends like Fred Silverman and Brandon Tartikoff turned the entertainment presidency into the vaunted post it is today. At the height of his reign at NBC, Tartikoff was so widely known he even hosted an episode […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content