Peacock's entertainment unit taps topper

This article was updated at 6:57 p.m.

After waiting in the wings for a year, NBC primetime development prexy Kevin Reilly has been handed full control of the entire Peacock entertainment division.

Exec will take over as prexy of NBC Entertainment May 27 — the day after the curtain comes down on the 2003-04 season. He fills the position left vacant when Jeff Zucker was named prexy of the NBC Entertainment, News and Cable Group last year.

Reilly will continue to report to Zucker, who announced the promotion Monday. Move, which comes on the eve of the NBC/U merger, had been anticipated since Reilly was first hired away from his gig as FX Entertainment prexy a year ago (Daily Variety, May 28, 2003).

“If I didn’t think he was someone who could eventually replace me, I wouldn’t have hired him,” Zucker said at the time.

Zucker is moving back to New York later this month. Numerous other exec shuffles are expected at NBC U in the next few weeks.

In his new post, Reilly will continue to oversee NBC’s development while also taking on scheduling and strategic planning along with daytime and latenight.

Zucker said Reilly has lived up to expectations during his first year back at the net.

“There’s no question he had a terrific year developing for us, and he’s the right guy to lead us into the future,” Zucker told Daily Variety.

Reilly’s first development slate is already being labeled one of NBC’s boldest in years, with laffers “The Office,” “The Friendlys,” “D.O.T.S” and “My 11:30″ generating early buzz.

And Reilly himself is high on the net’s drama pilot slate, saying that “all five will be in the mix. And that’s not bullshit spin.”

The looming question for most in Hollywood is how the Zucker/Reilly relationship will change with the former exec now in Gotham.

Already this season, Reilly had boasted broad powers in development, including greenlight authority. He’ll now be more actively involved in scheduling and dealmaking, though Zucker has made it clear he won’t be completely hands-off.

“I look forward to remaining involved, because our performance in primetime is paramount,” Zucker said. “But I feel great about having Kevin and the team on the ground.”

Press tour point man

Zucker and Reilly are both expected to be onstage May 17 when the net unveils its fall sked. Reilly will also be front and center in July during NBC’s portion of the TV Critics Assn. summer press tour in Century City.

“I think this year’s schedule is going to be our schedule, and so will next year’s,” Reilly said. “We’re going to be working together very closely. (Zucker’s) got a full plate of other responsibilities … but Jeff’s going to stay close. He’s going to turn over the reigns, but he’ll still be a resource.”

Reilly’s tastes, which often run to the adventurous and risky, on the surface seem at odds with those of Zucker, who prefers meat-and-potatoes fare like this week’s “10.5.” Mini drew scathing reviews from critics — and part one Sunday ended up the net’s top-rated mini in five years.

But where some see potential for conflict, Reilly sees a balance.

“I’ve already found Jeff and I to be really complementary to each other,” he said. “We’re not the same guy, but we’ve been simpatico on every major issue.”

Wide range of laffers

Reilly also notes that this year’s NBC development slate “has the widest range of comedies we’ve had in years,” from an animated skein to broad laffers to genre-breaking skeins like “The Office.”

Producer Gavin Polone, who has two pilots under consideration at NBC this spring, said he welcomed Reilly’s ascension.

“I’ve had a great year at NBC in large part because Kevin’s there,” Polone said. “When I ask him to trust me, he says yes.”

Reilly’s resume includes a six-year run at NBC (1988-94), during which he largely focused on drama development, including skeins such as “ER” and “Homicide: Life on the Street.”

In 1994, he jumped to Brillstein-Grey, where he worked on the pilot for “The Sopranos” and shows including “Just Shoot Me” and “NewsRadio.” He was tapped prexy of entertainment for FX in 2000, working with net topper Peter Liguori to launch FX signature skein “The Shield.”

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