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Silverman takes shots in Esquire

NBC's co-chairman dismisses rivals in article

At least one person in Hollywood is a little bit happy about the timing of the WGA strike: Ben Silverman.

It’s not that NBC U’s entertainment co-chairman is taking any pleasure in the labor strife. But Silverman’s got to be counting his blessings that the writers’ walkout has minimized coverage of other showbiz stories in the past week, including the release of an Esquire magazine profile of Silverman.

The write-up itself, part of the mag’s “Best and Brightest” issue, was pretty innocuous. But what Silverman said about some of his competitors wasn’t.

Silverman, saying the “industry hasn’t seen an executive like me in a long time,” dismissed rivals Steve McPherson of ABC and Kevin Reilly of Fox as “D-girls.” He also accused Reilly of “lacking grace” in dealing with NBC’s decision to hire Silverman (which forced Reilly to resign), and accused McPherson of having to be talked into ordering “Ugly Betty.”

Exec took some personal shots at McPherson, calling him a “sad man” and a “miserable guy.” Latter comments seemed to be retaliation for McPherson’s public remarks in July urging Silverman to “be a man” by admitting he played a role in Reilly’s departure from NBC.

NBC insiders have made it clear that they believed Silverman was speaking off the record when he made the controversial comment, a charge Silverman repeated in a Saturday New York Times article about the Esquire story.

“It was totally off the record,” Silverman insisted. “I got bum-rushed by a journalist operating unfairly.” An Esquire editor told the Times the magazine stood by its story.

Silverman should have known the Jamie Tarses rule of network execs: Nothing good ever comes of granting lots of access to national magazines. Rule has been in place since 1997, when Lynn Hirschberg dissected Tarses in the New York Times Magazine.

Not surprisingly, McPherson and Reilly aren’t responding to Silverman’s remarks, figuring the NBC exec has done enough damage to himself.

It’s understood that Silverman has emailed (but not telephoned) Reilly to apologize for calling him a “D-girl,” a term that stands for “development girl,” and means someone in an entry-level film or television production job. Silverman hasn’t extended an olive branch to McPherson.

That lingering hostility toward McPherson has some observers suggesting the two execsmay need to settle their war of words another way.

“If I were McPherson, I’d challenge Silverman to a fist fight,” one wag said.

Here’s another idea: Since NBC is readying a revival of “American Gladiators,” perhaps the ABC and NBC bosses could duke it out on camera for charity.

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