Once again, NBC Entertainment chief Kevin Reilly found himself the subject of rumor and conjecture on Friday as the latest round of “Reilly’s out” rumors hit fever pitch. (Why does it always come on the Friday before a long holiday weekend?!) Variety’s Joe Adalian spent all day Friday on the phone trying to separate fact from fiction, and he gives us the objective details on where things stand as of this weekend in this dispatch.
No matter what happens next week, I’ll never understand why such a classy, talented, decent sort as Reilly has had to deal with such clouds of uncertainty hanging over him almost from the day he walked in to NBC in the fall of 2003. By any measure, he’s done a good job bringing some watch-able programs to the Peacock. Reilly’s done well during the past two years in replenishing the lineup with “My Name is Earl,” “The Office,” “Heroes,” “Friday Night Lights” and “Deal or No Deal.” He’s one of the few programmers willing to go out on a limb for shows he believes in. The Peacock is better off now from Reilly going to bat for “The Office” after it’s first mini season, when few others (me included) could see the promise in the show that would explode after just a few more episodes. (Reilly’s pictured above with “Office” mates John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer.) It sure feels like “Friday Night Lights” is in the same idling-on-the-tarmac moment.
Some years back, when NBC was in similar straits competitively that it faces now, there was a debate among Brandon Tartikoff and other execs about whether to cancel the low-low-low rated hospital drama “St. Elsewhere,” which was a favorite among the execs despite its meager audience. The Peacock’s leader at the time, the great Grant Tinker, is famously said to have piped up with the obvious question, “Why are we talking about canceling a show that we all are so proud of?” NBC took a page from Tinker’s play book earlier this month by going on faith and giving “Friday Night Lights” a sophomore season renewal. Let’s hope the collective will is there at NBC Universal to do the same for the exec who’s been fighting the good fight for the Peacock for nearly four years.