Rob Silverstein, exec producer of NBC’s entertainment newsmagazine “Access Hollywood” and its spinoffs, is leaving the syndication franchise after 20 years at the helm. He’ll be replaced by “Hot Bench” alumnus Maureen FitzPatrick.
Silverstein’s departure was announced Tuesday morning at a staff meeting for “Access” producers. Silverstein was also exec producer of the hourlong talk show “Access Live,” hosted by Kit Hoover and Natalie Morales, and the hourlong weekend edition of “Access.” In a note to “Access” staffers, Silverstein acknowledged that his “vision of the show moving forward differs from the management team, so we have agreed today will be my final day as EP.”
FitzPatrick came into the NBCUniversal fold last year and had been working as a consultant on the “Access” shows. NBC execs felt the time was right to bring in a fresh perspective on the series and evolve the format. Silverstein will continue to work on projects through his first-look production pact with NBCUniversal. The fact that the transition happened abruptly in the middle of the week raised some eyebrows.
“Maureen is an extremely talented and creative producer with extensive experience and a proven track record in navigating many different dayparts and genres,” said Tracie Wilson, exec VP of creative affairs for NBCUniversal Domestic Television Distribution. “We are looking forward to her creative insight and expertise as we build upon the success of these long-standing and iconic programs.”
“Access Hollywood” came into the spotlight itself in 2016 when it was revealed that the show had an audio recording of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump making vulgar and misogynistic remarks in 2005 during off-camera banter with then-“Access” host Billy Bush.
The revelation of the recording hit in the final weeks of the bitter 2016 presidential contest and was seen at the time by many as a fatal blow to Trump’s presidential ambition. The first report on the recording by the Washington Post proved an embarrassment for NBC News because of the NBC connection to the source material. NBC News said its report on the audio was still being vetted at the time the Post broke the story. At the time Bush had recently moved into an anchor slot on “Today” but he was soon fired after an uproar among NBC News staffers.
“Access Hollywood” still has a credible audience– averaging around 2 million viewers this season — but the show like other newsmagazines is fighting an uphill battle with the daily deluge of news and gossip that flows into the smartphones of the pop culture enthusiasts who are the show’s target audience. NBC and FitzPatrick are hinting at major changes to come in the show’s format.
“I’ve had a wonderful experience working with the NBCUniversal development and syndication group this past year and am honored to join the talented and hardworking ‘Access’ and ‘Access Live’ teams,” FitzPatrick said. “The ‘Access’ brand has become the gold standard and I’m excited to take its legacy to the next level with innovative new ideas that give viewers even more ways to connect with all their favorite entertainment stories.”
FitzPatrick comes to “Access” after working as a producer on such series as “Daily Blast Live,” “Whose Line Is It Anyway?,” “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and “The Dating Game.” She also served as a creative executive at CBS Television Distribution and was tapped to launch the court show “Hot Bench” in 2014.
Silverstein had been with “Access” since its inception in 1996 as NBC’s answer to “Entertainment Tonight,” the syndie stalwart owned by CBS. He was known for his hard-charging style and competitive zeal for battling with “Entertainment Tonight” for scoops and celebrity guets.
Silverstein signed on as a weekend producer and was promoted to exec producer in 1999. Before “Access,” Silverstein was senior producer of the syndicated competition series “American Gladiators.”
Here is the full memo Silverstein sent to “Access” staffers:
I wanted to share some news with you.
Over the past several months we have been discussing the creative direction of “Access” and “Access Live.” My vision of the show moving forward differs from the management team, so we have agreed today will be my final day as EP.
I leave behind a legacy of success for which I am immensely proud. As you know, I have been with “Access” for more than two decades, and together we have built a brand that is the gold-standard in entertainment storytelling.
As I move on to my next adventure, I want to thank this extraordinary team that has always been willing to go above and beyond to produce countless hours of quality programming. I wish you all great success.
(Pictured: Maureen FitzPatrick, Rob Silverstein)