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Falling Upward

Inexplicably, NBC has promoted Jeff Zucker to a position of awesome power, overseeing its entire broadcast and cable television operation. I say "inexplicably" not because Jeff Zucker isn't a nice guy who observes the speed limit and pays his fair share of taxes and is quick with a joke or a thoughtful-though-not-at-all-obsequious compliment about his superior's choice of ties. Rather, I find this development inexplicable because usually one associates promotions with rewards for accomplishments and unfettered success. Zucker's track record, first as NBC's programming chief and later as head of the network, has been one of sustained failure.

Under Zucker's tenure, NBC has long since ceded its spot at the top of the network heap to CBS. It's now the no. 3 network in prime time, with Fox breathing down The Peacock's neck. One-time ratings juggernauts like Friends and Frasier have aged, died, and faded away without any strapping, young bucks to take their place. One of the few hits of the Zucker era, The Apprentice, has been watered down by an ill-advised spin-off and lost its pop-culture buzz. Now the NBC lineup is associated primarily with interchangeable Law & Order repeats and that show where one of the Arquette sisters solves crimes with the help of dead people.

But I guess Jeff Zucker keeps his desk clean. And he's a warm body. So up the corporate ladder he goes.

If this is the sort of charmed life Jeff Zucker leads, one can only imagine what good fortune awaits him in this latest endeavor...


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