Now we know why NBC didn't make many changes this upfront season: because the fourth-place network will have a new head of entertainment soon to put his imprint on things.
Kevin Reilly is leaving as president of NBC Entertainment after only a three-year stint. He has had some successes under his reign: "Heroes" was a major one, and, to a lesser extent, "The Office" and "My Name is Earl."
After three seasons, the network is still mired in fourth place --- and everyone knows what that means in the land of General Electric. GE takes pride in the fact that all its businesses are either first or second in their respective categories.
The telltale signs were there as recently as two weeks ago, right after NBC made its upfront presentation for its fall schedule. Glaringly obvious was that NBC made not one change in its Thursday night lineup. Through the '90s, the Thursday night comedy lineup had been the pride of the company.
TV analysts were scratching their heads. Shouldn't NBC make "Heroes" take a shot at perhaps the 10 p.m. time slot --away from "Grey's Anatomy" and "CSI."?
Nope. Instead NBC offered up a modest five new shows, while ABC announced an eye-opening 12 new series. One would have thought it was ABC in last place all these years.
Now the kid with the magic touch may be coming to save the day: Ben Silverman, the producer who gave us two mainstay NBC shows, "The Office" and "The Biggest Loser" -- as well as this past season's modest rookie ABC performer, "Ugly Betty."
For a while this past season, it looked like Reilly might make it. For example, "Sunday Night Football" took the strain off programming that tough night, especially competing with ABC.
Then "Heroes" hit pay dirt in the fall and continued to brush aside heavy hitters like "24' when January rolled around. Even "ER" was suddenly revived -- albeit CBS' "Without a Trace" was no longer competing with it at 10 p.m.
But after football season ended, things began to turn. Reality shows on Sunday, including "The Apprentice," sank NBC back to its poor ratings levels. And then mysteriously, "ER" took a nosedive after mid-season.
Yet in February, Reilly was given a three-year extension. Now, three months after that move, it's over. It seemed NBC Universal under the new leadership of Jeff Zucker, who brought in Reilly three years ago, was already thinking about a successor. That got Reilly wanting to clarify his position.
And you know how those things go.
Once your boss starts thinking about future replacement executives who might have superhuman powers to leap competitive network schedules in a single bound, anything less is only a skip around the office at 30 Rock.