Two Bob Wright takes…….
It’s a textbook case of chutzpah, though in Bob Wright’s world, it’s known as cheekiness. Doesn’t matter, because it was still really, really bad behavior. Harken back to that stunning announcement in late January: two flailing networks (WB and UPN) will now become one flailing network (the poorly named CW). So who picks up the phone right away, and calls WB chief Garth Ancier, and acts as if there’s no water under the bridge between them? And demands, “Take me through this. You know this deal.”? Why, none other than Bob Wright, Mr. NBC and vice-chairman of parent GE. For those who are slow on the uptake, I’ll explain. Wright hired Ancier as NBC Entertainment president in March 1999 only to fire him just 18 months later. As if that weren’t brutal enough, Wright since then has openly badmouthed that brief Garth tenure as a choatic mess that required a lot of ship-steadying afterwards, and other nonsense. Despite all of the above, Ancier demonstrated admirable restraint and didn’t bang down the receiver. The reason, no doubt, is because he decided early on in the CW formation phase to flee network television and “explore and expand my own experiences in this new age of digital opportunity” (my bet is, for Google). So there’ll be plenty of time for him to hang up on Wright in the future.
While we’re on the subject of Wright, it’s clear that he’s embarrassingly thin-skinned when it comes to media coverage of himself. So what if there’re all those articles about how lousy NBC is doing this season, and how rotten Zucker is managing the network. Doesn’t matter: it’s only what you say about Bob that gets him apoplectic. My favorite example of this took place at the start of the Fall TV season last October when New York magazine columnist Kurt Andersen penned a trenchant piece about Jeff Zucker being an empty suit. It was the sort of article that causes a mogul to lay awake at night fearing that everyone he knows is snickering at him (as if they aren’t doing that already). Though Anderson’s piece focused on Zucker, some modest zingers were aimed at Wright. How “as soon as he interferes in programs, it’s a disaster,” he’s “insecure,” he’s not media savvy, and he mistakenly went to Morton’s steakhouse in NYC instead of Morton’s watering hole in West Hollywood after being invited to the Vanity Fair Oscar party. That was the extent of it. But, soon enough, Bob Wright left Kurt a whiney voicemail. Weak stuff like, What did I do to deserve this. I’m disappointed because of our long relationship, and frankly offended. Andersen listened, then couldn’t help thinking: dude, you’re the head of fucking NBC. Live with it and ignore me. Worse was that Wright went and proved Andersen’s exact point: He is insecure and he doesn’t know how to deal with the media. Where’s Cher when we need her to slap him and say “Snap out of it!”