Mel's Diner: Rob Silverstein
April 27, 2007 11:53 AM
Who: Rob Silverstein, executive producer, “Access Hollywood”
When: Monday, April 16, lunch
Where: The Ivy, Los Angeles
The Dish: I’ve known Rob for years. He has always been a competitive guy, and so fun to talk to because of it. At lunch he seemed especially riled up about the “other shows.”
Maybe it was the impending May sweeps. Or the seemingly unending, cutthroat-and-costly-to-cover Anna Nicole Smith stories.
But I did get the sense more than ever that I will never catch him exchanging pretend Hollywood kiss-kisses with his competitors on the red carpet.
It’s certainly not uncommon for folks to jump around in TV jobs. “Access” has lost a few staff members in the last 18 months; it sounds like Rob struggles with it.
Anybody who leaves “Access Hollywood” and winds up at a competing show, “I have a hard time with it,” he said. “I take this very seriously. I’ve lived this for 11 years.”
Former host Pat O’Brien went to CBS’s “Entertainment Tonight” spin-off “The Insider” two seasons ago. He saw Pat at the Golden Globes.
“When I see him I say hello,” he said of Pat, who he’s known for a good decade and a half. “Maybe we’ll hook up again.”
Rob’s team separates itself from other syndicated newsmags with “presentation and attitude,” he said. He’s always looking for distinguishing features, like the big push he planned at the Cannes Film Festival this year. It’s devised, he said, “to combat the monkey stories others roll out at sweeps.”
“Access” has been in rebuilding mode since Pat’s and the other departures, he said. It’s now in quite a good place. Daily viewership is up 8 percent year-to-year, and the “Access” Web site is cranking after a revamp in September and an infusion of staff.
Rob now is pondering the creation of new shows. He and “Access” co-host Billy Bush talk a lot about both a late-night show and a daytime vehicle.
Rob envisions the daytime one as a sort of “Regis and Kelly” with more video. He said Billy, who he calls his “moment machine,” would be outstanding as talent on both.
The two are tight. Rob clearly values Billy’s spontaneous, bold approach to things. He also values a tell-it-like-it-is vibe on the show.
He told me a story about an interview Billy did with Lindsay Lohan after she and Wilmer Valderrama broke up. Rob was in the control room—and Billy’s earpiece.
Lindsay said something about the split being mutual.
“I blurted in Billy’s ear, ‘It’s never mutual!’” Rob said.
Immediately Billy leaned in and said to Lindsay, “It’s never mutual.”
Um, uncomfortable … but, hey, much more fun to watch, no?
Rob is a very hands-on producer.
“I approve the scripts, read every word, you have to be in the control room every day,” he said. “It moves too fast not to do it like I do.”
Still, Rob said he could see himself handling one other daily show in addition to “Access” within the next three years.
He does lots of specials. “Access” recently produced one on Anna Nicole for MyNetworkTV that was a ratings win for the struggling freshman outfit. MyNet and “Access” have plans to collaborate on at least a half-dozen more specials, with more likely down the line.
When MyNet President Greg Meidel phoned Rob about doing them, Greg called the “Access” team “animals,” Rob said, beaming like he could not have received a greater compliment.
Dined On: Rob picked this restaurant partly for the celeb spectacle it’s known for. His show does, after all, cover the every move of every starlet known to frequent this place.
The Ivy plays host daily to a string of what he calls lunch-hour “premieres.” Stars with a hankering for publicity, or even just a good hair day, know they can come here and count on being captured in flattering noon-time light.
“There are lots of great restaurants,” Rob said. “There’s no reason to come here over and over unless you want to be seen.”
There was one other draw at The Ivy that day: Stone crab, one of Rob’s life-long favorites. Though he was pretty sure it was not exactly in season, he gave it a shot.
His review: “Good, not great.” Restaurants rarely serve it cold enough, and it’s always best when “sweet and cold,” he said.
Not that The Ivy’s crab stood a chance against the memory of fresh stone crab at Joe’s in Miami. That’s where Rob’s dad “Big Al” took the then New York-based family every year during Christmastime vacations when Rob was a kid.
Rob continues the tradition with his wife and four kids (daughters, 13 and 8; and twin 11-year-old sons) by ordering Joe’s shipped to his home in Tarzana every New Year’s.
On the books: Next week Mel’s Diner features CBS Television Distribution’s Bob Madden.