One of the most talented producers in television, Michael Hirschorn, may or may not be leaving VH1, the entertainment channel he revived with shows like Best Week Ever, Flavor of Love, and I Love New York. The New York Post says the Viacom exec is in discussions with a number of rival networks, but he might just move into another role at Viacom, the company that owns VH-1. So, why should you care?
First, Hirschorn's career is an object lesson in the financial rewards of going downmarket. Hired as an editor to Kurt Andersen's dream team at New York Magazine, Hirschorn followed his mentor to the excellent Inside.com, a media news site that was too early for its time.
You might think Hirschorn would have professional qualms about bringing to the air shows like "A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila" — a dating show in which the prize is a bisexual internet phenomenon. But he's an inspiring manager, say former colleagues, and he's melded highbrow and lowbrow in a way that's common in the UK, but till now rare in US television. The offers he's weighing now will be something of a consolation for any mockery at Manhattan dinner parties with former colleagues at more refined institutions.
Pure speculation, this, but there's a grief-premium Sumner Redstone's media conglomerate may have to pay to compensate Hirschorn for his new Viacom boss. The VH1 programming chief was a protege of Tom Freston, the laid-back executive fired by the capricious 84-year-old Viacom owner after Freston failed to acquire MySpace. Redstone's new placeman, Philippe Dauman, is a lawyer.
"Hirschorn will be successful anywhere he goes," says a Viacom informant. "No use having to fight with an uncreative douche who doesn't get it." So, Hirschorn, just go! (Even if the Viacom offer is enticing.)