According to Bloomberg, NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker will likely keep his job if Comcast succeeds in gaining a controlling stake in the company. Of course he will, because otherwise he'd be accountable for all the horrible mistakes he's made.
Zucker, the bullet-headed upward-failer who's managed to infuriate and exasperate his many critics into sputtering fits of rage simply by never, ever getting fired despite an incontrovertible record of deserving to get fired, will stay under any new ownership, according to "three people with knowledge of the situation." We're confident that those three people are Zucker, his wife, and his cousin, because expert care and feeding of the press is one way Zucker has managed to never, ever get fired.
To celebrate the news of his continued survival, here's a handy list of Zucker's brushes with death (real and metaphorical), and how he survived them all, unfairly (except for the brushes with real death, which we're glad he survived).
Harvard Law School
Zucker gained fame as the youngest executive producer of the Today Show ever—he took the helm at age 26 in 1992. How'd he land that gig? By failing to get into Harvard Law School. After Harvard rejected him, he took a job as a researcher at NBC Sports, met Katie Couric, and was running Today six years later.
NBC Nightly News
Zucker was undeniably successful at Today, if by "successful" you mean "good at turning it into a show where bands played rock music outside and you could look at Katie Couric's gams." He was so good at it, in fact, that in 1993 NBC News also put him in charge of the NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw, a job he excelled at for the precisely five weeks it took him to fail at it and go back to just producing Today. Tom Brokaw called him "Doogie."
Now With Tom Brokaw and Katie Couric
Now was Zucker's brainchild—an hour-long primetime newsmagazine in the vein of 60 Minutes, 20/20, and Dateline NBC, which already existed on NBC in 1993, when Zucker launched Now. It lasted one year, because it sucked. Dateline is still around.
Good Morning Miami
After getting promoted to president of NBC Entertainment in 2000, Zucker was moved out to Hollywood with the explicit job of a) keeping Friends on the air for as long as he could and b) coming up with a successor sitcom for Thursday nights after it did, inevitably, go off the air. Zucker kept Friends going until the 2003-04 season, but his first bid for a successor was Good Morning Miami, a show about a nebbishy young morning-show executive producer in Miami—Zucker's hometown. Good thing Mark Feuerstein, who played the main character, had a full head of hair. Otherwise the show could have been misinterpreted as egomaniacal self-glorification. It sucked and was canceled.
With the Friends franchise fast disappearing, Zucker put his faith in an exciting young upstart producer named Ben Silverman to keep NBC on top Thurday nights. In 2003, Silverman adapted the British hit Coupling for American audiences. It was going to be awesome, Zucker told television critics. It lasted one month, because it sucked, and Zucker later admitted to those self-same television critics that he "knew from the first taping it was in trouble." Stephen Moffat, the creator of the British version, had this to say when asked why Coupling sucked: "I can answer it with three letters: N, B, C.... The network fucked it up because they intervened endlessly. If you really want a job to work, don't get Jeff Zucker's team to come help you with it because they're not funny. All right? There you go."
By 2004, Zucker was promoted to running the NBC Television Group, and brought in Kevin Reilly to shepherd primetime on the network, but not before deciding that Joey was a really great idea for keeping that Friends magic going. It was not.
Zucker fired Reilly in 2007, and hired Ben Silverman, the genius behind Coupling. Silverman lasted two years of clubbing and combating rumors that he does drugs all the time and can't make morning meetings because he's hung over before getting fired a few months ago.
Losing $1 billion
The collective impact of the aforementioned decisions is that when Zucker took the reins at NBC, it was the number one network among 18-to-49-year-olds and home—or inheritor—of brands like Seinfeld, Cheers, and Friends. By 2005, it was dead last. In the 2004-05 season, NBC raked in an astonishing $1 billion less in ad revenue than the season prior.
Land of the Lost et. al.
Under Zucker's ultimate leadership, Universal Pictures is in the midst of a prolonged box-office slump marked by expensive non-starters like Land of the Lost (cost $100 million, made $62 million worldwide), Funny People (cost $75 million, made $60 million), State of Play, Frost/Nixon, etc. Zucker ordered Universal honcho Ron Meyer to shake up the executive ranks last month, but the studio has a lot of expensive movies still in the pipeline.
Lying to Nikki Finke
Perhaps worst of all, Zucker lied to Nikki Finke. When she heard rumors last summer that Silverman was on his way out at NBC, Zucker assured her through a spokesperson that nothing could be further from the truth: "Ben is here to stay for the foreseeable future. No changes afoot." And we all know that lying to Nikki Finke gives you cancer.
Which is nothing to Jeff Zucker! He's survived two bouts of colon cancer. The man will not be moved.