Wondering why your television network came in fifth place last year? It might be because its president is a ghost-hunting, angel-believing ski bum.
Being the president of a floundering, working-its-way-out-of-fifth-place network is hard! So what's NBC President of Entertainment Jen Salke doing to help right the rapidly sinking scripted ship? Skiing, chatting with her old bosses, avoiding work, and embarrassing Sean Hayes, of course. Also: hunting ghosts.
Instead of worrying about the numerous exec changes taking place at Universal right now (her boss Bob Greenblatt's contract has been renewed through 2017, Salke's has not), she's busy chatting with her press gal pals. In a laughably fake interview with The Zoe Report, Rachel Zoe's abbrev-heavy website about fashion, things that are bananas, actual bananas, and more, Salke gives us a quick peek into her life. It includes, naturally, ghosts, angels, and other mythical creatures that reside in her house and head.
The scariest thing, though, might be Salke's disconnect from reality. Not just the ghost stuff—from the reality of her job. When asked what a typical day is like for her, Salke responds:
Probably nine-plus hours of staff, scheduling or marketing meetings mixed in with writer meetings, notes sessions, a table read or comedy run through. Hundreds of emails and lots of calls. They are incredibly busy days most of the time where I’m scheduled every hour of the day. There’s always more to do.
Interesting. According to people who've worked at Universal—myself included—it's commonplace to not be able to get a meeting with Salke on the books for days/weeks, mainly due to how little she's actually in the office. If you do get a meeting, good luck actually having it! As one showrunner puts it, "There is no network as notorious as NBC for pushing a meeting or call by fifteen minute increments over the course of an hour, before canceling it all together." Yikes.
And while most TV execs live in their offices during the dreaded January-April pilot season, where was Salke this year? Taking three days off every week to fly to her Park City chalet for ski season! (In the interview, she calls her "place in Utah" a "sacred getaway for family and friends.") NBC had only two returning comedies in Parks and Rec and the constantly on the brink of cancellation Community—but at least Salke got some time on the powder. (And when she is in office? Long lunches and in-office jewelry trunk shows are regular occurrences.)
The constant ass-kissing of her old employers—also on display in the interview—isn't something that inspires much confidence in the NBC and Universal teams she manages. Twice in the interview she brings up how much she respects Dana Walden, co-chairman of 20th Century Fox TV, who was her boss when she was an EVP at the studio. Which is fine! It's just that Salke respects her old boss by spending hours sitting in Walden's office shooting the shit any time she finds herself on the Fox lot. (It remains unclear whether those blocks of time are scheduled into her busy nine-hour days).
In picking shows, her love of 20th shines as well. She makes no secret of her love of 20th-based producer Ryan Murphy, citing Glee as a "major career milestone" to have worked on. While that explains her picking the quickly-cancelled 20th-and-Murphy-produced The New Normal over a Sean Hayes-produced comedy with a similar premise that was also in development at NBC back in 2012, it doesn't explain why in a meeting with Hayes and his producing partner Todd Milliner last year, she forced Hayes to take a picture in front of The New Normal poster so that Salke could send it to Murphy. Hayes was understandably not so pleased, repeatedly saying, "I'm sorry, I don't get the joke. Is this a joke on me?!"
But he shouldn't feel too bad. Despite her comments on "the originality and vision of the creator" being what she looks for in great television, Salke is known not to read the projects in development until just a few weeks before January's pilot pickups: a strategy that has resulted in industry-wide speculation about what the hell is going on at NBC. Conversely, Kevin Reilly, Chairman of Fox Broadcasting, holds a weekend read meeting every Monday morning with his drama and comedy departments, to stay involved in the development process top to bottom. This strategy has yielded him the purchase of two high profile shows from Universal Television—the studio that Salke also oversees—The Mindy Project and Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
What else does Salke want you to know about her life? Her fall shopping list consisted of four items that cost more than the average LA resident's yearly rent. She could have been a doctor because she's been "been very hands on helping deliver [her] friends’ babies," and she believes in angels and ghosts because her old house was haunted as fuck. "The story would give you chills," which means you'll probably see it air on NBC next fall. And then get cancelled later next fall.
[Image via Getty]