Gavin Polone on 'Failure' Jeff Zucker: Sadly, He'll Still Succeed at CNN (Guest Column)
Gavin Polone on 'Failure' Jeff Zucker: Sadly, He'll Still Succeed at CNN
This story first appeared in the Dec. 14 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Although many who think they know me would disagree, I am not a "grudge-holder." Truly, I'm not. I like and respect Jeff Berg, who fired me in the late '80s, and wish him well on his new agency venture; and I'm currently represented by my former partners at UTA who dumped me in the mid-'90s. I let shit go. But one piece of shit I can't scoop out of the litter box of my career is the animus I have toward Jeff Zucker. There is no point in going into the specifics surrounding my bad feeling toward Jeff, so I'll just say that when I had a producing deal at NBC, he made routine business disagreements personal and damaging; additionally, I have been one of Conan O'Brien's representatives for almost 20 years, and more than enough has been written about what went on with that. I have specific reasons to dislike the guy, and his ignominious de-jobbing at the end of a bad run of failure at NBCUniversal was a happy event for me.
Given that, you can guess how displeased I was upon hearing that my nemesis had been chosen to lead CNN. I would have preferred he had gotten a job running any other network: I watch CNN more than anything else. Rarely a day goes by without my standing in front of a screen somewhere in my house saying, "Damn right, Erin," or "You go, Fareed," or "Oh, Anderson, if only I were gay." And the coup de grace is something I'm loath to mention: Zucker probably will succeed and be thought of as the hero who saved the network. Why will he succeed if he was proved to be such a failure in his last job? Partially because he succeeded almost as consistently as executive producer of Today as he failed when making creative decisions as president of NBC Entertainment. And, to a degree, because there has been so much negative commentary in the public discourse about him and how he handled things that he possibly has been humbled and won't initially make similar mistakes to those he committed in his last position. But primarily the reason that I'd bet big on Jeff (assuming anyone is taking action on the future success of failed industry executives) is a concept called regression toward the mean.