Meeting with TV newspaper columnists and critics for the first time on Monday, NBC Entertainment Co-chairman Ben Silverman ticked off a slew of major changes that the network will undergo under his aegis. Among them: Jerry Seinfeld will appear in a recurring role (as himself) on 30 Rock starting with the season premiere; Isaiah Washington, dumped from Grey's Anatomy in the wake of an anti-gay slur directed at a fellow cast member, will guest star on the upcoming Bionic Womanseries; Norman Lear, the creator of such trailblazing shows as All in the Family, The Jeffersons, and Maude will produce a new one-hour comedy for the network; and The Apprenticewill return with a celebrity version. (Silverman suggested that "it'd be great to get Rosie [O'Donnell]" for the show and that Donald Trump had asked him to extend an invitation to her. An O'Donnell spokeswoman later responded: "It will never happen in this lifetime or beyond.")


In what could have been a scene from the now-canceled Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, a reporter asked NBC Entertainment Co-chairman Ben Silverman Monday, "What do you think about a company that pays an executive $6 million and fires him a month later? Is that a good company?" The reporter was referring to Kevin Reilly, Silverman's predecessor, who recently landed on his feet in a similar post at Fox. Silverman seemed unsure about how to respond properly to the question, but his colleague, Marc Graboff, promptly fielded it. "He wasn't fired," Graboff told the reporters, then explained: "What happened was when Ben became available, about three months after we made Kevin's new deal, we jumped at the opportunity to bring Ben on board to the company. Kevin, when that happened, realized or determined, frankly, that there was just no role for him at the company and decided to move on." His remarks produced a derisive roar of laughter from the TV press corps.


Aaron Sorkin has acknowledged that his personal foibles may have been at least partly to blame for the failure of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.The show featured a character who, like Sorkin, had a history of drug-related problems. (In 2001 Sorkin was arrested at Burbank airport when it was discovered that his carry-on bag contained marijuana, hallucinogenic mushrooms and crack cocaine; he subsequently spent time in rehab.) In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Sorkin said, "There were too many people looking at this show like it was the cover of 'Abbey Road.' ... It was never an autobiographical show. I'm a lot more than a recovering cocaine addict." In any case, he admitted that he had come up short in meeting expectations for the highly touted show. "I don't know how to emphasize this enough that I'm not disappointed or upset with anyone but myself," Sorkin told the Times."On some shows, you can make mistakes and still survive. But with this one, I made too many mistakes for it to survive."


Negotiators for News Corp and Dow Jones reached a tentative deal on Monday for Rupert Murdoch's company to acquire the publisher of The Wall Street Journalfor $5 billion, the Journalreported today (Tuesday). The Dow Jones board is expected to approve the deal at a meeting set for tonight. An even more crucial meeting is reportedly set for Thursday, when the Bancroft family, who control about 64 percent of the company's votes, considers it. (Some reports indicated that the family vote is not likely to occur before next week.) Shares of Dow Jones advanced slightly to $57.50 in early trading today (Tuesday). They are up 65 percent from where they were on April 30 ($36.33), the day before Murdoch made his offer to buy the company for about $60 per share.


Mary Mapes, the longtime CBS news producer who was fired in the wake of the controversy over her Dan Rather-fronted report about George W. Bush's National Guard service, has called the CBS newsroom "a tough place to work" where only the "savvy" survive. Appearing on Joe Scarborough's talk show on MSNBC Monday, Mapes suggested that Katie Couric is unlikely to remain a survivor. "She's gone from being sort of an exuberant presence to someone who looks like they've been kidnapped and drugged and are making a hostage tape," she said. She dismissed the notion that Couric's low ratings have resulted from the public's unwillingness to accept a woman as news anchor, saying that the main problem is that Couric is "just not comfortable to watch."