Hart reaches Pike’s peak

Outgoing Universal TV exec Garrett S. Hart is expected to be named president of Paramount Network TV, in the process replacing John S. Pike, a 12-year veteran of the studio.

The move would reunite Hart with Paramount TV Group chairman Kerry McCluggage and dislodge Pike, who has headed network production since August 1986 and steered the division through many successful seasons — including the most recent development campaign, where Paramount converted six of its seven pilots into series.

“I don’t know how you explain it,” one studio observer said, alluding to Par’s strongselling season.

Other sources indicated that it was simply a case of McCluggage wanting his own team in place and only the top post being strong enough to woo Hart over to Par’s production division.

A Par spokesman wouldn’t discuss the reported change, citing a studio policy against commenting on “speculation.”

Hart, who had been senior VP of current programming at Universal since October 1990, also declined comment. The position would mark a sort-of homecoming for the exec, who spent 4 1/2 years at Paramount in research and comedy development before joining Lorimar TV as VP, research, in 1983. He started at Universal as VP of current in December 1986.

Pike couldn’t be reached Tuesday, but sources say he was notifiedof the planned change Monday night. It remains unclear whether he will stay at the studio in another capacity.

Paramount signed Pike to a new long-term pact in November 1991, shortly after McCluggage was named president of the TV group under then-studio chairman Brandon Tartikoff. McCluggage was promoted to chairman after Tartikoff’s departure.

McCluggage has brought over one top exec since the move, last October naming Universal alumnus Richard D. Lindheim exec VP of the Paramount TV Group, a newly created post. That position put him above Pike in the studio hierarchy.

In addition, former Universal TV producers signed to overall deals by Paramount since McCluggage’s arrival in October 1991 include Don Bellisario, Christopher Crowe, John Mankiewicz, Tim O’Donnell, Dan Pyne & Aaron Lipstadt, Jeff Reno & Ron Osborn and William Sackheim.

Another question raised by Hart’s arrival would involve John Symes, exec VP of Paramount’s network TV division, who was reportedly among several top industry executives contacted regarding

a top position at Universal TV under prez Tom Thayer. Symes was said to have turned down the job, which remains vacant.

Thayer, through a spokesman, confirmed Hart’s exit, saying: “Garry is a terrific executive and I’m sorry to see him leave. However, for some time he’s expressed a desire to pursue opportunities that have been unavailable to him at Universal TV. For that reason, we have decided to release him from his contract, and we wish him well.”

Paramount landed three series — CBS’ “South of Sunset” and NBC’s “Frasier” and “The Mommies”– on the Big Three networks’ fall rosters. The division also has backup orders on “Big Wave Dave’s,” which just premiered to solid numbers on CBS; “Viper,” a futuristic NBC action

series; and “Sister, Sister,” an ABC sitcom.

The studio also is coming off the big “Cheers” finale and saw its sophomore comedy “Bob” added to CBS’ schedule in a last-minute shift, giving Paramount five fall series — tied for third among primetime suppliers with ABC Prods., CBS Entertainment Prods., Twentieth TV and Universal, behind leaders Warner Bros. and Disney. In addition to network fare, Par’s syndicated hits “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and spinoff “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” are produced under the aegis of the network TV division.

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