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‘Affair’ toppers exit

Peter Brennan and Burt Kearns, who guided Twentieth TV’s syndicated tabmag “A Current Affair” through the November sweeps and helped give the show a look similar to its early glory days, have exited the series along with senior program producer Dick McWilliams.

Twentieth is bringing in longtime News Corp. newspaper exec Bill Ridley, a Fleet Street vet who served stints as an editor of the Boston Herald and Star Magazine, to oversee “Affair.” Ridley, who was the show’s managing editor this past summer, has been working in London for the past few months.

Officially, Ridley will be the tabmag’s second-in-command behind exec producer Ian Rae. But “Affair” staffers say Kearns — not Rae — was sitting in the exec producer chair during the sweeps and they expect Ridley to follow suit.

As previously reported, Rae in recent months has shifted much of his focus to his duties as VP of Fox News and news director of Fox’s Gotham station WNYW (Daily Variety, Nov. 2).

Nonetheless, Fox Television chairman-CEO Les Hinton said Rae continues to “set the tone of the show.”

Brennan, who was the show’s creator and former exec producer, had been expected to move on following the sweeps.

A source close to Brennan said he has severed all ties with Fox, including a consultant agreement with Fox Circle Prods., but Twentieth TV prez Greg Meidel said he will remain available to the studio on an “as-needed basis” and their relationship remains “amicable.”

Kearns, however, had been considered the odds-on favorite to take over the show from Rae this month.

Other sources, however, suggested that Kearns wanted a great deal of money to take over the reins of the show. Rae, another News Corp. vet, is said to have put up a fight, so Kearns left the New York-based program for a writing career in Hollywood.

McWilliams, who had been in charge of the day-to-day operation of “Affair,” reportedly ran into hot water for cost overruns during the year.

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