NEW YORK — ABC tapped two in-house producers to revamp the struggling “Good Morning America” gabfest.
Mark Lukasiewicz was named exec producer, replacing Marc Burstein, while Shelley Lewis was named to the new post of deputy exec producer.
Burstein segues to exec producer for special events, inaugurating his new job with last week’s coverage of the Hong Kong handover to China, which he produced on a tryout basis. Burstein has run “GMA” since December 1995, and the change was expected.
ABC News prexy David Westin said that the network talked to several outside candidates — said to have included former “Extra” exec producer David Friend, former “Today” producer Steve Friedman and former “Fox After Breakfast” producer Joachim Blunck. “We concluded we had in our midst people who were extremely talented,” Westin said. “It’s important to us as we go forward that people who have the most talent and the most to offer get a chance to move up,” he added, especially with other choice producer slots unlikely to open up soon.
As the senior producer, Lukasiewicz is expected to oversee day-to-day production, while he and Lewis, with a development background, will seek new ways to revitalize “GMA,” badly shaken by a ratings tumble after leading the morning race for several years until late 1995. NBC’s “Today” has widened its lead over “GMA,” while CBS’ “This Morning” remains a distant third.
In response, “GMA” last week hired Lisa McRee to replace 20-year “GMA” veteran Joan Lunden as co-anchor, and is making the new round of producer changes. The network continues with on-again, off-again talks to replace co-anchor Charlie Gibson, but Westin Wednesday reiterated earlier signals that Gibson will stay put for awhile, anyway, since McRee’s arrival on Sept. 8 and the new exec producers, effective immediately, are “a substantial change to absorb at this point.”
Westin also warned against expectations of dramatic change in the show’s look, given the limitations of the ayem genre. While deferring to his new team, he said, “I’d be surprised if there’s a radical new format that’s going to work for broadcast television in the morning.”
Lukasiewicz, who had been named exec producer for programming at ABC’s aborted 24-hour news channel, has lately handled several projects and worked as a senior producer and domestic editor at “World News Tonight.” Before joining ABC in 1989 as a producer at “PrimeTime Live,” Lukasiewicz worked at the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
Lewis, a former exec producer at the overnight broadcast “World News Now,” has recently handled prime-time news specials and development projects, including the entertainment-news pilot “Hip Pop.” Lewis worked with McRee on both “Hip Pop” and “World News Now,” and joined ABC in 1992 after 16 years at NBC News, where she exec produced “Real Life With Jane Pauley” and “NBC News at Sunrise.”
During a transition period, senior broadcast producer Kevin McGee will handle day-to-day production on the show, and Westin said he’s hopeful McGee will remain with the broadcast in that capacity under the new regime.