Twentieth Century Fox Television execs Gary Newman and Dana Walden have been tapped to replace Sandy Grushow as president of the town’s leading supplier of network primetime programming.
Promotions had been expected in the wake of Grushow’s promotion last month to chairman of the Fox Television Entertainment Group, a role which gives Grushow oversight of both 20th TV and Fox Broadcasting (Daily Variety, Nov. 16). Walden and Newman will both report to Grushow, who made the new management structure official Tuesday.
Newman joined 20th TV in 1990 and had been Grushow’s No. 2, serving as exec veep of the division since 1997; Walden, exec veep of drama for the studio since 1998, had been a creative exec at the company since 1994. While Walden is known for her creative skills and Newman’s rep has been built largely on his business acumen, the two will share all responsibilities involved with running the studio.
“It’s only appropriate that two of the executives so integral to the studio’s current success be given the opportunity to chart its future,” Grushow said. “Individually, Gary and Diana are outstanding leaders, with great creative instincts and superb relationships with our talent and the Hollywood community. Together they’ll be an even greater force as I expect their skills and personalities will complement each others’ tremendously.”
In an interview with Daily Variety, Grushow said there was “no hesitation whatsoever” on his part about upping both Walden and Newman to prexy of the division, saying the duo had been a lock for the job.
“It’s a natural thing, because first and foremost the job here is a huge one with the number of shows we have the air and the number of deals we have to service,” he said. “The two of them seem to have complementary skills and each of them deserved a shot at the job.”
Grushow also praised the two for their role in TCFTV’s rise to the number one production spot, saying Newman and Walden “are every bit as responsible for the success of the studio as I am.”
Walden and Newman said they expected a smooth transition into their new positions.
“I don’t think a lot is going to change. We’ve run this company together as a team under Sandy,” said Newman, with Walden adding that the restructuring “is a natural evolution of the management.”
As for sharing the job of prexy, both Newman and Walden seemed unconcerned about working together.
“We’ve had a long time together already. It’s not like this is a forced partnership or anyone is being brought in from the outside,” said Walden, who began her 20th TV career in 1992 as a veep in charge of communications and publicity.
Walden said she and Newman had no plans “to establish hard and fast lines separating” their responsibilities.
Added Newman: “All we can hope is that as a partnership, the two of us will strengthen each others’ skills…and help make the other more well-rounded.”
Fox has 20 series currently airing on five webs in primetime, far more than any other studio. Among the unit’s hits are “Ally McBeal,”
“The Practice,” “Judging Amy” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
Reaction around town to the Newman/Walden upping was generally favorable.
“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” creator and exec producer Joss Whedon was pleased that Twentieth decided to promote from within rather than recruiting an outside exec for the top job.
“Dana has always been a huge supporter,” he said. “She’s extremely smart, extremely faithful to the show and good about determining what’s important and what’s not about the development process. Gary, who I’ve dealt with more as a producer, is very clear and competent about the numbers stuff, which is my weak point.
“I’m very comfortable with both of them,” he said. “It’s all good.”
“Roswell” creator/exec producer Jason Katims said his working relationship with Twentieth execs, including Newman and Walden, is one reason he decided to ink a new three year pact with the studio.
“I’ve worked with Dana on a daily basis on the last few shows I’ve done,” Katims said. “I find her to have great insight in the creative process. She has a rare ability to talk to writers, and I know that feeling is shared by every writer and showrunner I speak to.
“Gary has a wonderful ability to make you at ease to get to the root of problems.”
Said CBS Entertainment President Nancy Tellem: “Both are extraordinarily talented execs… and they complement each other beautifully. They’ll be a winning team.”
Added ABC Entertainment Television co-chair Lloyd Braun: “Sandy has overseen and nurtured a dynamic TV studio with a great depth of talent. Gary and Dana are terrific executives and I’m sure they will continue to build on the success Fox has enjoyed the last several years.”