New Touch at top

Touchstone TV adds top posts for laffs, drama

They’re adding office space at Touchstone Television: The studio has created new positions overseeing comedy, drama and alternative development under exec vice president Steve McPherson.

Under the reshuffle, Julia Franz has been named vice president of comedy development. Franz, who had served as vice president of creative affairs, will oversee a staff that includes director Alex Kreisler Weinberger and managers Nina Howie and Jodie Platt.

Franz reports to McPherson, who made the announcement Wednesday. McPherson said the expansion of Touchstone’s management team necessitates dividing responsibilities more clearly.

“It makes much more sense to have someone focused on comedy, someone focused on drama and someone focused on alternative,” he said. “(Last year) we were incredibly understaffed. We’re still remaining lean compared to the other studios.”

An announcement on a drama head is expected within the next few weeks; a search for an alternative topper, conducted in conjunction with ABC alt exec Andrea Wong, could take longer.

The restructuring represents the first major exec changes at Touchstone since the division was folded into the ABC Entertainment Television Group last year. Despite the shuffle, McPherson says “nothing has really changed” at the studio.

“The output will be similar. Our mandate is the same,” he said. “We’re not in the quantity business. We’re about doing stuff we’re excited about.”

Franz joined Touchstone in 1995 as manager of current programs and moved up to director of creative affairs in 1997. Franz helped develop skeins such as “Daddio,” “The Geena Davis Show” and the midseason entries “My Wife and Kids,” “Go Fish” and “Leary.”

Weinberger, meanwhile, comes to Touchstone from Bruce Helford’s Mohawk Prods., where she worked on “The Drew Carey Show,” “Norm” and the upcoming WB series “The Oblongs.” Weinberger served three years prior to that at ABC as manager of comedy series.

Howie joins from Peter Tolan and Lauren Corrao’s Cloudland Co., while Platt segues from ABC, where she was coordinator of comedy series.

Separately, Touchstone confirmed Wednesday that Jenny Hontz has ankled as veep of creative affairs for the studio. Because of the restructuring, her position will not be filled.

Hontz, a former TV editor at Daily Variety, plans to return to journalism.

“I’m grateful Lloyd (Braun, ABC Entertainment Television Group co-chairman) gave me such an interesting opportunity, but I really miss journalism and I can’t wait to start writing again,” she said.

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