Exec ankles shingle, Sony TV

FX has hired Jersey TV topper John Landgraf to fill the cabler’s long-vacant post as entertainment president.

Landgraf joins FX several months after Kevin Reilly departed to take the No. 2 job at NBC.

Deal had been in the works for days, but first Landgraf had to negotiate an exit from both Jersey and Sony Pictures Television, where the shingle is in the final months of a production deal.

Before Landgraf left, Sony wanted an assurance from Jersey that their joint projects currently in development wouldn’t fall by the wayside.

As a result, Danny DeVito, Stacey Sher and Michael Shamberg — who dissolved their Jersey Films partnership earlier this year but remained teamed at Jersey TV — will step up and take on more oversight of the shingle’s development. Jersey’s deal with Sony expires in August.

Landgraf currently exec produces the ABC drama “Karen Sisco” for Jersey and Universal, as well as “Reno 911″ for Comedy Central; both shows have earned raves from critics.

At FX, the exec will oversee all development and production of original programming, including series, films and new media. He will report directly to FX prexy-CEO Peter Liguori.

‘The right pedigree’

“It took us a while to find someone with the right pedigree and the right gut, because it’s a very specific mentality we’re looking for at FX,” Liguori said. Landgraf, who spent several years as a development exec at NBC before turning to producing, said he was primed to take his first steps in the cable world.

“As much as I really admire many writers and executives in network television, I feel cable has the advantage right now in terms of its desire to develop programs that are unlike anything else on TV and provide a unique viewing opportunity for viewers,” Landgraff said.

Landgraf said it wasn’t an easy decision to leave Jersey TV and partners DeVito, Shamberg and Sher. But, he added, the chance to develop the kind of edgy fare that has branded FX basic cable’s version of HBO proved hard to resist.

‘Adventuresome tastes’

“I really have always had adventuresome tastes. I like bold shows with a distinct voice, and FX has already shown an appetite for those things already,” Landgraf said. “My job will be to keep the organization moving the that direction, as well as hopefully add my own tastes and energy to the team of guys already over there.”

Landgraf spent nearly five years at Jersey TV, joining the shingle in May 1999 after a lengthy association with NBC.

Jersey TV never quite matched the success of its film sibling (“Erin Brockovich,” “Pulp Fiction”). It started out slowly but eventually managed to put a respectable number of series on the air.

“Karen Sisco,” which Jersey exec produces with Universal TV, was the best received of the bunch: Skein, based on Jennifer Lopez’s character in the Jersey film “Out of Sight,” earned ABC some of its highest praise this fall.

But “Sisco” has so far struggled on the Alphabet — which has had trouble launching dramas in recent years — and was put on hiatus in late fall. ABC plans to relaunch the critically acclaimed skein, which stars Carla Gugino as a tough U.S. marshal in Miami, this midseason.

Skilled diplomats

Jersey and Landgraf were also behind the London-set Fox drama “American Embassy,” which was originally known as “Emma Brody”; the NBC drama “UC: Undercover” and CBS entry “Kate Brasher.” Jersey partnered with 20th on “Embassy” and “UC” (along with NBC Studios) and produced “Brasher” with CBS Prods.

Jersey sealed a three-year deal with Sony in 2001; the conglom dumped most of its overall deals a few months later but kept Jersey on the roster.

Landgraf had worked as primetime series veepee at NBC before later serving under an exec producing deal at NBC Studios. He joined the Peacock from David Manson’s Sarabande Prods., where he rose from director to senior VP.

(Josef Adalian contributed to this report.)

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