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Johnson inks deal at studio through 2007

Film producer Mark Johnson is taking his TV business to Paramount Network Television.

Johnson — currently putting the final touches on the Walden Media/Disney-produced Christmas tentpole “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” — has inked a lucrative deal setting up his Gran Via Prods. at Par through 2007. Producer’s last overall deal was with Sony.

Bryan Seabury will continue to head Johnson’s banner as part of the deal, which calls on Gran Via to create, develop and produce series programming for the Viacom-owned studio.

Par pact reunites Johnson with many of the execs he’s worked with at CBS, home of Johnson-produced skeins “The Guardian,” “Falcone” and “L.A. Doctors.” Eye is also still mulling a midseason order for Johnson’s “Love Monkey,” a comedic hour based on Kyle Smith’s novel.

David Stapf, prexy of Par Network TV, said Johnson possesses “an exceptional eye for new and unique writers whom he nurtures into successful and acclaimed television talent.”

While Johnson’s deal with Par is his first at the studio, producer has struck prior three-for-one deals with Par sibling CBS Entertainment under which the net has developed several scripts with a guarantee of greenlighting at least one to pilot.

Johnson, an Oscar-winning producer for “Rain Man,” said his experience working with Stapf and other Par execs during their days at CBS led to the decision to ink with the studio.

“These are the people who have sort of taken me by the hand and shown me what to do in television,” he said, adding that the TV execs he’s worked with at the Eye and Par have ended up impressing him more than their film counterparts.

“They’re really great guides who know what’s going to work for their boss or the network,” he said, noting that in the feature world, projects enthusiastically endorsed by lower-level execs can end up in tatters because top management has suddenly shifted gears.

“It doesn’t mean your work always gets on the air (at CBS), but your time is never wasted,” Johnson said, singling out Stapf as “a straight-shooter.”

Producer said he’s most interested in developing character-driven projects and may look for more ideas that blend in a heavy dose of humor, a la “Love Monkey.”

“And to the degree it’ll work, I want to play with the narrative of television, (with projects in which) stories aren’t told in a linear fashion,” he added.

Gran Via will maintain its Century City offices and won’t move to the Par lot.

In addition to “Narnia,” BWCS-repped Johnson just began production on helmer Bob Dolman’s “How to Eat Fried Worms” for Walden Media and New Line. He’s also wrapped the Luke and Andrew Wilson-helmed Will Ferrell starrer “The Wendell Baker Story.”

Recent credits for Johnson include “The Notebook” and “The Alamo.” Producer serves as the chair of the AMPAS foreign-language film committee.

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