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Fox ‘Shield’ bearer bags big payday

Scribe Ryan inks deal of the year

In what’s likely to be one of the bigger small-screen writer deals of the year, scribe-producer Shawn Ryan has inked a three-year pact with 20th Century Fox TV.

Rich seven-figure deal calls for the man behind “The Shield” to create, develop and exec produce series programming for the studio. It also covers Ryan’s showrunning duties on “The Unit,” assuming CBS greenlights the Ryan/David Mamet-produced drama pilot to series.

Dana Walden, prexy of 20th Century Fox TV, said Ryan “was No. 1 on our wish list of drama writers.”

“He’s an excellent showrunner and an inspired writer,” Walden told Daily Variety, comparing Ryan to some of the studio’s other tentpole producers on the drama side over the years, including David E. Kelley, Steven Bochco, Chris Carter and Joss Whedon.

“The studio has had a long history of very big drama players, and Shawn is the next generation of that,” she said. “He’s the prototype for the kind of showrunner we want to be in business with.”

Notably, unlike Ryan’s last overall deal, this pact is not linked to his services on FX’s “The Shield,” nor are FX or Fox TV Studios involved in funding any part of the deal as they were two years ago, when they joined with 20th for what at the time repped a record cable writer deal (Daily Variety, June 12, 2003).

“The last time, it was a bit of an arranged marriage on both sides,” Ryan said, referring to the component of his most recent deal that allowed him to work with 20th.

No reason to change

“We didn’t know each other too well, but we kept it in the family. Now I’ve gotten to know Dana and Gary (Newman) and Jennifer Salke really well, and I’ve enjoyed working with them. Why mess it up now?”

“The Shield” begins its fourth season next month, and any deal for Ryan to work on that show won’t be done until the cabler orders a fifth season of the Michael Chiklis starrer. Ryan is optimistic about “The Shield” continuing, as well as his involvement with the skein should CBS greenlight “The Unit.”

“There are ways of giving everything you need to give to two projects,” Ryan said. “I don’t think I could have done it a couple of years ago, but I’ve gotten better and I know a little more than I did then. And there’s an amazing team (of writers) on ‘The Shield.’ ”

Walden also believes Ryan can handle multiple projects. “He’s a magnet for great writers, and that makes him uniquely positioned to oversee more than one show,” she said.

While most overall deals these days run for two years, or two years with an option for a third, Ryan’s pact with 20th — brokered by ICM, the Shuman Co. and Michael Gendler — is a straight-ahead three-year deal.

“I’d take him for more if I could,” Walden quipped.

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