Berman bolts for Fox thriller

“CSI” exec producer Josh Berman has parted ways with the smash CBS procedural in order to focus on his upcoming Fox thriller “Vanished.”

Berman was under contract to continue with “CSI” through the 2006-07 season. But he negotiated an early release from producers CBS Paramount Network TV and Alliance Atlantis, allowing him the opportunity to run the buzzed-about “Vanished.”

“Vanished” is the first project to come out of Berman’s four-year pact with 20th Century Fox TV, which he sealed back in April — with the understanding that he was still employed on “CSI.”

Berman’s position likely will be filled on “CSI,” but no replacement has been named. The show already boasts a hefty roster of exec producers, including Jerry Bruckheimer, Jonathan Littman, Carol Mendelsohn, Anthony Zuiker, Ann Donahue, Naren Shankar, Cynthia Chvatal and William Petersen.

“Vanished,” which will air Mondays at 9 p.m. this fall, revolves around Sara Collins (Joanne Kelly), a senator’s wife who goes missing as part of a larger conspiracy. The story behind her disappearance unfolds throughout the season. Gale Harold, John Allen Nelson, Rebecca Gayheart, Margarita Levieva, John Patrick Amedori, Chris Egan, Robert Hoffman and Ming-Na star.

Berman, who created “Vanished,” will now exec produce; helmer Mimi Leder, who directed the pilot, also is an exec producer, as is Paul Redford.

“It’s hard to say goodbye to ‘CSI,’ but I’m proud of the ‘Vanished’ pilot and excited to be a part of the series,” Berman said.

Berman had been with “CSI” since the show’s first season in 2000, but he’s been busy with extracurricular projects for the past few years. Last year, he created another Fox drama, “Killer Instinct,” but wasn’t able to oversee the show’s day-to-day operations due to his “CSI” commitments.

Before “CSI,” Berman was a program exec at NBC Studios.

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