Calfo returns to ABC

Executive left No. 2 gig in January

Just when Francie Calfo thought she was out, ABC pulled her back in.

But this time, it’s ABC Studios that’s bringing Calfo back to the Disney fold (where she has spent 18 years in various roles), signing the former network exec to a new two-year overall deal.

New production pact caps a springtime sabbatical for Calfo, who took several months off after ankling the No. 2 gig at ABC Entertainment in January.

“I purposely hibernated and took a little time off to fill the tank,” Calfo said. “That time off gave me a little perspective. It was a great opportunity to talk to a lot of people and see what’s out there.”

Calfo’s spent a year as a producer — partnering with Stu Bloomberg and exec producing the short-lived but critically acclaimed “Life As We Know It” — before taking her most recent gig in 2004 as exec VP at ABC Entertainment.

“I really did want to go back to producing,” she said. “I didn’t get my full sense of it before I came back to ABC.”

ABC Studios prexy Mark Pedowitz said Calfo’s work as a producer on “Life” was “fantastic,” and noted she was instrumental this past season in helping the drama “Brothers and Sisters” turn into a growing hit.

Pedowitz, citing Calfo’s “passion” and “highly commercial” taste, said “Hopefully she’ll come up with the next big hit.”

As an exec at Touchstone (as ABC Studios was called until recently), Calfo helped develop “Alias” and “CSI” under boss Steve McPherson. She eventually left the studio to try her hand at production (including “Life”), but reunited with McPherson as his key lieutenant when he was named ABC’s entertainment prexy.

Nonetheless, Calfo told McPherson she wouldn’t return to the exec suite for long — and indeed opted to depart this winter after ABC picked up its pilots (Daily Variety, Oct. 6).

Calfo helped McPherson return ABC to strength, developing shows such as “Ugly Betty” and “Brothers & Sisters.”

“Francie is one of the best on the bus, as a studio executive, a network executive and a producer,” McPherson said. “Whatever she sets her mind to, she’ll succeed.”

McPherson said Calfo also benefits from having been in the ABC trenches — and knows exactly the kind of show the net is looking for. “That makes her that much more of an asset to the company,” he said.

“Lost” exec producer Damon Lindelof called Calfo a “triple threat.”

“She embodies the passion of a producer, the sensibility of a network executive, and the creative X-factor: her unique vision,” he said. “The competitive bastard in me is terrified by the genius that she will undoubtedly put on the air.”

Calfo — who’s still looking to name her untitled shingle — will be based in West Los Angeles and plans to hire a development exec in the coming weeks. She plans to develop both comedy and drama.

“There are so many people that I can’t wait to give a call,” she said. “I have a lot of thoughts and ideas. Knowing how challenging comedy is right now, it makes me more motivated. And drama is obviously a big passion.”

Calfo first joined Disney’s TV team in 1989, in Buena Vista’s TV research department, eventually working her way into programming at Touchstone.

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