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New ‘Middle’ Man

'Malcolm' TV studio Regency taps Aronson

Regency Television has tapped former Disney exec Peter Aronson to replace Gail Berman as prexy of the boutique studio behind last season’s comedy smash “Malcolm in the Middle.”

Aronson, like Berman, brings to the job a mix of creative and executive experience, having served as both senior veep of Walt Disney Television and exec producer of television series such as last season’s WB laffer “Zoe.” He was most recently working as a scribe-producer under an overall deal at Warner Bros. Television.

Announcement was made Wednesday by Regency Enterprises founder Arnon Milchan, Regency prexy and CEO David Matalon and Fox TV Studios prexy David Grant. Regency Enterprises and FTVS operate Regency Television as equal partners.

Appointment ends an exhaustive search that began after Berman ankled Regency in May to replace Doug Herzog as Fox Entertainment prexy.

Recent candidate

Yet Aronson, who dealt with Berman when he was at Disney and she was at Sandollar Television, only recently became a candidate for the top job.

Aronson said he first met with Fox Television Studios topper David Grant Aug. 10. From there, everything fell immediately into place.

“It all happened with blinding speed,” he said. “I knew they were anxious to fill it. … It was a highly sought-after job, and I’m ridiculously fortunate. Yes, I’m surprised a job this good, this coveted a) went to me and b) that it happened that quickly.”

Grant had been looking for an exec to fill the role with experience similar to Berman, who has cut her teeth both as a producer and an executive.

“Part of the reason it happened so quickly, my skill set happened to match what they were looking for,” Aronson said. “I have studio experience, but the last couple of years I’ve spent time as a writer and I’ve run shows. It really was a right match.”

Grant and Matalon said Aronson’s mix of experiences made him well-suited for the gig.

“Regency has been fortunate creating in television what it has always hoped to bring to film, which is an affinity for empowering the very best creative minds to express themselves more freely,” Matalon said. “We’re very excited to gain the experience and insights of someone as uniquely talented as Peter Aronson.”

Grant said there had been “no shortage” of execs interested in the Regency TV post.

“We’ve been patiently searching for the right mix of creative and management skills required to continue that legacy, and in Pete we have that rare combination,” he said.

Disney alum

Before inking with Warner Bros. TV in early 1999, Aronson spent three years at Walt Disney Television, first as supervising producer for creative affairs and then as exec veep of creative affairs. While at the Mouse, he worked on shows such as “Home Improvement,” “Ellen” and “Dangerous Minds.”

Aronson said he was intrigued by the “unique corporate culture” at Regency, which is generally considered a more writer-driven shop.

“It’s a unique job,” he said. “You’re treated more like a producer than an executive.”

Early reaction to Aronson’s appointment was positive.

WB exec vp Jordan Levin called Aronson “somebody who really understands what everybody in the process (of making television) is thinking.

“He knows and loves television,” Levin said. “Writers and actors really respond to him because he’s a truly creative person.”

Aronson joins a production company still riding high after launching last season’s Fox hit “Malcolm in the Middle.” As a result, the exec doesn’t expect to make many changes when he officially joins Monday.

“This is a place that’s been set up for success by Gail,” he said. “They have an excellent business plan. My best game plan at this point is to not screw it up.”

Challenges ahead

Still, like any other smaller production house in this age of vertical integration, the challenges facing Aronson going into development are obvious.

“There are advantages and disadvantages,” he said. “We’re not in the big overall deal market. Sometimes you don’t have the leverage. But each of our projects are precious to us, and we have a hit show on the air, which is a huge amount of leverage.”

Aronson said he’s been in close contact with Berman to get a primer on Regency.

“She’s been incredibly supportive,” he said. “She’s a wealth of information on how things are done at Regency.”

As for what happens to his WBTV deal, “My understanding is we’re just going to walk away friends,” he said. “They don’t have to pay me anymore.”

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