Pool jumps in at Fox telepix

Exec VP of original movies, minis to o'see longform p'gramming

Fox Broadcasting Co. is again dipping its toe into the telepic waters, tapping Marci Pool to serve as the web’s exec vice president of original movies and minis.

Pool, most recently senior VP of movies and minis at News Corp. sister company Fox Television Studios, will be responsible for developing all original longform programming for the network.

Web has made numerous failed attempts to program movies and minis over its history; it hasn’t had a dedicated telepic exec since Gary Hoffman ankled the post last year.

Most recently, Fox has tried to develop telepics through Pool’s Fox TV Studios division, Fox Television Pictures. While nothing much came of that arrangement, the latter unit has produced several high-profile pics for other nets, including “Perfect Murder, Perfect Town” (CBS) and “Mary & Rhoda” (ABC). It also helped engineer cabler FX’s upcoming quality telepic franchise.

Pool’s focused gaze

With Pool now able to focus exclusively on fare for Fox, web execs hope to finally find a successful formula for longform. Fox TV Pictures is expected to remain the web’s main movie supplier.

“The goal is to make events, to make movies that are commercial yet also well-executed and well-done,” Pool told Daily Variety. “We’re going to go for big ideas.”

Pool reports to Fox Entertainment prexy Gail Berman, who praised Pool’s “dedication to quality and the ability to execute it within event programming.

“It’s that kind of creative passion and skill that we need in our upcoming made-for-TV movies and miniseries to complement what we expect to achieve with regular series,” Berman said.

Few to do much

Pool expects to hire a small staff of two or three execs to help develop projects, with the goal of producing about 6-8 pics in her first season. By 2001-02, her intent is to produce as many as 12 event movies and minis.

There’s no one particular aud Fox will aim to attract with its pics, Pool said. Net also plans to be low-key about its move back into the telepic biz, mindful of previous failed stabs at the genre.

“I’d rather underpromise and overdeliver than the other way around,” she said.

The history of made-for-TV movies at Fox consists of a series of disappointments and very few successes.

The division started off strong, led by 1991’s well-received drama “Doing Time on Maple Drive,” starring a pre-superstardom Jim Carrey in his first serious role. But given the fact that Fox, early on, scheduled movies on its weakest night of the week to fill gaping schedule holes, the franchise never took off.

The tack not taken

Hoffman, who headed movies and miniseries at the web, was ousted in late 1994 when News Corp. execs decided to change the network’s direction (replacing then-entertainment prexy Sandy Grushow, as well).

Trevor Walton was brought in under entertainment president John Matoian, but left for Citadel Entertainment in 1997 when Fox once again went through a philosophy shift.

Hoffman returned to the post to revitalize the made-for-TV franchise, which was then located on Tuesday nights.

Under Hoffman, Fox attempted to develop big-event pictures, leading off with the $8 million “Godzilla” ripoff “Gargantua.”

Big boy stumbles

“Gargantua” was the network’s first original movie produced by the then-new Fox Television Studios. But after “Gargantua” aired with nary a roar, the network’s ambitious plan to air at least 12 made-for-TV big event movies a year during sweeps was scrapped.

Last season Fox again tried to revitalize its movie franchise by embarking on a series of noir movies inspired by 20th Century Fox “B” films of the 1940s and 1950s. That concept, supervised by Pool, also failed to leave the starting gate.

Before inking with Fox TV Studios in August 1997, Pool was VP of original programming for cabler TNT. Projects developed on her watch include “Babylon 5” and the Goldie Hawn-helmed “Hope.”

Pool previously worked in feature films at the Wolper Organization, helping develop pics such as “L.A. Confidential” and “Murder in the First.” She also served as a director of original films and series at Paramount Network Television.

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