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Friends join at NBC

Burke, Tarses hang shingle at Peacock

It looks like 1994 all over again for Karey Burke and Jamie Tarses, who have reteamed to take a shot at creating the next generation of hits for NBC.

Peacock made it official Thursday, announcing a new production shingle at NBC Studios to be jointly run by Burke and Tarses (Daily Variety, June 3). The duo have known each other for 15 years and previously worked together at NBC in the late 1980s and early ’90s.

Burke began her Peacock career as Tarses’ assistant before quickly moving up the network ranks.

“We’ve always said at various points in our careers, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun to do it together?’ ” Burke said. “But the timing was never quite right. But now the stars aligned and it became the perfect time.”

Tarses said the as-yet-unnamed company will focus initially on developing comedy projects.

“That’s where the perceived needs at NBC and elsewhere seem to be,” she said. “But we do have drama ideas; and reality, we may stick our toe in there. But there’s an expectation, in the spirit of the arrangement, that we want to deliver some hit comedies.”

Tarses and Burke helped develop hit skeins such as “Friends” at NBC before Tarses left in 1996 to take over as entertainment president at ABC. Tarses left in 1999 after a somewhat stormy tour of duty at the Alphabet; more recently she has served as prexy of James Burrows’ Three Sisters Prods.

“Jim Burrows is a god, but we did not have the development success we wanted to have, for a myriad of reasons,” Tarses said.

Exec shuffle at Peacock

Burke will segue from her current gig as exec VP of primetime development at NBC sometime next month. Burke’s departure from the executive ranks is part of a large-scale restructuring at the network, which will see Kevin Reilly join later in the summer as president of programming.

Reilly will oversee NBC Studios’ pod deal arrangements, including the Burke-Tarses pairing. NBC Entertainment prexy Jeff Zucker, to whom Reilly will report, made the announcement.

“Karey has been talking to me about doing this for a long time, and the timing has worked out perfectly for everyone,” Zucker said. “Teaming with Jamie Tarses gives us another incredibly dynamic duo at NBC Studios.”

Free to shop elsewhere

Tarses and Burke said their first-look deal at NBC Studios means they’ll develop series with the Peacock in mind, but will be able to shop shows elsewhere should the network pass.

“NBC is fully financing the company, and they’ve been generous and supportive,” Burke said. “Our job is to deliver hits for them. But we feel strongly that if there’s something they don’t feel is right for them, we’ll have the ability to take it elsewhere. And other studios, other networks have already reached out to us.”

Beyond “Friends,” Tarses and Burke had a hand in developing NBC’s “NewsRadio.” Tarses’ development roster also includes “The Practice,” “Dharma & Greg” and “Mad About You,” while Burke’s credits include “Scrubs,” “Ed” and “Boomtown.”

The duo join a growing number of former execs who have turned their attention to producing.

“For me, I never set out to be a network executive,” Burke said. “All of us are sort of reluctant people in these jobs, and the years get away from you. They’re great jobs and you work with incredibly talented people, but I felt the longer I did it, the further away I felt from those people.”

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