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Change fires Melvoin up

'Line' scribe to run ABC's 'Alias'

Jeff Melvoin is stepping out of the “Line of Fire” and spying a new gig on “Alias.”

Scribe has signed on as exec producer/showrunner for the fourth season of ABC’s Sunday night Jennifer Garner starrer. He replaces John Eisendrath, who after three years of scripting character Sydney Bristow — and scoring a critical success with ESPN’s “Playmakers” — is ankling to focus on developing new projects.

Eisendrath, who has a hefty overall deal at Touchstone, will be involved in early planning for next season of “Alias” and is expected to continue his long relationship with creator J.J. Abrams, perhaps on one of the latter producer’s current projects. Duo could also collaborate on a new project.

“Just as John left ‘Felicity’ left to help me launch ‘Alias,’ he’s agreed to help me out with the two projects Bad Robot is producing,” Abrams told Daily Variety. “(He’ll) also be focusing on his own development, something I can’t wait for, considering his work on ‘Alias’ and ‘Playmakers.’ ”

Eisendrath said his experience on “Playmakers” made him anxious to plunge into development.

“I was always planning on writing two pilots this year. By the end of the year on ‘Alias,’ I realized I wouldn’t be able to do that and run ‘Alias,’ ” he said, adding that he was looking forward to replicating his successful collaborations with Abrams on the new projects.

As for Melvoin, he inked a seven-figure overall deal with Touchstone earlier this year (Daily Variety, Feb. 18.) At the time, then-Touchstone prexy Steve McPherson — who now runs ABC — praised the scribe for his production chops.

“It’s rare in this business when someone can come in to work with people on a project and people love you rather than fear you. (But) Jeff has great management skills and knows how to come in and really help the process,” McPherson said.

In the case of “Alias,” Melvoin already has a head start since he’s worked with several of the show’s key scribes on previous skeins. “He brings a perspective that is going to be healthy for the writers’ room,” Abrams said.

Abrams, in the middle of editing his ABC pilot “Lost,” said the time he’s spent working on his new project has juiced him up for the next season of “Alias.”

“Doing ‘Lost’ has been the best thing for ‘Alias’ in a way because I got away from it enough to look at it anew,” he said. “I was involved all year in ‘Alias,’ but a pilot’s an intense job.”

Abrams said this season has marked “a very dark, difficult time for the characters, and I think that’s been reflected in the episodes. What I’m excited about is the rebirth of the characters and bringing back some of the hope and humanity.”

Before “Line of Fire,” Melvoin worked as a co-exec producer on NBC’s “Mr. Sterling” and exec producer of the Showtime skein “Going to California,” “Picket Fences” and, for three seasons, the Eye drama “Early Edition.”

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