Brian Grazer and Ron Howard have turned to a versatile industry vet to lead their TV operation.
ABC alum Francie Calfo has been tapped prexy of Imagine Television, the 20th Century Fox TV-based wing of Grazer and Howard’s Imagine Entertainment. Calfo succeeds David Nevins, who exited Imagine after eight years to become entertainment prexy at Showtime Networks (Daily Variety, June 25).
Calfo has moved between exec roles and producing through most of her career. She was most recently a producer based at ABC Studios. Before that, she spent two years as exec veep and No. 2 to ABC Entertainment prexy Stephen McPherson, where she oversaw development and current programming for the Alphabet.
“Ron and I are excited to be working with Francie, who has both executive and producing experience,” Grazer said in announcing the appointment.
Dana Walden, chairman of 20th Century Fox TV, said she and other execs at the studio have enjoyed a strong working relationship with Calfo, but it was her strong reputation in the creative community that sealed the deal. 20th recently renewed its production pact with Imagine TV for two years, and Walden and 20th chairman Gary Newman were eager to see Grazer and Howard find the right exec for the job.
“She has very good taste in material,” Walden said. Most important, Calfo “shares (Grazer and Howard’s) attitude about protecting writers, directors and performers throughout the process. There is tremendous consistency in the way she’s conducted herself as an executive and as a producer, and it’s the same way that Imagine likes to get things done.”
Imagine has four primetime skeins set for the coming season: the fifth season of DirecTV/NBC’s “Friday Night Lights,” the third season of Fox drama “Lie to Me,” the sophomore year of NBC dramedy “Parenthood.” and the Peacock midseason laffer “Friends With Benefits.” The shingle is known for championing distinctive skeins such as “Arrested Development” and “24.”
Calfo should be a good fit with the Imagine pedigree, according to multi-hyphenate Greg Berlanti, who worked with her on numerous projects for ABC. Calfo was a major supporter of ABC family sudser “Brothers and Sisters,” which Berlanti exec produces, during its formative stage.
“What’s great about Francie is that she has all the artistry and passion of a producer, but all the understanding of how the system works that makes her a great executive,” Berlanti said. “She’s a wonderful blend of the two. And she has the vision and the tenacity that is necessary to get a show on the air these days.”
Calfo joined Disney’s TV wing in 1989 as a research executive. She segued into programming in 1998 when she was tapped as a veep overseeing current programming for Disney’s TV production wing (then known as Buena Vista TV Prods.). During her time on the studio side she helped develop J.J. Abrams’ “Alias” and “CSI.”