You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Relationships with nets, execs run deep

World of Wonder's 21st Birthday

Ask any network exec who has worked with World of Wonder’s Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato and they might describe the pair with terms such as “intelligence” and “style.” You’ll probably also hear about long-standing relationships that have developed between those execs and the producers.

For Sheila Nevins, president of HBO Documentary Films, that relationship began nearly two decades ago.

“I’m not sure exactly when, but I saw something they’d done and thought, ‘I have to meet these people,’ ” she says.

HBO has since aired at least a dozen World of Wonder productions, from the 2001-02 latenight show “Shock Video” to in-depth docus including “The Strange History of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” “Monica in Black and White,” and “In Vogue: The Editor’s Eye.”

“They do some amazing documentaries, particularly on issues that matter to our audience,” says Lisa Sherman, exec VP and g.m. of Logo/MTV Networks. “The piece they did on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ for HBO was fantastic, and they did the GLAAD Media Award-winning ‘Becoming Chaz,’ about Chaz Bono’s transition. While we haven’t worked with them on those projects, I have a ton of respect for them in that area.”

Still, World of Wonder is primarily known for its reality shows, from “The Fabulous Beekman Boys” and “Million Dollar Listing” (New York and Los Angeles editions), to reality series built around the likes of Tori Spelling and RuPaul.

Sherman credits “RuPaul’s Drag Race” with putting Logo on the network map.

“They basically transformed this outrageous concept of a reality competition show for drag queens into a crossover pop cultural phenomenon,” says Sherman.

Spinoffs “RuPaul’s Drag U,” and “RuPaul’s All Stars Drag Race” keep the franchise going year-round.

Lauren Zalaznick, chairman of entertainment and digital networks and integrated media at NBCUniversal, has worked with World of Wonder since her days at VH1 when, coincidentally, they launched the variety-talkshow, “The RuPaul Show,” in 1996. She estimates NBC-Universal now has over a dozen World of Wonder shows either on the air or in development.

“They’re versatile because their breadth of knowledge and curiosity is extraordinary. There’s a look and feel that’s derived from their intellectual vision and their aesthetic vision — it’s very bright and poppy — and there’s always grist for the World of Wonder mill. They always have something to rub up against, something to say,” Zalaznick says. “Most of all, their hallmark is being attracted to and compelled to reveal the most sides of the most complex and driven personalities in the world.”

Despite her lengthy history with World of Wonder, Nevins remains impressed to this day at how much Fenton and Barbato are able to accomplish.

“There’s a certain part of me that never knows how they pull it off. I’m always amazed at the visual grandeur, and the way they can (tackle) a serious idea,” she says. “I don’t know anyone who can duplicate that.”

World of Wonder’s 21st Birthday
Docs rock for productive pair | Celebs’ tales told without snark | WOW Report digests oddball news | Relationships with nets, execs run deep | Book chronicles 21-year journey

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Screen writer Beau WillimonMary Queen of

    Beau Willimon Re-Elected as President of Writers Guild of America East

    Beau Willimon, the playwright and showrunner who launched Netflix’s “House of Cards,” has been re-elected without opposition to a two-year term as president of the Writers Guild of America East. Willimon also ran unopposed in 2017 to succeed Michael Winship. Kathy McGee was elected to the vice president slot over Phil Pilato. Secretary-treasurer Bob Schneider [...]

  • Dickinson First Look Teaser

    TV News: Apple Drops New 'Dickinson' Trailer With Hailee Steinfeld (Watch)

    In today’s roundup, Apple TV Plus’ “Dickinson” series released a new trailer and Netflix released the trailer for the fifth season of “Peaky Blinders.” DATES The “Cash Cab” revival will come to Bravo on Oct. 7. The game show takes place inside a New York cab, where unsuspecting passengers become contestants in a game of [...]

  • Jennie Snyder Urman, Katie Wech Team

    Jennie Snyder Urman, Katie Wech Team for Medical Drama in Development at CBS

    CBS is developing a medical drama that hails from writer Katie Wech, Variety has learned. Currently titled “Good Sam,” the series follows a talented yet stifled surgeon who embraces her leadership role after her renowned and pompous boss falls into a coma. When he awakens and wants to resume surgery, however, it falls to her to [...]

  • Jack Gilardi, Longtime ICM Partners Agent,

    Jack Gilardi, Longtime ICM Partners Agent, Dies at 88

    Jack Gilardi, a longtime ICM Partners agent who represented such stars as Burt Reynolds, Sylvester Stallone, Jerry Lewis, Charlton Heston and Shirley MacLaine, died Thursday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 88. Gilardi was known for his gentlemanly style, love of the Los Angeles Dodgers and his skill at representing top actors. He [...]

  • Will Gluck

    Will Gluck Sets TV Overall Deal at eOne (EXCLUSIVE)

    Will Gluck has signed a two-year overall television deal with Entertainment One (eOne), Variety has learned exclusively. Under the deal, Richard Schwartz will continue to oversee all television projects for Gluck’s Olive Bridge Entertainment, with eOne set to serve as studio on all projects under the partnership. “The choice for us was clear given their impeccable [...]

  • Katie Hockmeyer

    NBC Entertainment Names Katie Hockmeyer Exec VP of Late Night Programming

    Katie Hockmeyer has been named executive vice president of late night programming at NBC Entertainment She will report to NBC Entertainment co-chairmen George Cheeks and Paul Telegdy, where she will work on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” “Saturday Night Live” and newly launched late-night addition, “A Little Late with [...]

  • Nexstar Completes Tribune Acquisition, Sean Compton

    Nexstar Completes Tribune Acquisition, Sean Compton to Head Programming

    Nexstar Media Group has become the nation’s largest owner of TV stations after completing its $4.1 billion acquisition of Tribune Media. The deal creates a broadcasting colossus with more than 200 stations serving more than 100 markets, although a number of stations will be divested to keep Nexstar in compliance with FCC ownership limits. Nexstar, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content