After 25 years with the studio, Warner Bros. Television executive vice president of current programming Melinda Hage is retiring.
She has managed programming for scripted series from “The Jamie Foxx Show” to “Murphy Brown” to “The Leftovers” to “Riverdale” over the course of her career, with her team currently overseeing about 45 drama and comedy series. After starting her career at Viacom and Columbia Pictures Television, Hage joined WBTV as an assistant in comedy development in 1994 – the year that “Friends” and “ER” debuted – before discovering her love of current programming, which she calls “the perfect marriage” of creative and production.
“Once I got in it, I thought, this is it, this is what I will do until I retire and I’m not working in the industry anymore,” she told Variety, crediting WBTV president and chief content officer Peter Roth with believing in and supporting the department.
“When [Roth] came aboard, I would say even the perception of current, I feel, changed a bit,” said Hage. “And I knew, once I was here and he was here, that this is where I would remain, doing current, because that was the best place in town to do it, because we had a president of our company who recognized its value and really supported and respected it.”
Hage has been exec VP of current programming since 2010, and served as senior VP of current programming since 2002. The high points of her career?
“I honestly will admit there’s not a day that I don’t drive onto the lot that I have to sort of say to myself, ‘You’re driving onto the Warner Bros. lot,’” she said. Over the years she has brought her son and daughter, now nearly 16 and 26 respectively, onto various sets and wowed them with the experience.
“It’s been an incredible gift to work with such wonderful talent here and I think one of the biggest treats with, how long I’ve been here, is the number of producers who I have done multiple series with,” said Hage.
Veteran producers sing her praises.
“Melinda is a true gift,” said Julie Plec, the showrunner known for “The Vampire Diaries,” “The Originals,” and “Legacies.” “A beautiful mind and spirit. She’s killer on the dance floor. I’ll miss her professionally, but look forward to continuing the friendship that we’ve built over my 10 years in the WBTV family.”
There’s a meaningfulness for Hage in having developed long-lasting working relationships with producers across the industry, in particular Greg Berlanti.
“One of the greatest pleasures for me was when Greg Berlanti returned to the company,” said Hage, recalling “Everwood,” the WB drama series that aired for four seasons between 2002 and 2006. “I thought that was one of the most special pilots we had done, and it touched me very much personally, and it was such a pleasure to work with him.”
“Melinda Hage is one of the kindest, smartest, calmest people anyone could ever work with, and we will miss her every day,” said Berlanti. “So many of our stories and shows were made better by her time and her care, and she is a leader in every aspect of her life. I’m so glad she’s in mine.”
Shepherding a new show through its first season can be challenging, and consists of helping the show find its voice and tone. Hage says her place with freshman series has been to support and nurture creators in a way that is “helpful but not obtrusive” and to “always make them feel like we are part of their team.”
Would-be current programming executives might want to take a step back explore other areas of television before they hop on the exec track, per her advice. Hage credits time spent in production and in writers’ rooms with helping her to understand what it takes to put together an episode of television, an experience she calls “incredibly valuable.”
And as many people in the industry would attest, it’s the professional relationships that matter.
“It really does matter how you treat people,” said Hage. “I know that’s maybe a corny thing to say. But when you’ve been doing it this long, people who were assistants even a few years ago have progressed in their careers, and they are executives or they are producers or writers or directors. The relationships are what I think give you a lot of success in this industry, and so it matters how you treat everyone.”