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Tom Lynch leveraging kids success

Mar 18, 2002  •  Post A Comment

It’s a classic Hollywood feel-good story.
Tom Lynch, the noted producer of kids TV programs and a progenitor of the tween genre, was 18 years old and in junior college in Los Angeles when he walked onto the set in the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium one day in 1974. The first annual Don Kirshner Rock/Music Awards was being filmed there.
“I saw the lights and performers, and I said, `I’ve got to be a part of this.’ I walked up to this guy carrying drinks and said, `Hi, I’m your new assistant,”’ Mr. Lynch recalled. Thus began his career in show business.
“It never occurred to me before [to work in TV]. TV wasn’t a draw to me until I realized it could reach millions of people. I think it hit me in a very surface sense-this is being beamed across the country. I was only cleaning out dressing rooms and stocking soda pop and sandwiches, but I felt I was part of something special,” he said.
He worked with Mr. Kirshner for seven years and worked his way up from production coordinator to stage manager to writer and director. Today he is the founder, owner and creative force behind the Los Angeles-based Tom Lynch Co., one of the most successful independent producers in TV.
His bent is kids programming, and his credits include six current kids TV programs: the recently launched “Galidor: Defenders of the Outer Dimension” on Fox Kids, “Just Deal” and “Sk8” on NBC, “Caitlin’s Way” and “100 Deeds of Eddie McDowd” on Nickelodeon and Disney Channel’s “The Jersey.”
He has become, in many ways, a brand name for kids programming, said Patrick Connolly, VP, Fox Kids. “With a Tom Lynch show, you’re going to get unique and unusual characters,” he said.
Mr. Lynch is also branching out into family programming with a new deal with international partner Fireworks Entertainment to co-produce six prime-time movies: two action-adventures, two romantic comedies and two fantasy adventures. Some of them will be family-oriented. He also has two prime-time pilots-his first ever-in production: family drama “St. George’s” for NBC and youth comedy “Prep” for The WB.
The secret to his success? “I believe the secret is to have joy in your work. I’ve made all the mistakes. I’ve caused trouble in many places, but it all comes down to, `What if a kid had magical powers?’ `What if a 15-year-old boy woke up and everything he knew to be true wasn’t?’ That gets me very quickly to `Why not?’ So I go into networks and say, `This is your next hit kids show,”’ he said.
“Our motto is to be first, to be on time and on budget. When we walk into a network, people know it will be original, fresh and not a derivative,” he said.
And the networks have received him well. “Tommy has always had an innate ability to drill into the kids world and kids’ minds, to take that and give it a tweak of a little magic and come up with a vehicle that captures a kid’s imagination,” said Rich Ross, president of entertainment for the Disney Channel.
While Mr. Lynch would not disclose revenues or the company’s finances, he did say it has been profitable from day one. The primary revenue stream comes from the shows the Tom Lynch Co. develops. Secondary revenue sources include residuals from syndicated shows, licensing and merchandising, music publishing and funding from international partners or co-producers.
The Tom Lynch Co.’s success grew, fittingly, from the birth of the first of Mr. Lynch’s four sons back in 1984. The excitement over new parenthood was the catalyst for Mr. Lynch’s musical coming-of-age show “Kids Inc.,” which ran for 10 years and helped spawn the careers of young stars such as Jennifer Love Hewitt and Mario Lopez.
As he breaks new ground for his company with family-themed programming, Mr. Lynch said he hopes to bring the same edge to the genre that he has brought to kids.
“I want to reinvent the family drama. I want it to have more of an edge, an action, a heightened sense of drama, with a lot more comedy and joy,” he said.
Mr. Lynch’s shows are developmentally appropriate for their age range, and they serve as the bridge between cartoons for elementary school kids and shows like “Boston Public” that are better to watch with parents, said Amy Jordan, who directs research on children and media for the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. “I think this is only a good trend that there is more and more programming that realizes this is a distinct group,” she said.