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Hollywood Notes

Jun 10, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Leifer takes over laughs at ABC
After shepherding a slate of four new comedies for next season, Stephanie Leifer has been promoted from her interim position to VP of comedy series for ABC Entertainment. Ms. Leifer has been filling in as head of comedy since the resignation of Julie Glucksman in January. She will now oversee development and production of all comedy pilots. As the interim head of comedy, Ms. Leifer oversaw the development and 2002-03 season pickups of a handful of sitcoms, including “8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter,” “Life With Bonnie,” “Less Than Perfect” and the midseason entry “My Second Chance.” Previously, Ms. Leifer was named VP of comedy programming for ABC in July 1999.
Film Roman, Mongadillo Studios team up
Film Roman, the Hollywood animation studio behind Fox’s “The Simpsons” and “King of the Hill,” has entered an agreement with Internet-based content provider Mongadillo Studios to develop the original Web cartoon “Shawks” as a television series. “Shawks,” which took second place for its pilot episode in the 2001 Animation Magazine’s World Animation Celebration Festival, is a social satire detailing the struggle of four brave 8-year-olds to rid the world of its most evil foe-sharks masquerading as people. Links to the 14 complete online episodes are available at www.shawks.net. The series will be targeted for sale to kids-oriented broadcast and cable networks. The show was created by writer/voice actor Loren Hoskins.
Hollywood’s Lew Wasserman dies
Lew Wasserman, the Hollywood mogul who led MCA, for more than a half century, died June 3. He passed away from complications following a stroke. He was 89. During the era that he ran MCA, which was founded as a talent agency by Dr. Jules Stein, the company evolved from an agency into the pre-eminent television studio in Hollywood. It was known particularly for its one-hour dramatic series and was a powerhouse in the world of film. For most of the period that he was the company’s chairman, Mr. Wasserman, whose distinctive thick-framed black glasses set a fashion trend for Hollywood’s power brokers, wielded singular power and influence. While he personally avoided the limelight and was famous for avoiding the press, he was for decades a factor in national politics.
Mr. Wasserman was a major donor to the Democratic Party and a longtime personal and professional associate of President Ronald Reagan, whom he had once represented as an agent. From the 1940s onward, Mr. Wasserman was a close adviser to the actor who would one day become president, and that relationship continued when Mr. Reagan headed the Screen Actors Guild in the 1950s and when he entered politics in the 1960s and 1970s. Many students of the industry believe that in the 1980s it was a phone call from Mr. Wasserman that convinced President Reagan not to overturn the Financial Interest and Syndication Rules, which benefited the studios and producers at the expense of the networks.
UPN to broadcast more MGM films
MGM Worldwide Television Distribution Group has sealed a one-year renewal agreement with UPN to extend the Viacom-owned network’s broadcast rights of 52 additional titles of MGM feature films, which will begin airing this September in UPN’s Saturday afternoon block. The UPN deal secures clearances with roughly 86 percent of the country through its affiliate body. Titles generally air between noon and 2 p.m. (ET), but times can vary in certain local markets. Feature titles in the revised pact include “Mad Max,” “Rocky V,” and “Babes in Toyland.”
Short takes
Lori Shackel will leave the newly formed Universal Television Enterprises. Ms. Shackel had been senior VP of marketing for Universal Worldwide Television since the unit launched in the late 1990s. …Hearst Entertainment’s syndicated weekly half-hour, “B. Smith With Style,” has been renewed in 90 percent of the country (200 markets) for a sixth season. The company has announced a go for the fall. … Veteran director Allan Kartun has been named director of NBC’s “Late Night With Conan O’Brien,” replacing Liz Plonka. Mr. Kartun directed the American Film Institute’s AFI Awards as well as the Golden Globes Arrival Special for NBC.