ABC's Patmore-Gibbs' job is to tweak dramas and turn them into hits
By Paige Albiniak -- Broadcasting & Cable, 5/20/2007 8:00:00 PM
Sometimes one small fix can make a big difference.
That was the case with ABC's mega-hit, Grey's Anatomy. When the show's pilot came in, it was accompanied by a sentimental soundtrack, not the indie-rock groove for which the show has become famous. “We thought it would be more network-friendly,” says Grey's creator Shonda Rhimes.
“We actually asked them if they had tried different soundtracks, and it turns out they had,” says Suzanne Patmore-Gibbs, senior VP of drama development for ABC Entertainment. “We said, 'Your instincts were right. Go back to that.' And the music really became a hallmark of that show.”
Patmore-Gibbs' ability to deliver that sort of guidance has brought her to the top of ABC. Besides Grey's, she has developed Lost, Desperate Housewives, Men in Trees and The Nine. During her late 30s, she got her start at Sean Daniel's Alphaville Productions after graduating from Pomona College.
Patmore-Gibbs moved up through Hollywood's film development ranks, including stints at Mark Gordon and Gary Levinsohn's Mutual Films and with Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz' (the guys behind thirtysomething) Bedford Falls. She arrived at Touchstone as VP of drama series in December 2000 and moved over to ABC in June 2004 when Stephen McPherson jumped from Touchstone to head the network's programming division.
She admits that television production is a tough grind, but she's not sorry she left the film business seven years ago. “TV can be exhausting,” she says. “You only have a very limited time to mourn and to recuperate before you have to move on to the next thing. It can wear you out, but it's so much more stimulating and so much more satisfying, and so many more people see it. With TV, everyone's got an opinion.”
It's that passion that McPherson appreciates about Patmore-Gibbs: “Her creative instincts have led to programming that has given ABC the biggest, breakout dramas on television.”
It was partly Patmore-Gibbs' jump to television that persuaded Rhimes and her co-executive producer, Betsy Beers, to try their hands at television. Patmore-Gibbs worked with Beers at Mutual Films and had gotten to know Rhimes from early screenwriting work. “One of the reasons we started doing TV was because Suzanne made it look like so much fun,” says Beers. It was Patmore-Gibbs who introduced Rhimes to Beers, thinking they would get along. Beers is now Rhimes' partner-in-crime on Grey's.
This aspect demonstrates that television is nothing if not collaborative. It's not a medium for mavericks, and that perfectly suits Patmore-Gibbs.
“I could not work in a vacuum,” she says. “For me, it's all about discussion. We have a team where everyone is given an equal voice with which to push their agenda. If I disagree, we'll argue it out. We always know that, if everyone on the team loves something, then there's something there.”
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