Is Berman the Fox fix?
Fox's new Entertainment President Gail Berman is a long way from Broadway now.
Berman, who began her career as a theatrical producer and, at 23, co-produced the original Broadway production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, is now at the center of Fox's prime time rebuilding efforts.
And Berman is also in the proverbial FOX hot seat, running the network's entertainment division, a division that has had its fair share of turnover in the last decade. Berman is the sixth executive to fill the role since 1992, taking over for Doug Herzog, whose turbulent reign lasted only 15 months. Berman oversees the network with Sandy Grushow, who was brought in during the middle of last season to run both 20th Century FOX Television and FOX Broadcasting Co.
"I know this job has had a rocky past, but I can't really look at the past; I can only look at my life and moving forward with my life here," Berman says. "I feel very stable here. I feel that Sandy and I make a tremendous team, and we're looking to build momentum and spirit among the staff and rebuild where rebuilding is necessary."
Berman came to FOX after two years of running Regency Television, a studio that she helped create in 1998 with New Regency Productions and FOX TV Studios. In her short stint at Regency, Berman helped land a number of shows on different networks, including Roswell at The WB and Malcolm in the Middle at FOX. Prior to Regency, Berman served as president and CEO at Sandollar Television, where she co-created and still serves as an executive producer on The WB's Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.
"I think the future is bright, and I think Gail has done a remarkable job coming in and hitting the ground running," says Grushow. "I think there is enormous good will in the creative community towards her, and that's going to accrue to our benefit down the road."
This fall, Berman is in charge of bringing FOX back from its disastrous 1999-2000 season. She and Grushow have assembled a new slate of shows that feature many of Hollywood's top writers and producers, including David E. Kelley, Darren Star, James Cameron and Michael Crichton.
"We have to do better than we did last year," says Berman. "That's something that we are hoping for, that's something that we are marketing towards and that's something that we are producing towards."
Berman says she is still getting used to running such a big ship. Both Regency and Sandollar were small production houses without marketing, promotion, affiliate relations, advertising and all of the other outposts that come with being at a major broadcast network. The easiest part of the job, she concedes, is "rolling up her sleeves" and working with the writers and producers of Fox's shows. The other half.let's just say she's getting used to it.
"I think the most challenging thing is becoming the suit part of the job," she says. "Putting together a team, beginning to learn all of the machinations here and inserting myself into that has all been new. I'm in that big learning curve right now, and I'm trying to do my best. It's amazingly different once you cross the street here on the FOX lot."-J.S.