Thom Sherman

Executive VP of Drama Development, The CW

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Riding a winner

Thom ShermanThom Sherman knows a thing or two about reversing the luck of a flailing network. In 2004, as head of drama development at ABC, he played a key part in developing Lost and Desperate Housewives.

Today, as executive VP of drama development at The CW, Sherman has developed a bona fide hit in Gossip Girl and considerable buzz for newcomer dramas like Melrose Place and Ashton Kutcher's The Beautiful Life. Not bad for a network some were recently calling dead in the water.

Riding a winner

“Having done this 13, 14 years, you just gain a skill set that comes naturally over the course of time,” Sherman says. “90% of my job is picking the right horse and the right jockey. Saying yes to the right people is really the smartest thing I've ever done.”

Sherman's acumen comes not only from his time as a programming executive but also from his work at Bad Robot, J.J. Abrams' production company, where he served as president from 2004 to 2006.

At Bad Robot, Sherman saw life from inside the writers' room. “[I learned] if it seems like it's just not working, even if there's a deadline looming, it's better to blow things up and get them right rather than go down a path that you know instinctually isn't going to get results,” he says.

And recently Sherman's network has been buoyed by results. The success of America's Next Top Model and Gossip Girl, and their appeal in the female 18-34 demographic, have the network feeling good. At The CW's upfront presentation in New York last month, President Dawn Ostroff proclaimed the fall programming slate to be “the strongest development season ever and the most cohesive lineup we've ever had.”

Sherman is hoping to build on the success of Top Model by following it on Wednesday nights with The Beautiful Life, about young models in New York City. The network is also rolling out Vampire Diaries and Parental Discretion Advised, which Sherman calls “Juno-meets-Gilmore Girls-meets-Knocked Up.”

“What our audience really responds to most is verisimilitude. They want to see a world that feels real,” Sherman says.

And like any good programming executive, he is keenly tuned in to that audience: “I've learned more about women's fashions in the last two years than I'd care to admit to anyone.”—David Tanklefsky