When Samie Kim arrived at the Fox network in 1999 as manager of current programming and began her fast-track rise up the ranks, she entered a department occupied by seven men.
Yet she still has a hard time seeing the business as being “male-dominated.”
“All of them were a bunch of metrosexuals before they even had metrosexuals,” says Kim, now the VP of comedy development. She recalls fondly one colleague who told her he was going for a manicure “because he hadn’t had one in three weeks.”
Kim, meanwhile, was busy with more manly pursuits like “trying to figure out who’s who in baseball.”
If that sounds like a sitcom, it is quite fitting. Kim today laughs at the role- reversal, reflecting an eye for the funny that makes the highly regarded, easygoing, quick-witted 30-year-old executive a natural in Fox’s comedy arena.
LEFT TO HER OWN DEVICES
Kim, who was a page at NBC just nine years ago, was upped to director of current programming in 2000, but her primary goal was to get into comedy development “despite everyone saying it’s dead.” She made the move in 2003, when she was named to her current VP post, and has overseen such series as The Bernie Mac Show, That ’70s Show and King of the Hill.
Born in Boston and reared in Philadelphia, Kim, a Korean-American, comes from a “great” and large family comprising six stepsisters. There’s another catch to that situation: All of them are from different parents. One of her siblings is a blonde, another is Latina, and a third is half-Jewish. She is the oldest of her mother’s children and a middle child to her stepfather.
She attributes her love of television to her family, which was so huge “we were left to our own devices … and were allowed to watch a lot of TV.” By fourth grade, Kim knew she was “genetically engineered” to be a television executive after she pulled her first all-nighter watching a Moonlighting marathon.
To make it in TV, Kim needed to be where TV was made and wanted to go to college in California. Her tradition-bound East Coast parents, however, “thought that was absurd.” Ultimately, they agreed to let her go west—but only as far as Ohio, to Kenyon College, where she earned an English degree. When she graduated in 1996, she steered her 1984 diesel Mercedes toward L.A.
A PAGE TAKES A TURN
Landing as an NBC page, Kim quickly tired of dressing up like a flight attendant, giving 10 studio tours a day (“people wanted to see the Friends set, but that was at Warner Bros.”) and seating audience members for Jay Leno’s Tonight show. Then NBC promo guru Vince Manze, a funny guy in his own right, offered Kim a job as his assistant.
“It was an amazing time and place,” says Kim, whose desk was in close proximity to Preston Beckman’s; he, like Kim, later left NBC for Fox, where today he is executive VP of strategic planning.
While Kim was grateful to learn about branding and marketing, she wanted to move into programming. She tried her hand at TV movies—a mistake—then went to work for Fox Television Studios, handling several shows for the catchall company-wide production unit that dealt with all divisions, including FX and Fox Sports.
Kim also spent time at Regency Television, which then was developing Malcolm in the Middle, before Craig Erwich and Lance Taylor, then heading Fox’s current programming department, brought her over as manager. For four years, Kim worked on a majority of Fox’s scripted series, including 24, The Simpsons and Ally McBeal.
She learned that, “just when you have something pegged, something comes along and messes up your whole game plan”—including how an entire demographic consisting of young men “could walk away and buy videogames.”
Television’s changes—the new technologies and all the viewing alternatives—are exactly what makes Kim prefer working for TV rather than film: “There’s no way to guess what will happen on a given day.”
She admits it is tough staying optimistic in a business with such a high failure rate, but she credits her fiancé, Justin Falvey, co-head of DreamWorks Television, with brightening her outlook. She sums him up in a way that would not make sense in almost any place other than Los Angeles: “He’s the most optimistic person and least jaded person I’ve met in the business who is not delusional.”