Perhaps the measure of Hall of Fame-level character isn’t having hatched a bunch of hit shows while running a big studio, or building up a network from scruffy upstart to a genuine creative force. Maybe the true benchmark of a Hall of Fame-caliber life is a collection of friends who’ve stuck with you, and vice versa, across a lifetime, across the country.
Mark Pedowitz may have more childhood friends in attendance at his Hall of Fame induction than most people have scattered around the country. Gary Lerner became pals with Pedowitz when they were 3 years old and lived across an alleyway from one another in working-class Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. “We used to yell at each other out our windows when we wanted to go out and play ball,” says Lerner of a more innocent time 60-something years ago.
Lauded not just for his excellent taste in TV shows, extraordinary knack for deal-making or unflinching integrity, Pedowitz is celebrated by his friends, old and new, for a loyalty that simply never quits. “If I connect with someone,” Pedowitz says in a Noo Yawk accent not dimmed by almost 40 years in Hollywood, “we stay connected.”
Pedowitz succeeded Dawn Ostroff as president of The CW in the spring of 2011. He was one of the more seasoned programming executives around, putting in 19 years at ABC, including five as president of ABC Studios, where he oversaw Lost, Desperate Housewives and Grey’s Anatomy, among other pop culture touchstones. From 2009 to 2011, he ran his own production outfit, Pine Street Entertainment.
Pedowitz took on not just programming with the new job, but oversight of the network’s sales, marketing, distribution, finance, research and publicity. CW viewership at the time was 70% female; Pedowitz’s first order of business was reshaping the network, home to Gossip Girls and America’s Next Top Model, into a broader, more mature consumer base.
He partnered with hot producers such as Greg Berlanti, and launched a handful of shows under the DC banner, including Arrow, its hit offshoot The Flash and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. On the hour-long dramedy side, he greenlit Ben Silverman’s Jane the Virgin, as well as Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Both garnered critical praise, and both shows’ leads claimed Best Actress Golden Globes the past two years.
“Mark broadened the network without alienating its viewership,” says David Stapf, president of CBS Television Studios. “He did it show by show by show.”
While he has a law degree and business affairs background, Pedowitz possesses an uncanny knack for sniffing out quality series. Those who’ve worked with him say he meshes a fan’s love of TV with a network exec’s knowledge of the craft’s nuts and bolts. “His creative instincts are excellent,” says Peter Roth, Warner Bros. Television Group president and chief content officer. “Mark does what other network executives claim to do, but rarely do—he watches everything.”
Pedowitz and his “best friend and soulmate” Carolyn Martin never had children, but one could say that The CW’s shows are his babies. “He loves them. He cares about them deeply,” says Stapf. “To Mark, shows are not fungible widgets.”
These days, the female-male split hovers around 51%-49%, and The CW’s median age an enviable 43. Notably, CW returned every one of its 11 shows this season, and added a few new ones: Frequency, a rethinking of the 2000 movie; No Tomorrow, about a man and woman ticking off bucket list items before the world potentially ends; and Riverdale, a moody reimagining of the Archie Comics universe.
Of course, Supergirl also debuted on CW this month after a rookie run at CBS. “People understand this is a very writer-friendly place,” says Pedowitz. “And we’re unique in a sense that we stick with the series, even if they’re not drawing a number, because we believe in them.”
Berlanti, who has known Pedowitz since the uber-producer was toiling in the Dawson’s Creek writers room, calls him “one of my favorite people on the planet.” Pedowitz puts his full support behind projects he believes in, says Berlanti, and—just as important—is starkly honest about ones he feels are non-starters. “That saves you a lot of time, and that’s a really valuable commodity for showrunners,” Berlanti says.
When he’s not working, Pedowitz can be found—surprise surprise—watching lots of TV. He remains faithful to the shows from his ABC Studios days (“Castle ended too soon for me,” he opines), and devours everything from The Americans (“Absolutely brilliant”) to Unreal (“Wasn’t as good as the first season”) to Stranger Things, Veep and Game of Thrones. “Do you get the sense I watch a lot of TV?” he asks.
Mark and Carolyn also duck out of Los Angeles to a home on Lake Michigan, where they unplug a bit, reading and catching up on sleep. “I finally learned how to nap,” Pedowitz says. “It took me a while.”
He’d like to keep running a network for as long as it will have him. That’s great news for the many executives who call Pedowitz a trusted colleague and a friend. Peter Roth mentions something former Warner Bros. chairman Barry Meyer said about Hollywood: Many people in the business are liked, and many people are respected. “It’s a rarity to be both,” says Roth. “But that’s what Mark is.”
His Brighton Beach homeboys are elated to see their mate elevated to the Hall of Fame, and Pedowitz is tickled to share the honor with them. “I owe a lot to a lot of people,” he says. “You don’t get the chance to even be honored unless a group of people help you get to that place. You don’t get there yourself.”