EXCLUSIVE: Expect an announcement in the next days that Morgan Wandell, the SVP of drama development at ABC Studios, is going to run Brothers & Sisters and Eli Stone and Dirty Sexy Money producer Greg Berlanti’s hot company under a new multi-million dollar and multi-year development deal there. But here’s what won’t be in the press release: that Wandell was supposed to get the job of ABC Studios EVP of development being vacated by Julia Franz. He didn’t because ABC Entertainment topper Steve McPherson blocked it.
McPherson has always had an issue with Wandell, I’m told, but it’s more than a personality conflict. My sources say the two butted heads on shows. Then McPherson was royally pissed when he passed on Wandell’s development of Criminal Minds and The Ghost Whisperer only to see Wandell sell the shows to CBS. Good for Wandell, but bad for McPherson’s network. (Here’s the pot calling the kettle black, because when McPherson was head of Touchstone TV, the predecessor to ABC Studios, he sold CSI to CBS when ABC passed.
Don’t get me wrong: I like McPherson. I find his emotionalism endlessly amusing even if he’s had difficulty growing hits behind ABC’s top-rated series. (I loved it when he tore NBC’s Ben Silverman a new asshole for betraying their mutual pal Kevin Reilly.) But let’s face it, McPherson has had a bug up his ass about ABC Studios for some time, which is why in his recent contract negotiation he asked to run that entity as well or threatened to leave. But this was nixed by the big boss, co-chair of Disney Media Networks and prez of Disney-ABC Television Group Anne Sweeney, and McPherson stayed put and signed a new deal in May. Now McPherson and Mark Pedowitz uneasily co-exist. (Actually, they hate each other — except when they’re bonded in their mutual disdain for Sweeney, who’s not fond of them either. Something along the lines of that old saying that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. This is why I so love Hollywood…)
Wandell’s No. 2, Channing Dungey, is likely to replace him. As for Franz, who’s married to ICM prez Chris Silbermann, exiting is her idea. She came back from maternity leave two weeks ago and is staying through the end of the year to ease the transition. Pedowitz, meanwhile, has begun meeting with lots of people. I hear he’s already had face-to-faces with Peter Traugott, prez of TV production at Brillstein Entertainment Partners; Karey Burke, the former EVP of all development at NBC who now runs Ashton Kutcher’s hot company; Gene Stein, who has an overall deal at ABC Studios and was formerly the head of comedy development at CBS; and Steve Stark, the former head of Kelsey Grammar’s very successful Gramnet Productions.