EXCLUSIVE: The legacy of Jamie Tarses will live on. FanFare, the production company of the trailblazing TV executive and producer who died a year ago at age 56, will continue to function with the help of Aaron Kaplan’s Kapital Entertainment and the support of Tarses’ family, honoring her lasting impact on the television industry.
McCrae Dunlap, who was Tarses’ executive and steered the company while she was hospitalized and following her February 2021 death, will run FanFare. Kapital, which will provide logistical support including offices, overhead and development funds, has taken a stake in the new incarnation of FanFare for new projects going forward, with Tarses’ estate and Dunlap as co-owners.
FanFare is behind two current series, The Wilds on Prime Video and The Mysterious Benedict Society on Disney+, with Tarses credited posthumously as executive producer on both. The company has about a dozen projects in development that originated under Tarses — most of them through Sony Pictures TV — including shows in the works at Apple TV+ and TBS. All pre-existing series and projects in development are excluded from the Kapital deal, though Dunlap is working on the development slate as a producer.
Sony TV, where FanFare had been based for a significant part of its existence, signed a new one-year deal with the company in October 2020, soon after Tarses’ cardiac event from which she never recovered. After that deal ended, Kaplan approached Dunlap and Tarses’ longtime partner, Paddy Aubrey, about keeping FanFare alive.
Kaplan, a longtime close friend of Tarses’, already had been involved the company behind the scenes. Kaplan and Wendi Trilling, whose TrillTV has a producing partnership with Kapital, both helped shepherd the FanFare slate after Tarses’ accident, working on multiple projects, including HBO Max pilot OK Boomer, without fees or credit.
“As the first woman to run a broadcast network entertainment division, Jamie was a crucial part of television history,” Kaplan said. “Her passion for content, her connection to the creative process and her commitment to excellence paved the way for so many who followed her. The trailblazers of our business — the legends — should forever be remembered and honored. Our commitment to FanFare allows Jamie and her legacy the opportunity to remain part of this incredible creative community that she loved so dearly.”
Dunlap, who has been at FanFare for five and a half years, first as Tarses’ assistant and then as her executive, echoed that sentiment when speaking about his plans for the company going forward.
“First and foremost, Jamie is and will always be FanFare, and my goal is to think about her constantly when hearing pitches and reading material and developing,” he said. “Brand-wise it’s really just writer-focused and wanting to tell big stories with great characters. I think that was always Jamie’s MO, to be a writer’s producer. We want to be light on our feet and be writers’ producers, that’s always our goal.”
The projects FanFare would be pursuing will honor Tarses’ creative spirit, which also will be reflected in her receiving an executive producer credit on every FanFare project to keep her memory alive and carry on her legacy. Embracing premium storytelling would be part of that strategy.
“I think the great thing about Jamie is, she wanted to be all-encompassing,” Dunlap said. “Obviously a lot of her projects, especially early in her career, were broadcast comedies, but I think, especially in the new streaming era, Jamie was definitely on the forefront of wanting to do different types of things outside of the typical broadcast comedy mold.”
A superstar TV executive, Tarses was instrumental in developing such iconic shows as NBC’s Friends and Frasier and reached the pinnacle of the network programming executive ladder by age 32, becoming president of ABC Entertainment. She then segued to a successful second career as a TV producer of such popular shows as ABC’s Happy Endings, TBS’ My Boys, TNT’s Franklin & Bash and Prime Video’s The Wilds.
Tarses’ skills working with writers were considered unparalleled.
“There have been so many times I would be reading a script multiple times, pouring over the material, and Jamie comes up with amazing notes — and I’m not really sure she even read the whole material once,” Dunlap said. “I think a lot of producers are skilled and good dealmakers and bring stuff to the table, but I think Jamie had an innate talent that cannot be taught, something that is almost savant-like in terms of how to produce and how to make TV great, and that is extremely rare in television.”
The hope is that some of the writers whose careers Tarses influenced would come and develop for FanFare in its new incarnation.
“Jamie Tarses spent 35 years in the television business, giving notes everywhere she went,” Aubrey said. “Her family is thrilled that her legacy will be able to continue through her banner, FanFare. Headed by Jamie’s handpicked exec, the rising star McCrae Dunlap, with the incredible support of the inimitable Aaron Kaplan, Wendi Trilling and everyone at Kapital, Jamie’s wish to make good television will live on.”
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