LA Times Profiles HUMANITAS Studio Partners Dana Walden and Gary Newman


Fox-Duo-MainMost Hollywood marriages don't turn out like this.

Fifteen years ago, several executives were jockeying for a plum position running 20th Century Fox Television, the production company behind "The Simpsons" and "Ally McBeal." The boss made a decision, but it came with a catch: The top contenders, two seemingly mismatched executives, could do the job together — or not at all.

Gary Newman acknowledges he initially wasn't thrilled. His colleague, Dana Walden, didn't say much; she was pregnant and queasy with morning sickness.

"I remember going through a brief period of 'What does this actually mean to share a job,'" Newman recalled. "But by that weekend, we were on the phone talking about how we would approach the job."

That's how one of Hollywood's most lucrative partnerships began.

They are like a married couple in a weird way, and I mean that in the most positive way. They present a united front. And they have each other's back.

The pair have since built the Fox television studio into one of the industry's most prolific by producing culture-defining hits such as "24," "Glee," "Sons of Anarchy," "How I Met Your Mother" and the animated "Family Guy."

They've also been proudly independent by operating the studio autonomously from its sister division, the Fox Broadcasting network. Television production studios like to sell their shows to different TV networks because they can spark bidding wars and boost the price for their hottest prospects. For example, 20th Century Fox produces "Modern Family" for ABC — not Fox — because ABC was desperate for good comedies and showed the most interest.

But there were signs of strain. The Fox studio and Fox network occasionally would engage in combat over shows that they shared, such as a pitched battle over license fees for the sleeper hit "Bones."

While the studio churned out hits, the once high-flying TV network this past spring was on the ropes. Its aging ratings engine, "American Idol," lost 20% of its audience and Fox fell into fourth place. The network's chief of seven years threw in the towel, which prompted Newman and Walden to approach their bosses with a proposal.

Combine the television studio and the broadcast network into one division, and trust them to manage it.

And this time, they were the ones who ruled out splitting up the team.

"Over our dead bodies," Newman said.

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UncategorizedJosh Neimark