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December 3, 1998

WB or not WB? That is Garth Ancier's question

Edited by Stephen Galloway
The Hollywood Reporter


Is it time to fire up the turntable for the next round of musical chairs at the broadcast networks? If the latest set of rumors is any indication, the WB could be in store for change by season's end. The Hollywood grapevine has been abuzz this week about veteran programmer Garth Ancier, the longest-sitting entertainment president among the six broadcast networks. Ancier has been dogged by rumors that he'll join newly appointed executive Scott Sassa at NBC, but a spokesman for the WB insists that his boss is remaining on the job. Still, Ancier is known to crave new challenges, and the WB under his watch has already established itself as a force to be reckoned with; it was the only network to post growth in key demographics during the November sweep. What's more, insiders say protracted contract negotiations between Ancier and the WB have done little to reassure folks that his future at the company is solid. If change should occur, the transition at the WB will likely be smooth: Executive vp programming Susanne Daniels has been widely assumed to be the heir apparent if and when Ancier should leave. (Lynette Rice)

Hart to Hart: A long-forgotten work co-written by two of the century's leading novelists, Aldous Huxley ("Brave New World") and Christopher Isherwood ("Goodbye to Berlin"), is headed for the big screen. "Jacob's Hands," a manuscript the British exiles wrote while strangers in the Hollywood paradise, is a 1920s-set love triangle originally discovered by Sharon Stone, who heard about the project and got in touch with Huxley's widow to obtain the rights. Melissa Joan Hart ("Sabrina, the Teenage Witch") will star in the drama and make her producing debut for her Hartbreak Films company. "Jacob's Hands" will also be produced by Paula Hart as well as Dave Collins and Ron Zifkin of New Star Media. But one who won't be on board is Stone. After reading the manuscript _ which had been residing in Huxley's attic _ she decided it wasn't for her. New Star leapt into the void to snap up the option. (Dana Harris)

The Black cauldron: TV biz watchers have their sights focused these days on Carole Black, the marketing maven turned station boss of NBC Los Angeles flagship KNBC. Black, who has guided the station to the undisputed No. 1 in the market, has found herself in a maelstrom of speculation about her future in the NBC family. While some say Black might spearhead the network's expansion into the syndication arena, most sources indicate that she is more likely destined for a senior programming development post in the peacock hierarchy. Black was unavailable for comment, but sources said no deal between her and the network is imminent. An NBC spokesman said the network does not comment on rumors and speculation. (Jonathan Davies and Steve Brennan)

"X" files: Ronald Reagan as a superhero? Believe it or not, he's one of the characters in what could become the first animated feature made in-house by Miramax Films. Robert Smigel, creator of the satirical "TV Funhouse" animated shorts on NBC's "Saturday Night Live," is in talks to create the film for Miramax genre wing Dimension. "X-Presidents," based on a recurring Smigel-drawn sketch for "SNL," would parody "X-Men" and feature former U.S. presidents including Reagan and Jimmy Carter zipping around as superheroes. A longtime "SNL" writer who helped launch "Late Night With Conan O'Brien," Smigel also acted in "Wayne's World 2," "Billy Madison" and "The Wedding Singer." Film Roman has expressed interest in helping finance the $3 million flick as its first feature project, but no deal has been signed. Miramax is prepping a 1999 release of the English-dubbed version of Japanese animated hit "Princess Mononoke." (Thom Geier)

CORRECTION-DATE: December 4, 1998


"Jacob's Hands" will be the first theatrical feature for Melissa Joan Hart's Hartbreak Films, which has a number of television production credits including "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch" (HR 12/3).

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