Sandy Grushow gets the last laugh Fired Fox TV chief is hired back to run studio's production company
June 26, 1997
USA Today; pp 03D
By Jefferson Graham

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Sandy Grushow has experienced the dream imagined by so many of the fired masses.

In 1994, the man whose legacy includes The X-Files and Party of Five was dumped as president of the Fox network's programming division after one week of ratings for the new season. But two years later, when no new hits had emerged from his successor, Fox asked Grushow to come back.

His new job: president of Twentieth Television, the studio production company responsible for such shows as Chicago Hope, The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Practice and The Simpsons.

Where his old job was to work with studios on developing shows for the network, he now works with a stable of writers and producers to develop projects for all the networks. Next season, Twentieth TV will produce 101/2 hours of prime-time programming, more than any other studio, with seven shows for Fox, three for ABC, one each for CBS and WB.

"I feel pretty good about what we've achieved,'' says Grushow, 37, in his wood-paneled office on the Fox lot. ``What really excites me is that we've just started to scratch the surface on the comedy front. We have a lot of exciting comedies coming down the line.''

To wit: a midseason sitcom for Fox with Damon Wayans and David Alan Grier; another sitcom with Laurie Metcalf (Roseanne), and a Mercedes Ruehl project for CBS, produced by Danny Jacobson (Mad About You).

Not bad for a guy who spent two years virtually out of the business. After being dumped by Fox, he joined a start-up company called Tele- TV, formed by three telephone companies to compete with cable TV. But Grushow found himself with an easy workload and would often leave the office by 3 p.m. to be with his wife, Barbara, and newborn son, Aaron, now 1.

Grushow decided on an entertainment career while attending Beverly Hills High School with the sons and daughters of show business people. After getting a communications degree at UCLA in 1983, he interned at Fox, eventually joining the feature film marketing department, where he worked on campaigns for Big and Die Hard.

At age 27, he was promoted by then-Fox chief Barry Diller to head of marketing for the new Fox network -- at the time, a two-night-a- week service. Five years later, when he took over Fox's schedule, Grushow became one of the youngest programming chiefs ever.

Deciding to make a strange pilot about the paranormal called The X- Files will go down as his crowning achievement at Fox (it's the network' s highest-rated show), but Grushow's legacy also includes New York Undercover, Sliders, Mad TV and Living Single.

He hung his hat on the ambitious Western The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. He told advertisers that if the show didn't become a hit, he would eat his desk.

Pass the salt.

But what really got to him, he says, was a growing difference of opinion with Fox owner Rupert Murdoch. Grushow thought Fox should stay focused on its core young audience; Murdoch wanted to expand the network's appeal to older viewers.

Now, Fox is back to its original vision, after a hitless two years that finally turned around in the spring with the animated King of the Hill.

"I totally disagreed with the change in focus, so Rupert made the right decision in replacing me,'' Grushow says. ``I found myself having to compromise more than anyone should have to compromise.

"So leaving was the best thing to ever happened to me. It allowed me to gain the perspective you can only gain from distance. I'm now a better executive, a more mature human and a very happy person.''

1997, USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co., Inc. ut62697

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