After taking the summer off for some much-needed R&R time with her family, Maureen Smith, former president of Fox Family Channel and Fox Kids Network, is back in the game again. The veteran programming exec has joined family specialist TLC Entertainment, an L.A.-based company that was founded in 1988 by Rob Loos and George Taweel.
Pooling their writing, directing and producing expertise, the founding partners initially offered a one-stop service that left them out of retaining ownership of the resulting programming. They first worked with Smith in 1997, providing Fox Family Channel with a two-hour preschool block that featured the All New Captain Kangaroo as its centerpiece. ‘As a network head, to work with a production company that delivered quality work on time and on budget was invaluable,’ says Smith. ‘These guys are not in it for the ego; they’re in it to make great product, and their priorities are very much in line with mine.’
Two of Smith’s main roles will be to build the company’s profile and to help ferret out concepts for kids, tweens and families that can be turned into original TLC productions. She also plans to broaden TLC’s media scope to include feature films, video-on-demand programming, holiday specials, kids publishing and ‘mini-movies’ – 60-minute TV films that deliver all the story line and character depth of a full-on flick in a more digestible format for busy families with kids who go to bed early.
The three partners have put their heads together and come up with several concepts that could be added to the TLC slate in the next couple of months. However, Smith is still looking for tween projects. ‘Tweens are a hot market and everybody’s talking about them, but very few shows are actually empowering the kids and most are female-targeted. What about the boys in that demo?’
Smith would also like to see more pitches for family-focused shows that appeal to adults and kids alike. She cites Disney’s The Rookie and My Big Fat Greek Wedding as some recent projects that have struck the balance that she’s looking for: ‘They’re great feel-good movies with nothing offensive in them.’