THR's Women in Entertainment 2011: Power 100
Of all the primetime shows that debuted this fall, the one that likely got the most press was Fox's New Girl. Granted, the opportunity to chat with the dweebishly adorable Zooey Deschanel would be tough for any journalist to pass up, but there's also the matter of 20th Century Fox Television chairman Walden, who greenlighted the series, added it to the company's stable of successes (from The X-Files and 24 to Glee and Modern Family), and comes from a background in PR.
"I always draw on my experience as a publicist," says the 47-year-old married mom of two. "It enabled me to see the whole business, which many of my peers who came up through development and creative paths didn't get to see. There's a trick to telling a story and sending your message. Some people have the gift and some do not."
Walden most certainly does. A 19-year veteran of the studio, she, along with fellow chairman Gary Newman, has three presidents reporting to her, some 236 staffers under them, and another 5,900 on the payroll when you count actors, producers and crew members spread out among 34 shows in production. They include the Emmy-winning Modern Family, ratings leader How I Met Your Mother, Ryan Murphy's latest creation, American Horror Story, and the Steven Spielberg-produced Terra Nova.
Twentieth is also behind Tim Allen's return to alpha male dominance in the ABC sitcom Last Man Standing. And, of course, there's Glee, which regularly puts Walden's crisis management skills to the test.
So is there a DEFCON system for Glee scandals? Say, level 2 for a song leak, 3 for a casting change, 5 for a Murphy-slung insult? "Glee emergencies are high-class problems," she laughs. "Peter Chernin, who was a great influence on me, always said if you play it safe, you're destined for failure. Big, bold ideas are what excite me."
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