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Cookie Jar adds Mazza for U.S. push

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Canadian cartoon producer Cookie Jar Entertainment has hired former Columbia TriStar and Paramount TV division boss Tom Mazza to lead its hunt for the next "Flashpoint."

The Burbank-based executive will spearhead a campaign into U.S. network series and syndicated fare for the Toronto-based producer as head of a new primetime label, the Jar.

Mazza, who most recently ran branded-entertainment studio Madison Road Entertainment (NBC's "Treasure Hunters") with Jak Severson, joins Cookie Jar as executive vp and head of worldwide TV, with a focus on moving the company into live-action family programming, ideally for 8 and 9 p.m. slots.

Cookie Jar joins a crowded field of Canadian producers including E1 Television and Shaftsbury Films that recently have co-produced dramas with U.S. networks no longer willing to shoulder the cost of scripted series alone. The appeal of Canadian series for U.S. networks grew with the breakout success of CBS' "Flashpoint," a cop drama shot in Toronto.

"The economic challenges today for U.S. networks are obvious to everyone involved," Mazza said. "We all need to create new series in a new and smart and creative way."

Cookie Jar has a dozen scripted series in development from a writer stable that includes Steven de Souza, Alan Zweibel, Tony Blake, Paul Jackson and Steven L. Sears.

Mazza said the company will develop primetime series with Canadian talent that can be made north of the border — with U.S. and other international partners — or produce U.S.-originated series that can be sold internationally.

"There's a tremendous amount of Canadian talent that we already as a company can tap into," he said. "We want to continue to take advantage of that development and introduce a lot of that talent to U.S networks."

The template for the primetime label will be series like CBS' "The Mentalist" on the network side and the weekly fantasy series "Legend of the Seeker" for syndication.

Mazza will report to Cookie Jar president and COO Toper Taylor and manage the company's development and production slates as well as its sales-and-distribution, program-acquisition and international co-production departments. His appointment follows Cookie Jar bulking up with the recent acquisition of Burbank-based DIC Entertainment.

While president of Columbia TriStar Network Television, Mazza oversaw production on such series as "Dawson's Creek," "The King of Queens" and "Family Law." Before that, during a 12-year stint at Paramount Network Television, he had a hand in such series as "Cheers," "Frasier" and "Star Trek: The Next Generation." (partialdiff)