Johnson's place turns TV back on

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Mark Johnson is making a big push into television.

The Oscar-winning feature producer is relaunching the television division of his Gran Via Prods. and has tapped former Pariah executive Jonathan Frank to run it.

Gran Via Prods.' return to the TV arena comes on the heels of AMC's series pickup of the drama "Breaking Bad," which the company co-produces with Sony Pictures TV.

The project, written and directed by Vince Gilligan, was developed three years ago for FX and was considered dead until AMC resurrected it late last year.

"I'm so proud of it," Johnson said of "Bad." "It's very different and really good."

"Bad" was one of several projects, including CBS' critically praised "Love Monkey," developed by Gran Via's previous head of television Bryan Seabury, who left the company last year to join CBS Paramount Network TV while Johnson was busy working on Disney's "The Chronicles of Narnia" film franchise.

"We were a little quiet in television for a while, but it wasn't by design but by circumstances," Johnson said. "I've always loved television and believe that some of the best writing and acting is done there. Who wouldn't want to try to succeed and compete in that medium?"

After he returns from Prague, where he is wrapping the "Narnia" sequel "Prince Caspian," Johnson plans to focus on Gran Via's TV development through the company's deal with CBS Par TV, working with Frank.

"We'll be going into the new development season with renewed vigor," he said.

In his search for a TV executive, Johnson immediately hit it off with Frank. In addition to sharing "the same taste and ambitions," Johnson said he was impressed by Frank's passion to defend the projects he believes in.

Frank is expected to start at Gran Via in mid-July.

"In today's climate, there is a shift toward character-driven dramas, and I don't think there is anyone in the business who does that genre better than Mark," Frank said. "Getting the opportunity to develop character-driven dramas with someone who is so successful in that area was something I couldn't pass up."

Frank comes to Gran Via from Caryn Mandabach Prods., where he has overseen development for the U.S. side of the former Carsey-Werner partner's U.S./U.K.-based production company.

Gran Via is repped by ICM.
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