Mazza to have a hand in Cookie Jar

Veteran will lead effort to expand U.S. TV presence

TORONTO -- 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."

Burbank-based Mazza will spearhead the push 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 ("Treasure Hunters") with Jak Severson, joins Cookie Jar as executive vp and head of worldwide TV, with a focus on moving the company beyond animation and into live-action family programming, ideally for the 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. primetime slots.

Cookie Jar is joining a crowded field of Canadian producers, including E1 Television and Shaftsbury Films, who recently have been able to co-produce dramas with U.S. networks no longer willing to shoulder the cost of scripted series on their own.

The appeal of Canadian dramas 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. We all need to create new series in a new and smart and creative way," Mazza said.

Cookie Jar already has a dozen scripted series in development from a writers stable that includes Steven de Souza, Alan Zweibel, Tony Blake and Paul Jackson ("Charmed") and Steven L. Sears.

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

"There's a tremendous amount of Canadian talent that we already have as a company to 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 new primetime label will be series like "The Mentalist" on the network side, and the weekly fantasy series "Legend of the Seeker" for the syndication world.

Mazza, who will report to Cookie Jar president and COO Toper Taylor, also will manage the producer's development and production slates and the sales and distribution, program acquisition and international co-productions departments.

His appointment follows Cookie Jar bulking up with the recent acquisition of Burbank-based DIC Entertainment.

While with Columbia TriStar Network Television as president, Mazza oversaw production on TV series including WB's "Dawson's Creek," CBS' "King of Queens" and "Family Law."

Before that, during his 12 years at Paramount Network Television , Mazza had a hand in such franchises as "Cheers," "Frasier" and "Star Trek: The Next Generation."