Lifetime Adds Comedy Chops to Exec Team

Former Producer of '30 Rock' Joins as Entertainment VP

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Good news for fans of "A Dog Took My Face and Gave Me a Better Face to Change the World: The Celeste Cunningham Story." The fictional Lifetime movie from an episode of NBC's "30 Rock" last November ("I'm going into politics!") is one step closer to reality. OK, not really. But JoAnn Alfano, the former executive producer of "30 Rock," is joining Lifetime as its new exec VP-entertainment, replacing former programming chief Susanne Daniels, who stepped down in June.
JoAnn Alfano
JoAnn Alfano

Ms. Alfano brings with her more than 20 years of experience as a network executive, including more than a decade at NBC, where she helped develop shows such as "Will & Grace," "Scrubs," "Ed," "Providence" and "Profiler." Most recently, she was president of TV Tray Entertainment, which had a first-look deal with NBC Universal Media Studios.

Lifetime CEO Andrea Wong said in a statement: "As an accomplished and seasoned executive, JoAnn understands television both from the network and production perspective. Over her career, she has compiled an extensive record of success in comedies and dramas and forged strong relationships with top-flight talent within the creative community. JoAnn has the ideal combination of creative instincts and leadership skills to develop our next generation of series and movies."

Crucial turning point
Ms. Alfano comes to Lifetime at a crucial turning point for the network, which will begin broadcasting a new season of "Project Runway" in November after the show finishes its fifth and final season on Bravo next month. Lifetime has made several major attempts to develop new series outside its trademark movies, succeeding big time with summer drama "Army Wives" but flailing with many other shows, including "Side Order of Life," "State of Mind" and improvisational sitcom "Lovespring International."

Ms. Alfano inherits an ambitious programming slate from Ms. Daniels, including "Runway" companion series "Blush: The Search for the Next Great Makeup Artist" and "Rita Rocks," a single-mom sitcom starring Nicole Sullivan of "Mad TV."

Ms. Alfano said she's looking forward to the "freedom to develop to an audience that you feel simpatico with. I developed comedies, dramas and ran a press department at NBC, working with marketing, publicity and promotion, so it'll be great to be able to tie all those things together."

Recreating a hit
Reality will become a major focal point with "Runway" in tow. But Ms. Alfano is realistic about the challenge of re-creating another network's biggest hit. "To be able to have a launching pad of a hit show as well done and as popular as 'Runway' gives you the ability to develop companion pieces in a way that's much more difficult than when you're operating in a void. But I think it's tremendous that the show will be on Lifetime to create those opportunities."

The sixth season of "Runway" will have more than just a new network partner, with longtime hair-care sponsor Tresemme and editorial partner Elle magazine decamping for the CW's "Stylista," which premieres Oct. 22.
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