By Valerie Milano
Pasadena, CA (The Hollywood Times) Earlier this year, Jimmy Kimmel and a few of his closest friends from the TCA, gathered for a panel discussion about ABC and Freeform. Kimmel introduced new ABC president Karey Burke, who was appointed in November.
“Karey Burke’s story is the American dream,” he joked. “She was born in America, which was the right choice. And after graduating magna cum laude Phi Beta Kappa from UCLA, President Burke began her career in television as a comedy development assistant at NBC where she quickly moved up the ladder and, in the ’90s, was involved in the development and production of such series as “Friends” and the show about the guy who had a friend with red hair. From there, Karey went on to run Freeform. And while we still do not have any idea of what Freeform is, she ran the hell out of it, all the way to No. 1. On November 19, Ms. Burke was named President of ABC, and she has already done more for ABC than every other ABC president combined.”
Jokes aside, Burke has unquestionably delivered, on a grand scale. So it turns out she has a lot to talk about, and a whole lot to offer.
“I actually chose to work in television because of ABC, and I’ll tell you why,” she said after taking the stage. “When I graduated from college just a couple of years ago that was actually the late ’80s. Look at the hair ABC had the best shows in television, shows that everybody was talking about, shows that broke the rules and had something to say, shows like “Moonlighting” and “The Wonder Years” and “Thirtysomething.” The programming was inspiring and thought provoking and moved me, personally.”
Burke was so inspired, in fact, that she built her life around it. Her recent ascension to ABC chief has proven that her perseverance, hard work, and unique vision is the right thing for the network.
“I decided then that making shows like that was literally what I wanted to do with my life,” she said. “So I tried to get a job at ABC, but they weren’t hiring. I ended up working at NBC where I got lucky enough to work for the legendary Brandon Tartikoff and also Warren Littlefield and be involved with some pretty special “Must See TV.” There, I have also witnessed firsthand the power of broadcast television.”
All said and done, it took Burke 30 years to get where she wanted to be. So it’s not a responsibility she takes lightly.
“I care deeply and primarily about one thing, making ABC the best home in television for creators to tell their stories.”
Her job, she says, has required her to advocate for risk and originality. “I’ve learned that it’s okay to break the format, go off the script, and establish something new,” she said. “I’ve learned to have respect for all positions in front of and behind camera.”
Since ABC has a “long history” of being number 1 with women, she also felt the pressure. “We lost that mantel this season, and I am determined to get it back,” she said.
Programming for women has long been a passion for Burke. She plans to create the best opportunities for women, both in front of, and behind, the camera. It’s a worthy goal, and one that’s in line with what much of Hollywood is striving to achieve at the moment.
Given Burke’s prestige, experience, and passion, we’ve no doubt she will overshoot the mark, and bring ABC into a new era. Her appointment to ABC head, after all, isn’t the only thing she plans to be historic about her career.
“I know what’s possible when women come together and share their vision,” she said.