At Just 35, a TV Exec Calls It a Career

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All you may need to know about Jamie Tarses’ departure as the president of ABC Entertainment is that the network isn’t even replacing her. The hot, young and female programming exec who at 32 landed the top entertainment spot at ABC on the strength of birthing "Friends" at NBC was "reorganized out of a job before she even left her job," says TIME television writer James Poniewozik. "In Disney’s ongoing quest to take advantage of the vertical integration potential of getting Disney-produced shows on the network it owned, a development person just didn’t figure in." Yet Tarses, dogged by criticism and rumors of her impending doom almost from the moment her tenure began in 1996, never really made the case that she deserved to keep the autonomy that was steadily taken from her.

"ABC has gotten a lot of attention for surface things, like the ‘TV is Good’ campaign, during Tarses’ time there," Poniewozik says. "The image is different. But she just hasn’t pulled in the ratings to go with it." That lack of bottom-line success made it that much easier for the Disney suits to surround her with more and more synergistic corporate types, until life at the Alphabet lost its appeal. Another raft of reorganization meetings inside ABC Entertainment this week was apparently the last straw. Although some reports said that Tarses was due to be sacked, on Thursday it was hard to find any handprints on her back. The reorganizations, she told the New York Times, were "necessary according to the realities of the modern broadcasting business" — a business which Tarses is "incredibly happy" to be out of. "I've been at it for 11 years... I definitely never want to be an executive again."