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The 'Girl Power' success story of Susanne Daniels


Web posted on:
Thursday, June 24, 1999 5:15:15 PM EST

By Janet Janjigian, Entertainment Weekly Producer

(CNN) -- If you're a teen-ager, especially a girl, these may be among your favorite television shows: "Felicity," "Dawson's Creek," "Seventh Heaven," "Charmed" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." And these shows have worked their magic on the upstart WB network, making their creator, Susanne Daniels, one of the most talked-about executives in television.

Ten years ago Daniels was answering phones at NBC's "Saturday Night Live" for producer Lorne Michaels. Now, at 33, she's president of entertainment for the 5-year-old Warner Brothers network. It was her idea to target teen-age girls (a previously overlooked market), and she selected shows that would deal with and empower teen girls.

"Girl power" was born as a marketing-bonanza concept.

'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'

Daniels didn't have an easy sell to pitch to the bosses with a series about a teen-age girl who fights vampires. They didn't get it. But she fought for the idea of "Buffy" and won, paving the way for other shows like "Dawson's Creek" and "Felicity."

Ironically, Daniels admitted to us -- and the actress heard it from her for the first time, too -- she wasn't convinced Keri Russell was right for the title role in "Felicity" and argued with the show's casting director.

Daniels says she told her, "I think you need to go back and re-read the script. I don't think you understand the character if you think Keri Russell is the right person.

"Then of course Keri came in and blew me away," Daniels says. "She was the part. She was Felicity, which goes to show, actually, that Keri's range is very impressive and my range is not."

"Felicity" star Russell, 23, went on to win a 1999 Golden Globe for her work in the show.

Daniels is married to Greg Daniels, creator and executive producer of Fox's hit show "King of the Hill." They have two children. At 33, Daniels appears to have it all, managing the "juggle struggle" of executive suite, marriage and family.

But she concedes there's much you have to give up along the way. "The jury's not in on how it affects my children," she says. "I'm constantly reminded of it every Saturday and Sunday, when I do spend the whole day with them, what I'm missing during the (week)day."

But for the moment, Daniels' world is the WB and the upcoming new TV season. She's trying to repeat her past successes.

New shows she says she's betting on include "Popular," which focuses on the least- and the most-popular kids in high school, and "Roswell" -- in which human teen-agers mix it up with their alien counterparts. "Roswell" is expected to give teen-age girls their first look at Colin Hanks, son of Tom.

Getting to the top is only half of the job; the trick is to stay there. Daniels and WB have taken heat for violence in many shows, especially "Buffy."

Daniels says the show is meant to be "disturbing and provocative, but in a way that clearly defines that this is wrong and Buffy is right."

In fact, a few weeks after our interview, the WB pulled the season finale of Buffy, an episode dealing with violence at a high-school graduation. The network made the decision after the shootings at Columbine High School, stating, "It is out of compassion for the families (in Littleton, Colorado) ... that we have decided to delay this broadcast."

The new season will again reflect the Daniels mandate: Be unconventional, take risks and empower teen-age girls.

Stay tuned.

DiFranco: Don't embrace 'politics of apathy'
September 17, 1998

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