Amazon Found the Ideal New Studio Head in Roy Price Replacement Jennifer Salke
Finally, Amazon Studios has found its replacement for Roy Price. The former Amazon entertainment czar resigned from his post last fall following allegations of sexual harassment. (Price never commented on the allegations.) Since then, Amazon has been on the hunt for someone who could steer its entertainment division through troubled waters—including the bad optics of its last leader, who also famously canceled the well-received, female-driven series Good Girls Revolt and passed on future hits including The Handmaid’s Tale and Big Little Lies. Thankfully for the company, though, Amazon Studios appears to have found the perfect match for such a challenge: Jennifer Salke.
Salke will report directly to Amazon senior vice president Jeff Blackburn,IndieWire reports, and will oversee both film and television as Amazon Studios re-trains its gaze from indie projects toward projects with broader appeal. (Remember, this is the studio bringing us a Lord of the Rings TV series sometime soon.)
Salke, who exits her current post as NBC’s entertainment president, has a nice collection of hits under her belt, including This Is Us, Modern Family, and Glee. It’s notable, too, what all these series have in common: heart and diverse storytelling. This Is Us is the first network family drama in years to capture hearts and minds like prestige-y shows have, drawing not only staggering ratings but critical interest as well. Modern Family updated the family-comedy genre by including a gay couple front and center, following their relationship and, eventually, marriage. And then there’s Glee, which offered a simultaneously withering and tender look at the high-school food chain, as told through the eyes of singing weirdos. Regardless of the genre—and these series run the gamut—the projects Salke has helped shepherd all share a sense of empathy that could be of serious use to Amazon, particularly as it turns its gaze toward projects with broader appeal.
Although TV audiences clearly still love their dark fare—throne games, trudging corpses, and the like—it’s worth noting that many more recent hits have skewed the other way. Although it’s hard to make the case for This Is Us as a purely sunny show, given recent events, the series’s appeal is still clearly tethered to the love shared by the Pearson family amid significant hardships. And ABC’s The Good Doctor, which ended 2017 as the year’s most surprising ratings magnet? Same deal: it’s about a well meaning doctor trying to do right by his patients and the hospital that hired him despite some controversy due to his autism. Even comedies like Amazon’s own The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which charmed critics over the holidays and won two Golden Globes, takes place in a somewhat dream-like vision of old New York, following a newly single woman as she transforms from a jilted wife to a brilliant stand-up comedian. If Amazon wants eyeballs—both from critics and viewers at home—Salke seems well positioned to grab them . . . as soon as she figures out what to do about Jeffrey Tambor.
Get Vanity Fair’s HWD NewsletterSign up for essential industry and award news from Hollywood.Laura BradleyLaura Bradley is a Hollywood writer for VanityFair.com. She was formerly an editorial assistant at Slate and lives in Brooklyn.