In Hollywood, they read scripts, menus and not much else. Except this Sunday, when they'll read the New York Times Magazine.

That's when the first indepth look at ABC programming chief Jamie Tarses--and what's gone wrong with her fitful, history-making reign--hits the stands.

Tarses was only 32 when she was named president of ABC's entertainment division last year--the first woman to hold that title. But on June 24, the network snubbed its Golden Girl and moved another suit--ABC old hand Stu Bloomberg--in an executive chair above her.

And now, on Sunday, we'll know why: The person oft-credited with making a hit of Friends (during her NBC days) doesn't have any herself. At least in Hollywood.

"The town hates her," former ABC executive Ted Harbert tells the Times, "and I'm not sure even hits will fix that."

Bombs didn't help. The only ratings records ABC and Tarses set during the 1996-97 TV season were ones for ineptitude. But Tarses' greatest sin seems to have been that she simply didn't get along with people--in front of, and behind, the camera.

"A mix of insecurity and ambition, confidence and self-destructiveness, brilliance and lack of executive skills" is how Times writer Lynn Hirschberg sums up the daughter of veteran TV producer Jay Tarses.

Hirschberg's been on the Tarses beat since January. She's dug up these semi-juicy tidbits: Tarses felt "emasculated" when ABC pulled the Bloomberg move. And in spite of rumors of her castle's being stormed, she didn't see it coming. Tarses' lawyers are talking with ABC's lawyers, and if the talk (and money) is right, she'll leave the network. Maybe to move to England. Maybe to go into magazines. That new show Roseanne was pitching to ABC and Tarses this spring was about her Roseanne Connor character's moving in with a black comedian. The idea struck execs as a little odd, considering Roseanne had the smallest black following of any show in its time period. "Oh, good," Tarses remarked. "That means there will be a portion of the audience who doesn't hate her yet." There's even a little something in the story for David Letterman fans: The "real" reason Letterman fired the man known to his viewers as Morty.

Robert Morton, the talk show host's longtime producer, got canned after he and dealmaker Mike Ovitz tried to get Letterman to jump ship from CBS to ABC, where Ovitz was twiddling his thumbs as a Disney honcho.

The Morton-Tarses connection? They're boyfriend-girlfriend. Or at least were, up until a few weeks ago. Things move pretty fast in Hollywood.

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