March 2013

Legendary Music Producer, Who Won Multiple Grammys and an Emmy -- and Who Worked with Billy Joel, Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Madonna, Paul Simon, Duke Ellington, Stan Getz, Ray Charles, and Barbra Streisand, Among Many Others -- Dies at 79

A "prolific record producer and engineer who worked with some of the biggest music stars of the last 50 years, including Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, Paul Simon, Billy Joel and Barbra Streisand, died on Saturday in Manhattan," reports The New York Times

The producer was Phil Ramone, 79, and the Times story continues, "His death was confirmed by his son Matthew. He did not immediately give the cause, but Mr. Ramone was reported to have been admitted to a Manhattan hospital in late February for treatment of an aortic aneurysm."

In a statement about Ramone's death, Billy Joel said, according to the Times story, "“I always thought of Phil Ramone as the most talented guy in my band. He was the guy that no one ever, ever saw onstage. He was with me as long as any of the musicians I ever played with — longer than most. So much of my music was shaped by him and brought to fruition by him.”

The Times story adds, "He won 14 Grammy Awards, including producer of the year, nonclassical, in 1981, and three for album of the year, for Mr. Simon’s 'Still Crazy After All These Years' in 1976, Mr. Joel’s '52nd Street' in 1980, and Mr. Charles’s duets album, 'Genius Loves Company,' in 2005. He also produced music for television and film, winning an Emmy Award as the sound mixer for a 1973 special on CBS, 'Duke Ellington ... We Love You Madly.' "

Ramone was born in South Africa and grew up in Brooklyn, the Times notes.

Writing of Ramone's early career the Times says, "In 1958, he co-founded A & R Recording, a studio on West 48th Street in Manhattan, and built a reputation as a versatile engineer, working on pop fare like Lesley Gore as well as jazz by John Coltrane and Quincy Jones. He ran the sound when Marilyn Monroe cooed 'Happy Birthday' to President John F. Kennedy in 1962, and three years later won his first Grammy as the engineer on Stan Getz and João Gilberto’s landmark album 'Getz/Gilberto,' which featured the original version of the monster hit "The Girl From Ipanema.' "

Some examples of Ramone's work follows:

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Kevin Ware Has Successful Surgery After Breaking His Leg in Gruesome Fashion Seen by Millions Watching March Madness Basketball Tourney on TV. Columnist Says CBS Showed Appropriate Restraint in Live Coverage of Injury

"University of Louisville basketball player Kevin Ware suffered an open fracture of his right leg during Sunday’s Midwest Regional final that left his teammates and coach in tears, becoming the biggest story out of the NCAA March Madness tournament....Ware, 20, was taken to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis after the game to repair the fracture. School officials said the leg, broken in two places, was reset and a rod inserted into his right tibia. ESPN reported Ware will remain in Indianapolis until at least Tuesday."

So reported ABC News on Sunday night, March 31, 2013.

The injury was seen by millions who were watching the game live on TV. Commented USA Today sports media columnist Michael Hiestand, "Usually, sports television means sticking to the script. But when Louisville sophomore Kevin Ware suffered a dramatic injury against Duke on CBS Sunday, game coverage was left, as analyst Clark Kellogg put it, 'in totally uncharted territory for everybody in the building, for players, for us.'

"CBS' response was textbook -- it let its pictures do the talking."

Hiestand continued, "CBS couldn't really avoid showing a replay of the injury, given that TV coverage should at least give viewers access to anything they'd see if they were in the stands. CBS aired the cringe-inducing replay twice. Kellogg stated the obvious, but it seemed appropriate: 'You never want to see that.' (And on its halftime studio coverage, CBS was sensible. Host Greg Gumbel said there would be no replay -- 'with the severity of that injury, we are not going to be showing it here.')

"But the CBS shots, from producer Mark Wolff and director Bob Fishman, seemed almost more compelling than replays of the injury itself. The closeups of seemingly mortified fans were jarring. The footage of Louisville coach Rick Pitino wiping away tears was a striking visual. And CBS followed the news, including showing Ware being driven away in an ambulance."

Accoring to Bloomberg Businessweek, Pitino said at the end of the game, "Basically the bone popped out of his skin, it broke in two spots. It will take a year for him to come back. He’ll come back better than ever.”

The Businessweek article continues, "Louisville athletic department spokesman Kenny Klein said Ware will remain in Indianapolis through at least tomorrow, when he may return to Louisville and then join the Cardinals as they travel to Atlanta for the Final Four. Ware played high school basketball in Rockdale County, Georgia, 24 miles east of Atlanta."

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NBC Delays Project After Struggling to Replace Departed Star

One of NBC’s most promising development projects has hit a hurdle, with the network rescheduling the pilot to film off cycle, according the The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed.

“The network has postponed ‘Girlfriend in a Coma’ to June after trouble recasting the lead role of Christina Ricci,” THR reports. “The decision to recast the role out of the traditional pilot-season window was made mutually by NBC, creator Liz Brixius (‘Nurse Jackie’) and producers Wolf Films and Universal Television and comes 10 days after Ricci exited the pilot following the table read.”

The report notes: “Ricci, who was the first person cast in the project in early February, was poised to star as Karen, who wakes up from a coma after almost two decades to find out she has a 17-year-old daughter from a pregnancy she was unaware of when her life was put on hold.”

The network continues to be high on the project, with the delay designed to enable producers to consider a large number of actresses for the former Ricci role -- especially after the networks begin paring down the current load of about 100 broadcast pilots.

Brixius is set to write and executive produce along with Dick Wolf (“Law & Order: SVU,” “Chicago Fire”), Danielle Gelber and Peter Jankowski, the piece notes.

“’Girlfriend in a Coma’ becomes the latest project to move off-cycle this pilot season,” the THR report notes. “Fox pushed big-swing Navy drama ‘Wild Blue’ after difficulties casting the lead, and NBC delayed ‘Wonderland’ to allow producers more time to prepare the extensive special effects and 'Donor Party' after trouble with casting the lead.”

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A New Low for Fox's 'Idol' -- And a Possible Explanation for Its Sharp Ratings Decline

The onetime ratings juggernaut “American Idol” continues to see its numbers erode, and after Thursday’s episode sank to a historic low, one TV writer offered a possible explanation.

TVbytheNumbers.com reports that “Idol” fell to a 2.7 average rating in the key 18-49 demo, based on Nielsen overnights. It was the lowest number ever for any installment of “Idol” on any night, the website reports, and a loss of two-tenths of a ratings point from last week.

Fox managed only a third-place finish for prime time overall, behind ABC and CBS, which finished in a dead heat for first place in viewers 18-49.

Bill Carter, writing in The New York Times, says part of the problem with “Idol” appears to be old age, in TV terms, with the show now in its 12th season. But he also notes the impact of a relative newcomer, NBC’s rival singing competition “The Voice.”

“On Monday, ‘The Voice’ scored a 4.7 rating in that 18-49 group,” Carter writes. “On Tuesday it managed a 3.9 rating (about 6 million and 5.1 million viewers, respectively). This follows up a fall in which ‘The Voice’ convincingly topped Fox’s other singing show, ‘The X Factor.’”

But Carter notes that “Idol,” which is deeper into its current season than the newly arrived “The Voice,” typically trends lower in the middle of its season.

“It is still too early to crown ‘The Voice’ as the new king of the singing competitions, because in its first outings this season Fox’s ‘Idol’ scored notably better numbers than the first two episodes of NBC’s ‘The Voice’ this week,” Carter writes.

Thursday’s 2.7 average for “Idol” in 18-49 marked only the second time in history that the show has dropped below a 3.0 -- with the previous Thursday being the first time, Carter notes.

Thursday’s number “was for one of the ‘Idol’ elimination shows, which are traditionally lower-rated than the performance shows,” Carter notes. “But that number came one day after Wednesday’s ‘Idol’ recorded the lowest-ever rating for a performance show, a 3.2 rating (about 4 million viewers).”

Carter adds: “Both numbers were down sharply from the prior week, from a 3.6 for the performance show and a 2.9 for the elimination show. While ‘Idol’ generally trends lower in the middle of its season, one notable change took place on the network schedules between those weeks: ‘The Voice’ returned on NBC.”

While admitting it’s too soon to crown “The Voice” as the champion singing show, Carter adds: “If ‘Idol’ continues to sink, and ‘The Voice’ sustains its numbers, that may be the inescapable conclusion by the end of this season."

Preliminary numbers reported by TVbytheNumbers -- with the disclaimer that CBS’s coverage of the NCAA Basketball Tournament will be subject to significant adjustments -- show ABC and CBS tied at No. 1 for prime time with 2.3 average ratings in the key 18-49 demo, followed by Fox (2.0), Univision (1.4), CW (0.9) and NBC (0.8). NBC’s rare sixth-place finish came on a night when the network aired mostly reruns.

In a close race for total viewers, Fox came out on top with 7.5 million, followed by ABC’s 7.1 million, CBS’s 6.9 million, Univision’s 3.5 million, NBC’s 2.6 million and CW’s 2.0 million.

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On Eve of 'Tonight Show' Transition, Jimmy Fallon Dumps His Manager

With negotiations for Jimmy Fallon to take over “The Tonight Show” hanging in the balance, the late-night host has decided to proceed without his longtime manager, Eric Kranzler of Management 360.

Nellie Andreeva reports on Deadline.com: “I’ve learned that Fallon fired Kranzler the day after the Oscars while the talk show host’s team was in preliminary conversations with NBC about a new contract for him. That ended Fallon’s second stint with Kranzler, who originally managed the actor for three years during Fallon’s tenure on ‘Saturday Night Live’ in the early 2000s.”

Fallon reunited with Kranzler in 2008 -- a year before the launch of “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” -- following a brief hiatus, Andreeva notes.

“During the past five years, Fallon also branched out into producing and hosted the Primetime Emmy Awards,” the report adds. “He continues to be represented by CAA, which is handling his negotiations with NBC.”

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Lohan Accused of Stealing Again -- And Why Did the Crew of 'Anger Management' Break Out in Applause After She Left the Set?

Just when she appeared to be getting down to business -- appearing in a guest role on Charlie Sheen’s “Anger Management” -- actress Lindsay Lohan managed to wind up with another round of negative headlines.

This time she’s accused of stealing jewelry and wardrobe items from the set of the FX comedy series. TMZ.com reports that sources on the set are making the accusation.

“We're told during filming ... Lindsay decided she was going out clubbing one night, and took a bracelet, a necklace, earrings, pants and shoes from the wardrobe department. Yes, the stuff never came back,” TMZ reports.

The piece adds: “Sources say Lindsay told people on the show ... producers would just take the value of the items out of her salary, but we're told that absolutely wasn't the deal.”

But that’s not the extent of the bad impression the actress made during her brief time with “Anger Management.”

“Multiple sources on the set tell TMZ Lindsay was ‘the biggest prima donna ever on “Anger Management.”’ We're told she showed up 2 hours late the second day, refused to come out of her trailer for 2 hours, left early to go clubbing and threatened not to return,” TMZ reports.

After Lohan left the set, the piece reports, the crew broke out in applause, with crew members calling her a “nightmare,” according to sources.

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Video: Did Savannah Guthrie Flip Off Matt Lauer On-Air?

As if NBC’s “Today” show needed any more controversy, a new one has erupted over whether Savannah Guthrie flipped off her co-host Matt Lauer on the air.

TMZ.com reports: “Matt Lauer definitely got the finger from co-host Savannah Guthrie this morning ... live on 'Today' ... only question is -- which finger?”

The incident took place during a segment about vacuum cleaners in which Lauer joked: "By the way this is the first time Savannah has ever used a vacuum."

TMZ adds: “Savannah apparently thought she was off camera when she fired off a one-finger salute in Matt's direction!”

Guthrie says it was her index finger, and she tweeted that she would prove it with photographic evidence. Meanwhile, here’s the video:

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After 25 Seasons, a Show That Has Been a TV Fixture Is Canceled for the Second Time -- and This Time It May Be for Good

A TV show that has been a fixture on television for a quarter-century has been canceled -- for the second time. TVGuide.com reports that Lifetime canceled "America's Most Wanted" -- which Lifetime picked up after it was canceled by Fox.

“The decision effectively ends the groundbreaking reality series after 25 seasons, at least for now,” TV Guide reports. “Separately, however, the cable network is looking to stay in business with ‘AMW’ host and executive producer John Walsh. Lifetime is developing a pilot, tentatively titled ‘John Walsh Investigates,’ which would take a different approach to Walsh's ongoing crime fighting and victims' advocacy work.”

Walsh’s production company and Twentieth Television, the distributor of “AMW,” are believed to be contemplating shopping the show elsewhere, the piece notes, adding that the companies declined to comment.

“’AMW’ ultimately ran for 44 episodes on Lifetime, resulting in 36 captures,” the report notes. “But by the end of its run, ‘AMW’ wasn't making much noise in the ratings for Lifetime. The show's final episode aired October 12 and averaged just 807,000 viewers. Walsh and the ‘AMW’ producers had been talking to Lifetime about producing another round of episodes, but ultimately a deal was not reached.”

The show first aired on Fox in 1988, and is credited with helping law enforcement officials capture 1,202 fugitives, including helping authorities find the "person of interest" in Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen's murder, the piece notes. Fox ended the show''s original run in 2011, with 24 seasons under its belt, and Walsh approached other networks about picking up the show.

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Former Intern's Unflattering Claim Prompts Apology (of Sorts) From Matt Lauer

It’s being called an apology, but “Today” host Matt Lauer’s response to an unflattering tweet about him appears to fall into the “sorry you took it the wrong way” category.

According to The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed, Lauer’s former intern Mark Zinni -- now an anchor at Fox’s Cleveland affiliate -- tweeted that when he was an intern, Lauer was “not so nice.” Zinni also tweeted: "I was just a young kid with a bright future ahead of me."

Lauer, who has been embroiled in drama ever since NBC’s “Today” show sank in the ratings and Lauer was blamed by many viewers for the awkward ouster of Ann Curry, responded with his own tweet, writing: "huh? Always tried to be nice Mark. Sorry you didn't think so. Hope you're doing well."

THR adds: “Lesson to important TV anchors: Be polite to the ‘little’ people in the newsroom because one day they might call you out on Twitter in your darkest moment.”

Zinni followed up Thursday with a series of social media posts, including "be careful what you say on twitter, ha!" and "For the record, i wasn't 'disgruntled' ... I had a great time in '97!"

The timing appears to be bad for Lauer, with speculation currently swirling about his future on “Today.”

“As his reputation takes more hits, many media observers wonder how long Lauer, whose contract runs through 2014, will remain in the co-anchor's chair alongside Curry replacement Savannah Guthrie,” THR reports. “On Wednesday, NBC executives and sources close to Anderson Cooper denied reports that the CNN anchor had been approached about Lauer's job: The network did reach out to Cooper, THR reported, but he is not in line to replace Lauer.”

Zinni commented on his Twitter exchange in a post Thursday on FOX8.com, writing: "Darren Sweeney, an executive producer at FOX 8, asked about my experience with Matt Lauer. If you know me, you probably know that I don’t take myself too seriously. So, my answer was more of a joke about being young and naive during my time at Today, but I added that he wasn’t nice to me. I didn’t slam the guy, I just made an honest comment."

Zinni also wrote: "Twitter is a great resource for everyone because it’s instant and, thankfully, shorter than a phone call. Bottom line, I was shocked Matt Lauer even bothered with me and, really, he remembers me? I’m flattered."

mark-zinni.jpgMark Zinni

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Zucker's 'New Face of CNN' Sinks to New Ratings Low

CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker has called him "the new face of CNN," but it doesn't appear to be a face viewers want to see. Jake Tapper’s new 4 p.m. ET CNN program, "The Lead with Jake Tapper," hit a new low in viewers 25-54 Wednesday, according to Deadline.com.

The show drew 61,000 viewers in the adults 25-54 demo, in what Deadline calls "the worst the one-hour CNN show has done since its soft March 18 debut." The program pulled 318,000 total viewers.

It has done worse in total viewers, drawing only 258,000 viewers on March 22, although it attracted 68,000 viewers in the demo on that day.

“The best the Tapper-fronted show has done came on March 26, when it pulled in 433,000 viewers and 113,000 among 25-54,” the story reports. “The show debuted with 400,000 viewers and 87,000 in the demo. But that’s cold comfort when Wednesday’s edition was well behind the 1.222 million viewers who watched Fox New Channel’s ‘Your World With Neil Cavuto’ in the same time slot; the FNC show pulled in 199,000 in thedemo. ‘The Lead’ was also behind MSNBC’s ‘Martin Bashir,’ which drew 383,000 viewers but doubled CNN with 124,000 in the key demo.

Through Wednesday, the new CNN show is off 32% in total viewers and 34% in 25-54 from the same period a year ago, when the slot was held down by the first hour of “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.” But “The Lead” has managed to improve on some of Blitzer’s recent numbers.

“In the 4-5 p.m. time slot, ‘Situation Room’ hit 56,000 in the demo on February 5, 54,000 on March 11 and a low of 53,000 on February 26,” the piece reports. “The latter was actually the lowest pull in the demo since November 23, 2007.”

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for jake-tapper.jpg

Jake Tapper

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'Cagney & Lacey' Star Joins CBS Comedy

One of the stars of the female-centric 1980s cop show "Cagney & Lacey" has been cast in a co-starring role in the new CBS comedy pilot "Jacked Up."

Deadline.com reports that Tyne Daly, who played working mom Mary Beth Lacey opposite Sharon Gless as single career woman Christine Cagney in the hit CBS procedural, will play opposite Patrick Warburton in “Jacked Up.”

“Also joining the Sony TV project, written by Greg Malins and directed by Fred Savage, is ‘The Artist‘s’ Missi Pyle,” Deadline reports. “’Jacked Up’ centers on Jack (Warburton), a beloved, recently retired baseball player who sets out to find a new purpose in life … starting with finding a wife with the help of his energetic and lovable best friend Barry (Rob Huebel).”

Daly, who is also known for her role on “Judging Amy,” will play Jack’s mother.

tyne-daly.jpgTyne Daly

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Paramount Plans Return to TV Business

Paramount is getting back into the television business, with studio chief Brad Grey, a former TV producer, seeking a way to shield the studio from the lagging film business, reports TheWrap.com.

The story reports: "Grey has begun meeting with candidates who could run the new TV studio, individuals close to the CEO told TheWrap, reviving a business that Paramount successfully ran for decades until the end of 2005 when Viacom and CBS were split into two distinct companies. Viacom kept Paramount's film business, and CBS inherited the TV production side."

The company, which was known for hits such as "Happy Days" and "Taxi," could take five years to build up a new TV studio, and would treat it as a start-up, the story says. The development comes as Paramount recently jumped into co-financing and co-producing a TV show based on its hit movie "Beverly Hills Cop," after Sony first developed it.

The piece adds: "As for who would run the division, Grey is looking for a creative executive rather than a seasoned administrator, according to individuals familiar with his thinking. That would likely rule out some of the highest-ranking people in the business who might not be up for the three- to five-year process of building a studio from scratch -- including Warner Bros.’ studio chief Bruce Rosenblum, who was recently passed over for the role of chairman and whose future plans are still unclear."

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'Once Upon a Time' Spinoff Gets Title and Lead Actress

The ABC spinoff of "Once Upon a Time" that will focus on Alice in Wonderland has received both a title and a lead actress, reports Deadline.com.

The project is now called "Once: Wonderland" and has cast Australian actress Sophie Lowe as the lead. The project is set in pre-curse Wonderland, with Alice as the main character, described as having a generous heart despite a hard life.

Production will start April 7 in Vancouver, after the season wrap of "Once Upon a Time," the story says.

Sophie-Lowe.jpgSophie Lowe

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'Jersey Shore' Star Cast in Soap Opera

One of the stars of the hit MTV reality show “Jersey Shore” is poised for a career resurgence as a soap opera star. TVGuide.com reports that "Jersey" alum Jenni "JWoww" Farley has been cast in the "One Life to Live" revival.

The soap opera ended its 43-year run on ABC in January 2012, but it is set to relaunch April 29 as a Web series from production company Prospect Park.

Farley has been cast in a recurring role as Nikki, "a bartender hired at the trendy nightclub Shelter, who can mix an Alabama Slammer as well as she can flirt with the customers," the story reports. "Club owner Blair Cramer (Kassie DePaiva) knows that it's best to keep an eye on Nikki, who is the nightclub's newest barmaid, so things don't get out of control."

The Online Network, which is distributing the soap along with a new version of "All My Children," will make the shows available for free on Hulu.com, Hulu Plus and iTunes.

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March Madness Continues to Beat Last Year's Numbers

Ratings for the 2013 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship -- “March Madness” -- continue to pace ahead of last year’s tournament, CBS Sports and Turner Sports announced.

Thursday’s regional semifinal games averaged a 7.3 rating/14 share, based on Nielsen overnights, up 4% from last year’s 7.0/12 for the equivalent round of action, the companies reported. Ratings rose even with three of the four games being decided by 10 points or more.

For the tournament to date, coverage across the four networks -- TBS, CBS, TNT and truTV -- is averaging a gross rating/share of 6.4/14, based on Nielsen overnights, up 5% from a 6.1/13 for the tournament to date in 2012.

Regional semifinal coverage continues tonight, March 29.

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'Heroes' Star Says Hollywood Still Won't Accept Asians in Lead Roles

Masi Oka, one of the former stars of NBC’s "Heroes," said he believes the entertainment industry still doesn't accept Asians as lead characters.

Oka told The Hollywood Reporter: “It’s changed in Hollywood, but only so much. You can’t get Asians cast in leads yet. Maybe as a second lead, but the lead is still going to be Caucasian or African-American. But Hollywood is fickle -- it follows trends. If a show or a film did well with an Asian lead, then it would take off.”

Oka, who was attending the 5th Okinawa International Movie Festival, is working on a collaboration between Japan's biggest talent agency, Yoshimoto Kogyo, and the Second City comedy troupe, the story says.

"I grew up bicultural, reading manga in America. I’m a product of that,” Oka said. “I want to act as a bridge between Japan and America.”

masi-oka.jpgMasi Oka

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FX Expansion Plans Include Suite of Three Channels, Ambitious Lineup of Original Programs

Expansion plans under way for FX Networks include not only the new cable channel FXX, which we reported Thursday, but also an ambitious slate of 25 original series, B&C reports.

The launch of FXX, set for Sept. 2, will create a suite of three cable channels with FX and FXM. FX Networks President John Landgraf, speaking at the company’s upfront presentation to advertisers Thursday, said programming on the three channels will be distinctively FX. "You know an FX original when you see it," Landgraf said.

The report adds: “As expected, FXX will aim at younger views in the 18 to 34 year-old demographic. Some of FX's current comedies, including ‘It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia,’ ‘The League’ and ‘Legit,’ and its late-night block will move to the new channel, but the plan is to develop original scripted drama for the network as well. The network will launch in more than 74 million homes, with many of those coming from the former Fox Soccer Channel.”

The focus for FXM will be on adults 25-54, while FX will aim at the 18-49 audience. Original miniseries and limited series are in the works, with much of that programming headed for FXM.

Lou LaTorre, president of ad sales for the Fox Cable Entertainment Group, said FX currently has the most reach of any cable entertainment channel. "We feel quite confident FX will continue to grow as FXX launches as a brand," he said. "We'll be in a very strong position heading into this upfront with these complementary brands."

B&C adds: “All of the networks will sit on a foundation of a large amount of acquired series and theatrical movies that FX has been acquiring in preparation for its expansion. Many of those movies will be available to create substantial VOD offerings for cable operators and will not be available to streaming VOD distributors such as Netflix or Amazon, bolstering the value of the current pay TV environment and discouraging cord cutting.”

A new brand campaign is in the works with the theme “Fearless,” which continues the emphasis on edgy adult fare that has identified FX for the past decade, since its success with “The Shield.”

FX has picked up new seasons of “Justified,” “Sons of Anarchy,” “It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” “The League” and “Legit,” the story reports. Expanding to five nights will be the late-night show “Totally Biased.”

The company also has projects in the pipeline from Ang Lee, the Coen brothers, Guillermo del Toro, Alexander Payne, Sam Mendes and Paul Giamatti, the report notes.

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Turmoil at 'Tonight' Hasn't Hurt Jay Leno's Ratings

Amid reports that NBC will replace Jay Leno with Jimmy Fallon at "The Tonight Show" when Leno’s contract expires, the show's ratings have reached a seven-week high, reports EW.com's Inside TV.

For the week of March 18-22 the show drew 3.52 million viewers, Leno's best week since Jan. 28-Feb. 1, and reached a four-week high with viewers 18 to 49, the story says.

The piece adds, "The ratings bump for the week of March 18-22 came as Leno began taking nightly jabs at his employers -- like referring to them as snakes -- as news hit that a succession plan was in the works to replace him with Jimmy Fallon."

NBC hasn't yet confirmed the plan for Fallon to take over, the story adds.

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Disney Channel Renews Comedy Series

Disney Channel announced that it is bringing back a comedy series for a third season. B&C reports that the cable channel renewed "Jessie," which stars Debby Ryan as a nanny for a wealthy New York family.

Last year, the show ranked as the No. 2 program with children 2-11 and kids 6-11 during its Friday time period. The show was created by Pamela Eelis O'Connell, who has worked on shows such as "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody" and "The Nanny."

 

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'Harry Potter' Actor Dies

A versatile actor best known for his performances in the “Harry Potter” movies has died. USA Today reports that veteran British stage, film and TV actor Richard Griffiths died Thursday at 65.

Griffiths died at University Hospital in Coventry, England, of complications from heart surgery.

Griffiths played Harry’s unsympathetic Uncle Vernon in the “Potter” movies. He was also known for his performance as flamboyant Uncle Monty in the 1980s cult classic “Withnail and I.”

Agent Simon Beresford called Griffiths, who appeared in dozens of movies and TV shows, "a remarkable man and one of our greatest and best-loved actors."

“A large man and a huge stage presence, Griffiths was one of Britain's leading theater actors, creating roles including the charismatic teacher Hector at the emotional heart of Alan Bennett's ‘The History Boys’ -- a part he took to Broadway, winning a Tony Award, and repeated for the film adaptation,” USA Today reports.

“Griffiths also played poet W.H. Auden in Bennett's ‘The Habit of Art,’ a hugely persuasive performance despite the lack of physical resemblance between the two men.”

Daniel Radcliffe, who starred as Harry Potter in the film series, said of Griffiths: "I was proud to say I knew him."

The report adds: “Known for his sense of humor, large store of theatrical anecdotes and occasional bursts of temper, Griffiths was renowned for shaming audience members whose cell phones rang during plays by stopping the performance and ordering the offender to leave.”

Richard-Griffiths.jpgRichard Griffiths

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Martin Scorsese Creating TV Series Adaptation of One of His Movies

Academy Award-winning director Martin Scorsese is partnering with Miramax to create a television series based on his 2002 movie “Gangs of New York.”

The movie, which starred Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz and Daniel Day-Lewis, spotlighted conflicts among rival gangs in New York in the mid- to late 1800s.

“The series will draw from the multitude of events surrounding organized gangs at the turn of the century and shortly thereafter in America, not only in New York, but in other cities such as Chicago and New Orleans and the birth of organized crime in America,” Miramax said in its announcement.

Scorsese said of the project: “This time and era of America’s history and heritage is rich with characters and stories that we could not fully explore in a two-hour film. A television series allows us the time and creative freedom to bring this colorful world, and all the implications it had and still does on our society, to life. I am excited to partner with Miramax in telling these stories.”

Richard Nanula, chairman of Miramax, added: “No one better exemplifies what the new Miramax is and will be better than Martin Scorsese. His dedication to quality and the art of storytelling continues to excite everyone that works with him and watches his films and television programs. We could not think of a better partner for this project than the creator of the wonderful film on which it is based.”

Scorsese won an Oscar for directing his 2006 movie "The Departed."

 

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Television Icon to Retire

A television personality who has been a fixture of prime time and daytime for decades is making retirement plans. According to The Hollywood Reporter, ABC News veteran Barbara Walters will retire in May 2014.

“Walters, 84, is expected to make the announcement herself,” the report notes. “She will stay on at ‘The View’ through next season, according to sources, to usher the show through an impending transition that will mark the exits of hosts Joy Behar and Elisabeth Hasselbeck.”

Walters has been in broadcasting for more than half a century, the piece notes. Her final year as an ABC News regular is expected to be filled with tributes to her long career.

“News of her retirement is not unexpected,” the story reports. “She suffered a health setback this year when she contracted chicken pox, which caused her to become faint and fall and cut her head at the home of the British ambassador in January. The episode sent her to the hospital and kept her off ‘The View’ for several weeks.”

Her retirement has been rumored for a while now. “A seemingly off-the-cuff remark during a 2011 interview with President Barack Obama that she planned to retire ‘next year’ sent media speculation into overdrive,” THR notes. “At the time, an ABC News spokesperson brushed off the news flash, saying, ‘Barbara has joked that she is retiring every year since the Clinton administration.’"

ABC News did not comment on the latest report.

Thumbnail image for barbara-walters.jpgBarbara Walters

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CNN Sets Lineup for New Morning Show

Just hours after a short list surfaced for the co-host’s spot alongside Chris Cuomo on CNN’s new morning show, as we reported earlier today, the network announced who got the job.

The co-host will be Kate Bolduan, who had emerged as a front-runner. Still, the Los Angeles Times reports that the selection was a surprise.

“As expected, former ABC News correspondent Chris Cuomo is to host,” the Times reports. “The surprise is who is joining him. His co-host is to be Kate Bolduan, a CNN congressional correspondent and a co-anchor of ‘The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.’ There had been speculation about Erin Burnett moving from evenings to mornings, but that switch proved to be [a] hard sell with her.

The name and launch date for the new show remain unknown, although the show is expected to launch later this spring.

“Joining the new show as its news anchor is Michaela Pereira, who is known to Los Angeles viewers from her hosting duties on KTLA's morning show,” the report adds.

The show is expected to fill the 6-9 a.m ET block or the 7-9 a.m. ET block.

“Overhauling the morning is a big priority for new CNN President Jeff Zucker, who first rose to prominence as an executive producer of NBC's ‘Today,’" the story reports. “Fox News Channel's ‘Fox and Friends’ and MSNBC's ‘Morning Joe’ both beat CNN in the mornings.

Said Zucker: “We believe there is an opening to do news in the morning with a fresh, new voice.”

The Times piece adds: “Behind the scenes, two veterans of ABC's ‘Good Morning America’ will run the show. Jim Murphy, a veteran broadcast news executive, has been tapped as CNN's senior executive producer with oversight over ... its entire morning lineup. Matt Frucci, who joined CNN last year as a program development executive and previously produced the weekend edition of ‘Good Morning America,’ will be the show's executive producer.”

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Kate Bolduan

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'American Idol' Sinks to Historic Ratings Low

Fox’s “American Idol” continues to produce lower ratings, sinking to an all-time low in the key 18-49 demo Wednesday night, based on Nielsen overnights.

TVbytheNumbers.com reports that the two-hour “Idol” slipped to a 3.1 average in adults 18-49, losing a half-point from a week earlier for the show’s lowest-ever Wednesday rating. That made “Idol” the second-highest-rated show of the night behind ABC’s “Modern Family.” Still, Fox scored an easy win for prime time overall.

Fox’s 3.1 average rating for prime time in viewers 18-49 placed the network well ahead of ABC (1.9 average), CBS (1.7) and NBC (1.5). Fox also won by a wide margin in total viewers, averaging 12.0 million to 7.3 million for CBS, 6.2 million for ABC and 5.5 million for NBC.

On ABC, “Modern Family’s” broadcast-best 3.2 average in 18-49 was a season low, and a drop of seven-tenths from its previous original. “The Neighbors” bounced back slightly from last week’s series low, ticking up one-tenth to a 1.5. “Suburgatory” rebounded four-tenths from last week’s series low to a 1.9, while “Nashville” dipped to a 1.5 for its return, down one-tenth from its previous original.

CBS ran mostly repeat programming, along with a fresh episode of “Survivor: Caramoan,” which pulled a 2.4 in the 18-49 demo, off two-tenths from last week.

NBC’s best number was for “Chicago Fire,” which won the 10 p.m. hour with a 1.8 in the 18-49 demo, inching up one-tenth from a week ago. “Law & Order: SVU” was also up one-tenth, to a 1.7, while back-to-back installments of “Whitney” settled for a 1.0 and a 1.1.

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Amanda Bynes Says She's Suing Media Sites

Former Nickelodeon star Amanda Bynes, who has been generating negative headlines for her raunchy tweets and other unusual behavior, as previously reported, is firing back at some of the outlets that have been reporting on her escapades.

E! Online reports that the actress took to Twitter to threaten lawsuits against a couple of media sites.

Bynes reportedly tweeted today: "I'm suing @usweekly & @perezhilton for continuing to act like I'm doing something wrong by tweeting and walking to photoshoots. F--k you!!!!"

The story reports: “While it's unclear exactly what specific stories she might be referring to, just yesterday, Us Weekly did post an article about the 26-year-old actress wandering the streets of Times Square with a shirt over her head while Perez Hilton hinted at the possibility of her being ‘mentally unstable.’"

The piece notes that Bynes appeared to get over it and soon moved on to other topics, tweeting: "Check my twitter for updates on my clothing and perfume line plux pix!"

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Demi Lovato Returning to 'X Factor'

Fox announced today that Demi Lovato will return as a judge for the upcoming season of “The X Factor.” Entertainment Weekly reports that the spots held last season by L.A. Reid and Britney Spears -- both of whom have said they’re not returning -- remain vacant.

“Lovato’s new deal will help maintain some continuity on the show, which will undergo more change before returning this fall,” the piece reports. “No word yet on who will replace Reid or Spears, and it’s unclear whether Khloe Kardashian will return as a co-host.”

In a statement, show creator and judge Simon Cowell said: “I couldn’t be happier that Demi wants to come back this year. She’s a superstar in her own right and was a fantastic mentor last year. Even though she can be really, really annoying -- I truly enjoyed working with her and so did the artists. I’m especially pleased she’s back even during her world tour!”

Said Lovato: “I am so excited to return as a judge and mentor on ‘The X Factor.’ Last season was an unbelievable experience and I really enjoyed developing personal relationships with the contestants and the panel. I look forward to taking my previous experience and applying it to make this season even better!”

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'Simpsons' Producer Dead at 48

A longtime producer and writer for the Fox animated hit “The Simpsons” has died. TheWrap.com reports that co-executive producer Don Payne died at 48 after a battle with cancer.

Payne, who earned four Emmys with "The Simpsons" after joining its writing staff in 1998, wrote 16 episodes of the series. One of them, "Fraudcast News," was awarded the 2005 Writers Guild Paul Selvin Award.

Payne also worked as a screenwriter, working on 2006's "My Super Ex-Girlfriend," 2007's "Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer" and 2011’s "Thor."

"Don was a wonderful writer and an even more wonderful man," said "Simpsons" showrunner Al Jean in a statement. "He was beloved in the 'Simpsons' community and his untimely passing is terrible news to us all. I know he is up with Thor now looking down at us and smiling.”

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Don Payne

 

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NBC 'Backup Plan' for 'Today' Show Reportedly in Play, With Lauer Out and New Names as Possible Replacements

An NBC “backup plan” has reportedly surfaced for the embattled “Today” show, with new names being floated as possible replacements for Matt Lauer.

The New York Post reports that NBC News Chairwoman Patricia Fili-Krushel is working on a "plan B" for the show, focused on lining up a replacement for Lauer in case he leaves before his $25 million contract ends in 2014.

While the network isn't said to be seeking an immediate replacement for Lauer, it wants to have a smoother transition than the painful exit of former co-host Ann Curry, the story says.

As previously reported, executives reached out to CNN anchor Anderson Cooper about possibly replacing Lauer on the show, which has suffered a loss of viewers and slipped to No. 2 in the morning daypart behind ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Other names are being floated as well, including internal hires such as Willie Geist, "Meet the Press" host David Gregory and "Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams.

Outside the network, executives are said to be considering rival Josh Elliott of "Good Morning America," Ryan Seacrest of "American Idol" and ESPN anchor Dan Patrick, the story says.

“ABC’s ‘GMA’ topped ‘Today’ for the first time in 16 years last April. NBC bosses booted Curry from the anchor chair, along with the executive who oversaw the show, Jim Bell, who was reassigned to Olympics coverage,” the Post reports. “Lauer’s nice-guy persona also has taken a beating. His lack of chemistry with Curry, coupled with her tearful on-air departure, has led to the widely held belief that he helped push her out.”

But NBC continues to downplay the likelihood of an early exit for Lauer. In a statement, Alex Wallace, the executive overseeing “Today,” said: “We are not considering replacing Matt Lauer. As we’ve said before, Matt is the best in the business. We want him in the ‘Today’ show anchor chair for many years to come.”

Sources confirmed that the network reached out to CNN’s Cooper, the report notes, with indications being that Cooper doesn’t want the “Today” job. The story notes: “Wallace first raised Cooper’s name in late 2011, when Lauer was weighing whether to renew his contract, a source said.”

 

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'Today' Weekend Anchor Comes out as Gay -- and Pregnant

The weekend anchor for NBC’s “Today” show revealed that she's gay and is pregnant with her first child. People magazine reports that Jenna Wolfe is expecting her first child with her partner, NBC News correspondent Stephanie Gosk.

"This is the most exciting thing that has ever happened to us,” Wolfe said. “But I don’t want to bring my daughter into a world where I’m not comfortable telling everyone who I am and who her mother is.”

The couple, who have been together for three years, decided that Wolfe would carry the baby, and have undergone artificial insemination with an anonymous donor, the story says.

The couple is also planning to get married, the story adds.

jenna-wolfe.jpgJenna Wolfe

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FX to Launch New Channel, Sending Some of Its Top Programs to a New Home

FX is launching a new sister cable channel, with the rollout set for this fall, the Los Angeles Times reports. The new channel from the News Corp.-owned cable network is dubbed FXX.

“To get the channel off to a strong start, FX will move its comedies ‘It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ and ‘The League’ to FXX, as well as its late-night show ‘Totally Biased With W. Kamu Bell,’ which will expand from a weekly to a nightly show,” the story reports. “FXX is scheduled to launch on Sept. 2. FX said it should be available in at least 70 million homes.”

The report adds: “By moving two of its established comedies to the new channel, FX is betting that it will have some leverage in negotiations for carriage with cable and satellite distributors and attract attention from Madison Avenue.”

FX did not provide details about how it expects to launch with such wide distribution. But News Corp. has reportedly been contemplating a conversion for Fox Soccer Channel into FXX.

“Besides the FX shows that will relocate to FXX, there are plans for two other original comedies in the first year and a total of six for the second year,” the Times report adds. “The channel will aim for adults 18-34. FX executives said it will not strictly be a comedy network.”

Said FX President John Landgraf, unveiling plans this morning for the new channel: “We are embarking on an incredibly ambitious ramp-up of program development and production required to sustain these networks.”

Executive VPs Nick Grad, Eric Schrier and Chuck Saftler are expected to join Landgraf as key players in the new venture.

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'Downton Abbey' Star Says She Regrets Topless Scene

Former "Downton Abbey" star Jessica Brown Findlay, who portrayed Lady Sybil Crawley on the hit historical drama, said she regrets appearing topless in earlier work, reports the Los Angeles Times' Show Tracker.

She appeared topless in the 2011 film "Albatross," before she became a star in "Downton Abbey."

"To be honest, 'Albatross' was naivete and not knowing that I could say no. I had no idea what was going to happen and thought I was going to be shot from behind. It's not something I would do again," she said.

Findlay, whose "Downton" character died in the show's most recent season, has moved on to other projects, including a starring role in the television miniseries "Labyrinth."

jessica-brown-findlay.jpgJessica Brown Findlay

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A&E Show's Renewal Held Up by Salary Situation

The stars of a quirky A&E series are upping the ante for the surprise hit with demands for more money. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the "Duck Dynasty" stars want more than $200,000 an episode for the fourth season.

The members of the Robertson family, which includes brothers Phil and Si and Phil's sons, are working together to renegotiate their existing contracts, the story says. Along with the $200,000 demand for the fourth season, they are seeking raises for subsequent seasons, according to the report.

For now, the salary situation is holding up renewal for the show. A&E declined comment, but a resolution is likely given that the show is a huge hit for the network. The third season debuted in February with 8.6 million viewers and a 3.9 rating among viewers 18 to 49.

“In the key demo, ‘Duck Dynasty’ is second only to AMC's ‘The Walking Dead’ on all of cable and tops all broadcast offerings in its 10 p.m. Wednesday slot,” the piece notes.

 

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Legendary Baseball Broadcaster Retiring After 34 Years

One of the fixtures of TV baseball has announced his plan to retire after 34 years in the broadcast booth and an 18-season run in his current job. USA Today reports that Fox lead analyst Tim McCarver will step down after this season.

McCarver is starting his 18th season with game announcer Joe Buck on Fox. McCarver said he informed Fox of his decision last month.

McCarver is quotes as saying he's "not tired of the game," but he adds: "It's time to cut back."

"’I want to take cooking classes in Italy,’ said McCarver, who spoke on a conference call from his home in Napa, Calif. ‘And I love to read, although I know reading gets old after a while,’" the story reports.

Buck, also on the call, joked: "How about painting?" To which McCarver said: "I'm not a painter."

McCarver added: "I wanted to step down while I could still do the job. It's not a tough call, it's not a sad thing for me. ... But I'm going to miss Joe Buck a lot."

The report notes: “After 34 years in TV broadcast booths, McCarver isn't sure if he wants or will be offered a role on the upcoming Fox Sports 1 cable channel. ‘There's no plan in place right now. I just don't know,’ he said. ‘I don't want to speculate.’

“Fox has left open the possibility of using McCarver on the new channel, which debuts Aug. 17. ‘We'll continue to do what we can to fit in his schedule,’ says Fox Sports co-president Eric Shanks, who added he has a ‘man crush’ on McCarver.”

McCarver moved into the broadcast booth after a career in the major leagues, playing from 1959 to 1980. Most of his career was spent as a catcher, mainly with the St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies.

tim-mccarver.jpgTim McCarver

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Report: CNN Has Its Short List of Potential Morning Anchors

CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker is getting closer to picking a co-anchor for the network's newly made-over morning show, reports TVNewser.

One of the top names on the short list is Kate Bolduan, the network's congressional correspondent. She has recently been anchoring with Wolf Blitzer on "The Situation Room."

Bolduan started at CNN in 2007 as a correspondent for CNN Newsource, after working as a reporter for WTVD-TV in Raleigh, N.C.

Another name in the running is Christi Paul, who has been an anchor at HLN for 10 years, the piece adds.

“One of Zucker’s first moves as CNN Worldwide president was to do away with the 14-month-old ‘Starting Point’ anchored by Soledad O’Brien,” the report notes. “Chris Cuomo departed ABC News in January to anchor the new CNN morning show.”

Veteran Jim Murphy will executive produce the new morning show.

kate-bolduan.jpgKate Bolduan

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Fox News Names Co-Host for 'Fox & Friends' Weekend Editions

Fox News is moving one of its contributors into a co-hosting spot on the weekend installments of “Fox & Friends.” The New York Times' Media Decoder reports that the channel promoted Tucker Carlson to co-host the shows.

Carlson, who will start in his new job April 6, has served as a paid contributor to Fox for four years and is known for founding the conservative site The Daily Caller, the story says. He has also stepped in to host "Fox & Friends Weekend" as needed during the past year.

He replaces Dave Briggs, who left for NBC Sports in December.

In a statement, Fox News Executive VP Bill Shine said: “We’ve been impressed with Tucker’s lively and thought-provoking appearances on our air and are pleased that he is joining the ‘Fox & Friends Weekend’ team where his vibrant personality will be a great addition to the show.”

 

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Emmy-Winning Writer, Former President of AMPAS, Dead at 95

An award-winning screenwriter, playwright and producer who served as president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and as vice president of the Writers Guild of America, West, has died. Fay Kanin, 95, died Wednesday at her home in Santa Monica, Calif.

The New York native served as president of AMPAS from 1979-1983. She won Emmys in the 1970s for her work on “Tell Me Where It Hurts” (best writing in drama -- original teleplay, and writer of the year -- special, both 1974) and “Friendly Fire” (outstanding drama/comedy special, 1978).

Kanin won numerous other industry awards as well, including being honored by the Writers Guild of America and the Women in Film Crystal Awards.

In a statement announcing Kanin’s death, the WGA, West, reported: “Industry icon Kanin sustained a remarkable, trail-blazing career that spanned stage, screen, and television over several decades, leaving an indelible impression in entertainment and popular culture.

“Kanin launched her screenwriting career in 1942 with the classic comedy ‘Sunday Punch,’ co-written with her longtime writing partner and husband, the late Michael Kanin, and Allen Rivkin. Fay and Michael Kanin soon emerged as part of one of the most successful wife-husband screenwriting teams in Hollywood, co-writing a string of screenplays for films such as ‘My Pal Gus’ (1952), ‘Rhapsody’ (1954, Screenplay by Fay Kanin and Michael Kanin and Ruth Goetz and Augustus Goetz, Based on the Novel ‘Maurice Guest’ by Henry Handel Richardson), ‘The Opposite of Sex’ (1956, adapted from the play ‘The Women’ by Clare Booth), and the classic romantic comedy ‘Teacher’s Pet’ (1958).

“Her additional screenwriting credits include ‘The Right Approach’ (1961, Screenplay by Fay Kanin and Michael Kanin) and ‘The Swordsman of Siena’ (1962, Screenplay by Fay Kanin & Michael Kanin and Alec Coppel, Based on a Story by Anthony Marshall), and ‘Blondie for Victory’ (1942, Screenplay by Karen De Wolf & Connie Lee Bennett, Screen Story by Fay Kanin).”

Kanin made the move to television later in her career. In addition to the Emmy-winning 1974 telefilm “Tell Me Where It Hurts” and 1979’s “Friendly Fire,” her work on TV included “Hustling” (1975).

“In 1980, she partnered with Lillian Gallo to form her own production company Kanin-Gallo, yielding TV movies such as ‘Letting Go’ and ‘Fun and Games,’ which received the National Commission of Working Women Broadcast Award. She also penned and co-produced ‘Heartsounds’ (1984), based on the book by Martha Weiman Lear,” the WGA, West, announcement notes.

fay-kanin.jpgFay Kanin

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White House Tradition Marks 100th Anniversary

A century ago this month, President Woodrow Wilson started a White House ritual that has since become a trademark of national politics. Marking its 100th anniversary is the White House press conference, where the commander-in-chief answers questions from journalists, reports Politico.

"All 16 of his successors have followed the tradition Wilson established, though the frequency and content of presidential press conferences have varied over the 100-year span. But for each of those presidents, press conferences have been an important instrument of leadership," the story reports.

The piece continues: "Rather than small-talk sessions as some presidents prior to Wilson occasionally held with selected journalists, Wilson began the tradition of equal-access sessions in which reporters in Washington could come to pose questions. Eleven days after his March 4 Inauguration and at the suggestion of his senior staff member, Joseph Tumulty, Wilson met with reporters in his West Wing office. Wilson greeted them warmly but was not prepared to answer questions. A week later on March 22 in an East Room session, Wilson began the equal-access sessions we know today as presidential press conferences. During his first two years alone, he held 132 of them before he seemed to lose interest."

Wilson realized that he needed to get information to the public to gain support for his goals, the story says.

Wilson commented on the practice, saying: "I feel that a large part of the success of public affairs depends on the newspapermen -- not so much on the editorial writers, because we can live down what they say, as upon the news writers, because the news is the atmosphere of public affairs. Unless you get the right setting to affairs -- disperse the right impression -- things go wrong.”

woodrow-wilson.jpgWoodrow Wilson

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What Will CBS Do With TV Guide Network?

With CBS buying a stake in TVGN -- formerly called the TV Guide Network -- the cable network is poised to become completely focused on celebrity gossip, style and red-carpet events, reports Advertising Age.

The article notes: "CBS Corp. and co-owner Lionsgate said this week that they will introduce a new brand and programming strategy for the channel, until recently called the TV Guide Network, but that it will continue its current focus on entertainment. But the assets and ambitions of each owner suggest noticeable changes are in store."

Originally a TV listing service, the network is already leaning toward celebrity focus with shows such as "Hollywood 411," but the new ownership team could expand that with shows from CBS's syndicated portfolio, such as "Entertainment Tonight" and "OMG Insider."

Ad Age notes: "That would make TVGN a more direct competitor to channels such as E! and Style Network, both of which are owned by NBCUniversal."

 

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CBS Renews the Bulk of Its Prime-Time Lineup, All at Once -- So Why Did a Few Shows Fail to Make the List?

CBS has announced renewals for much of its prime-time lineup, including dramas, comedies and unscripted shows. Deadline.com reports that the bulk renewal keeps up the network’s tradition of renewing much of its programming in “one fell swoop.”

Deadline reports: “Demonstrating its signature stability, the network has picked up most of its current series for next season, with two major exceptions, veteran ‘Criminal Minds,’ which is in the midst of renegotiations with the cast, and freshman ‘Vegas,’ which will get a tryout on Friday later this spring.”

The report adds: “Renewed for next season are freshman drama ‘Elementary,’ critical darling ‘The Good Wife,’ comedies ‘2 Broke Girls’ and ‘Mike & Molly’ as well as drama procedurals ‘NCIS: LA,’ ‘Person Of Interest,’ ‘The Mentalist,’ ‘Hawaii Five-0’ and ‘Blue Bloods.’ The nine join previously renewed ‘The Big Bang Theory’ (part of a three-year pickup), ‘How I Met Your Mother’ for a final season, and veterans ‘NCIS’ and ‘CSI,’ picked up when their stars Mark Harmon and Ted Danson, respectively, re-upped their contracts.”

Negotiations continue between the network and Warner Bros. Television over a possible renewal for “Two and a Half Men,” the piece notes.

“Also picked up for next season are unscripted series ‘The Amazing Race,’ ‘Survivor’ and ‘Undercover Boss’ and newsmagazines ‘60 Minutes’ and ‘48 Hours,’” the report adds.

“Rules of Engagement” was not on the renewal list. “With the series recently hitting the 100 episode mark, the deals for the main cast up and most of them off to do pilots, it seems highly unlikely that ‘Rules’ would continue,” the piece notes.

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Netflix Orders Sci-Fi Series From 'Babylon 5' Creator, 'Matrix' Directors

Netflix is moving into outer space, and it has rounded up some high-octane talent to help get it there. Entertainment Weekly reports that the online streaming company placed an order for a 10-episode first season of a sci-fi thriller, “Sense8.”

The series comes from the Wachowskis -- Lana and Andy -- writers and directors of the “Matrix” film franchise, and “Babylon 5” creator and showrunner J. Michael Straczynski.

The series, described as “a gripping global tale of minds linked and souls hunted,” is scheduled to premiere in late 2014.

In a statement, the Wachowskis said the project grew out of a late-night conversation they had years ago about how technology can be great but also terrible. “Out of that paradox ‘Sense8’ was born,” they said.

EW adds: “The show joins the buzzy slate of programming that will fill out the rest of Netflix’s year, including Jenji Kohan’s ‘Orange Is the New Black,’ the trip-trip-trippy ‘Hemlock Grove,’ and (didn’t you hear?) ‘Arrested Development.’ It looks like Straczynski will oversee the day-to-day (his Studio JMS is a partner alongside Georgeville Television) while the Wachowskis deposit their constellation of ideas while working on Warner Bros.’ ‘Jupiter Ascending.’”

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With NBC's 'The Voice' in the Mix, ABC's 'Splash' Plunges

The second night of NBC’s new season of the singing competition “The Voice” was well off the pace from the premiere one night earlier, based on Nielsen overnights, but “The Voice” was still enough of a presence to shake things up on the other broadcast networks.

One of the casualties appears to be ABC’s “Splash.” TVbytheNumbers.com reports that the celebrity diving competition mustered only a 1.6 average rating in the key 18-49 demo, down a full ratings point from last week and only good enough for fourth place in the 8 p.m. hour.

“The Voice” won the hour with a 3.9 in viewers 18-49, down eight-tenths from Monday’s premiere, but off only one-tenth from the show’s Tuesday premiere last fall. “The Voice” was the top show of the night in the demo.

CBS’s “NCIS” was second at 8 p.m. with a 3.1, and Fox’s “Hell’s Kitchen” delivered a 1.9 to finish third at 8 p.m.

NBC’s “Go On” appeared to benefit from having “The Voice” as a lead-in, surging from last week’s series-low 1.0 average in 18-49 to a 2.1. “Go On” had a 2.4 last time it led out from “The Voice.”

NBC’s other shows also rode the rising tide. “The New Normal” was up seven-tenths to a 1.4 and “Smash” had a bump of three-tenths to a 1.0 after last week’s all-time low in viewers 18-49.

CBS won the night with a 2.4 average for prime time in the 18-49 demo, followed by NBC (2.2 average), Fox (1.9) and ABC (1.9). CBS also won total viewers, averaging 13.5 million to lead ABC (9.8 million), NBC (6.6 million) and Fox (4.1 million).

ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” had a solid performance, rising two-tenths from last week’s special “DWTS” program in the time period for a 2.3 average in 18-49. Leading out from “Dancing,” “Body of Proof” hit a season high with a 1.7, up two-tenths from a week ago.

Fox’s “New Girl” was down one-tenth from the previous week to a 2.2 in adults 18-49, while “The Mindy Project” fell two-tenths to a 1.5.

CBS’s “NCIS: Los Angeles” dipped three-tenths from last week to a 2.6 in the 18-49 demo, and “Golden Boy” lost three-tenths to a 1.4.

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Report: NBC Prevented 'Today's' Ann Curry From Sending Well Wishes to Robin Roberts

In another embarrassing incident to see the light of day from behind the scenes of NBC’s troubled “Today” show, New York Magazine reports that the network refused to allow “Today’s” Ann Curry, who was on the way out at the time, to send well wishes to Robin Roberts of “Today” rival “Good Morning America” after word surfaced of Roberts’ latest health problem.

Curry was “gone but not gone, which created a situation of spectacular awkwardness,” the magazine reports. “Any trust that had existed between Curry and ‘Today’ was shattered. When Robin Roberts left ‘Good Morning America’ a month later to get treatment for MDS, Curry asked NBC if she could tweet a note of sympathy for the ABC co-host. NBC said no, afraid she was trying to aid the enemy.”

As has been widely covered, NBC and ABC were closely monitoring the heated ratings battle between “Today” and “GMA,” in which the advantage shifted to the ABC show last year after a long run for “Today” at No. 1.

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MSNBC's New Prime-Time Show Gets a Name and a Launch Date

MSNBC has announced the name and launch date for its new prime-time show. TVNewser reports that the cable network will roll out “All In” on Monday, April 1.

The show will be built around Chris Hayes, who takes over the 8 p.m. ET slot previously held down by Ed Schultz.

Schultz is moving over to lead MSNBC’s revamped weekend programming, as previously reported.

“All In with Chris Hayes” will be executive produced by Denis Horgan.

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Salary Dispute Takes Down Syndicated Show After 15 Seasons

A salary dispute has brought an end to a popular syndicated program that has been on the air for 15 years. After negotiations for a new deal broke down, "Judge Joe Brown," the second-highest-rated court show in syndication, has been canceled by CBS Television Distribution, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The show had seen ratings dip, and the negotiations broke down over Brown's salary, the story notes. He had reportedly been making $20 million a year, and CBS Television Distribution wanted to pare that down because of the ratings slump.

"Judge Brown" scored a 2.5 household rating in the February sweeps, representing a 17% decline from a year earlier. All of the court shows have experienced declines this season except for "Judge Judy," the top court program.

Brown is reportedly looking for other outlets to keep the show alive, and has met with Byron Allen of Entertainment Studios about continuing with the program. Allen's company has court shows including "America's Court with Judge Ross."

It's unlikely that Allen could pay as much as CBS TV Distribution, the story notes.

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What's Behind NBC's Plan to Move 'Tonight Show' to New York -- and Why California Won't Fight It

The head of California's film commission said it won't fight NBC's decision to move "The Tonight Show" to New York in 2014, when Jimmy Fallon is slated to take over, reports the New York Post.

NBC will be able to receive a 30% tax credit through 2019 by moving the show back to New York, which is a credit that California can't match, the story says. The state's incentive program is targeted toward scripted dramas, the piece adds.

"There is certainly no pending legislation that would affect this type of production,” California Film Commission Executive Director Amy Lemisch said. “This situation is unique.”

The move will probably mean the loss of 100 jobs on the West Coast, according to the Post.

“The move is the latest blow to the L.A. entertainment scene,” the Post reports. “Just yesterday, MTV announced plans to bring the 2013 Video Music Awards to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center in August.”

But NBC’s interest in returning “Tonight” to the New York area -- where the show taped until 1972 -- isn’t necessarily about money.

The Post quotes Kevin Klowden, director of the California Center at the Milken Institute, saying: “It is being done because Jimmy Fallon convinced NBC that his show has to be done in New York. With a comedy or variety show, you need a significant writing staff. Jimmy Fallon is in New York and probably most of the writers he wants to use are in New York.”

The piece notes that the higher cost of living in New York offsets the tax incentives, meaning it is probably not much cheaper to produce the show in New York.

Meanwhile, Dave Golonski, the mayor of Burbank, where “Tonight” currently tapes, said he will continue to lobby NBC to reconsider the move. “We are going to work as hard as we can to let NBC know how much we appreciate having the ‘Tonight Show’ here,” said Golonski.

 

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Former CNN Anchor Has Unkind Words for the Cable Network

A former CNN anchor, appearing before an audience at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, had a few less-than-kind words for his former network.

The New York Post reports that John King, whose 6 p.m. show “John King, USA” was scrapped by CNN last June, said in effect that there’s no point in watching the cable news channel in the morning anymore.

Said King: “If you watch CNN, I’m not picking on anybody, but if you watch CNN -- 9 o’clock in the morning, 10, 11, 12 o’clock -- it’s the same. It’s a single anchor, sitting in a chair, reading headlines that none of you have to turn on your TV to get -- because you can get them here.” King then held up a pair of cellphones, the story reports.

King previously appeared on CNN’s Sunday talk show “State of the Union,” now anchored by Candy Crowley.

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John King

 

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Report: NBC Approached Anderson Cooper to Replace Matt Lauer -- and It Didn't Sit Well With Lauer

NBC executives reached out to CNN anchor Anderson Cooper about replacing Matt Lauer on the embattled "Today" show before the year is out, reports Nellie Andreeva at Deadline.com.

But when NBC execs sought to get Lauer's blessing, they got "pushback" from the longtime "Today" co-host, who then contacted Cooper "to express his disapproval," the story says.

"I also hear that call caught Cooper by surprise, as he had assumed Lauer had been brought on board before NBC began making overtures,” Andreeva writes. “Cooper has been one of the leading faces at CNN, though I hear his contract has an out, and he previously was able to do his syndicated daytime talk show in addition to his CNN program.”

Lauer's tenure has been rumored to be coming to an end, given the “Today” show's declining ratings and Lauer’s loss of favor among viewers who blame him for the ouster of former co-anchor Ann Curry.

 

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Former Head of ABC Takes Production Deal at Fox

Fox Broadcasting has given a production deal to the former president of ABC. Deadline.com reports that the network signed a deal with Stephen McPherson after the former network boss was out of the spotlight for more than two years.

The deal was brought about by Fox Chairman Kevin Reilly, a friend of McPherson's, the story says. The pair started out in TV together, with both working at NBC under Warren Littlefield, and McPherson defended Reilly when he was ousted by NBC in 2007, the piece notes.

Since leaving ABC in 2010, McPherson has focused on his wine business. He's credited with some hits at the network, including "Modern Family," but the article notes that he has also been a "polarizing figure," which had many questioning whether he would return to TV.

The report adds: “McPherson’s name first surfaced in 2011 as a candidate to head the relaunched Regency Television. He met with several TV studios for a pod deal last fall and entered negotiations with Fox sibling 20th Century Fox TV but that deal, which was to be in conjunction with the network, ultimately didn’t pan out.”

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'Dancing With the Stars' Contestant Leaves the Show

Olympic figure skater Dorothy Hamill has left ABC's "Dancing with the Stars." Yahoo TV reports that the 56-year-old voluntarily left the show in response to doctor's orders because of a cyst on her spine.

Hamill had the potential to become the show's oldest winner, but the cyst caused her to hobble because it pinched a nerve. The dance rehearsals exacerbated the problem, the story adds.

"I'm taking the advice of my spine surgeon and I need to withdraw from the competition. I have an injury that could be irreparable -- a nerve damage -- and it would be completely unfair for me to stay in this and have any of these people go home," Hamill said Tuesday night.

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CBS News to Debut Prime-Time Documentary Series

A new prime-time documentary series is in the works for the CBS network. CBS News is helping to program some of the network's summer prime-time schedule with the new show, "Brooklyn DA," reports TVNewser.com.

The six-part series will debut Tuesday, May 21, at 10 p.m. and will track the staff at the Kings County District Attorney’s Office, which is in Brooklyn. The show is produced by the team behind "48 Hours," the story says.

“No matter where you go, everyone has heard about Brooklyn,” said senior executive producer Susan Zirinsky in a statement. “What makes this series so unique is getting into the lives and personalities of the individual DAs, led by Charles ‘Joe’ Hynes, who reflect the vibrancy and diversity of Brooklyn. We are allowed to watch their successes and their failures -- it’s immediate, compelling and often heartbreaking.”

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Syfy Renews Drama Series

The cable channel Syfy has ordered another season of a drama series. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Syfy ordered 13 episodes for a second season of “Continuum.”

The Canadian time-traveling series is about a female police officer from the future who's trapped in today's Vancouver. The first season averaged 1.35 million viewers on Monday nights.

The second season will air starting June 7 on Syfy, the story notes. The series airs in Canada on Showcase.

 

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ABC Going Ahead With Amanda Knox Sitdown

Despite an Italian court ruling that overturned her acquittal, reported earlier this week, Amanda Knox is still set for a sitdown with ABC's Diane Sawyer on April 30, coinciding with the release of her memoir, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

HarperCollins said the book, "Waiting to Be Heard," will still be published at the end of April and that Knox will "move forward with the interviews that we have scheduled," according to a spokeswoman.

Her first broadcast interview, with Sawyer, hasn't yet been recorded, according to an ABC representative.

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Who's Writing for TV? Few Older People, Women or Minorities

The majority of television writers are young, white and male, according to a study commissioned by the Writers Guild of America, reports EW.com's Inside TV.

From 1999 to 2012, the share of women writing for TV rose by only 5 percentage points, with only 30.5% of writers being women, the story says.

"At that rate, the study said, it would take another 42 years before women reach proportionate representation to men in the writers rooms," the piece reports.

Minority writers increased to 15.6% from 7.5% during the same period, and almost one-third of shows had no writers over 50 years old, the story says.

"From concept to characters, from plot to narrative, writers play a fundamental role in the fashioning of stories a society circulates about itself. But in the Hollywood entertainment industry, unfortunately, there has all too often existed a disconnect between the writers hired to tell the stories and an America that’s increasingly diverse with each passing day," said Dr. Darnell Hunt, author of the report and director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African-American Studies at UCLA and professor of sociology, in a statement.

The study looked at 1,722 writers working on 190 broadcast and cable shows during the 2011-12 season.

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Report: CNN Has Bigger Plans for Its New Year's Eve 'Odd Couple'

CNN appears to have bigger things in mind for a pair of TV personalities whose awkward chemistry on New Year’s Eve has created memorable moments for the channel.

Deadline.com reports that the cable channel taped a pilot this week with Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin, which has the potential to make their New Year's Eve specials a regular program.

While details weren’t known, the pilot was said to be taped in front of a live audience and included a lot of humor, the story says. It also included new CNN chief Jeff Zucker.

"While it is unclear whether the project is definitely for CNN, Zucker has been looking to shake things up at the ratings-challenged cable news network by adding more mainstream entertainment fare. The annual New Year’s Eve pairing of Cooper and Griffin draws solid ratings and generates a lot of headlines with racy moments like Griffin getting up close and personal with Cooper’s private parts this year," the piece notes.

Griffin remains a fixture on Bravo with her Emmy-winning series “My Life on the D-List.”

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Study Links Excessive TV Watching to Antisocial Behavior in Kids

Watching too much television may lead to antisocial behavior in kids, such as bullying, fighting and stealing. Citing a study by British researchers, CBS News reports that kids who watched more than three hours of television a day were more likely to develop those behaviors.

The study looked at 11,000 kids born between 2000 and 2002. It found that almost two-thirds of the children watched TV for one to three hours a day. About 15% watched more than three hours per day. Less than 2% watched no television.

The article notes that after "ruling out other factors like family characteristics, the researchers discovered that watching more than three hours of TV per day was associated with a small but statistically significant increase in risk for antisocial behavior and conduct problems."

"It is a very, very small effect we found," study author Dr. Alison Parkes said. "It could be the tip of the iceberg and if we knew what they were watching, we might find more of an effect."

The link between the antisocial behavior and TV watching time might be indirect, the study's authors said, and could be related to inactivity, sleeping problems or impaired development linked to too much screen time, the story notes.

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'The Voice' Propels NBC to Big Ratings Win

NBC got some good ratings news Monday night as the season premiere of “The Voice” pushed the Peacock Network to a nightly win, based on Nielsen overnights.

TVbytheNumbers.com reports that the two-hour opener for “The Voice” averaged a 4.7 rating in the key 18-49 demo -- up from a 4.2 for last fall’s premiere but well below the 6.7 delivered by the opener last spring. Leading out from “The Voice,” “Revolution” settled for a 2.7, off two-tenths of a point from the previous original episode, which aired back in November.

NBC capitalized with a comfortable win for prime time overall, with its average rating of 4.0 in viewers 18-49 placing it well ahead of CBS (2.4 average), ABC (2.2) and Fox (2.1). ABC did take the win in total viewers with 12.9 million, topping NBC (11.3 million), CBS (7.8 million) and Fox (6.7 million).

Airing opposite “The Voice,” ABC’s two-hour “Dancing with the Stars” took a hit, averaging a 2.3 rating in 18-49, down nine-tenths from last week. “Castle” was also down, slipping one-tenth to a 2.1.

Fox saw “The Following” sink to a series low, losing two-tenths from last week for a 2.3 in the 18-49 demo. “Bones” lost two-tenths as well, settling for a 1.9.

CBS had a couple of unwelcome milestones -- a season-low 2.7 in viewers 18-49 for “How I Met Your Mother” (down three-tenths from a week ago) and a season-low 2.1 for “Rules of Engagement” (down two-tenths). “Hawaii Five-0” was also down, off one-tenth to a 2.0, while both “2 Broke Girls” (2.9 average, up one-tenth) and “Mike & Molly” (2.6, up two-tenths) improved.

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'Pretty Little Liars' Spinoff in the Works

ABC Family rolled out plans for a spinoff series to “Pretty Little Liars.” The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports that the cable channel is moving ahead with plans for “Ravenswood,” from “Liars” exec producer Marlene King, set for an October premiere.

ABC Family also ordered season five of “Pretty Little Liars,” with production on season four just under way.

“’Ravenswood’ centers on a town not far from Rosewood, Penn., which has suffered under a deadly curse for generations,” THR reports. “Five strangers find themselves connected by this fatal curse and need to dig into the town's mysterious and terrible history before it's too late for each of them. The series will follow this year's ‘Pretty Little Liars’ Halloween episode.”

Executive producers on “Ravenswood” are King, Oliver Goldstick, Joseph Dougherty and Leslie Morgenstein, the report notes.

THR adds: “The news comes after the ‘Pretty Little Liars’ season three finale on March 19 dominated social media, and averaged just under 3 million viewers to the premiere telecast. The season closer was the first time a TV series amassed more than 1 million tweets during the broadcast, accounting for one-third of Twitter activity.”

Said ABC Family President Michael Riley: “’Pretty Little Liars’ is brand-defining and demo-defining for ABC Family. We are proud to be able to grow the ‘PLL’ franchise in two ways -- both by adding additional seasons of the original and by extending the storytelling into a spinoff. ‘Ravenswood’ will become another ‘must-tweet-TV’ series for us.”

 

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CBS Acquires Share of Basic Cable Network

CBS Corp. has announced it’s acquiring a share of a basic cable network. Deadline.com reports that the company revealed it is acquiring 50% of TV Guide, which puts it in a 50/50 partnership with Lionsgate.

TV Guide consists of TVGN -- formerly TV Guide Network -- and the website TVGuide.com.

“The deal adds a basic cable network to its TV portfolio, which includes broadcast networks (CBS and the CW), a pay cable network (Showtime), international TV channels, a TV studio and syndication unit,” Deadline reports.

CBS is taking over the stake in TV Guide that has been held by One Equity Partners -- the private equity arm of J.P. Morgan Chase, the piece reports. One Equity owned 49% of the company and had an option to add another 1%.

“CBS is said to be paying about $100 million, less than the $122 million OEP spent in June 2009,” the story reports. “CBS joins TVGN co-owner Lionsgate Entertainment.”

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Video: Letterman Reveals Why Director Was Banned From 'Late Show'

Actor James Franco, appearing Monday on David Letterman’s show to promote the new movie “Spring Breakers,” got into a conversation with the host about why the movie’s director, Harmony Korine, was banned years ago from “Late Show with David Letterman.”

Franco had heard it was because Korine shoved Meryl Streep backstage. Letterman agreed that the incident involved the Oscar-winning actress, but he had a different version of events.

Here it is:

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Robin Roberts to Be Honored

“Good Morning America” host Robin Roberts, whose health struggles made headlines in recent months, is set to be honored with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2013 ESPYs, ESPN announced. The ceremony will take place July 17 in Los Angeles.

Past recipients of the award, which goes to individuals whose contributions go beyond sports, include Jim Valvano, Muhammad Ali, Dean Smith, Billie Jean King and Pat Summitt.

Roberts has a background in sports, including four seasons as a player on the Southeastern Louisiana University women's basketball team, ranking among the team's leaders for points scored, rebounds, field goals made and games played.

“One of the first female sports anchors on ESPN in the '90s, Roberts has worked with ABC's ‘Good Morning America’ for the past two decades, blazing a trail for women in broadcasting,” ESPN announced. “Her personal journey also served as inspiration because she overcame life-threatening illnesses twice. The 2013 ESPYs will recognize the strength and courage Roberts has displayed throughout her life and career.”

Roberts was inducted into the Women's Institute on Sport and Education's Hall of Fame in 1994 and entered the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012.

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Robin Roberts

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MTV's Video Music Awards Switch Coasts

MTV announced a change of coasts for its annual Video Music Awards ceremony. Reuters reports that the event is headed to Brooklyn, N.Y., after two years in Los Angeles.

“The Video Music Awards will be the first major annual awards show to take place in the New York borough, which has seen its cultural profile rise over the past decade as a fashionable spot for young musicians and filmmakers,” the story reports.

In a statement, MTV President Stephen Friedman said: "From a vibrant musical scene for up and coming artists to epic concerts by today's biggest stars and the triumphant return of pro sports to the borough after nearly 60 years, Brooklyn has re-emerged as a cultural capital where music, sports and entertainment history is made every day.”

The event is set for Aug. 25, when it will be televised live from the Barclays Center. No host has been announced.

The report notes: “The Video Music Awards began in 1984 and helped propel the young cable channel as a player in the entertainment industry. The annual awards ceremony is known for unscripted moments, such as in 2009 when rapper Kanye West crashed country-pop singer Taylor Swift's acceptance speech for Best Female Video to proclaim that singer Beyonce was more deserving of the trophy.”

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History Channel No. 1 on All of TV From 8-10 p.m. Sunday Night

The History channel continued its remarkable roll over the weekend. History touted itself as the No. 1 channel on all of television Sunday from 8-10 p.m. after its miniseries “The Bible” delivered another huge audience.

The telecast, the fourth in the series, had 10.3 million total viewers, History announced, including 3.9 million adults 25-54 and 3.4 million adults 18-49. The miniseries concludes Easter Sunday, March 31.

History’s ascent from a little-watched documentary channel focused largely on World War II -- a focus that earned History the nickname “The Hitler Channel” -- has been one of the biggest success stories in television of the past several years. History flexed its muscles in the ratings in May 2012 with the three-part miniseries “Hatfields & McCoys,” which delivered some of the biggest audiences ever in ad-supported cable -- culminating in a reported viewer total of 14.29 million for its final night.

History’s current success with “The Bible” has been complemented by a strong showing for the channel’s first scripted series, “Vikings.” Sunday’s installment of “Vikings,” which the channel reports is the No. 1 new cable series of 2013, delivered 4.5 million total viewers, with 2.1 million adults 25-54 and 1.8 million adults 18-49, the channel reported.

History has reportedly been the No. 1 cable channel in the Sunday 10-11 p.m. hour since the launch of “Vikings.”

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History's "Vikings"

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Actress Known as 'First Lady of Daytime Television' Dies at 90

The veteran actress known as the "First Lady of Daytime Television" has died, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Lori March Scourby, 90, died in her sleep March 19, the story reports.

Scourby was known for her work on soap operas including "One Life to Live," "Search for Tomorrow" and "The Secret Storm."

On CBS's "The Secret Storm," she played Valerie Hill Ames Northcoate from 1964 to 1974. She also starred in an episode of "The Twilight Zone" called "Third From the Sun," playing the wife of Fritz Weaver's character as a couple who with another couple plan to steal a spaceship to avoid the planet's nuclear war, the story says.

Her late husband, Alexander Scourby, who died in 1985, was an actor and narrator of many audiobooks, including the King James Bible.

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Lori March Scourby

 

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Did FX Mess Up With Big Order for Sheen's 'Anger Management'?

FX's unusually large commitment to "Anger Management," Charlie Sheen's comedy, now appears as though it may have been a bit hasty, reports The New York Times' Arts Beat.

With 80 episodes of the cable channel’s 90-episode order left to go, the show's ratings have fallen sharply, the story notes.

The most recent episode, which aired March 14, drew about 850,000 total viewers, the program's lowest audience ever and a huge dropoff from last June, when 5.47 million viewers tuned in and made the program the No. 1 scripted comedy telecast ever for FX, the story adds.

FX ordered 90 additional episodes when "Anger Management" was averaging 3 million total viewers per episode, but the ratings have been on the decline since then. The second season has been averaging 1.25 million viewers.

An upcoming guest-starring role by Lindsay Lohan might boost ratings, but "the long-term ratings prospects for the show, at its current audience totals, paint a bleak picture," the piece says.

 

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We Didn't See This Coming: The Second-Most-Charted Female Vocalist of All Time Files for Bankruptcy

A multiple Grammy Award-winning singer has filed for bankruptcy in New Jersey. USA Today reports a personal bankruptcy filing for Dionne Warwick, best known for a string of 1960s hits including “Do You Know the Way to San Jose, “Alfie” and “I Say a Little Prayer.”

According to her publicist, Warwick filed for personal bankruptcy March 21 citing "negligent and gross financial mismanagement" in the late 1980s through mid-1990s, with her average monthly income during the period listed as $20,950.

USA Today reports: "The singing star filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New Jersey, where she lives. She listed total assets of $25,500 and liabilities of more than $10.7 million in taxes owed to the Internal Revenue Service and the state of California, according to the filing.

"Her rep says the back taxes had already been paid, but penalties and interest have continued to accrue, despite the singer offering various repayment options."

Warwick is listed as the second-most-charted female vocalist of all time, behind Aretha Franklin. Warwick had 56 singles make the Billboard Hot 100 between 1962 and 1998, ranking her second behind Franklin’s 88 charted singles.

Warwick’s hits also included “Walk on By,” “Don’t Make Me Over” and “Message to Michael.”

Warwick, a cousin of the late Whitney Houston, gained renewed fame -- some might say notoriety -- when she hosted infomercials for the Psychic Friends Network in the 1990s.

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'Game of Thrones' Actor Has Ear Partially Bitten Off

An actor in the hit HBO drama series “Game of Thrones” had part of his ear bitten off in an incident in Newcastle, England, BBC News reports.

Clive Mantle, who plays Lord Greatjon Umber in the fantasy series, was attacked at a hotel over noise, the story reports. Mantle, 55, had his ear sewn back on, and a 32-year-old man was charged with wounding with intent, according to the report.

The actor's spokesman said he believed Mantle was pinned to the floor in a hotel and attacked after asking other guests to lower their noise.

"He is very shaken and shocked by what has happened; you don't expect this kind of thing to happen in a hotel," his spokesman said. "The part of the ear that was bitten off was found and sewn back on. Mr. Mantle said the police, ambulance and hospital staff were amazing."

Mantle also starred in the U.K. medical drama series “Casualty.”

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Oscars Reportedly Already Have 2014 Host in Their Sights, With Ceremony Moved to March

The 2014 Oscars ceremony is already making news, with an announcement this week that the 86th Academy Awards are being pushed to a later-than-usual date, March 2. E! Online reports the date change was designed to avoid conflict with the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

The report notes that things will be back to normal in 2015, when the Oscars are set for Feb. 22.

News of the date change “comes hot on the heels of a National Enquirer report -- which then spread like wildfire -- that Justin Timberlake has vaulted to the top of the list of possible hosts and is in talks with the Academy to emcee Hollywood's biggest night,” E! reports.

The piece adds: “Sure, J.T. lovers are all for it, but the big reveal likely remains months away (Seth MacFarlane wasn't announced as the 2013 host until October) and it's possible there may be another flavor of the month by then. Gossip Cop also quoted a source as saying the speculation was ‘premature and ridiculous.’"

justin-timberlake.jpgJustin Timberlake

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One of the Most Popular Card Games of All Time Becomes a TV Show

You may have played it as a kid or with your own kids, and now it's headed for television. A TV show is in the works based on the card game UNO, reports Deadline.com.

Mattel and The Gurin Company are working together to create "UNO: The Game Show," which will feature players matching colors, numbers and strategies to win a $100,000 jackpot during a half-hour daytime format, the story says.

The companies are also working on an hour-long prime-time version, which will boast a $1 million jackpot. UNO was developed in 1971 and became popular with families because its simple rules make it easy for children to learn.

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'Breaking Bad' Script Stolen

Secrets of the final season of the AMC drama “Breaking Bad” are at risk of being revealed after a script for the series was reportedly stolen from the car of the show’s star, Bryan Cranston.

“Cranston, 57, reported a theft March 1, after someone broke into his passenger-side window and took a shoulder bag containing an iPad and a copy of his ‘Breaking Bad’ script, according to a criminal complaint filed by Bernalillo County, N.M.,” ABCNews.com reports.

A 29-year-old suspect, Xavier McAfee, was arrested Saturday by Bernalillo County Sheriff’s deputies, according to the complaint. The Sheriff’s Office reported that the script has not been recovered, the piece notes. The investigation is ongoing.

The report adds: “The criminal complaint revealed how one of Cranston’s employees, Taryn Feingold, was contacted by a confidential informant. The informant detailed to Feingold, and later the Sheriff’s Office, about overhearing a man at a local bar bragging about how he broke into a vehicle in the Sandia Mountain Range. He then showed his friends at the bar ‘some type of laptop or iPad,’ the complaint read, while ‘describing how he also had a script from the “Breaking Bad” series.’”

Cranston stars in the series as Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher turned meth dealer. Secrets of the show’s final season have been closely guarded.

 

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Bill O'Reilly's 'Killing' Spree Continues at Nat Geo

National Geographic Channel is embarking upon a third collaboration with Fox News personality Bill O'Reilly, with the network agreeing to adapt his forthcoming book "Killing Jesus: A History," according to The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed.

The adaptation, from Ridley Scott's Scott Free Productions, comes after the network drew big audiences for O'Reilly's "Killing Lincoln" last month, the story notes. A record 3.4 million viewers watched the show, which starred Bill Campbell as President Lincoln.

Nat Geo is also working on an adaptation of "Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot," also from O'Reilly, the story notes.

Production on "Killing Jesus," which follows the events leading up to Jesus' crucifixion, will start in the fall.

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Italy's Highest Court Issues Surprise Ruling in Amanda Knox Case

Amanda Knox, the American at the center of a media storm during the sensational trial that accused her of murdering her 21-year-old roommate while studying in Italy, has had her acquittal overturned, reports The New York Times.

Italy's highest court on Tuesday issued a surprise ruling overturning her previous acquittal, which means that the case against her and her former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, will be sent back to an appeals court in Florence. The pair were first convicted of killing Meredith Kercher in a trial that divided public opinion, but were later acquitted on appeal.

The Times notes: "The decision by the Court of Cassation offered a further dramatic turn in a long-running case that has fascinated many people in the United States, Britain and the rest of Europe. But the full implications of the ruling were unclear, particularly the question of whether Ms. Knox would return voluntarily from the United States or be extradited to face new hearings -- a process that would require several major legal steps. If she does not appear, the case could proceed in her absence."

Knox, who became the the focus of a Lifetime movie starring Hayden Panettiere, said the ruling was "painful" because "the prosecution’s theory of my involvement in Meredith’s murder has been repeatedly revealed to be completely unfounded and unfair.”

A book by Knox, called "Waiting to Be Heard," is slated for publication April 30, and on the same day, ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer will conduct the first interview with her since her release from an Italian prison.

 

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TBS Renews Series for Fifth Season

TBS is bringing back a comedy series for a fifth season. The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports that the cable channel ordered a 13-episode season of "Cougar Town," which will launch in 2014.

The order is a bit short of the current season's 15-episode run, the story notes. The show, which is from ABC Studios, left ABC in 2012 after a ratings drop, but was picked up by the cable network.

"Cougar Town," which stars Courteney Cox and Christa Miller, has been relatively steady on TBS, with 2.8 million viewers in Live + Seven Day, the story adds.

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Amazon Orders Project Based on Cult Zombie Movie

Amazon has greenlighted a project based on a popular zombie movie. EW.com’s Inside TV reports that the online company is moving forward with a pilot based on the 2009 action-comedy “Zombieland.”

"The film’s writers, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, are writing the pilot; producer Gavin Polone is also returning,” the piece reports. “Filling in the roles of Woody Harrelson, et al., are Kirk Ward, Tyler Ross, Maiara Walsh and Izabela Vidovic."

Amazon said the pilot will follow the movie's plot, with "four survivors outwitting zombies and searching for a place to call home.”

The pilot will be released with the rest of the company's projects, which include six comedies and six children's shows, the story notes. Based on customer response, Amazon will decide which projects will move beyond the pilot stage.

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Debra Messing to Topline New CBS Comedy

Actress Debra Messing, known for NBC’s “Will & Grace” and “Smash,” will play the lead in a new CBS comedy. Deadline.com reports that Messing will star in an untitled pilot -- formerly known as “Mother’s Day” -- from Julie Rottenberg and Elisa Zuritsky.

Messing’s deal, described as one of the richest talent deals of the current pilot season, includes bringing her aboard as a co-executive producer.

“The untitled comedy centers on 40-year-old Ella (Messing), who, in order to successfully navigate through the demanding life of being a mother of three, a lover, a friend and a career woman, constantly lies her way out of and into situations -- little lies, big lies, white and at times not-so-white lies,” the story reports.

The piece adds: “The project reunites Emmy winner Messing with Rottenberg and Zuritsky who served as co-executive producers on ‘Smash.’ Messing’s casting is formally in second position to the NBC Broadway drama, which is not expected to return after a very low-rated Season 2.”

The new project is based on an Israeli series created by Daniela London-Dekel and Dana Eden, written by London-Dekel and produced by Eden’s Eden Productions, the report notes. “Rottenberg and Zuritsky executive produce the CBS version, from CBS TV Studios, with London-Dekel, Eden and Keshet’s Avi Nir and Ran Telem,” the piece adds.

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IRS Admits 'Star Trek' Parody Video Was a Bad Idea -- See for Yourself

A training video produced by the Internal Revenue Service has turned into an embarrassment for the agency. Deadline.com reports that the IRS has admitted that the clip, made in 2010, was a mistake.

The video uses IRS staffers to parody the original 1960s edition of “Star Trek.”

“It and a second video that parodied TV’s ‘Gilligan’s Island’ are estimated to have cost about $60,000,” Deadline reports. “The agency came under fire after CBS News obtained the ‘Star Trek’ video under a Freedom of Information request and it went viral on the Internet.”

The clip was reportedly shown at a 2010 training and leadership conference. “The characters (who look and sound like a bunch of tax collectors) are en route to the planet Notax to combat identity theft,” the story reports.

In a statement, the agency said: “The IRS recognizes and takes seriously our obligation to be good stewards of government resources and taxpayer dollars. There is no mistaking that this video did not reflect the best stewardship of resources.”

Here’s the clip:

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Drama Series Sinks to Historic Low on Another Tough Night for Broadcast

The broadcast networks continued to struggle to find viewers Sunday night, with the overrun of CBS’s coverage of the March Madness NCAA men’s basketball tournament helping to push the network to a comfortable win for the night, based on preliminary Nielsen numbers.

TVbytheNumbers.com reports that CBS’s first hour of prime time, filled by basketball overrun and “60 Minutes” delivered a 3.4 average in the key 18-49 demo, well ahead of anything else on the broadcast networks Sunday night.

On ABC, meanwhile, the ratings erosion continued for “Once Upon a Time,” which lost two-tenths of a ratings point in viewers 18-49 to slip to an all-time low 2.1. ABC’s “Revenge” held steady with a 1.8, while ratings-challenged “Red Widow” showed signs of life, bouncing back from a 1.0 last week to a 1.2, the best number for the series since its premiere.

Fox opened with 90 minutes of repeats, followed by fresh installments of “Bob’s Burgers” (1.7 average in 18-49, even with last week), “Family Guy” (2.6, up two-tenths) and “American Dad” (2.3, up four-tenths from its previous original episode).

NBC’s night of two-hour programs failed to turn the network’s ratings fortunes around. The two-hour “Dateline” set a season low with a 1.1 in the 18-49 demo, off two-tenths from last week, and the two-hour “Celebrity Apprentice” lost three-tenths to a 1.5, also a season low.

CBS’s start times were impacted all night by the NCAA overrun, and its numbers are subject to more than the usual adjustments due to the live basketball coverage. The network recorded a 2.4 average rating in the 8 p.m. hour in adults 18-49 with the combination of “60 Minutes” and “The Amazing Race”; a 2.0 at 9 p.m. (“The Amazing Race”/”The Good Wife”); and a 1.6 at 10 p.m. (“The Good Wife”/”The Mentalist”).

CBS coasted to a win for prime time overall with a 2.4 average rating in viewers 18-49, ahead of Fox (1.7), ABC (1.6) and NBC (1.3). CBS also scored a big win in total viewers, averaging 10.1 million to ABC’s 6.2 million, NBC’s 5.6 million and Fox’s 3.6 million.

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Highest-Rated March Madness Coverage in 23 Years

Coverage of the March Madness NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is blowing away recent years’ tournaments. CBS Sports and Turner Sports announced that combined coverage of the opening week on TBS, CBS, TNT and truTV is averaging a 6.3/14 overnight rating/share, the highest rating for tournament’s opening week in 23 years.

Coverage of the third round over the weekend was up 19% from a year ago, and was the highest for the third round in 20 years, the companies announced in a press release.

“The networks’ combined coverage, from the NCAA First Four to the completion of the third round, is up 5% vs. last year’s comparable 6.0/13 rating,” the announcement reported. “Turner Sports and CBS Sports’ exclusive third round coverage on Sunday, March 24 -- across TBS, CBS, TNT and truTV -- averaged an overnight household rating/share of 7.6/15, the highest rating for the first Sunday of the NCAA Tournament in 20 years (8.5/20 in 1993). This year’s rating/share is up 19% compared with a 6.4/13 in 2012.”

Looking at the broadcast windows for Sunday’s coverage, audiences were up in all four windows, including increases of more than 20% in three of the four windows.

Here’s how Sunday’s four broadcast windows shaped up, according to the announcement:

-- The first daytime telecast window (12-2:45 p.m. ET) averaged a 5.4/13, the highest rating for the window since 2002 (5.8/13) and an increase of 26% over last year’s 4.3/11.

-- The second daytime telecast window (3-5:15 p.m.) averaged a 7.2/15, tied with 2007 as the highest rating for the window since 2006 (7.5/16) and up 20% over last year’s 6.0/13.

-- The first primetime telecast window (5:15-9:15 p.m.) averaged an 11.8/22, the highest rating for the window since 1991’s 12.1/24 and a 26% increase over a 9.4/18 in 2012.

-- The second primetime window (8 p.m.-12:15 a.m.) averaged a 6.5/11, up 2% vs. a 6.4/10 in 2012.

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Bill Cosby Gets Website Shut Down to Protect the Good Name of His Sweaters

Multiple Emmy Award winner Bill Cosby got a website shut down after targeting the site in a dispute over its name. L.A. Weekly reports that the website, Cosbysweaters.com, backed off on using the name rather than put up a legal fight.

The Cosby Sweaters site, named for the trademark sweaters worn by Cosby on the hit 1980s NBC sitcom “The Cosby Show,” reopened as Next Impulse Sports. The site says it’s dedicated to "sports fans who love music, tech, pop culture and dumb Internet videos."

The name change happened after Cosby’s attorney sent a threatening letter to the site’s founder, USC alum Kiley Kmiec. The cease-and-desist letter included the threat of a civil suit and the demand that the site stop using the name within five days.

“The site published an excerpt of the letter, which seems to plant an intellectual property flag squarely on a stack of those '80s sweaters,” the L.A. Weekly report says.

The letter says in part: “The multi-colored, multi-patterned sweaters that Mr. Cosby wore on ‘The Cosby Show,’ an iconic television program that aired from 1984 through 1992 and has continued in broadcast as reruns and in syndication both domestically and internationally through the present, are strongly associated with Cosby. The term ‘Cosby Sweater’ instantly evokes Mr. Cosby and The Cosby Show.”

The report notes: “The site could have argued ‘fair use’ -- that Cosby is a public figure subject to comment and criticism; that the name isn't a ripoff but rather a fair reflection that leads nowhere near the commerce of the Cosby industry.

“Kmiec says he could have held fast, but if this ended up in court it would have been expensive.”

Kmiec commented: “We think we could fight this case in court. Unfortunately though, we don't have the millions of Puddin' Pops to mount what could be a long and costly legal fight. The bottom line is this: It got hot and we have ditched the Cosby Sweaters name. We've got bigger and better match-ups to focus on. So long, Cosby's Sweaters.”

He added: "We didn't have the funds to stand up and play a game of chicken."

The site has reportedly seen about a 50% reduction in traffic with the new name.

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Report Goes Inside the Matt Lauer-Ann Curry Debacle at NBC's 'Today' -- Here Are Some of the Latest Revelations

A new report goes inside the turmoil at NBC’s ‘Today’ show and the high-profile ouster of Ann Curry, revealing tension between Curry and her co-workers and focusing of Matt Lauer’s role in her sudden exit from the show. The report by New York magazine also talks about a feud between NBC News boss Steve Capus and “Today” exec producer Jim Bell.

Lauer continues to be the target of criticism over the handling of the Curry situation and the show’s fall in the ratings. One of the key revelations in the new report, according to The Hollywood Reporter, is that internal research showed Lauer, and not Curry, was falling out of favor with viewers in the period leading up to Curry’s exit.

“As ABC's ‘Good Morning America’ gained on ‘Today,’ then-executive producer Jim Bell began blaming it on Curry, as did some of NBC's affiliates, who began complaining in board meetings that Curry needed to go,” THR reports. “But internal research conducted by SmithGeiger showed otherwise -- that Lauer was perceived as less appealing than Curry. While onscreen, he looked ‘aloof, a little bit holier-than-thou and pompous,’ says a former NBC executive who saw the reports. ‘He was becoming Bryant Gumbel.’"

Another point to surface is that Curry was thin-skinned about her colleagues’ jokes at her expense. THR reports: “Former ‘Today’ co-host Katie Couric used to tease Curry about her clothes, but Curry took those remarks ‘badly.’ And, in 2011, Lauer and producers played a prank on the cast by sending them to a fake magazine photo shoot, where the photographer had a meltdown and began firing his staffers. But Curry became ‘infuriated with Lauer and retreated to her dressing room,’ New York magazine reports.”

Lauer and Curry barely spoke to each other when Curry was at “Today,” according to the NY Magazine report. “But Curry tried to form a relationship with him,” THR notes. “When she was named co-host, she asked Lauer out to lunch to get some advice from him, but he ‘seemed to drag his feet scheduling it and Curry felt he didn’t offer much,’ New York magazine reports. He soon began ‘getting more involved in the daily story lineup, getting into fights with producers and tearing the show up in the early-morning hours.’ He also expressed how unhappy he was with Curry to a friend and spoke of cutting back on work.”

THR adds: “Lauer saw the writing on the wall on Curry's final day, even as cameras were rolling. ‘I think we all knew it at that moment,’ he says. ‘And it just seemed like something -- there was nothing we could do as it was happening, and we all felt bad about it.’

“In fact, the show soon lost half a million viewers as well as its No. 1 ranking to ABC's ‘Good Morning America’ after 16 years, resulting in a loss of millions of advertising dollars ‘overnight.’ And Lauer himself became perceived as the person responsible for Curry's ouster, fairly or not. Just this month, Chelsea Handler joked to him: ‘You have a worse reputation than I do.’"

The THR report adds: "A power struggle erupted between 'Today' EP Bell and NBC News chief Capus. Capus, concerned about Bell's close relationship with [NBCUniversal CEO Steve] Burke, began 'sending mixed messages and sowing confusion, which made the trouble much harder to resolve,' according to New York magazine. Bell wanted Curry gone by the London Olympics, which kicked off in July, but Capus began telling her that she wasn't the problem as he became 'increasingly paranoid about Bell's power and designs.' Capus, in fact, 'fanned Curry’s hope that she could hang on longer and undermined Bell’s strategy of resetting the 'Today' show cast during the Olympics.'"

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'Amazing Race' Segment Prompts CBS Apology

CBS and "The Amazing Race" producers have apologized for a segment on the show, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The segment used a B-52 memorial in Hanoi, Vietnam, as part of the show, the story reports.

"We want to apologize to veterans, particularly those who served in Vietnam, as well as to their families and any viewers who were offended by the broadcast," the statement said.

The episode depicted contestants going around the memorial to find their next clue. The site depicts the wreckage of a downed American B--52 during the Vietnam War, the story says. The Veterans of Foreign Wars and several Fox News anchors and viewers complained.

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France Pulls Plug on Its Version of 'Survivor' After Death of Participant

The French version of "Survivor" has been shelved after the death of one of the participants in the show, Deadline.com reports.

Called "Koh-Lanta" in France, the show was in its 16th season when Gerald Babin, 25, died after suffering a heart attack during shooting in Cambodia following a "shipwreck" challenge. Production halted immediately and other contestants were flown back to Paris.

The 16th season was slated to air in the fall, but the show "will not take place in 2013," network TF1 said.

 

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Lindsay Lohan's Plea Bargain Hits a Snag

A plea bargain entered into last week by Lindsay Lohan, which we reported on previously, appears to have run into a problem. TMZ.com reports that Lohan agreed to terms she will be unable to fulfill because the lockdown rehab she agreed to doesn’t exist.

“Fact is ... there appear to be no non-jail rehab facilities that will keep patients in against their will -- anywhere in the U.S.,” the story reports. “Sources connected with the case tell TMZ ... Lindsay's lawyer, Mark Heller, represented to prosecutors he could get his client into a 90-day lockdown rehab center in NYC. As we reported, there are no private NY rehab centers that keep patients against their will, except for one connected with the prison system, and you have to have a felony record to get in -- and Lindsay doesn't.”

Lohan also won’t be able to complete a 90-day lockdown rehab program in California, the piece reports, because no non-jail lockdown rehab center exists in the state.

“Rehab guru Dr. Drew tells TMZ, ‘There is no rehab that will hold you against your will, unless they feel the person is a suicide risk, and in that case they can hold the individual for 72 hours,’” the report notes.

“Here's the BIG problem. Lindsay's actual sentence is 90 days in jail, but the judge said he'd allow her to complete it with lockdown rehab. Sources say the prosecutors believed such a facility was available when they offered the plea deal.”

Lohan has been in non-lockdown rehab programs before, and those haven’t worked out, the report notes. “She constantly snuck out of Cirque Lodge in Utah and allegedly did the same thing at Betty Ford in California,” TMZ reports. “On top of that, Lindsay continues to drink, as recently as Friday.”

Prosecutors are reportedly re-examining the deal, with jail time remaining an option, according to the report.

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NBCUniversal Re-Ups With Talk Host for Three More Years

NBCUniversal has re-upped with a daytime veteran to do his talk show for another three years. B&C reports that the company signed a new deal with Maury Povich.

"Maury" is renewed on TV stations through the 2015-16 television season, the story notes. NBCUniversal declined to reveal the terms of any contracts, including those for "Jerry Springer" and "Steve Wilkos."

"Maury," starring Povich, 74, was the fifth-ranked talk show overall during the February sweeps, but was the highest-rated among women 18-34 and 18-49. Povich has hosted a version of the talk show since 1991.

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NBC in Hot Water With Ari Emanuel Over 'Rock Center' Interview

William Morris Endeavor co-chief executive officer Ari Emanuel has sent a legal letter to NBC over the nature of his and his two brothers' discussion with Brian Williams on "Rock Center," according to The Hollywood Reporter's Hollywood, Esq.

The NBC newsmagazine aired a segment Friday that showed the three brothers -- who include Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and bioethicist Ezekiel Emanuel -- discussing their jobs and childhoods.

But Ari took offense to Williams' approach, the story says. The anchor "approached the interview in an aggressive fashion, asking the brothers about their connection to Israel and Ari's reputation as an ultra-aggressive Hollywood agent, among other things," the article notes.

"[T]he agent's lawyers sent the letter asking that NBC not air the more confrontational portions of the interview," according to the story.

Ari reportedly got into a heated conversation with NBC Universal Chief Executive Steve Burke over the interview, the piece adds.

"We hope viewers saw the interview as a lively conversation with three famously colorful brothers who embody a great American story of success," NBC said in a statement.

Part of the interview did get serious with Ari, with Williams noting, "The Emanuel brothers do not suffer from self-doubt, at least not outwardly, they do not suffer fools gladly and, as we learned, they don't love being challenged or prodded. Ari's facial expressions speak volumes when the conversation turned to his scorched earth reputation in Hollywood ..."

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Report: Matt Lauer Almost Jumped to ABC Last Year

"Today" co-host Matt Lauer almost left NBC for a move to ABC last year, reports New York Magazine in a lengthy story about the morning program.

Lauer's near departure happened around the time that former “Today” co-host Ann Curry was pushed out of the show, according to the story.

"And at the moment they informed him of Curry’s exit, Lauer himself appeared halfway out the door. Three months earlier, Lauer had been angered by a press leak that [NBC News President Steve] Capus and ['Today' executive producer Jim] Bell were talking to Ryan Seacrest about possibly replacing him," the article says.

It continues: "In trying to placate Lauer, [NBCU Chief Executive Steve] Burke had given him a window to explore other jobs, but they made it clear that Seacrest was really just an insurance policy; they didn’t want Lauer to leave. But Lauer, possibly as a negotiating tactic, was taking leaving pretty seriously. He’d begun working closely with [former 'Today' producer Jeff] Zucker to develop an idea for ABC: the Katie Couric daytime talk show with Matt Lauer -- together again. Lauer met with Bob Iger, the CEO of Disney, ABC’s parent company, who made a strong effort to recruit Lauer."

The idea was that "Today," without Lauer, would fall from its ratings dominance, allowing "Good Morning America" to succeed in the morning race for viewers, the story notes.

The plan didn't work out the way ABC had hoped, however.

"What happened next would color everything that happened after: For a few days in late March, Iger, Zucker, and [ABC News President Ben] Sherwood all believed they had been told by both Lauer and his agent, Ken Linder, that Lauer was coming to ABC. In their minds, the deal was done, with only the legalities to be worked out. But the following week, Lauer surprised them all by calling and saying thanks but no thanks. Iger was infuriated, as was Zucker. Sherwood would not soon forget: In the months to come, he would spend an inordinate amount of time poking at Lauer and reveling in Schadenfreude."

Why did the ABC deal fall apart? Lauer had gone back to NBC and renegotiated his contract, with a new deal that the story says was for "more money than any morning-news anchor had ever received in the history of television: a reported $25 million a year to work four days a week."

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A Singing Competition Returns Tonight, With High Stakes for NBC -- But Are Viewers Burned Out on Singing Shows?

Tonight’s return of the singing competition show “The Voice” to the NBC lineup is a big moment for the Peacock Network in a season in which ratings have been hard to come by. But it also will be closely watched by observers who wonder whether the genre is overstaying its welcome.

TheWrap.com reports that ratings have been lower not only for “The Voice” but also for TV’s other top singing competitions -- Fox's "American Idol" and "X Factor."

“But singing shows still do better than almost anything else, so viewers don't seem ready to abandon them yet,” the piece reports. "’Idol’ was television's No. 1 show for the eight years it had the singing-competition niche almost to itself. But then came ‘The Voice’ and ‘X Factor.’ With so much music in the air, ‘Idol’ no longer rules.”

The report adds that “Idol” has set “all-time lows for its Wednesday performance shows for the last four consecutive weeks. (The show's Wednesday installments, like those of ‘X Factor,’ earn higher ratings than the Thursday results shows. Similarly, NBC earns higher ratings for "The Voice" on Mondays than on Tuesdays.)”

“Idol” dropped out of the No. 1 spot last season, falling behind "Sunday Night Football," the piece notes. “Even worse for the series, ‘The Voice’ nearly tied it for TV's second-most popular show,” the report adds. “This season, the Wednesday edition of ‘Idol’ is behind not only ‘SNF’ but also the scripted CBS series ‘The Big Bang Theory.’ The fall Monday edition of ‘The Voice’ is behind all three of those shows, as well as ABC's ‘Modern Family.’"

But "The Voice" remains NBC's top non-football show, and the network is “doubling down” on it, the piece notes.

"’The Voice’ is the first of the three singing shows to attempt two different versions in the same year, one in the fall and one in the spring,” TheWrap reports. “Fox airs ‘X Factor’ in the fall and ‘Idol’ in the winter.”

"The Voice" has changed things up for this cycle, bringing aboard Usher and Shakira as judges.

“But new judges don't necessarily help: ‘X Factor’ is down despite adding Britney Spears and Demi Lovato," and ‘Idol’ is slipping after the addition of Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban,” the story notes.

The piece adds: “The good news for viewers whose ears are starting to ache? No other singing show has taken hold like the Big 3. ABC's ‘Duets’ failed to catch on over the summer.”

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'Game of Thrones' Prequel on the Table for HBO

George R.R. Martin, whose books are the basis for HBO's hit fantasy show "Game of Thrones," might develop a prequel for the network, according to an interview with IGN.com.

"I have been writing a series of novellas set in Westeros, set 100 years earlier," Martin told the news service. "I've published three of those novellas, and I have about nine to 10 more in mind."

The novellas feature a pair of knights called Dunk and Egg, and are “somewhat lighter in tone, a little more adventurous," Martin said. "My fans love them and I love the characters too. Maybe that's what we'll do."

He added that he has other ideas for new series, all of them dramas. "I'm not a comedy guy. I have an idea for a science fiction show" and others with a historical basis. "We'll see which ones they like," he said.

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Drama in the Works Based on Book by HGTV Stars

ABC Family is developing a drama based on a book written by the stars of HGTV's "Selling New York," according to The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed.

Called "Hot Property," the drama is about a mother and two daughters who work in the New York property market and is based on a book of the same name that was written by Michele, Sabrina and Samantha Kleier of the HGTV reality show.

The TV project will focus on the character Elizabeth Chase and her daughters, Kate and Isabel, whose lives and work are intertwined.

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Ouch: 'The Lead With Jake Tapper' Gets Half of Wolf Blitzer's Ratings

CNN's new prime-time program "The Lead" is off to a tough start in the ratings, according to The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed.

Four days after its debut, the show continues to trail its predecessor, Wolf Blitzer's "The Situation Room," the story notes.

On Thursday the show drew just 326,000 viewers, the lowest viewership since its debut. The program was averaging 42% fewer viewers than the same four days in the previous week, the story notes.

“In the targeted adults 25-54 demo, ‘The Lead’ was up from its Wednesday low to 72,000 viewers -- though it's averaging a 50 percent drop from ‘Situation Room’ for the same times last week,” the story reports.

"The Lead" is CNN's first new show under Jeff Zucker's leadership.

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BBC America Co-Producing 'Burton and Taylor'

A new telefilm about the legendary relationship between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton is getting BBC America as a co-producer, reports Deadline.com.

Called "Burton and Taylor," the film comes on the heels of another project focusing on the pair, the 2012 Lifetime film "Liz & Dick," which starred Lindsay Lohan.

The newest project stars Dominic West and Helena Bonham Carter and tracks Taylor and Burton’s ill-fated Broadway appearances in a 1983 revival of Noel Coward's "Private Lives." BBC America is joining BBC Drama Productions on the project.

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New York's Mayor Bloomberg is Spending $12 Million on a TV Buy Across 13 States. Opposition Says It Will Match That Spending

Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City is genuinely passionate about certain issues, and is willing to spend his money to back up those passions.

According the the New York Post, "Bloomberg today [March 25, 2013] is kicking off a $12 million TV ad campaign targeting federal lawmakers in 13 states to back a package of gun reforms that will go before the Senate next month, including universal background checks for all gun purchases."

The article says that according to National Rifle Association chief Wayne LaPierre, "his members will go dollar for dollar with the billionaire New Yorker."

The story says that both Bloomberg and LaPierre made separate apprearances on NBC's "Meet the Press" yesterday.

The article says that when LaPierre was on the show he said that Bloomberg "[C]an’t buy America. He’s going to find out this is a country of the people, by the people and for the people — and he can’t spend enough of his $27 billion to try to impose his will on the American public.”

For his part, Bloomberg said on the program -- according to the Post -- "“We demanded a plan, and then we demanded a vote,” he said.

“We’ve got the plan. We're going to get the vote.

“And now it's incumbent on us to make our voices heard.

“There are an awful lot of people that think that this is one of the great issues of our time.

“We have to stop the carnage,” Bloomberg said. “I think we are going to win this.”

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Astonishing: One Day, Jimmy Fallon May Become King of Late-Night Viewing, But Today, Actually, that Title Does Not Belong to Leno, Letterman, Kimmel, Conan, Stewart Nor 'Nightline.' It Belongs to a Thing.

"Longtime producers and executives working in late-night television concede that NBC is taking a risk in planning changes to one of the few remaining areas where the network finishes first. NBC, though, is encouraged by the fact that [Jimmy] Fallon seems to appeal to many of the older viewers who have stuck by [Jay] Leno and at the same time is popular with a host of younger, more Internet-focused viewers," writes Bill Carter in today's [Monday, March 25, 2013] New York Times.

However, Carter adds, "The best rating in the time period from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m., according to Brad Adgate, senior vice president for research at Horizon Media, is 'recorded playback on the DVR.' DVR playback of recorded shows is averaging a 3.1 rating — or almost four million viewers."

Comparatively, Carter notes, "Among the viewers who determine financial success in late night, those ages 18 to 49, Mr. Leno still leads the network late-night shows, but with an average rating of just 0.8 (about 996,000 viewers) for the season. Jon Stewart does better on cable, with an average rating of 1.1." 

And "The late-night comics are threatened by cartoon characters, too: shows in those hours on the Cartoon Network are averaging about a 1 rating, or about 1.3 million viewers. (Mr. Fallon is averaging a 0.5 rating for his NBC show in the 12:35 hour — that’s just 632,000 viewers.)"

Thus, Carter notes, "With diminished numbers come diminished profits. Mr. Leno once made about $150 million a year for NBC. Now the number is probably between $25 million and $40 million, a senior network executive said. 

"Part of the reason is cost. One executive who has worked on late-night budgets estimated that the bigger network shows like 'Tonight' still cost $50 million to $70 million a year. (This is after NBC forced budget cuts this season and won a reduction in salary from Mr. Leno.) That number has to be tightened further for the shows to continue to make money, the executive said.

"Another reason is competition. Mr. Leno now faces not only his longtime rival, David Letterman, on CBS, but also Jimmy Kimmel on ABC. Despite initial expectations, though, Mr. Kimmel, 45, has not overrun Mr. Leno, 62, whose resilience (critics call it obstinacy) is something of a television legend. But Mr. Kimmel does edge out Mr. Leno among viewers ages 18 to 34."

We urge you to click on the link at the end of the first paragraph of this item, above, to read all of Carter's perceptive article.

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Knifed in the Back by NBC, Leno Jokes on Friday Night

Jay Leno's "Tonight Show" monologue on Friday night, March 22, 1013, had two zingers directed at NBC, writes our good friend James Hibberd at the InsideTV blog on the website of Entertainment Weekly.

According to Hibberd, here are the two zingers: “Doctors in Canada were shocked after pulling a three-inch knife blade from the back of a 32-year old man. The knife had been in there for three years! Imagine that, the guy had a knife in his back for three years. He must’ve worked at NBC too. I was stunned by that.”

And: “Have you heard about this alleged feud that I’m having with NBC? I think it’s going to be OK. This is real: I had dinner last night with a bunch of NBC executives. To make it up to me, what they did, they are sending my wife and I on an all expenses paid Carnival cruise. How about that? So it looks like it’s going to be OK. Fantastic!”

Hibberd adds, "Leno is facing the prospect of getting replaced as 'Tonight' host by 'Late Night‘s' Jimmy Fallon at the end of next year. Each night this week he’s added a joke into his monologue firing back on the issue; first taking shots at NBC’s ratings and then, the last two nights, making cracks about his own imperiled gig. NBC has yet to confirm or comment on the reported plan."

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Report: CBS Close to Acquiring Half of Cable Network

Looks like CBS is close to acquiring half of a cable network that's in about 80 million U.S. homes.

"As soon as next week, Lionsgate is expected to close a deal to sell about half of TVGN, formerly known as the TV Guide Network, to CBS," writes Alex Ben Block in The Hollywood Reporter.

Block continues, "It marks a change in strategy for the mini-major, which set out more than a year ago to sell all of the cable network."

The story also says, "The deal also apparently includes TVGuide.com, which has shown growth by adding strong content and will fit with other CBS digital properties. The TV Guide magazine is owned separately by Open Gate Capital and will not be part of the deal with CBS."

The article adds, "Lionsgate and CBS declined to comment on the transaction, but sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that the price CBS is paying for 50 percent – about $100 million -- is less than half of what Lionsgate paid for the entire TV Guide Network in early 2009 -- $250 million."

The story also notes, "CBS gets a network now seen in about 80 million American TV homes. It started out as a barker channel that was mostly a scroll of listings, with ads and infomercials playing on top. Now it carries older shows like 'Ugly Betty' and 'Who’s the Boss' as well as original series such as 'Celebrity Style Story.'

"As of January, only about 12 percent of the homes where it plays still had listings as well as video content on the screen. The rest see a full screen of content that includes movies, series, specials and some infomercials."

We urge you to click on the link in the first paragraph, above, and read Block's entire insightful piece.

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HBO Greenlights Comedy Series

HBO has placed an order for a new comedy series. The pay-cable network ordered a six-episode run for “Getting On,” from “Big Love” creators Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer, Deadline.com reports.

“A U.S. version of the award-winning BBC Four medical comedy of the same name, HBO’s ‘Getting On’ stars Laurie Metcalf, Alex Borstein and Niecy Nash,” the story reports. “Centering on the put-upon nurses in a women’s geriatric extended-care wing of a down-at-the-heels hospital, it follows the anxious doctors and administrators as they struggle with the darkly comic, brutally honest and quietly compassionate realities of caring for the elderly in an overwhelmed healthcare system.”

The series is being produced by BBC Worldwide Productions.

“The creators and stars of the original series -- Jo Brand, Joanna Scanlan and Vicki Pepperdine -- executive produce,” Deadline adds. “Olsen and Scheffer, who wrote the adaptation through their overall deal at HBO, are executive producing though their Anima Sola Prods banner, with SVP Lisa Bellomo producing.”

Also executive producing are Jane Tranter and Julie Gardner of BBC Worldwide Productions, along with Geoff Atkinson, who produces the U.K. version.

The pay-cable network has also recently ordered Stephen Merchant’s “Hello Ladies” to series, and has a number of other comedy pilots in the pipeline, the report notes.

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CBS and Turner Celebrate Launch of March Madness: 'Most-Watched First Thursday in 22 Years'

Thursday night’s coverage of the first full night of the March Madness NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament by CBS Sports and Turner Sports delivered the tournament’s best numbers in 22 years, the CBS Communications Group reports.

It was the most-viewed first Thursday of tournament coverage since 1991, when the tournament expanded to four telecast windows, according to the press release. The programming delivered a combined 5.5 U.S. household rating and 8.1 million viewers, based on Nielsen Fast Nationals.

Tournament action is being carried on TBS, CBS, TNT and truTV.

“Thursday’s coverage earned a Fast National HH rating/share of a 5.5/12, +4% vs. last year’s 5.3/13, the highest average rating for the first Thursday of the NCAA Tournament in 19 years (5.6/14; 1994),” the release reports. “The 2013 NCAA Tournament-to-date, including the First Four, is averaging a 5.0/11, +6% from last year’s 4.7/11, and is tied with the highest-to-date rating since 2006 (5.0/11).”

The release adds: “Overall, the 2013 NCAA Tournament-to-date is the most-watched in 20 years (1993). The First Four and Thursday’s coverage averaged 7.4 million viewers, +7% vs. 6.9 million viewers last year.”

The release breaks down numbers as follows for Thursday's telecast windows:

-- The first telecast window of the day combined to earn a 4.0/13, +14% vs. last year’s 3.5/13.

-- The second telecast window of the day combined to earn a 5.1/13, +6% vs. last year’s 4.8/13.

-- The third telecast window of the day combined to earn a 7.1/12, +11% vs. last year’s 6.4/12.

-- The fourth telecast window of the day combined to earn a 5.9/11, vs. last year’s 6.4/12.

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Jerry Sandusky Agrees to TV Interview From Behind Bars

Convicted Penn State child sexual abuser Jerry Sandusky has agreed to give his first televised interview since he was convicted nine months ago on 45 of 48 counts against him, B&C reports.

Winning the sought-after “get” was NBC’s “Today” show. The interview is scheduled for Monday’s show.

“NBC says he will give his version of what happened on campus and say what he thinks of whistleblower Mike McQueary and late head coach Joe Paterno,” the story reports. “Sandusky famously spoke to NBC's Bob Costas for ‘Rock Center’ in November 2011, prior to his trial, in a phone interview that produced several damning statements and won Costas a News and Documentary Emmy.”

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'Idol' Slips to No. 2, Fox Settles for a Tie for First Place in Thursday Ratings; NBC Flirts With 1.0's

Fox’s onetime ratings juggernaut “American Idol” continues to deliver lower numbers, based on Nielsen overnights for Thursday night. TVbytheNumbers.com reports that the show was down 10% from a week ago in the key 18-49 demo, settling for a 2.8 average rating.

That number put “Idol” in second place behind ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy,” which rebounded from its series low a week ago, gaining 12% to a 2.9 in adults 18-49. Fox and ABC tied in the demo for prime time overall, both averaging 2.4 to finish ahead of Univision (1.7 average), CBS (1.6) and NBC (1.0).

Fox did win total viewers, averaging 8.9 million to ABC’s 7.6 million, CBS’s 4.7 million, Univision’s 3.9 million and NBC’s 3.1 million.

CBS carried the first full night of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, which turned in a preliminary 1.6 average in viewers 18-49, down 6% from last year. But the numbers are subject to more than the usual adjustments due to the nature of live programming. CBS and Turner Sports carried the tournament on multiple platforms, reporting higher numbers overall. (Click here to see our separate story on tournament ratings.)

NBC had a mix of originals and repeats, with a fresh episode of “Community” equaling its series low with a 1.1 average in 18-49, same as last week. Two episodes of “1600 Penn” fared poorly, with the special 8:30 episode pulling a 0.9, well below the 1.6 delivered by “Parks and Recreation” in the time slot a week ago. The 9:30 installment did even worse, losing 20% from last week for a series-low 0.8.

ABC’s season premiere of “Wife Swap” delivered a 1.7 in adults 18-49, 42% better than the previous season premiere way back in April 2010 but 29% below the “Celebrity Wife Swap” premiere last month. “Scandal” returned from a brief hiatus with a solid 2.7, equaling its most recent original episode.

Fox’s “Glee” equaled last week’s 2.0 in the 18-49 demo.

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Jenny McCarthy Clears the Air About Her Possible Future on 'The View'

Jenny McCarthy spoke out to try to clear the air regarding rumors about lineup changes for the morning chat show “The View.” McCarthy’s name has been one of those that have come up as possible replacements for departing co-host Joy Behar.

Extra” reports that McCarthy said she won’t be moving into the spot. “I can't 'cause I have my own show… maybe someday in the future,” she’s quoted as telling AJ Calloway.

McCarthy stars in her own VH1 series, "The Jenny McCarthy Show."

She added that she does plan to be a part of the transition, doing some guest-hosting after Behar leaves. "I will be helping them while they're looking,” she said.

 

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Raunchy Tweet From Former Nickelodeon Actress Creates Buzz

An actress known for her work in Nickelodeon shows is creating buzz with a series of curious, and at times raunchy, tweets.

Fox News reports that a number of the posts by actress Amanda Bynes focus on the rapper Drake.

The latest example surfaced early today on Bynes’ Twitter account: “I want @drake to murder my vagina.”

“The post had been retweeted more than 13,000 times within 12 hours of her posting it,” the report notes.

Reactions among her followers ranged from amusement to outrage. One user commented: “She’s gone crazy!” Another suggested the actress may have been hacked.

“Others wrote that the actress had clearly changed a lot from her days on Nickelodeon’s ‘All That,’” the story reports. “But it’s been a long time since Bynes’ Hollywood star shone that bright. Her last memorable acting role was in ‘Hairspray’ back in 2007, though she did make an appearance in 2010’s ‘Easy A.’”

Bynes starred in Nickelodeon’s “The Amanda Show” in the early 2000s, before moving on to a run on WB’s “What I Like About You.”

The Huffington Post ran an especially unfavorable report on Bynes’ latest activities, noting: “Former Nickelodeon star and current purveyor of nonsense Amanda Bynes is diligently documenting her downward spiral on Twitter, though unlike most stars she doesn't have a verified account and has only 300,000 followers.”

The piece notes a number of odd tweets by Bynes, including: “If I’m not following you on twitter, I hate you.”

And this one: “I created the phrase Ily & lololol. *proud*” The report explains “Ily” means “I love you,” and that “lololol” is presumably just “laughing out loud” repeatedly.

The Fox News report notes that Bynes began focusing tweets on Drake about a week ago, sending photos of him and calling him a “hot fellow.” The piece adds that she is rumored to have recently been kicked out of her apartment in New York City, and reportedly fired her management team last year.

Bynes has also tweeted photos of herself with newly pierced cheeks.

amanda-bynes-piercings.jpg

Amanda Bynes

 

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Against Backdrop of Heated Exchanges, NBC's Greenblatt and Leno Talk 'Tonight' Over Dinner; Also: What New York Is Doing to Lure the Show Back to Town

Amid Jay Leno's jabs at NBC executives on "The Tonight Show" and reports that he will be replaced as host by Jimmy Fallon, Leno was taken out to dinner by NBC Entertainment chief Robert Greenblatt last night, reports Kim Masters in The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed.

An NBC representative confirmed the dinner, but said the meeting wasn't atypical. The article, which was published Thursday night, indicates that the obvious topic, “The Tonight Show,” was on the agenda, but it doesn't specify what they planned to talk about.

Greenblatt expressed his displeasure earlier this week with Leno’s jokes at the expense of the network, as we reported previously. Leno responded by continuing to target NBC brass in his nightly monologue, including calling NBC executives “snakes.”

Meanwhile, speculation has swirled around the timing for Fallon, the consensus choice to replace Leno on “Tonight,” to take over the show. News broke in the past couple of days that NBC plans to move the show from L.A. to New York, with the network reportedly secretly building a new studio at Manhattan’s 30 Rock.

Masters notes in THR: "Sources say some top NBCUniversal executives are leaning toward a February launch of Fallon's 'Tonight' to take advantage of the promotional platform of the 2014 Winter Olympics. Others, including 'Late Night' executive producer Lorne Michaels, are said to have concerns about rushing the transition."

Leno's contract expires in September 2014, and he reportedly has a clause that would require NBC to pay a significant penalty if he's pushed out before the end of the contract, the story says.

The New York Daily News, meanwhile, reports that New York is taking steps to ensure that “Tonight” returns to the city, which it left for L.A. back in 1972.

“Quietly tucked into [the] tentative state budget is a provision that would help NBC move ‘The Tonight Show’ back to New York,” the Daily News reports.

“The provision would make state tax credits available for the producers of ‘a talk or variety program that filmed at least five seasons outside the state prior to its first relocated season in New York,’ budget documents show.”

Another stipulation, the story reports, is that “the episodes ‘must be filmed before a studio audience’ of at least 200 people. And the program must have an annual production budget of at least $30 million or incur at least $10 million a year in capital expenses.

“In other words, a program exactly like ‘The Tonight Show.’”

The report notes that the show is not identified by name in any of the budget documents.

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Sumner Redstone, 89, Has Certainly Made Some Business Moves That Have Raised Eyebrows Over the Years -- Including His Latest Move: Appointing a Former 'Today' Show Co-Host to the Viacom Board

Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone has made a move that some in the business world find puzzling, reports the New York Post.

The 89-year-old Redstone on Thursday nominated TV journalist Deborah Norville to the Viacom board, a move that's puzzling because she has no experience running international media conglomerates or in business or technology, the story notes.

Norville, the host of "Inside Edition" and a former host of NBC's "Today," is married to Swedish banker Karl Wellner.

“This is completely inappropriate and would be considered in any other company problematic,” said Charles Elson, an expert in corporate governance and chair at the John L. Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance.

But because Viacom has a dual-class share structure, Redstone has voting control, Elson notes. "It doesn’t matter who they are -- it’s his board," he said.

The report adds: “Also appointed to the board yesterday was Cristiana Falcone Sorrell, the accomplished wife of deep-pocketed ad man Martin Sorrell, the chief executive of WPP, which controls global marketing spending of $66.7 billion. She is also an adviser to the chairman of the World Economic Forum on Media.”

Immediately after the annual meeting, both nominees were elected to the board, the report notes. The piece quotes a high-level media executive saying: “These are two passive, not strong, board members.”

Added another source: “The role of director is to monitor management, and they don’t fit the bill.”

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Ted Koppel Blasts NBC's Handling of 'Rock Center'

Former "Nightline" anchor Ted Koppel is lashing out at NBC over its treatment of Brian Williams and his "Rock Center," criticizing the network for shuffling the program on its schedule, reports the Associated Press.

Koppel, who reports on tonight's "Rock Center" about young offenders in adult prisons, says the show hasn't been helped by its scheduling moves.

"Just when you think somebody might figure out when it's on and want to see it the next week, they move it to another place," Koppel said. "That's not helpful, and I think Brian deserves more support than that."

"Rock Center" debuted in 2011 and has held time periods on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. It currently airs on Fridays.

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MTV Comedy Dead After Creator Bails Out

A comedy project is reportedly dead at MTV after its creator and executive producer left the show. Nellie Andreeva reports on Deadline.com that the pilot “Hot Mess” will not move forward following the departure of Lauren Iungerich.

Iungerich announced she was leaving the project earlier this week, as previously reported, with the network calling her departure a mutual agreement.

Andreeva writes: "'Hot Mess' had been considered a top contender based on strong testing and the pedigree of its creator, 'Awkward' creator/executive Iungerich. But, like on 'Awkward,' I hear Iungerich’s voice was at the core of 'Hot Mess,' and, with her gone, MTV executives ultimately decided not to go forward with the project.”

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Is This Wild or What? A Major Cable MSO Refuses to Run Ads From a Company Whose Product Promotes Broadcast TV

Charter Communications has refused to air advertisements from a company that wants to run on a number of cable channels, the Associated Press reports. The company, Antennas Direct, says the refusal is an example of the cable industry's growing worries about its products, the report notes.

Antennas Direct wanted to air three 60-second spots through Charter on ESPN, the History channel and other cable networks, the story says. The ads encourage viewers to cancel their cable subscriptions and save money by investing in an antenna.

One ad shows a man chained, with a voice saying, "You're gonna lose a ton of money when people realize they don't have to pay you just to watch TV."

A Charter spokeswoman indicated the decision was part of the company’s normal case-by-case process, adding: "In this instance, we made a decision not to accept business advertising from this company for this particular product."

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ABC Tells Viewers They Can Save 'Happy Endings'

ABC has put out a promotional spot to tell viewers that they can save the sitcom “Happy Endings” after the show was moved to Fridays, reports New York Magazine.

Generally, moves to Friday are "signs of an underperforming series being euthanized," the story notes.

The report adds: "It's an almost completely normal clip, informing us of the time slot switch, showing us a couple microscopic slices of comedy -- but it's bizarre in its opening-line insistence that viewers can save the show.”

Here it is:

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There's a New No. 2 in Town: Report Reveals Which Country Is World's Largest Film Market Outside U.S.

Statistics just released by the Motion Picture Association of America confirm which country is the second-largest box office territory in the world, after the United States. China has moved into the No. 2 spot, replacing Japan, the U.K.’s Guardian reports.

“The MPAA's Theatrical Market Statistics 2012 show China's cinema audience is worth $2.7 billion, up from $2 billion in 2011, taking it past Japan, whose total increased only slightly from $2.3 billion to $2.4 billion,” the story reports. “The U.S. was still the biggest by some distance, with a value of $10.8 billion in 2012, a 6% rise on 2011.”

A Deadline.com report quotes MPAA hed Chris Dodd saying: “China is building 10 screens a day. There’s a voracious appetite for product and our films have done well.”

The Guardian report notes: “The results underline the gains that Hollywood stands to make by tailoring its product for the Chinese market. A report last year by Ernst & Young suggested that at the current rate of expansion, the Chinese box office was set to pass the U.S. in seven years.”

The piece adds: “Pressure from the highest levels of government saw China begin to relax its strict quotas [on] the release of foreign-made films earlier this year, after a visit to the US by China's president Xi Jinping.”

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Star of Canceled 'Emily Owens MD' Joins 'The Office' Veteran in CBS Drama

Mamie Gummer, the star of the canceled CW drama series "Emily Owens MD," has been cast in a CBS drama project with Rainn Wilson of "The Office," reports Deadline.com.

The drama pilot is "Backstrom," written by "Bones" creator Hart Hanson. It stars Wilson as an offensive, irascible detective who tries to change his ways. Gummer will play the female lead, a lesbian police detective, the story adds.

mamie-gummer.jpg

Mamie Gummer

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'How I Met Your Mother' Actress Joins ABC Comedy

An actress from CBS’s "How I Met Your Mother" will replace a cast member on an ABC comedy who has left the project, The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed reports. Ashley Williams is taking over for Majandra Delfino in the pilot "Keep Calm and Karey On,” the report notes.

The comedy stars Kelly Preston as Karey, a clean-living woman in a family of thieves, drug addicts and narcissists, according to the report.

Williams, who is known as the "cupcake girl," Victoria, on the CBS sitcom, will play Penny, Karey's self-centered sister, the story notes.

ashley-williams.jpgAshley Williams

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Showtime Orders Project From Will Ferrell

Showtime is buying a project from Will Ferrell's Gary Sanchez Productions and "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters" director Tommy Wirkola, reports Deadline.com.

The half-hour project, which is currently untitled, is a dark comedy based on a Norwegian series called "Hellfjord," the piece notes. That show was created and produced by Wirkola, and is described as a mix of "Hot Fuzz" and "Twin Peaks" but with a Nordic noir flavor.

The original show tracks an Oslo police officer who is banished to a remote town called "Hellfjord" after a freak horse accident.

Wirkola and Gary Sanchez also collaborated on "Hansel and Gretel," the story notes.

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FCC Chairman Resigning -- Second Departure From the Agency This Week

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski is leaving the agency and will announce his departure today, Bloomberg reports.

The departure of Genachowski, a Democrat, means there will be two vacancies on the five-member U.S. agency that oversees cable, broadcast and telephone regulations, the story points out.

President Obama "could elevate either of the agency’s two Democrats, or name a chairman from two new members who will need Senate confirmation," the story notes, adding that there won't be an announcement about Genachowski’s replacement today.

His resignation comes after Republican Robert McDowell, the longest-serving current commissioner, said earlier this week that he's stepping down, as we reported previously.

The article notes: "Genachowski’s focus on expanding access to high-speed wireless Internet service, or mobile broadband, broke with some priorities of his predecessors. His FCC levied no fines for broadcast indecency, after a flurry of penalties under Republican chairmen from 2003 to 2008, and he didn’t complete a loosening of media-ownership rules."

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Potential Game Changer: HBO CEO Says the Company's Streaming Service, HBO Go, 'could evolve' to Serve Non-Cable TV Subscribers

"HBO could widen access to its HBO Go online streaming service by teaming up with broadband Internet providers for customers who do not subscribe to a cable TV service, HBO Chief Executive Richard Plepler said," Reuters reports.

The story continues, "Plepler told Reuters on Wednesday evening [March 20, 2013] at the Season 3 premiere of HBO's hit TV show 'Game of Thrones,' 'Maybe HBO Go, with our broadband partners, could evolve.' "

We first saw the story at Deadline.com.

The Reuters story adds, "Plepler said late Wednesday that HBO Go could...be packaged with a monthly Internet service, in partnership with broadband providers, reducing the cost. Customers could pay $50 a month for their broadband Internet and an extra $10 or $15 for HBO to be packaged in with that service, for a total of $60 or $65 per month, Plepler said. 'We would have to make the math work,' he added."

The story continues, "HBO, owned by Time Warner Inc, relies on large financial support from its cable and satellite TV partners to help distribute and promote its shows. Plepler said in January that it would not make business sense to provide an Internet-only product that circumvents its existing distribution network."

HBO Go has about 6.5 million users, compared with !00 million subscribers worldwide for HBO's primany pay service. HBO Go is HBO's multi-device streaming service wherein HBO subscribers can watch thousands of episodes of HBO original programs, including such library product as "The Sopranos" and "The Larry Sanders Show" to current HBO programming such as "Girls" and "Game of Thrones."

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Lifetime Movie Will Air After Channel Wins Emergency Appeal

The Lifetime cable channel scored a court victory today on an emergency appeal, clearing the way for its television movie “Romeo Killer: The Christopher Porco Story” to air as planned Saturday, according to The Hollywood Reporter’s Hollywood, Esq.

The decision comes on the heels of an earlier ruling barring Lifetime from airing the movie, as we reported previously.

“The cable network was forced to make an emergency appeal after a New York judge on Tuesday issued an injunction. The ban on the ripped-from-the-headlines movie, which stars Matt Barr as convicted murderer Chris Porco, happened after Porco asserted in a lawsuit that it violated his rights to his name and image,” THR reports.

The report adds: “Lifetime quickly blasted the judge's decision as an ‘unprecedented’ one that would cost millions of dollars, harm its brand and represent a disaster to free speech.”

The appellate division of the New York Supreme Court today issued a stay on the injunction. It also ordered Porco to show cause by April 10, indicating it will otherwise lift the injunction.

“Lifetime is using the moment in the legal sun to now promote its film as the ‘Lifetime Original Movie Chris Porco doesn’t want you to see,’" the story reports. “As the network describes the telefilm, ‘The two-hour film is inspired by the true story of a handsome young college student who became the prime suspect in the shocking murder of his father.’"

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While Fox's 'Idol' Continues to Erode -- But Also Continues to Win the Night -- Other Broadcast Shows Have More Serious Ratings Problems

Fox’s “American Idol” continued to slip in the ratings Wednesday night, based on Nielsen overnights, but it still had enough drawing power to lift Fox to a comfortable win for the night. Meanwhile, TVbytheNumbers.com reports that a couple of ABC shows equaled or surpassed their all-time lows in the key 18-49 demo.

“Idol’s” 3.5 average in viewers 18-49 was off 8% from the number the show delivered last week. But Fox still won the night handily, with its 3.5 average in 18-49 beating CBS (2.6 average), Univision (1.7), NBC (1.4) and ABC (1.2). The race was tighter for total viewers, but Fox came out on top with 12.7 million, ahead of CBS (10.5 million), NBC (4.9 million), Univision (4.0 million) and ABC (4.0 million).

ABC aired a mostly repeat lineup, which didn’t give much support to fresh episodes of “The Neighbors” and “Suburgatory.” “Neighbors” matched last week’s all-time low, a 1.4 average in 18-49, while “Suburgatory” hit a new series low with a 1.5, losing 12% from its previous original.

CBS had the night’s second-highest-rated show behind “Idol,” with “Criminal Minds” delivering a 3.0 average in adults 18-49 -- 15% better than its previous original. “Survivor” was off 7% from last week to a 2.5, while “CSI” surged 21% from its previous original to record a 2.3.

NBC’s lineup, which included back-to-back episodes of “Whitney” -- one fresh, one repeat -- saw erosion across the board. The fresh episode of “Whitney” kicked things off with a 1.1 in the 18-49 demo, down 8% from last week, with the repeat checking in with a 0.9. “Law & Order: SVU” fell 6% from its most recent original to a 1.5, while “Chicago Fire” lost 15%, registering a 1.7.

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NBC Fills Key Entertainment Post

NBC Entertainment today named a new executive vice president and chief financial officer. NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt announced the promotion of Bradley Melnick to the post.

“Melnick advances from his previous role as senior vice president and chief financial officer for West Coast Television Group. In addition to his current financial oversight of the network side of the business, he will also assume similar responsibilities for Universal Television,” the company announced.

Said Greenblatt: “For more than 15 years Brad’s contributions have been vital to sustaining the overall financial health of the company. Engaging in several departments during his tenure here has given him a unique perspective on how those divisions all work in unison to meet and exceed common monetary goals.”

Melnick has been with NBCUniversal since 1998.

bradley-melnick.jpgBradley Melnick

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Nation Is Spared a Saturday 'Execution'

A nationwide “execution” of sorts that had been scheduled for Saturdays has been called off. Bloomberg reports that the U.S. Postal Service has been denied permission to kill off mail delivery on Saturdays.

The service “doesn't have the legal authority to cut Saturday mail delivery as Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe has said it will do, the Government Accountability Office said today,” Bloomberg reports. “The service is bound by law to deliver mail six days a week, and is incorrect that a temporary measure recently used to fund U.S. government operations released it from that requirement, the GAO said in a letter to Representative Gerald Connolly, a Virginia Democrat, who requested that the watchdog agency look at the matter.”

The decision comes as a relief in particular to some publishers of weekly magazines, who have been looking into their options since Saturday delivery went on the chopping block.

“Now they may have a reprieve. The plan to cut delivery of letter mail while retaining package delivery on Saturdays ‘rests upon a faulty USPS premise,’ GAO General Counsel Susan Poling said in the letter,” the story reports. “The service, after losing $15.9 billion last year and reaching its legal borrowing limit, said last month it plans to eliminate a day of mail delivery to save about $2 billion a year. It said today it ‘strongly’ disagrees with the GAO's assessment.”

Postal Service spokesman David Partenheimer said in an e-mail: "The opinion does not address the Postal Service's proposal to move to five-day mail delivery, with six-day package delivery, during the week of August 5." He added that the GAO letter addresses only a temporary congressional spending measure, which expires March 27.

The report notes: “Mr. Connolly and Senator Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, also asked the Postal Regulatory Commission, which oversees rates and service standards, for an opinion on whether cutting Saturday delivery is allowed.”

In a statement, Connolly said: "This impartial and definitive GAO legal opinion makes it crystal clear that USPS cannot operate outside the legislative authority of Congress and unilaterally implement a change in delivery service that many believe will not only disrupt mail service, but also exacerbate USPS revenue losses and contribute to the decline of this constitutionally-mandated service to all Americans."

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Pink Floyd, Simon & Garfunkel, Artie Shaw Among Musical Artists Whose Recordings Will Be Preserved in Library of Congress -- Here's This Year's Full List, Which Goes All the Way Back to 1918

Among the artists whose work will be added to the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress are Pink Floyd, the Ramones, Simon & Garfunkel, Ornette Coleman and Big Brother and the Holding Company.

This year’s list of 25 recordings that will be preserved for their cultural, artistic and historic importance also includes Van Cliburn, the Bee Gees, Philip Glass and Junior Wells.

In a statement, James H. Billington, Librarian of Congress, said: "Congress created the National Recording Registry to celebrate the richness and variety of our audio heritage and to underscore our responsibility for long-term preservation, to assure that legacy can be appreciated and studied for generations. Our challenge, however, continues to be finding collaborative and innovative ways to protect and make available this unmatched legacy to the public."

Here’s the list, in chronological order by the date of the recording:

"After You’ve Gone," Marion Harris (1918)
"Bacon, Beans and Limousines," Will Rogers (Oct. 18, 1931)
"Begin the Beguine," Artie Shaw (1938)
"You Are My Sunshine," Jimmie Davis (1940)
D-Day Radio Broadcast, George Hicks (June 5-6, 1944)
"Just Because," Frank Yankovic & His Yanks (1947)
"South Pacific," Original Cast Album (1949)
"Descargas: Cuban Jam Session in Miniature," Cachao Y Su Ritmo Caliente (1957)
Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, Van Cliburn (April 11, 1958)
President's Message Relayed from Atlas Satellite, Dwight D. Eisenhower (Dec. 19, 1958)
"A Program of Song," Leontyne Price (1959)
"The Shape of Jazz to Come," Ornette Coleman (1959)
"Crossing Chilly Jordan," The Blackwood Brothers (1960)
"The Twist," Chubby Checker (1960)
"Old Time Music at Clarence Ashley’s," Clarence Ashley, Doc Watson, et al. (1960-1962)
"Hoodoo Man Blues," Junior Wells (1965)
"Sounds of Silence," Simon and Garfunkel (1966)
"Cheap Thrills," Big Brother and the Holding Company (1968)
"The Dark Side of the Moon," Pink Floyd (1973)
"Music Time in Africa," Leo Sarkisian, host (July 29, 1973)
"Wild Tchoupitoulas," The Wild Tchoupitoulas (1976)
"Ramones," The Ramones (1976)
"Saturday Night Fever," The Bee Gees, et al (1977)
"Einstein on the Beach," Philip Glass and Robert Wilson (1979)
"The Audience with Betty Carter," Betty Carter (1980)

big-brother-janis-joplin.jpgJanis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company

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ABC Unveils Lineup of Season Finales, Summer Premieres

ABC has taken the wraps off its schedule of season finales, along with its summer premieres. TVLine reports that the network plans expanded finales for “Suburgatory” and “Revenge.”

The report notes: “The finale date for ‘Happy Endings’ -- which returns Friday, March 29, with two episodes a night -- has yet to be determined. ‘Last Man Standing’ and ‘Malibu Country,’ as previously announced, finale this Friday, March 22.”

Here’s the schedule:

Wednesday, March 27
8:30 -- The Neighbors

Wednesday, April 17
8 pm -- Suburgatory (one-hour finale)

Thursday, May 2
8 pm -- Wife Swap (premieres March 21)

Sunday, May 5
10 pm -- Red Widow

Tuesday, May 7
8 pm -- Splash

Sunday, May 12
8 pm -- Once Upon a Time
9 pm -- Revenge (two-hour finale)

Monday, May 13
10 pm -- Castle

Thursday, May 16
9 pm -- Grey’s Anatomy
10 pm -- Scandal

Friday, May 17
9 pm -- Shark Tank

Sunday, May 19
7 pm -- America’s Funniest Home Videos

Monday, May 20
8 pm -- Dancing with the Stars (performance show)

Tuesday, May 21
8 pm -- Dancing with the Stars (two-hour results show)

Wednesday, May 22
8 pm -- The Middle
9 pm -- Modern Family
10 pm -- Nashville

Tuesday, May 28
10 pm -- Body of Proof

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'Mad Men' Star Ordered to Wear Underwear

One of the stars of the hit AMC drama series “Mad Men” has apparently created a distraction by going without underwear on the set.

The Huffington Post reports: “Jon Hamm's not-so-private parts are reportedly causing quite the stir on the ‘Mad Men’ set.” Citing a report by the New York Daily News, Huff Post says the actor was “kindly instructed by a staffer to please wear underwear while shooting his scenes.”

The report cites a source saying: “This season takes place in the 1960s, where the pants are very tight and leave little to the imagination. Jon’s impressive anatomy is so distracting that they politely insisted on underwear.”

The piece adds that during the show’s first two seasons, “The marketing team had to Photoshop a lot of the promotional posters, billboards and ad campaigns considering Hamm's ‘impressive anatomy’ was making an impressive showing.”

The source is quoted as saying: “His privates are the inside joke,” and adds that the actor “knows what he’s got.”

A rep for Hamm is less than amused by the report. “It is ridiculous and not really funny at all,” the rep reportedly told the Daily News. “I’d appreciate you taking the high road and not resorting to something childish like this that’s been blogged about 1,000 times.”

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'The Office' Writer Dies at 46

A television comedy writer who worked for four seasons on NBC’s "The Office" has died. Deadline.com reports that Lester Lewis died Tuesday night at 46. The report did not provide a cause of death.

Lewis worked as a consulting producer on “The Office.” He most recently executive produced and wrote a "shortcom" project for Fox that stars Michael Kosta and which is being considered for the network's "Short-Com Comedy Hour" series this summer, the story says.

He also worked as a consulting producer on CBS's "Partners," from David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, as well as on Kohan and Mutchnick's NBC series "Four Kings."

"We are devastated by the loss of this incredible man and brilliant writer,” Kohan and Mutchnick said, according to the story. “We had the privilege of working with him on two shows. They were both joyous experiences. Our hearts and prayers go out to his wife and children at this time.”

 

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With Fallon Anointed as Leno's Replacement, NBC Focuses on Timing of 'Tonight Show' Handoff; Meanwhile, an 'SNL' Regular Surfaces as Contender for Fallon's 12:35 a.m. Spot

Now that the successor to Jay Leno as host of NBC’s “Tonight Show” appears to be decided, key players at the network have turned their attention to deciding when to pull the trigger on the transition -- and the battle lines have been drawn, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The heir apparent to Leno is Jimmy Fallon. Some top NBCUniversal execs want a February 2014 launch for Fallon's retooled "Tonight," which would capitalize on the promotional platform the network has in the 2014 Winter Olympics, the piece reports, citing inside sources.

Lorne Michaels, executive producer of Fallon’s “Late Night,” is on the other side of the debate, expressing concerns about pushing ahead too fast.

“Moving more quickly not only would provide a high-profile launch for Fallon but effectively would keep ‘Tonight Show’ host Jay Leno from moving to a rival network until his contract expires in September 2014,” the story reports.

The piece notes that an announcement is expected at the May upfront presentation. As we reported previously, “Tonight” will move to New York when Fallon takes over.

“NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt and his late-night and alternative chief Paul Telegdy are said to be actively looking for a Fallon replacement at 12:35 a.m.,” THR reports. “One possibility is another Michaels protege, Seth Meyers of ‘Saturday Night Live.’”

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Hasselbeck Getting Interest From Cable News Channel

With talk that her days on ABC’s "The View" are numbered, Elisabeth Hasselbeck is receiving interest from another network, reports the New York Post's Page Six.

CNN boss Jeff Zucker is interested in hiring her, the story reports. While "The View" creator Barbara Walters has insisted that Hasselbeck isn't leaving, other reports continue to say she is.

Those reports cite the show's sagging ratings and suggestions that Hasselbeck’s conservative views don't work with its viewers.

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Elisabeth Hasselbeck

 

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What Happened to Former MSNBC Anchor Dylan Ratigan?

Former CNBC and MSNBC anchor Dylan Ratigan has discovered a second act after leaving cable news, reports TVNewser.

Ratigan wrote about his new life on his blog, noting that after leaving television he moved to San Diego County to work on a hydroponic organic farm.

Now he's creating a "farm incubator," using money he earned for writing "Greedy Bastards" and a loan from Whole Foods.

"The process alone has restored meaning and purpose in my life, my health and spirit have taken on a renewed vitality and, because of my time with you, I have had the opportunity and privilege to literally put my money where my mouth is," he wrote on his blog.

His new career will be highlighted today (Thursday) on ABC's "The Chew" at 1 p.m. ET and on Friday on MSNBC at 4 p.m. ET, he wrote.

dylan-ratigan1.jpgDylan Ratigan

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HBO Adds Disclaimer to 'Phil Spector'

HBO is adding an "odd" disclaimer to its film "Phil Spector," TheWrap.com reports. The disclaimer notes that the movie "is a work of fiction," according to the report.

The disclaimer marks a departure from other recent TV movies that have been based on true stories. The HBO project is distancing itself from the true events it's based on, surrounding the 1993 shooting death of actress Lana Clarkson.

"This is a work of fiction,” the card at the beginning of the show reads. "It’s not ‘based on a true story.’”

That's despite the fact that Spector and Clarkson, real people, are characters in the film.

The disclaimer adds, "It is a drama inspired by actual persons in a trial, but it is neither an attempt to depict the actual persons, nor to comment upon the trial or its outcome.”

The movie has come under fire from Spector's wife, Rachelle Spector, for its portrayal of Spector, while Clarkson's friends and her former publicist have protested the movie for its suggestion that the actress might have pulled the trigger herself, as we reported previously.

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Lana Clarkson

 

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Cable Channel's First Sitcom Renewed

A comedy series that has been a hit on cable will be back for another season. EW.com’s Inside TV reports that the cable channel TV Land ordered a fifth season of "Hot in Cleveland," the channel’s first sitcom.

Stars Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves, Wendie Malick and Betty White will return for the next season, the story says. The fifth season will start taping this fall.

“To have our first scripted sitcom make it to the syndication level is a huge accomplishment," said TV Land President Larry W. Jones.

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Judge Bars Lifetime From Airing TV Movie

A judge has barred Lifetime from airing a television movie that was slated to air Saturday, according to The Hollywood Reporter's Hollywood, Esq.

The movie, "Romeo Killer: The Christopher Porco Story," is based on the true story of Peter Porco, who was murdered, and the attempted murder of his wife, Joan Porco. Their son, Christopher Porco, was prosecuted and convicted for the crimes. Christopher Porco is alleging that the film violates his rights.

New York Supreme Court Judge Robert Muller issued an injunction that prevents the film from airing and prevents Lifetime from promoting the film, which stars Lolita Davidovich as the mother and Eric McCormack as the lead detective.

Lifetime is filing an emergency application to stay or vacate the ruling, which the article says "could reverberate throughout the entertainment industry."

The report adds: “Throughout the years, publicity rights [have] become a bigger and bigger issue in entertainment. The laws vary by state but generally protect an individual's likeness from being exploited. Increasingly, the boundaries between an individual's right to protect an image and First Amendment allowances on free expression aren't particularly clear, and some lawyers wonder if the confusion might chill speech.”

Lifetime says it risks losing more than $1 million if the decision stands.

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How Much DVR Content Never Gets Viewed? Study Delves Into the Mysteries of DVR Backlogs

A new study examines how much of the material recorded on DVRs goes unwatched, and it finds that the amount is substantial.

According to the study from Motorola Mobility, 41% of recorded content on DVRs in the U.S. is never watched, reports EW.com's Inside TV.

More than 77% of TV viewers say they record shows because there are other programs airing at the same time. "But the fact they aren’t watching is significant, especially at a time when the broadcast nets want Nielsen to measure live-plus-7 days of viewing to help entice advertisers," the story says.

Nevertheless, DVR usage is up, with 46% of homes in the U.S. owning one of the devices, compared with 30% a year earlier.

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NBC Sports Group Leads Nominees for 34th Annual Sports Emmys

The nominations for the 34th annual Sports Emmys were announced by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, with the NBC Sports Group topping the list.

The group, consisting of NBC, NBC Sports Network, Golf Channel nbcolympics.com, Bravo, CNBC, MSNBC, nbcsports.com and Telemundo, received a total of 58 nominations.

ESPN (ESPN, ESPN2, grantland.com, ABC, ESPN3D, ESPNU & ESPNews) followed with 43, and Turner Sports (TNT, TBS, NBA TV, NCAA.com & truTV) received 27 nods.

The full list of nominees can be found here.

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O.J. Simpson Trial Getting Fox Treatment

The O.J. Simpson trial has become a project at Fox, with the network working on a behind-the-scenes look at Simpson's trial and acquittal in the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, reports Deadline.com.

Called "The Run of His Life," the project comes from Nina Jacobson of the “Hunger Games" franchise and Brad Simpson and is based on the book from legal journalist Jeffrey Toobin.

Fox is also working on a project called "Shogun," based on the novel by James Clavell. The book has been the focus of a TV project before -- NBC's 12-hour limited series in 1980 that starred Richard Chamberlain and still ranks as one of the biggest TV events in history. The story tracks a British sailor who rises to samurai in 17th century Japan.

The new project comes from Michael De Luca of "The Social Network" and Nigel Williams of "Elizabeth I."

Both projects are from FX Productions.

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Bobby Brown Released From Jail After Serving Nine Hours of 55-Day Sentence

R&B singer and reality TV star Bobby Brown was released from jail after serving just nine hours of his 55-day sentence, TMZ.com reports. He was jailed on his third DUI, the story notes.

“Brown checked into L.A. County Jail at 9:58 AM Wednesday,” the piece reports. “He was released at 6:58 PM. Interesting ... an L.A. County Sheriff's spokesperson said just days ago Brown would serve 9 days ... but the jails are bursting at the seams and this is what happens ... kind of a joke, don't you think?”

Brown, who is the ex-husband of the late Whitney Houston, starred along with Houston in the Bravo reality series “Being Bobby Brown.” He was arrested in October after reportedly being seen driving erratically in Los Angeles, and pleaded no contest to driving under the influence and driving on a suspended license.

The arrest was his second DUI in seven months, the piece notes. He is on a four-year probation and has been ordered to attend alcohol eduction classes.

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Growth in Pay TV Lags Behind Economic Recovery

Pay television isn't growing at the same rate as the larger economic recovery, reports the New York Post, citing a study from research firm SNL Kagan.

The housing market added half a million new units in the fourth quarter, but pay-TV operators including cable and satellite companies added only 51,000 new customers, the study found.

Pay-TV companies lost 5,000 customers in the first three quarters of the year, so the industry actually only gained 46,000 customers in 2012, the story notes.

"Relative to population growth, if accurate, an estimate like this one is troubling, and speaks to the need for change in traditional TV, and also of the effectiveness of new online video alternatives,” Kagan said.

The report suggests that when people move into new homes, they're not ordering cable or other pay-TV services.

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Life Imitates Art: A Man Named Bart Simpson Stands Trial Before a Judge Named Mr. Burns

In an example of life imitating art -- or, in this case, television -- a defendant named Bart Simpson appeared in court before a judge called Mr. Burns, reports the U.K.'s Daily Mail.

The real-life trial, which sounds like a scene out of Fox’s long-running animated hit “The Simpsons,” took place Monday at Warwick Crown Court in the U.K., where company director Bart Simpson, 56, appeared before Mr. Recorder Burns, the story says.

Simpson was facing charges for taking a World War II gun into an airport, but was spared jail after admitting he carried the .38 Smith and Wesson revolver in his luggage.

Burns sentenced Simpson to a 12-month community order, serving 140 hours of unpaid work. He was also ordered to pay £800, or about $1,210.

According to the article, Simpson meant to take the gun out of his bag and leave it in his locked car, but was distracted over the deaths of a friend and of his son, a soldier, the story says.

A court worker told the publication, "It's a bizarre coincidence that Bart Simpson is actually on trial in front of Mr. Burns but it'll proceed as any other criminal case would.

“There were some eyebrows raised when the court list was published.”

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Jimmy Fallon Likely to Get 'Tonight Show' (Sorry, Howard) as the Program Will Move Back to New York City

"NBC has settled on two new stars for 'The Tonight Show': Jimmy Fallon and New York City," writes our good friend Bill Carter in The New York Times, adding, "The network has made a commitment to Mr. Fallon, the current host of its 'Late Night' program, for him to succeed Jay Leno as the next host of 'Tonight,' according to several senior television executives involved in the decision. As part of the agreement, the show would move from Burbank, Calif., back to New York, where it started in 1954 with Steve Allen as host."

Earlier yesterday Nellie Andreeva of Deadline.com also wrote about the impending move, and included this: "In an interview with GQ, 'Late Night' [and 'SNL'] executive producer Lorne Michaels also hinted at the inevitability of Fallon’s anointment as new 'Tonight' host. 'I’m not allowed to say it -- yet,' he said. 'But I think there’s an inevitability to it,' He added: 'He’s the closest to [Johnny] Carson that I’ve seen of this generation.'"

Carter writes in his NY Times piece, "One senior executive who has been involved in the discussions said on Wednesday that 'there is no way on earth that this is not going to happen.'"

Earlier this week, Howard Stern told his radio listeners that he was going to take over for Leno, EW.com's Inside TV reported.

Carter also writes in his New York Times piece, "NBC has not completed a deal with Mr. Fallon yet, but his assent is considered mostly a formality, since the move would represent a significant step up for him. And the network has not settled on an exact timetable for the switch, though it is expected to take place by fall 2014 at the latest, said the executives, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because discussions were still continuing."

Andreeva noted that Leno's contract ends in September 2014.

Carter adds: "The move to Mr. Fallon would be a significant cultural, and geographic, shift. Mr. Leno delivers a more traditional Las Vegas-style comedy act that is viewed as a link to previous hosts, including his immediate predecessor, Johnny Carson. Mr. Fallon, 38, offers a more contemporary and varied brand of entertainment, with a heavy reliance on the Internet. His best material gains additional life on sites like YouTube, and he actively courts interaction with his viewers by having them submit comedy ideas through Twitter."

And Fallon is a gifted mimic, who has had great fun imitating such popular singers as Neil Young.

Carter also writes, "Mr. Leno’s 'Tonight' show still regularly leads in the late-night ratings. But by turning to Mr. Fallon, NBC hopes to counter what it regards as its biggest late-night competitor of the future, Jimmy Kimmel, who in January moved his show on ABC from midnight to 11:35 p.m.

"Many TV executives speculated that NBC could not afford to wait too long to promote Mr. Fallon, or it might risk having Mr. Kimmel, 45, lock up the young-adult viewers who are the economic lifeblood of late-night television."

With Fallon as host, "The Tonight Show" will be returning to New York City. Carson moved the show to L.A. in 1972.

So Fallon will be going up against David Letterman every night for guests who are in New York. Kimmel remains in L.A., as do Conan O'Brien and Craig Ferguson, at least for now.

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Did ABC's New Show Make a 'Splash'? Did NBC's 'Smash' Crash? Here Are the Numbers

The turnout for ABC’s new celebrity diving competition Tuesday night created at least a ripple in the ratings, based on Nielsen overnights for the key 18-49 demo. But it wasn’t quite the full-blown cannonball splash the network may have been hoping for.

TVbytheNumbers.com reports that the show’s one-hour premiere delivered a 2.6 average rating in viewers 18-49, not enough to elevate ABC to contention for No. 1 for the night, but 13% better than the series premiere for “Celebrity Wife Swap” a little more than a year ago. And these days, with broadcast numbers steadily eroding, anything that compares favorably with a year ago is a good thing.

It was the best premiere for an unscripted series on ABC in more than two years.

CBS won the night handily anyway -- especially in total viewers. The numbers for the 18-49 demo showed CBS on top for prime time with a 2.6, followed by Fox and ABC at 2.0, Univision with a 1.4 and NBC stumbling home in fifth place with a 0.9. CBS distanced itself from the pack in total viewers with 15.0 million, followed by ABC’s 8.9 million, Fox’s 4.3 million, Univision’s 3.5 million and NBC’s 2.9 million.

NBC’s “Smash” continues to struggle, losing 11% from last week and equaling its series low with a 0.8 average in adults 18-49.

CBS’s drama lineup was mixed, with “NCIS” slipping 9% from its most recent original to a 3.1 average, still claiming the best number of the night in 18-49. “NCIS: Los Angeles” was steady with a 2.8, while “Golden Boy” improved 13% with a 1.7 as CBS won every hour of prime time.

Fox was mostly down, with “Hell’s Kitchen” dipping 5% from last week’s season premiere to a 2.0 in the 18-49 demo and “New Girl” eroding 4% from its previous original to a 2.2, while “The Mindy Project” held steady with a 1.7.

Leading out from “Splash,” ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars: Exclusive First Look” did a 2.1, 5% better than “DWTS: The Story So Far” a year ago. “Body of Proof” was another bright spot of sorts for ABC, surging 25% from last week to a 1.5.

NBC barely topped a 1.0 all night in viewers 18-49, with the second episode of “Betty White’s Off Their Rockers” managing a 1.1 after the opener scored a 1.0. “Go On” delivered a 1.0, and it was downhill from there, with “The New Normal” hitting a series low with a 0.7 and “Smash” equaling its series-low 0.8.

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NBC Confirms Who Will Be the New Judge on 'America's Got Talent'

Following up on reports earlier this month that she would be joining NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” as the new judge, supermodel Heidi Klum announced this week that she’s taking the job and NBC confirmed the news, according to a Reuters report.

Klum will be the fourth judge on a panel that also includes Howie Mandel, Howard Stern and former Spice Girl Mel Be, the report notes. The series is hosted by Nick Cannon.

Klum reportedly tweeted the news, writing: "Excited 2 join @HowardStern @howiemandel @OfficialMelB & @NickCannon on @nbcagt as new judge! Will be so fun.”

Paul Telegdy, president of alternative programming for NBC, confirmed the news, saying in a statement: "As we look to develop an act that will get the world's attention, we and the contestants will benefit from Heidi's international sensibility and understanding of what works in today's global entertainment industry.”

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Heidi Klum

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Peacock Acquires Drama Series

NBC has picked up a one-hour drama series for a 10-episode season. Deadline.com reports that the network acquired U.S. rights to “Crossing Lines” for a summer run. The show comes from German producer Tandem Communications and Ed Bernero’s Bernero Productions.

“Created, developed and executive produced by former ‘Criminal Minds’ showrunner Bernero and Tandem President Rola Bauer, ‘Crossing Lines’ taps into the charter of the International Criminal Court to investigate serialized cross-border crimes and to hunt down global criminals,” the piece reports. “It stars William Fichtner, Donald Sutherland, Marc Lavoine, Gabriella Pession, Tom Wlaschiha, Moon Dailly and Richard Flood.”

Said NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt: “We’re making scripted projects a priority for our summer lineup, and this is a great fit.”

The report adds: “The series is a co-production with TF1 Production/TF1 Network and commissioned by Sony Pictures TV Networks. It also has been acquired by Germany’s SAT.1 and Italian public broadcaster RAI.”

NBC has also ordered the dramedy “Camp” for summer, the piece notes.

 

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Meredith Vieira Replaced by Comedian as Host of 'Millionaire'

Meredith Vieira, the longtime host of the syndicated game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” will be replaced by comedian Cedric “The Entertainer” when the show launches its 12th season this fall.

Disney-ABC Domestic Television made the announcement today in a press release. Vieira has been the host since the show launched in 2002.

Janice Marinelli, president of Disney-ABC Domestic Television, said in the statement: “We are thrilled to announce that Cedric ‘The Entertainer’ will be at the helm as our new host of ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.’ With his deep roots as a successful stand-up comedian and actor, Cedric will bring his fresh approach and unpredictable fun to the show.”

Cedric added this comment: “I’m truly looking forward to hosting ‘Millionaire.’ The show is a modern-day game show GIANT, and the team at Disney-ABC has been great at putting the right elements together over 11 seasons. I’m excited to entertain all those who watch and play as season 12 launches. ... It’s going to be a good time every day!!”

Cedric is known for the “Kings of Comedy” tour, which also included Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley and the late Bernie Mac.

 

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Longest-Serving Member of FCC to Step Down

The Federal Communications Commission member who is the panel’s longest-serving current commissioner is stepping down. B&C reports that Robert McDowell made the announcement today that he intends to leave the commission in “a few weeks.”

McDowell has been on the commission since 2006, when he filled the unexpired term of then-FCC Chairman Michael Powell. He was subsequently confirmed for a new five-year term after being renominated by President Obama, the report notes.

“McDowell had been in the conversation for chairman if Mitt Romney had won the White House,” the report notes, adding: “His chief of staff, Angela Giancarlo, announced last month she was leaving.”

David Cohen, executive VP of Comcast Corp., said: "Commissioner McDowell has been an exemplary public servant. His wisdom, practicality and hard work all contribute to the widespread respect that everyone has for him. Commissioner McDowell's tireless efforts to promote a free and unregulated Internet, reform Universal Service and keep the U.S. at the forefront of International telecommunications policy are just a few of his many notable accomplishments. We wish him all the best and congratulate him on his very successful seven-year tenure at the FCC."

The report adds: “McDowell's exit will allow Republicans in Congress to pair up a new nominee from each party if, as expected, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski also exits the commission.

“Technically the pick of FCC nominees is the president's to make, but ever since Bill Clinton deferred to Republican leadership for names to fill Republican seats, the custom is that top Senate Republicans -- in this case Sens. Mitch McConnell, minority leader, and John Thune, ranking Commerce Committee member (R-S.D.) -- get to make the call.”

The story also notes: “At the commission, McDowell has been a free market fan as well as a voice of caution that some of the FCC's decisions could have trouble passing muster in the courts. He has also been a consistent warning voice about international efforts to undermine the multistakeholder model of Internet governance.”

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NBC-Owned WMAQ in Chicago Names President and GM

NBCUniversal-owned station WMAQ-TV in Chicago has named a new president and general manager. Crain’s Chicago Business reports that local TV veteran David Doebler gets the job.

Doebler has been president and GM of NBCU-owned WVIT-TV in Hartford, Conn., for the past eight years. He replaces Larry Wert, who exited his position at WMAQ to oversee local broadcast for Tribune Co.

In a statement, Valari Staab, president of the NBC Owned Television Stations, said Tuesday: "David has done a great job strengthening the competitive position of NBC Connecticut. With his leadership abilities, local broadcast experience and record of success, I am confident he has the right skills to steer WMAQ as the station continues its forward progress."

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Howard Stern Says 'The Tonight Show' Is His

Radio shock jock and “America’s Got Talent” judge Howard Stern says he knows who will take over from Jay Leno as host of NBC’s “Tonight Show.” Stern told his radio listeners Tuesday morning on SiriusXM that the job is his, EW.com’s Inside TV reports.

“Stern casually mentioned how he’s going to ‘take over “The Tonight Show”’ when addressing the public drubbing that Matt Lauer has received over Ann Curry’s departure last summer,” the story reports. “Stern also refers to how Bob Greenblatt -- NBC’s entertainment chairman -- told him how he’s ‘got to take over the show.’”

However, the website reports that an insider said no such talks are in the works. The piece notes that Leno’s numbers on the NBC show continue to be strong in the 11:30 p.m. time slot.

“During the February sweeps, ‘The Tonight Show’ beat ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’ and ‘The Late Show with David Letterman’ among adults 18-49 (1.003 million versus Letterman’s 920,000 and Kimmel’s 898,000) and attracted a bigger audience (3.5 million viewers versus Letterman’s 3.2 million and Kimmel’s 2.5 million),” EW reports. “Still, rumors persist about a possible succession plan in 2014 that would involve Jimmy Fallon assuming the 11:30 p.m. time slot.”

Stern has reportedly been in a feud with Leno for years.

“Stern likes to talk trash about Leno,” the report notes. “Last August, Stern claimed that reports about Leno taking a pay cut to limit staff reductions was not the entire truth. ‘Jay wanted to cut staff. He’s embarrassed to do it. He didn’t want to come off as a bad guy. NBC took the hit for him, because they’re a corporation. … My bullsh-t meter is going off all over the place,’ he said.”

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Crime Drama Gets a 14th Season

One of the most successful drama series of the past decade will be back for a 14th season. The renewal for the procedural “CSI,” not a surprise, was made official in a statement by CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the contracts of stars Ted Danson and Elisabeth Shue, along with other cast members, have been extended.

Tassler said in her statement: "’CSI’ is synonymous with CBS, and we are so proud of the series' creative and commercial legacy and its continued success on our network. The writers and producers have done an amazing job evolving ‘CSI,’ reinventing the show around an incredible leading man in Ted Danson, the acclaimed Elisabeth Shue and our beloved and talented core of original cast members."

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NBC Rolls Out Schedule of Season Finales, 'Talent' Premiere Date

NBC has announced its seaon finale dates, along with the premiere date for the upcoming season of “America’s Got Talent,” with supermodel Heidi Klum and former Spice Girl Mel B joining the judging panel.

TVGuide.com reports that season eight of “Talent” is set to bow Tuesday, June 4, at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

“’Law & Order: SVU’ will wrap its 14th season with a special two-hour episode on Wednesday, May 22, at 9/8c,” the report notes. “’Parks and Recreation’ will close its fifth season on Thursday, May 2, at 9:30/8:30c. As previously announced, both comedies ‘Whitney’ and ‘The New Normal’ will expand to an hour for their respective finales."

Here’s the schedule of season finales:

Wednesday, March 27
Whitney, 8/7c (one-hour finale)

Thursday, March 28
1600 Penn, 8:30/7:30c and 9:30/8:30c

Tuesday, April 2
The New Normal, 9/8c (one-hour finale)

Thursday, April 11
Go On, 9:30/8:30c

Thursday, May 2
Parks and Recreation, 9:30/8:30c

Thursday, May 9
Community, 8/7c

Friday, May 10
Fashion Star, 8/7c

Wednesday, May 15
Chicago Fire, 10/9c

Thursday, May 16
The Office, 9/8c (one-hour series finale)

Friday, May 17
Grimm, 9/8c

Sunday, May 19
The Celebrity Apprentice, 9/8c

Wednesday, May 22
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, 9/8c (two-hour finale)

Monday, May 27
Revolution, 10/9c

Tuesday, June 18
The Voice, 9/8c

Thursday, June 27
Hannibal, 10/9c

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HBO Pulls Plug on Series

In what HBO calls "a very difficult decision," the pay-cable network has canceled a series. The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed reports that the channel pulled the plug on "Enlightened" after two seasons.

The dramedy was co-created by Mike White and Laura Dern, who also starred as Amy Jellicoe, a self-destructive executive who seeks to get her life together after waking up in rehab. Dern won a Golden Globe for the role in 2012.

HBO is preparing to debut the new comedy "Family Tree," and also has four comedy pilots in the works, the story notes.

 

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NBC Reportedly Has Its Sights Set on a Potential Savior for 'Today' -- but Here's Why She Won't Do It

NBC reportedly is trying to lure a former network regular back into the fold to help turn things around at “Today,” but she’s not interested. TMZ.com reports that the network is eager to sign Maria Shriver to something more permanent after she made a big splash on the show earlier this week.

Shriver, who reported from the Vatican on Monday, isn’t interested in a daily job, the story reports. She has previously turned down NBC and other networks, which have approached her about doing a talk show. Because she's busy with charity work and her children, she's not all that eager to take on a daily job.

The piece notes that Shriver is reportedly worth $100 million, which could increase by as much as $200 million when her divorce from Arnold Schwarzenegger is final. Because of her wealth, a huge deal from a network isn't enough to make her sign a contract, the story adds.

Shriver might appear on NBC occasionally, but isn't likely to appear every day, the piece notes.

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Maria Shriver

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CNN Regular Headed Out the Door, Says Zucker 'Wants His Own Peeps'

A regular CNN contributor is the cable network’s latest departure as new boss Jeff Zucker continues his overhaul of the cable news channel.

Author and TV host Roland Martin announced on Twitter that he will depart April 6, saying the "new boss wants his own peeps," according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Martin, who joined CNN in 2007, got in trouble during last year's Super Bowl, when he tweeted a message that some called homophobic, the story notes. Martin tweeted: "If a dude at your Super Bowl party is hyped about David Beckham's H&M underwear ad, smack the ish out of him!"

CNN suspended him after GLAAD and other groups complained, although he was reinstated a month later, the piece reports.

roland-martin.jpgRoland Martin

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Christina Ricci Bails Out on NBC Comedy After Table Read

Actress Christina Ricci has exited a new NBC comedy following a table read, reports Deadline.com. Ricci, known for her role on "Pan Am," was the first major cast member to join the pilot, “Girlfriend in a Coma.”

The project was expected to move from Los Angeles to New York, where Ricci lives, but now will likely stay in Los Angeles if it goes to series. NBC executives reportedly think highly of the project.

"Recastings are an unfortunate but unavoidable part of pilot season when 100 pilots are being cast in the span of a month and a half," the story notes.

Other pilots that have had recastings include Fox's "The List" and ABC's "Mixology” and “Pulling,” along with NBC’s untitled Robert Padnick project, the piece adds.

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Fun Non-TV Story of the Day: A Very Plain White Bowl With More Than a Few Dings Was Bought at a Garage Sale Six Years Ago for $3. We Would've Paid a Buck Fifty, Tops. It Sold Yesterday for ... $2.2 Million

A well-used, slightly dinged-up bowl, shown below, purchased for no more than $3 at a garage sale was sold at auction Tuesday for more than $2.2 million.

Reuters reports that the unassuming item bought at a sale in New York state turned out to be a 1,000-year-old Chinese bowl.

“An unnamed New York family bought the ‘Ding’ bowl, which is from the Northern Song Dynasty, for no more than $3 in 2007 and displayed it on a mantelpiece with no idea as to its real worth, Sotheby's said,” according to the report.

“After consulting with experts, the owners consigned the bowl for auction. Sotheby's estimated it would sell for $200,000 to $300,000. London dealer Giuseppe Eskenazi paid $2,225,000 including commission for the bowl, which measures just over five inches in diameter, at the auction in New York City.”

According to the piece, Sotheby's noted that the British Museum in London has had “the only known bowl of the same form, size and almost identical decoration” in its collection for more than 60 years.

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A&E Series Sets Ratings Record

An A&E series set a ratings record with its premiere Monday. EW.com’s Inside TV reports that the cable channel had 4.6 million viewers tune in for the "Psycho" prequel "Bates Motel." The premiere also drew 2.4 million viewers 18 to 49, making it the network's top-rated drama series premiere ever in the demographic, the piece reports.

The show received generally positive reviews, the story notes.

"We are extremely pleased with the initial viewer response to this edgy and provocative series and are confident that it will continue to draw in new audiences, " said Bob DeBitetto, president and GM of A&E.

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Looks Like We May Have to Wait Three More Years for the Next James Bond Movie. Three Years??!! Whatever Happened to the Notion 'Get 'em While They're Hot'?

"According to Reuters, a conference call between MGM Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Gary Barber and film investors revealed that the screenplay for the 24th James Bond film is in development, and that they were optimistic about having another film ready in three years or so. Three years!?!"

So writes Nick Venable at CinemaBlend.com. He notes that last year's Bond flick, "Skyfall," was only "the highest-grossing Bond film of all time -- and the seventh highest grossing film ever with a $1.1 billion gross."

And while Venable notes that the danger is that the follow-up to "Skyfall" might not measure up -- "the underwhelming 'Quantum of Solace'" followed the excellent "Casino  Royale," he observes -- "even a less-than-fantastic Bond film is still a Bond film, especially with Daniel Craig signed on for another two features."

Venable adds, "Don’t [the producers of the Bond series] realize three years from now, Adele will probably be a home-bodied shut-in unable to get past all the Grammy Awards to exit her house, much less make it to the studio to record a theme song? Keep your eyes peeled for more news on directors and casting, which isn’t necessarily for your eyes only, but it can be shared."

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James Woods Books Return to Television

Two-time Oscar nominee and two-time Emmy winner James Woods is headed back to television. The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed reports that Woods will play a recurring role on Showtime’s “Ray Donovan.”

Woods, who previously starred in the 2006-2008 legal series "Shark," will play Patrick "Sully" Sullivan, a man with a complicated history with the Donovan family.

Ray Donovan is played by Liev Schrieber, a "fixer" for the rich and famous in Los Angeles whose life becomes complicated when his father, played by Jon Voight, is released from prison.

Woods, known for his appearances in a string of successful films including “The Onion Field,” “Once Upon a Time in America” and “Nixon,” received Academy Award nominations for his leading role in “Salvador” in 1987 and his supporting role in “Ghosts of Mississippi” in 1997.

Woods has been nominated eight times for Emmys, most recently in 2011 for “Too Big to Fail.” He won Emmys as lead actor in “Promise” in 1987 and “My Name Is Bill W.” in 1989.

 

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MSNBC Names Replacement for Chris Hayes

MSNBC has named a new host for the slot being vacated by Chris Hayes, who is moving into the 8 p.m. weeknight slot. The New York Times' Media Decoder reports that the weekend morning show “Up” will be hosted by Steve Kornacki.

The network didn't provide a start date for Kornacki, but MSNBC has said Hayes will start in his new role on April 1. Hayes is replacing Ed Schultz in the prime-time lineup, with Schultz launching a new 5-7 p.m. weekend show.

Kornacki, 33, joined "The Cycle" last summer as co-host with three other young hosts, drawing ratings that have pleased MSNBC executives. He has also worked as a senior political writer for Salon since 2010.

steve-kornacki.jpgSteve Kornacki

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Tribune Relaunches Studio, Puts Former Warner Bros./FX Exec in Charge

Tribune is rolling out plans for its studio relaunch, with the newly formed Tribune Studios to be headed up by former Warner Bros. executive Matt Cherniss. B&C reports that Tribune named Cherniss president and general manager of WGN America and Tribune Studios.

“Cherniss, 40, will be responsible for overall strategy, execution and day-to-day strategy operations of both properties, based in Los Angeles, and report to Tribune CEO Peter Liguori. He'll oversee the development of original content for WGN America and Tribune's 23 local TV stations,” the story reports.

“Julio Marenghi, who has headed WGN America since 2009, will now be president of broadcast media sales, overseeing ad sales for the company's local stations and WGN Radio in Chicago.”

Cherniss and Liguori previously worked together at FX, the report notes, adding: “And just like ‘The Shield’ put FX on the map in 2002, Cherniss will be tasked with finding that breakout piece of programming that can redefine WGN America.”

Cherniss told the publication: "It all begins with one show. It starts that process of building WGN America to be on the same level with all the other general entertainment networks out there."

The piece notes that Liguori and Cherniss didn’t have much to say about which viewers the retooled network will seek out, but that they will let the programming point the way to an audience. “Cherniss did say that both scripted and unscripted will eventually be a part of the mix,” the report adds.

Said Liguori: "It's difficult for us at this point to get into any specific targets. Matt, who has a research background, will do some digging. We'll see where there's some white space and we will make our case internally and to the creative community of who we should go after and who we can draw into our network."

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John Malone Gets Back Into Cable Business: Liberty Media Buys Stake in Charter Communications

Liberty Media said Tuesday it is buying a stake in Charter Communications. USA Today reports that the purchase of 27.3% of Charter for $2.62 billion “gives Liberty direct access to the cable service markets in the U.S. with plenty of room for growth.”

The report adds: “The media giant, which owns shares in the Atlanta Braves, SiriusXM and Barnes & Noble, bought the stake from a group of investment funds -- Apollo Management, Oaktree Capital Management and Crestview Partners -- by paying $95.50 per share in cash and new loans.”

Charter shares reportedly rose 2.39% Tuesday to $100.38, while Liberty Media shares fell 0.29% to $110.34.

In a statement, Liberty Chairman John Malone said: "We are pleased with Charter's market position and growth opportunities.”

USA Today adds: “The deal marks Malone's return to the U.S. cable business at a time when service providers are facing major upheaval from customers cutting cable subscriptions and from media companies demanding better financial terms.

“But opportunities for growth in broadband Internet remain robust as consumers are demanding and willing to pay for faster connections.”

The report also notes: “An old hand in the cable business, Malone grew and sold cable provider Tele-Communications Inc. to AT&T in 1999 for $48 billion.”

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Lawsuit by Actress Against IMDb Headed to Trial

A lawsuit by an actress who sued Amazon and its IMDb unit has been allowed to go to trial, reports The New York Times' Media Decoder. A judge ruled Monday that Junie Hoang, who sued because IMDb posted her age, could proceed to trial with a breach of contract claim and request for damages related to her career, the story says.

The judge, however, excluded Amazon as a defendant, meaning that only IMDb is left in the suit, the story says. Hoang was also barred from claiming emotional distress. The judge also "granted summary judgment denying a claim that the database had violated the Consumer Protection Act by publishing Ms. Hoang’s age without her consent," the piece adds.

Hoang, who is now 41 years old, filed a complaint in 2011 that claimed IMDb.com had illegally used her credit card information to find out and post her age. In an industry that places a high value on youth, she claimed the disclosure opened her up to age discrimination.

“Anyone who values their privacy and has ever given credit card information to an online company like IMDb or Amazon.com should be concerned about the outcome,” Hoang said in a statement.

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Veteran TV Producer Dead at 65 -- He Was Behind 'Homeland,' 'Northern Exposure,' 'Chicago Hope' and Other Successful Shows

An executive producer behind Showtime’s critically acclaimed series “Homeland” and other shows has died. EW.com’s Inside TV reports that Henry Bromell died at 65. The veteran television writer and producer died Monday after reportedly suffering a heart attack.

Bromell’s list of credits included “Homicide: Life on the Street,” “Northern Exposure,” “Chicago Hope,” “Brotherhood” and “Carnivale,” among other shows.

The production team behind “Homeland” issued a statement saying: “Henry was a profoundly decent and generous man. A great writer and a great friend. No matter how crazy things got, when he was in the room, you knew everything was going to be okay. Everybody here at ‘Homeland’ is grieving, and we will miss him beyond words.”

A statement from Showtime said: “We are deeply saddened at the loss of our dear friend Henry Bromell, who has been a part of the Showtime family for over a decade. Henry was an immensely talented and prolific writer, director and showrunner, and his work on ‘Brotherhood’ and ‘Homeland’ was nothing short of brilliant. His passion, warmth, humor and generosity will be greatly missed. Our hearts and thoughts go out to his wife and family.”

henry-bromell.jpgHenry Bromell

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'Modern Family' Star Joins 'Bonnie & Clyde'

One of the stars of ABC's "Modern Family" has been cast in Lifetime and History's "Bonnie & Clyde" project, according to The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed.

In the four-part miniseries, “Modern Family’s” Sarah Hyland will play Blanche Barrow, the wife of Clyde's brother Buck, a partner in the Barrow Gang.

The Depression-era bank-robbing drama also stars Emile Hirsch as Clyde Barrow and Holliday Grainger as Bonnie Parker, while William Hurt will play the Texas Ranger who tracks the outlaws. Holly Hunter will play Bonnie's mother.

The project, which will air on both networks, is produced by "Smash" executive producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan.

Hyland will also star in the Lifetime original movie "Call Me Crazy: A Five Film," the report notes.

Sarah-Hyland.jpgSarah Hyland

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'Dancing With the Stars' Premiere Lifts ABC to Ratings Win -- So Who Was the Biggest Casualty?

ABC’s two-hour “Dancing with the Stars” premiere went head-to-head against NBC’s two-hour “Biggest Loser” season finale Monday night, and CBS got caught in the middle.

TVbytheNumbers.com reports that CBS’s “2 Broke Girls” and “Mike & Molly” both hit lows in the key 18-49 demo, based on Nielsen overnights -- a season low for “Mike” and an all-time low for “Girls.” But CBS still had enough left in the tank to finish second overall behind ABC.

“Dancing with the Stars” was down 11% from last spring’s season premiere with a 3.1 average rating in viewers 18-49 -- but that number was ABC’s second-best average for the two-hour block since April 2012. Leading out from “Dancing” at 10 p.m., ABC’s “Castle” won the hour with a 2.2 despite slipping 4% from its previous original.

CBS’s “2 Broke Girls” dropped 18% from its last original episode, falling to a series-low 2.7 in the 18-49 demo. “Mike & Molly” lost 11% for a season-low 2.4. Leading the way for the network was “How I Met Your Mother,” which lost 12% for a 2.9. “Rules of Engagement” bounced back from last week’s season low, ticking up 5% to a 2.2. “Hawaii Five-0” rose 5% from its previous original to a 2.1.

Fox’s two dramas were down: “Bones” slipped 9% from its most recent original episode to a 2.0 in 18-49, while “The Following” lost 11% from a week ago to settle for a 2.4.

NBC’s season finale of “The Biggest Loser” showed improvement with a 2.6 in adults 18-49 -- up 30% from last week’s episode and up 18% from the season finale last spring. The season finale of “Deception” at 10 p.m. also was up, managing a 1.3, up 18% from a week ago -- probably not enough to earn the series another season.

For prime time overall, ABC led the way with a 2.8 average in the 18-49 demo, followed by CBS (2.4), Fox (2.2) and NBC (2.2). ABC was a big winner in total viewers with 14.9 million to CBS’s 8.0 million, Fox’s 7.2 million and NBC’s 6.1 million.

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'Downton Abbey' Breaks Ratings Record

PBS’s ratings juggernaut “Downton Abbey” continues to set viewership records. The latest, according to EW.com’s Inside TV, is for the show’s third season, which ranks as PBS’s highest-rated drama of all time.

Season three averaged 11.5 million viewers over the course of a seven-episode season.

“For those keeping count, that’s up more than 60 percent from season two,” EW reports. “To top it off, the third-season finale, which aired on Feb. 17, attracted about 12.3 million viewers, beating all broadcast and cable competition airings in the time slot.”

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Univision Tweaks Network Sales Group

Univision Communications has announced a number of personnel moves, reshaping the executive lineup in its Network Sales division.

Lisa Nolan has been promoted to senior VP of Network Sales. Nolan has been with Univision since 1999, most recently as vice president of Network Sales.

Claudia Granados, vice president of Business Development, takes over Nolan’s spot as vice president of Network Sales. Granados has been with Univision since 1994.

Granados will report to Nolan, with Nolan reporting to Trisha Pray, executive vice president of Network Sales.

Said Pray: “We are so fortunate to be able to fill important positions with talented people from within our own company who know how to help advertisers connect with the U.S. Hispanic audience in a mutually beneficial way.”

 

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What ABC's New Celebrity Diving Show Has That Fox's Celebrity Diving Show Didn't Have -- and What It Says About Trainwreck TV

ABC’s new celebrity diving show, which premieres tonight, may have one thing going for it that Fox’s similarly themed, not widely viewed and largely forgotten “Stars in Danger: The High Dive” didn’t have, according to TV writer Jennifer Graham Kizer, writing on iVillage.com.

That would be plus-size comedian Louie Anderson, whose inclusion in the lineup for ABC’s new “Splash!” has already had an impact. Anderson “is one competitor getting lots of early attention,” Graham Kizer writes, “ostensibly since his girth ought to inspire the largest ‘splash.’ He also told ABC News that he's ‘not that good of a swimmer’ and has ‘a fear of heights.’ An overweight, fearful guy on a high dive? Perfect. This ought to be way better than that other celebrity diving show that's everyone's forgotten already. Too bad they didn't have a fat guy.”

Also in the lineup for “Splash!” are celebs and near-celebs including reality star Kendra Wilkinson, “Baywatch” alum Nicole Eggert and NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, among others. A real diver, Olympian Greg Louganis, will be coaching the stars.

Addressing fans of trainwreck reality television, Graham Kizer says “Splash!” is “your next opportunity to watch TV through your fingers as minor celebs risk humiliation for money (and maybe a bit more fame).”

The report gets into a series of recent “bad reality ideas” that have made it into various channels’ lineups, including NBC’s “Stars Earn Stripes,” AMC’s “Immortalized,” CBS’s “The Job” and E!’s “Bridalplasty.”

Graham Kizer writes: “Maybe we should have expected this from the network that brought us ‘Are You Hot?’ a decade ago. (A judging panel selected the contestant with the sexiest body. With a laser pointer.) But let's not pick on ABC, because lots of networks have taken bad reality ideas all the way to the air.”

Considering other contenders in the crowded trainwreck TV field, Graham Kizer concludes: “On second thought, maybe ‘Splash!’ isn't so bad. Divers, take your mark!”

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Leno Escalates War of Words With NBC 'Snakes' -- Are Latest Salvos Part of His 'Tonight Show' Endgame?

Jay Leno isn’t backing down after angering NBC entertainment chief Robert Greenblatt by joking on "The Tonight Show" about the network’s ratings struggles.

The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed reports that Leno kept up the assault during Monday’s monologue. Leno aimed a joke at the network’s executives, saying, "You know the whole legend of St. Patrick, right? St. Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland -- and then they came to the United States and became NBC executives. It's a fascinating story."

As previously reported, Leno is in the doghouse with Greenblatt after the comedian made jokes about NBC's ratings slide and its fifth-place finish in the February sweeps. Greenblatt sent an email to Leno complaining about the jokes, which led to a pointed exchange between the two.

THR is reporting that two high-level industry sources have said NBC has been considering making an announcement in May about an exit plan for Leno as host of “Tonight.” Leno is widely expected to be replaced by Jimmy Fallon, with the latest report forecasting the transition for 2014.

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What Is It That Finally Has Stephen Colbert -- Who Never Breaks Character -- Ready to Break Character?

Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert said he's not afraid of any criticism that might come his way for breaking character and supporting his sister in her congressional run, according to The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed.

"I'm willing to, you know, break the jewel of my own creation to try to do something for her," Colbert told CNN's Jake Tapper about his sister, Elizabeth Colbert-Busch, who is running as a Democrat in South Carolina.

He added, "I'm not worried about what it would do to me or my show to try to help her as myself -- not as my character, to help her as myself. And you know, if people think that's not the right thing for me to do, I don't care. It's my sister, and I'm willing to help her."

Colbert-Busch, who has worked at Clemson University for years, is running for a vacated seat in South Carolina's 1st District, the story says.

"It takes a lot to get Stephen Colbert to break character," the report adds. "After all, this is a man who on national television roasted a sitting president while sitting close enough to be smacked, and raised more than $1 million as part of an extended, principled joke."

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CNN Adds Three New Correspondents

CNN has announced the addition of three new correspondents to its on-air lineup. Moving from Washington, D.C., station WJLA-TV is Pamela Brown, who joins the cable network as a correspondent in New York for the new morning program to be co-anchored by Chris Cuomo.

Also joining the network are George Howell, who will report from Chicago, and Alina Machado, who will be based in Atlanta and will report for CNN, CNN en Espanol and CNN Latino, the network announced Monday.

Howell has contributed to CNN for the past year, reporting on the death of Trayvon Martin in Florida, while Machado joins from ABC affiliate WSB-TV in Atlanta.

Commenting on the hiring of Brown, Ken Jautz, executive vice president of CNN/U.S., said: “Pam is an outstanding reporter who made her mark in Washington, D.C., with exceptional coverage of domestic breaking news and enterprise reporting. The passion in her work is evident and we are so happy to have her join the CNN team.”

Tony Maddox, executive vice president and managing director of CNN International, added: “George and Alina are multi-talented, and their passion for getting to the crux of the story comes through in their award-winning journalism.”

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'Bachelor' Spinoff Won't Be Back on ABC

A reality competition series that was spun off from ABC’s "The Bachelor" won't be returning to the network this summer, according to The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed.

Executive producer Mike Fleiss tweeted the news about the spinoff “The Bachelor Pad” to a fan on Saturday, the story says. The report adds: "It remains to be seen whether a fourth season of the slightly more raunchy sibling of 'The Bachelor' ever will make it to TV."

The third season of the spinoff saw a ratings slump, with its 2012 edition averaging a 1.3 rating with viewers 18-49 and 4 million total viewers, in what the story calls double-digit declines from the year-earlier summer. “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette,” meanwhile, both saw ratings rise during their most recent cycles, the report notes.

 

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Maria Shriver Returns to NBC

Former NBC correspondent Maria Shriver returned to the network Monday, contributing a report to "Today" about the newly elected pope. The report marked a first step for Shriver to resume her role with the network, reports The New York Times.

Shriver introduced a story about why the pope had chosen the name Francis, and "Today" used social media Sunday night to tease her return, the story notes.

"Ms. Shriver was a well-known correspondent for NBC between 1986 and 2003, appearing mostly on 'Dateline NBC,' the network’s prime-time newsmagazine,” The Times reports. “She took an extended leave of absence when Arnold Schwarzenegger, her husband, ran for governor of California. After Mr. Schwarzenegger won the election, she came back to 'Dateline' a couple of times, but decided in 2004 that she couldn’t continue to report or anchor while also serving as first lady of California. She asked to be relieved of her duties at NBC."

After Schwarzenegger left the governor's office, there was speculation that Shriver might return to TV. Schwarzenegger and Shriver separated in 2011 after a scandal surfaced about his fathering a child with a member of their household staff.

Shriver has gradually emerged into public life, publishing a weekly newsletter and hosting conferences, the story notes.

NBC News didn't make an announcement about a new role for her, nor did a title appear on screen, such as "contributor." A spokeswoman for the show declined to comment on her title.

"Maria Shriver is participating in NBC News’ coverage of Pope Francis in Rome," the spokeswoman said.

maria-shriver.jpgMaria Shriver

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CNN Under Fire for Coverage of Steubenville Rape Trial

CNN has drawn sharp criticism for its coverage of the rape trial in Steubenville, Ohio, with many calling it sympathetic to the two high school football players who were found guilty of raping a 16-year-old girl, reports TVNewser.

More than 100,000 people had signed a petition on Change.org as of this morning (Tuesday, March 19, 2013), demanding that the network "apologize on air for sympathizing with the Steubenville rapists."

According to the petition, CNN's "coverage of the Steubenville rape trial's verdict Sunday morning was a complete disgrace and a breach of journalistic ethics. To have three of your personalities blatantly portray the rapists as the victims in this situation while not so much as acknowledging the actual rape victim … is nothing short of disgusting."

CNN's coverage "appeared to be curiously weighted on Sunday, focusing on the effect the guilty verdict would have on the lives of the now-convicted rapists and their families, rather than that of the victim and her family," wrote The Huffington Post.

The Huffington Post’s report quotes CNN reporter Poppy Harlow saying during the coverage: "It was incredibly emotional, it was difficult for anyone in there to watch those boys break down. ... [It was] also difficult, of course, for the victim's family."

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British Television Star Frank Thornton, Best Known for 'Are You Being Served?,' Dead at 92

British television star Frank Thornton, who was known for his role as the department store floorwalker Capt. Peacock on the hit sitcom "Are You Being Served?," has died, reports the U.K.'s Telegraph. Thornton, 92, reportedly died in his sleep.

The story reports: "Capt. Peacock patrolled his beat with a quiet and courteous authority. As he surveyed his domain of menswear and ladies’ fashions with a sometimes hard-pressed hauteur, he represented a beacon of fastidiousness in a vanishing, old-fashioned world."

Thornton also had a long run on the U.K. comedy series “Last of the Summer Wine” until it wrapped in 2010.

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Frank Thornton as Capt. Peacock

 

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'Girls' Finale Posts Big Ratings Decline -- or Does It?

Sunday’s finale of the second season of HBO’s comedy series "Girls" declined significantly from last season -- almost 40% -- but the number might be misleading, writes Joe Flint in the Los Angeles Times' Show Tracker.

While 632,000 people watched the show at 9 p.m. Sunday, that doesn't include encores, which boost the show to 1.1 million viewers.

Flint adds, "But even that won't give you a real sense of the audience for 'Girls' because numbers from HBO On Demand and HBO Go are not factored in. Nor are numbers from people (like me) who recorded 'Girls' on their digital video recorder and then watched the show later.

"Throw all those numbers in and the episode ends up averaging about 4.6 million viewers, which is on par with its first season," he concludes.

Because HBO doesn't take advertising, it doesn't matter to the network when its viewers watch a show, the piece adds. "It is getting paid either way," Flint writes.

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Cable Show Wins Sunday Night

A cable program was the No. 1 show on television Sunday night, continuing an impressive run for the cable channel History. The channel reported a turnout of 10.9 million total viewers for the third installment of “The Bible.”

The program also pulled in 4.2 million adults 25-54 and 3.5 million adults 18-49.

The miniseries has delivered more than 68 million viewers since its March 3 premiere, with 18 telecasts on History and Lifetime, the channel reported.

The production will premiere its final two episodes on the next two Sundays at 8 p.m., including the final installment on Easter Sunday, March 31.

History also reported that “Vikings,” its first scripted series, continued its strong ratings with 4.8 million total viewers in the 10 p.m. hour Sunday, making it the most watched cable series in the time slot for the third week in a row. The program also delivered 2.2 million adults 25-54 and 1.9 million adults 18-49.

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Daytime Talk Show Extends Production Following Successful Sweeps

Producer and distributor Debmar-Mercury said it will extend production through the summer on the fourth season of the daytime talk show "The Wendy Williams Show" after a successful February sweeps, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

An additional two months of programs will be produced, the story reports.

The ratings period showed "Wendy Williams" gaining on its competition, with a 47% jump in local ratings, the story says. The show will now remain in production through June and July.

"I have the greatest fans in daytime TV, and I’m so excited to be giving fans more fun throughout the summer,” Williams said in a statement. “If it were up to me, we’d have a show every day, all year long!”

The show’s ratings gains are being attributed in part to the expansion of the "Hot Topics" segment, which the story says appeals to younger viewers.

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ABC Working on Live Streaming App That Could Steal Hulu's Thunder

The Walt Disney Co. and its subsidiary ABC are still figuring out what they will do with Hulu, but in the meantime the company has a new app in the works that could make the online streaming service appear old-fashioned.

The new app will live-stream ABC programming to smartphones and tablets, reports The New York Times.

That means subscribers could watch "Good Morning America" on a tablet while waiting in line for coffee, the story notes. The app may become available later this year, although it would only be available for people who pay for cable or satellite.

Disney already has similar live streaming and on-demand apps for ESPN and Disney Channel, but the ABC app has special issues because of contracts between the network and some production companies, the story notes. That's due to contracts that were signed before mobile phone video streaming was possible.

Local ABC stations also need to be involved, as they might feel threatened if they're not "courted properly," the story says. The network has started to talk with stations about how to include them, the piece notes.

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Syfy Show Gets Fifth-Season Renewal

Syfy has renewed a reality series, setting a summer 2013 premiere for the show’s fifth season. B&C reports that the cable channel will bring back the prosthetic makeup competition show "Face Off."

Production is set to start next month.

"Face Off" is averaging 1.6 million viewers 18-49 in its fourth season, and 2.7 million total viewers in live +7, the story notes. The fourth-season finale will air March 26.

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It's a Long Way from 'Dawson's Creek': Is Recently Divorced Katie Holmes the Sexiest Woman in America? Check Out This Topless Picture From Her Latest Ad Campaign

"Wow! The single life certainly agrees with Katie Holmes," reports Yahoo's OMG! blog.

The story continues, "Tom Cruise's ex-wife, 34, sheds her clothes in a series of sexy shots for a new IRIS jewelry ad campaign. In one photo, Holmes strips down to nothing but necklace, posing topless with a strategically placed arm. In other pictures, the mother of one looks equally sexy rocking a bikini in the beachy photo shoot."

Katie Holmes Topless Jewlry Ad.jpg

Katie Holmes 2.jpg

Katie Homes 3.jpg

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Given the Importance of Local News to the Bottom Line of Most TV Stations, the Latest Pew Research Center's Report on News Is a Major Wake-Up Call

The latest report on the state of local TV news by the well-respected non-partisan Pew Research Center issues this warning: “With younger people tuning out local newscasts, there is growing concern that local TV news may be facing some of the financial challenges that have already battered the newspaper industry. And even as local TV newscasts seem to be doubling down on sports, traffic and weather, there are an ever increasing number of digital sources outside of television that provide that kind of information on demand.”

As a story about the Pew report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel puts it, "Local television stations are offering more newscasts but less news, according to a survey of stations in four cities, including Milwaukee."

The article also notes, "According to the Pew report, 31% of viewers surveyed say they deserted a news outlet because it 'no longer provides the news and information they had grown accustomed to.' And the primary concern of people who gave up on an outlet cited 'quality.' "

The Journal Sentinel story says that the "Pew Research Center 'State of the News Media' report released Monday, March 18, 2013, concluded that an increase in the number of local TV newscasts means that 'editorial resources are being stretched thinner,' and that stations are changing the types of stories they are reporting to compensate. And it drew a direct correlation between changes 'on the content side' to declining advertising revenue."

One positive note in the Pew study is is that TV remains the top source of news for consumers.

The Journal Sentinel article adds, "In a segment of the Pew report entitled 'Shrinking Pains,' it was noted that individual story lengths have shortened - only 20% exceeded one minute - and that time spent on edited packages decreased also 20%. The average edited package was 75 seconds long, the average live report was 44 seconds, and the average news anchor voice-over was 25 seconds.

"Overall, the report concluded, that 'in-depth enterprising reporting is on the downswing.' The result - that 40% of local TV news time is consumed by sports, traffic and weather - will be no surprise to viewers in Milwaukee who may feel inundated with such coverage. These elements saw a 25% increase since a 2005 survey."

The article explained that "The survey sampled 24 news broadcasts, morning and evening, 1,055 stories and more than 15 hours of programming.

"Besides Milwaukee, the [local] markets sampled were Pittsburgh, Houston and Bend, Ore. The four cities represent various sized markets, said Amy Mitchell, an author of the report and acting director of the Pew Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism."

Besides the summary article in the Journal Sentinel, we urge you to read both the entire Pew report on local TV news -- to do that, please click on the link in the first sentence of this item, above -- and the Pew Center's full report on the state of news in general in 2013, which can be found if you click here.


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U.S. TV's Answer to James Bond Might Finally Be Coming to the Big Screen, Featuring an A-List Superstar Whose Movies Have Grossed More Than $3 Billion Thus Far

The TV show we're referring to was a huge baby-boomer favorite: "The Man from U.N.C.L.E.." In its time, it was the most successful U.S. TV version of the James Bond franchise, which had hit movie theaters in 1962. And who is in talks to play superagent Napoleon Solo? Superstar Tom Cruise.

All of this is being reported by our friend Mike Fleming Jr. at Deadline.com.

The article also says that the film "will be directed by 'Sherlock Holmes' helmer Guy Ritchie. The original MGM TV series ran from 1964-68, with Robert Vaughn and David McCallum playing Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin, respectively, two agents of the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement. With gadgets and their wits and charm, they fought the evil forces of THRUSH. Warner Bros has long been high on the project, especially when the studio had Steven Soderbergh ready to direct George Clooney in the lead. The actor dropped out because he needed surgery on his neck and back, and he wasn’t up for a physical role. After Soderbergh departed, the studio turned the project over to Ritchie and his producing partner Lionel Wigram."

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Lindsay Lohan Headed to Lockup in Plea Bargain

Actress Lindsay Lohan will have to spend time in lockdown after striking a deal with prosecutors. USA Today reports that Lohan avoided jail but will have to spend 90 days in a lockdown rehab facility.

Lohan agreed to the bargain today in a misdemeanor case in which she was charged with lying to police in connection with a car crash last June on Pacific Coast Highway.

Her lawyer, Mark Jay Heller, “told reporters outside the courthouse after the hearing that ‘I am very confident that you won't be seeing Lindsay Lohan in any criminal courts any time in the future,’" the piece reports. “When asked why accept a plea deal now, Heller said, ‘At the conclusion of this case, Lindsay will have a completely clean record. And I think that's an extremely important element to this case.’"

Lohan’s father, Michael Lohan, was present at today’s hearing, and chased Heller away from the post-hearing press conference, according to the report. “Michael Lohan then took to the microphones and proceeded to bash Heller, accusing him of not keeping Lindsay posted on negotiations. Michael said that Heller needs to ‘stop using Lindsay to make money and a name for himself.’ However, the actress' father did say that the sentence to rehab would probably be a good thing for her,” the story reports.

The piece adds: “Superior Court Judge James Dabney went over terms of the agreement. He said Lohan is to do 90 days at a lockdown rehab facility, 30 days of community labor and undergo psychological counseling for 18 months.”

Lohan, 26, was due in court this morning at 8:30 PT and showed up more than 45 minutes late, the report says, after her flight via private jet from New York was reportedly diverted.

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Lindsay Lohan

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Tight Four-Way Race in Sunday Broadcast Ratings -- With Almost Every Show Losing Viewers

On a night when not a single show on the big four broadcast networks showed an improvement in the ratings, based on Nielsen overnights for the key 18-49 demo, CBS eked out a narrow win for the night.

TVbytheNumbers.com reports that CBS averaged a 1.7 rating in viewers 18-49 for prime time, edging out Fox (1.6 average), ABC (1.6) and NBC (1.5). CBS was comfortably ahead in total viewers, averaging 9.4 million to ABC’s 6.1 million, NBC’s 5.5 million and Fox’s 3.7 million.

Leading the way for CBS was “The Amazing Race,” which slipped 8% from last week to a 2.2 average in 18-49. “The Mentalist” lost 6% to notch a 1.6 average, while “60 Minutes” held steady with a 1.6 and “The Good Wife” equaled last week’s 1.5.

Fox’s “Family Guy” lost 15% for a 2.3 average in the 18-49 demo, while “The Simpsons” dipped 5% to a 2.1 and “Bob’s Burgers” fell 11% to a 1.6. A 7:30 p.m. installment of “The Cleveland Show” managed only a 1.2, down 25% from the March 3 installment, while “Cleveland’s” 8:30 episode delivered a 1.8, even with a week ago.

ABC saw “Once Upon a Time” equal its series low with a 2.2 in adults 18-49, while “Revenge” lost 10% from last week, averaging a 1.8 rating. The new series “Red Widow” slipped 9% from last week’s premiere to a 1.0.

NBC’s two-hour “Celebrity Apprentice” held steady to last week’s number with a 1.8 in 18-49, while its two-hour “Dateline” remained even with a 1.3.

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History Channel Responds to Uproar Over Casting of 'Obama Lookalike' as Satan -- See for Yourself

The History channel is playing defense after the Internet erupted in speculation about why the actor who plays Satan in History’s miniseries “The Bible” looks a lot like President Obama.

The cable channel released a number of statements in response to the frenzy. “History channel has the highest respect for President Obama,” a statement from the channel said. "The series was produced with an international and diverse cast of respected actors. It's unfortunate that anyone made this false connection. History's 'The Bible' is meant to enlighten people on its rich stories and deep history."

Satan is played in the production by Mohamen Mehdi Ouazanni.

“A number of Twitter users noticed the similarity between Ouazanni and Obama on Sunday,” The Huffington Post reported. “Among them was Glenn Beck, who first tweeted that the series was ‘one of the most important shows in decades,’ then posted a screenshot of Ouazanni and asked if others thought he looked like ‘That Guy,’ Beck's preferred term for Obama.”

The report notes that Ouazanni has appeared in a number of biblical productions, including "The Ten Commandments" and "David."

A statement from executive producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey says: “This is utter nonsense. The actor who played Satan, Mehdi Ouzaani [sic], is a highly acclaimed Moroccan actor. He has previously played parts in several Biblical epics -- including Satanic characters long before Barack Obama was elected as our President.”

Downey added: "Both Mark and I have nothing but respect and love our President, who is a fellow Christian. False statements such as these are just designed as a foolish distraction to try and discredit the beauty of the story of The Bible.”

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Mohamen Mehdi Ouazanni in “The Bible”

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'Hogan's Heroes' Creators Gain Rights to the Show -- What It Means for the Planned Feature Film

Efforts to bring the 1960s CBS sitcom “Hogan’s Heroes” to the big screen took a step forward as show creators Albert S. Ruddy and the late Bernard Fein were granted all rights after a three-year legal battle, Deadline.com reports.

“Ruddy will work with Fein’s estate to develop a feature film ensemble comedy using the show’s clever WWII German POW camp premise,” the story reports. “The duo was granted rights that include movies, publication, merchandising, radio and live rights, as well as TV sequel rights.”

The decision by arbitrator Joel M. Grossman came down March 1, the piece notes.

“The creators went up against Bing Crosby Productions, which produced the show, and whose rights are now owned by Mark Cuban,” Deadline reports.

The hit CBS show aired from 1965-1971, with 168 episodes produced.

Mike Fleming Jr. writes in the Deadline report: “The issue of ownership of rights has been a veritable tinderbox of litigation for the past 10 years with most writers unsure of whether they can claim such rights. I wouldn’t be surprised if this development sends more show creators to their union to see what is possible.”

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Singer/Reality Star Reveals Palsy Diagnosis

A popular singer and reality television star went public with a health diagnosis, using Twitter to reveal the condition to her fans last week. Carnie Wilson, known for her work in the pop group Wilson Phillips and for Food Network’s “Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off” and other reality shows, said she has Bell’s palsy, The Huffington Post reports.

On Thursday Wilson tweeted: “Just wanted you all 2 know that I have Bell's Palsy on lf side of face right now. Scary, unfortunate, but it goes away. A challenge! Love u.”

Bell’s palsy “affects the nerve that controls the muscle on the side of the face, which weakens the muscle and leads to droopiness, according to the Mayo Clinic,” the story reports.

“Bell's palsy can happen at any age and is usually temporary for most, according to the Mayo Clinic,” the report adds. “Within a few weeks, symptoms begin to improve and after six months, most have completely recovered. The exact cause for Bell's palsy is unclear, although it has been linked to exposure to a viral infection.”

The piece notes that actors George Clooney and Pierce Brosnan had Bell's palsy as kids, and both made full recoveries.

Wilson, 44, said she has been receiving acupuncture treatments, and they have been working, according to the report.

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Veteran TV Actor Known for 'It Takes a Thief' -- Along With Stints on 'Star Trek,' 'Mission: Impossible' and Many Other Hit Series -- Dead at 84

A familiar actor whose television appearances spanned the 1950s through the 2000s has died. TheWrap.com reports that Malachi Throne, best known for his role as Robert Wagner's boss Noah Bain in the 1960s series "It Takes a Thief," died March 13 at 84.

"’Supernatural’ and ‘Justified’ actor Jim Beaver posted news of Throne's death on his Facebook page Thursday, writing, ‘My good friend Malachi Throne died last night. One of the finest actors and finest people I've been fortunate enough to know,’" TheWrap reports.

In addition to “It Takes a Thief,” Throne’s many TV appearances included "Ben Casey," "The Fugitive," "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." and "Hogan's Heroes."

“Throne's television roles also included the villain False Face on the ‘Batman’ series, a character who used disguises when evil-doing and a semi-transparent mask when he wasn't committing crimes,” the report adds. “In later years, Throne would appear on ‘Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II’ as well as ‘The West Wing.’ He would also provide voice work for series such as ‘Batman Beyond,’ ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ and ‘The New Batman Adventures.’"

Throne appeared consistently on various “Star Trek” incarnations, going back to “The Original Series” in the 1960s, where he played Commodore Jose Mendez. He resurfaced on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” in 1991 as Senator Pardek and performed as Korogh in the TV series “Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II” in 2004.

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Malachi Throne

 

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Which Jay Leno Jokes Got the Comedian in Trouble With His Boss at NBC?

"The Tonight Show" host Jay Leno is reportedly in the doghouse with NBC's top entertainment executive. Writing in The New York Times' Media Decoder, Bill Carter reports that Leno got himself in trouble with Robert Greenblatt by making jokes about the network.

Greenblatt reportedly took offense to monologue jokes Leno made last month after news reports appeared about NBC's ratings slide and its fifth-place finish in the February sweeps.

Leno joked: "We are behind the Spanish-language network Univision -- or as we call it here in Los Angeles: Cinco de Ratings.”

His follow-up jokes included: “It’s so bad ‘The Biggest Loser’ isn’t just a TV show anymore, it’s our new motto.” And: “It’s so bad, NBC called Manti Te’o and asked him to bring in some imaginary viewers.”

Greenblatt sent an e-mail to Leno complaining about the jokes, leading to "an exchange of pointed e-mails between Mr. Leno and Mr. Greenblatt," the report notes.

Carter adds: "One of the executives who saw the exchange said that Mr. Leno was taken by surprise by Mr. Greenblatt’s comments and strongly defended himself, citing the fact that late-night stars poking fun 'at their masters,' as the executive said, is in the long tradition of late-night comedy. Every late-night star, going back at least as far as Johnny Carson, has taken shots at network fortunes within the nightly monologue.

"This moment of conflict between Mr. Leno and NBC’s management preceded recent reports -- denied categorically by NBC executives -- that the network was preparing to make a change, moving out Mr. Leno and bringing in Jimmy Fallon, the star of its 12:35 program 'Late Night.’”

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Behind-the-Scenes Shakeup for MTV Comedy

An MTV comedy has experienced turmoil behind the scenes, with the creator and executive producer leaving the project. Writing on Deadline.com, Nellie Andreeva reports that Lauren Iungerich is departing the pilot “Hot Mess.”

The network calls Iungerich’s exit a mutual agreement. Iungerich, who is committed to her MTV series "Awkward," made the decision to leave for a number of creative and private reasons, the story says.

Her departure comes as the project tested well and is said to be at the forefront of projects likely to receive a series order from the network. "Hot Mess" was putting the finishing touches on casting when MTV announced in November that Susanne Daniels would become the new head of programming, replacing David Janollari, the piece adds. ABC Family executive Mina Lefevre later came aboard as senior VP and head of scripted programming.

Andreeva writes: "I hear Daniels and Lefevre are high on 'Hot Mess,' especially in light of its solid testing, but they didn’t develop or cast it, so they’ve had a different take on it. I hear that, in addition to Iungerich’s exit, MTV recently released the actress who played the lead in the pilot, Annabelle Stephenson."

 

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New Names Surface as Candidates to Replace Alex Trebek on 'Jeopardy!' -- Including Another NBC News Fixture

Following reports last week that Sony Pictures TV is considering "Today" co-host Matt Lauer and CNN anchor Anderson Cooper as possible replacements for longtime "Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek when he retires, additional names have surfaced as contenders for the job.

Deadline.com reports that Sony executives have also approached "NBC Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams and NBC Sports personality Dan Patrick.

"All four have had exploratory conversations with Sony TV, though the studio is not actively pursuing anyone at the moment," the piece reports.

"With the exception of Patrick, who has presented at the Super Bowl and during the Summer Olympics, 'Jeopardy!' would mark a step up in the ratings department for any of the candidates," the piece notes.

For example, the powerhouse syndicated game show was the No. 1 program last Thursday on any network in households in the country's biggest market, New York, averaging a 10.0 household rating. "Today" drew less than a third of that, the story points out.

Sony TV is not expected to have serious discussions about selecting a new host until Trebek says he's ready to step down. His current contract expires in 2016.

 

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Hasselbeck Drama Continues at 'The View' -- Latest Report Has Her Leaving the Show Despite Barbara Walters' Denials

The rumor that Elisabeth Hasselbeck is leaving "The View” refuses to go away. A new report by the New York Post’s Page Six says the show’s outspoken conservative is headed out the door when her contract is up next year.

This despite Barbara Walters’ adamant denial that Hasselbeck is getting fired, as we reported previously.

Some observers have accused the show of stirring up the controversy over Hasselbeck as a ratings stunt. But the reason for Walters' denial of her departure has to do with a mishandled transition, the story says. Someone leaked the news about Hasselbeck, and Walters called off her firing as a result, according to the report.

"The View" needs to refresh itself, with ratings softening and likability numbers for its hosts "scaring" ABC executives, the story notes.

Potential replacements include former top model Christie Brinkley, who is said to be lobbying for the job, and Brooke Shields, the story says. ABC executives also like Ali Wentworth, the wife of "Good Morning America" anchor George Stephanopoulos, who has the advantage of already being viewed as part of the ABC family, according to the report.

A representative for the show denied claims that Walters is angry about the situation. “She loves these women and wants what’s best for them,” the rep said. “Everything else is speculation. Producers haven’t begun to search for a new co-host. We have no further comment.”

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Report: Famed TV Couple Reunites After Five-Month Separation

After their separation shocked fans, two veteran television actors are getting back together. People.com reports that Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman have ended their separation.

The pair, who have been married for 30 years and are one of Hollywood's best-known couples, have been working on their relationship, the story says.

The pair married in 1982 and have a son and two daughters, with all their children in their 20s.

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'The Office' Actor to Play Lead in CBS Drama

One of the stars of the NBC comedy series “The Office” has signed on with an upcoming CBS drama project. EW.com’s Inside TV reports that Rainn Wilson will play the lead role in the pilot “Backstrom.”

The news comes after Wilson’s “Office” spinoff “The Farm” failed to move forward at NBC during the recent development season. Wilson was courted by a number of projects after NBC passed on "The Farm."

The CBS project is based on a Swedish detective series of the same name, with Wilson tapped to play an "overweight, offensive, irascible cop," according to the story.

Also cast in the project is actor Dennis Haysbert, who will play Det. John Almon.

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Rainn Wilson

 

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Lifetime to Tackle High-Profile Murder Case With TV Movie

A murder case that has captured national attention will get the TV movie treatment at Lifetime. TheWrap.com reports that the cable network has a project in the works about Jodi Arias, whose trial on first-degree murder charges in the death of her ex-boyfriend continues to be a focus on cable news channels.

Executive producers Joshua D. Maurer, Alixandre Witlin and Judith Verno are putting together the project, the report notes. Verno previously served as executive producer on Lifetime's "Drew Peterson: Untouchable" and "The Craigslist Killer."

Arias' trial, which is getting a lot of coverage on HLN, has her accused of planning the June 2008 death of her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander, out of jealousy. Her story has changed, according to the article, with Arias first claiming she had nothing to do with the death, then saying it was intruders and eventually claiming self-defense.

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Potential Game Changer: Verizon's FiOS Wants to Change the Way Distributors Pay for Programs

"Verizon, whose FiOS TV is the nation's sixth-biggest pay-TV provider, with 4.7 million subscribers, has begun talks with several 'mid-tier and smaller' media companies about paying for their channels based on audience size, according to Terry Denson, the phone company's chief programming negotiator," writes Shalini Ramachandran in The Wall Street Journal. [Note: The WSJ is behind a pay firewall, so you might be charged to read this article.]

The story adds: "He declined to identify any of the media companies. Under existing arrangements, distributors like cable and satellite operators pay a monthly, per-subscriber fee to carry channels based on the number of homes in which they agree to make the channels available, regardless of how many people watch those channels."

The story reports: "Verizon would like to offer broad distribution of a 'significant number of channels,' including independent networks and smaller outlets. But each channel would be paid solely according to how many subscribers tuned in each month for a 'unique view,' or a minimum of five minutes, Mr. Denson said. Viewership would be measured by Verizon's set-top box data, not Nielsen ratings."

Says the story: "If broadly accepted, Verizon's proposal could have a far-reaching impact, potentially hurting revenue for some companies but improving others. Many channels owned by big media companies are available in nearly all the roughly 100 million households with pay TV, according to media researcher SNL Kagan. And while many of the most-popular channels earn the highest fees, big disparities exist, particularly for sports channels, which cable and satellite operators view as particularly valuable."

The article then runs some numbers: "Last year, for example, Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN averaged 1 million viewers watching its programming live on any given day and up to seven days after broadcast. That was slightly less, according to Nielsen, than the 1.3 million who were watching USA Network, owned by Comcast Corp.'s NBCUniversal. Yet distributors like Verizon paid ESPN an average of $5.04 a month per household last year, according to SNL Kagan, while USA got just 68 cents a month."

The report adds: "Viacom, which owns channels such as Nickelodeon and MTV, has said that its channels represent 20% of the aggregate ratings of cable networks, but SNL Kagan data show it receives just 7.4% of total cable fees. A Viacom spokesman said that the company wasn't aware of Verizon's proposal.

"One cable network executive said that similar ideas have been floated in past years, but they never gained traction because distributors attempted to cap how much they would pay for highly rated channels. The executive said that 'unless there is a giant seismic shift' in the TV landscape, the proposal is unlikely to gain much support from programmers."

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Oscar Producers Still Defending 'Boobs' Song, Say Everyone Missed the Joke

The producers behind Seth MacFarlane's hosting of this year's Oscars telecast said people "missed the joke" behind his much-criticized "Boobs Song," according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The song made fun of actresses including Charlize Theron and Kate Winslet for baring their breasts in movies.

"It was not about the women that were mentioned -- the song was about him being a bad host and him being a juvenile, which was why he was a bad host," said producer Craig Zadan.

Fellow producer Neil Meron added, "Everyone who complained missed the joke -- it was satire."

They were proud of MacFarlane, Meron said. "Seth is irreverent. He comments on things that happen in our culture, and that's what he did -- and we thought he did an extraordinary job," he added.

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Actor Who Played Hitler -- and Spawned Internet Parody Videos -- Lands New Role as Pope

Showtime's 'The Vatican" has cast an actor whose portrayal of Hitler spawned dozens of Internet spoofs. The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed reports that Bruno Ganz will play Pope Sixtus VI in the project.

Ganz starred as Adolf Hitler in "Downfall," earning awards in Europe and spawning dozens of YouTube videos that re-edited a “Hitler rants” scene with different subtitles to make fun of various events.

"The Vatican" is a thriller about a pope with a German background, who is said to be unassuming and introspective and struggling with his own legacy, the story says. Paul Attanasio of "House" wrote the script, while Ridley Scott of "Prometheus" will direct the pilot, marking his first TV pilot, the story says.

Here’s an example of the “Hitler rants” parodies:

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Fate of NBC's 'Smash' Still Isn't Sealed, According to Producer

With NBC shifting the struggling drama "Smash" to Saturdays, the consensus among television observers has been that the move marks the beginning of the end for the show. But executive producer Neil Meron said he believes the show's future "is still up in the air," according to The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed.

The NBC musical drama won the award Saturday for outstanding television drama from gay-rights organization GLAAD, providing some good news in a season marked by dwindling ratings and the banishment to Saturday nights.

"The future is still up in the air,” Meron told the publication at the awards show. “We’re very disappointed that not many more people are watching it because we think it’s a very ambitious show and we think that people should watch it. ... We just want to get more word out."

Meron said he thinks one reason for the show's decline is that its subject, musical theater, doesn't hold wide appeal. "We were looking at a niche part of the entertainment business," he said.

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MSNBC Boss Gives Inside Scoop on Prime-Time Shakeup

MSNBC President Phil Griffin opened up with some insights about changes to the prime-time lineup at the cable network. As we reported previously, Ed Schultz is moving to weekends, with Chris Hayes standing by to take over the 8 p.m. nightly slot.

Citing an interview with The Daily Beast, TVNewser reports: “Griffin says that the move was, in fact, Schultz’s idea. ‘This began with Ed coming to me,’ Griffin insisted. ‘And I will tell you that Ed has an incredible following in the network. … Ed and I were talking about his contract, and Ed is a very sharp guy. He said he wanted to be here long-term. … He wanted to spend more time in Minnesota. I said, ‘Well, Ed, I am extending the weekend. I need someone for 5 to 7. It’s critical. It’s going to be as important as 8 to 10 [on weeknights].’ And he came back to me and said, ‘I want to do that long-term.’”

The chief also talked about Hayes’ upcoming weeknight show.

“Griffin said he wants Hayes to bring ‘the spirit’ of his morning program to 8 p.m., but acknowledged that a weeknight show must be faster-paced and animated by the news of the day,” the TVNewser piece reports. “He claimed not to know whether Hayes, who favors open-necked shirts on weekend television, will yield to the conventions of cable news and start wearing a tie, like every other evening MSNBC host, from Chris Matthews to Al Sharpton to Lawrence O’Donnell (though not Maddow).”

Added Griffin: “I don’t tell anybody what to wear.”

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Former Fox News Election Prognosticator Resurfaces -- and Fires Shots at Chris Christie

A former fixture on Fox News who was in the spotlight on election night has resurfaced with a new job. “Dick Morris, the former Fox News contributor who became synonymous with the fact-denying right-wing echo-chamber during the 2012 elections, has been tapped to host an afternoon show on Philadelphia's WPHT radio station,” Politico.com reports.

Morris reportedly confirmed the news Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland (CPAC).

“Morris is taking the spot left vacant by Michael Smerconish, the radio personality and MSNBC political analyst, who is moving his show to Sirius XM in April,” Politico adds.

Politico reports separately that Morris had unkind words for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. The piece quotes Morris saying: “You notice [Christie’s] not speaking here today because after Barack let him drive in Air Force One, he bought him an ice cream cone. [My new radio audience] will include the swing state of Pennsylvania that we need to restore to being a swing state. And I look forward to the opportunity to speak for four hours [daily] without anybody interrupting me.”

 

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Even Some Perennial Ratings Juggernauts Are Falling to Historic Lows

The casualty list for Thursday’s broadcast prime time, based on Nielsen overnights for the key 18-49 demo, includes at least a couple of typically strong shows: Fox’s “American Idol,” which sank to an all-time low for a regularly scheduled edition with a 3.0 average rating, and ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy,” with a series-low 2.6, TVbytheNumbers.com reports.

NBC got in on the act too, with a series-low 1.0 average rating for “Community” in the 18-49 demo. Meanwhile, CBS’s “The Big Bang Theory” equaled its season low with a 4.5 that still easily led the night.

The report notes that CBS programming was pre-empted in parts of the country by college basketball tournaments, meaning the numbers for CBS are likely to be subject to more than the usual adjustments.

CBS won the night with a 3.1 average rating in viewers 18-49 for prime time, topping Fox (2.5 average), ABC (1.7), Univision (1.5) and NBC (1.2). CBS also finished well ahead in total viewers with 13.4 million, followed by Fox (8.5 million), ABC (5.6 million), Univision (3.5 million) and NBC (3.2 million).

CBS got decent numbers out of “Person of Interest” -- up one-tenth from a week ago to a 2.9 in adults 18-49 -- and “Elementary” -- even with its previous original with a 2.4. “Two and a Half Men” slid six-tenths from its prior original to a 3.3.

Fox’s “Glee” fell four-tenths to a 2.0 in 18-49.

NBC saw “Parks and Recreation” uptick two-tenths from its previous fresh installment to a 1.6, while “1600 Penn” rose one-tenth from a week ago to a 1.0 and “The Office” dipped one-tenth from its previous original to a 1.9.

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Director of Safety and Broadcast Compliance for the ABC-owned Television Stations -- Who Has Also Worked With the O&Os' Live Well Network -- Has Been Arrested on Child Porn Charges

The director of safety & broadcast compliance for the ABC owned-and-operated television stations -- who has also worked on ABC's digital subchannel the Live Well Network -- has been arrested and charged with "possessing and distributing child pornography," reports the Fresno Bee.

The story adds that the man, Jeff Jordan, 56, "works out of the KFSN (Channel 30.1) offices in downtown Fresno. He currently doesn't have anything to do with KFSN programming but was the head of the engineering department at the local ABC station before taking on his current job. He was involved with the launch of the Live Well Network that is seen on Channel 30.2."

The story notes that "Jordan was arrested Thursday, March 14, 2013, after a search warrant was served at his Clovis home by federal agents, Clovis police and sheriff's deputies. Computers and other media storage devices were taken from his home. He was arrested at his workplace ..."

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TV Veteran is Forbes' Most Influential Person of 2013

A familiar television personality has been named the most influential person of 2013 by Forbes magazine. Topping the list for the second year in a row is Oprah Winfrey.

TVGuide.com reports that the title is the result of a research survey ranking more than 7,500 celebrities on 46 personality attributes. The report notes that Winfrey was rated as influential by 48% of respondents -- a modest slide of one point from her 2012 results.

The report adds: “Winfrey's network OWN saw an uptick over the last year as she landed major interviews with the likes of controversial athlete Lance Armstrong, in the wake of his doping scandal, and the late Whitney Houston's family.”

Winfrey nudged out Steven Spielberg, who came in at 47%. Spielberg was nominated for best director for “Lincoln” at the Academy Awards, but the award went to “The Life of Pi” director Ang Lee.

Here’s the rest of the Top 10:

Martin Scorsese: 42%
Ron Howard: 41%
George Lucas: 41 %
Dr. Mehmet Oz: 40%
Barbara Walters: 37%
Bono: 37%
Suze Orman: 37%
Clint Eastwood: 36%

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NBC Series Braces for an End That Now Seems Inevitable

After a vote of “no confidence” by the network that leaves the series banished to Saturday nights, the showrunner of the struggling NBC show “Smash” is opening up.

TVLine.com reports that Josh Safran says he was “saddened” by the decision that places the show on Saturdays starting April 6.

The report quotes Safran saying: “I didn’t see it coming, being relegated to Saturday. We’re all aware the show is not successful, but I guess I had hoped we would see what happened when ‘The Voice’ came back [or] maybe they’d move us to a better time slot. But I understand from the network’s point of view. We hit a number and we stuck there.”

TVLine adds: “The number the show hit when it returned for Season 2 last month was a 1.1 demo rating [in viewers 18-49]. ... It slipped further in Week 2, stabilized in Week 3, and most recently ticked up a hair to 2.9 million viewers and a 0.9 rating. But as Safran points out, going up a tenth of a point ‘is not really going up.’”

The story notes: “If there’s a silver lining here for fans, it’s that all of this season’s remaining 11 episodes will air (the next three on Tuesdays at 10/9c and the final 8 on Saturdays at 9/8c). And, according to Safran, Episode 17 ‘was constructed as a series finale.’”

Safran adds: “I don’t want [viewers] to think they are going to be left hanging, because they won’t be. The season has a beginning, middle and an end. … [And] it just gets better and better.”

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Report: Matt Lauer a Contender to Take Over Major Game Show

With his position on NBC’s “Today” show increasingly under scrutiny and the focus of criticism, Matt Lauer’s name has come up in connection with another high-profile TV job.

Executives behind the thriving syndicated game show "Jeopardy!" are looking at Lauer as a potential replacement for longtime host Alex Trebek, reports the New York Post.

The increasingly unpopular host of "Today" is at the top of the list to take over from Trebek when he's expected to step down in 2016, the story says. Some think that Lauer won't be sticking around "Today" much longer, given that the NBC morning show has stumbled in the ratings.

Trebek has said he's thinking about retiring, although he has signed a three-year contract that will take him to age 76, the story says. He suffered his second heart attack last summer.

Sony Pictures Television, which owns “Jeopardy!,” is reportedly also considering Anderson Cooper for the hugely popular show, the story says.

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Lauer Jokes About the 'Today' Situation

Ratings and revenue are both down at "Today," but the show's co-host, Matt Lauer, joked about the show's problems during the first upfront presentation by the new NBCUniversal News Group, reports The New York Times.

Toward the end of the presentation, Lauer came out on stage with his co-host, Savannah Guthrie.

"I would like to tackle what might be a teeny white elephant in the room,” Lauer said, which elicited laughter from the crowd, according to TVNewser. “We all love covering the news, we hate being the news, and so I would like to say on that subject -- from the bottom of my heart -- that I promise to spend all of my time and energy over the next several months trying to keep Savannah out of the headlines.”

As previously reported, revenue at "Today" dipped by at least $50 million in 2012, as "Good Morning America" eclipsed it in the ratings.

“But you said all press is good press,” Guthrie said at the upfront presentation, according to The Times.

Lauer replied, “Yeah, that didn’t work out.”

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How Is ABC's 'Kimmel' Doing in the Former 'Nightline' Slot?

ABC's decision to shift “Jimmy Kimmel” into the 11:30 p.m. time slot, bumping "Nightline" from its roost, hasn't had dramatic results yet, reports EW.com's Inside TV.

In fact, “Kimmel's” performance in the February sweeps was lower than what "Nightline" did in February 2012, the story notes.

The story reports: "According to live plus same day ratings from Nielsen, ‘Kimmel’ was down 12% in adults 18-49 (1.007 million versus 1.143 million) and 25% in viewers (2.883 million versus 3.828 million) compared to what the news magazine averaged last year."

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ESPN Bans Commentator From Twitter

ESPN has made it clear it doesn't want its personalities publicly criticizing the network. According to The Hollywood Reporter the sports channel banned Bill Simmons from Twitter after he posted negative comments.

Simmons, a star commentator, writer and editor, wrote on Twitter that a segment on "First Take" was "awful and embarrassing."

The segment, which featured a heated argument between commentator Skip Bayless and Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, has generated a lot of buzz online.

Simmons posted a video clip of the segment, writing, "I am not defending this segment. I thought it was awful and embarrassing to everyone involved. Seriously."

ESPN's social media guidelines ban its employees from writing about the network critically online, the story says.

Simmons' suspension from Twitter started Tuesday and will end today, the story says.

Here’s the segment Simmons posted:

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Why the HBO Movie 'Phil Spector' Is Being Picketed

A screening of HBO's new film "Phil Spector," in which Al Pacino plays the legendary record producer and convicted murderer, attracted a small group of picketers Thursday, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The movie is the focus of a protest by friends of actress Lana Clarkson, who died in Spector’s home 10 years ago.

Clarkson’s former publicist, one of the protesters, noted that he wants to prevent the movie from receiving any Emmys, the story reports. The reason, publicist Edward Lozzi said, is because the film wrongly suggests that Spector was innocent of killing Clarkson. He charges that the movie implies she committed suicide.

Clarkson was found dead inside Spector's mansion in 2003. He was eventually convicted of second-degree murder in her death and sentenced to 19 years to life, the story notes.

"To see that this film was going to be made was a slap in the face," Lozzi said, according to The Reporter. "We were so happy Phil Spector was in prison."

Lozzi and two other men held signs outside the Los Angeles County Museum of Art that read, "HBO’s ‘Phil Spector’ murders the truth. No Emmy for the film that hurts people alive today."

Lana-Clarkson.jpg

Lana Clarkson

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Veteran TV Writer Behind 'The Monkees,' 'Welcome Back, Kotter' and Other Shows Dead at 82 -- He's the One Who Came Up With 'The Sweathogs'

The writer who came up with the nickname “The Sweathogs” for the motley crew of students on “Welcome Back, Kotter” has died, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Peter Meyerson, who developed the 1970s ABC comedy and was involved in a number of other popular shows, died March 11 of natural causes, the piece reports. He was 82.

Meyerson also co-wrote the first episode of the NBC series "The Monkees," and wrote the 1968 episode in which Monkees bandmember Michael Nesmith switches place with eccentric musician Frank Zappa, the story notes.

Meyerson talked about “Kotter” in a 1999 interview with The Wall Street Journal. “I came up with the idea of Epstein, a Puerto Rican Jew (the character played by [Robert] Hegyes),” he said at the time. “I came up with that phrase, ‘Sweathogs.’”

His other TV work included "That Girl," "The Partridge Family" and "The Bob Newhart Show.”

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TV Broadcasters Sue to Keep Rates Secret From Public

The corporate owners of four television broadcasters have taken the government to court to try to prevent financial agreements from being made public.

The companies, which own four local TV outlets in Washington state, have separately sued municipally owned Click Cable TV, the Bellingham, Wash., Herald reports. The case also involves the newspaper The News Tribune.

“On Friday, Pierce County Superior Court Judge Ronald Culpepper is set to weigh arguments from all sides during a hearing to decide whether the court should grant a preliminary injunction to stop the records from being disclosed to the newspaper. If granted, the order would temporarily halt release of the records pending a full-blown trial over the issue,” the story reports.

“The broadcast companies are prepared to contend the records -- so-called ‘retransmission agreements’ that detail how much they charge Click to air broadcast signals for KING, KOMO, KIRO, KCPQ and KSTW -- contain protected trade secrets that are exempt from public disclosure.”

Joan Nicolais, a senior executive with CBS, which owns KSTW-TV, gave a statement to the court in which she said the forced disclosure of those trade secrets “would be extraordinary and unprecedented in the industry,” the story reports.

The broadcasters argue that disclosure would financially harm them by undermining their negotiating positions nationwide, the piece reports. They also suggest “it would raise rates for local subscribers of Click and the few other municipally owned cable systems nationwide,” the story says.

The statement from CBS’s Nicolais adds: “Broadcasters aware of the likelihood that the rates negotiated with such a provider will become public may be inclined to seek a premium over the rate they would have otherwise accepted because other, private operators may seek to use the municipal rate as a ceiling for the rates they should have paid.”

The News Tribune says the documents are not trade secrets and cites the state’s Public Records Act, which it says requires that the contracts be released as a matter of public interest.

James Beck, an attorney for The News Tribune, argues in a written statement to the court: “A contract with a public agency is, at least in Washington, subject to public inspection under the (Public Records Act).”

The report adds: “Click’s representatives, who so far have provided the newspaper copies of some of the agreements but with all fee information blacked out, said they’re ready to release the full records should a judge so order it.”

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Olympic Athlete to Host GSN's 'Minute to Win it'

One of the most successful U.S. Olympic athletes of all time is the new host of GSN’s version of the game show “Minute to Win It.” Deadline.com reports that Olympic speed skater and "Dancing with the Stars" champion Apolo Anton Ohno will host the show.

Ohno is the most decorated U.S. athlete in history in the Winter Olympics with eight medals, including two gold.

The cable network is producing 40 original episodes of the game show, which first aired with host Guy Fieri on NBC, the story reports. The GSN program will debut this summer.

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With CEO on the Way Out, Hulu Names Acting Chief Executive

With Hulu’s Jason Kilar preparing to vacate his position as CEO at the end of the month, the online streaming company has named Andy Forssell, senior vice president of content, to serve as acting chief executive, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The announcement was made in a blog posting by Kilar that was addressed to employees.

"You know Andy well; he’s been a critical senior executive and has been here from the start of this great adventure," Kilar wrote. "Andy exemplifies the Hulu culture and has been central to Hulu’s journey, helping to grow this company from 2 content partners and no revenue to over 450 content partners and approximately $700 million revenue in 2012."

Forssell has been working on building Hulu's original offerings, THR notes. Before joining Hulu, Forssell worked at Siebel Systems and Oracle Corp.

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Following Her Recent Exit From ABC Comedy, Mandy Moore Lands Drama Role

Mandy Moore exited the ABC comedy pilot "Pulling" just last week, but already has a new gig lined up: playing the female lead in the CBS drama pilot "The Advocates," reports Deadline.com.

Moore will play attorney Shannon Carter, who teams up with ex-con Henry Bird, played by Ben McKenzie, to work as victim advocates, the story says.

Moore's previous drama series experience includes a role on ABC's "Grey's Anatomy," the piece notes.

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Mandy Moore

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Oscar-Winning Director to Helm FX Project

The Oscar winner for best director at the recent Academy Awards will make his television debut with the pilot for FX's "Tyrant," reports the Los Angeles Times' Show Tracker. Ang Lee will direct the drama project from Howard Gordon and Gideon Raff of "Homeland."

The project is Lee's first work since winning his second directing Oscar, which he was awarded for "Life of Pi," the story notes. Lee also won an Oscar for “Brokeback Mountain” in 2006.

"Tyrant,” about an American family drawn into the workings of a Middle Eastern country, begins production this summer, the piece adds.

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'Lord of the Rings' Star Cast in CBS Drama

One of the stars of the “Lord of the Rings" movies has been cast in a new CBS drama project. Deadline.com reports that Sean Astin, known for playing Samwise Gamgee in the “Rings" trilogy, has signed on with the pilot "Surgeon General."

He's joining actors Jason Isaacs and Kathryn Morris in the project, which is produced by CBS TV Studios and is written by Samuel Baum.

The project is about Dr. John Sherman (Isaacs), the country's surgeon general, with Astin playing Dr. Fischer, a psychiatrist and a member of Sherman's team.

 

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Video: One of the Most Influential Bands Ever Performed on Letterman Earlier this Week. Now They Have Released When and Where They Will Tour This Summer. We Have Complete Tour Schedule

One of the most influential bands ever performed on David Letterman's late-night show earlier this week. And now they have released their tour schedule for this summer.

"New Wave icons Depeche Mode are planning to bring their The Delta Machine World Tour to arenas and stadiums in North American this summer, according to CelebrityAccess.com. "To help promote the tour, the band made an appearance on 'Late Show with David Letterman' [on Monday, March 11, 2013] that was preceded by a 'Live on Letterman' multi-song set webcast on CBS.com and Vevo."

The story continues, "Depeche Mode is one of the most influential bands of the post-punk era and have notched up more than 100 million in album sales over the course of their career."

Here are the tour dates:

Aug. 22 - Detroit, MI - DTE Energy Music Theatre
Aug. 24 - Chicago, IL - First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre
Aug. 27 - St. Paul, MN - Minnesota State Fair
Sep. 1 - Toronto, ON - Molson Canadian Amphitheatre
Sep. 6 - Brooklyn, NY - Barclays Center
Sep. 8 - Wantagh, NY - Nikon at Jones Beach Theater
Sep. 10 - Washington DC - Jiffy Lube Live
Sep. 12 - Atlanta, GA - Aaron's Amphitheatre at Lakewood
Sep. 14 - Tampa, FL - Live Nation Amphitheatre at the Florida State Fairgrounds
Sep. 15 - Ft Lauderdale, FL - BB&T Center
Sep. 18 - Houston, TX - Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
Sep. 20 - Dallas, TX - Gexa Energy Pavilion
Sep. 22 - San Diego, CA - Sleep Train Amphitheatre
Sep. 24 - Santa Barbara, CA - Santa Barbara Bowl
Sep. 26 - Mountain View, CA - Shoreline Amphitheatre
Sep. 28 - Los Angeles, CA - Staples Center
Sep. 29 - Los Angeles, CA - Staples Center
Oct. 8 - Phoenix, AZ - Desert-Sky Pavilion

Here's Depeche Mode on Letterman's show on Monday, March 11, 2013:

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Sad Turn Of Events in Hunt for Missing Fox Movie Executive Gavin Smith: It's Now a Murder Investigation. His Car's Been Found -- Though No Body Yet -- and Police Have a 'Person of Interest' They Are Investigating.

"Los Angeles County sheriff's investigators now believe missing Fox executive Gavin Smith, 57, was killed after finding his vehicle in a Simi Valley storage facility connected to a convicted drug dealer last month, officials said," reports the Los Angeles Times. No body has been recovered.

The convicted drug dealer is John Creech, who is a "person of interest" to investigators, E! Online reports.

E! also says that Smith, who was married with three sons, allegedly had an extramarital affair with Creech's wife, Chandrika Creech.

Smith has been missing since May 1, 2012. According to a CBS story at that time, "Smith, who has been an executive in Fox's movie distribution division for more than 18 years, was last seen driving his black Mercedes 420E sedan Tuesday evening near his Oak Park home in the 500 block of Callwood Court."

gavin smith.jpg

Gavin Smith

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Move Over, Fox News: Another Conservative TV News Net Is About to Launch

A new cable channel is set to launch soon that could syphon off some of what Fox News has proved is a sizable audience for a right-leaning take on the news.

Deadline.com reports that One America News, from the Washington Times and the owner of WealthTV, is being readied for a July 1 launch. Citing a piece in The Wall Street Journal, the report says the channel will deliver a 24-hour lineup of news and conservative political talk.

“Charles Herring, president of One America News, says the San Diego-based network expects to start with modest distribution between 10 million and 20 million homes,” Deadline reports. “Herring said his family’s Herring Broadcasting is investing ‘hundreds of millions’ of dollars into what he describes as a much-needed alternative to the current situation.”

Said Herring: “MSNBC skews left, and some argue that CNN skews left,” while only Fox News “skews right.”

Herring is quoted in the piece as saying he plans “to open up another front and give independents, libertarians and all kind of different voices under the conservative umbrella an opportunity to express themselves.”

The channel will use the Washington Times as its D.C. bureau, the report notes, with an initial staff of 30 to 40 people.

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'American Idol' Continues to Slide in Ratings -- But So Does Everyone Else

Fox continues to rack up nightly ratings wins whenever it airs “American Idol,” even as the singing competition continues to see its numbers fall.

It happened again Wednesday night, based on Nielsen overnights for the key 18-49 demo. TVbytheNumbers.com reports that “Idol” was down two-tenths from last week, slipping to a 3.6 average rating in the demo. But Fox still easily won the night both in the demo and in total viewers.

Fox’s 3.6 average rating for prime time in the 18-49 demo placed it well ahead of CBS (2.0 average), Univision (1.5), ABC (1.2) and NBC (1.1). In total viewers, Fox’s 13.1 million easily outdistanced CBS’s 8.2 million, ABC’s 3.9 million, NBC’s 3.8 million and Univision’s 3.5 million.

Fox’s win was made easier by repeat programming on the other broadcast nets. NBC, ABC and CBS each aired only one fresh program.

CBS’s “Survivor: Caramoan” was the “best of the rest” behind “Idol,” with a 2.5 average in 18-49 -- down one-tenth from a week ago.

ABC’s “The Neighbors” sank to a 1.4 in viewers 18-49, falling three-tenths from last week to an all-time low.

NBC saw “Whitney” dip one-tenth from a week earlier to a 1.2 average rating in the 18-49 demo.

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Fox Scores Coup, Lands Longtime 'SVU' Star for New Comedy

A veteran actor known for his long stint on the NBC drama “Law & Order: SVU” will try his hand at comedy in a new Fox project.

“In a major coup for Fox, Chris Meloni has signed on to star in Bill Lawrence’s currently untitled comedy adaptation of Justin Halpern’s book ‘I Suck at Girls,’” TVLine.com reports.

The project, a coming-of-age story, is a single-camera effort, with the pilot written by Halpern. The script was co-written by Patrick Schumacker, who will executive produce along with Lawrence, Halpern and Jeff Ingold, the piece notes.

“Meloni, who has been one of pilot season’s hottest properties since leaving ‘Law & Order: SVU’ two years ago, will play Jack Dunlevy, a military man-turned oncologist who talks to everyone like they’re 75 years old and dying of cancer: just a no bulls--t guy,” the story reports. “Up to this point in his life, Jack’s just been the guy who’s gone to work early in the morning, come home late, eaten the big piece of chicken, yells at his kids, and goes to bed. But now his wife is going to law school, and he’s going to have to take a much more active role in his kids’ lives.”

Post-“L&O: SVU,” Meloni has been seen on “True Blood,” with an upcoming appearance in the works in the Superman remake “Man of Steel,” the piece notes.

christopher-meloni.jpgChristopher Meloni

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Lawsuit Pits One 'Real Housewife' Against Another

One of the stars of Bravo’s “Real Housewives” franchise is suing one of its other stars in a legal beef focused on the two women’s musical pursuits.

Fox News reports that “Real Housewives of Atlanta” star Kandi Burruss filed a lawsuit against her former co-star Kim Zolciak. Burruss wants money she says she has coming for writing Zolciak’s song “Tardy for the Party.”

Burruss has written hits including TLC’s “No Scrubs,” the report notes.

A third “Real Housewives of Atlanta” star, Phaedra Parks, is also involved in the suit, having been hired by Burruss as her lawyer, the report adds.

The lawsuit was reportedly filed March 12 in Atlanta.

Burruss claims the song was released without her “authorization, license or consent.”

The song has been widely panned. Judge for yourself:

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Ousted 'Walking Dead' Showrunner Lands on His Feet With Deal at Fox

The showrunner and executive producer who made a high-profile exit three months ago from “The Walking Dead” in a widely publicized ouster from the AMC series is, well, back from the dead.

Deadline.com reports that Glen Mazzara has launched his own production banner, 44 Strong Productions, and has signed an overall agreement with Fox TV Studios.

“Under the pact, Mazzara will develop cable series through 44 Strong -- named after his address in Brooklyn, 44 Strong Place -- and will shepherd other writers on their own shows,” Deadline reports. “It reunites the writer-producer with FtvS, the studio behind FX’s ‘The Shield,’ where Mazzara spent six seasons.

Said Fox TV Studios President David Madden: “’The Shield’ was the show that really put FtvS on the map, and Glen was a huge part of that show’s success. Years later, Glen has become a lauded and expert showrunner, and after his extraordinary stint on ‘The Walking Dead,’ we are proud to bring Glen back home.”

Mazzara, who joined “The Walking Dead” as a freelance writer during its first season, added: “I’ve had a long history with Fox Television Studios. … This is where I want to be, and I couldn’t ask for a better partner as I take the next step in my career.”

Mazzara saw his stock rise quickly at “The Walking Dead,” becoming the No. 2 man behind series developer and showrunner Frank Darabont. “Upon Darabont’s departure, Mazzara was elevated to showrunner for the second and third seasons, which have been smashing ratings ratings,” the report notes.

The piece adds: “Prior to ‘The Walking Dead,’ Mazzara served as creator and showrunner of ‘Crash,’ Starz’s series adaptation of the Oscar-winning film. He also co-executive produced NBC’s ‘Life.’”

glen-mazzara.jpgGlen Mazzara

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Scott Sassa -- a Former Top Executive at Turner, NBC and Fox -- Leaves Hearst Entertainment Amid Sexting Scandal

A top Hearst executive has left the company after becoming ensnared in what’s being described as an extortion plot involving sexting with a Los Angeles stripper.

The New York Post's Page Six reports that Scott Sassa, president of Hearst Entertainment & Syndication, resigned after allegedly sexting the stripper, who then forwarded the texts to the company's conservative top executives.

Sassa managed the company's stakes in ESPN, Lifetime and other entertainment properties. He previously worked at NBC, where he served in various roles including president of NBC West Coast, and at Turner Broadcasting and Fox.

Sassa, 53, met the stripper in December and the pair started sexting, with the executive reportedly "using words you absolutely would not want your bosses to see," the story says, citing an unnamed source. Sassa, a single farther of two daughters, was also reportedly communicating with other women in New York.

The stripper allegedly tried to blackmail Sassa, telling him that she would expose their texts if he didn't pay up. When he didn't accede to the demands, the stripper's boyfriend allegedly emailed the texts to top Hearst executives, including CEO Frank Bennack Jr., Hearst Magazines President David Carey and marketing exec Michael Clinton.

On Tuesday, Sassa was asked to resign, with the company allegedly giving him a large compensation package to exit, the story says. A representative for Hearst said the company doesn't comment on employee issues.

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Uh-Oh: NBC Moves Struggling Series to Saturday

NBC appears to be giving up on a show the network once had high hopes for, which failed to hold viewer interest after an OK start.

The network shunted the struggling drama "Smash" to the ratings no-man’s land of Saturday night, in effect ending NBC’s ambitious goal of turning a Broadway drama into a successful TV show, reports Bill Carter in The New York Times' Media Decoder.

Carter notes, "The move is set for April 6, and it means the show’s final batch of episodes will play in obscurity, because Saturday night is now where networks send failing shows to die."

The reality series "Ready for Love" will take over the Tuesday night time slot held by "Smash." The network believes “Love” holds promise for attracting audiences, especially female fans of "The Bachelor," which recently aired its season finale.

"NBC had hoped that 'Smash' might recover from a rocky end to its first season, which was undone, after a promising start, by plotlines and writing widely disparaged by critics," Carter notes.

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Drummer for Seminal Heavy Metal Band Dead at 56

A rocker who played drums in one of the bands that defined heavy metal in the 1980s has died. Rolling Stone reports that Clive Burr, the former drummer for Iron Maiden, died Tuesday night at age 56.

“Burr had been suffering from multiple sclerosis, and he died in his sleep,” the story reports.

On the band’s official website, Iron Maiden founder and bass player Steve Harris wrote: "This is terribly sad news. Clive was a very old friend of all of us. He was a wonderful person and an amazing drummer who made a valuable contribution to Maiden in the early days when we were starting out. This is a sad day for everyone in the band and those around him and our thoughts and condolences are with his partner Mimi and family at this time."

The Rolling Stone piece reports: “Born on March 8th, 1957, in East Ham, London, Burr was a member of another up-and-coming British metal band, Samson, before joining Maiden in 1979. As one of the leaders of the ‘New Wave of British Heavy Metal’ (which included such groups as Def Leppard, Saxon and Diamond Head), Maiden quickly showcased a sound that, early on, merged the energy of punk with the power of metal.”

The drummer’s playing was at the forefront of the band’s sound on its early classics, including the self-titled 1980 debut album along with “Killers” (1981) and “The Number of the Beast” (1982). Anthems from the period included "Running Free," "Wrathchild" and "Run to the Hills."

“However, during this early era, Maiden members would often come and go, and by December 1982, Burr had exited the group -- just as they were about to become a global stadium headliner,” the Rolling Stone report notes. “After leaving Maiden, Burr appeared on recordings by such metal acts as Trust, Stratus, Gogmagog, Elixir, Desperado (which included Twisted Sister singer Dee Snider) and Praying Mantis. Burr was eventually diagnosed with MS, and his former Maiden bandmates came to his aid by performing charity concerts and helping to form the Clive Burr MS Trust Fund. In the last years of his life, Burr was confined to a wheelchair.”

clive-burr.jpgClive Burr

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Campaign to Fund Movie Based on TV Show Breaks Records, Raises $2 Million in Less Than 11 Hours

Fans of a canceled drama series put their money where their hearts are to show their support for a movie version of the TV show. "Veronica Mars" creator Rob Thomas said, "My mind is blown," after he raised $2 million in 11 hours via a Kickstarter campaign to fund a movie based on the series, reports EW.com's Inside TV.

The goal was to raise $2 million in 30 days, the story says. But only four hours into debuting the campaign on the crowd-funding site, the "Veronica Mars" project had broken records, according to the Associated Press.

The project is the fastest yet to reach the $1 million mark, the AP story reports, reaching the milestone in 4 hours, 24 minutes.

"I’ve been fantasizing about this and had to tell myself, ‘Stop it, Rob, you’re being silly. You’re setting yourself up for disappointment,’” Thomas said. "And now today has exceeded the wildest pipe dream I let myself entertain. Holy cow. We better make a good movie. These amazing fans have stepped up. We better deliver.”

Even though the goal has been reached, the project will continue to accept pledges, EW.com notes. Thomas is targeting a theatrical release in early 2014.

“Veronica Mars,” which starred Kristen Bell, was canceled in 2007 after three seasons on UPN and the CW, but it continues to have a cult following through exposure on Netflix, AP notes.

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Animal Dies During Shoot for Kmart Commercial

A shoot for a Kmart television commercial in the Los Angeles suburb of Van Nuys resulted in the death of a 5-foot-long white-tipped shark, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The shark had been placed in an above-ground swimming pool in a residential back yard for the shoot last month. After reportedly showing signs of stress it was given adrenaline and received oxygen from a trainer, the story says. It died after it was removed from the pool and transported to Long Beach, where it was to be examined by a specialist.

The American Humane Association issued a rebuke, as did People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which opposes using any animals in filming.

A spokeswoman for the AHA said the group has asked a third party to investigate the incident, while a representative for Sears Holding, the parent of Kmart, said it is investigating.

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NBC Bringing Back Reality Competition That Has Been Off the Air for a Year and a Half -- Do You Remember It?

NBC will bring back a reality competition series after a hiatus, renewing the show for a fourth season. The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports that the network is reviving the a capella singing competition show "The Sing-Off."

The show has been off the air for a year and a half after ending its third season in November 2011 with what the article calls "modest ratings."

"The Sing-Off" started a casting website Wednesday, announcing four cities where it will hold auditions: Nashville, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City, starting next month.

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MSNBC Fixture Ends His Prime-Time Show

An MSNBC host whose nightly show has been a fixture in the cable network’s prime-time lineup announced he’s pulling the plug on the show and launching a new venture on the network. Deadline.com reports that Ed Schultz is abandoning his time slot to head up a revamped weekend lineup.

Schultz made the announcement at the end of his show Wednesday, noting, “And in the big finish tonight, a big personal and professional announcement. MSNBC will be expanding its weekend programming and this opens a big opportunity for 'The Ed Show' and my brand. I will be leaving this time slot at 8 p.m. ET and moving to Saturday and Sunday from 5 to 7 p.m."

The announcement came on a high-profile night for the network and “The Ed Show,” which scored a coup by landing the first on-camera interview with Scott Prouty, the man who taped Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” speech. Prouty’s tape has been cited by political observers as a turning point in the 2012 presidential election that helped doom Romney’s candidacy.

MSNBC President Phil Griffin said he’s "thrilled for Ed and happy to be expanding our weekend programming." The network quickly announced that Schultz's 8 p.m. weeknight slot will be taken over by Chris Hayes, who hosts the weekend morning show "Up with Chris Hayes" on the network, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

ed-schultz-47-percent.jpgMSNBC's Ed Schultz

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Ed Asner Rushed to Hospital

Actor Ed Asner was rushed to a hospital midway through his performance in a one-man show about FDR, reports the Chicago Sun-Times’ Post-Tribune.

Asner, 83, was hospitalized for exhaustion Tuesday after cutting short a performance in Gary, Indiana. Some of the show's attendees said the actor had difficulty speaking.

He had started the show 45 minutes late and struggled with his lines as soon as the show started, the piece adds.

On Wednesday Asner posted a tweet, writing, "Reports of my imminent demise are greatly exaggerated. They tell me I am suffering from exhaustion. Thanks for the good wishes!”

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Female-Centric Sitcom From 'SNL' Alum Gets Series Order

A female buddy comedy from a former star of “Saturday Night Live” has received a series order. EW.com’s Inside TV reports that “Broad City,” executive produced by “SNL” alum and “Parks and Recreation” star Amy Poehler, has been orderd to series by Comedy Central.

The series received an order for 10 episodes from the cable channel. The show follows two 20-something friends in New York City who are struggling to get through life, played by Upright Citizens Brigade veterans Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, the story reports.

The show, an adaptation of a Web series, will debut in 2014.

“A TV version of ‘Broad City’ was initially developed at FX in 2011, and Comedy Central ordered a pilot of the show last fall,” the report notes.

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Crime Drama Gets a Third Season, With Netflix Playing a Big Role in the Deal

A cable drama series has received the go-ahead for a third season, thanks in large part to a deal with Netflix. Deadline.com reports that AMC’s crime series "The Killing" got the renewal when Netflix closed negotiations with producer Fox Television Studios.

The story notes, "Under the pact, Netflix will be the exclusive subscription TV service for 'The Killing' Season 3 and will begin streaming it three months after the third season finale airs on AMC."

Getting access to the "The Killing" early was important to Netflix and essential to the deal, the story says, noting that the three-month window is unusually short.

Said Ted Sarandos, chief content officer for Netflix: “We’re excited to see ‘The Killing’ back on TV and we’re especially proud to bring Season 3 to our members so soon after it premieres on AMC. ‘The Killing’ is a terrific serialized drama and we know our members love these high-quality shows.”

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Nicki Minaj Misses Part of Wednesday Night's 'American Idol' -- and Has a Very 'L.A.' Excuse

When the house lights came up on Wednesday night's "American Idol," judge Nicki Minaj was missing, The Hollywood Reporter's Idol Worship reports.

"We are coming to you live and on time," host Ryan Seacrest said. He explained that Minaj was "stuck in traffic" on the 405. He "proceeded to keep the show moving along until she finally arrived, completely missing Curtis Finch Jr.’s hideous attire," the story says.

The article adds, "For a brief moment, 'Idol' viewers got to see what the show would look like sans Minaj, and we just want to say: 'Nicki, never be late again, little ladybug!' When she returned with her hoodie and sunglasses, she took her spot behind the table without missing a step, just in time to tell Janelle Arthur her song choice wasn’t up to par."

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'Sex and the City' Actress Returning to TV in CBS Comedy

An actress who was part of Sarah Jessica Parker’s posse on the hit HBO series "Sex and the City" has landed on a CBS comedy.

Kristin Davis, who played Charlotte, one of the sidekicks to Parker’s Carrie on the HBO show, joins the CBS pilot "Bad Teacher," reports Deadline.com.

Davis will play Ginny, a history teacher, choir director and the nemesis of Meredith Davis, a former trophy wife who becomes a teacher to find a new husband after her former husband dumps her, the story says. Davis is played by Ari Graynor.

The project is based on the 2011 Cameron Diaz-Justin Timberlake movie.

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Report: TV and Movie Actress Ashley Judd Seriously Contemplating Run For Senate, Challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

"(Louisville, Kentucky) Ashley Judd, the 44-year-old actress and social activist, has told key advisers and political figures that she is planning to announce her candidacy for U.S. Senate here this spring," writes Howard Fineman on the website of the Huffington Post.

The article continues, "Judd told one close ally that she plans to announce her run for the Democratic nomination for the 2014 race 'around Derby' -- meaning in early May when the Kentucky Derby brings national attention to Louisville and the Bluegrass State.

The stroy continues, " 'I know she knows she has to declare soon,' said one source, a highly placed elected official who declined to be identified because he was discussing private plans. 'She could always change her mind,' he added. 'I changed my mind twice before I finally declared. But as of now it is a done deal.' She has discussed her plans, sources say, with former Gov. Wendell H. Ford, the 88-year-old dean of Kentucky Democrats, among others."

Furthermore, "The announcement, her allies told The Huffington Post, could 'clear the field' of major contenders for the Democratic nomination, setting up a wild, made-for-YouTube contest between the free-wheeling, media-savvy Hollywood actress and the methodically accusatory machine of the five-term Republican senator -- and Senate minority leader -- Mitch McConnell of Louisville."

Writer Fineman, editorial director of the Huffington Post Media Group, also notes in the article, "Reached for comment by email Saturday, Judd offered a not-quite-ironclad denial to The Huffington Post. 'I am not sure who is saying this stuff, but it is not I! I’d prefer as a fan of your journalism that you stay accurate and credible. We told everyone who called us yesterday these stories are fabrications.'

"But she declined to specify which 'stories,' did not say what wasn't 'accurate,' and did not respond when asked directly whether she had, in fact, decided to run or chosen a time to declare her intentions."

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Ashley Judd

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Report: Does Matt Lauer No Longer Add Up? In 2011, 'The Today Show' Brought in $500 Million in Ad Revenues. Last Year the Show Brought in $50 Million Less. Is Lauer, Who Makes $25 Million a Year, Now a Liability?

With the ratings problems "The Today Show" has, is Matt Lauer long for the program?

 "The Today Show" was responsible for roughly half a billion dollars in revenue in 2011," writes Brian Stelter in The New York Times, adding, "That total dipped by at least $50 million in 2012, according to industry estimates, as 'Good Morning America' capitalized on the show’s stumbles." 

Elsewhere in his piece Stelter writes, "Last April, Mr. Lauer signed a contract said to be worth $25 million a year, the most lucrative deal in the 60-year history of morning television. And then the bottom fell out.

"The following week, 'Today' fell to second place in the morning ratings for the first time in 16 years. When his co-host, Ann Curry, was forced out over the summer, it was Mr. Lauer and not network executives who shouldered most of the blame."

The article also notes that Lauer "is criticized routinely in the media; one columnist this week said simply, 'He’s got to go.' And even members of his own staff are sharply divided: some say he, and 'Today,' can recover from the last year, while others say his reputation is irreparable.

'The employees spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared retribution from Mr. Lauer and their bosses. They all agreed that his contract, thought to keep him at 'Today' through at least 2014, would be his last."

The article also says that "Mr. Lauer’s Q Score — a measure of likability, treated as gospel by the TV industry — has fallen by more than half since he was paired with Ms. Curry in June 2011. It was a 19 that September; by this January it was a 9. For the first time his counterpart on 'Good Morning America,' George Stephanopoulos, has a higher score." 

We urge you to click on the link in the second paragraph above and read Stelter's entire article about the challenges facing "The Today Show."

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NBC Greenlights Reality Show

NBC has unveiled plans to add a new reality competition to its prime-time schedule. EW.com’s Inside TV reports that the network greenlighted “Food Fighters,” a cooking competition.

The premise of the show, hosted by Adam Richman, is to pit the country’s top amateur cooks against a squad of six professionals.

Said NBC President of Alternative Programming Paul Telegdy: “Food Fighters combines compelling competition and game show fun with a delicious twist -- giving everyday home cooks a once-in-a-lifetime chance to compete with world-class chefs. Every true home cook has at least one ‘signature dish,’ -- the peach cobbler, the lasagna, that appetizer that friends beg you to bring to parties. This is a show that puts those recipes to the ultimate test and rewards the passion Americans bring to their home kitchens every day.”

No premiere date has been announced yet for the series.

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John Stamos Settles In for Run on Cable Series

TV veteran John Stamos, known for his work on “Full House,” “ER” and other series, will dig in for a stint on the USA Network drama series “Necessary Roughness.” Deadline.com reports that Stamos will appear in a season-long recurring role on the show.

“He will appear in all 10 episodes of the show starring Callie Thorne,” the piece reports. “The gig keeps Stamos in the NBCUniversal family. He has been recurring on freshman NBC comedy ‘The New Normal’ and is prepping for the network’s ‘I Am Victor’ pilot. He will segue from the pilot to ‘Necessary Roughness’ on sibling USA, wrapping his gig in time to return to ‘I Am Victor’ if it gets picked up to series.”

The report adds: “Stamos’ character on ‘Necessary Roughness’ Connor McClane is a departure from the good, likable guys he usually plays. The founder of V3, a big global sports and entertainment management company, McClane sees Dr. Dani’s (Thorne) success with TK (Mehcad Brooks) and the New York Hawks, and is willing to do whatever it takes to get her into the V3 family.”

john-stamos2.jpgJohn Stamos

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Bartender Who Taped Mitt Romney's Infamous '47 Percent' Speech Sets TV Interview for Tonight

The man who videotaped an appearance by Mitt Romney that many observers think doomed the Republican candidate’s presidential bid is finally ready to talk. EW.com’s PopWatch reports that the taper of Romney’s notorious “47 percent” speech has slated an interview for tonight’s installment of MSNBC’s “The Ed Show.”

“A few facts about the guy are out there already: He worked as a bartender at Romney’s now-infamous May 2012 fundraiser, he previously worked at a Clinton fundraiser, and the contrast between those two events partially inspired him to make the video in the first place,” the piece reports.

The report adds: “As the filmmaker tells The Huffington Post, Clinton was a dream client -- he shook hands with everyone who worked the fundraiser that night, signed autographs, and otherwise behaved in an exceedingly Clintonian manner. Romney, on the other hand, ‘did not speak to any of the staff, bussers or waiters.’ And while he told the night’s guests that his remarks would be off the record, Romney didn’t give the same warning to the event’s staff -- which the bartender apparently took as an invitation to break out his Canon camera.”

The taper told The Huffington Post: “I felt it was a civic duty. I couldn’t sleep after I watched it. I felt like I had a duty to expose it.”

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New CNN Host Reveals Direction He Plans to Take His Show -- Including a Possible Upgrade to the Time Slot

The host of a new program that figures to be a key element in CNN’s revitalization plans says he wants the new program to look outside the traditional cable news sweet spot of Washington, D.C.

Former ABC News White House correspondent Jake Tapper plans to take the new CNN show beyond politics, writes Joe Flint in the Los Angeles Times.

Tapper will star in "The Lead with Jake Tapper" starting Monday in the 4 p.m. time slot.

"It will be about all sorts of stories that are relevant to our lives," Tapper told the publication. He added he wants to "spread my wings a little beyond politics."

Flint writes, "The show's 4 p.m. time slot may not be ideal for what is essentially a general-interest newscast. Not only will he be competing against daytime TV, but many news watchers are still at work and don't have TVs at their desks. Tapper seemed to acknowledge that if things go well the show could find a home when a bigger audience is available."

"I don't know that we'll be at 4 p.m. forever," Tapper said.

Flint writes: “The show, he added, will include national, world and financial news as well as a political story or two. There will also be room for some sports and entertainment. Eventually he hopes to have a correspondent assigned full time to the show as well as a rotation of panelists for round-table discussions during the program's second half-hour.”

Added Tapper: "I'm a reporter. I'm not going to stop making phone calls and trying to find out what is going on just because I have a chair behind a desk."

The new show is part of an overhaul of the cable channel being spearheaded by new CNN President Jeff Zucker.

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Struggling NBC Series Shows Signs of Life

On another low-rated night for NBC -- with another fifth-place finish overall among broadcast networks -- the Peacock got a sliver of good news as the ratings-challenged series “Smash” made a move in the right direction.

“Smash” improved by one-tenth of a ratings point in the key 18-49 demo, based on Nielsen overnights. TVbytheNumbers.com reports that Tuesday’s installment posted a 0.9 average in the demo, up from last week’s 0.8.

But NBC, which aired mostly repeat programming, was far from competitive. Its only other fresh program, an episode of “Betty White’s Off Their Rockers,” dipped one-tenth to a 1.0 in 18-49 on a night when the network not only finished behind its big four rivals but also lost to Spanish-language Univision.

Fox won the night with a 2.2 average for prime time in the 18-49 demo, followed by CBS (1.8 average), Univision (1.4), ABC (1.3) and NBC (0.9). Even with a lineup of mostly repeats, CBS easily outdistanced the pack in total viewers with 11.2 million, well ahead of ABC (4.9 million), Fox (4.4 million), Univision (3.5 million) and NBC (3.0 million).

The win for Fox came even as its two-hour premiere of “Hell’s Kitchen” lost ground from last year’s premiere, slipping two-tenths to a 2.2 average rating in adults 18-49.

CBS’s only fresh program was “Golden Boy,” which held steady with a 1.6 in the 18-49 demo.

ABC saw the season finale of “Taste” lose one-tenth from last week’s episode to sink to a series-low 1.1 average in 18-49. “Body of Proof” was also down one-tenth with a 1.2, but “Celebrity Wife Swap” rebounded slightly from last week’s series low, climbing one-tenth to a 1.6.

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New Pope Is Named -- the First Non-European Pope in Modern History

The new pope of the Roman Catholic Church has been named, signaled by the traditional white smoke rising above the Vatican. Reuters reports that Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina was elected pope today.

Bergoglio becomes the first non-European pope in modern history, according to media reports. He has taken the name Pope Francis, according to Reuters.

Breaking with tradition, the new pope appeared on the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica about an hour after the white smoke signaled that the decision had been made and greeted the huge crowd that had gathered in the square, the piece reports.

“Cardinals elected Bergoglio on just the second day of a secret conclave to find a successor to Pope Benedict, who abdicated unexpectedly last month,” the report notes.

The 76-year-old Bergoglio has served as the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, the city of his birth, since 1998.

Jorge-Bergoglio.jpgPope Francis

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ABC Finds Third Female Lead for New Comedy -- Replacing Mandy Moore

ABC has filled out the main players for a new comedy, turning to an actress who has become an increasingly familiar face on TV to replace Mandy Moore in the project.

Deadline.com reports that Kristen Schaal, a favorite from Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" and HBO's "Flight of the Conchords," gets the role in the pilot "Pulling." Schaal will play Louise, one of three dysfunctional women in their 30s who are at the center of the project.

The other two main characters will be played by June Diane Raphael and Jenny Slate.

Moore was the first person cast in a major role for the project, and as the show evolved it reportedly became apparent to producers that they needed to go in a different direction. Her exit was announced late last week, with Moore agreeing the character as it had evolved wasn’t right for her.

The show is based on a British series and is from ABC Studios, with the project written by Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky.

Slate, a “Saturday Night Live” alumna, was recently named to play Karen on “Pulling,” as we reported earlier this week. Raphael will play Donna.

kristen-schaal.jpgKristen Schaal

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Iconic Cartoon Character -- Now 85 Years Old -- Making a TV Comeback

A television comeback is in the works for one of the quintessential American cartoon characters. The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed reports that Disney Channel has ordered a new series of cartoons featuring Mickey Mouse.

The animated shorts starring the classic Walt Disney character will have a distinct 1920s and 1930s flair, the report notes.

The shorts will be produced in 2D animation and targeted toward children age 6 to 14 and families. The series of 19 cartoons, under the series title “Mickey Mouse,” is set to premiere June 28 on a wide range of platforms including Disney Channel, Disney.com and WATCH Disney Channel.

The cartoons will debut on Fridays and air throughout the day, the story says. The Mickey Mouse character was created by Walt Disney in 1928, making him 85 years old this year.

In a statement, Disney Channels Worldwide President and Chief Creative Officer Gary Marsh said: "By bringing Mickey's comedic adventures to life with vitality, humor, inventiveness and charm, the entire Disney Television Animation team of artists, animators and directors have worked to capture the essence of what Walt Disney himself created 85 years ago.”

Here’s a preview, “Croissant de Triomphe,” from the Disney site -- don’t be alarmed that the dialog is in French, as the clip is mostly an action sequence:


Croissant de Triomphe on Disney Video

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$7.7 Million Legal Victory for Former 'Price Is Right' Model Is Wiped Out

A ruling in a former “Price Is Right” model’s high-profile lawsuit against the show wipes out her earlier $7.7 million victory. The Hollywood Reporter's Hollywood, Esq. reports that a Los Angeles Superior Court judge granted a motion for a new trial because of bad jury instructions.

Model Brandi Cochran alleged in her lawsuit that she was fired from the show after eight years when she became pregnant. She claimed producers treated her differently and gave her less work, the story says.

While producers wanted the judge to throw out the $7.7 million award, the judge rejected that motion, saying that "the evidence established that Defendants discriminated against Plaintiff," according to the story. However, the judge said a new trial had to be granted because of the faulty jury instructions.

According to the story, "Judges need to instruct the jury that discrimination is not just a 'motivating factor/reason' for termination but a 'substantial motivation factor/reason.'

"In the Cochran case, the judge failed to issue this 'substantial' guidance despite a request from the defendants."

Brandi-Cochran.jpgBrandi Cochran

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Keith Olbermann Reportedly Settles $50 Million Current TV Lawsuit

Former Current TV host Keith Olbermann has reportedly settled a $50 million lawsuit with the network, in a deal reached during a private mediation session, according to The Hollywood Reporter's Hollywood, Esq., which broke the news.

In its version of the story, Deadline.com's Dominic Patten writes, "While specifics of the agreement are confidential, a source tells Deadline that Olbermann is set to receive a significant payout from Current. The former ESPN and MSNBC anchor’s deal also means it won’t impact the Al Gore co-founded Current’s recent $500 million sale to Al Jazeera. Late last week, in heavily redacted court documents filed under seal in L.A. Superior Court, the former 'Countdown' frontman requested an April 24 hearing for a summary judgment to rule in his favor over Current."

According to the THR story, Olbermann and Current both sued each other in April 2012 after he was dismissed from the cable channel. Olbermann claimed he was improperly fired from the network without cause after only one year of his five-year, $50 million contract, the story notes.

Current called those allegations "false and malicious," and claimed that Olbermann failed to show up for work several times, among other issues.

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Star of Discovery Series Arrested

The star of a Discovery reality series has been arrested. Leading off its report with "Here's a shocker," TMZ.com reports that Steven Ray Tickle, a star of Discovery's "Moonshiners," was arrested in Danville, Va., for public intoxication.

Tickle, who makes his living brewing alcohol, was arrested last Thursday after a police officer found him drinking in his car, which was parked at a convenience store, the piece says. The officer tried to find someone to take him home, but ended up placing him under arrest after that failed, according to the report.

Tickle, 35, was booked into Danville City Jail and released later that day, the piece notes.

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Steven Ray Tickle

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Here Are the Syndication and Streaming Plans for CBS's 'The Good Wife' -- If You're Able to Guess Which Cable Network It's Going to, You're a Lot Smarter Than We Are

CBS has just announced the syndication and streaming plans for its acclaimed drama "The Good Wife,' and if you can guess its cable partner in this deal you're smarter than any of us here at TVWeek.

Writes our friend Nellie Andreeva at Deadline.com: "In an arrangement that reflects the changing off-network options for serialized dramas, CBS’s 'The Good Wife' has been sold in a complex multi-window deal that involves two streaming partners, Amazon and Hulu, a basic cable network, Hallmark Channel, and broadcast syndication, for what I hear is a combined license fee of nearly $2 million per episode. 'This is an off-network model for a unique serialized show in today’s television ecosystem,' said Leslie Moonves, president and CEO, CBS Corp."

Andreeva explains how the various parts of this deal work: "[T]he first three seasons of 'The Good Wife' will become available on Amazon Prime tomorrow [Thursday, March 14, 2013], with the current Season 4 coming later this year. Hulu Plus will roll out previous seasons of the show in September 2013, while Hallmark Channel will begin airing 'The Good Wife' in January 2014. A weekend broadcast syndication run is scheduled to begin in September 2014, with the series sold in 85% of the country."

To read more about the CBS strategy in making these deals, please click on the link above to read Andreeva's insightful story.

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Conde Nast Rolls Out Video Channels Built Around Its High-Profile Magazines

Magazine publisher Conde Nast hopes to leverage the brand recognition of its big-name titles -- which have been dealing with dwindling income -- through a series of Web video channels.

USA Today reports that the publisher launched the new channels Tuesday.

“Backed by corporate sponsors, its collection of webisodes -- ranging from two to seven minutes -- will be distributed on YouTube and the video pages of the magazines' websites,” the paper reports. “The initial series will be tied to Glamour and GQ, focusing on fashion, cosmetics and health. The company plans to introduce video channels for its other magazines.”

Said Dawn Ostroff, president, Conde Nast Entertainment: "We're trying to take content that magazine brands already publish and start to expand the reach. Video is where consumers are heading."

The report notes: “With video ads garnering higher margins than other types of digital ads, media companies have been steering more of their production budget to video departments. U.S. digital video ad spending is expected to increase 41.3%, to $4.1 billion, in 2013, according to research firm eMarketer. By 2016, it'll nearly double to $8 billion, eMarketer estimates.”

Other publications have made similar moves, the piece notes, with Entertainment Weekly, Motor Trend and Car and Driver among those producing video material for their YouTube channels.

Rebecca Lieb, a digital media analyst at Altimeter Group, says it’s a smart move for Conde Nast, with beauty and how-to video among the fastest-growing online video categories. But she has reservations about the timing.

Conde Nast "has an advantage in that it has a portfolio of trusted brands for beauty advice," Lieb said. "It's a smart move. I would have liked to have seen it earlier. The question is whether they can catch on to a trend that's already established."

Conde Nast also publishes Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Architectural Digest and Vogue, among other titles.

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NBC Eyes Will Ferrell Comedy With 'Private Practice' Star in Lead Role

NBC is taking a look at a comedy produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay's Gary Sanchez Productions, with former "Private Practice" star Kate Walsh in the lead, reports Deadline.com.

The network is considering giving a pilot order to the project, “Bad Judge,” the story reports.

Walsh would star as a "hard-living, sexually unapologetic woman," the story notes. She works as a judge in the criminal courts. Also producing is Anne Heche, who brought the idea to Gary Sanchez, the piece notes.

Since ending her run on "Private Practice" in January, Walsh has been sought after for pilots. She has appeared in several videos for Ferrell and McKay's Funny or Die site, the piece notes.

 

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Former TV Executive Says He Deserves Community Service for Bringing Nancy Grace to TV

Steve Brill, the founder of Court TV, tells the journalism organization ProPublica that he deserves "to do community service. I am the person who brought Nancy Grace to television."

Brill, asked about his nose for hiring inexperienced people who end up with strong careers, noted that he also made "a lot of mistakes" (which he followed with the Nancy Grace comment.)

Brill added that his attitude at Court TV was to "give people an opportunity, and if they get hired away, you use that to hire other people." Grace moved on from Court TV to become a fixture on HLN.

Said Brill: "When we started Court TV we had a couple of experienced people, and there was a producer there, a young producer, Cynthia McFadden." After she complained they didn't have enough people on-air, Brill said he told her, "Well, what about you?"

McFadden now is an anchor and correspondent for ABC News.

Brill added, "So Fred Graham, who was our experienced guy, takes me aside ... oh, and then I did the same thing with Terry Moran, ironically, because they now both do ‘Nightline.’"

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After Getting Pushed Off CBS Drama Series, Actress Has a Reality Show in the Works

After being placed on indefinite medical leave from CBS's "Blue Bloods" due to her struggles with celiac disease, actress Jennifer Esposito may star in a reality show on E!, reports Deadline.com.

Esposito is filming a pilot for the network, which she also executive produces. The reality project is a spinoff of the network's docu-reality series "Playing With Fire," which will debut Sunday.

Esposito is featured on that program, as she helps run a bakery called Jennifer's Way, which is a gluten-free bakery in New York.

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Jennifer Esposito

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J.R. Ewing's Funeral Brings Big Turnout for 'Dallas'

The funeral for one of television's most memorable characters, the conniving oilman J.R. Ewing, brought "Dallas" its best overall audience of its second season on TNT, reports Bill Carter in The New York Times' Media Decoder.

The episode drew 3.6 million viewers, compared with the season's average of 2.6 million. It also was bigger than the last episode in which actor Larry Hagman portrayed Ewing, when 2.8 million people tuned in.

The program tapped into another "Who Shot J.R." storyline to explain the character's death, following Hagman's death in November after battling cancer. In the reboot, through, the oilman was fatally shot.

When the original program showed Ewing shot by an unknown assailant, the program became one of the most-watched and talked-about shows of all time, with 83 million viewers tuning in for the resolution, the story notes.

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Report: Koch Brothers Want to Buy Los Angeles Times

Charles and David Koch, two of the world's wealthiest men and funders of conservative and libertarian causes, are interested in buying the Los Angeles Times and other Tribune newspapers, reports Reuters.

The Koch brothers aren't interested in Tribune's non-newspaper assets, which include broadcast TV stations and WGN, the story says.

Worth $34 billion, the brothers have enough assets to buy the newspapers, which are said to be worth $623 million, according to the article. The pair are the owners of Koch Industries, which owns cattle ranches, paper products such as Dixie Cups and oil and gas pipelines.

The story adds: "They are known for their conservative views and on the Koch Industries website explain that economic freedom means that 'government is kept small and limited to those activities that contribute to societal well-being, rather than undermine it.'"

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A&E Wins First Round of Lawsuit That Alleges 'Storage Wars' Is Rigged

At a hearing on Tuesday, March 12, 2013, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Johnson tossed the unfair business practices claim of "Storage Wars" star David Hester, reports The Hollywood Reporter, adding, "The judge also demanded that Hester's claim of wrongful termination be more specific."

According to the article, "One of Hester's claims was that A&E committed unfair business practices. As a result of alleged 'interference and manipulation of the outcomes of the auctions shown' on 'Storage Wars,' he says that producers have made it appear that he is less skillful than his competition."

The story adds, "Because Judge Johnson agrees that the claim arises from constitutionally protected activity -- 'Storage Wars' is expressive free speech -- the burden shifted to Hester to demonstrate a probability of prevailing before the claim went any further."

The article also explains that, as TVWeek previously reported, "Hester is a professional buyer of abandoned storage lockers. 'Storage Wars' shows him and other buyers competing for these lockers. Hester is challenging the producer's allegedly unethical behavior in 'salting' storage units. The reality-TV star says that this runs in violation of the Communication Act of 1934, which prohibits 'influencing, prearranging, or predetermining outcomes' in 'contests of knowledge, skill, or chance.' "

We urge you to click on the link in the first paragraph of this item, above, that takes you to the THR article where you can read about what happened in court on Tuesday in more depth.

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Company Buys Twinkies, Ho Hos and Sno Balls for $410 Million. It's the Same Company That's Revived Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR) Beer. Plus We Tell the Stories of Other Food Brands That Refused to Die, Including Ovaltine, Log Cabin Syrup, Necco Wafers

"Hostess Brands, the now bankrupt owner of the cream-filled confections, agreed on Tuesday to sell the snacks -- along with Ho Hos, Sno Balls and Dolly Madison Zingers -- to two investment firms with a shared history of corporate turnarounds," The New York Times' DealBook blog reports, adding, "The deal, worth $410 million, was struck nearly four months after the last Twinkie rolled off the baking lines."

One of the two companies that have partnered to buy Hostess, the story says,  is "Metropoulos & Company, which owns Pabst Blue Ribbon [beer] and Vlasic pickles. C. Dean Metropoulos, the food industry veteran who leads the firm that bears his name, is expected to become the chief executive of the snack business."

Metropoulos is partnering with Apollo Global Management in the deal.

The article notes, " 'There's a great consumer fan base that hasn’t declined,' Daren Metropoulos, one of Mr. Metropoulos’ sons and an executive at the family firm, said in an interview. 'We saw a real opportunity to revitalize these brands, just with some T.L.C.'

"That may come in the form of what the younger Mr. Metropoulos deemed 'guerrilla marketing,' much as his firm has done with Pabst Blue Ribbon [beer]. Social media like Twitter are expected to play a big role going forward, he said, and comedian friends like Zach Galifianakis may be drafted as spokesmen. (Will Ferrell, for instance, has starred in commercials for Old Milwaukee beer, part of the Pabst family.)

Twinkies are not the first food brand that has refused to die. An article on the Fox News website this week from www.thedailymeal.com talks about some of these other food brands.

That article says: "Take Ovaltine, for example. Just about everyone who grew up in the 1950s most likely remembers drinking the stuff, but it doesn’t sell nearly as well as it used to, and it’s far from the crown jewel of its parent company, Nestlé. But it has a place in the heart of millions of people all over the world, so you can bet that it won’t be going anywhere anytime soon."

The article also talks about Necco Wafers: "These simple colored sugar wafers, available in eight flavors, were first produced all the way back in 1847, believe it or not. They were included in soldiers' rations during WWII, and after the war the candy remained popular with both the GIs and their children. Sales bottomed out in the ensuing decades, and in order to enliven the brand in 2009 the entire formula was overhauled. The candies were made all-natural, they were softened up via the addition of glycerin, lime was eliminated altogether, and every other flavor received a makeover. Two years later, however, sales were down 35 percent because longtime customers stopped buying them, so in 2011 they switched back to the old formula.

And about Log Cabin Syrup the article notes, "This is an example of an iconic brand that’s switched owners so many times it’s a near-miracle that it’s made its way out unscathed. Patrick Towle started the brand in 1887, and it was acquired by General Foods in 1927. In 1990 the company merged with Kraft, who sold the brand to Aurora Foods in 1997. Aurora then went bankrupt, so Log Cabin was sold to Pinnacle Foods. One problem? Pinnacle Foods also owns chief competitors Aunt Jemima and Mrs. Butterworth’s. They could have easily just dropped the brand from its lineup, but instead just changed the formula so it doesn’t use high-fructose corn syrup, thus differentiating it from the others."

And an article on the Coca-Cola website just last month celebrated the 50th anniversary of its hard-to-find but still manufactured TaB diet soda. In comments to that article Coca-Cola says if you send the company a short note to http://apps.facebook.com/kofeedback saying you want to find out who carries TaB in your area, and include your city and zip code, they will answer you.

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CBS and NBC Share an Unwelcome Ratings 'Achievement'

CBS and NBC both suffered an indignity in the ratings for Monday night. Based on Nielsen overnights, both broadcast networks saw shows sink to season lows in the key 18-49 demo.

TVbytheNumbers.com reports that CBS’s “Rules of Engagement” dipped to a season-low 2.0 average rating in viewers 18-49, losing two-tenths of a ratings point from a week ago. NBC’s two-hour “The Biggest Loser,” meanwhile, lost three-tenths to come in with a season-low 1.9.

CBS does have an explanation, as it didn't provide much support for "Rules." The network filled out the rest of its prime-time lineup with repeat programming and wound up in fourth place for the night.

With all fresh programs, meanwhile, NBC -- which has been so far down this season that it's starting to look like up -- clawed its way to third overall behind runaway leader ABC and second-place Fox.

ABC’s two-hour season finale of “The Bachelor” performed well, climbing a half-point from the previous original to a 3.3 average rating in 18-49 -- four-tenths better than last year’s finale. The wrap-up show “After the Final Rose” did even better, delivering a 3.8, up a half-point from last year’s installment.

Fox aired a repeat of “Bones” (1.2 in 18-49) along with a fresh episode of “The Following,” which lost two-tenths from last week to settle for a 2.6.

NBC saw its 10 p.m. show “Deception” tick up one-tenth from last week to a 1.2 in the 18-49 demo.

For the night, ABC was way ahead of the pack in viewers 18-49 with a 3.5 average rating, followed by Fox (1.9 average), NBC (1.7) and CBS (1.6). ABC also easily won total viewers with 10.3 million, followed by Fox (6.4 million), CBS (6.4 million) and NBC (4.8 million).

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Hasselbeck Drama at 'The View': Was It All Just a Stunt?

The drama of the past several days over whether co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck was getting the boot from “The View” has been criticized by TV observers as a lame publicity stunt, with one TV critic comparing the show’s treatment of its lone conservative political voice to the torture of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

Linda Stasi writes in the New York Post: “What-the-hell was ABC thinking when they decided to torture Elisabeth Hasselbeck for three long days without relief? I’m talking about the extended -- and in retrospect, embarrassingly amateurish -- publicity stunt they pulled by refusing all weekend to address the erroneous Us Weekly report that Hasselbeck was getting canned from ‘The View’ because of her views.”

TVWeek reported previously on the Us story, along with Monday morning’s announcement on the show by Barbara Walters that there was no truth to the report. The original Us report, which ran March 8, quoted an unnamed source saying: "The viewers they polled all said [Hasselbeck] was too extreme and right wing. People did not watch the show because of Elisabeth. So they told her [Thursday, March 7] her contract would not be renewed."

Stasi writes in the Post that the logic behind that statement is faulty: “In fact, it’s her outspoken right-wing views versus the other strong women who lean way in the other direction that add fuel to the fire -- and heat up the ratings. No, I don’t agree with her opinions, but I applaud her ability to raise her voice for her side. It makes for good TV.”

Stasi adds: “Even though the story was completely false -- according to Barbara Walters, who finally addressed the Hasselbeck humiliation on yesterday’s show -- the ABC/Disney suits threw Elisabeth into the TV equivalent of Gitmo, without concern for life, limb or career longevity.”

The writer says the show waited too long to address whether Hasselbeck was leaving the show. “They didn’t address it because they wanted a cheap stunt to generate interest, which is so dishonest it cheapens the show,” she writes.

Stasi asks why execs at ABC didn’t talk about the issue late last week, when “the media was all over them like a bad smell.”

“And bad smell it is. In fact, ABC’s lie-by-omission has stunk up the place worse than Mickey’s mouse droppings,” she writes, adding: “Walters, in what actually seemed like an explanation of what ABC did to Hasselbeck all weekend, said, almost out of nowhere, ‘Believe me, she’s tougher than she looks.’

“Next week, ABC has planned water boarding for fun and ratings.”

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Name Change for CNN Program

A nightly CNN program has received a name change, making official a move that has been talked about for a while. The program is “Piers Morgan Tonight,” which officially became “Piers Morgan Live” as of Monday night, according to Deadline.com.

Morgan tweeted Monday: “Tonight the show formerly known as Piers Morgan Tonight gets a new name -- @PiersMorganLive CNN 9pmET.”

“On the ratings-troubled show Monday, Morgan joked that the name was changed because it ‘was all live, all the time,’” Deadline reports. “The name change was the host and former ‘America’s Got Talent’ judge’s idea to emphasize the fact that the NY-based interview show is often actually live.”

The show will reportedly air live on Monday through Thursday nights.

Morgan’s show replaced “Larry King Live” in January 2011.

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What Does 'Sex and the City's' Carrie -- Sarah Jessica Parker -- Think of the New Carrie?

Sarah Jessica Parker, who originated the role of Carrie Bradshaw in HBO’s hit series “Sex and the City,” apparently isn’t exactly a fan of CW’s prequel.

TheCelebrityCafe.com reports that Parker expressed mixed feelings about the series.

“You know, I think it’s one of those tests of your generosity,” Parker said in a recent interview with Net-A-Porter, commenting on a new actress, AnnaSophia Robb, taking over the character. “She is a lovely girl and I want her to feel good about it, but it’s … odd.”

The series is built around a younger version of Carrie Bradshaw, played by 19-year-old Robb.

The report notes that Robb talked about her interest in the role during a previous interview with Teen Vogue, saying: "I realized it was actually a really strong story. It had a lot of heart and integrity, and Carrie seems like a character that I can grow with."

AnnaSophia-Robb-as-Carrie.jpgAnnaSophia Robb as Carrie Bradshaw

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Video: Vevo Unveils Vevo TV

Vevo has just unveiled Vevo TV, an always-on, broadcast-style music and video channel being made available exclusively to the United States and Canada. The service is offered through vevo.com and on apps for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Xbox and Roku.

Like TV, this channel is something you can tune in to 24/7 for scheduled blocks of HD music videos, original Vevo programming and live concert events,” a company spokesman stated. “All programming is created for humans by humans (no algorithms allowed!). adidas Originals, McDonald’s, Red Bull and State Farm are launch sponsors.”

The company continues to provide its traditonal on-demand service.

Here’s a video Vevo is distributing to help promote Vevo TV:

 

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Cable Series Has Attracted 50 Million Viewers in a Little More Than a Week

One cable channel is on a major ratings roll, with two current productions delivering huge viewer numbers. The channel, History, reported that the docudrama “The Bible” delivered 10.8 million total viewers in its second outing Sunday night.

With a total of nine telecasts across History and Lifetime since the series debuted March 3, a whopping 50 million cumulative viewers have seen at least a portion of “The Bible,” the channel reported.

Meanwhile, Sunday’s episode of History’s first scripted series, “Vikings,” drew 4.6 million viewers for its 10 p.m. telecast, making it the most-watched cable series in the hour.

The total viewer numbers for the two-hour “The Bible” made History the No. 1 channel on television Sunday from 8-10 p.m., the channel reported. Additionally, the telecast attracted 3.2 million viewers in the key 18-49 demo.

 

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Graphic 'Girls' Episode: Did It Go Too Far?

Sunday's episode of HBO’s "Girls" is raising questions, with some observers asking whether it went too far in depicting graphic details, according to The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed.

The episode, the show's next-to-last for this season, "was bleak. It seemed to circulate around a bitter truth that no matter how hard you want to become your idealized self, your real nature cannot be bested," the story says.

But the issue that got people talking was the closing scene, in which the character Adam has rough sex with his new girlfriend, Natalia.

"It ended with a shot of his bodily fluid on her chest," writes Joe Flint in the Los Angeles Times. Flint adds: “It was a jarring end to a violent and hard-to-watch scene. Even theatrical movies with sexually explicit material and adult pay-per-view channels typically steer clear of such displays, especially if it's not for comic relief."

A spokeswoman for HBO said the scene was "nothing more than use of props." She declined to respond to questions about whether the scene had gone too far, or whether HBO executives had debated the content, Flint writes.

Flint adds: "To younger viewers, who have been exposed to graphic sexual images via the Internet for years, any concern over the scene might be seen as much ado about nothing. … But to this reporter, it was a boundary crossed and more than just a use of props."

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Report: Matt Lauer Offered to Quit 'Today'

"Today" co-host Matt Lauer reportedly offered to quit the NBC morning show. Howard Kurtz reports in The Daily Beast that Lauer made the offer after he became the target of negative press coverage following Ann Curry's ouster.

In a meeting with NBCUniversal Chief Executive Steve Burke, Lauer said, “If you think the show’s better off without me, let me know, and I’ll get out of the way,” the story notes, citing Burke's recollection of the meeting.

Burke said he responded, "You’re the best person who’s ever done this. We’ll get through this.”

Lauer, for his part, explains, “It was a hard time for everybody." He added, "We were getting kicked around a lot. Some of it was self-inflicted and perhaps deserved.”

Lauer received much of the blame for the hasty ouster of Curry, a move that Lauer said he fought against, trying to convince his bosses to give Curry more time before she was shuffled into a smaller role.

“He was quietly and publicly a supporter of Ann’s throughout the entire process. It is unfair that Matt has shouldered an undue amount of blame for a decision he disagreed with," said Steve Capus, who left his role as NBC News president last month.

As for rumors that NBC is considering replacing Lauer given the show's recent ratings losses to "Good Morning America," Burke said the idea is "ridiculous."

“It’s all speculation and gossip,” Burke said. “It’s hurtful at some level, but it is what it is. The show went through a rough patch after the Ann Curry/Savannah Guthrie change. Our job is to make sure the show is as good as it can possibly be.”

Lauer said the show is taking on a lighter, more upbeat tone and is moving away from a tabloid-like focus. “We want people to feel good about a portion of their morning, and we got away from that,” he said.

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Why 'Star Wars' TV Series Was Canceled

A television series that is part of the “Star Wars” universe has been canceled, and the decision may be related to the upcoming “Star Wars” feature films, EW.com’s Inside TV reports.

The fan favorite animated series "Star Wars: The Clone Wars," which airs on the Cartoon Network, appears to be finished, with producer Lucasfilm saying it's ending production of the series, the story reports.

“The ‘Star Wars’ universe is moving forward into a brave new era, and that means it’s time for a good old-fashioned brand scrub,” the piece reports. “Following the news that newly Disneyfied Lucasfilm is delaying the 3D re-release of ‘Episodes II’ and ‘III,’ the company announced [Monday] that they are ending production of ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars,’ the Cartoon Network series that spent five seasons earning raves -- raves that were all variations of ‘Well, at least it’s better than the last few movies.’”

While supervising director Dave Filoni said the team is still working on additional "Clone Wars" story arcs, Lucasfilm didn't announce when or where they would air, the story adds. “The press release describes the story arcs as ‘bonus content,’ which doesn’t inspire much confidence,” the story notes, adding: “The end of ‘Clone Wars’ indicates that Lucasfilm is closing the book on the whole prequel era, which is sad news for people who prefer Clone Troopers to Stormtroopers.”

The announcement comes as Lucasfilm is "moving full steam ahead" on its new "Star Wars" trilogy for movie goers, notes The New York Times' Media Decoder. Lucasfilm also said it's planning to "pursue a new direction in animated programming," although the company didn't provide details, The Times notes.

The Times adds: "Lucasfilm also said that it was 'exploring a whole new “Star Wars” series set in a time period previously untouched in “Star Wars” films or TV programming.' That series will be shown … somewhere."

Lucasfilm also said it would delay "Star Wars Detours," an animated comedy series created by the team behind the "Robot Chicken" spoofs, EW.com notes.

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What Was It That Provoked Tina Fey to Tell a Photographer to Go F--- Himself?

A photographer got a rude response when he stumbled onto a subject Tina Fey does not want to talk about. When the paparazzo asked the "30 Rock" star whether Taylor Swift had "overreacted" to a joke Fey told during the Golden Globes, Fey had some choice words, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

"Go f--- yourself," Fey told the photographer. She smiled while uttering the words, the story says. Asked again, she repeated, "You can go f--- yourself."

After the Golden Globes joke, during which Fey poked fun at Swift's love life, Swift told Vanity Fair that there's a "special place in hell for women who don't help other women."

When the photographer told Fey that she was "not being nice," the comedian told him,"Get a job, dude," according to the story.

Thumbnail image for tina-fey.jpg

Tina Fey

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'Naughty' Kelly Osbourne Released After Five Days in Hospital

Kelly Osbourne was released from the hospital five days after suffering a seizure on the set of “Fashion Police.” According to The Hollywood Reporter, doctors said the seizure was a "onetime episode" and their tests found no conclusive results.

"She is looking forward to returning to 'Fashion Police' this week and getting back to business and life as usual," her representative said.

Sharon Osbourne, her mother, said on "The Talk" that she was thankful the episode was caught on tape so that doctors could identify the condition. "She's on medications. Nobody knows why she had it -- can't figure out a reason why -- but she is fine, and naughty," Osbourne quipped.

Thumbnail image for kelly-osbourne.jpgKelly Osbourne

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Former 'Cold Case' Star Returns to CBS for Lead Role in New Drama

A former star of CBS’s “Cold Case” is set to return to the network with a lead role in a new drama. Deadline.com reports that Kathryn Morris has been cast in the pilot "Surgeon General."

Morris will have a lead role opposite Jason Isaacs, playing Lydia, the surgeon general's chief of staff. Isaacs will portray Dr. John Sherman, the surgeon general.

The pilot is written by Samuel Baum and produced by CBS TV Studios.

kathryn-morris.jpgKathryn Morris

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Kim Kardashian, Ashton Kutcher and Other Celebs Reportedly Hacked -- Along With FBI Chief and U.S. VP

A dozen celebrities -- and FBI Director Robert Mueller -- were reportedly hacked, with their personal financial information published online, Yahoo reports.

The celebrities include Kim Kardashian, Beyonce, Ashton Kutcher, Paris Hilton, and Mel Gibson. An unnamed website has reportedly published their social security numbers, mortgage amounts, credit card information, car loans and other details, the piece notes.

The hacking was done via a crime called "doxxing," which Yahoo says is "the process of obtaining or deducing information about a person based on a limited set of initial information."

Among the other people who were reportedly hacked are LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, Vice President Joe Biden and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Also on the list: Donald Trump, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Britney Spears and Sarah Palin, among others.

The case is reportedly being investigated by the LAPD and the FBI.

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TV Hall of Fame Taps Leslie Moonves, Dick Wolf -- and the Inventor of Television

The Television Hall of Fame has inducted several new members, including CBS chief Leslie Moonves, "Law & Order" producer Dick Wolf and the late television pioneer Philo T. Farnsworth, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Other inductees included sportscaster Al Michaels, newsman Bob Schieffer, director and actor Ron Howard and writer Aaron Sorkin.

"I guess all the people who have been saying television is dead were a little bit off,” Moonves told the crowd at the 22nd Television Hall of Fame ceremony in Beverly Hills. "It’s alive and well, and no better place to be.”

Farnsworth was an American inventor who came up with the first fully functional all-electronic television system, which he sold commercially through Farnsworth Television and Radio Corporation beginning in 1938. He reportedly held more than 165 U.S. and foreign patents.

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Nielsen Examines Viewing Habits in 'Zero TV' Homes

Nielsen is looking into the viewing patterns of 5 million so-called “Zero TV” homes -- U.S. households that watch entertainment via Internet-connected computing devices and TV sets, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Most "Zero TV" homes actually own at least one TV set, but the devices are connected to the Internet instead of a cable-operator or satellite-TV service.

With most of these homes occupied by people younger than 35 and childless, it "remains to be seen whether this group, referred to by some industry observers as the 'never-connecteds,' will forgo cable or satellite subscriptions as they age, buy homes and raise families," the story says.

About half of Zero TV homes watch TV shows through services such as Hulu and Netflix, the piece notes.

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CBS Drama Signs Veteran 'Law & Order' Showrunner

A veteran "Law & Order" writer and showrunner has been hired for a new CBS drama project. Deadline.com reports that Rene Balcer signed on with the pilot "The Ordained."

Balcer helped creator Lisa Cullen with conceptualizing the idea when she first started on the project in 2011, the story notes. "Because of Balcer’s previous involvement, he was a top choice and was available, leading to his deal on the project," the story notes.

Balcer will serve as executive producer and showrunner for the project, which is about the son of a Kennedy-like family who leaves the priesthood to become a lawyer to help his family.

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Dennis Rodman Says He Has a New Diplomatic Mission

Dennis Rodman, who recently returned from his "basketball summit" in North Korea, says he has a new mission: meeting the new pope and fixing the problems of the Catholic Church, reports TMZ.com.

Rodman's "people" in Rome have reportedly been in touch with the Vatican and are trying to arrange a sit-down with the next pope, who has yet to be elected.

"I want to be anywhere in the world that I'm needed. ... I want to spread a message of peace and love throughout the world," the former NBA star told TMZ.

His mission to North Korea may not have had the desired effect. Soon after Rodman returned to the U.S. from his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Kim ratcheted up his rhetoric about waging war against the United States and South Korea.

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Disney Strikes Huge TV Content Deal With Al Jazeera

The Walt Disney Co. has just struck a huge multi-year agreement with Al Jazeera, reports Variety.

The deal, says Variety, is between Disney and "Al Jazeera Children’s Channel (JCC), the pan-Arab free-to-air network that reaches millions of Middle Eastern and North African TV homes. The large-scale agreement covers hit toon series such as 'Phineas and Ferb' and 'Lilo and Stitch,' live-action shows including 'Zeke and Luther' and movies including 'A Bug’s Life,' 'Toy Story,' 'Cars' and 'Tangled.'"

The article did not disclose exactly how many years the agreement covers, nor did it disclose the cost of the deal.

The story does note, however: "Prior to this deal Disney had a pay TV presence in the region, where pay penetration is low."

The article also says: "Disney content will go out across the Middle East and North Africa region on JCC, which targets 7- to 15-year-olds, and also on Bareem TV, its sister pre-school channel, which will air 'Handy Manny,' 'Little Einsteins' and 'Jojo’s Circus,' among other fare. All shows will be dubbed into Arabic and will roll out in coming months."

The article adds that "a large portion of the estimated 74 million TV homes in the region" will have access to the Disney programming.

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Justin Timberlake-Hosted 'SNL' Was a Ratings Winner. But the Show's Cold Opening Not Available on Hulu. What's Going On?

Justin Timberlake returned to host "Saturday Night Live" for a fifth time this past Saturday, March 9, 2013, and the show was a ratings winner, reports The Hollywood Reporter.

According to the story, "Preliminary Nielsen figures give the episode a 5.9 rating among metered-market households and a 15 share. That's the largest haul for the NBC series in 14 months, since Charles Barkley hosted in January 2012. In the 25 markets with Local People Meters, 'SNL' averaged a 3.7 rating among adults 18-49 -- another high not achieved since Barkley."

The talk about the show on the Internet is not about its ratings success, however, it's about the fact that NBC has killed the show's trademark cold opening from reruns of the Timberlake-hosted episode on Hulu.

Here's a report about that development from a separate story at the website of The Hollywood Reporter: "'Saturday Night Live' gently mocked the late Venezuela President Hugo Chavez during its TV broadcast, but NBC is not doing likewise on the Internet, choosing instead to refrain from posting the cold open to Saturday's show."

The story adds: "During Saturday's cold open on 'SNL's' TV broadcast, host Justin Timberlake impersonated Elton John singing a version of "Candle in the Wind" with the words changed to reflect the life of Chavez, who died last week at 58."

Talk on the Internet includes speculation about whether NBC has a political agenda for not carrying the skit online. For example, according to THR: "'Why has NBC scrubbed Saturday Night Live’s hit anti-Hugo Chavez skit?' reads a headline from Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze.com. A typical reader response -- 'How many skits featuring Tina Fey mocking Sarah Palin did SNL gladly run? Commies.'"

However, the story explains: "Insiders say the omission of the sketch at NBC.com, Hulu and other outlets was merely in deference to complicated rules regarding digital uses of musical rights. In fact, another recent sketch in which Adam Levine referenced music from Jason Mraz and Train also didn't make it online, nor did one where Bruno Mars sang songs from various bands."

THR also notes that "NBC and Hulu did not comment on the controversy Monday," which seems odd to us here at TVWeek if the explanation is as simple as the problem being one of digital music rights. Why would NBC and Hulu be loathe to say that? 

Finally, THR did have a copy of the cold opening on its site, though it says it's not from NBC. We copied the embed and here it is:

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John Malkovich Will Talk Like a Pirate -- One of the Most Famous Ones -- in Upcoming NBC Series

Two-time Oscar nominee John Malkovich, known for his feature film work in “Dangerous Liaisons,” “Con Air” and other movies, will play the lead role in the NBC summer series “Crossbones,” reports TVLine.com.

“The 10-episode action-adventure series, greenlit by NBC last May and written and co-executive produced by ‘Luther‘s’ Neil Cross, takes place in 1715 and promises to deliver ‘the true legend’ of ‘the most notorious pirate to ever sail the earth,’” the story reports.

Malkovich will play Edward Teach -- better known as the pirate Blackbeard -- the authority figure on the Bahamian island of New Providence -- “part shantytown, part marauder’s paradise and a mounting threat to international commerce,” the piece reports. “To gain control of this fearsome society, Tom Lowe, a highly skilled undercover assassin, is sent to the buccaneers’ haven to take down the brilliant and charismatic Blackbeard. But the closer Lowe gets, the more he finds that his quest is not so simple.”

Hugh Laurie was reportedly up for the role late last year.

“For Malkovich, this marks his first significant TV commitment since the 2002 French miniseries ‘Les Miserables’ and his first-ever series regular gig here in the States,” TVLine reports.

Malkovich was nominated for Academy Awards for supporting roles in “Places in the Heart” (1984) and “In the Line of Fire” (1993). He is also known for big-screen appearances in “Being John Malkovich,” “The Killing Fields,” “Empire of the Sun” and other films.

On TV, he won an Emmy for CBS’s “Death of a Salesman” and also appeared in HBO’s “RKO 281” and TNT’s “Heart of Darkness,” the piece notes.

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Don't Hold Your Breath for Another 'Simpsons' Feature Film

Matt Groening, creator of Fox’s "The Simpsons," had bad news over the weekend for “Simpsons” fans who are holding out hope for another feature film based on the cartoon series.

Groening told an audience Saturday night at UCLA’s annual entertainment symposium that there’s little chance of a sequel to 2007’s “The Simpsons Movie” anytime soon, UPI reports.

The piece cites The Hollywood Reporter quoting Groening at the event, saying of the first movie, "It took us four years [to make] and it killed us.”

“The movie ‘stole animators from the show,’ Groening said, adding that despite bringing in $500 million, it drained other resources,” UPI reports. “Another ‘Simpsons’ movie will come in ‘Maybe another 10, 15 years,’ added longtime ‘Simpsons’ producer-director David Silverman.”

 

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Barbara Walters Refutes Us Weekly Story That Elisabeth Hasselbeck Is Leaving 'The View.' Magazine Fires Back That Walters' Denial Is a Strategic Ploy

[Updated at 9:50 a.m. PT to include reaction of Us Weekly.]

Barbara Walters, the co-creator and co-host of "The View," has denied the rumor, first reported by Us Weekly on March 8, 2013, that Elisabeth Hasselbeck is leaving the show, reports Fox News.

Us Weekly had reported that Hasselbeck was being booted from the morning talk staple over her conservative political views.

Said today's Fox report, "Early on during [today’s] episode, Walters discussed reports that Hasselbeck was leaving the show because of the conservative opinions she often voices." The story quotes Walters saying on the show: "There is a particularly false story that keeps getting picked up about Elisabeth's departure. We value her and appreciate [her] point of view. ... She helps keep the show balanced."

Walters then said: "We have no plans for Elisabeth to leave the show."

According to a second Us Weekly story, also posted today, March 11, 2013, about Walters' comments, Walters added, "[Executive producer] Bill [Geddie] and I have always said that when one of you makes the choice to leave, that is your choice, and we will support your decision."

The Us story posted on its website today adds: "A source tells Us that the denial is part of a strategy to 'save face' for both Hasselbeck and the series. Producers are 'just leaving the door open for Elisabeth to announce she is leaving on her own when she is ready,' the insider explains. 'They don't want to make her look bad and don't want to make the show look bad for canning her. ... They just want to make it seem like Elisabeth decided to leave on her own when the announcement comes.'"

Today's Us story adds, "Original panelist Star Jones departed the show amid similar drama in 2006; before Jones' surprise, on-air exit, Walters had denied rampant rumors that Jones was on her way out. Jones returned to the show to bury the hatchet in February 2012, saying of her renegade departure: 'I made the decision to go out on my own terms, to control it, so that if I was ever invited back, I would feel good about it.' Walters then admitted to viewers that Jones' contract was simply not renewed and that the denials about her leaving were to 'protect' Jones."

The original Us story on March 8 quoted an unnamed source as saying: "The viewers they polled all said she was too extreme and right wing. People did not watch the show because of Elisabeth. So they told her [Thursday, March 7] her contract would not be renewed." That Us story was posted March 8 and carried the byline of Joyce Chen. The headline said: "Exclusive: Elisabeth Hasselbeck Leaving The View After Nine Years, Viewers Found Her 'Too Extreme and Right Wing.' "

Hasselbeck, who surfaced as a contestant on CBS’s “Survivor” in 2001, has been with “The View” since 2003. “False rumors of her departure came just days after Joy Behar confirmed she would not be returning to the show,” Fox News notes.

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Sitcom Star Valerie Harper Opens Up About Her Brain Cancer

Valerie Harper, a TV legend for her performances as Rhoda Morgenstern on two seminal sitcoms -- “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Rhoda” -- is doing her best to stay positive after being diagnosed with brain cancer.

Doctors have given Harper as little as three months to live, as previously reported. But Harper says she could have a week, a year ... or some other outcome.

Harper told USA Today: "I can't say it's terminal. I'm saying it's incurable so far, but we're all terminal. No one is getting out of this alive. The key is, don't go to the funeral until the day of the funeral."

Harper chose to undergo chemotherapy to slow the spread of the disease, the publication reports. She’s still reportedly hoping for remission.

"I'm alive. I'm feeling good. I'm trying to live every moment as much as I can,” Harper added.

Harper said she worries that people "have a picture of me in a bed or a wheelchair or in trouble. Three months may be accurate [for her life expectancy], but it is not the whole truth. I could have a seizure within a week because of the nature of this cancer." She also says she could live much longer, the publication reports.

“Harper says that even though she is undergoing chemotherapy, ‘I feel better now than I did in December when I first started feeling symptoms,’" the story reports. “She said those were ‘few and far between’ but included some back pain and nausea, and ‘a weird feeling in my jaw.’"

Harper hasn’t given up on a miracle. "My husband says if we can slow it down, more stuff may come up," she said, expressing hope that new treatments will be found. “They are working fast and furiously for all of us; they're not doing this for Valerie Harper because she played Rhoda. They are doing this for cancer patients."

"Miracles occur," the actress adds, "or people die the next day."

The report notes: “A round of media appearances, which included ‘The Doctors’ and NBC's ‘Today’ show on Monday as well as the cover story in this week's People, were to allow her to break the news ‘while I was still able. I figured I'd let everyone know the truth at one time.’”

valerie-harper.jpgValerie Harper

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New Drama Series Loses Ground, Drags Down ABC's Sunday Night

A new ABC drama series struggled in its second week on the air and helped pull down the network’s prime-time numbers, based on Nielsen overnights.

TVbytheNumbers.com reports that “Red Widow” fell to a 1.2 average rating in the key 18-49 demo, down from a 1.5 for the premiere last week. ABC still finished a close third for prime time overall, behind CBS and Fox, with the network’s strongest show of the night being “Once Upon a Time.” The drama series held steady with last week with a 2.2. “Revenge,” meanwhile, rose two-tenths to a 2.0, while “America’s Funniest Home Videos” dropped three-tenths to a 1.4.

CBS finished in a dead heat for the night with 1.8 ratings in viewers 18-49, followed by ABC with a 1.7 and NBC with a 1.3. Fox’s demo rating, however, didn’t translate to total viewers. CBS finished well ahead of the pack in that metric with 9.8 million, followed by 6.5 million for ABC, 3.8 million for Fox and 3.8 million for NBC.

CBS was paced by “The Amazing Race” with a 2.3 in 18-49, down two-tenths from last week. “The Good Wife” slipped one-tenth to a 1.5, “The Mentalist” ticked up one-tenth to a 1.6, and “60 Minutes” equaled last week’s result with a 1.6.

Fox’s best show was “Family Guy” with a 2.6 average in the 18-49 demo, up two-tenths from its previous original. “The Simpsons” pulled a 2.2, steady with last week; “The Cleveland Show” and “Bob’s Burgers” both delivered 1.8 ratings (up one-tenth for “Burgers,” steady for “Cleveland”); and “American Dad” was off three-tenths with a 1.6.

NBC filled up its four hours of prime with a repeat of “All-Star Celebrity Apprentice” (0.8 average in 18-49) and a fresh two-hour installment of the show (1.7 average, even with last week).

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CBS Unveils Its Schedule of Season Finales -- Here's the Full Lineup

CBS rolled out its slate of season finale dates for current series, with “The Good Wife” continuing its tradition of wrapping early, Deadline.com reports.

“Criminal Minds” will put the finishing touches on the network’s 2012-13 season on Wednesday, May 22.

Here’s the schedule for network finales:

Sunday, April 28
9-10 PM: THE GOOD WIFE

Sunday, May 5
8-10 PM: THE AMAZING RACE
10-11 PM: THE MENTALIST

Thursday, May 9
8:30-9 PM: TWO AND A HALF MEN
9-10 PM: PERSON OF INTEREST

Friday, May 10
9-10 PM: VEGAS
10-11 PM: BLUE BLOODS

Sunday, May 12
8-10 PM: SURVIVOR: CARAMOAN -- FANS VS. FAVORITES
10-11 PM: SURVIVOR: CARAMOAN -- FANS VS. FAVORITES REUNION SHOW

Monday, May 13
8-8:30 PM: HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER
9-9:30 PM: 2 BROKE GIRLS

Tuesday, May 14
8-9 PM: NCIS
9-10 PM: NCIS: LOS ANGELES
10-11 PM: GOLDEN BOY

Wednesday, May 15
10-11 PM: CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION

Thursday, May 16
8-8:30 PM: THE BIG BANG THEORY
9-11 PM: ELEMENTARY

Friday, May 17
8-9 PM: UNDERCOVER BOSS

Monday, May 20
8:30-9 PM: RULES OF ENGAGEMENT
9:30-10 PM: MIKE & MOLLY
10-11 PM: HAWAII FIVE-0

Wednesday, May 22
9-11 PM: CRIMINAL MINDS

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ABC Family Rolls Out Ambitious Slate of New Series for Summer

ABC Family mapped out launch plans for a summer lineup containing a batch of new series. Deadline.com reports that the cable channel will roll out four new shows: “Dancing Fools,” a reality competition; “The Fosters,” a family-oriented drama series; “Twisted,” a mystery series; and “The Vineyard,” a docu-soap.

The slate of new programs is “up from three last summer, when the network introduced drama ‘Bunheads’ and comedy ‘Baby Daddy,’ both renewed for second season, and docuseries ‘Beverly Hills Nannies,’ which was not,” the story reports. “Like last summer, ABC Family will have three nights of original programming (Monday-Wednesday). They will feature new episodes of eight original series including returning ‘Pretty Little Liars,’ ‘Switched At Birth,’ ‘Baby Daddy’ and ‘Melissa & Joey.’”

The network’s summer lineup gets under way May 29 with the new series “Dancing Fools” along with season premieres of “Melissa & Joey” and “Baby Daddy.”

Here’s the schedule:

Wednesday, May 29

“Melissa & Joey” – 8 p.m. (season premiere)

“Baby Daddy” – 8:30 p.m. (season premiere)

“Dancing Fools” – 9:00 p.m. (NEW SERIES)

Monday, June 3

“The Fosters” – 9-10 p.m. (NEW SERIES)

Monday, June 10

“Switched at Birth” – 8-9 p.m. (season premiere)

Tuesday, June 11

“Pretty Little Liars” – 8-9 p.m. (season premiere)

“Twisted” – 9-10 p.m. (NEW SERIES)

Wednesday, July 24

“The Vineyard” – 9-10 p.m. (NEW SERIES)

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Host of TV Gun Show Is Shot to Death

The host of a television program focusing on guns and hunting was shot to death late last week. The Associated Press reports that Gregory G. Rodriguez, the host of the Sportsman Channel program "A Rifleman's Journal," died Thursday after being shot by a woman's husband who was in an apparent jealous rage.

Rodriguez, 43, was visiting a Montana woman he met at a trade show when her 41-year-old husband shot him at about 10:30 p.m. Thursday, according to the report. The husband, Wayne Bengston, then beat his wife and took his 2-year-old son to a relative's house, where he killed himself, the story says.

Rodriguez, also the founder and CEO of Global Adventure Outfitters, was a mortgage banker before pursuing hunting for a living.

The Sportsman Channel said it was deeply saddened by Rodriguez’s death and that it will miss his "thoughtfulness, candor and dedication to encourage a safe and enjoyable outdoor experience for all."

The report adds: “An outpouring on social media has followed the death of Rodriguez, who combined his comfort in front of the camera and travels to exotic locations with his hunting and shooting expertise into a popular program. The Sportsman Channel said that in January ‘A Rifleman's Journal’ won Best Instructional/Educational Program at the Sportsman Channel's Sportsman Choice Awards.”

gregory-rodriguez.jpgGregory G. Rodriguez

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Actress Bails Out on ABC Project Over Changes to Her Character

An ABC comedy project whose pilot is being directed by Larry Charles has parted ways with an actress, apparently over changes that have been made to her character since she was hired for the show.

Deadline.com reports that Mercedes Masohn, who was a regular on "666 Park Avenue" and portrayed Deputy U.S. Marshal Isabel Zambada on "The Finder," is leaving the ABC pilot "Mixology." She was one of the first actors cast in the project, which is set in a Manhattan bar where five single guys and five women are searching for love, the story says.

Nine other regulars were cast after Masohn was tapped to play one of the singles. Writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore subsequently "moved the role in a very different direction, and it became clear this wasn’t right for me," Masohn said, according to the story. "Rather than jeopardize the show, I asked to step aside. They [Lucas, Moore and Charles] and ABC were very understanding, and I wish them all the best with the show.”

The writers reportedly received input from Charles and non-writing executive producer Nina Wass in implementing changes to Masohn’s character along with other tweaks to the pilot. The role is being recast, the piece notes.

Masohn’s departure from “Mixology” allows her to accept a role in another pilot, and Masohn is reportedly fielding interest and may book another project soon, the story says.

mercedes-masohn2.jpgMercedes Masohn

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With Broadcast Programming in a Ratings Tailspin, One Decade-Old ABC Series Is Bucking the Trend

While programming across the broadcast dial is generally losing viewers, a veteran ABC series is experiencing a resurgence. The New York Times reports that the venerable reality series “The Bachelor” is bucking the downtrend.

The show, which has been on-air for 11 years, wraps up its latest edition tonight, Monday, March 11, 2013, when bachelor Sean Lowe chooses between graphic designer Catherine Giudici and substitute teacher Lindsay Yenter.

The audience has grown 3% this season to 8.8 million total viewers, with a 7% increase in the key demo of adults 18-49, the story says.

Now in its 17th season, the show is recovering after a ratings dive in season 12. The show’s popularity was apparently hurt by its record in producing failed relationships. While "The Bachelorette" turned out two marriages, there haven't been any from "The Bachelor."

While creator Mike Fleiss attributes the bump to "the right gal or guy to all of a sudden regalvanize the audience,” The Times points out that the show has attracted younger viewers through its use of social media to promote live viewing and to bring back former fans.

"The show posts the best results in network television on Monday nights with younger women -- those 18 to 34,” the story reports. “The viewers’ median age is 51.1, young in broadcast television terms. ABC’s other hit reality series, 'Dancing with the Stars,' which has featured former bachelors and bachelorettes, has an average viewer age of 61.6."

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Shakeup Behind the Scenes of HBO's 'True Blood'

The HBO vampire drama "True Blood" has had a behind-the-scenes shakeup. TheWrap.com reports that the series replaced showrunner Mark Hudis after a relatively short time on the job.

Hudis was tapped in May to replace series creator Alan Ball for the show's upcoming sixth season after Ball vacated the post to focus on a new project, the Cinemax drama “Banshee,” the story reports.

But now Hudis is leaving to take on a development role as part of his overall deal with HBO, the story says. He's being replaced by Brian Buckner, who has served as a co-executive producer on the series.

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Hit Daytime Talk Show Will Be Around for at Least Three More Seasons: The Program Reaches 96% Clearance Through 2017 After Renewal by NBC-Owned Stations

An award-winning syndicated daytime talk show received a renewal from the NBC Owned Television Stations, bringing its clearance to 96% through the 2016-17 season.

Announcing the renewal today for “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” were Ken Werner, president of Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution, and Valari Staab, president of NBC Owned Television Stations.

The companies said in their announcement: “The series will continue to air on the 10 NBC-owned stations, including WNBC (New York), KNBC (Los Angeles), WMAQ (Chicago), WCAU (Philadelphia), KXAS (Dallas-Fort Worth), KNTV (San Francisco Bay Area), WRC (Washington, D.C.), WTVJ (Miami-Fort Lauderdale), KNSD (San Diego) and WVIT (Connecticut).”

The show has also been sold to the Hearst Television, Gannett, Belo, Sinclair Broadcast Group, LIN Television, Post-Newsweek Stations, CBS Television Stations, Raycom Media, Scripps Media, Allbrighton Communications, Cox Broadcasting, Communications Corp of America, Grey Television, Journal Broadcast Group, Local TV, Media General, Meredith, Nexstar Broadcasting, Max Media and Mission Broadcasting station groups, along with other broadcast outlets, the announcement reports.

“Ellen” is tied with “Dr. Phil” as the No. 1 syndicated talk show of the 2012-13 season among women 25-54, the announcement notes.

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'SNL' Alum Takes Lead Role in ABC Comedy

A former "Saturday Night Live" performer will play a lead role in a new single-camera comedy project at ABC. Deadline.com reports that Jenny Slate has been cast in "Pulling," where she will have a lead role opposite June Diane Raphael.

"Pulling" is about three dysfunctional 30-something women who want to ignore how society tells them to live, the story says. Slate will play Karen, who appears to be a prim professional but lets loose in her off hours, according to the report.

The project comes from ABC Studios and Aaron Kaplan’s Kapital Entertainment, and is written by Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky and directed by Jason Moore.

Deadline notes: “Raphael plays the leader of the trio, Donna, while the third role, Louise, opened up after Mandy Moore exited [Friday].”

Jenny-Slate.jpgJenny Slate

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Video: HBO Rolls Out a Primer to Get Potential Viewers Up to Speed on 'Game of Thrones'

HBO has created a 14-minute video primer to bring viewers -- and perhaps more to the point, potential viewers -- up to speed in advance of the third season of "Game of Thones," according to The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed.

"There aren't any revelations of teases of the new season, but it doesn't hurt to retrace your steps through the series' labyrinthine plot," the story notes.

The video includes much of the cast, along with co-creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, walking viewers through the show's second season. The program returns to HBO March 31 for season three.

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'Mad Men' Hires a Real 1960s Ad Man

AMC’s flagship series “Mad Men,” set in the world of 1960s advertising, will now reach a little deeper into that decade for its own promotion.

"Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner told The New York Times that, inspired by childhood memories of lush illustrations from the 1960s and 1970s, the show ended up hiring "the guy who did them” to created promotions for the upcoming sixth season.

The marketing team for the show "just looked up the person who had done all these drawings that I really loved, and they said: ‘Hey, we’ve got the guy who did them. And he’s still working. His name is Brian Sanders,’” Weiner said.

Sanders, 75, created the image that will appear on buses, billboards, websites, TV and magazine pages to promote the show's new season. The story says Sanders isn't well known in the U.S.

The report adds: "The ad, depicting Don Draper, the show’s lead character, in a vertiginous pose on a New York City street corner that seems to be collapsing on him like the decade he is living in, looks as if it has time-traveled from the pages of an old copy of Reader’s Digest."

Sanders said getting hired for the job was meaningful because the show depicts the world he once was part of. "The first one I saw, I had such a deja vu feeling of place and time,” he said. “It wasn’t just in New York that that was happening. It was here too." Sanders lives outside Cambridge, England, the report notes.

He added, “I almost wanted to reach for a cigarette, and I haven’t had one for 30-odd years.”

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BET Bringing Back Reality Show for Second Season

BET has given a renewal to a freshman reality show that has performed well for the cable network. B&C reports that the channel is bringing back "Real Husbands of Hollywood" for a second season.

The semi-scripted show stars Kevin Hart, Nick Cannon, Boris Kodjoe, Duane Martin, J.B. Smoove and Robin Thicke, with the men trying to figure out life alongside their famous wives.

The show debuted to 4.1 million viewers on Jan. 15, the story says. It was the highest-rated premiere of the year for a comedy series on cable.

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Pop Singer Helps 'SNL' Reach Season Highs

A pop singer making his fifth appearance as host of “Saturday Night Live” proved he’s still a draw for the show. Deadline.com reports that Saturday’s show, hosted by Justin Timberlake, helped the NBC show reach a season high in the ratings.

The show averaged a 5.9/15 in metered-market households, or up 23% from last week, when Kevin Hart was the host, the story says. It was "SNL"'s top overnights in 14 months.

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Newt Gingrich Suggests GOP Leaders Go On a Certain Reality Show

Newt Gingrich had good things to say about a current reality show -- including admitting that if he were invited to appear on the show, he would do it.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the politician made the comments about Donald Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice" in an interview with radio host Laura Ingraham.

"I've known the Donald -- we've done fundraisers together. But look, I think Republicans would be so much better off and relaxed [to] go on shows like that and be interesting," Gingrich said.

Asked whether he would go on, he said, "Sure, why not?"

As for the show’s star, Gingrich said: "Donald Trump is a phenomenon. Donald Trump has no meaning in American politics except that he is a billionaire who is interesting and who is very clever at getting in the news."

 

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Report: Queen Elizabeth to Take Historic Stand In Support of Gay Rights

"Queen Elizabeth II is set to make history later today [March 11, 2013], when she signs a new charter taking a stand against discrimination, which some have interpreted as tacit support of gay rights," reports ABC News.

The story continues, "The 86-year-old matriarch will sign the agreement in public to show her support. With the stroke of the pen, the queen will be making a symbolic pledge for equal rights for billions of people in 54 countries in the British Commonwealth around the world.

"The Commonwealth Charter states opposition to 'all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, color, creed, political belief or other grounds.' "

The article adds, " 'This is believed to be the first time she's shown her support of gay rights. That's a big step,' ABC News royal contributor Victoria Arbiter said. The charter is still only a symbolic step for many of the 54 countries because homosexuality is still illegal in 41 of the nations in the British Commonwealth."

 

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TV Executive Who, 20 Years Ago, Convinced David Letterman to Jump to CBS From NBC Is Retiring. Though He Later Ran One of the Biggest Consumer Electronics and Media Companies in the World, It May Be That He'll Best Be Remembered For His CBS-Letterman Coup

The TV executive credited with convincing David Letterman to move to CBS from NBC 20 years ago is retiring.

That executive is Sir Howard Stringer, 71, who later went on to run Sony. He is currently Sony's chairman.

"Howard Stringer, who fought to bring a divided and struggling Sony Corporation together as the company’s first foreign president, is retiring as chairman in June," the Associated Press reports.

The story adds, "Mr. Stringer, a Welsh-born American and 15-year employee at Sony, became president and chief executive in 2005, when the once glorious maker of the Walkman music player was starting to get overwhelmed by the flashier Apple and the nimbler Samsung Electronics.

"The company, which makes the PlayStation 3 game console as well as 'Spider-Man' movies, is still struggling. It has lost money for the last four years and recorded the biggest loss in its 67-year history for the fiscal year ending in March 2012."

Stringer had happier days before he joined Sony, especially during his 30-year run as a journalist, producer and executive at CBS.

Notes his official Sony biography, "As President of CBS from 1988 to 1995, he was responsible for all broadcast activities of the company, including entertainment, news, sports, and its radio and television stations. Under his leadership, the CBS Television Network became the first network to rise from last to first place in one season. In 1993, in what became one of the most chronicled coups in television history, Sir Howard convinced David Letterman to bring his critically acclaimed late night show to CBS."

The official bio continues, "From 1986 to 1988, Sir Howard served as President of CBS News, where he developed several new programs, including the award-winning '48 Hours,' which continues as a primetime hit to this day.

"Prior to that, during his tenure as executive producer of the 'CBS Evening News with Dan Rather' from 1981 to 1984, that program became the dominant network evening newscast of its day. From 1976 to 1981, while he was executive producer of the 'CBS Reports' documentary unit, it won virtually every major broadcast journalism honor, including 31 Emmys, four Peabody Awards, three Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, three Christopher Awards, three Overseas Press Club Awards, an ABA Silver Gavel and a Robert F. Kennedy Grand Prize."

howard stringer.jpg

Sir Howard Stringer

YouTube clip (not the best quality) of David Letterman's first monologue on CBS in 1993:

 

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'The View' Cleaning House: After Joy Behar's Announced Exit, Another Host Is Reportedly Getting the Boot

The morning talk staple “The View” appears to suddenly be cleaning house. On the heels of news that Joy Behar is headed out the door, as we reported previously, a new report by Us Magazine says Elisabeth Hasselbeck is also leaving the show.

The report cites a source saying Hasselbeck won’t return to the show for its next season.

“According to the source, the show's resident conservative voice is being ousted after market research revealed that she isn't popular with TV audiences,” the piece reports.

Us quotes the source saying: "The viewers they polled all said she was too extreme and right wing. People did not watch the show because of Elisabeth. So they told her yesterday her contract would not be renewed."

The report notes that a representative for “The View” wasn’t admitting anything. The rep is quoted saying: "Elisabeth Hasselbeck is a valued member of ‘The View’ and has a long-term contract."

“Hasselbeck, 35, joined the cast of the daytime talk show in November 2003 after guest-hosting the show following Lisa Ling's departure in 2002,” Us notes. “Throughout the course of her time on ‘The View,’ she has gotten into numerous arguments with her co-hosts, including a heated argument with Rosie O'Donnell in 2007 over the war in Afghanistan and with Barbara Walters over Mitt Romney in 2012.”

elisabeth-hasselbeck.jpgElisabeth Hasselbeck

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Sarah Jessica Parker Is a Fashion Casualty -- Literally

Actress Sarah Jessica Parker, known for always appearing in the height of fashion in “Sex and the City” and other roles, is apparently paying a price for all that fashionableness.

USA Today reports that the actress has permanently damaged her feet by running around in high heels for all those years.

"I went to a foot doctor and he said, 'Your foot does things it shouldn't be able to do. That bone there ... you've created that bone. It doesn't belong there,'" Parker said in an interview with luxury e-tailer Net-a-Porter’s digital publication.

Parker, who apparently will have to give up her “haute heels,” adds: "The moral of the story is the chickens are coming home to roost. It's sad, because my feet took me all over the world, but eventually they were like, 'You know what, we are really tired, can you just stop -- and don't put cheap shoes on us?'”

Part of the problem may be that, after years in expensive heels, Parker eventually stepped out of her pattern and went cheap.

"I worked 18-hour days and never took them off. I wore beautiful shoes, some better made than others, and never complained,” Parker said. But when she did “I Don’t Know How She Does It” in 2011, she says, "I was very thoughtful about my whole wardrobe and said, 'You know, (her character, Kate Reddy) could not afford really good shoes, she would go to Nine West.'

"So I got shoes from there and the bottom of the shoes aren't leather, they are plastic, so I slipped a couple times, twisted my ankle."

Parker, a mother of three, notes that these days she’s much less fashionable: "I have more pants, more jeans and more corduroys than I ever imagined I'd own in my life."

sarah-jessica-parker.jpgSarah Jessica Parker

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'Idol' Mired in Third Place on Thursday Night; Tight Race Between Fox and CBS

Fox’s “American Idol” continues to see its viewer numbers slip, and on Thursday night the best it could do was third-highest-rated show of the night behind two CBS comedies, based on Nielsen overnights.

TVbytheNumbers.com reports that “Idol” delivered a 3.5 average rating in the key 18-49, trailing not only the night’s current juggernaut, “The Big Bang Theory,” which dominated with a 5.4 average, but also “Two and a Half Men,” which came through with a 3.9.

For prime time overall, Fox and CBS were locked in a close fight for No. 1, with Fox eking out a narrow win in viewers 18-49 while CBS claimed victory in total viewers.

Fox’s 3.1 average rating led the way in the 18-49 demo, followed by CBS (3.0 average), Univision (1.8), NBC (1.1) and ABC (1.1). Total viewers saw CBS ahead with 12.9 million, followed by Fox (10.6 million), Univision (4.3 million), ABC (3.9 million) and NBC (3.0 million).

ABC aired an all-repeat lineup, while NBC put up mostly reruns and CBS aired a repeat of “Elementary.”

“American Idol” was down 8% from last week’s 18-49 number. Fox’s “Glee” did its part, contributing to the network’s cause with a 2.5, up 47% from the previous original airing back on Feb. 14. The report notes that “Idol” ran two minutes over, which means the Fox shows will be subject to more than the usual adjustments.

CBS’s “Person of Interest” slipped 3% from its previous original to a 2.8 in the 18-49 demo, while NBC’s “Community” posted a 25% increase from last week to a 1.5 and NBC’s “1600 Penn” matched last week’s series low with a 0.9.

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'Boy Meets World' Star Does Maxim Shoot to Promote Disney Channel Reboot

It seems unlikely that her high school-age character from “Boy Meets World” would approve of this, but EW.com reports that actress Danielle Fishel did a sexy Maxim shoot to help promote her new Disney Channel offshoot, “Girl Meets World.”

Fishel played Topanga on the original series, and will reprise that role -- in more grown-up form -- for the reboot.

The Maxim Q&A is “fairly PG,” EW reports: “She talks about the origin of the name Topanga: ‘Michael Jacobs says he was driving down the highway when production called and said, “We need a name for this character!”’ she explained. ‘He happened to be driving past Topanga Canyon, so he said, “Topanga.” He says that if they had called him two miles later, I would’ve been named Canoga, which is the next exit.’”

The story adds: “Most interesting may be that she shoots down the rumor that she and Ben Savage ever dated. ‘No! That rumor was entirely my fault because I once said, on “The Tyra Banks Show,” that Ben and I went on a date, and that turned into “Danielle and Ben dated,”’ she told the magazine. ‘We went on one date, when I was about 15, and by the time the dinner was over we realized mutually that we were more like family than lovers.’”

The piece notes that Fishel does not divulge any secrets about her actual relationships during the time she was on “Boy Meets World.”

But she does offer this tidbit about herself: “I’m huge into ’90s rap. It’s my jam. My all-time favorite album is Snoop Dogg’s ‘Doggy Style.’ And if you ever really want to see me embarrass myself, put on some Notorious B.I.G. and watch me grab my crotch and mouth all the words. It’s really embarrassing, but I can’t help myself.”

danielle-fishel-maxim-cover.jpg

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'How I Met Your Mother' Actress Wins a Round Against Alleged Stalker

One of the stars of the hit CBS comedy series “How I Met Your Mother” has scored a legal victory over an alleged stalker. The New York Daily News reports that Alyson Hannigan obtained a restraining order against the New Hampshire man ordering him not to post anything online about the actress and not to try to meet her.

“Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Carol Boas Goodson issued a three-year restraining order against John Hobbs after a brief hearing Wednesday,” the publication reports. “Hannigan stated in court filings last month that Hobbs has posted a barrage of threatening messages about her and her family online.”

Hobbs, 43, reportedly admitted to police that he wanted to meet Hannigan, who also starred in the "American Pie" feature films.

“Goodson noted that Hobbs agreed to the terms of the restraining order and that Hannigan's husband and two children also should be protected,” the report adds.

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George Lucas Drops a Bombshell About the New 'Star Wars'

On the heels of the revelation by Carrie Fisher that she plans to reprise Princess Leia when a new “Star Wars” movie makes its way to the big screen, “Star Wars” creator George Lucas is saying the rest of the main cast from the original trilogy is also on board.

NBC News reports: “Lucas went and told Bloomberg Businessweek that, even before Lucasfilm was sold to Disney for more than $4 billion, ‘we had already signed Mark [Hamill] and Carrie and Harrison[Ford] -- or we were pretty much in final stages of negotiation.’”

The Bloomberg report adds that Lucas then paused and said: "Maybe I'm not supposed to say that. I think they want to announce that with some big whoop-de-do, but we were negotiating with them. I won't say whether the negotiations were successful or not."

The NBC News piece adds: “But count on the folks at Wired and CNet and other interested parties to pick up on that one exchange out of the middle of a massive article about deal-making and the future of the ‘Star Wars’ franchise.

“And despite the attempt at backtracking, this does mark the first time anyone has used the word ‘signed’ when it comes to Fisher, Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill, let alone all three in one sentence, and the upcoming seventh film in the saga.”

Disney plans to release the next “Star Wars” movie in 2015, with J.J. Abrams directing and Academy Award winner Michael Arndt writing the screenplay.

star-wars.jpg

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Must-Read: If You, a Member of Your Family or a Good Friend Are in the Market for a New Car, Only These Five Models Passed the New Tougher Crash Tests. Surprisingly, One Best-Selling Smaller Car Made the Grade

Only five cars have passed the new, tougher crash tests that have been designed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which does its own crash testing separate from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash test program required for new vehicles, reports USA Today.

The article says: "Two [Honda] Civics -- both the two-door and four-door models -- and three other larger vehicles earned [the] top rating. ... The other top scorers were the redesigned 2014 Mazda 6 midsize mainstream sedan, the Lincoln MKZ midsize luxury sedan and the Volvo XC60 midsize luxury SUV."

The designation of Top Safety Pick "Plus" (TSP+) "means the cars were able to score a top 'good' score on the new, tough 'small overlap frontal crash test' -- hitting a barrier at 40 mph with just the outside 25% of the car's front end -- in addition to the regular tests," the piece reports.

"Larger vehicles generally hold up better than smaller cars in crashes, which is why it's significant that the Honda Civic was able to ace the new, added test with a 'good.' " 

 

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'Good Morning America' Does Something It Hasn't Done Since Clinton Was President

"Good Morning America" has racked up an achievement it hasn’t done since Bill Clinton was president: The ABC show won the morning show February sweeps for the first time since 1994, reports Deadline.com.

The show, which also topped the November sweeps last year, won in both total viewers and the target demo of adults 25-54. It finished No. 1 in total viewers in the February sweeps for the first time since 1994, and took the top demo spot for the first time since 1993, the piece adds.

"GMA" drew 5.669 million viewers and 2.13 million in the 25-54 demo during last month's sweep, compared with "Today’s” 4.821 million total viewers and 2.033 million in the demo, the story says.

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'Rhoda' Star Valerie Harper Sets TV Sitdown to Talk About Her Terminal Brain Cancer

"Rhoda" star Valerie Harper will talk about her terminal brain cancer in her first on-camera interview since her diagnosis, which will take place on the daytime syndicated show "The Doctors," reports EW.com's Inside TV.

Harper, who is also known for her role on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," will appear on the March 11 episode and will talk about how she and her family are coping. She was given as little as three months to live after receiving the diagnosis in January of leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, the piece adds.

Harper confirmed her terminal diagnosis in an interview with People magazine, as previously reported.

Thumbnail image for valerie-harper-people.jpg

 

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ABC Suffers Setback in Libel Suit Over Report by '20/20' and Chris Cuomo, Now With CNN

A judge has determined that David Williams is likely to win a libel case he filed against ABC over a “20/20” report by former ABC correspondent Chris Cuomo, who now works for CNN, according to The Hollywood Reporter's Hollywood, Esq.

Williams was presented by "20/20" as a dangerous Internet predator who lured women into romantic relationships to "prey" on them financially, the story says. On Tuesday a California judge rejected a motion by the network to dismiss the libel claim.

“In dismissing ABC's motion to strike the claims based on its First Amendment speech rights, Judge Franz Miller determined that Williams was likely to win the case and ruled that the plaintiff has adequately demonstrated that ABC was negligent in failing to use reasonable care to determine the truth or falsity of statements before the episode in question aired,” the story reports. “The case now proceeds toward trial or an appeal by ABC.”

ABC said it disagrees with the ruling and is looking at its legal options.

Cuomo, the brother of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, is at the center of CNN’s plans to retool its morning lineup, as previously reported.

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'House' Actor to Play Lead in ABC Drama

One of the stars of the Fox drama "House" will play the lead in a new ABC drama. The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed reports that ABC’s pilot "The Returned" cast Omar Epps to star, following up on his role as Dr. Eric Foreman in "House."

The project, based on a novel by Jason Mott and from Aaron Zelman of "Criminal Minds,’ asks what happens if people who are dead and buried suddenly reappear, the story says.

Epps will star as U.S. Immigration and Customs agent Martin Bellamy, who gets wrapped up in the case of a boy who pops up in the middle of rural China, the story says. The boy is played by newcomer Landon Gimenez.

Also in the cast, playing the boy's father, is Kurtwood Smith of “That ‘70s Show.”

omar-epps.jpgOmar Epps

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Syfy Orders Series From 'Battlestar Galactica' Producer

Syfy has ordered a new series from "Battlestar Galactica" executive producer Ron Moore. The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed reports that the cable channel ordered 13 episodes of the thriller "Helix."

The series has a touch of "The Walking Dead" about it, as it focuses on scientists from the Centers for Disease Control who travel to the Arctic to investigate a disease outbreak, the story says. They end up in a struggle that could lead either to humankind's destruction or to its salvation.

The debut is slated for later this year, with casting and production to start soon.

The order comes after Syfy canceled "Alphas," and is looking to beef up its scripted shows, the piece adds.

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CBS and Turner Say March Madness Ad Sales Are Ahead of Last Year

CBS and Turner have "virtually sold out" of their television commercial inventory for the March Madness college basketball tournament, which starts March 19, reports B&C, citing sales executives for both companies.

"We are extremely tight right now," John Bogusz, executive vice president of CBS sports sales and marketing, told B&C. "We are tighter this year than we were last year at this point," when the sellout level was at about 95%.

The Final Four games on Saturday, April 6, and the National Championship Game on April 8 are sold out except for floater ads, which would happen if additional timeouts are called during the games, allowing some extra commercials to air, the story says.

The piece reports: "The heavy sellout level is not only due to the popularity of the tournament and the telecasts, but also because many of the advertisers either have multiyear deals or made their investments earlier than last year.”

"Bogusz and [Turner Sports executive Jon] Diament both say returning advertisers without multiyear deals began committing to this year's tournament much earlier than last year and with larger investments," the piece says.

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Disney Channel Orders Animated Series

Disney Channel has ordered a new animated program. Deadline.com reports that the channel ordered "Star and the Forces of Evil" from recent California Institute of the Arts graduate Daron Nefcy.

Nefcy, who graduated in 2009, recently worked on Disney Channel's animated series "Wonder Over Yonder" and the Warner Bros. animated series "MAD."

"When Daron pitched her show, we fell in love with her characters, her style, and her sensibility," said Eric Coleman, senior vice president, original series at Disney TV Animation.

The show is about Star Butterfly, a magical teen princess from another dimension who is sent by her parents to live with the Diaz family in our world. She ends up enlisting their son to help her fight evil villains, the story says.

The main character of Star will be voiced by "The Middle" actress Eden Sher, with the network slating a fall 2014 debut.

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Justin Bieber Hospitalized

Justin Bieber was hospitalized after collapsing backstage during a London concert, according to media reports. TMZ.com reports that the singer felt woozy during the show, and stumbled backstage with four songs yet to perform, then collapsed.

He was treated with oxygen from emergency personnel, and then completed the show.

After that he was taken to the hospital, where he received treatment.

According to People.com, Bieber is recovering and sent out word on Twitter that the he's "figuring out what happened."

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Kelly Osbourne Undergoing More Tests

Doctors are trying to figure out what's going on with Kelly Osbourne's health. Osbourne, 28, is undergoing more tests after being hospitalized after fainting on the set of E!'s "Fashion Police,” reports People.com.

Osbourne tweeted a photo of her arm attached to an IV, and wrote, "Thank U all 4 UR beautiful well wishes yes I did have a seizure they are just trying to figure out why?"

Her rep said she's undergoing more testing but is awake and alert, and in stable condition.

As previously reported, Osbourne, the daughter of rocker Ozzy Osbourne and talk show host Sharon Osbourne, was taken to a hospital after the incident Thursday. She reportedly said, "I don't feel good," then fell out of a chair and started shaking.

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Numbers Are In for CNBC's New Prime-Time Entertainment Block -- and It's Not All Good News

CNBC’s new prime-time entertainment block -- CNBC Prime -- received mixed ratings in its debut, reports TVNewser.com.

The cable channel on Tuesday rolled out the CNBC Prime block’s first two shows, the antiques search "Treasure Detectives" and the car-flipping show "The Car Chasers." “Treasure” drew 279,000 total viewers at 9 p.m., while “Chasers” attracted 210,000 viewers at 10 p.m.

That means "Treasure Detectives" improved significantly on the previous week, when an episode of "60 Minutes on CNBC" drew 195,000 viewers in the time slot.

"Car Chasers," though, but was down substantially from last week, when "American Greed" drew 281,000 viewers. "American Greed" is the second-most-popular show on the channel in total viewers.

"In other words, both CNBC Prime programs will likely be among CNBC’s highest-rated when all is said and done, even though one of them is down from the week prior," the story notes.

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Wow: Apple Patent Would Let You Sell Your iTunes Content to Others

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has "published a patent application from Apple that would allow customers to legally sell or loan used iTunes content to another person," reports TechSpot.com.

The article continues, "The system would allow a user to loan or sell content they purchased through iTunes to friends, family or complete strangers. For example, let’s say you purchased a movie through iTunes but now you no longer have a desire to own or watch the film again. The system would allow you to sell your digital rights to the movie to another user. Once the transaction has taken place, you’ll no longer be able to access the film but the new owner will."

The story adds, "Amazon was recently awarded a similar patent although their system is based on a centralized marketplace. Apple’s plan would be to skip the marketplace altogether if the user chooses, allowing people to transfer media directly. The patent does, however, reserve the right for a proceed of the resale to be paid to the creator or publisher of the digital content and / or the entity that originally sold the digital content (iTunes)."

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And You Think Your Cable Bill is High? Cablevision Claims Viacom Wanted to Charge It $1 Billion If Cablevision Had Not Agreed To Take Some Cable Channels It Did Not Want

"Cablevision Systems Corp. said Viacom Inc. threatened to impose a penalty of at least $1 billion on the cable operator unless it agreed to buy the rights to networks it didn’t want, according to a court filing," reports Bloomberg Businessweek.

The story continues, "Cablevision is suing Viacom on antitrust grounds tied to the content provider’s alleged practice of bundling cable channels. Cablevision claims it was forced to accept all of Viacom’s programming -- including low-rated channels it didn’t want -- because Viacom would have imposed a '10-figure' penalty if the Bethpage, New York-based operator only licensed certain networks.

The article adds, "While the fifth-largest U.S. cable operator said it only wanted to license Viacom’s highly rated networks, the penalty that it would have paid to avoid taking low-rated networks such as Logo and Palladia was more than its 'entire programming budget,' according to the complaint.

“ 'This anti-consumer abuse of market power is a key reason cable bills continue to rise and programming choice remains limited,' Cablevision said in [an] e-mailed statement [to Bloomberg Businessweek.]"

The story also notes, "Viacom responded in an e-mailed statement that Cablevision’s lawsuit is 'nothing more than a hypocritical attempt' to void a deal signed in December."

Writes Dorothy Pomerantz, a Forbes staff writer, about the Cablevision/Viacom dispute, "The fact that the lawsuit is coming just two months into Cablevision’s new deal with Viacom is strange timing. Some feel it’s posturing to try and get a better deal next time; others think it could be the beginning of a real shakeup in the cable industry.

"That’s understandable. If Cablevision triumphs, it could mean you no longer have to wade through hundreds of channels you have no interest in (and that have almost no viewers) to find what you really want."

However, Pomerantz adds, "But before you start ticking off what channels you are willing to pay for in the new world, reconsider. Both the cable guys and content providers are invested in keeping a la carte a fantasy.

“ 'It sounds good in theory,' says Derek Baine, an analyst at SNL Kagan. “But the economic model doesn’t really work.” Networks rely on having a certain amount of revenue coming from cable providers to pay for their shows. If suddenly half of the subscribers go away, that means production budgets get severely cut, quality falls and fewer people want to watch. It’s a killer cycle."

She concludes, "Instead of a la carte, expect smaller tier packages if Cablevision prevails. That might turn out to be the worst of all worlds. You’ll still be getting channels you don’t want but you may have to pay more to cobble together all of the channels you do want. One thing is for sure, the entertainment industry will be watching this case very carefully."

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One of the Regular Panelists On ABC's Daytime Hit 'The View' Is Leaving the Show. Is She Headed to CNN?

One of the regular panelists on ABC's longtime daytime hit "The View" is leaving the show, reports our friend Nellie Andreeva at Deadline.com.

Writes Andreeva in an exclusive story, "After 16 and a half years on 'The View,' Joy Behar is departing ABC’s long-running daytime talk show. I hear Behar’s contract is up in August and she has informed the network that she will not renew it as she is looking to move on to other things, including hosting a new interview show. Behar is the last original cast member of 'The View' besides co-creator/executive producer Barbara Walters who is still on the panel."

Later, ABC released this statement to Andreeva: "Joy Behar has been instrumental in the success of 'The View' from the very beginning. We wish her all the best in this next chapter, and are thrilled that we have her for the remainder of the season.”

Could Behar be headed to CNN? There have been reports that Behar has met with CNN's new topper, Jeff Zucker. Writes Andreeva, "Behar would not elaborate beyond saying that she indeed had 'a positive meeting' with Zucker and that 'CNN would be great place' for her next show."

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CNN Fast-Tracks New Political Show, Sets Premiere for Later This Month

CNN didn’t waste any time getting its new daily political show ready to roll out. The Washington Post reports that the cable news channel has set a March 18 premiere date for “The Lead,” the new show to be headed up by Jake Tapper.

The show will air weekdays at 4 p.m., taking a one-hour bite out of airspace that has been filled by Wolf Blitzer’s “The Situation Room.”

“CNN only announced Tapper was jumping to the network from ABC News, where he was senior White House correspondent, in late December,” the story reports. “He was the first major on-air personality switch named under new CNN chief Jeff Zucker, who himself had only been officially named to the gig in late November. Zucker didn’t officially assume his post until the end of January.”

Tapper’s new show will be executive produced by MSNBC’s Federico Quadrani. “Prior to MSNBC, Quadrani was an Emmy-winning producer for NBC’s ‘Today’ -- a program that also served as springboard for ... Zucker at NBCUniversal,” the piece reports. “In addition to Tapper’s program, Zucker is working on a new morning show for former ABC News ‘20/20’ anchor Chris Cuomo, who will be partnered with Erin Burnett.”

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Ratings Erosion Continues for 'Idol' -- But Which Broadcast Show Hit an All-Time Low Last Night?

Fox continues to see the ratings erode for its onetime juggernaut “American Idol,” with Wednesday’s installment dipping 5% from last week, based on Nielsen overnights for the key 18-49 demo. But with much of the programming on rival broadcast networks being repeats, Fox still coasted to an easy win for prime time, TVbytheNumbers.com reports.

Meanwhile, ABC’s “Suburgatory” fell to a series low.

The two-hour “Idol” gave Fox a 3.7 average in viewers 18-49 for the night, well ahead of CBS (1.9 average), Univision (1.8), ABC (1.5) and NBC (1.1). Fox also scored a win in total viewers, averaging 12.7 million to beat CBS (7.9 million), ABC (4.8 million), Univision (4.3 million) and NBC (3.8 million).

ABC, NBC and CBS all aired mostly repeats.

CBS’s fresh installment of “Survivor” pulled in a 2.5 average in adults 18-49, down 4% from last week.

Fresh episodes of “The Neighbors” and “Suburgatory” on ABC both produced 1.7 averages, with “Neighbors” equaling last week’s number. For “Suburgatory,” it was a 23% drop from a week ago and an all-time low for the series. ABC’s best number was for a repeat of “Modern Family,” which pulled a 2.0.

NBC’s only fresh program was “Whitney,” which bucked the trend by rising from last week. The show was up 8% to a 1.3 in 18-49, its best number since Jan. 30.

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Kelly Osbourne Hospitalized

Reality TV personality Kelly Osbourne, the daughter of rocker Ozzy Osbourne and talk show host Sharon Osbourne, was hospitalized today after having a seizure during a taping of her E! show “Fashion Police,” TMZ.com reports.

“An ambulance rushed to the scene and Kelly was taken away by stretcher,” the story reports. “People held up white sheets to shield her from the media and a white sheet was covering her entire body, including her face.”

Osbourne became a TV fixture through her family’s MTV reality show “The Osbournes” in the early 2000s, which she used as a springboard to launch a career as a singer, actress and fashion designer.

TMZ gives this account of the incident on the set of “Fashion Police”: “Kelly was sitting in a chair, shooting the show in front of a full studio audience. Melissa Rivers was sitting next to her, filling in for Giuliana Rancic. Kelly turned to Melissa and said, ‘I don't feel good,’ and then she fell out of the chair and started shaking. Melissa then turned Kelly's head to help her. Someone from the audience -- some kind of emergency responder -- then ran up and helped.”

Osbourne appeared to get through the incident OK, but was encouraged to be hospitalized anyway.

The report adds: “We do not know what triggered the episode. As for her condition, it's unknown ... but Joan Rivers -- who was also present on set when Kelly suffered the seizure -- tells TMZ, ‘She is fine.’"

kelly-osbourne.jpgKelly Osbourne

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NFL Sunday Ticket May Be Scrapped

Football fans have had the opportunity to watch every NFL game via DirecTV since 1994, but that service may soon be scrapped. NBC Sports reports that the satellite service may drop its NFL Sunday Ticket after the 2014 season.

The piece cites comments by DirecTV CFO Pat Doyle, speaking Wednesday at an investors conference. Noting that the company’s deal with the NFL expires after the 2014 NFL season, Doyle said DirecTV would look into “striking a non-exclusive deal with the NFL or possibly even dropping the popular package.” The piece cites a report in SportsBusiness Daily.

“The fact that there’s no new deal only two seasons away from expiration of the current contract isn’t a good sign, given that the NFL usually extends these things years in advance,” the NBC Sports report notes. “Complicating matters is the fact that the popularity of the RedZone channel, now available via cable, has made the Sunday Ticket package less important to many fans. Also, the availability of every game on NFL Rewind after the fact reduces the attractiveness of features that previously were exclusive to DirecTV.”

The piece notes that if DirecTV opts out, rights could be moved to a cable provider or multiple cable providers.

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Discovery Names New Head of Domestic Distribution

Discovery Communications has a new president of domestic distribution. The company on Wednesday announced the promotion of Eric Phillips to the post, B&C reports.

“Phillips will lead the day-to-day operations of the division, while having oversight of content distribution sales and marketing for the company's U.S. networks,” the story reports. “He will continue to report to Bill Goodwyn, president and CEO of Discovery education and strategic distribution.”

Said Goodwyn: "Eric is a fantastic leader, and his contributions to Discovery over the past decade have been invaluable. Eric will bring his deal acumen and deep understanding of the distribution marketplace to his role as president. I look forward to continuing to work with him to guide Discovery through our future affiliate landscape."

Phillips joined Discovery in 2002 and has been working as executive VP of domestic distribution.

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Will Ferrell Comedy Series Gets Green Light

A scripted comedy series from “Saturday Night Live” alum Will Ferrell has received the green light, Deadline.com reports. The show, “The Spoils of Babylon,” comes from Ferrell and Adam McKay, and is produced by Funny or Die.

“Spoils” received a six-episode order from cable channel IFC, the piece reports. The show is “an adaptation of a best-selling novel by fictional famous author Eric Jonrosh (played by Ferrell),” the story notes.

Deadline adds: “The blowsy century-spanning saga chronicles the sexy and dramatic lives of a family who made their fortune in the oil business. Andrew Steele (‘Saturday Night Live’) wrote the script. Matt Piedmont (‘Casa de mi Padre’) directs. The two executive produce with Ferrell and McKay.”

Said Ferrell: “This is a crazy and maybe even a stupid idea. IFC is either really courageous or really stupid, which makes them the perfect partner for us.”

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'Game of Thrones' Beauty's Naked Dip on Broadway Creates a Stir

"Game of Thrones" star Emilia Clarke is whipping theater goers into a frenzy and prompting them to violate a long-standing Broadway rule against photographs, the New York Post reports. The excitement is over her new role in "Breakfast at Tiffany's," which requires her to step naked into a bubble bath.

"Hoping to capture the image of the ravishing actress in her birthday suit, folks [in] the Cort Theatre audience ignored Broadway’s stringent 'no photos' rule and frantically snapped shots on their cellphones," the story notes.

The bath scene occurs after Clarke, who plays Holly Golightly, brings male lead Cory Michael Smith home after he's injured riding a horse in Central Park. A theater goer told the Post: “You don't see everything. There are bubbles strategically placed."

Added another source: “If you’re sitting in the balcony you can see a lot more.”

Of course, Clarke, who debuted Monday in “Tiffany’s,” has also appeared naked on "Game of Thrones," including one scene in which she steps out of a dress and walks naked into a bath.

Emilia-Clarke.jpgEmilia Clarke

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Al Gore Is Sued for $5 Million Over Sale of Current TV

Al Gore has been hit with a lawsuit seeking more than $5 million over the sale of his Current TV to Al Jazeera, which was brokered for $500 million, according to The Hollywood Reporter's Hollywood, Esq.

The lawsuit claims Gore was "adamant" about not selling the network to Al Jazeera, which is backed by the oil-rich Qatar government, but then allegedly changed his mind and cut out the media consultant who came up with the idea.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday by John Terenzio, who says he's a media consultant, executive and TV producer who came with the idea for Al Jazeera to buy Current TV.

Terenzio claims he directed Colony Capital principal Richard Nanula to approach Current TV board member Richard Blum about the deal. The lawsuit alleges that Blum and "other Current investors were concerned about the prospect of losing their shirts in the financially troubled Current."

But next, the lawsuit says, "Plaintiffs are informed and believe that Gore was adamant in his rejection of the proposal to sell his liberal, environmentally friendly network to the oil-rich Quataris who owned Al Jazeera. Apparently, Gore had a change of heart."

Terenzio claims the deal then went forward without his knowledge or approval.

Terenzio is suing for breach of implied agreement, unjust enrichment and quantum meruit, or "what one has earned," and is seeking $5 million for each cause of action.

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Enough Already: 17 Reality Shows Have the Same Word in Their Titles

The use of a certain plural noun in the titles of reality TV shows has reached the saturation point -- or has it? TheWrap.com reports that at least 17 reality shows feature the word "wars" in their titles.

Just a few of the entries in the increasingly crowded field: “Storage Wars,” “Whale Wars,” “Parking Wars,” “Border Wars,” “Design Wars,” “Whisker Wars,” “Fan Wars” and “Cupcake Wars.”

The term might be nearing a point of exhaustion, with the team behind the latest entry in the field saying they felt the need to punch up the use of “Wars” by adding "Battlefield" to the title, reports TheWrap.com. The result: "Battlefield: Rhino Wars," which debuts today on Animal Planet.

"It's a way of saying this isn't 'Parking Wars,' this isn't 'Storage Wars,' this isn't 'Cupcake Wars.' This is really a war, and terrible things are happening out there, and somebody needs to stand up and do something about it," Animal Planet President Marjorie Kaplan said.

Animal Planet was one of the first to incorporate "wars" into its titles, with the debut of "Whale Wars" soon after A&E's "Parking Wars" several years ago.

"I do think that language can be very powerful, but also that overuse can dilute the power of words," Kaplan added.

The piece asks, "So, what will become of the word war?”

"It's a serious question for people who believe that words have meanings. In 2007, the Associated Press issued a memo to its journalists advising against the use of words like 'war' or 'battle' to describe relatively trivial events while real people were dying in Iraq and Afghanistan," the story notes.

Meanwhile, another word may be headed for the same kind of saturation in reality TV. “Although there are more ‘war’ shows than ‘wives’ shows, it's close,” the report notes. “Besides Bravo's many ‘Real Housewives,’ there are ‘Mob Wives,’ ‘Sister Wives’ and ‘Prison Wives,’ among others.”

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Fox Business Bringing Out Claws Against CNBC

Fox Business is going for the jugular against CNBC, airing ads that mock its bigger rival's swing into reality programming, reports Advertising Age.

The ads are airing on Fox News and Fox Business -- as well as on CNBC, the story notes. The CNBC placement came via a local ad buy in New York purchased by Fox Business. The commercial tells viewers that Fox Business airs "No fluff, no games no nonsense. ... Our business is business -- that's our reality."

As previously reported, CNBC rolled out its new prime-time entertainment block this week, including a Tuesday evening block built on reality shows.

Fox Business is also poking fun at CNBC's new booking policy, which bans guests from booking appearances on rival networks within 24 hours or more of their CNBC spots, the story says.

"Does CNBC really think it can tell CEOs what to do?" the spot says. "Fox Business. We know how to talk to business leaders."

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Divine Intervention? Mark Burnett Offers Insights Into Success of 'The Bible': 'The Hand of God Was on This'

“The Bible” producer Mark Burnett says "weird things" happened during the production of the wildly successful History miniseries, which he describes as being touched by "the hand of God."

As previously reported, the show’s premiere Sunday attracted a whopping 13.1 million viewers, ranking the telecast as the most-watched entertainment program on cable this year.

In January, before the miniseries debuted, Burnett, who is married to actress Roma Downey, talked about the production with EW.com, saying: “It will be, over the next 40 or 50 years, the most watched thing that Roma and I have ever made.”

Burnett added. “I really believe what I’m going to tell you right now. The hand of God was on this…. the edit came together perfectly, the actors came together perfectly, it just comes to life.”

The producer also talked about unusual incidents during production of the program. “Weird things happened during filming,” he said. “Everybody would look at each other like, ‘Whoa.’”

The incidents included a huge wind that Burnett described "as if a 747 was taking off" during a scene with Jesus and Nicodemus, just when Jesus says, "The Holy Spirit is like the wind," the story notes.

Said Burnett: “At that moment, a wind, like as if a 747 was taking off, blew his hair, almost blew the set over and sustained for 20 seconds across the desert, and the actors didn’t break -- they kept going. And everything stopped. Everyone just looked at everyone like, ‘What just happened?’”

Another odd event occurred when a portion of Jesus' costume disappeared in a reservoir during a baptism scene. Four days later, a child from a town "many, many, many miles away" arrived with the missing part of the costume, Burnett said. "He didn’t know what it was [or] why he should seek us, but he felt he had to return it," the producer added.

In still another unusual incident, a snake wrangler found 48 cobras and vipers hidden in the rocks near the cross on the day the crucifixion scene was to be shot, the piece says.

Said Burnett: “We had a snake wrangler every day on the set. I mean, we’ve got a couple hundred people shooting, and we can’t afford to have people getting bitten by snakes. Every day, this guy would find a snake or maybe two snakes, and remove them. On the day of the crucifixion, a lot of people prayed. The cross was a huge thing. They prayed [for safety], ‘Imagine if this cross fell. The actor playing Jesus could be killed or badly injured.’ The snake man came to work that day -- he’d gotten there early on the mountain playing Golgotha, and the bag of snakes [he was carrying] was the biggest bag I’d ever seen. He came to my wife and said, ‘Miss Roma, there were 48 snakes.’ He found 48 cobras and vipers hidden within the rocks around the cross.”

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Oscar-Nominated Actor Joins Martin Short in New NBC Comedy

An actor who starred in a string of period-defining movies in the 1960s and 1970s -- receiving an Academy Award nomination for “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” -- has signed on with a new NBC comedy project.

Deadline.com reports that Elliott Gould, known for film roles including "M*A*S*H" and “The Long Goodbye,” along with appearances on NBC’s "Friends," will co-star opposite Martin Short in the NBC pilot from comedian John Mulaney.

As previously reported, Short was cast in the untitled NBC project to play Mulaney's boss, Lou Cannon. His character is a game show host for whom Mulaney writes jokes.

Gould will play Mulaney's character's gay neighbor, Deadline notes. The multicamera project is written and executive produced by Mulaney and produced by "30 Rock’s” Robert Carlock.

Elliott-Gould.jpgElliott Gould

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'Buffy' Star Cast in CW Drama

One of the stars of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" has been cast in a new CW drama project. TVLine.com reports that Anthony Head, who played the watcher Giles on the cult favorite, will co-star in the CW drama pilot "The Selection."

“From Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain (‘Dollhouse,’ ‘The Vampire Diaries’), the ‘Hunger Games’-esque project is set 300 years in the future and centers on a working-class woman (played by Israeli actress Yael Grobglas) chosen by lottery to participate in a competition for the Prince’s (Michael Malarkey) hand to become the nation’s next queen,” the story reports.

Head will play King Clarkson, the patriarch of the royal family. It will be the second king that Head has recently portrayed, after he appeared on "Merlin" as King Uther Pendragon, the father of King Arthur.

anthony-head.jpgAnthony Head

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Amazon Partners With Industry Leader for New Children's Show

Amazon.com is working with one of the top suppliers of children’s programming on a new project aimed at kids. The New York Times' Media Decoder reports that the online firm is partnering with WGBH-TV, one of the biggest providers of kids’ programming for PBS.

The production arm of Amazon said it has ordered a children's pilot named "Sara Solves It," which was co-developed by WGBH and Out of the Blue Enterprises, a production company from "Blue Clues" co-creator Angela Santomero, the story notes.

The pilot will be posted on Amazon's streaming video service, along with the pilots of five other children's projects, and viewer feedback will be used to help determine which project goes forward to series, the story adds.

WGBH, the public television station in Boston, has produced children's shows such as "Zoom" and the animated show "Arthur."

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'The Talk' Host Cast in CBS Comedy

One of the hosts of CBS’s "The Talk" has been cast in a comedy project for the network. The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports that Sara Gilbert joins CBS's "Bad Teacher" pilot.

If the project goes to series, Gilbert will continue with the daytime talk show, the story notes.

The single-camera comedy is based on the 2011 film starring Cameron Diaz. The TV project stars Ari Graynor as a divorced teacher who is looking to find her next husband. Gilbert has been cast as a shy English teacher named Irene.

Sara-gilbert.jpgSara Gilbert

 

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Sitcom Star Books Return as 'Saturday Night Live' Host

"Saturday Night Live" is bringing back the star of a popular sitcom for a second hosting gig on the late-night sketch comedy show. Deadline.com reports that Melissa McCarthy, who received raves for her first “SNL” hosting spot in October 2011, will return to host the April 6 show.

McCarthy stars in the CBS hit "Mike & Molly." She currently appears in the movie "Identify Thief" with Jason Bateman.

melissa-mccarthy.jpgMelissa McCarthy

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Jane Lynch and Wilmer Valderrama Join Fox Series

Actress Jane Lynch of "Glee" and actor Wilmer Valderrama of "That '70s Show" will be a part of a new Fox comedy series. EW.com's Inside TV reports that the actors will provide voices for the new animated show “Murder Police.”

Created by David A. Goodman of "Family Guy," the workplace comedy takes place at a city precinct, with Lynch playing Justice, a detective and working mom. Valderrama will play the paper-pushing undercover cop Donel.

Fox has ordered 13 episodes, with the series set to premiere next season, the piece notes. Other cast members include Will Sasso, Chi McBride, Peter Atencio and Justina Machado.

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Video: Sears Yanks Ads on Hulu for 'SNL' Clip 'Djesus Uncrossed.' But Clip Still Has At Least 11 Brands Sponsoring It. Here's That List as Well as the Controversial Video Itself

"The 'Saturday Night Live' sketch 'Djesus Uncrossed' is an online hit, but viewers will no longer see commercials for Sears attached to it," reports Paul Bond on the website of The Hollywood Reporter..

The story adds, "In an email to The Hollywood Reporter, the retail chain acknowledged that some of its customers found the skit offensive, so it yanked its online commercials but has not abandoned the TV show. 'We received customer feedback about our ads running on NBC.com and Hulu in a rotation with other advertisers around the online rebroadcast of that particular 'SNL' episode,' Sears said. 'We informed customers that it wasn’t supposed to happen, and while going forward we may advertise on the broadcast, we’ve taken steps to ensure that our commercials do not air online exactly as they did in this situation.' "

However, TVWeek counted at least 11 brands that are still sponsoring the video clip as of 4 a.m. PT on March 7, 2013. The sketch first ran on "SNL" on Feb. 16, 2013, when Oscar winner Christoph Waltz was hosting the show. The sketch is a parody of the recent Quentin Tarantino movie Waltz was in, "Django Unchained," for which Tarantino received an Academy Award for writing the script. It's also a parody of Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds," which featured Waltz and Brad Pitt.

The brands that are still sponsoring "Djesus Uncrossed" online on Hulu include Radio Shack, Chase credit cards, local Jeep dealers, Embassy Suites Hotel, Western Digital, local Ram truck dealers, Nature Made, local Dodge dealers, Ziploc, Build.com, and local Chrysler dealers.

Here's the clip. Please note that the clip has graphic violence and some will likely find it offensive.

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Time Warner Will Spin Off Time Inc. Into Separate Company; Talks with Meredith Called Off

Time Warner "announced it would spin off its Time Inc. magazine unit into a separate, publicly traded company, a move that will allow the media conglomerate to focus entirely on its cable television and film businesses," reports Amy Chozick on The New York Times' Media Decoder blog.

The story continues, "The announcement came hours after Time Warner and Meredith Corporation ended negotiations on a proposal that would have joined in a separate company many Time Inc. titles with magazines published by Meredith."

Chozick also writes, "The deal with Meredith fell apart in part because of Time Warner’s concern over the fate of four of Time Inc.’s famous but struggling magazines -- Time, Sports Illustrated, Fortune and Money, according to three people with knowledge of the negotiations who could not publicly discuss private conversations. At one point Meredith expressed some interest in the news and sports magazines, but Meredith decided not to pursue them because such a deal would have diluted its controlling family’s shares in the new company, another person with knowledge of the negotiations said. If Time Warner retained those four titles, the economics of a full spinoff proved more appealing, this person said."

The article added, "Time Inc., suffering from industrywide declines, has consistently lagged in Time Warner’s quarterly earnings. In the three months that ended Dec. 31, revenue at Time Inc. fell 7 percent to $967 million. In the same period, revenue at the company’s cable television channels, including TNT, TBS and HBO, grew 5 percent to $3.67 billion.

"In a statement late Wednesday, Jeffrey L. Bewkes, chairman and chief executive of Time Warner, said a complete spinoff would provide clarity for the company as it concentrated on its high-growth businesses, primarily in cable television."

We strongly urge you to click on the link above and read all of Chozick's reporting and analysis about this story.

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TLC to Shut Down Series

TLC has announced plans to shut down a series that has had a long run on the cable channel. The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports that “What Not to Wear” will wrap after its upcoming 10th season.

The makeover series is hosted by Stacy London and Clinton Kelly.

In a statement, TLC Executive VP and general manager Amy Winter said: "After 10 incredible seasons, we felt that it was the right time to end the series. Stacy and Clinton have also become two of the most sought-after fashion experts and TV personalities in the industry. We’re so proud to have had the two of them along with [makeup artist] Carmindy and [hair stylist] Ted [Gibson] as the glam squad behind this fan-favorite show, and the final episodes will definitely be a celebration of this monumental run."

The report notes: “The series will return it its former home on Friday nights when the 10th season returns in July. Over the course of its run, London and Kelly have conducted more than 325 makeovers, with the final season featuring dramatic transformations, bigger ambushes, guest appearances and bigger shopping sprees.”

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Carrie Fisher Reveals Whether She Plans to Return as Princess Leia

Actress Carrie Fisher, the iconic Princess Leia from the original “Star Wars” trilogy, gave a one-word answer when she was asked whether she will return as Princess Leia in the new “Star Wars” movies now in the works at Disney, ABC News reports.

Her answer, according to the report, was: “Yes.”

The piece cites a Q&A Fisher, 56, did with Palm Beach Illustrated. ABC News reports that a key portion of the interview went like this:

Q: “Disney is going to continue the ‘Star Wars’ saga, producing movies set to hit theaters starting in 2015. Can you confirm whether you’ll reprise the role of Princess Leia?”

A: “Yes.”

Q: “What do you think Princess Leia is like today?”

A: “Elderly. She’s in an intergalactic old folks’ home [laughs]. I just think she would be just like she was before, only slower and less inclined to be up for the big battle.”

However, the piece notes that a rep for the actress said her participation in the project has not been confirmed.

The report adds: “LucasFilm, which made the original ‘Star Wars’ films, said, ‘At this time we are not ready to make any announcements about casting because, as Yoda said, “Always in motion is the future.”’”

The piece adds this tidbit: “Disney’s CEO, Bob Iger, reaffirmed today at the annual shareholders meeting in Phoenix that the company is developing ‘some standalone movies’ in addition to ‘Star Wars’ episodes 7, 8 and 9 that will feature characters from the original series. Iger didn’t say which characters might be featured in the new films.”

carrie-fisher-princess-leia.jpgCarrie Fisher as Princess Leia

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Ratings Freefall Continues for NBC Series -- and It's Not Alone

Tuesday was another night of landmark ratings for the broadcast networks -- and not in a good way. A number of shows sank to all-time lows in the key 18-49 demo, based on Nielsen overnights.

TVbytheNumbers.com reports that NBC’s “Smash” continued to push its way into uncharted low ratings territory, sinking to a series-worst 0.7 in viewers 18-49 to finish a distant third in a three-horse race at 10 p.m. The show fell 22% from last week’s 0.9.

Elsewhere on NBC, a fresh installment of “Betty White’s Off Their Rockers” managed a 1.1 in the 18-49 demo -- one-tenth better than the repeat episode that kicked off prime time, but down 15% from a week ago. “Go On” equaled last week’s all-time low of 1.1, while “The New Normal” fell 10% to a 0.9, also matching its all-time low.

NBC wasn’t the only broadcast network looking at grim numbers. ABC’s entire prime-time lineup set or equaled historic lows, with “Celebrity Wife Swap” the best of the bunch with a 1.5 in 18-49, down a hefty 38% from last week’s premiere and a series low. “The Taste” fell 14% to an all-time-low 1.2, while “Body of Proof” matched last week’s historic low with a 1.2.

CBS saw all three of its dramas slip from a week earlier, with “NCIS” down 3% to a 3.3 in adults 18-49, “NCIS: Los Angeles” off 3% to a 2.8 and “Golden Boy” slipping 11% to a 1.6.

Fox won the night with a 3.4 in 18-49 for its two-hour “American Idol,” airing outside its usual Wednesday-Thursday pattern. The number was down 13% from last Wednesday.

Fox’s 3.4 average for prime time overall led the way in the 18-49 demo, followed by CBS (2.6 average), Univision (1.8), ABC (1.3) and NBC (0.9). CBS won total viewers with an average of 15.2 million, ahead of Fox (11.5 million), ABC (4.6 million), Univision (4.3 million) and NBC (3.0 million).

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How Cable's Top Programmers Keep Their Channels Ahead of the Pack

A number of the most successful programming chiefs in basic and pay cable recently met to talk about issues including the rapidly changing business landscape for cable, the challenges presented by new models such as Netflix and how they approach keeping their brands relevant.

Taking part in this insight-filled discussion were A+E Networks’ Nancy Dubuc, HBO’s Michael Lombardo and Turner’s Steve Koonin, with former NBC Entertainment boss Ben Silverman on hand to moderate.

Click here for TVWeek Open Mic blogger Hillary Atkin’s detailed report on the discussion.

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Sam Neill and Emmanuelle Chriqui Join CBS Drama

Veteran actor Sam Neill, whose credits include “Alcatraz,” “Crusoe,” and “The Tudors” on television, as well as “Jurassic Park” and “The Piano” on the big screen, has taken an integral role on the CBS drama pilot “The Ordained,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. Also signed on for the show is “Entourage” standout Emmanuelle Chriqui.

The casting reunites Neill with his former “Alcatraz” co-star Jorge Garcia. The legal thriller stars “Boardwalk Empire’s” Charlie Cox.

“’Ordained’ centers on Tom (Cox), the son of a Kennedy-esque family who leaves the priesthood and becomes a lawyer to prevent his politician sister from being assassinated,” the story reports. “Neill will play Michael Thomas Riley, Tom's dad, who is best known as The Governor. He's a former three-term governor of New York and failed candidate for president with political aspirations for his daughter, Packy. Chriqui will portray Sam, a writer who lives next door to Tom who is spontaneous and everything Tom isn't.”

The script for the CBS Television Studios production is being written by Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, who will also executive produce with Frank Marshall, Larry Shuman and A.B. Fischer. RJ Cutler is signed to direct the pilot.

“Chriqui, who starred as Sloan on HBO's ‘Entourage,’ will make her drama series regular debut with the role,” the report notes. “Her credits include a recent arc on CBS's ‘The Mentalist’ as well as voice roles in ‘Tron: Uprising’ and ‘Thundercats.’”

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Cronkite Award Winners for TV Political Journalism Announced for 2013

The 2013 winners of the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Television Political Journalism have been announced by the Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. The awards recognize distinguished work produced during the 2011-12 election cycle.

Here are the winners:

LOCAL BROADCAST STATION

KARE TV, Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN
WBNS 10TV, Columbus, OH

LOCAL BROADCAST STATION - INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENT

Marshall Zelinger, KMGH, Denver, CO
Tom McKee, WCPO-TV, Cincinnati, OH

LOCAL CABLE STATION

Northwest Cable News (NWCN), Seattle, WA
NewsChannel8/Politico/WJLA, Arlington, VA

LOCAL PUBLIC STATION

TVW, Olympia, WA

LOCAL STATION GROUP

Hearst Television
Belo Corp.

NATIONAL INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENT

Jonathan Karl, ABC News
Martha Raddatz, ABC News

NATIONAL NETWORK PROGRAMMING

BET
Univision

CRONKITE/JACKSON PRIZE

The organization notes: “This competition introduced a new category: the Cronkite/Jackson Prize for Fact Checking Political Messages, named for the founding director of FactCheck.org, Brooks Jackson, and selected by a special jury convened by the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) of the University of Pennsylvania, home of FactCheck.org.”

Local station winner: KUSA, Denver, CO
National winner: CNN

Click here to see the full press release with details about the winners.

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Legendary Rock Guitar Player Dead at 68

One of the legends of British blues-rock, considered one of the greatest guitarists of the rock era, has died. BBC News reports that Ten Years After frontman Alvin Lee, whose blazing performance of “I’m Going Home” was one of the highlights of the 1969 Woodstock festival and the subsequent movie about that landmark event, died early today at 68.

Lee died unexpectedly following complications from routine surgery, according to an announcement from his family.

“The Nottingham-born musician rose to fame after appearing at the Woodstock festival in 1969,” the story reports. “The band, who had eight Top 40 albums in the UK, had their biggest hit in 1971 with ‘I'd Love To Change the World.’”

A statement on his website from Lee’s wife and daughters says: "We have lost a wonderful and much loved father and companion, the world has lost a truly great and gifted musician."

Lee was scheduled to perform April 7 at Olympia Hall in Paris with guitarist Johnny Winter, the piece notes.

Among the defining songs from Ten Year’s After's heyday in the late 1960s and early 1970s are classics such as “Love Like a Man,” “As the Sun Still Burns Away” and “50,000 Miles Beneath My Brain,” all from the 1970 masterpiece “Cricklewood Green,” along with 1969’s “I Woke Up This Morning” and “Stoned Woman,” both from the album “Ssssh.”

Thumbnail image for Alvin-Lee.jpgAlvin Lee

Here’s a clip of Lee and Ten Years After performing their epic “I’m Going Home” at Woodstock in 1969: 

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Report: Big Star Being Groomed to Take Over Fallon's NBC Late-Night Slot

With news that Jay Leno might be leaving NBC's "The Tonight Show" to make room for Jimmy Fallon, the network is reportedly grooming a replacement for Fallon’s time slot, according to The New York Post.

That replacement is reportedly shock jock Howard Stern, who is also currently a judge on "America's Got Talent."

"Howard has been trying to show TV suits for years that he’s the whole package. ... He’s shown -- on 'AGT,' one of the most popular family shows on TV -- that he can act like a grown-up and play well with others, if the money’s right,” the story reports.

Stern's previous stints in late-night TV had mixed results, the piece adds. He made pilots in 1987 in an attempt to replace Joan Rivers on "The Late Show," but a program didn't make it to air, the story says. His Saturday night program "The Howard Stern Radio Show" aired on CBS stations, which started dropping the show because of its risque content, the piece adds.

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Beloved Sitcom Star Dying of Brain Cancer

An Emmy Award-winning actress who was one of the most popular television stars of the 1970s confirms that she has been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, People magazine reports.

Valerie Harper shot to fame as Rhoda Morgenstern on the CBS sitcom “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” and proved so popular that her character was spun off into Harper’s own show, “Rhoda.”

Harper, 73, reportedly received the news of her terminal diagnosis Jan. 15. Her exclusive interview is People’s cover story this week.

“A battery of tests revealed she has leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, a rare condition that occurs when cancer cells spread into the fluid-filled membrane surrounding the brain,” the story reports. “Her doctors say she has as little as three months left to live.”

Harper, who survived a fight with lung cancer in 2009, told People, "I don't think of dying. I think of being here now."

Harper won four Emmys in the 1970s -- three for "Mary Tyler Moore" and one for "Rhoda."

valerie-harper-people.jpg

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Actor Gets Six-Month Sentence

An actor known for movies including “Terminator 2” has been sentenced to six months in jail. The Huffington Post reports that Edward Furlong received the sentence for violating probation in a domestic violence case from 2010.

“The 35-year-old actor has been the subject of restraining orders filed by both his ex-wife and an ex-girlfriend,” the story notes. “Furlong was charged in January with battery on his ex-girlfriend in a case that remains pending.”

Besides his role as John Connor in 1991’s “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” Furlong is known for “American History X” (1998). On TV he has played a recurring role on “CSI: NY.”

The report adds: “Superior Court Judge Dennis Mulcahy directed officials not to release the actor early or give him credit for time served, but jail records showed Tuesday that he may be released in late May.”

His attorney reportedly did not return a call seeking a comment for the story.

edward-furlong.jpgEdward Furlong

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CBS Lines Up Host, Judges for Summer Reality Series

CBS has hired a well-known comedian to host a summer reality series, and named a couple of judges for the show. Deadline.com reports that Jeff Foxworthy will host "The American Baking Competition."

The show, based on the U.K. program "The Great British Bake Off," tapped Paul Hollywood, a judge on the British show, and chef Marcela Valladolid as judges, the story adds.

Foxworthy, known for his one-liners that include the phrase "you might be a redneck," has hosted other competition series, including GSN's currently airing program "The American Bible Challenge" and the game show "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?"

jeff-foxworthy.jpgJeff Foxworthy

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Broadcast Nets' Latest Strategy Against Viewer Flight: Order More Pilots

The top five broadcast networks have ordered almost 100 pilot episodes for the start of the 2013-14 television season, up significantly from a year earlier, TV critic Mike Hale writes in The New York Times.

And last year, Hale notes, "Everyone was talking about how many pilots there were."

“The terror gripping broadcast television as viewers continue to run away -- 8.6 million to ‘Duck Dynasty,’ 13.1 million to ‘The Bible,’ who knows how many to ‘House of Cards’ -- has meant boom times for TV’s most ephemeral product: the network pilot,” Hale’s report notes.

He adds: "Right now they are being cast and shot at a furious pace so that the fall schedules can be announced in May, and, as always, a great majority of them will be seen by no one but the people who make them and the programmers who reject them.”

The story spotlights eight pilots with intriguing premises or stars, although the writer admits he doesn't know which projects have the best chances to make it onto a network schedule.

Among the eight are "About a Boy," the NBC project based on Nick Hornby's novel, which will star David Walton from "Perfect Couples"; and "Boomerang" on Fox, starring Felicity Huffman of "Desperate Housewives" and Anthony LaPaglia of "Without a Trace" as government-hired assassins.

Others on the list: NBC’s “Believe,” CBS’s “Beverly Hills Cop,” CBS’s “Hostages,” Fox’s “Rake,” NBC’s untitled D.J. Nash project and CBS’s “Mom.”

Two other pilots that are assured of being picked up are NBC’s Michael J. Fox comedy, whose pickup was already announced, and CBS’s “NCIS” spinoff, Hale notes.

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NBC's 'Today' Switches Things Up in Ad Sales

As "Today" struggles with losing its morning dominance to ABC's "Good Morning America," NBCUniversal has tapped a new executive to take over ad sales for the NBC show, reports Jon Lafayette at B&C.

David Barrington, a vice president at NBC News Group Sales, is now in charge of selling airtime on "Today," along with other top NBC News shows such as "NBC Nightly News," the story says. He had been a top sales exec for MSNBC.

Barrington switched jobs with NBC News Group ad sales VP Tom Stevens, who will move to selling MSNBC ad time, the story says.

Lafayette notes: "'Today' was the top morning news show for 16 years, winning the ratings race every week. But so far this season, 'Good Morning America' is leading 'Today' in adults 25-54, the key demo for ad sales for most news programming. ABC says its lead over 'Today' is the biggest in more than 21 years."

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Beau Bridges Joins CBS Comedy

Emmy-winning actor Beau Bridges has been cast in a CBS comedy project. The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed reports that Bridges is joining the untitled CBS comedy pilot from "Raising Hope" creator Greg Garcia.

The multicamera comedy will portray Bridges as the klutzy father to Jack, played by Will Arnett. His wife is Carol, played by "Justified" actress Margo Martindale. After he hears his son has gotten divorced, he decides to leave his wife and move in with his daughter, played by Mary Elizabeth Ellis, the story says.

“Garcia will write and executive produce the show, with veteran director James Burrows on board to helm the CBS Television Studios entry,” the report notes. “JB Smoove co-stars. The casting reunites Bridges with Martindale, with whom he worked on Showtime's upcoming drama ‘Masters of Sex.’”

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'Game of Thrones' Taps Rock Band to Record Rowdy Tavern Song

HBO's "Game of Thrones" tapped a well-known rock group to record a rowdy tavern song that recurs throughout George R.R. Martin's books. The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed reports that the Hold Steady will record the song, "The Bear and the Maiden Fair."

The song will be released on a limited-edition 7-inch April 20, also known as Record Store Day 2013, and will be featured in the third season of the show. Show co-creators and showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss asked the band to record the song.

“This is one of the most popular songs in Westeros, beloved by nobles and commoners alike, sung at taverns and feasts and etc.," Benioff and Weiss said in statement. "We wanted our rendition to be bawdy and a little sloppy -- drunken musicians getting up on the table and jamming while the rowdy party continues around them. There was no one better for the job than the Hold Steady, and the song they delivered has been stuck in our heads for the last four weeks.”

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CNBC Departs From Its 'Mishmosh' Formula With New Prime-Time Lineup

CNBC is rolling out its new CNBC Prime entertainment block this week, including a Tuesday evening block built on reality shows, TVNewser reports.

CNBC Chairman Mark Hoffman said last week that the new lineup, including the reality shows "Car Chasers" and “Treasure Detectives,” will help the cable channel move beyond a prime-time lineup that was a "mishmosh, a land of misfit toys,” the report notes.

The channel intends to launch eight or nine new shows by the end of this year, the piece reports.

The goal with CNBC Prime is to create a true brand, while keeping faithful to the channel's mission of providing financial entertainment, the story says. Past prime-time schedules have included a talk show hosted by John McEnroe and reruns of NBC programs, the report notes.

“CNBC during the day speaks to institutional investors, heavyweight players in the world of high finance, and certainly some of the numbers are kind of mind-boggling,” Jim Ackerman, the senior vice president of prime-time alternative programming, told the publication. “The numbers we play in at night are much more relatable; if the guys on the ‘Car Chasers’ turn a profit of $9,000, it is a great payday, but it is also much more relatable than Greek debt crisis, or what some hedge fund is doing on Wall Street.”

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Nat Geo Greenlights Show from Nerdist Industries

National Geographic Channel has given the green light to "In the Name of Science," a pilot from Nerdist Industries, reports Deadline.com.

The show is hosted by Jonah Ray and will feature the re-creation of famous historical science experiments, the piece notes.

The show is a "a fresh look at everyday science and how it affects our contemporary lives," Nat Geo Channel President Howard T. Owens said.

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Designer of Most Infamous Car in Detroit History Dies. This Automobile 'Became a Synonym for Bold, Bad Ideas.' But Come On, Wouldn't You Secretly Want to Own One Today?

"Roy Brown Jr., a car designer for Ford Motor whose signature creation...became a synonym for bold, bad ideas not long after it was introduced in 1957, died on Feb. 24 in Michigan," The New York Times reported yesterday, March 5, 2013. The Times added, "He was 96."

The car Brown designed was the Ford Edsel.

Edsel Grille.jpg

The article continued, "Even as the Edsel, his most notable work, fell far short of sales goals, lost hundreds of millions of dollars, became an enduring punch line and prompted an overseas transfer for its designer, Mr. Brown remained satisfied with it."

Edsel Body.jpg

Wrote the Times, “ 'I’m proud of the car,' [Mr. Brown] told The Sun-Sentinel of Florida in 1985. 'There is not a bad line on the car.'

"Many initial assessments agreed. 'The Edsel will be radically different,' said an article in The New York Times previewing the new model in 1957. 'The difference in style is spectacular,' the article added. 'The front end emphasizes a vertical grille that lends a distinctive continental flair. The rear-end assembly is also distinctive. Horizontal taillights sweep across the trunk lid to form a pattern like the graceful wingspread of a sea gull.' "

Edsel Rear.jpg

The Times added, "The Edsel was out of production by the end of 1959 and would sell a little more than half of the 200,000 cars Ford projected. Mr. Brown was transferred to England, where he helped design successful European models for Ford, including the Cortina. He returned to the United States in the mid-1960s and continued to work at Ford until 1974."

The story noted, "For all its commercial struggles, the Edsel has been revered as a collectible for decades — and Mr. Brown drove one into his 90s."

roy brown jr.jpg

Roy Brown, Jr.

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Upcoming Episode of 'Community' Will Feature Cast as ... Puppets!

"An all-puppet episode of 'Community,' featuring extensive use of the performers in puppet form, will air in April and include a cameo from Jason Alexander (though not as a puppet)," reports our friend Ray Richmond at Deadline.com.

The news was revealed Tuesday night, March 5, 2013, during a panel discussion about "Community" at Paleyfest 2013.

According to the story, "The puppet gambit is in keeping with a quirky series that’s already used stop-motion animation and other creative devices to distinguish itself."

EW's Inside TV blog writes about the upcoming puppet episode: "The gang embark on a balloon ride, crash in the woods, and encounter an amiable mountain man (guest star Jason Alexander). Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) winds up getting the gang to discuss their adventures in the wild and work through their issues through the use of hand puppets; and in flashbacks, we see larger versions of the puppets."

CO[MMUNITY PUPPET.png

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Why Jon Stewart Will Be Off All Summer From 'The Daily Show' -- If You Haven't Heard the Reason, You'll Never Guess

Jon Stewart is taking an extended break from Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” and if you haven’t already heard the reason, it will probably surprise you: Stewart is taking the summer off to direct a movie, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Stewart plans to be off the show for 12 weeks -- including eight weeks in which the show will be producing new episodes. During that stretch he will be replaced by “Daily Show” correspondent John Oliver.

“Stewart is taking the break to make his feature directorial debut with ‘Rosewater,’” THR reports. “Stewart also wrote the screenplay for the adaptation of BBC journalist Maziar Bahari's New York Times best-selling memoir ‘Then They Came for Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity and Survival.’”

The book details Bahari’s arrest in 2009 while covering an election protest in Iran. “He subsequently was interrogated and tortured during the next 118 days,” THR adds.

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Sequester Be Damned! Stock Market Closes at All-Time High. Many Media Stocks Enjoying the Ride

"The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed today at 14,253.77, topping the previous record high in 2007 -- and other benchmarks aren’t far behind," writes our friend David Lieberman at Deadline.com.

The story continues: "The widespread momentum contributed to the continuing strength in media stocks, which have outperformed the market over the last year or so, pushing many to levels at or near their all-time highs. Big Media companies today were led by CBS (+2.5%), News Corp. (+2.4%), Viacom (+1.9%), Time Warner (+1.6%), Comcast (+1.4%), and Disney (1.2%). The only loser in the group today was Sony (-0.4%). Among media stocks generally, broadcasters did especially well today with Radio One +15.9%, Sinclair +5.5%, and Entercom +4%."

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Station GM Spectorsky Comes Clean to B&C About 'Matlock' Pre-emption of NBC Prime-Time Programming. He's Been Using the Show to Do That in the First Quarter for About 10 Years. Purely a Money Play

Earlier today we ran a story from the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper about the local NBC affiliate there, WKYC-TV, pre-empting part of NBC's Thrusday prime-time lineup recently to run a 21-year-old episode of "Matlock," starring Andy Griffith.

Brooke Spectorsky, the president and general manager of the station, had told the newspaper that part of the decision to run the "Matlock" was as a tribute to Griffith, who was snubbed in the in-memoriam portion of this year's Oscars telecast.

However, it looks like B&C has got the real story.

According to a Michael Malone-penned article in B&C, Spectorsky "said the station typically runs a 'Matlock' special, where it gets all the inventory, in the first quarter. 'We made a local decision,' [Spectorsky] said. 'We've done it the last 10 years and usually do quite well. Older folks appreciate 'Matlock.'"

The B&C story adds: "Spectorsky said 'Matlock: The Legacy,' a '92 film starring Andy Griffith, did a 2 household rating/3.3 share, rating a little less than a typical Thursday night of reruns on NBC, while beating repeats of 'Scandal' and a Jimmy Kimmel Oscar special on ABC in men 25-54."

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Fox Freshman Is Monday's Top Show in Broadcast Prime Time

On a night of generally down ratings for the broadcast networks, the top-rated show of Monday’s prime time in the key 18-49 demo was the freshman Fox drama “The Following,” TVbytheNumbers.com reports, citing Nielsen overnights.

Fox won the night, narrowly beating ABC in the 18-49 demo. CBS aired mostly repeats for a rare fifth-place finish behind its big four rivals and Spanish-language Univision.

Fox’s “The Following,” which premiered in January, averaged a 2.8 rating in 18-49, equaling its performance last week. “Bones” delivered a 2.2, slipping 4%.

ABC’s two-hour “The Bachelor” was a close second with a 2.7 average in viewers 18-49, falling 7% from a week ago. ABC led out from it with a “Castle” repeat at 10 p.m., settling for a 1.4 but still winning the hour.

NBC got a 2.1 out of its two-hour “Biggest Loser” in the 18-49 demo, off 5% from last week. The drama “Deception” at 10 p.m. equaled its all-time low with a 1.1.

CBS’s only fresh show was “Rules of Engagement,” which hit a season low with a 2.2 in 18-49, off 19% from a week ago.

For prime time overall, Fox led the way with a 2.5 in adults 18-49, followed by ABC (2.3), NBC (1.8), Univision (1.7) and CBS (1.6). Fox also won total viewers, averaging 8.4 million to ABC’s 7.9 million, CBS’s 6.1 million, NBC’s 4.5 million and Univision’s 4.2 million.

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Disney Junior Renews 'Sofia the First'; Note to Parents: Get Ready for More Sofia -- Everywhere

Disney Junior has announced a renewal for a series that is part of Disney Channel’s preschooler-targeted programming block. The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports that the animated show “Sofia the First” will be back for a second season.

The series focuses on Disney’s first little-girl princess, with her voice provided by Ariel Winter of “Modern Family.” And Disney is leaving no stone unturned in its marketing of Sofia.

“’Sofia’ airs on Disney Channel's Disney Junior programming block targeted at preschoolers as well as its new 24-hour Disney Junior channel,” the story reports. “It is cable TV's top show among kids ages 2-5 as well as among both girls and boys in the demo and also is the No. 1 preschooler cable TV series in total viewers and women 18-49, which Disney points to as a sign of parental approval.”

The show, produced by Disney Television Animation, is also the basis of the TV movie “Sofia the First: Once Upon a Princess,” just out on DVD, and a line of toys and apparel that is set to launch nationwide this summer. The character is already a presence at some Disney attractions, with plans in place to expand that presence at Disney Parks and other venues.

Nancy Kanter, senior VP of original programming and general manager at Disney Junior Worldwide, commented: "We are so proud of the strong connection our young viewers and their parents have forged with Sofia. While she and her family live in a magical make-believe world, the storytelling and relatable everyday themes have struck a chord with our audience."

The report notes: “The series follows Princess Sofia, an ordinary little girl, as she learns how to adjust to royal life after her mom marries the king. The voice cast also includes Sara Ramirez as Queen Miranda, Sofia's loyal and caring mother; Wayne Brady as Clover, Sofia's wise-talking rabbit sidekick; and Tim Gunn as Baileywick, the castle's royal steward.”

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TNT Casts Key Roles in Geena Davis Drama

A four-time Oscar nominee is among the latest cast additions for TNT’s upcoming Geena Davis project. Deadline.com reports that the untitled bounty hunter drama pilot has added Enrico Colantoni (“Flashpoint”), Gloria Reuben (“ER”) and four-time Academy Award nominee Marsha Mason (“The Middle”).

“Inspired by the real-life story of bounty hunter Mackenzie Green, the drama stars Davis as Mackenzie “Mack” Green, an unconventional bail bondswoman and bounty hunter whose eccentric personality and unusual tactics give her an advantage in a tough and unpredictable business,” the story reports. “Reuben will play Assistant D.A Kate Mickelson, a tenacious attorney with an honest and blunt relationship with Mack. Colantoni will play Wendell Hicks, Mack’s former accountant hired to run the financial desk at the bail bonds office. Mason plays Mack’s strong and independent mother Lloyd.”

The pilot comes from Dean Devlin‘s Electric Entertainment, Ternion Productions and 3 Arts, and is written by Scott Prendergast and Amy Berg.

Deadline adds: “Devlin is set to direct the pilot; he and Berg will serve as showrunners and will executive produce with Prendergast, John Altschuler, Dave Krinsky, Tom Lassally and Michael Rotenberg. Davis serves as co-executive producer.”

Mason had a string of Oscar nominations from 1974-1982, for “The Goodbye Girl,” “Chapter Two,” “Cinderella Liberty” and “Only When I Laugh” -- all for leading roles.

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'Law & Order' Star to Tackle Role of Marvin Gaye

A longtime cast member on NBC’s “Law & Order” will replace the famed rocker who was set to play Marvin Gaye in the TV biopic “Sexual Healing,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Jesse L. Martin, who played NYPD Det. Ed Green on the NBC procedural, replaces singer and musician Lenny Kravitz in the role, THR reports.

“Martin originally had been attached to play the late singer in a version produced by James Gandolfini -- who also had plans to co-star as music promoter Freddy Cousaert -- in 2008,” THR reports. “After the project stalled, Kravitz signed on for the lead role in the Julien Temple-directed movie in November, but Gaye's son Marvin Gaye III voiced his objections to the project, which was said to focus on Gaye's life in the '80s when he battled drug abuse and depression.”

The focus of the project now is on Gaye’s efforts to put his career back on track, the piece notes. The Cousaert role has been taken over by Brendan Gleeson.

Filming is set to start later this month.

jesse-l-martin.jpgJesse L. Martin

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Ouch! NBC Affiliate in Nation's 18th-Largest Market Pre-empts NBC Prime Time, Replacing It With a 20-Year-Old Program

By Chuck Ross -- 

The NBC station in the nation's 18th-largest market, Gannett's WKYC-TV in Cleveland, "pulled three of the network's Thursday shows, replacing them with a two-hour 'Matlock' episode from 1992," reports Mark Dawidziak in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

The station is run by a cagey veteran broadcaster, Brooke Spectorsky. In a broadcast career that spans 35 years, Spectorsky also has been at KTLA-TV in Los Angeles, KTVU-TV in San Francisco, WSB-TV in Atlanta, WCPX-TV in Orlando,  and WUAB-TV in Cleveland.  

Besides holding the position of WKYC's president and general manager since 1997, for the past 8 years Spectorsky has concurrenlty been the senior VP of Gannett Broadcasting, with divisional responsibility for at least four other Gannett TV stations that are also NBC affiliates, according to Bloomberg BusinessWeek.

Dawidziak in the Cleveland Plain Dealer asked whether the pre-emption was a "move to make more advertising dollars for the station with an old piece of programming? Or a sincere attempt to honor Andy Griffith after he was left out of the in-memoriam segment at the 85th Academy Awards?" Griffith died more than seven months ago, in July 2012. 

Here's how Spectorsky replied to Dawidziak: "It was both. With a local movie, we keep all the advertising dollars and can make significantly more revenue than with network programming. But we also felt that Andy Griffith got snubbed and this was a chance to pay a nice tribute to him. It was not meant as a comment on NBC programming. The February sweeps were over and it was an ideal moment to honor a beloved TV legend."

Dawidziak adds: "Spectorsky made certain that the 20-year-old 'Matlock' didn't disrupt the 8-9 p.m. programming: original episodes of 'Community' and 'Parks and Recreation.' And reports that Channel 3 will air another two-hour 'Matlock' this Thursday are in error. The NBC Thursday shows will be back."

In the report, Spectorsky adds: "This is not any kind of long-range programming strategy. It was just something to try at the end of the month."

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TV News Outlets Taken In by Baby-Naming Hoax

Dozens of television outlets, including CNN, Fox News and NBC's "Today," were taken in by a baby-naming hoax, TVNewser.com reports.

The hoax is the latest in a series of stories that have been reported as true by television news but turned out to be false, the piece reports. The new hoax comes after it was revealed that a "viral video" of a pig rescuing a goat was fake, and after Notre Dame football star Manti Te’o was revealed to have a fake girlfriend.

"Hoaxes are apparently in vogue now," the story notes.

In the latest hoax, TV news programs reported that a woman was offering to name her baby based on an online poll in exchange for $5,000. It turned out that the woman was an actress, and the poll was created by a website as a publicity stunt.

The TVNewser story notes: "It is unrealistic to expect TV producers or bookers to catch every single hoax, especially when people are pushing it and deliberately trying to deceive. Working in TV is a grind, and staffers work long hours to fill endless minutes of airtime. Most of the people producers deal with are straight shooters, or at least not deliberately lying to them, but when you have liars, there is only so much you can do. In the case of the baby-naming hoax: the website was real, and was pushing it."

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The End Looms for a Long-Running Showtime Drama

CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves, speaking at an investors’ conference, had some bad news for fans of Showtime's serial-killer drama "Dexter": The show's upcoming eighth season will apparently be its last, according to Deadline.com.

Moonves referred to the eighth season as the show’s "last season," with his comment following speculation that the show has been headed for its end, the story notes. He made the comment when asked about Showtime's plans after "Dexter," and spoke about new shows such as "Masters of Sex," the story of Masters and Johnson.

Showtime President David Nevins hinted at plans to wind down the show during the Television Critics Association press tour in January, according to the piece.

"Dexter" will return for its eighth season June 30, 2013.

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Barbara Walters Points Fingers in her Chicken Pox Episode

Barbara Walters returned to "The View" Monday and pointed fingers about her run-in with chicken pox, which left her in the hospital and forced her to take a six-week medical leave, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The 83-year-old said a "well-known actor" gave her the virus, although she declined to name him.

"It all began in January when I was visiting a friend in Miami," Walters said on the show Monday. "She had as another guest a well-known actor who shall remain nameless. I gave him a New Year's hug and kiss on the cheek. What he didn't know yet was that he was about to develop a bad case of shingles."

As a result of the chicken pox, Walters fainted at the British ambassador's residence and fell, leaving her "bloody and unconscious."

Walters said the chicken pox "came and went weeks ago -- the head injury has taken longer."

 

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Model Sues Over 'Mad Men' Opening Sequence

A model has filed a lawsuit against Lionsgate Entertainment, alleging that its hit AMC drama series "Mad Men" uses her image in its opening sequence without permission and has failed to compensate her, reports TheWrap.com.

Gita Hall May, who was a top model in the 1950s and 1960s, alleges in the lawsuit that the opening sequence shows a photo of her taken by Richard Avedon for a Revlon ad.

Lionsgate had no comment, the story says.

The complaint says the show has generated "in excess of $1 billion," in part due to the Emmy-winning title sequence, but that she hasn't benefited. She's seeking statutory and punitive damages, restitution, injunctive relief, attorney's fees and costs, and the cost of the suit.

The sixth season of "Mad Men" premieres April 7.

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A Step Closer to the Holy Grail for Advertisers: ABC, ESPN to Offer Advertisers Guarantees on Programming Distributed on TV AND Online

"The Walt Disney Company will take a significant step toward equalizing the business of advertising on television and online this spring when three of the networks owned by the company, ABC, ABC Family and ESPN, offer advertisers guarantees for video programming distributed both on television and online," writes our good friend Bill Carter in The New York Times' Media Decoder.

The story continues: "The ABC networks will announce Tuesday that they have adopted the Nielsen Online Campaign Ratings system to measure viewing across both television and online sites, and will base all sales on estimates of what total viewing will be on all those platforms."

Carter adds: "ABC has been aggressively seeking a way to combine guarantees both on television and online. Adam Gerber, vice president of sales development and marketing for ABC, said the company gave combined viewing guarantees to some advertisers in last year’s upfront -- the sales period in spring when networks made deals with advertisers for future programming -- but expected 'a much more robust demand for those kinds of deals' this year."

The story quotes Steve Hasker, president of Global Products for Nielsen, saying: "If an automaker places ads on all different platforms, on television and online, we’ll be able to measure all the people that see that particular campaign."

We urge you to click on the link above to read all of the details in Carter's piece.

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Creator of Fox Sitcom Exits Series

The creator and showrunner of a Fox comedy series is leaving the show. Deadline.com reports that Greg Garcia will exit “Raising Hope” at the end of the season.

The change is stipulated by his overall deal at CBS TV Studios, the story says. His replacement as showrunner is likely to be Mike Mariano, an executive producer of the show and one of Garcia's top lieutenants.

Garcia is sure to be busy post-"Raising Hope," because he's working on two high-profile pilots at CBS, the story notes.

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CBS's Moonves Joins Push for Advertisers to Pay for Live Ratings Plus 7 Days, as Opposed to the Live Ratings Plus 3 Days They Pay for Now

CBS CEO Leslie Moonves is lobbying for advertisers to move to payment for live ratings plus 7 days (C7), versus the live ratings plus 3 days (C3) that they currenly pay for, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

"As things stand now, advertisers pay in full if a show is watched live or within three days on DVR, and Moonves predicted that within a year full payment will come for viewers who watch up to seven days after a show airs live," the story notes.

Moonves, who spoke at the Deutsche Bank Media and Telecom conference, said, "I still look at overnight ratings every day of my life at 5:30 in the morning, 365 days a year, and it does give you an indication of what’s doing well and what’s not."

He added, “But we hit a tipping point this year, which is why in the fall numbers were tough to read … some of our hit programs literally are only watched 60 percent now live.”

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Creator of 'The Walking Dead' Tackles Another Edgy Topic in New Project

The new project from the creator of the wildly successful AMC zombie series “The Walking Dead” tackles another edgy topic: exorcism. EW.com’s Inside TV reports that “Walking” creator and executive producer Robert Kirkman’s upcoming TV project is about a man plagued by possession.

The show focuses on a young man who has been affected by possession since he was a child, and as an adult searches out the reasons behind it, the story notes. The description of the show adds: "What he uncovers could mean the end of life on Earth as we know it.”

Kirkman is developing the script for Fox International Channels, and the project would most likely need a U.S. network signed on to distribute the show in North America. Given the success of "The Walking Dead," that probably won't be difficult, the story notes.

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Details Emerge on Rupert Murdoch's National Challenge to ESPN -- Fox Sports 1 Set for August Launch

Rupert Murdoch's "white whale" has been a national cable sports network in the league of ESPN, and he's now ready to take on the sports media giant with his own network, called Fox Sports 1, reports The New York Times.

Fox will launch the all-sports network in August, with plans to air content such as NASCAR races, Major League Baseball games, college basketball and football, soccer and UFC fights, the story says.

“Two decades after shaking up the sports broadcasting world for the first time by acquiring NFL rights, Murdoch has plans to challenge ESPN head-on and claim some of the lucrative revenue that the sports media giant has had largely to itself for more than three decades,” the report notes.

As previously hinted at by Regis Philbin, the network will broadcast a studio show starring the veteran television host, who is widely known to be a big Notre Dame fan.

Murdoch will have his work cut out for him. As The Times notes: "Fox Sports 1 will join a market that is far more crowded than it was when Murdoch first contemplated squaring off against ESPN. Not only will Fox face the dominance of ESPN, but NBC and CBS have their own sports channels, which are struggling for viewers and identities. The Big Ten and Pacific-12 conferences have created their own networks, and the Southeastern Conference is planning one. And in the past decade, MLB, the NFL, the NBA and the NHL have started their own channels."

But Fox and parent News Corp. are believers that sports will continue as a way to attract viewers, especially young men. The network has tapped David Hill, the former head of Fox Sports Media Group, from another role within News Corp. to head up the new venture, the story says.

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NBC Drama Taps 'Twin Peaks' Star

An NBC drama project in the works from J.J. Abrams has cast one of the stars of "Twin Peaks.” TVLine.com reports that Kyle MacLachlan is joining the pilot “Believe.”

The project is about a powerful young girl, portrayed by newcomer Johnny Sequoyah, who is protected by a man recently released from prison, the story notes. MacLachlan will play Skouras, a billionaire with a mysterious agenda.

The script was written by Alfonso Cuaron, who directed "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban."

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Can David Copperfield Whip Up Some Magic for NBC's 'Today'?

NBC is hoping illusionist David Copperfield will whip up some magic for its morning show "Today," reports the New York Post's Page Six.

Copperfield will be featured every Monday on the show this month, the story notes. The morning show is trying to reverse a slump that has the NBC program -- which dominated the morning ratings until recently -- now being beaten regularly by ABC competitor "Good Morning America."

Copperfield is known for big stunts such as making the Statue of Liberty disappear on TV.

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This Is of Paramount Importance: Major Studio Getting Back Into the TV Production Business, Announces First Project

One of the major studios -- Paramount -- is getting back in the TV production business, according to a number of media reports.

"The Viacom Inc.-owned movie studio announced Monday that it was co-producing and co-financing a one-hour pilot, 'Beverly Hills Cop,' with Sony Pictures Television," writes Meg James in the Los Angeles Times' Company Town blog, adding, as TVWeek previously has reported, "The CBS broadcast network ordered the pilot from Sony, which has taken the lead role developing and producing the project."

The Company Town article continues, "The pilot, which could get a green light to series in May when CBS picks its fall schedule, marks Paramount's return to television after leaving the business in 2006. That's when Paramount's corporate parent split into two separate publicly traded companies: CBS Corp. and Viacom Inc.

"As part of the corporate breakup, CBS took control of the Viacom television assets, including Paramount Television's vast library of shows such as "Frasier" and "Cheers." Paramount then narrowed its focus on feature films. However, Paramount left the door open to future television projects."

Eddie Murphy was the star of the 1984 hit movie version of "Beverly Hills Cop," and the Company Town story says that "Murphy is expected to pop up from time to time on the show, reprising the role of Axel Foley, the impulsive Detroit cop. The proposed series is expected to focus on Foley's son, who follows in his father's career as a police officer in Beverly Hills."

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Amazing Ratings: I Once Was Lost But Now Am Found; Was Blind, But Now I See 'The Bible' and 'Vikings' on History TV

Last night, March 3, 2013, was a phenomenal Sunday for the History channel. With the premiere of its miniseries “The Bible,” followed by the premiere of its first scripted series -- the 10-episode “Vikings” -- the ratings were nothing short of spectacular.

“In the 8-10 p.m. premiere 13.1 million total viewers flocked to ‘The Bible,’ including 4.6 million adults 25-54,” History said in a press release. “Over two telecasts on premiere night, ‘The Bible’ averaged 14.8 million viewers, 5 million adults 18-49 and 5.6 million adults 25-54. ... Leading into the premiere History.com had its best day ever ... and 'The Bible’ trended as No. 1 on Twitter.”

Following the two-hour premiere of “The Bible” came the series debut of “Vikings” at 10 p.m. (ET). Said another History press release: “‘Vikings’ conquered 6.2 million total viewers in its 10 p.m. premiere timeslot, 2.7 million adults 25-54 and 2.5 million adults 18-49. … At 10 p.m., ‘Vikings’ topped all broadcast networks among adults 18-49.”

The press release added, “Over two telecasts on premiere night, Sunday, March 3, 'Vikings' delivered 8.3 million total viewers, 3.4 million adults 18-49 and 3.8 million adults 25-54.”

The “Vikings” premiere ratings give History bragging rights as having the No. 1 new series cable launch so far in 2013, and “The Bible’s” huge ratings make it the No. 1 “cable entertainment” telecast thus far in 2013.

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Sunday Broadcast Ratings: Plenty of Pain to Go Around

A season of dismal ratings for the broadcast networks continued Sunday with a feeble debut for an ABC drama series and a series low for an ABC series that had been doing reasonably well.

Based on Nielsen overnights, TVbytheNumbers.com reports that Fox and CBS tied for No. 1 for the night in the key 18-49 demo with modest 1.8 average ratings for prime time.

Third-place ABC got bad news with the two-hour series premiere of “Red Widow,” which managed only a1.4 in viewers 18-49 -- 36% below the 2.2 delivered by the “GCB” series premiere a year ago and 33% off from a 2.1 for “666 Park Avenue’s” series premiere back in September. ABC also saw its “Once Upon a Time” slip to a series low with a 2.1, losing 13% from its previous original episode.

Fox went to battle with a mix of originals and repeat programs, with the best results coming from a fresh episode of “The Simpsons” (2.3 average in 18-49) and a new installment of “The Cleveland Show” (1.9). Another episode of “Cleveland” came through with a 1.5, and “Bob’s Burgers” pulled in a 1.7.

CBS was paced by “The Amazing Race” with a 2.4 in the 18-49 demo, improving 26% from last week -- when the show ran against the Oscars. “The Good Wife” climbed 23% from its previous original to a 1.6, while “The Mentalist” slipped 6% to a 1.5.

The best performer for fourth-place NBC was the two-hour season premiere of “Celebrity Apprentice,” but all it could muster was a 1.6 average in 18-49 -- “Celebrity Apprentice’s” lowest-ever season premiere, and a decline of 38% from the 2.6 the series delivered for its season premiere a year ago.

For the night, Fox and CBS led the 18-49 demo with 1.8 averages, followed by ABC (1.6 average) and NBC (1.3). Fox fell to the bottom of the bunch in total viewers, with CBS’s 9.8 million leading the way, followed by ABC (6.9 million), NBC (4.9 million) and Fox (3.8 million).

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Hit CBS Sitcom Accused of Racism

A popular CBS comedy series is under fire for a joke that aired during an episode of the show, with one group demanding an apology from the network. TMZ.com reports that the Navajo Nation was enraged by the joke on the sitcom “Mike & Molly.”

In the episode, Mike’s mother, described in the report as “an Archie Bunker type,” says: “You ever been to Arizona? It’s just a furnace full of drunk Indians.” Some critics apparently feel the joke is racist.

“The joke isn't sitting well in the Native American community,” the story reports. “A rep for the Navajo Nation tells TMZ, ‘For a show like this displaying us in a negative light is just unacceptable; they are taking a shot at the entire state of Arizona and its indigenous people.’"

The contact added: "An apology would be the right thing to do, but some damage done can't be fixed in an apology."

CBS had not returned calls at the time of the report.

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Fox Announces Renewals for Four Series

The Fox Network announced four series renewals today, with the theme being “girls and gore,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

The network is bringing back the drama series "The Following" along with the comedies "New Girl," "The Mindy Project" and "Raising Hope,” the story reports.

"’The Following,’ which stars Kevin Bacon as a former FBI agent tasked with stopping a serial killer's cult, is coming back for a second 15-episode season,” the Times reports. “The series, created by Kevin Williamson and Maros Siega, is a ratings hit for the network, and has gotten an even bigger boost from DVR viewers, making it the No. 3 drama overall for the season.”

The three renewed sitcoms are all part of Fox’s Tuesday comedy block.

"’New Girl,’ which will be heading into its third season, is Fox's highest-rated comedy series and also gets a sizable ratings boost from DVR viewers,” the story reports. “While never a breakout ratings success, ‘Raising Hope’ has been steady enough through three seasons that it will return for a fourth.”

The report adds: “The one new comedy, ‘The Mindy Project,’ saw its ratings rise when another Tuesday [series] -- ‘Ben and Kate’ -- was yanked from the schedule, making it strong enough to return for a second season.”

Fox continues to negotiate for a fifth season of “Glee,” the report adds.

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TV Drama Veteran Joins New CBS Detective Project

A TV veteran known for a CBS drama series has joined a new detective project for the network. Entertainment Weekly reports that Dennis Haysbert of “The Unit” is on board for the CBS drama pilot “Backstrom.”

“From Hart Hanson (‘Bones’), ‘Backstrom’ is based on the Swedish book series about an overweight, offensive, and irascible detective who tries to change his self-destructive behavior,” the story reports. “Haysbert has been cast as Det. John Almond, one of the law dogs working with Backstrom.”

Haysbert also played the president in Fox’s “24” and has appeared in a number of feature films including the “Major League” trilogy. He currently has a high-profile role in commercials for Allstate Insurance.

dennis-haysbert.jpg

Dennis Haysbert

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Syndicated Daytime Show Lands Cable Deal

A syndicated weekday show that currently airs in more than 160 markets, reaching more than 80% of U.S, television homes, is expanding to cable. B&C reports that “The Better Show” will begin airing on Hallmark Channel this fall.

The show is produced by Meredith Video Studios.

“Starting in September, ‘The Better Show’ will air every weekday on the Hallmark Channel during its daytime programming block, which also includes ‘Home & Family’ and ‘Marie,’” the story reports. “Each episode will air on the Hallmark Channel a day after it airs in broadcasting syndication. This agreement with Hallmark marks the first cable network distribution agreement for Meredith Video Studios.”

Said Kieran Clarke, executive VP of Meredith Video Studios: "This national cable agreement is yet another indicator that ‘The Better Show’ is one of the major television syndication success stories of the last decade. In addition to providing useful, interesting and exciting content to viewers, this collaboration offers expanded value to advertisers and product integration partners via the significant national exposure the Hallmark Channel will bring.”

Clarke noted that the show recently aired its 1,200th episode.

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'Bethenny' Names Executive Producers, Including 'Anderson' Alum

Bethenny Frankel’s new talk show, set to launch nationwide this fall after tryouts on Fox stations last summer, has named its executive producers. Deadline.com reports that “Anderson Live” EP Terence Noonan and MSNBC founding producer Meghan Schaefer Spielberg have been tapped as EPs along with Frankel and Ellen DeGeneres.

DeGeneres’ company A Very Good Production co-produces the show with Telepictures. “Anderson Live” is ending its run after two seasons.

“Additionally, Mary Connelly, Ed Glavin and Andy Lassner, executive producers of ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show,’ also produced by Telepictures and A Very Good Production, will serve as consulting executive producers of ‘Bethenny,’ after having served as executive producers of the six-week test last year,” the report adds.

The piece notes: “Noonan is also the creator and executive producer of ‘DC Cupcakes’ and ‘A Slice of Brooklyn’ and was a supervising producer on ‘The Dr. Oz Show.’ Schaefer Spielberg most recently served as the senior executive producer of MSNBC’s daytime programming.”

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ABC Cancels Drama Series

ABC pulled the plug on a drama series that has struggled to find an audience. Deadline.com reports that the network canceled the Anthony Edwards series "Zero Hour" after three low-rated episodes.

The network instead will air repeats of "Shark Tank" in the Thursday at 8 p.m. time slot for the next two weeks, followed by episodes of "Wife Swap."

The show was the first series for Edwards after "ER," but debuted to a lackluster 1.3 rating in adults 18 to 49, the story says. It slid in consecutive airings, and marks the latest high-profile drama from ABC to fail to take root in the Thursday 8 p.m. time period.

Other failed dramas in that time slot include "FlashForward," "Charlie's Angels" and "Last Resort," the story notes.

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Leno Reportedly on the Way Out at 'Tonight Show' -- and His Replacement Is Ready to Take Over

NBC reportedly is planning to make an announcement that late-night fixture Jay Leno will exit "The Tonight Show" after the 2013-14 season, with Jimmy Fallon set to replace him, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The announcement is expected in May, the story reports.

Fallon will move into the 11:35 p.m. time slot with a "soft launch" during the summer of 2014, before kicking off formally in the fall, the piece reports.

A representative for Leno said, "We do not speculate on rumor."

The story adds: "Whether the network finally executes the 'Tonight' transition plan remains to be seen. Anyone with even a passing sense of Leno’s personality knows that the hardworking comic would be reluctant to leave his perch, especially before his rival at CBS, David Letterman, announces his retirement. Leno and Letterman are both signed through 2014."

NBC executives, however, have other issues on their minds: They're concerned about competition from ABC, which has shifted Jimmy Kimmel into the 11:35 p.m. time slot, helping that network draw younger audiences.

While "Tonight" with Leno performs well for NBC, Kimmel is competitive among viewers 18-49, the story adds.

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Ann Romney Reveals Who She Blames for Her Husband's Election Loss

Ann Romney gave her explanation Sunday for why her husband, former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, lost the election, TVNewser.com reports. The revelation came during an appearance by the couple on "Fox News Sunday."

"It was not just the campaign’s fault," she said. “I believe it was the media’s fault as well, in that he was not given -- being given -- a fair shake, that people weren’t allowed to really see him for who he was.”

She added, “I’m happy to blame the media."

Ann Romney also noted that she was asked to appear on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars,' but although she said she loves the show, she turned it down. "I would have loved to have done it, but I am turning 64, and I am not really as flexible as I should be," she said, according to the story.

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Canceled Show Gets a Reprieve as Network Reverses Decision

A drama series that was canceled back in January got a reprieve when the channel reversed its decision. B&C reports that Lifetime changed its mind and will keep “Drop Dead Diva” going.

As previously reported, the network canceled the program despite solid ratings to make room for other projects.

"Drop Dead Diva," which will now return for a fifth season, stars Brooke Elliott as an aspiring model whose soul gets trapped in the body of a brilliant, plus-sized attorney. The show's fourth season averaged 2.3 million viewers, with its finale drawing a season-high 2.76 million viewers, B&C notes.

The Lifetime program is the second cable program to recently get a reprieve from cancellation, with AMC ordering a third season of "The Killing" earlier this year after canceling the series.

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CNN's Zucker Sets Sights on NBC Anchor for Morning Slot

CNN chief Jeff Zucker reportedly has an NBC anchor in his sights for a spot alongside Chris Cuomo on CNN’s new morning program, according to the New York Post's Page Six. That NBC anchor is Tamron Hall.

Zucker is considering his options because,reportedly, Erin Burnett isn't giving up her CNN prime-time show and won't move to the morning without a sizable salary increase that CNN doesn't want to pay.

As previously reported, Zucker brought Cuomo aboard from ABC News earlier this year.

Hall anchors MSNBC's "NewsNation" and also fills in as a substitute host on "Today" and "Weekend Today," according to her biography at NBC News.

Zucker is reportedly also considering CNN afternoon anchors Suzanne Malveaux and Brooke Baldwin for the morning role.

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Tamron Hall

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'Saturday Night Live' Fixture Misses Show After Injury

A fixture on NBC's "Saturday Night Live" missed Saturday's show because he recently suffered a broken hip, reports TMZ.com. Announcer Don Pardo is reportedly recovering and doing well.

Pardo has provided the voiceover for the show's opening since “SNL” debuted in 1975, and has only missed one season, the piece notes. On Saturday the cast was announced by a replacement using an approximation of Pardo’s voice, but the difference was noticeable, the report notes.

Earlier in his career Pardo was the announcer for "The Price Is Right," "Jeopardy!" and other shows.

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'Downton Abbey' Actress -- Calling Her Character a 'Thoroughly Despicable Human Being' -- Says She's Leaving the Show

The period drama “Downton Abbey” is losing a character viewers love to hate. The U.K.’s Mirror reports that actress Siobhan Finneran, better known as the scheming maid O'Brien, told the publication she won't be back.

“I’m not doing any more. O’Brien is a thoroughly despicable human being -- that was great to play," Finneran said, according to the report.

An announcement from PBS about several new actors didn't mention Finneran or whether she would return, The New York Times adds. Other new actors include Tom Cullen, who will play Lord Gillingham, and soprano Kiri Te Kanawa, who will appear as a guest who "sings in the house," according to the network's statement.

Actress Shirley MacLaine will return to the fourth season of "Downton Abbey," reprising her role as Martha Levinson, the outspoken mother of Cora, Countess of Grantham, The Times' ArtsBeat reports.

The network didn't disclose a premiere date for the fourth season.

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Siobhan Finneran

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Report: Olbermann Wants to Return to His Old Network

Keith Olbermann is reportedly looking to return to his roots, with the veteran TV host and his representatives expressing interest in rejoining ESPN, reports The New York Times.

The overtures come as Olbermann gave a deposition Friday in a reported $70 million lawsuit he filed against Current TV, his most recent employer, the story notes.

Olbermann was also controversial at ESPN, where he worked from 1992 to 1997, the piece notes.

According to the report, "Some at ESPN were glad to see him go; he was considered the network’s most controversial personality. Olbermann’s encyclopedic knowledge of sports was not disputed, nor were his writing skills or on-air talent. But over time, he managed to alienate a sizable group in the company, who found him exasperating to work with."

John Skipper, ESPN's president, said he had dinner at New York's Four Seasons Restaurant with Olbermann and told The Times, "Clearly he was looking to see if there was an entry point to come back.”

Dan Patrick, who worked with Olbermann on "SportsCenter," told the newspaper that he wouldn't be surprised if his former co-host returns to ESPN. Patrick now hosts NBC's "Football Night in America."

"What I can say is that if he does return, I won’t be back there with him doing ‘SportsCenter,’ I can promise you that," Patrick said.

Skipper said that a return for Olbermann wasn't imminent, the story adds.

"After the dinner, at that point, there was no real appropriate place for Keith to come back, nor did I feel like I was prepared to bring him back,” Skipper said, according to the article.

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'PBS NewsHour' May Add Weekend Broadcasts

"PBS NewsHour" may add weekend broadcasts, producing the segments in New York instead of in the show's studios in Arlington, Va., reports Elizabeth Jensen in The New York Times.

The plan would add a weekend news show to PBS, which has been criticized for lacking such a program, the story notes.

Citing show employees who are familiar with the plans but are not authorized to speak publicly, Jensen writes: "The proposed expansion, which is not expected to be decided on before the end of March, is being considered at a crucial time for the show. Although costs could be cut or new money found, MacNeil-Lehrer Productions, the producer of the weekday show, is facing a shortfall of as much as $7 million this fiscal year from what had been a planned $28 million budget.”

PBS would provide $3 million to help produce the weekend programs, but that money wouldn't go to MacNeil-Lehrer Productions, the story notes. Instead, the money would go to WNET-TV, the New York public television company.

WNET-TV would take on the weekend show just as its public affairs program "Need to Know" is facing cancellation in June when its PBS contract ends, the story adds. Funds from that show would go toward creating the weekend "NewsHour" program, the piece says.

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New NBC Comedy Casts Female Lead

A comedy project in the works at NBC has cast an actress from a USA drama series as its female lead. The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed reports that Mary McCormack, who starred in USA's "In Plain Sight" for five seasons, will co-star in the comedy pilot "Welcome to the Family."

The project is about a white family and a Latino family who are joined when two of their children fall in love and have an unplanned pregnancy, the story says.

McCormack, whose credits also include “Murder One” and “The West Wing,” will play Katrina Yoder, the wife of Mike O'Malley's Dan, who tries to understand her teenage daughter, Molly, the story says.

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Mary McCormack

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Disney, News Corp. in Talks Over Hulu: Differences Over the Streaming Service's Direction Could Be Resolved by One Owner Buying Out the Other

Walt Disney Co. and News Corp. have been discussing the future ownership of online video site Hulu, with the possibility of one buying the other out, reports The Wall Street Journal. (Please note that the WSJ is a subscription site, and not all readers may be able to access the story.)

The companies, which each own about a third of Hulu, may also sell to an outsider, the story says. Most of the remaining one-third is owned by Comcast, but regulatory requirements prevent it from voting its stake, the piece reports.

The story cites sources saying the talks are fluid, and adds: “Hulu's partners put the site on the market in 2011 and decided later not to sell. One of the [sources] cautioned that the companies could decide again to hold on to their interests in Hulu."

The report notes: "For some time, Disney and News Corp. have been at loggerheads over the direction they want Hulu to go. As previously reported, News Corp., parent of the Fox broadcast network and The Wall Street Journal, wants Hulu to focus on its subscription service whereas Disney, which owns the ABC network, prefers the free ad-supported business model."

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Is the Pot Calling the Kettle Black? Why Lindsay Lohan Wants Charlie Sheen to Back Off

Lindsay Lohan is reportedly telling Charlie Sheen to back off. TMZ.com reports that the actress has rejected an offer from Sheen to mentor her.

While Lohan is said to appreciate everything that Sheen has done for her, she reportedly wouldn't take him on as a mentor because of his own problems, the story says.

Sheen gave Lohan $100,000 to help pay back taxes, and Lohan has been slated to guest star on Sheen's show "Anger Management," as previously reported.

“She's saying she knows her life is ‘out of control,’ but doesn't think the precept, ‘It takes one to know one,’ is the way to go,” the piece reports.

Sheen previously told TMZ he thinks Lohan needs a mentor and “he believes he's the man for the job,” the website reports.

The piece adds: “Lindsay says she talks to Charlie from time to time ... but gripes he has no business talking about her to the media.”

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Famed Director Hopes This Project Won't Be His Waterloo: Spielberg Turning Screenplay From the Late Stanley Kubrick Into TV Miniseries About Napoleon

"'I've been developing Stanley Kubrick's screenplay -- for a miniseries, not for a motion picture -- about the life of Napoleon. Kubrick wrote the script in 1961, a long time ago,' Steven Spielberg told French network Canal+," reports movie site IndieWire.com.

The article continues, "As devotees of Kubrick know, this is probably the granddaddy of all of the helmer's unrealized projects. 'Napoleon' was massively researched, with literally tens of thousands of location photos, slides of imagery and endless notes and details about the historic leader that filled up boxes upon boxes upon boxes in Kubrick's archives (so much, in fact, that it formed the foundation of a rather amazing book on the subject). But the movie was never to be. MGM and United Artists both balked at producing the movie, which would have required thousands of extras and more, saying it was too risky in the wake of expensive endeavors like 1968's 'War And Peace' and 1970's 'Waterloo' that struggled to make their money back. Kubrick would eventually tackle 'Barry Lyndon,' which takes place 15 years before the Napoleonic wars, but he still longed to make the movie."

The story adds, "And of course, this isn't the first time Spielberg has taken a Kubrick project across the finish line. 2001's 'A.I.' first started as a Kubrick project as far back as the 1970s, and he developed it slowly right up to the early '90s, when he then presented it to Spielberg, thinking his sensibilities would be better suited for it. Spielberg declined, but decided to tackle it after the filmmaker's passing."

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Report: Heidi Klum Will Be Judge of Major Reality Talent Show

It looks like Heidi Klum will become a judge on a major reality talent show.

According to TMZ's website, "TMZ has learned Heidi Klum has just signed on to be a fourth judge on the reality TV show 'America's Got Talent' ... which begins taping tomorrow."

The article continues, "Sources close to NBC tell TMZ that 'America's Got Talent' scored the smokin' hot model in a last minute negotiation and Heidi hopped on a plane to New Orleans today ... where the show is holding its first audition rounds.

Klum would be joining judges Howard Stern and Howie Mandel on the show. Sharon Osbourne had been the show's third judge, but she decided to leave the show. Producers said that she will be replaced by Melanie Brown, better known as Mel B., or Scary Spice of the singing group the Spice Girls.

With the addition of Klum, "America's Got Talent" will have four judges.

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Heidi Klum

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'GMA' Veteran to Oversee CNN's New Morning Lineup

CNN has named an executive producer to oversee its revamped morning lineup. Former “Good Morning America” senior executive producer Jim Murphy will EP the morning block, including the still-unnamed morning show to be co-hosted by Chris Cuomo, TVNewser reports.

Jeff Zucker, president of CNN worldwide, made the announcement Thursday.

The story reports: “Murphy is a morning veteran, having served as the senior executive producer of ‘Good Morning America’ from 2006-2011, and EP of the ‘CBS Evening News’ before that. Most recently he served as executive producer of Anderson Cooper’s syndicated show ‘Anderson,’ though he left the program partway through the first season.”

Murphy was also a producer on “48 Hours” and on “CBS This Morning” in the early 1990s, the piece notes.

“Cuomo’s co-anchor on the morning show is still undetermined,” the story reports. “The early rumors favored Erin Burnett, and indeed TVNewser hears that CNN and Burnett were in talks as recently as last week about moving from the evening to the morning. [On Wednesday] however that was put in doubt in a report from FTVLive. Regardless, both Burnett and Cuomo were co-anchoring live special coverage of the Pope’s departure [Thursday] morning.”

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FX's 'Sons of Anarchy' Secures Key Players for Next Season

FX has been locking in deals with key cast members for the upcoming sixth season of its drama series “Sons of Anarchy.” Zap2It reports that the latest to sign is Jimmy Smits, who plays Nero Padilla on the show.

“A day after it was (re)confirmed that Donal Logue is returning to the FX series for Season 6 comes news that Jimmy Smits has signed on as well,” the story reports. “He'll appear in all 13 episodes of the coming season as Nero, a gang member-turned-brothel owner and businessman who became entwined with SAMCRO, especially Gemma (Katey Sagal) and Jax (Charlie Hunnam), last season.”

Show creator Kurt Sutter said after the finale to season five: "Jimmy adds such a gravitas to the show. I love bringing that new culture into the show, his sort of Latino past and that energy. ... I would love to bring Jimmy back. We left it sort of open-ended because I wasn't sure of his availability. I feel like there's enough emotional weight on the table ... for us to continue that story line, yet I was careful not to pin any major story arc to his character just in case that couldn't happen."

Plans for season six are far from firmed up, but it is expected to begin production in summer for a fall premiere.

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Jimmy Smits

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Report: Matt Lauer's 'Today' Spot 'Up for Discussion' as Ratings Dive

A fixture on NBC’s morning “Today” show, Matt Lauer has been the focus of attention as NBC contemplates how to pump life into the show, and the New York Daily News reports that “replacing Matt Lauer is now seriously on the table.”

The report quotes a former NBC executive saying of “Today”: “They are rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. They can shift things around, but it’s not helping. Their short-term solution is looking for new experts to replace some of the familiar faces that have been on the show forever. What they also need to do is hire someone to shake up everything and have the discussion about what to do with Matt.”

Examining the morning ratings for the No. 1-ranked New York market area, the report notes: “’Today,’ which had held the top spot in mornings for the past 16 years, is now behind both ‘Good Morning America’ and Fox 5’s morning show ‘Good Day New York,’ losing to both in the February sweeps. ‘GMA’ pummeled ‘Today’ for the third week in a row, while ‘GDNY’ won the coveted 25-54 age group.”

The source is cited as saying network owner Comcast is “aggressively” searching for a new executive producer for “Today.” The source adds: “They are having a lot of trouble finding anyone until the network makes the one change that needs to be made – replacing Matt Lauer.”

“But another source says the show will not be hiring another EP, but has hired a senior broadcast producer to fill the spot of recently promoted Don Nash,” the report adds. “That new staffer will start in a few months.”

The piece notes: “Morale at ‘Today’ is also at an all-time low, and staffers are fear-stricken over losing their jobs after what happened to departed co-anchor Ann Curry, former executive producer Jim Bell and NBC News president Steve Capus, who resigned in February.”

Adds the source: “On top of everything, Matt took a vacation during sweeps. It doesn’t seem to matter if he’s around or not.”

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Broadcast Nets Take a Breather, Put Up Mostly Repeats ... and Fox Rolls

Fox didn’t have much competition in broadcast prime time Thursday night, with its rival networks dusting off plenty of repeat programming. With its two-hour “American Idol” running virtually unopposed, Fox coasted to a comfortable win for the night, based on Nielsen overnights.

TVbytheNumbers.com reports that “Idol” delivered a preliminary 3.8 average rating in the key 18-49 demo -- continuing its pattern of erosion, but only a little. The show was down one-tenth of a point from last Thursday’s installment.

CBS’s all-repeat lineup came in second, easily beating mixes of repeat and fresh programs on ABC and NBC. Spanish-language Univision continued its competitive streak against English-language broadcasters with a third-place finish overall.

For the night, Fox led the way with a 3.8 average in viewers 18-49, followed by CBS (2.0 average), Univision (1.6), ABC (0.9) and NBC (0.9). Fox also led total viewers with 12.5 million to CBS’s 8.9 million, Univision’s 3.9 million, ABC’s 3.7 million and NBC’s 2.8 million.

ABC’s only non-repeat in prime was “Zero Hour,” which dipped one-tenth from last week to a 1.0 in 18-49.

NBC sprinkled its reruns with fresh episodes of “Community” (1.1 average in 18-49, tying last week’s series low) and “1600 Penn” (down one-tenth to a series-low 0.9).

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Four-Time Emmy Winner Joins 'Sex'

A four-time Emmy-winning actress has joined a high-profile upcoming drama series on Showtime, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Allison Janney, who won four Emmys playing C.J. Cregg on NBC’s “The West Wing,” will be a part of the series “Masters of Sex.”

The series stars Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan. Janney will appear in a five-episode arc, the story notes.

“’Masters of Sex’ centers on the real-life pioneers of the science of human sexuality, William Masters (Sheen) and Virginia Johnson (Caplan),” the piece reports. “The hourlong drama chronicles the unusual lives, romance and pop culture trajectory of Masters and Johnson, whose research touched off the sexual revolution and took them from a Midwestern teaching hospital in St. Louis to the cover of Time.”

Janney’s character is Margaret Scully, who’s married to university provost Barton Scully, played by Beau Bridges.

“Caitlin Fitzgerald co-stars as Masters' wife, along with Nicholas D'Agosto and Teddy Sears. Margo Martindale also will appear,” the report adds. Production has begun in Los Angeles on season one.

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Allison Janney

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USA Drama Series Rises in All Key Demos for Season Seven Premiere

A drama series that has been a mainstay for USA Network saw its numbers climb in all key demos for its season seven premiere, Deadline.com reports.

The "Psych" premiere Wednesday drew 2.9 million viewers and was up in all key demos when compared with its sixth season opener, the story notes. Viewership was up 20% over the sixth season premiere, the piece adds.

This is likely the next-to-last season for "Psych," which is about a fake psychic and his best friend who work for the Santa Barbara Police Department, the report notes. The show was renewed for an eight-episode eighth season in December.

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Bonnie Franklin, 'One Day at a Time' Star, Dead at 69

Actress Bonnie Franklin, fondly remembered as the mom on “One Day at a Time,” has died. Franklin, 69, died today of complications from pancreatic cancer, The Huffington Post reports.

Franklin’s family announced in September that the actress had been diagnosed with the disease.

“Though she already had stage and TV credits, ‘One Day at a Time’ made her a star with its premiere in 1975,” the story reports. “She played a divorced single mother raising two teenage girls, co-stars Valerie Bertinelli and Mackenzie Phillips.”

Franklin received two Golden Globe nominations and an Emmy nomination for her work on the series, but did not win either trophy.

“The series ran on CBS for nine seasons, spending most of them as a Top 20 hit,” the report adds.

The story also notes: “Franklin's recent credits include appearances on ‘The Young and the Restless’ and the TV Land comedy ‘Hot in Cleveland,’ which reunited her with Bertinelli, one of that show's regulars.”

Thumbnail image for bonnie-franklin.jpgBonnie Franklin

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CW Cancels Teen-Focused Drama Series

The CW has canceled a series that is part of an iconic teen drama franchise going back to the 1990s. The Los Angeles Times' Show Tracker reports that the network pulled the plug on "90210" after five seasons.

The show was a reboot of the original "Beverly Hills, 90210," which aired on Fox from 1990 to 2000.

The reboot saw its ratings drop significantly after debuting in 2008 with 4.6 million viewers. Now the show is drawing only about 500,000 viewers, the piece notes. The series will air its remaining seven episodes and will broadcast its finale on May 13.

Said network President Mark Pedowitz: “The CW has had five great seasons with America’s favorite zip code, 90210. I’d like to thank the talented cast, producers, and crew for all their hard work and dedication to the series. We are very proud of the West Beverly High alumni."

Other shows that have shared characters and a timeline with the original Fox series include "Melrose Place" and "Models Inc."

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MTV Names Recipient of Its First-Ever Comedic Genius Award -- The Wildly Popular Honoree Has Never Won an Emmy, Golden Globe or Oscar But Is a Box Office Powerhouse

MTV has named the recipient of its first-ever Comedic Genius Award, with the honor going to an actor who hasn't won an Oscar, Emmy or Golden Globe -- but whose movies have brought in more than $1 billion in box office receipts.

The recipient is “Saturday Night Live” alum Will Ferrell, who will receive the award on the MTV Movie Awards on April 14, reports the Los Angeles Times' Show Tracker.

"Over the course of his extraordinary, 17-plus-year career, he has entertained audiences across the globe with an impressive array of laugh-out-loud performances on air, online and in films. Simply put, Will Ferrell is 'kind of a big deal,'" said MTV President Stephen Friedman in a statement.

Ferrell's lifetime gross total at the box office is $1.5 billion, according to Box Office Mojo. His wildly successful films have included “Anchorman,” “Elf,” “Old School,” “Talladega Nights,” “Blades of Glory” and many others.

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Will Ferrell

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Joan Rivers Defiant After Holocaust Joke Sparks Outcry

After receiving criticism from Jewish leaders over a Holocaust joke she made earlier this week on her E! show “Fashion Police,” Joan Rivers is refusing to apologize.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Rivers, 79, was commenting Monday on German-born supermodel Heidi Klum’s appearance on Oscar night in a tight gold dress when the comedian said: "The last time a German looked this hot was when they were pushing Jews into the ovens."

“Rivers doubled over laughing while her fellow E! journos looked uncomfortably at her,” the story reports. “The Anti-Defamation League has asked Rivers to issue a formal apology, calling her remark ‘vulgar and offensive to Jews and Holocaust survivors, and indeed to all Americans.’"

Rivers, who has been defending her edgy comedic approach throughout her career, responded by saying: "My husband lost the majority of his family at Auschwitz, and I can assure you that I have always made it a point to remind people of the Holocaust through humor.”

She was referring to her second husband, Edgar Rosenberg, who committed suicide in 1987, the report notes.

E! had not yet commented on the incident.

 

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'Girls' Gone Under: Empire Built on Young Women Revealing Their Breasts Files for Bankruptcy

A video empire built on the idea that people will pay to see college women and other young women bare their breasts has filed for bankruptcy. The New York Post reports that “Girls Gone Wild” founder Joe Francis put his company into bankruptcy, as the firm struggles with $16 million in debt, most of it owed to casino owner Steve Wynn.

Wynn claims Francis owes him closer to $30 million, including $2 million for unpaid gambling debts and $7.5 million in defamation damages, the story notes. The defamation awards, won via the courts, weren’t listed in the company's Chapter 11 filing, the story notes.

Francis, 39, built his video empire by convincing young women to flash for the cameras. The company now has less than $50,000 in assets, according to the bankruptcy filing.

A spokesman for Wynn Las Vegas said the defamation judgments are for Francis personally, and the company will still make efforts to collect, the story adds.

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Fox Rolls Out Season Finale Dates, Schedule for Summer Premieres

Fox has set its summer schedule, including plans to air the two-night finale of "American Idol" a week before the end of the broadcast season to allow some summer shows to bow early, reports B&C.

The new reality workplace program "Does Someone Have to Go" will air a preview May 15 at 9 p.m., after the first part of the "Idol" finale, the story notes. The series will then make its time period debut the following week, airing Thursday, May 23, at 8 p.m.

"So You Think You Can Dance" will debut its 10th season May 14 at 8 p.m., while "MasterChef" will air its fourth-season premiere May 22 at 8 p.m. "Hell's Kitchen" will debut new episodes May 6 and May 8 before moving to its regular time period of Thursdays at 9 p.m. starting May 23, the piece adds.

The network announced earlier this week that the comedy series “The Goodwin Games” will debut Monday, May 20, at 8:30 p.m. and will be paired with reruns of “Raising Hope,” “New Girl” and “The Mindy Project.”

The story adds: “Fox also announced season finale dates for its current series: ‘Kitchen Nightmares’ (April 5), ‘Touch’ (April 26), ‘Bones’ and ‘The Following’ (April 29), ‘Cops’ (May 4), ‘New Girl’ and ‘The Mindy Project’ (May 7), ‘Glee’ (May 9), ‘Bob's Burgers’ and ‘American Dad’ (May 12), and ‘The Simpsons’ and ‘Family Guy’ (May 19).”

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That's How the Cookie Crumbles: Honey Boo Boo in a Fight With the Girl Scouts

TLC reality star Honey Boo Boo is in a dispute with the Girl Scouts of the USA, which is trying to stop her from selling Girl Scout cookies, reports TMZ.com.

The problem is that Honey Boo Boo, whose real name is Alana Thompson, isn't a Girl Scout. But she agreed to help a friend of hers sell cookies by placing a banner ad on her Facebook page, soliciting sales from her 700,000 fans, the story adds.

The Girl Scouts say it isn't fair to other Scouts trying to sell cookies, and Honey Boo Boo reportedly removed the banner.

Thompson's mother, June, said they are doing nothing wrong and indicated she plans to continue selling. "If I can raise more money for a troop, whoever they are, especially in an area where they don’t get a lot of money, and parents can’t afford to buy a ton of cookies, why wouldn't I help?" she said, according to the story.

The piece reported early Thursday that orders were pouring in, with 400 boxes of cookies already sold.

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Simon Cowell Creates Another Talent Competition

Simon Cowell, who has been behind such iconic talent competitions as “American Idol” and “The X Factor,” is creating yet another talent competition.

The U.K.'s Independent reports that Cowell’s production company Syco is working with YouTube on the show, “The You Generation,” which is Internet-based.

The contest launches this month and will allow people to make video auditions via YouTube. The contest will last for at least a year, and will award prizes for different skills -- perhaps talents as wide-ranging as TV presenting, singing and cooking -- every two weeks, the piece notes.

The competition is open to 26 territories and countries, including the U.S., Russia, the U.K. and much of southeast Asia, the story reports. An overall winner will be announced after the first 52 weeks.

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Fox News, in 'Somewhat of a Departure,' Adds Show Built Around Former Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model

Fox News is adding a new lifestyle show starring a former Sports Illustrated swimsuit model. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the new weekend show stars Carol Alt.

In what's described in the story as "somewhat of a departure" for the network, the supermodel will focus on beauty and healthy living advice, rather than politics.

Alt has appeared on about 700 magazine covers, and has had a modest movie career -- including starring in the 2004 Canadian feature “Snakehead Terror” -- along with some minor TV appearances such as a guest spot on "Wings." More recently she finished third on “Celebrity Apprentice.”

The Fox News show will debut in the summer.

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NBC's 'Hatfields & McCoys' Casts Actress Who Wowed Audiences in 'Risky Business'

An actress whose breakthrough role in the 1983 movie “Risky Business” made a lasting impact has joined NBC's "Hatfields & McCoys" project. EW.com's Inside TV reports that Rebecca De Mornay will play Mary Hatfield.

De Mornay, also known for movies including "The Hand that Rocks the Cradle," “Backdraft” and the TV adaptation of “The Shining,” played a call girl who seduces high school student Tom Cruise in “Risky Business.” She joins NBC’s modern update on the legendary family feud.

The logline says, “Set in present-day Pittsburgh, a startling death reignites the feud between these two legendary families. Unleashing decades of resentment, the blue collar McCoys will put the Hatfields’ wealth and power at risk as they go to war for control of the city.”

Other cast members include Virginia Madsen, who will play Eloise McCoy, and Jesse Lee Soffer, who plays Patrick McCoy. The project comes after History drew 14 million viewers last May for its miniseries of the same name.

Rebecca-De-Mornay.jpgRebecca De Mornay

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Team Behind Hit 1990s Sitcom Sues Disney -- Case Follows a Landmark 'Vertical Integration' Lawsuit Over the Same Show

The creative team behind a successful 1990s comedy series has sued Walt Disney Co. for allegedly failing to properly exploit the show, The Hollywood Reporter's Hollywood, Esq. reports.

The lawsuit over “Home Improvement” was filed by the Wind Dancer Production Group, which includes writer-producers Matt Williams, Carmen Finestra, Tam O'Shanter and David McFadzean, the story notes.

They claim that Disney sold "Home Improvement" into syndication "for no monetary consideration" and neglected to consult with them about how the show should be exploited, the story says. They also claim Disney failed to pay a fair share of profits, which has been estimated at $1.5 billion for Disney. The group is asking for 75% of net profits, which the story says is unusually high.

The lawsuit marks the second time the group has sued Disney, the piece notes. The first lawsuit was in the mid-1990s, when the group filed what was one of the first "vertical integration" lawsuits, which the article says sought "millions in revenue that the show generated from being exploited by Disney-affiliated companies in ways that underreported money owed to profit participants."

The story notes, "That case settled and helped change the ways that studios and networks deal with each other and with the talent that profit from successful shows."

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Two Legendary TV Comics to Reunite on 'Hot in Cleveland'

Two icons of television comedy will be reunited on an episode of TV Land's "Hot in Cleveland." Deadline.com reports that the production will bring together Carol Burnett and her "Carol Burnett Show" co-star Tim Conway.

The episode, which will air in August, will have Conway reprise his role as Elka's (Betty White) ex Nick, the story says. Nick, however, has his heart set on Penny, played by Burnett, who is a local children's television show legend, the story notes.

Burnett’s character is also the mother of Victoria (Wendy Malick), the piece adds.

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Carol Burnett and Tim Conway

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Dish Scores Partial Legal Victory Over ESPN, Will Receive a Fraction of the $153 Million Sought in Dispute

Dish Network has scored a partial victory in court, winning one out of four claims it brought against Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN over the terms of a sports programming contract, reports Bloomberg.

A jury awarded Dish $4.85 million, only a fraction of the $153 million it had sought, the story notes.

The piece reports: "Satellite service Dish, the third-largest pay-television provider, sued ESPN in 2009 for violating a so-called most-favored-nation clause in their distribution agreement, which it said requires the sports network to offer Dish the same terms it offers a competitor. The 10-person jury in Manhattan federal court reached the verdict yesterday in its second day of deliberations."

Dish claimed that ESPN offered lower terms to distributors such as Comcast and DirecTV, but the jury found that ESPN breached the contract only in one claim, involving the Spanish-language ESPN Deportes, the story says.

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'Today' Weekend Anchor Comes out as Gay -- and Pregnant

TVBizwire | March 28, 2013

FX to Launch New Channel, Sending Some of Its Top Programs to a New Home