December 2013

The Best-Performing Stocks in the U.S. This Year: The Top Three Are Tesla, Best Buy and This Distributor-Provider of TV Shows and Movies

According to the Wall Street Journal, the best performing stock in the U.S. in 2013 was Tesla, the electric-car manufacturer, up 346%.

No. 3 was retailer Best Buy, up 239%.

And taking the silver trophy was Netflix, up 296%.

In the No. 4 and No. 5 positions, respectively, were Twitter, up 145%, and Herbalife, up 138%.

About Netflix, the story says, "The streaming video provider did little wrong in 2013. Shares surged 296%, making Netflix the top performer in the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq 100. Booming subscriber growth and an increase in original programing were key drivers of the stock’s move back above $300.

"In its latest quarterly report, Netflix made $32 million. Yet for now, Wall Street doesn’t appear too concerned about the company’s slim profits, so long as it keeps generating growth and continues stockpiling high-quality content, such as Emmy winner 'House of Cards' and 'Orange Is the New Black.'

"In October, billionaire investor Carl Icahn sold more than half his stake in Netflix for about $1 billion. He originally invested in the company at $58 a share in 2012, but after Netflix’s share price more than quintupled, he said it was 'time to take some chips off the table.' "

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Tim Tebow Hired ... as a TV Football Analyst

"Former Florida quarterback and Heisman winner Tim Tebow has been hired as a college football analyst for the SEC Network launching in August 2014," announced ESPN, which runs the SEC Network.

The announcement continues, "Through a multi-year agreement, Tebow’s primary role will be as an analyst for 'SEC Nation,' the network’s traveling pregame show that will originate from a different SEC campus each week beginning August 28, 2014. In the months leading up to launch and after, he will contribute to a variety of ESPN platforms including 'SportsCenter,' ESPN Radio, and the network’s Heisman Trophy coverage, offering in-depth perspective as a legendary Southeastern Conference player."

The announcement adds, "On Monday, Jan. 6, Tebow will make his first appearance as an ESPN analyst during pregame coverage of the 2013 VIZIO BCS National Championship. He will contribute to the 9 a.m. ET edition of 'SportsCenter,' 'College Football Live' (3 p.m.) and 'College GameDay Built by The Home Depot' (7 p.m.). He will also be part of studio coverage for the new College Football Playoff (semifinals and championship game), which begins next season. Tebow is the first college football analyst hired for the SEC Network. He joins a commentating roster that includes Joe Tessitore, host of 'SEC Nation,' and Paul Finebaum, host of 'The Paul Finebaum' radio show."

In the announcemnet Tebow said, "I am so excited that ESPN has given me this incredible opportunity. When I was six years old I fell in love with the game of football and while I continue to pursue my dream of playing quarterback in the NFL, this is an amazing opportunity to be a part of the unparalleled passion of college football and the SEC."

Tebow also sent out that statement in a series of tweets this afternoon, Monday, Dec. 30, 2013.

Sports Illustrated, in its coverage of the announcement, wrote, "Tebow, 26, set SEC conference records for rushing touchdowns and total touchdowns in a season with Florida in 2007, his Heisman Trophy-winning year.

"He spent three seasons in the NFL, throwing 17 touchdowns with a passing rating of 75.3 and was cut by the New England Patriots at the end of training camp this past summer."

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What's Disappearing From Your Netflix Queue on Jan. 1?

You may want to clear your calendar for today and tomorrow and get busy catching up on Netflix -- before it's too late. A slew of movies and television shows are set to expire from the online streaming service Jan. 1, including “Titanic” and the soap opera “Dark Shadows,” reports New York Magazine.

“For a while, it was also possible to find out what was expiring, information that was valuable to the Netflix user who maybe wanted to watch something before it disappeared from his or her Instant Queue (which is now called ‘My List’),” the story notes.

The report adds: “Earlier this year, Netflix removed the ability to easily find out in bulk what titles were expiring from its library, which means that users on Reddit and other sites have picked up the slack."

Some of these titles may reappear after a few months or even hours, because of the “vagaries” of Netflix’s contracts, the story notes.

Some of the expiring movies are “Being John Malkovich,” “Braveheart” and “Top Gun,” while expiring television shows include “The Kids in the Hall” and “Saturday Night Live: The 2000s."

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Popular Morning Show Anchor Comes Out as Gay

A veteran anchor on a top morning show has publicly disclosed that she is gay. The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports that Robin Roberts of ABC's “Good Morning America” made the revelation, thanking her “long time girlfriend, Amber” in a year-end note that reflected on her health issues and recovery,

Roberts, who posted the note on Facebook, wrote, “I am grateful for my entire family, my long time girlfriend, Amber, and friends as we prepare to celebrate a glorious new year together.”

The mention was the first time Roberts had disclosed her relationship, the story notes.

ABC News, in a statement released after Roberts posted her note, said, “We love Robin and Amber, who we have all known for a long time. We were so touched by her Facebook message today and so thankful for all the loving support she has in her life."

Roberts was on a medical leave earlier this year for a bone marrow transplant, returning to “GMA” in September. She recently signed a new deal with ABC News.

Thumbnail image for robin roberts 2.pngRobin Roberts

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TVWeek New Year's Holiday Schedule This Week

TVWeek will be closed tomorrow, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013 through Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014, for the New Year's holiday and will not publish our regular newsletters on those days.

The next regularly scheduled issue of TVWeek will be this coming Friday, Jan. 3, 2014.

Starting Monday, Jan 6, 2014, we will resume our regular publication schedule.

As always, we will keep you informed inbetween through our TVWeek EXTRA alerts.

From our family to yours, we wish you the very best during the holidays!

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GLAAD Condemns A&E's 'Duck Dynasty' About-Face

GLAAD isn’t pleased with the decision by A&E to bring back “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson after he made anti-gay remarks to GQ magazine, reports the Los Angeles Times’ Show Tracker.

"Phil Robertson should look African American and gay people in the eyes and hear about the hurtful impact of praising Jim Crow laws and comparing gay people to terrorists," GLAAD said in a statement. "If dialogue with Phil is not part of next steps then A+E has chosen profits over African American and gay people -- especially its employees and viewers."

GLAAD’s condemnation of Robertson’s comments helped spur his suspension in the first place, the story notes.

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Drama Series Ends Its Run -- and Hardly Any Viewers Show Up

A broadcast series that has been airing for four seasons ended its run late last week -- and hardly anyone showed up, based on Nielsen Media Research figures.

"CW’s 'Nikita' carried out its last mission with few witnesses: The spy show’s finale had 805,000 viewers," TheWrap.com reports. "'Nikita' scored a .2 rating in the key 18-49 demographic, low even by CW standards. The network targets a more youthful demographic than its more established rivals."

The drama series aired its finale Friday night at 9 p.m., going up against mostly repeat programming on the big four broadcast networks. Winning the hour was a "Shark Tank" rerun on ABC, with a 1.2 average in the 18-49 demo.

“The low finale numbers for the Maggie Q drama help explain why it was canceled, after four seasons,” the report adds. “The rating was in line with the show’s average this season, though the show was up slightly in total viewers.”

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Multiple Emmy-Winning TV Editing Pioneer Dies

A veteran television editor who worked on a string of popular series and was a pioneer of a major editing system has died. Deadline.com reports that former TV repairman Marco Zappia died Dec. 22 in Ventura, Calif. He was 76.

Zappia received 15 Primetime Emmy nominations for his editing work, including five for his work on "Home Improvement." He won Emmys in 1971 for "Hee Haw" and in 1981 for the special "Christmas in the Holy Land."

Zappia, who started out owning a TV repair shop, joined CBS in 1968 as an engineer in the videotape department. His first editing job was on CBS’s “Hee Haw,” which earned him his first Emmy. It was also CBS’s first-ever win for editing.

He later edited many TV specials and series, including "All in the Family" and “Maude.” He had prolific sitcom credits in the 1990s, working on “Who’s the Boss?,” “Boy Meets World” and “Dinosaurs,” among others.

“Zappia also contributed to the development of the multi-cam Avid Editing System, which he was the first to use to edit a multi-cam sitcom while on ‘Home Improvement,’” the story notes. “Earlier this year he published his memoir ‘Smartest Guy in the Room’ detailing his career in entertainment.”

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What Were the Five Most Embarrassing TV News Moments of 2013?

The television news industry had its high points in 2013, from coverage of the death of Nelson Mandela to the U.S. government shutdown, but it also had its share of embarrassing moments, writes Scott Collins in the Los Angeles Times.

Chief among them was “Today” host Matt Lauer’s decision to dress up as Pamela Anderson's "Baywatch" character, C.J. Parker, for Halloween.

“After his reputation got beat up in the Ann Curry debacle, the 'Today' host didn't need this. But hey, he did it to himself. No one made him don a blond wig and a red one-piece,” Collins writes.

The second most embarrassing moment was the apology from “60 Minutes” for its Benghazi report. “Whoops. CBS's news magazine had a superb track record for accuracy -- until this year,” Collins writes, adding that correspondent Lara Logan’s apology “wasn't good enough -- CBS ended up handing Logan and her producer a suspension.”

The third-place event was the fake town crier who announced the royal baby, with CNN explaining that the “town crier” was a traditional role in England before the Internet age.

“Left unexplained was that the man -- one Tony Appleton -- had no official role or connection to Buckingham Palace and merely does his crier act for corporate events and the like," Collins writes. "In other words, he was promoting himself -- and fooling the entire media world to boot. Hear ye, hear ye, that was well-played!”

No. 4 : Megyn Kelly’s “Santa Claus race war,” in which the Fox News host informed viewers that Santa Claus is white. “Kelly later explained that the segment was supposed to be ‘tongue in cheek.’ If so, the whole situation showed why news networks should leave the funny stuff to Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert,” Collins notes.

No. 5: KTVU-TV’s “whopper” of a mistake, when it reported bogus names (“Captain Sum Ting Wong”) for the crew members on Asiana flight 214, which had crashed. “Whether you found the gaffe offensive or funny, it ended up having serious consequences," Collins notes. "KTVU fired three producers deemed responsible for the incident, and Asiana threatened to sue the station (although it later dropped the suit)."

matt lauer as pam anderson.pngMatt Lauer as Pamela Anderson

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How ESPN -- With More Than $6 Billion in Annual Subscriber Fees -- Receives Hundreds of Millions in Tax Breaks

ESPN is “hardly needy,” given that it brings in about $6 billion a year in subscriber fees alone, but still has received about $260 million in tax breaks and credits from the state of Connecticut over the past 12 years, reports The New York Times.

“That includes $84.7 million in development tax credits because of a film and digital media program, as well as savings of about $15 million a year since the network successfully lobbied the state for a tax code change in 2000,” the story reports.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy believes that “any business with ESPN is good business,” the article adds. “After all, ESPN is Connecticut’s most celebrated brand and a homegrown success story, employing more than 4,000 workers in the state."

While other major corporations, such as General Motors in Michigan, have received generous tax breaks from their home states, ESPN’s case has “been met with frustration by some political opponents of the Connecticut governor, who say the state’s resources would be better spent elsewhere,” The Times reports.

The report adds: “The critics say incentives should be redirected to smaller companies that are more in need than ESPN, which accounts for nearly half the operating profit of Disney, its corporate parent. They also say ESPN, sitting on 123 acres in central Connecticut, is hardly a risk to move elsewhere."

Gov. Malloy told The Times that ESPN is helping attract other sports media jobs to the state, pointing to NBC Sports recently opening new headquarters there.

“I don’t want to imagine Connecticut without ESPN,” Malloy told the publication. “We want ESPN to have the biggest possible footprint in Connecticut, and we want them spending their dollars in Connecticut instead of any other state.”

An ESPN spokesman said that the media company has proved to be a “growth engine” for central Connecticut’s economic development, adding that the company has consistently added jobs.

ESPN, which has spent about $1 billion constructing buildings in and around Bristol since 2000, is the 25th-largest employer in the state.

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Sherlock Holmes Lands in the Public Domain -- but Will the Ruling Affect TV Projects Such as CBS's 'Elementary' and BBC's 'Sherlock'?

Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes is known for his address at 221B Baker Street, but now he has a new residence: the public domain, reports The New York Times’ ArtsBeat.

The famed detective, who is the focus of CBS’s “Elementary,” was ruled to exist in the public domain by a federal judge, who stated that Holmes, Watson, the villain Moriarty and other elements of 50 Holmes works published by Doyle before Jan. 1, 1923, are no longer covered by U.S. copyright law. That means the elements can be freely used by others without paying a licensing fee to the estate of the writer, the story notes.

The ruling came after editor Leslie S. Klinger, who has edited Holmes-related books such as the “New Annotated Sherlock Holmes,” filed a complaint with Laurie R. King, who has written a mystery series featuring Holmes’ wife, Mary Russell.

“Mr. Klinger and Ms. King had paid a $5,000 licensing fee for a previous Holmes-inspired collection. But in the complaint, Mr. Klinger said that the publisher of ‘In the Company of Sherlock Holmes,’ Pegasus Books, had declined to go forward after receiving a letter from the Conan Doyle Estate Ltd., a business entity organized in Britain, suggesting that the estate would prevent the new book from being sold by Amazon, Barnes & Noble and ‘similar retailers’ unless it received another fee,” The Times reports.

The ruling notes that elements of Holmes stories published after 1923, such as that the detective had a second wife and that Watson played rugby, remain under copyright.

“But the judge rejected what he called the estate’s ‘novel legal argument’ that the characters remain under copyright because, it claimed, they were not truly completed until Conan Doyle published his last Holmes story in 1927,” The Times reports.

All the Sherlock Holmes stories are already in the public domain in the U.K., the story notes.

The Times adds: “The decision comes at a moment when Holmes is a newly lucrative commercial property, thanks to the show ‘Elementary,’ the BBC series ‘Sherlock’ (which is shown in the United States as part of PBS’s ‘Masterpiece’) and the Warner Bros. movie franchise; all three have entered into licensing agreements with the estate.”

The BBC declined to comment on the decision’s impact on its series, while CBS told The Times: “The decision will not affect CBS’s production or distribution of ‘Elementary.’”

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TV Show Unearths Artwork by One of the Masters

A television show has discovered a work of art by a master painter of the Baroque period. Bloomberg reports that the painting by the 17th century Flemish artist Anthony van Dyck was found on the BBC’s “Antiques Roadshow.”

The painting was bought for 400 pounds, or about $660, by Father Jamie MacLeod, who runs a retreat house in England’s Peak District, the story says. The painting has been valued at about 400,000 pounds, or about $660,000.

“The identity of the painting as a van Dyck was suspected by the show’s host, Fiona Bruce, who asked specialists to confirm it, according to the clip on the BBC’s website," the story reports. "The van Dyck portrait was identified after Bruce, who was making a show about the artist with adviser Philip Mould, saw the painting and thought it might be genuine."

MacLeod plans to sell the painting and buy new church bells with the money, the story says.

anthony van dyck-self portrait.jpgAnthony van Dyck (self-portrait)

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Real 'Wolf of Wall Street' Shopping Reality TV Project

The man who wrote the memoir “The Wolf of Wall Street,” which is now a movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio, is shopping a television reality show, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Electus Chief Executive Chris Grant is working with Jordan Belfort, the writer of the 2007 memoir, to create a pitch for an “uplifting show,” the story says.

Belfort, 51, served 28 months for his crimes, which included scamming investors out of $110 million in the 1990s, the story says.

In the TV project, Belfort will help people who have hit bottom, as he did, but are looking for a way to climb back up. Belfort now works as a motivational speaker, the piece notes.

“Interest has been high for the project among those networks that already have met the author, says Grant, who describes the reaction of several execs to Belfort’s magnetic, made-for-reality personality: ‘He was described to us after leaving the room as "TV gold,"’” the story reports.

The Martin Scorsese-directed “Wolf of Wall Street” has grossed more than $30 million in the U.S., the piece notes.

jordan belfort.jpgJordan Belfort

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Memo to Obama's Closest Advisers: Better Not Mention That Plot Twist in 'Breaking Bad.' Plus Other Shows the President Watches

What does the president of the United States watch on TV? The New York Times’ Michael D. Shear reports that President Obama is drawn to dark, edgy dramas such as “Game of Thrones” and “Boardwalk Empire."

“These days, when Mr. Obama retreats to the White House residence after a long day on the other end of the colonnade, he is working his way through the DVD box set of AMC’s ‘Breaking Bad,’ the award-winning TV drama about a drug-dealing high school teacher,” the story says. “The show just ended after five seasons, but the president is way behind and frequently reminds those around him not to give anything away.”

He’s also awaiting the new season of Netflix’s “House of Cards,” which The Times says “starkly depicts a dysfunctional Washington -- a theme that must seem all too familiar.”

Shear writes: “It may be a fool’s errand to psychoanalyze anyone -- let alone a sitting president -- based only on the books he reads or the music he listens to, or the television shows he watches.

“But for Mr. Obama, ‘Breaking Bad’ and ‘House of Cards’ are hardly the exceptions to what has become a clear pattern. Mr. Obama is also a devotee of Showtime’s ‘Homeland,’ which offers an eerily familiar mirror to the president’s own foreign policy adventures: terrorism, Iranian nuclear negotiations, drone strikes, and an intelligence agency struggling for legitimacy with Congress and the American people.

“And the list of heavies continues.”

Obama's choice of dramas could be “a poetic reflection,” the piece notes. “Or maybe despite his day job, the president simply enjoys the cliffhanger tension of the best dramas.”

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In Case You Missed It: ALL the Best TV News Bloopers of 2013 (Video)

2013 was a banner year for bloopers on television news programs, and a video posted online, compiling all the best ones in one place, has really taken off, closing in on 10 million views over the weekend.

Without further ado, here it is ... enjoy!

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Phil Robertson Back on 'Duck Dynasty'

According to a number of media reports, Phil Robertson is back on A&E's "Duck Dynasty."

Here's a statement A+E Networks released, according to Lynette Rice at Entertainment Weekly:

"As a global media content company, A+E Networks’ core values are centered around creativity, inclusion and mutual respect. We believe it is a privilege for our brands to be invited into people’s home and we operate with a strong sense of integrity and deep commitment to these principals.

“That is why we reacted so quickly and strongly to a recent interview with Phil Robertson. While Phil’s comments made in the interview reflect his personal views based on his own beliefs, and his own personal journey, he and his family have publicly stated they regret the ‘coarse language’ he used and the mis-interpretation of his core beliefs based only on the article. He also made it clear he would ‘never incite or encourage hate.’ We at A+E Networks expressed our disappointment with his statements in the article, and reiterate that they are not views we hold.

“But 'Duck Dynasty' is not a show about one man’s views. It resonates with a large audience because it is a show about family… a family that America has come to love. As you might have seen in many episodes, they come together to reflect and pray for unity, tolerance and forgiveness. These are three values that we at A+E Networks also feel strongly about.

“So after discussions with the Robertson family, as well as consulting with numerous advocacy groups, A&E has decided to resume filming 'Duck Dynasty' later this spring with the entire Robertson family.

“We will also use this moment to launch a national public service campaign (PSA) promoting unity, tolerance and acceptance among all people, a message that supports our core values as a company, and the values found in 'Duck Dynasty.' These PSAs will air across our entire portfolio.”

Production will start again in the spring of 2014, EW reports.

Thumbnail image for phil robertson-duck dynasty.pngPhil Robertson

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Tribune Closes $2.7 Billion Station Acquisition, Creates the Country's Largest Combined Independent Broadcast Group and Content Creator

"Tribune Company announced today that it has completed the final steps necessary to close its acquisition of Local TV Holdings, LLC," the company said in a press release. "The transaction creates the largest combined independent broadcast group and content creator in the country."

Tribune now owns 39 TV stations nationwide.

"In addition, Tribune will provide certain services to support the operations of three former Local TV stations owned by Dreamcatcher Broadcasting LLC," the announcement adds. "The combined broadcast portfolios include 14 Fox affiliates, 14 CW affiliates, 5 CBS affiliates, 3 ABC affiliates and 2 NBC affiliates. Tribune owns 14 stations in top-20 markets and the company is now the #1 Fox affiliate group and the #1 CW affiliate group in the country. The transaction added market-leading stations in prime cities such as Denver, Cleveland, St. Louis, Kansas City, Salt Lake City and Milwaukee to the Tribune lineup."

Said Peter Liguori, Tribune’s President and Chief Executive Officer: “This is a historic day for Tribune and Local TV. Combining these two great media companies will deliver tremendous benefits for our viewers, advertisers, and most important, the communities we serve. This is a transformational acquisition for Tribune, providing us with significant scale to drive our business objectives and create substantial shareholder value.”

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Dueling Press Releases: CBS Touts Its Big Ratings Win -- But So Does NBC

Both CBS and NBC are crowing about their big wins in the broadcast ratings for the week ending Dec. 22. CBS released an announcement touting the fact that it had the top 11 scripted series on broadcast TV and is heading into the new year with a substantial lead over NBC.

NBC, meanwhile, was announcing that it won the week and had the top three prime-time programs, and has ranked No. 1 or tied for No. 1 among the big four broadcast nets for eight weeks in a row and 12 of 13 weeks this season. NBC also made the point that it leads the season by 0.4 of a ratings point, matching the biggest lead for any network at this point in the season in the past 11 years.

One big difference between the two networks: CBS is talking total viewers, while NBC is putting the accent on the key demo of viewers 18-49.

Another difference: Much of NBC's success has come in unscripted programming, especially "Sunday Night Football and "The Voice," while CBS has spun ratings gold from its scripted comedies and dramas, including "NCIS," which the network notes topped all programming in total viewers with 19.65 million.

For the week ending Dec. 22, NBC noted that between "Sunday Night Football" and "The Voice," the network had the No. 1 prime-time show of the big four networks in every key demo, and in teenagers and kids.

CBS has four of the season's top five scripted programs, including the No. 1 drama ("NCIS") and the No. 1 comedy ("The Big Bang Theory"). The network also has the season's top three new comedies, and broadcast's top scripted series in adults 18-49, adults 25-54 and adults 18-34.

For the week ending Dec. 22, CBS was up +17% in viewers, +15% in adults 25-54 and +13% in adults 18-49 over last year.

Here are the numbers, based on Nielsen Media Research figures:

Week ending Dec. 22

Average rating, share and audience in each category

ADULTS 18-49

NBC 2.4/7, 3.1 million
CBS 1.7/5, 2.1 million
ABC 1.2/4, 1.5 million
Fox 1.1/3, 1.3 million
CW 0.3/1, 0.4 million

Each rating point equals 1.27 million viewers

TOTAL VIEWERS

CBS 3.0/8, 8.8 million
NBC 2.8/7, 8.1 million
ABC 1.7/5, 5.1 million
Fox 1.2/3, 3.4 million
CW 0.3/1, 1.0 million

Each rating point equals 2.95 million viewers

SEASON TO DATE

Average rating, share and audience in each category

ADULTS 18-49

NBC 3.1/9, 4.0 million
CBS 2.7/8, 3.4 million
Fox 2.4/7, 3.0 million
ABC 2.3/7, 3.0 million
CW 0.8/2, 1.1 million

Each rating point equals 1.27 million viewers

TOTAL VIEWERS

CBS 3.9/10, 11.6 million
NBC 3.4/9, 9.9 million
ABC 2.8/7, 8.3 million
Fox 2.4/6, 7.1 million
CW 0.7/2, 2.0 million

Each rating point equals 2.89 million viewers

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Latest Twist in the 'Duck Dynasty' Dispute Has A&E Bracing for a Duck Deluge

The controversy surrounding the A&E reality show "Duck Dynasty" isn't even two weeks old yet, but it already has more plot twists than the show itself. In the latest one, fans of the show and its embattled patriarch Phil Robertson plan to put pressure on A&E by flooding the company offices with rubber duckies, the New York Daily News reports.

"The first cardboard box jammed with 1,500 ducks will be sent to the channel’s CEO Nancy Dubuc by Saturday, according to Janet Porter, the founder of the conservative group Faith2Action," the story reports. "Porter said she was looking for a 'tangible' way to show A&E that thousands of people support Robertson’s views on homosexuality. Rick Scarborough, president of the partner organization Vision America, came up with idea to organize a 'Mail The Duck' campaign. The goal is to fight back against a 'homosexual agenda' that conservatives believe is 'steamrolling' over their rights to freedom of religion and free speech."

Porter told the paper: “If they can fire Phil for his Christian beliefs, none of us are safe. It’s Phil today, us tomorrow.”

Supporters of the show are reportedly paying $7 for each duck. "The squeaky creatures will be labeled with a sponsor’s name, city, and state, along with the message 'We cry fowl-Reinstate Phil!,'” the story notes.

Scarborough added: "This is our way of saying we’re fed up with people trying to force their values down people of whole value’s throats."

He also told the paper: “I do believe this is an attack on everyone who holds these values. With these ducks we’re saying that A&E shouldn’t have shut this man down for beliefs they knew beforehand that he held.”

An online petition demanding that Robertson be reinstated on the show has reportedly gathered more than 250,000 signatures.

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Emmy-Winning TV Producer Dead at 67

A television producer who shared in a Primetime Emmy for a show he created with his actress-comedian wife has died. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Allan McKeown died Tuesday at 67 following a long battle with prostate cancer.

McKeown co-created “Tracey Takes On …” with his wife of 30 years, Tracey Ullman. The pair won an Emmy for outstanding variety, musical or comedy series in 1997, one of six Emmys won by the show, which aired on HBO from 1996-1999.

McKeown also co-created “State of the Union” with Ullman.

McKeown was a hairdresser early in his career, working with stars such as Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Caine, the piece notes. In 1969, he changed careers and became a commercial producer.

His other producing credits include the TV shows “Birds of a Feather” and “Lovejoy,” as well as the Broadway musical “Lennon” with Yoko Ono and the London show “Jerry Springer at the Opera.”

Tracey-Ullman-and-Allan-McKeown.jpgTracey Ullman and Allan McKeown

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NBC's 'Today' Show Brings Back Two Popular Hosts From the Show's Past

NBC's venerable morning show “Today” is dipping into its past, bringing back two familiar faces from previous years. TVNewser reports that former hosts Bryant Gumbel and Jane Pauley will join current host Matt Lauer Dec. 30 as co-anchors for the morning.

“Gumbel and Pauley anchored the show together for seven years from 1982 to 1989. The pair reunited on the show -- along with several other former anchors -- when ‘Today’ celebrated its 60th anniversary last year. Pauley still appears on ‘Today’ monthly with a recurring segment about older Americans starting new careers,” the piece notes.

bryant gumbel.pngBryant Gumbel

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CBS News Correspondent Announces He's Leaving the Network

A CBS News correspondent made the announcement Thursday that he's leaving the network -- and leaving television. TVNewser reports that John Miller is leaving to join the New York Police Department.

Miller's announcement confirms rumors that circulated earlier this month, as we reported previously. The move will reunite him with NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton.

“I never stay anywhere too long,” Miller said on WCBS-TV’s 5:30 p.m. newscast Thursday.

“Miller has bounced between jobs as a journalist and in law enforcement his entire career. His first job was as a reporter for WNEW (now Fox5) in New York City,” the story reports. “In 1985 he joined WNBC and left 9 years later to join Bratton at the NYPD. He returned to TV news as a correspondent for ABC News in 1995 where he remained for 7 years, being named ’20/20’ co-anchor in 2002. Miller left ABC to join Bratton at the LAPD in 2003 where he was head of the Counterterrorism and Criminal Intelligence. He joined CBS News in 2011.”

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Jesse Jackson Joins Debate Over 'Duck Dynasty' Patriarch's Comments -- Invokes Landmark Civil Rights Incident

Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson said comments made by “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson in a GQ interview were more offensive than the actions of the bus driver who tried to make Rosa Parks move to the back of the bus in 1955, reports TMZ.com.

"These statements uttered by Robertson are more offensive than the bus driver in Montgomery, Alabama, more than 59 years ago,” Jackson said. "At least the bus driver, who ordered Rosa Parks to surrender her seat to a white person, was following state law. Robertson’s statements were uttered freely and openly without cover of the law, within a context of what he seemed to believe was 'white privilege.'"

Jackson is asking to meet with A&E and Cracker Barrel. The restaurant chain briefly pulled “Duck Dynasty” merchandise from its shelves but then reversed its decision after a customer outcry, as previously reported.

Robertson was suspended by A&E over anti-gay remarks he made in the GQ article, and was also called out for racist views, notes Yahoo TV. He reportedly implied that blacks were happier when they lived under Jim Crow laws, telling the magazine that when he grew up black people were “singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, 'I tell you what: These doggone white people' -- not a word!"

He added, "Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues."

jesse jackson.jpgJesse Jackson

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Justin Bieber Makes Shocking Announcement

Pop star Justin Bieber made a shocking announcement in a tweet he released on Christmas Eve -- shocking, that is, if it's true.

The 19-year-old singer announced on his Twitter account that he’s “retiring,” TMZ.com reports.

“My beloved beliebers I’m officially retiring,” he wrote. He added, “The media talks a lot about me. They make a up a lot of lies and want me to fail but I'm never leaving you, being a belieber is a lifestyle."

The singer seemed to back off a few hours later, notes NBC’s Today.com, writing, “IM HERE FOREVER.”

“So what's the real story?" the Today.com report asks. "Details remain somewhat fuzzy because while Bieber himself said he's leaving the business ... his manager Scooter Braun noted the young star is actually just going to take a break” in an interview earlier in December.

A representative for Bieber declined to comment.

His remark came one day before a documentary about Bieber bombed at the box office, Time magazine notes.

“Justin Bieber’s Believe” opened with just $1.25 million in sales, ranking No. 14 at the box office, Time reports.

justin bieber.pngJustin Bieber

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Golden Globe Winner and Three-Time Oscar Nominee -- Perhaps Best Known for an Infamous Mug Shot -- Joins Upcoming Fox Drama Series

An acclaimed actor who may have become more closely identified in the public's minds with a police mug shot than with any of his on-screen achievements will be a regular on a new Fox series.

EW.com's Inside TV reports that Nick Nolte, a Golden Globe winner and three-time Academy Award nominee, is joining "Gracepoint," the network's "Broadchurch" remake.

Nolte will be a series regular on the show about murder in a small seaside town. He will take on the role of stubborn bachelor Jack Reinhold. His character, according to casting details, “runs the kayak rental on the beach as well as the local wildlife observation program, where the murdered boy was one of his volunteers.”

David Tennant of “Doctor Who” will portray the lead detective, and other cast members include "Breaking Bad's" Anna Gunn and Jacki Weaver of 'Silver Linings Playbook," the story says. “Broadchurch” recently concluded a run on BBC America.

The photo of Nolte below is NOT the notorious mug shot, which was reportedly snapped in a hospital where Nolte was taken during his Sept. 11, 2002, arrest on suspicion of drunken driving. He was later found to be under the influence of the drug GHB, reportedly receiving three years' probation. You can see the mug shot by clicking here.

Nolte's many acting accolades include Oscar nominations for "The Prince of Tides" (1991), "Affliction" (1997) and "Warrior" (2011), along with a Golden Globe Award for "The Prince of Tides." He was nominated for an Emmy in 1976 for "Rich Man, Poor Man."

nick nolte 2.pngNick Nolte

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Are You Buying It? Zucker Gives a Rosy Assessment of CNN's Year

After a year in which CNN sank to an all-time low in prime-time viewership, CNN Worldwide chief Jeff Zucker wrote in a memo to the network’s staffers that CNN has “had a really good year” in 2013, Deadline.com reports.

But Zucker added in the memo that “there is much more to do,” the report notes.

Zucker highlighted the addition of Anthony Bourdain’s show and the success of the documentary “Blackfish,” but didn’t mention the network’s new morning program, "New Day," or the relaunched “Crossfire,” the story notes. Both programs have had less than spectacular ratings rollouts.

“Real change that transforms an organization doesn’t happen overnight," Zucker wrote. "I have talked a lot about broadening the definition of news. You have seen the start of that, especially at CNN, where we have begun to introduce new series, documentaries and films to augment our best-in-class breaking news coverage."

Zucker's memo adds: “Competitively speaking, there is much to be proud of. CNN Digital had its best year, EVER. In almost every measurement, CNN’s digital properties, domestically and internationally, hit record highs. HLN was the only domestic cable news network to grow its audience this year, up double digits across the board. CNN moved from the third most watched cable news network in 2012 to second in 2013.”

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New Channel From DirecTV: Is It a Veiled Threat to Weather Channel?

Just as its deal with Weather Channel is about to expire, DirecTV has been quietly rolling out a network that some are calling a threat to Weather Channel, the Los Angeles Times reports.

“Although talks between the two companies are ongoing, DirecTV's decision to add WeatherNation is seen as a not-so-subtle threat that it is willing to drop the Weather Channel,” the story notes.

The report adds: “Not only is DirecTV carrying WeatherNation, a small channel with very little reach or viewership, it has placed the network next to the Weather Channel on the dial, a move that could confuse viewers -- and has already annoyed Weather Channel executives.”

DirecTV is seeking to lower programming costs at a time when sports programming is increasingly expensive. As a result, some distributors are looking to pressure smaller programmers to cut their rates.

The carriage deal between DirecTV and Weather Channel expires at the end of 2013. The network charges about 13 cents per subscriber each month, the story notes, citing SNL Kagan.

The threat of losing DirecTV as a distributor comes at a sensitive time for the Weather Channel, given that the channel has hired popular “Good Morning America” weatherman Sam Champion and is seeking to broaden its appeal and viewership.

“Not only will Champion instantaneously become the biggest face on the network, he will also serve in an executive role as managing editor,” the story notes.

sam champion.pngSam Champion

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Which TV Show Was the Most Pirated of 2013? Here's the Top 10

A new list has come out of the most pirated television programs of 2013, and the show that came in at No. 1 is probably not much of a surprise.

Viewers are so eager to watch the villainy on HBO’s fantasy “Game of Thrones” that they are willing to engage in piracy, making the drama the most pirated TV show of the year, reports The New York Times’ ArtsBeat.

According to the list compiled by TorrentFreak.com, the second-most-pirated TV show was AMC’s “Breaking Bad.” While “Game of Thrones” had 5.9 million illegal downloads, “Breaking Bad” generated 4.2 million.

"Game of Thrones" is one of only a few shows for which the number of illegal downloads, 5.9 million, exceeds the estimated total viewership for the show, 5.5 million. Another show with that distinction is "Dexter," with 3.1 million downloads and 2.8 million viewers.

AMC’s “The Walking Dead” was in third place, with 3.6 million illegal downloads. Other shows placing in the top 10 include CBS’s “The Big Bang Theory” and “How I Met Your Mother,” Showtime’s “Homeland" and the CW series "Arrow.”

Time Warner chief Jeffrey Bewkes, whose company owns HBO, had a surprising comment earlier this year about the appeal of "Game of Thrones" to pirates, saying in response to news that the show was among the most pirated on television, "That's better than an Emmy," as we reported back in August.

Here's the TorrentFreak Top 10, with the estimated number of downloads followed by estimated total U.S. viewership:

1. Game of Thrones: 5.9 million downloads; 5.5 million viewers
2. Breaking Bad: 4.2 million downloads; 10.3 million viewers
3. The Walking Dead: 3.6 million downloads; 16.1 million viewers
4. The Big Bang Theory: 3.4 million downloads, 20.4 million viewers
5. Dexter: 3.1 million downloads, 2.8 million viewers
6. How I Met Your Mother: 3.0 million downloads, 9.4 million viewers
7. Suits: 2.6 million downloads, 3.5 million viewers
8. Homeland: 2.40 million downloads, 2.38 million viewers
9. Vikings: 2.3 million downloads, 6.0 million viewers
10. Arrow: 2.2 million downloads, 3.2 million viewers

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'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air' Co-Creator Dead at 54

A director, producer and screenwriter who co-created the 1990s Will Smith sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" has died. CNN reports that Jeff Pollack, who directed films including “Booty Call" and "Above the Rim,” was found dead Monday. He was 54.

Pollack was found along a walking trail in Hermosa Beach, Calif., early on Dec. 23.

“According to authorities Pollack, who was reportedly an avid runner, was not alive at the time he was discovered. He was found wearing a jogging outfit and with a music player. While the cause of death has not yet been determined, police said they do not suspect foul play,” the story reports.

Authorities reportedly believe Pollack died of natural causes while exercising.

Pollack was a business partner of entertainment manager Benny Medina, who inspired “Fresh Prince,” the story notes.

jeff pollack.pngJeff Pollack

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Amid Controversy, Sales of 'Duck Dynasty' Christmas Album Are Booming

One beneficiary of the “Duck Dynasty” dust-up is the Robertson family’s Christmas album, which saw sales jump 22% for the week of Dec. 22, reports Deadline.com.

“Duck the Halls: A Robertson Family Christmas” sold 132,000 units during the week, the story notes, citing data from Nielsen SoundScan. That 22% boost came during the first full week since “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson was suspended after making anti-gay comments in a GQ magazine article.

“The holiday album, from Capitol Nashville and which streeted October 29, is No. 4 on the current chart, behind only Beyonce’s new album, Garth Brooks and One Direction,” the story notes.

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The Five Best 'SNL' Skits of 2013

We found this on Salon.com. It was first published on Pajiba. It's written by Dustin Rowles, and appeared before the past "Saturday Night LIve" episode hosted by Jimmy Fallon: "It’s been a wildly uneven season of SNL, and it’s hard to say that any one episode has been a wild success (Kerry Washington’s turn as host was likely the best of the season), but the high points have been incredibly high, displaying the potential [the show] has once it moves past its rebuilding season. Even the worst episodes (Ed Norton, John Goodman) have featured something that made the episode worthwhile (at least for those who only watch highlights the next morning)."

The story adds, "As the best 5 videos of the year so far suggest, it’s time to let Taran, Kyle Mooney, and Jay Pharaoh take the lead. (Note, too, that all five are pre-taped, which might also say something about the current cast’s improvisational skills, or lack thereof.)"

Number 5 is "We Did Stop" -- "It didn’t work for everyone, but Miley Cyrus’ raunchy music video, which came during the midst of the government shutdown (and a week after Cyrus’ MTV VMA’s appearance) was, I thought, the edgiest political piece the show has done all season (if not all year)."

No. 4 was "E-Meth" -- "This is how you take advantage of an Aaron Paul cameo the week before the Breaking Bad finale."

No. 3 was "My Girl?" -- "Jay Pharaoh hasn’t been on the show that long, but he’s already one of the more senior members of the cast, and his screentime has tripled this season."

No. 2 was "Ice Cream" -- Kyle Mooney’s dreamy, bizarre, nonsensical and hilarious sketch.

No. 1 was "Wes Anderson’s Horror Trailer" -- A perfect send-up of Wes Anderson that paid tribute to the director as much as it mocked him.

To see the videos for Nos. 2-5, please click on either of the two links above. Here's No. 1, "Wes Anderson's Horror Trailer":

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In a Close Vote, AP Names Its Entertainer of the Year

In the end it was a single vote that separated the two leading contenders for AP Entertainer of the Year, and the title went to Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence, over headline-grabbing twerk queen Miley Cyrus.

In the annual vote among the Associated Press newspaper and broadcast members, Lawrence beat out Cyrus 15-14. In all, 70 ballots were submitted by U.S. news directors and editors, asked to name whoever had the most influence on entertainment and culture during the year 2013.

Placing third was Netflix with 13 votes, in a year in which the streaming service changed the television landscape with acclaimed series such as "Orange Is the New Black" and "House of Cards."

"But Lawrence -- who started the year with an Academy Award for best actress, fueled a box-office franchise as 'The Hunger Games' heroine Katniss Everdeen, and wrapped 2013 with a critically acclaimed performance in 'American Hustle' that just earned Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award nominations -- charmed fans everywhere with her candid sincerity," the story reports. "She was also a fashion darling -- a muse for Dior -- who made headlines with her pixie haircut. ('That was the weirdest thing that ever happened to me,' she recently told Jon Stewart.)"

Kristi Runyan of The Derrick and The News-Herald Newspapers in Oil City, Pa., wrote of Lawrence, 23, that she is "not only talented and beautiful, but comes off as incredibly intelligent, genuine, funny and well-spoken in her public appearances and interviews. It's refreshing to see a young woman not squandering her talent and success by succumbing to the temptations many do in Hollywood and who actively speaks about the ridiculous behavior of some of her peers."

"Speaking of ridiculous behavior," AP adds, "Cyrus raised eyebrows throughout 2013 with her embrace of twerking, nudity and public pot smoking. The 21-year-old 'Wrecking Ball' singer also made news with her pixie chop, but her breakup with fiancé Liam Hemsworth and highly sexualized (and scrutinized) performances made her water-cooler chatter all year."

Jim Turpin of KMPH-TV in Fresno, Calif., commented on Cyrus: "She made the biggest splash, without comment on whether I thought it was a good thing."

The report notes that women have dominated the Entertainer of the Year voting. "Past titleholders include Adele, Lady Gaga, Tina Fey, Betty White and Taylor Swift. Stephen Colbert is the lone male winner in seven years of voting," the story reports.

The piece adds: "Netflix commanded votes for changing viewing habits (binge-watch 'Breaking Bad,' anyone?) and challenging the traditional TV-release concept with its original series. The outlet eschewed typical TV pilots and released a season's worth of episodes at once of its acclaimed series 'House of Cards' and 'Orange Is the New Black.'"

Sean Stangland of Paddock Publications in suburban Chicago wrote: "In a divided entertainment landscape that includes the fans of pop princesses like Miley as well as high-minded devotees of cutting-edge filmmaking, Netflix is the one common denominator."

"Breaking Bad" took fourth place, with Justin Timberlake placing fifth.

jennifer lawrence 2.pngJennifer Lawrence

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Rashida Jones, Will McCormack Developing HBO Project

Rashida Jones and Will McCormack have a single-camera half-hour project in the works at HBO, which focuses on a nail salon in Florida and the dangerous women who work there, reports Deadline.com.

Called “Claws,” the project is described as a “midnight-dark workplace dramedy-noir,” the story notes.

In Jones and McCormack’s first year as producers through their Le Train Train outfit, they’ve also sold several broadcast projects, including put pilot commitments at NBC and Fox.

Thumbnail image for rashida-jones.jpgRashida Jones

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'Duck Dynasty' Crisis: Patriarch Was Warned by A&E About Expressing Himself; Other Networks Vie for the Show

A&E warned “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson, who was recently suspended from the show, about sharing his views on topics such as gay rights and race relations, before the show even premiered in 2012, the Los Angeles Times’ Show Tracker reports.

The cable channel was aware of Robertson’s controversial opinions, which he had aired in videotaped sermons and in other outlets, the story says.

“In essence, the network was asking Phil -- a man of legendary individuality, who once passed up an opportunity to sign with the NFL because it might interfere with his hunting -- to be somewhat less Phil-like. But that is the kind of wobbly bargain that reality TV producers have been forced to make,” the story reports.

The piece adds: “For some time, Phil Robertson held up his end of the speak-no-evil bargain. But that's over now, obviously.”

While A&E deals with the crisis -- members of Robertson’s family are standing by him, saying in response to his suspension that they can’t imagine continuing the show without him -- other networks are circling, reports TMZ.com.

“Duck Dynasty” won’t be left without a network if A&E cancels the show, the story says. The Christian-affiliated Hunt Channel is interested, as is Pursuit Channel. Both networks said they wouldn’t keep Robertson from expressing his views.

Robertson was suspended by A&E after telling GQ magazine that “homosexual offenders” will not “inherit the Kingdom of God" and making other anti-gay comments.

Robertson spoke publicly on Sunday for the first time since the controversy, saying he wouldn’t go back on his remarks, reports the U.K.'s Daily Mail. “I will not give or back off from my path,” he said. He was leading a Bible study group in his hometown, and allowed the newspaper to attend.

He defended himself by saying he was quoting from the Bible, and said Jesus could save gay people.

“I love all men and women. I am a lover of humanity, not a hater,” he said. “We are a bunch of rednecks from Louisiana, but I am not uneducated, I have a degree from Louisiana Tech. But this week I have been called an ignoramus. This week I have been asked, ‘Is this the first time you have brought up sin?’ I said, ‘Are you kidding? I have been traveling to and fro spreading this message.’”

phil robertson 2.pngPhil Robertson

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Cracker Barrel Reverses Course on 'Duck Dynasty' Products

Cracker Barrel has done an about-face with its “Duck Dynasty” products, reports EW.com’s Inside TV. The restaurant chain on Friday pulled items related to the A&E show as a measure to avoid offending patrons after a controversy erupted over anti-gay comments made by cast member Phil Robertson to GQ magazine.

But fans of the show expressed outrage over the move by Cracker Barrel, and blasted the company for its decision. By Sunday, Cracker Barrel had reversed its position.

“You flat out told us we were wrong. We listened. Today, we are putting all our ‘Duck Dynasty’ products back in our stores. And, we apologize for offending you,” the company said on its Facebook page.

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Universal Pushes 'Fast & Furious 7' Release to 2015, Makes Decision on the Late Paul Walker's Scenes

Universal has revealed plans surrounding “Fast & Furious 7,” including confirming that the movie's release date will be pushed to April 10, 2015 -- the date disclosed Sunday by star Vin Diesel on his Facebook account, Deadline.com reports. The film was originally slated to be released in summer 2014.

“The studio has also given a sense that the late Paul Walker’s character will remain part of the movie, an outcome that was among the wildly speculative reporting that followed his tragic death in a car crash,” the story notes.

The studio says the sequel will be “continuing the global exploits in the franchise built on speed," adding that "Vin Diesel and Paul Walker lead the returning cast of ‘Fast & Furious 7’ …”

The film was postponed after Walker died over Thanksgiving weekend, the story notes.

The studio “took an appropriate amount of time to give their cast a chance to grieve their very popular cast mate, and creatively come up with a way of continuing a storyline that was halfway done and has to be completed by writing around a main character that hadn’t finished his narrative arc,” the Deadline report notes.

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Media Executive Fired Over 'Tweet Heard Round the World'

A public relations executive who held a top position in a media firm was fired after sending a tweet that sparked outrage for what is being described as racial insensitivity. CNN reports that Justine Sacco, who headed corporate communications for IAC, the media company chaired by Barry Diller, was let go.

IAC said it “parted ways” with Sacco after she wrote, “Going to Africa. Hope I don't get AIDS. Just kidding. I'm white!"

In a statement, an IAC spokesman said: “The offensive comment does not reflect the views and values of IAC. We take this issue very seriously, and we have parted ways with the employee in question."

Sacco sent the tweet before she left Friday for Cape Town, South Africa. The message created outrage on social media, with Boing Boing calling it “the tweet heard round the world.”

Given that Sacco’s job was to communicate with reporters, her insensitive tweet was “all the more shocking,” CNN notes. Before she posted her comment, her Twitter account was relatively unknown, with just 500 followers. As Sacco was on a flight to South Africa, her tweet went viral.

“Websites such as Valleywag and Buzzfeed highlighted Sacco's account, and soon it had thousands of followers -- and thousands of harsh replies directed at it. Some were downright hateful. Others said they felt sorry for Sacco, regardless of how offensive her Twitter message was, because she hadn't had a chance to defend herself during the 12-hour flight,” the story adds.

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TV Writer and Novelist, Known for Teen Books and Work on MTV Series, Commits Suicide

A television writer and novelist whose work reaches a young-adult audience is dead at 32 after an apparent suicide. The New York Times reports that Ned Vizzini, known for the 2006 novel "It's Kind of a Funny Story" and for writing for the MTV drama series "Teen Wolf," among other TV shows, died Thursday in Brooklyn.

"He took his own life, according to his father, James," the story reports. "The New York City chief medical examiner’s office said he suffered blunt impact injuries. The writer’s brother, Daniel, told reporters that Mr. Vizzini had jumped off the roof of the building where their parents live."

Vizzini had written about struggling with depression, and his best-known novel, “It’s Kind of a Funny Story,” was based on five days he spent in a psychiatric ward. The book was reportedly named by NPR as No. 56 on its list of the "100 Best-Ever Teen Novels" of all time.

In 2004 he published “Be More Chill,” about a teen who gains confidence after swallowing a pill-sized supercomputer, the story notes. Even though he was excited about a contract to write two additional books, he soon fell into depression.

In 2012, he published “The Other Normals,” and this year he published “House of Secrets,” the first in a trilogy of young adult fantasy books he had written with movie director Chris Columbus.

Besides writing two 2012 episodes of MTV's supernatural series “Teen Wolf,” Vizzini wrote for other TV series including “Last Resort” and “Believe,” the story notes.

ned vizzini.jpgNed Vizzini

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Johnny Carson, the Grinch, and 'Fear of Flying'

Johnny Carson's former lawyer and close confidant, Henry Bushkin, has written a stinging tell-all book about the former king of late-night. As juicy as it may be, read why TVWeek Open Mic blogger Chuck Ross finds it a cheap shot from a grinch.

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'American Gladiators' Star Has Heart Attack, Blames Steroid Abuse

One of the former stars of “American Gladiators” suffered a heart attack Wednesday, and is blaming steroids as one culprit, reports TMZ.com.

Nitro, whose real name is Dan Clark, felt chest pains while working out at a gym and then his left arm went numb, according to the report. A friend drove him to an urgent care center, where they realized he was having a heart attack and sent him by ambulance to a hospital.

“Nitro says the whole thing was a shock 'cause he's in peak physical condition ... and believes the heart attack may have been a result of the YEARS of steroid abuse from his days as a Gladiator,” the story notes. “According to Nitro, 'roids weren't viewed as taboo back in the AG heyday ... it was just part of the culture.”

Clark starred as Nitro on “American Gladiators” from 1989-1996, and has appeared on a number of TV series including “Ellen” and “Saved by the Bell,” according to IMDb.

Dan Nitro Clark-American Gladiators (ESPN Classic).jpg"American Gladiators' " Dan "Nitro" Clark

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Why Is Sports the Hottest Thing on TV -- Especially in the Digital Era?

With the NFL among the most-watched programming on TV and with the Winter Olympics coming up on NBC -- not to mention the Super Bowl on Fox -- a group of industry heavyweights gathered this month to talk about just what it is that makes sports the hottest thing on TV.

The panel included Mandalay's Peter Guber, NBC Sports Group's Mark Lazarus, Time Warner's David Rone and Fox Sports' Eric Shanks.

TVWeek Open Mic writer Hillary Atkin was on hand and filed a full report. Please click here to get the latest inside perspective on this important TV market segment.

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Time Warner Cable, Tribune Agree to Retrans Deal

Time Warner Cable and Tribune have signed a multi-year retransmission deal, covering multiple Tribune stations and WGN America, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The two companies, which disclosed the deal on Sunday, didn’t announce the value of the deal or for how many years it extends.

“Time Warner Cable has had some problems extending these renewal agreements, including an extended CBS blackout over the summer,” the story notes. “This time the deal was done without any interruption for subscribers.

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Tom Cruise Settles Defamation Lawsuit

A $50 million defamation lawsuit filed by Tom Cruise against a publisher who ran stories accusing him of “abandoning” his daughter Suri has been settled by the actor, reports CNN.

The lawsuit against In Touch and Life & Style magazine publisher Bauer Publishing “has been settled,” a spokeswoman for the publications told CNN. “The terms of the settlement were not disclosed and remain confidential."

The company said the magazines had not "intended to communicate that Tom Cruise had cut off all ties and abandoned his daughter, Suri, and regret if anyone drew that inference from anything they published.”

tom cruise-with-suri.pngTom Cruise with Suri

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After News of Show's Cancellation, Couric Takes 'Katie' Live

The remaining episodes of Katie Couric's syndicated daytime talk show “Katie” will shift to a mostly live format, a decision that was in the works before word came last week that the show wouldn’t return for a third season, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Some of Couric’s tapings ran as long as two hours -- twice the show’s running time -- because the host wanted to keep going to get as much good content as possible, the story says.

The decision to go live for the show’s final six months on-air was made as a way to keep the program within budget, the story reports.

“A source close to the show insists Couric's decision to run longer was made jointly with Rachel Miskowiec, who was brought in last May as executive producer for the show's second season,” the article reports. “The result was that producers and editors often racked up overtime to cut the content to fit the one-hour format, triggering significant budget overruns. ‘Katie’ was already one of the more expensive daily talk shows ever produced, in part because it had more field producers and news staff than most."

A Disney/ABC rep said the show will be produced live on four out of five days, with the fifth day taped but expected to be limited to a one-hour allotment.

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Cher, in Her Early Days, Reportedly Hired an Aide to Assure People She Was Female

One of Cher’s biggest challenges when she was starting her career was to convince audiences she was female because of her deep voice, reports the New York Post’s Page Six, citing a book written by Josiah Howard titled “Cher: Strong Enough.”

The belief that she was a man was so entrenched that she and her husband and business partner Sonny Bono hired a secretary to convince fans that she was female, the story says.

“Just three months after they hit the big time, Sonny and Cher’s ... secretary was charged with responding to each and every inquiry, even those from fans, to refute the rumor,” the book notes.

One letter written by the secretary in 1965 reportedly said: “Cher, we assure you, is a girl. She is 19 years old and happily married to Sonny (who is 25) [Bono was actually 30]. As for Cher’s singing voice being too low: I think you will find that a lot of great female singers have low voices. ... Tell your mom that Cher is just a very slim, very pretty girl with a low voice. I think if you listen closer, you will find a lot of feminine quality in her voice.”

cher2.jpgCher

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Report: MSNBC Names Its Replacement for Martin Bashir

MSNBC has reportedly decided who will get the cable channel's 4 p.m. time slot following the resignation of Martin Bashir. TVNewser reports that the hour will go to Alex Wagner starting Jan. 13.

Wagner currently hosts MSNBC's noon show "Now."

Bashir left the network amid a controversy over remarks he made about Sarah Palin, as we reported earlier this month. In a commentary in response to comments Palin made comparing slavery to the U.S. debt to China, Bashir implied that Palin deserved to have someone "s--t" in her mouth -- invoking a reported punishment once used against slaves.

Wagner has been hosting "Now," a political panel discussion featuring commentators and journalists, since November 2011.

"Before joining MSNBC, Wagner was a reporter at The Huffington Post covering politics and business," the report notes, adding: "Wagner’s move to 4 p.m. ET opens up the noon ET spot on MSNBC. The network recently added Ronan Farrow to its lineup, who is set to debut in January at an as-yet-unannounced time."

alex wagner.jpgAlex Wagner

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12 to Watch in TV News -- and More

The December issue of TVWeek's NewsPro publication includes our popular annual "12 to Watch in TV News" feature, singling out the top movers and shakers in the profession today.

The issue also includes the NewsPro-RTDNA Journalism School Survey picking the Top J-schools in the country. In addition, we look at university incentive programs and the current state of internships, and report on the recovery of major awards competitions from recent recessionary years.

Please click here to see a pdf of the full issue, which you can scroll down to read in its entirety.

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Embarrassing Thursday Night for Broadcast Nets, as a Sitcom Rerun Trounces the Singing Competitions, the Year in Review, a Season Finale, a Holiday Special and Everything Else

Nothing the broadcast networks came up with Thursday night -- with the exception of a sitcom rerun -- seemed to generate much ratings traction, as memories of the days of "Must-See" Thursday nights grow ever more distant.

TVbytheNumbers.com reports that Fox won the night with its two-hour season finale of "The X Factor," based on Nielsen overnights for the key 18-49 demo. But the show's soft 1.7 average was well off the pace of the 3.1 generated by the finale a year ago. The program did rise from the 1.2 the show delivered last week.

The top show on broadcast prime, by a lot, was CBS's repeat of "The Big Bang Theory," which pulled in a 2.8 average in the 18-49 demo along with 11.13 million total viewers -- head and shoulders above all other prime-time programs on the broadcast nets in both metrics.

Three of the big four networks fell in behind Fox's 1.7 in 18-49 with matching 1.5 averages. CBS's was built on an all-repeat lineup, while NBC and ABC mixed repeats and specials.

ABC's chestnut "A Charlie Brown Christmas" delivered a 1.7 average in viewers 18-49, outperforming the network's two-hour ABC News year-in-review special "The Year," which managed only a 1.4.

NBC also saw better numbers for recycled programming, as its two-hour special prime-time "Saturday Night Live" rebroadcast pulled a 1.7 in 18-49, well above the 1.2 delivered by a fresh installment of "The Sing-Off" (down one-tenth from a week ago).

The overall prime-time numbers show Fox with a slight edge in adults 18-49 with its 1.7 average, ahead of CBS, ABC and NBC (all with 1.5 averages) and Univision (1.1). CBS moves ahead in total viewers, averaging 6.9 million to top Fox (6.2 million), ABC (5.9 million), NBC (4.4 million) and Univision (2.8 million).

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David Mamet Developing Series for Fox

Fox is developing a project with writer-director David Mamet of “Glengarry Glen Ross,” reports EW.com’s Inside TV. The project is a limited drama series, “7 Deadly Sins.”

The network says the project is "based on the seven deadly sins, which form the backdrop for a tapestry of interconnected stories about the human condition through David Mamet’s unique lens.”

Mamet will executive produce, write and direct the first episode and write at least two other episodes, the story says.

Mamet has written and directed a number of feature films, including "The Spanish Prisoner" and "House of Games." He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1984 for "Glengarry Glen Ross." He is the creator of CBS's "The Unit" and has written or directed episodes of TV shows including "Hill Street Blues" and "The Shield."

david mamet.jpgDavid Mamet

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Video: Ellen Steps Out in Style in New Teaser for Oscars

The people behind the upcoming Academy Awards ceremony have just released a new teaser featuring the show's host, Ellen DeGeneres, stepping out with a tuxedo army.

Here's the clip:

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Longtime Host of Current-Affairs Program Dies

A historian, educator and TV personality who was a pioneer in current-affairs programming has died. The New York Times reports that Richard D. Heffner, the creator and longtime host of the public television program “The Open Mind,” died Tuesday in Manhattan.

Heffner died of a cerebral hemorrhage, the story reports. He was 88.

Heffner was the author of “A Documentary History of the United States,” which was originally published in 1952 and is now in its eighth edition. He served on the faculty of Rutgers University, and was still a professor of communications and public policy at his death, the piece adds. He had taught there since 1964.

“The Open Mind” was broadcast on Saturdays on PBS stations across the U.S., with Heffner serving as its producer and host since 1956 until he died, the story notes.

“Recent segments taped by Professor Heffner will continue to be broadcast in the coming months, his wife said, but the fate of the program after that has not yet been determined,” the piece reports.

In its early years, the program looked at issues such as McCarthyism, alcoholism, homosexuality and segregation, while guests over the years included the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Margaret Mead.

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'American Idol' Replaces Director, Brings In an Industry Heavyweight

“American Idol” is getting more than new showrunners and a revamped judges’ panel as it regroups in an effort to pump up ratings for the upcoming season.

The Fox singing competition has also tapped seven-time Emmy Award-winning director Louis J. Horvitz as the show's director for the "American Idol XIII" season, Deadline.com reports.

Horvitz, who replaces Gregg Gelfand in the role, is described in the report as “one of the go-to directors for live TV, having overseen the live broadcasts of the Academy Awards, the Emmy Awards, the Grammy Awards and the Kennedy Center Honors ceremonies.”

His work on the Oscars has earned him five Primetime Emmy Awards, while he has taken home two trophies for his work on the Kennedy Center Honors, including one earlier this year. He has a total of 17 Primetime Emmy nominations for directing, going back to 1995.

“Idol” will return to Fox Jan. 15 for the start of a two-night, four-hour premiere.

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TVWeek Holiday Schedule

TVWeek will be closed Tuesday through Thursday of next week, Dec. 24-26, for the holidays and will not publish our regular newsletters on those days.

We will also be off Tuesday through Thursday the following week, Dec. 31-Jan. 2.

We WILL publish Monday and Friday of next week (Dec. 23 and 27), and Monday and Friday of the following week (Dec. 30 and Jan. 3).

Starting Monday, Jan 6, 2014, we will resume our regular publication schedule.

As always, if major news breaks, we will keep you informed through our TVWeek EXTRA alerts.

From our family to yours, we wish you the very best during the holidays!

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Plug Pulled on Talk Show That Launched With Great Fanfare

A talk show that was launched with high expectations and heavy hype won't make it to season three. Ending its run after two seasons is Katie Couric’s daytime talk show “Katie,” B&C reports.

The end was announced by Disney/ABC, which said the show will continue production through June 2014 and that “we’ve mutually agreed that there will not be a third season of the show.”

The decision comes after whispers that the show was in trouble, as previously reported. The show had been suffering from soft ratings, a large budget and poor Q scores for Couric.

Couric recently signed a deal to become Yahoo’s global anchor and announced she would no longer contribute to ABC News, although the Yahoo deal will “remain on the back burner” while she completes “Katie's" run, B&C notes.

“After opening last fall at a 2.0 live plus same day household ratings average, according to Nielsen, ‘Katie's' household and demographic ratings never lived up to early expectations," B&C reports. "Those were high because Couric had been considered America’s sweetheart while co-anchoring NBC’s ‘Today’ -- and thus perfect for the job of hosting a long-running talk show -- and because ‘Katie’ was cleared in top-rated afternoon time slots on the ABC Owned Television Stations, which are among the country’s strongest TV stations."

Costs were another issue, with Couric reportedly receiving as much as $20 million annually. That made a renewal difficult given that the show wasn’t growing its ratings, the piece notes.

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Future of 'Duck Dynasty' at Stake as Robertson Family Says It Won't Work on the Show Without Its Patriarch

The Robertson family, which stars in A&E’s “Duck Dynasty,” is threatening to pull out of the hit reality show over the suspension of Phil Robertson following the family patriarch's controversial comments about gays and blacks, reports the Los Angeles Times’ Show Tracker.

In a statement on the family’s website, they wrote, “We cannot imagine the show going forward without our patriarch at the helm. We are in discussions with A&E to see what that means for the future of 'Duck Dynasty.'”

The statement adds, “We are disappointed that Phil has been placed on hiatus for expressing his faith, which is his constitutionally protected right.”

As previously reported, Robertson was suspended after telling GQ magazine that “homosexual offenders” will not “inherit the Kingdom of God.”

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal have come to Robertson’s defense. Conservative interest groups have since rallied in his defense, as well, reports Deadline.com, which called the incident “A&E’s 'Duck Dynasty' disaster train.”

The American Family Association stated: “Declaring God’s perspective on God’s design for human intimacy has now become a career-ending offense in America.”

Meanwhile, “thousands of fans” assailed A&E over its decision to suspend Robertson, The New York Times reports.

“On Facebook and other social media sites, supporters of the family -- along with religious and conservative groups -- accused A&E of attacking Christian values and free speech,” the newspaper notes.

While some critics said Robertson’s position is similar to the pope’s, an unnamed A&E executive said the decision was made based on Robertson’s graphic language and his comparison of homosexuality and bestiality, The New York Times reports.

Meanwhile, Palin offered a suggestion to the Robertson family.

“Our new show that's coming to Sportsman Channel, I was thinking about that this morning, too. Maybe ‘Duck Dynasty’ needs to scoot on over to that new network to charge some things up there, and I'm sure they'd be welcome with open arms,” Palin said Thursday on “Hannity” on the Fox News Channel, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

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Fox Series to Reveal Mystery Character -- Who Will Be Played by Actor From an NBC Sitcom

An actor known for his role on an NBC comedy series will appear as the mystery character on a Fox show. TVLine.com reports that actor-comedian Marc Evan Jackson, who plays attorney Trevor Nelsson on NBC's "Parks and Recreation," will join Fox’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” as the husband of Andre Braugher’s Captain Holt.

The crew of the 99th precinct will meet Captain Holt’s mysterious husband when he invites them to the captain’s birthday party at their home. Jackson's character is named Kevin Cozner, which is similar enough to Kevin Costner that the precinct members think Holt is married to the actor, the story notes.

Jackson, who is also known for his work in the stage show and podcast "Thrilling Adventure Hour" and the 2010 comedy feature "Drones," among many other credits, will debut on the Fox show in early 2014.

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Polygamy Series Is a Go at TLC

TLC has given a series order to a new show focusing on polygamy. The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports that the cable channel ordered “My Five Wives” after a broadcast of the pilot averaged 1.9 million total viewers in its September debut.

The network has ordered nine hourlong episodes of the show, which tracks Brady Williams and his five wives and 24 children, who live outside of Salt Lake City. Williams, who was raised Mormon, hadn’t heard of polygamy until his parents converted to the lifestyle, the story says.

The series will premiere March 9.

williams family-my five wives.jpgThe Williams family, of "My Five Wives"

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Fox Renews Gordon Ramsay Series -- One of Five He Has on the Network

Fox has renewed one of its five shows built around British chef Gordon Ramsay. The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed reports that the network will bring back “MasterChef Junior” for a second season.

Ramsay's other shows are “MasterChef," “Hell’s Kitchen,” “Hotel Hell” and “Kitchen Nightmares.”

It was considered a good bet that the show would receive a second season given solid ratings after its September debut, the story notes. The show drew an average of 5.1 million viewers in its Friday time slot, with a 1.4 rating in the key 18-49 demographic.

The show performed particularly well in time-shifted viewing, the report notes, as its number in the demo grew to 2.1 when adding in later viewings -- outperforming all other unscripted programs on the big four broadcast nets in DVR growth.

“MasterChef Junior” features children between 8 and 13 competing in the kitchen.

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ABC Hands Out Early Pilot Orders for Two Thrillers

ABC has placed two early orders for pilots. Deadline.com reports that one of the orders is for Shonda Rhimes’ “How to Get Away With Murder,” while the other is for "Sea of Fire."

Both projects are described as serialized thrillers. “How to Get Away with Murder,” from ABC Studios and Shondaland, is a legal thriller about a group of law students and their brilliant professor who get involved in a murder plot.

“Sea of Fire,” based on a Dutch program, comes from Sony Pictures TV, Scripted World and Mandeville. The project is about three teenage girls who star in a porn film, destroying their families and leading to a murder, a disappearance and many secrets in a small town, the story notes.

The original Dutch show has been compared to “Twin Peaks,” the piece adds.

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Creator of 'The Wire' -- Who's Also the Writer Behind 'Homicide: Life on the Street' -- to Get His Due

The creator, head writer and showrunner of the acclaimed HBO series "The Wire" has been selected to receive a career achievement honor.

Variety reports that David Simon, who also co-created HBO's “Treme” with Eric Overmyer and wrote the book behind NBC's "Homicide: Life on the Street," was named by the Writers Guild of America East as the recipient of its Ian McClellan Hunter Award.

“David Simon’s distinguished career is a celebration of his ability to combine the street smarts of the cityside newspaper reporter he once was with the creative imagination of a novelist,” WGA East President Michael Winship said. “He crafts compelling stories about the heartache and strife of urban America, depicting both the humanity of those who live and work there and the too often pitiless indifference of its institutions.”

Simon was also a writer and producer on NBC's "Homicide," and executive produced the 2008 miniseries "Generation Kill" and the 2000 HBO miniseries "The Corner."

The award will be presented by “The Wire” star Wendell Pierce Feb. 1 at the 66th Annual Writers Guild Awards in New York, the story notes. Simon has been a member of WGA East since 1995.

Previous recipients of the Hunter Award include Alan Zweibel, John Patrick Shanley and Claire Labine.

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Ryan O'Neal Wins Legal Battle Over Warhol Painting

Actor Ryan O’Neal has won his legal battle over a portrait by Andy Warhol of O'Neal's late companion, actress Farrah Fawcett, TheWrap.com reports.

The University of Texas sued the actor, claiming it had the rights to the painting after Fawcett bequeathed her art collection to the university, the story notes.

Although a similar portrait by Warhol is part of the school’s holdings, the university maintained that the actress meant for both to go to the school. The university learned of the second painting when it showed up in a reality TV show starring O’Neal, as the portrait hangs in his bedroom.

A jury ruled in favor of O’Neal, who argued that Warhol, a friend, had given him the portrait and that Fawcett and others acknowledged it belonged to him, the story says.

The painting is worth as much as $1 million, according to O’Neal’s attorney, although an appraiser hired by the university pegged its value at $12 million.

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The Man Behind 'Happy Days,' 'Mork & Mindy' and Other TV Hits Is Developing a Crime Procedural for Nickelodeon

A writer, director and producer who ruled the airwaves in the 1970s with shows such as “Happy Days” and “Mork & Mindy” is working on a crime procedural for Nickelodeon.

Deadline.com reports that Garry Marshall, who also had a hand in "The Odd Couple," "Laverne and Shirley" and "The Dick Van Dyke Show," among many other successful shows, is developing a comedic procedural with producer Aaron Kaplan and Marshall's son, director Scott Marshall.

The show is based on an idea by Kaplan, with kids ages 10-12 playing grown-up characters, the story says. The project is set up as a crime procedural, with a male cop and his DA brother both having a crush on the same female judge. The project also features a crooked mayor and a woman who runs the local “malt shoppe,” the piece adds.

Marshall will co-write the script with his son and will also direct.

Kaplan’s “Instant Mom” recently was renewed by Nick at Nite/NickMom for a 20-episode second season. Marshall, after his TV successes, focused on directing films, including "Pretty Woman," “Runaway Bride” and “The Princess Diaries.” He also recently appeared in a guest spot on Nick’s “See Dad Run,” which stars former “Happy Days” actor Scott Baio.

garry marshall.jpgGarry Marshall

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CBS Unveils Plans to Wrap Long-Running Series

CBS has taken the wraps off plans for the series finale of a show that has been one of its most durable hits, and has announced how it will adjust its prime-time schedule on Monday nights to fill the void left by the show.

The show is "How I Met Your Mother," which is in its ninth and final season. CBS will wind it up with a one-hour series finale on Monday, March 31, at 8 p.m.

The series premiere of the new comedy "Friends with Better Lives" will follow at 9 p.m. That show will move to its regular 8:30 p.m. time slot the following Monday, April 7.

Starting April 14, the network's new Monday comedy block will be led off by "2 Broke Girls" at 8 p.m.

"Friends with Better Lives" is about "six friends at different stages in their lives -- married, divorced, newly engaged and single -- who are outwardly happy, but secretly questioning if their friends have it better," CBS said in its announcement.

The network released the following schedule details:

CBS Schedule for Monday, March 31

8:00-9:00 PM -- HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER (One-Hour Series Finale)
9:00-9:30 PM -- FRIENDS WITH BETTER LIVES (Special Premiere)
9:30-10:00 PM -- MOM
10:00-11:00 PM -- INTELLIGENCE

CBS Schedule for Monday, April 7

8:00-8:30 PM -- THE BIG BANG THEORY (R)
8:30-9:00 PM -- FRIENDS WITH BETTER LIVES (Time Period Premiere)
9:00 PM to conclusion -- NCAA MEN’S BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP

CBS Monday, Effective April 14

8:00-8:30 PM -- 2 BROKE GIRLS (New Time Period)
8:30-9:00 PM -- FRIENDS WITH BETTER LIVES
9:00-9:30 PM -- MIKE & MOLLY
9:30-10:00 PM -- MOM
10:00-11:00 PM -- INTELLIGENCE

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ABC Wins a Light Wednesday With Barbara Walters Special; CBS Holiday Program Tanks

On an off night for the broadcast networks, ABC found the winning formula by airing 90 minutes of repeats leading into the annual "Barbara Walters' 10 Most Fascinating People" special. Walters revealed on the program that her Most Fascinating Person of 2013 is Hillary Clinton.

TVbytheNumbers.com reports that the Alphabet Network topped its broadcast rivals with a 1.8 average rating for prime time in the key 18-49 demo, based on Nielsen overnights. The 90-minute Barbara Walters special pulled a preliminary 2.1 average, equaling last year's show.

Second-place NBC saw its two-hour "The Sing-Off" tumble two-tenths from a week earlier to a 1.6 average in viewers 18-49, with "Michael Buble's Third Annual Christmas Special" slipping one-tenth from a year ago to a 1.3.

Fox rode its two-hour "The X Factor" to a third-place finish, as the show dipped one-tenth from last week to a 1.3 average in 18-49.

CBS aired mostly repeats along with a low-rated Celine Dion special and slipped below Univision to come in fifth overall among the broadcast nets. "A Home for the Holidays with Celine Dion" generated a weak 0.6 average in the 18-49 demo, off two-tenths from last year's special and an all-time low for "A Home for the Holidays."

Repeats of "Criminal Minds" (1.3 average in 18-49) and "CSI" (1.1) fared better than the Celine Dion show for CBS.

For prime time overall, ABC led the way with a 1.8 average in adults 18-49, followed by NBC (1.5 average), Fox (1.3), Univision (1.1) and CBS (1.0). ABC also won total viewers, averaging 7.2 million to lead CBS (6.0 million), NBC (5.3 million), Fox (5.0 million) and Univision (2.8 million).

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Xbox's First TV Series Will Examine the 'E.T.' Video Game Debacle of 1983 -- Including Excavating Millions of the Games From a Landfill

The first television series for Xbox is set to debut in 2014, and the show will be a documentary series examining a subject near and dear to the hearts of many gamers: the "E.T." video game debacle of 1983, USA Today reports.

The series, which is reportedly set to begin shooting in January, will look at a massive trash dump of "E.T." Atari video game cartridges, the story notes.

"As part of the production, the landfill in which millions of unsold 'E.T. the Extraterrestrial' video game cartridges were buried in Alamogordo, Mexico, will be excavated," the story reports. "Lightbox, the production company of producer Simon Chinn ('Searching for Sugar Man' and 'Man on Wire') and Jonathan Chinn (FX's '30 Days' and PBS's 'American High'), will be on the scene to document that for the series."

The project falls under the purview of veteran TV exec Nancy Tellem, the former CBS Network Television Entertainment Group president went to Microsoft in September 2012 to oversee the new Xbox Entertainment Studio.

Said Tellem: "Jonathan and Simon Chinn are the perfect team to spearhead this series for Xbox. They are consummate storytellers and they plan to match their creative sensibility with the best talent in the industry. These stories will expose how the digital revolution created a global democracy of information, entertainment and commerce, and how it impacts our lives every day."

The series will also cover the rise of Atari, the report notes, adding: "The series will air exclusively on Xbox One and Xbox 360 in 2014 and will be available globally in all markets where Xbox Live is supported."

The story also notes: "Microsoft previously announced its plans to begin production of original programming earlier this year -- including a new Steven Spielberg-executive produced TV series based on the Halo video games along with the unveiling of the Xbox One."

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NBC Sets Return of Drama Series

NBC announced plans for the return of a drama series. Deadline.com reports that the Peacock Network set Feb. 28 as the season two premiere date for "Hannibal."

"NBC established a genre block on Friday from 9-11 p.m. with 'Grimm' at 9 p.m. and 'Dracula' and 'Hannibal' alternating at 10 p.m.," the story reports. "The network now has set a premiere date for the 13-episode second season of 'Hannibal,' which will succeed the 10-episode first season of 'Dracula' in the 10 p.m. hour after the Winter Olympics, debuting on Feb. 28."

The report adds: "From creator Bryan Fuller, 'Hannibal' stars Mads Mikkelsen as brilliant psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lector, who is working with the FBI and gifted criminal profiler Will Graham, played by Hugh Dancy, to look into the mind of serial killers. Based on Thomas Harris’ best-selling novels, this series is the prequel to the story that began with the feature films 'Red Dragon' and 'Silence of the Lambs.'”

Also appearing in the drama series are Laurence Fishburne, Caroline Dhavernas and Hettienne Park.

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Two-Time Oscar Nominee Joins Fox Series

An actress with two Golden Globes, three Primetime Emmys and two Academy Award nominations has signed on for the Fox project "24: Live Another Day." The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed reports that Judy Davis is taking on a recurring role on the "24" event series follow-up.

"Davis will portray Margo, a British national and the widow of a notorious terrorist," THR reports. "The mini is slated for a spring 2014 premiere."

Davis was nominated for Oscars for "A Passage to India" (1984) and "Husbands and Wives" (1992). She won Emmys for "Serving in Silence: The Margaret Cammermeyer Story" (1995), "Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows" (2001) and "The Starter Wife" (2007).

Davis also won Golden Globes for her performances in "One Against the Wind" (1991) and "Life With Judy Garland."

"She joins previously announced cast members Kim Raver, William Devane and Mary Lynn Rajskub, who reunite with star Kiefer Sutherland in reprising their '24' roles," the report notes. "'24: Live Another Day' will take place in London and follow the further exploits of Jack Bauer (Sutherland), taking up his story four years after the events of '24's' final season in 2010. The mini will continue with the series' signature real-time action for each episode."

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Popular Sitcom Star Has Rare Disorder

A popular television and film actress has revealed that she has been diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder. People magazine reports that “The Exes” star Kristen Johnston was diagnosed with lupus myelitis, a rare form of the autoimmune disease lupus.

Johnston is best known for her long run as Sally Solomon on the NBC hit "3rd Rock from the Sun," which aired from 1996-2001. She currently plays Holly Franklin on TV Land's "The Exes."

Johnston revealed Tuesday on her Facebook page that she had been diagnosed with “a rare autoimmune disorder” that had left her “almost completely unable to move,” the story notes. The actress, 46, wrote that she had been very sick since early September.

“Lying down I'm fine, which is great for writing or killing time on social media," she wrote, “but it's kind of disastrous when you're in a sitcom that requires tons of physical comedy."

She took a two-episode break from the TV Land comedy, and actress Leah Remini was brought in to help fill in during her absence, the story notes.

While Johnston didn’t at first name the autoimmune disorder, she later addressed her specific diagnosis after word spread, the story adds.

"I'm not trying to be 'coy,' 'relevant' or 'get attention,'" she wrote. "I just was diagnosed two days ago with a rare form of Lupus called 'Lupus Myelitis' -- Google it. I'm not on my death bed … far from it. I'm gonna be fine."

She added, “I just wanted to have a few weeks of privacy to navigate it and receive treatment. The only reason I said anything is because I won't be in a few episodes.”

Johnston has also appeared in feature films, including "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" and "The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas."

kristen johnston.jpgKristen Johnston

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What If It Snows on Super Bowl XLVIII? The NFL Reveals Its Contingency Plans

The NFL has unveiled its bad weather contingency plans for the upcoming Super Bowl XLVIII. The big game is getting a bad weather date, given that the game is scheduled to be played Feb. 2 in the open-air Metlife Stadium in New Jersey’s Meadowlands, reports TVLine. The game will be carried by Fox.

NFL head of events Frank Supovitz said that the game has a contingency plan of shifting to either Saturday, Feb. 1, or Monday, Feb. 3 -- or even a later date -- if bad weather prevents the game from being played on its scheduled date.

Still, a few flurries won’t trigger the snow date, the story says.

“I think watching NFL football in the snow is really romantic,” Supovitz said. “It’s great, it’s exciting, and if you’ve ever done it, you know that. … I think it would be better if it snowed a little bit during the game. I think it’ll just make it more memorable.”

Given the possibility of a schedule change, "Fox might want to ready a batch of classic 'Simpsons' repeats," the report adds.

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'Duck Dynasty' Star Suspended Over Controversial Comments -- as Sarah Palin and Others Come to His Defense

Phil Robertson, patriarch of the duck call-making Robertson family and one of the stars of the hit A&E reality show “Duck Dynasty,” has been put on indefinite hiatus after making derogatory remarks about gay people in a GQ magazine interview, reports the Los Angeles Times’ Show Tracker.

In the immediate aftermath of the move, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal added his voice to the chorus of supporters of Robertson, while a group of fans started a petition aimed at getting him reinstated.

As previously reported, Robertson told GQ that “homosexual offenders” will not “inherit the Kingdom of God,” drawing a rebuke from GLAAD.

He also said that a woman’s vagina is “more desirable” than a man’s anus, according to the Times.

E! Online reports that Louisiana Gov. Jindal said in a statement: "Phil Robertson and his family are great citizens of the State of Louisiana. The politically correct crowd is tolerant of all viewpoints, except those they disagree with. I don't agree with quite a bit of stuff I read in magazine interviews or see on TV. In fact, come to think of it, I find a good bit of it offensive. But I also acknowledge that this is a free country and everyone is entitled to express their views."

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin came out in support of Robertson earlier on Twitter, according to The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed. “Free speech is endangered species; those 'intolerants' hatin' & taking on Duck Dynasty patriarch for voicing personal opinion take on us all,” she wrote.

A&E Networks said it was “extremely disappointed” in Robertson's remarks, which the company said “are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series 'Duck Dynasty.' His personal views in no way reflect those of A+E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. The networks has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely.”

Robertson will appear in some episodes of the fifth season, which were already completed before he was suspended, the story notes. The season premieres Jan. 15.

Robertson appeared to soften his remarks in a previous statement from A&E, as we reported Wednesday. In that statement, Robertson said: "I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other.”

Fox News reports that a petition was started demanding that Robertson be reinstated on the show. The petition from Faith Driven Consumer reads in part: “Mr. Robertson’s comments in GQ Magazine are simply reflective of a Biblical view of sexuality, marriage, and family -- a view that has stood the test of time for thousands of years and continues to be held by the majority of Americans and today’s world as a whole. Many members of the LGBT community may not agree with this view, but the notion that a free-thinking American should be discriminated against simply for expressing a perspective that is in conflict with another is patently un-American and flies in the face of true tolerance and civility."

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ABC Signs 'Good Morning America' Anchor to Long-Term Contract

ABC has signed a “Good Morning America” anchor to a long-term contract. The New York Post’s Page Six reports that the network's new deal with Robin Roberts is possibly worth between $13 million and $14 million a year.

ABC representatives declined to disclose the value of the contract, or whether one had been signed, the story adds.

Roberts reportedly didn’t want to create a bidding war, although she wanted a “fair deal,” the report notes. The anchor, who was recently on leave for six months after receiving a bone marrow transplant, was grateful for the support she received while she was sick, the piece adds.

ABC is also negotiating with the show’s other hosts, Josh Elliott and Lara Spencer.

“A source close to ABC said that talks with the other anchors are under way. Previous reports said that Elliott and Spencer’s reps had also been sniffing around other networks. Meanwhile, anchor George Stephanopoulos is reported to be signed through 2014,” the piece adds.

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'Desperate Housewives' Star Returns to TV

One of the former "Desperate Housewives" of the long-running ABC series has lined up her return to television. Deadline.com reports that Marcia Cross, who played Bree Van de Kamp for eight seasons on "Housewives," will take on a role in Fox’s comedy pilot “Fatrick.”

The project is written by “Don’t Trust the B---- in Apt. 23” creator and exec producer Nahnatchka Khan and co-executive producer Corey Nickerson and will be directed by Oscar-winning writers Nat Faxon and Jim Rash.

The project is about Patrick, a grown man who is a former fat kid. He realizes he has to deal with his past as “Fatrick,” and the show flashes between the present and his school years. Cross will play his mother, Arlene, who will appear in the present and in the flashbacks.

“A fit, energetic nutritionist, she is rigid and intense when it comes to her family’s eating habits,” the story says of her character.

The report adds: “This marks the biggest half-hour commitment for Cross, who had largely done drama series before her turn in the comedic one-hour ‘Desperate Housewives.’ She took a break after the end of the ABC series to spend time with her twin girls, born while Cross was on the show, and is now making her return to TV.”

Cross is also known for playing Dr. Kimberly Shaw on Fox's "Melrose Place" in the 1990s.

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NBC Doubles Down on Sketch Comedy: 'Saturday Night Live' Alum Developing New Project

A former "Saturday Night Live" performer is developing a new NBC project that is a sketch comedy and variety hour. Writing on Deadline.com, Nellie Andreeva reports that David Koechner, who is also one of the stars of “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” is returning to his roots in sketch comedy as the creator, star and executive producer of the new show.

The project has received a pilot order from NBC.

Koechner, who recurred on NBC’s “The Office” as Todd Packer, will executive produce the pilot with Lou Wallach and Brillstein Entertainment Partners’ Alex Murray and Tim Sarkes.

Koechner had a short stint on "SNL" in the mid-1990s, later performing as part of The Naked Trucker and T-Bones Show and making a series of appearances on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien." He went on to a number of feature film performances, including roles in "Anchorman," "Talladega Nights" and "Thank You for Smoking."

“I am thrilled to be working with NBC to develop a dynamic hour of variety entertainment,” Koechner said. “I got my start working for NBC on ‘Saturday Night Live,’ followed by a stint on ‘The Office,’ and I’m happy to be back. As a husband and father of five, my vision is for us to create a show that engages everyone. I want it to make a mom, dad and grandmother laugh, while the 13- to 19-year-old stands behind the couch peeking over his iPhone, equally amused by the content.”

The order is the second high-profile variety show in the pipeline at NBC, which is also developing a project headlined by former “SNL” cast member Maya Rudolph, the story notes.

“NBC has been actively exploring alternative comedy as this is where the network’s strength has been recently, with ‘SNL’ and ‘Hollywood Game Night’ ranking as NBC’s top two comedy programs in the 18-49 demo,” Andreeva writes. “Given how well NBC did with another variety-type program, the live staging of ‘The Sound Of Music,' on Thursday [Dec. 5], it is not inconceivable for the network to try sketch/variety shows on the night where its traditional comedies have struggled.”

Thumbnail image for david-koechner.pngDavid Koechner

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Series Order for New Unscripted Show Signals the Latest Reality Trend

The latest trend in reality television has arrived, with back-to-back series orders for similarly themed shows. In the second order this month for a show about magic, The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed reports that Turner-owned cable network TruTV ordered “Undercover Magic,” a 12-episode unscripted series built around comedian-magician Michael Carbonaro.

The series will feature Carbonaro performing tricks on unsuspecting people who are caught on hidden camera.

“Posing as an ordinary bartender or salesman, Carbonaro turns hair into a puppy and pours 12 pints of beer from a regular bottle," the story notes.The show is set to bow in summer 2014.

The TruTV order comes on the heels of an order by A&E for its own unscripted show focusing on magic. As we reported earlier this month, A&E is readying “Don’t Trust Andrew Mayne,” a magic show with a revenge twist.

The A&E show is set for a Jan. 13 rollout.

Here's a preview clip for TruTV's "Undercover Magic":

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Hulu's Sales Reach Major Milestone

Online streaming service Hulu has reached an impressive revenue milestone. Citing a blog post from Hulu Chief Executive Mike Hopkins, Bloomberg reports that the company's revenues for 2013 will reach $1 billion.

That figure represents a 44% increase, as Hulu gains more advertisers and subscribers, the story reports. The company's lineup of advertisers rose 15% to more than 1,000 brands, Hopkins wrote.

“It was also a record year for consumption as Hulu viewers streamed more than 1 billion content videos in each quarter, and stayed with us for approximately 50 minutes per session in Q4,” he added.

The company also reached 5 million paying subscribers earlier this year, Hopkins noted. “Roughly 50% of those subscribers are now streaming exclusively on devices, with living room viewing accounting for over half of all content consumption on the service,” he wrote.

“As we scale the business in 2014, we will continue to invest in content, technology and people. 2014 will bring even more opportunity as we find new ways to grow the business from the strong foundation we have built,” Hopkins added.

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Here's How to Find the Non-Stop Burning Yule Log on TV This Year -- Including in 3D -- and Here's a Fun Video About It

The annual televised Yule log became a tradition for New York-area residents after WPIX-TV first aired a three-hour film of burning logs in 1966, and in recent years the tradition has been updated for the digital age, the Los Angeles Times’ Show Tracker reports.

The Yule log broadcast, popular with New Yorkers who had no fireplace of their own, went HD and national in 2004 when Tribune Broadcasting started airing it on its stations, the story notes.

The traditional “Yule Log” will air on WGN from midnight to 4 a.m. PT on Christmas Day, but there are other options.

Netflix, for one, is streaming its own fireplace this year, so you can start watching the burning log at any time before the holiday. The log even has its own tongue-in-cheek trailer and "making of" video.

Here's the trailer posted by Netflix to promote (and poke fun at) its Yule log. Stay tuned at the end to click through to the equally amusing "making of" clip, which focuses on the artistry behind the Yule log video:

Hub Network is airing an animated Yule log called “My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic Yule Log,” which will air from 3-7 a.m. PT and will feature some of the stars of “My Little Pony,” such as Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie.

Time Warner Cable will offer the Yule log on demand, but not just in SD and HD. Fans of the burning log can also watch it in 3D, the story notes. Comcast will also offer the Yule log, in both SD and HD.

The original home of Christmas tradition, WPIX in New York, will air the burning log from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET on Christmas, and will stream it on PIX11.com from 3-7 p.m. PT on Christmas Eve and for two blocks of time on Christmas Day, the report notes.

TV yule log.JPGOld-school Yule log

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'Hunger Games' Producer Takes On Social Media Site in New TV Project

Lionsgate Television is working on a project with “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” executive producer Allison Shearmur to develop The New York Times best-selling book “Hatching Twitter” into a television project, The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports.

The book, by The New York Times columnist and reporter Nick Bilton, goes behind the scenes to examine the creation of the social media service, which was started by four friends.

“Bilton's work sheds light on the relationships, battles, power grabs and betrayals along the way in what Lionsgate described as one of the most talked-about books of the year,” the story says. “‘Hatching Twitter’ has been named one of the best books of the year by ‘The Economist,’ Gizmodo, Mashable and was an Amazon Best Book of the Month in November.”

nick bilton.pngNick Bilton

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Fox Rolls Out Binge-Viewing Opportunities to Enable Viewers to Catch Up on Its Series -- Especially One Drama Series

Fox is taking advantage of the networks’ traditional midseason hiatus with plans to roll out the first season of “The Following” across all digital and video-on-demand platforms, allowing viewers to catch up before the show returns in 2014, EW.com’s Inside TV reports.

The drama series, which stars Kevin Bacon, will be released in batches of four to five episodes each week starting Dec. 22, the story notes. The series will be available on Fox on Demand, Fox.com and FOX NOW, the piece adds.

“If that’s not enough television for you, there will also be more than 100 episodes available of both new and returning series,” including old and returning shows such as “Almost Human,” “American Dad” and “Sleepy Hollow,” the story notes. “All new series will be fully unlocked and available to view on all platforms, while returning series will require credentials from participating video providers to view on FOX NOW.”

The second-season premiere of "The Following" is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 27.

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Sundance Taps 'Under the Dome' Writer for NRA Drama

Sundance Channel is working on a National Rifle Association drama with journalist and “Under the Dome” writer Scott Gold, The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports.

Called “Cold Dead Hands,” the drama is “set against the backdrop of the NRA and the ongoing debate over Americans' right to bear arms. It focuses on the fictional Thibodeaux family, led by patriarch and NRA topper Trip,” the story says.

Gold will write the script and executive produce the project, which is from Tony Krantz’ Flame Ventures. Gold has worked at the Los Angeles Times since 1999, the piece adds.

"The debate over gun violence and gun rights has many sides," Krantz said, "and in order to help protect lives, promote gun safety and build a national consensus on the issues, we want to respect and understand all sides of this story."

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Whoa! With Jay Leno Leaving 'The Tonight Show' Early Next Year, One Report Says He Could Hook Up With His Former Boss, Jeff Zucker, at CNN. Could Today's King of Late-Night Become the Next Larry King?

Here's a wild one. Matthew Belloni and Lacey Rose are reporting in The Hollywood Reporter: "Sources tell THR that CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker -- who, while running NBCUniversal, famously set in motion Leno's first ouster from 'Tonight' by promising the show to Conan O'Brien in 2009 -- is among those who have approached Leno for a late-night or prime-time show on his network."

The story continues: "Zucker recently visited briefly with Leno at NBC in Burbank. Also among the 10 or so outlets courting the comic are Tribune, 'American Idol' producer Core Media Group and even former NBC chief Jeff Gaspin. But Leno, 63, and his lone representative, attorney Ken Ziffren, are said to be refusing to entertain offers until the host fulfills his obligation to NBC on Feb. 6."

But Brian Steinberg in Variety counters, "[M]any people are throwing cold water on this [CNN] idea, and perhaps with good reason. A Leno program on CNN could be hard to float financially. His salary -- cut to $15 million per year in 2012 from $30 million after the comic returned to 11:35 p.m. from NBC’s prime time -- might be hard to justify at a cable network that doesn’t make the bulk of its ad revenue as the clock ticks closer to midnight. (And would fewer appearances garner attention? Once-a-week Leno?)"

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This Can't be Good: With 'The X Factor's' Future Still Undecided, Judge Demi Lovato Is Reportedly Headed Out

One of the high-profile judges on Fox's "The X Factor" is off the show, according to a source who spoke with People magazine, even as the fate of the show itself remains up in the air.

"Demi Lovato is leaving 'The X Factor,' a source close to the singer tells People," the story reports. "The reason? 'She plans to spend next year completely focused on her music,' says the source."

The source adds: "She had a great run and a good time."

Fox has yet to announce whether it will bring the show back for another season. But the show's demanding shooting schedule reportedly doesn't leave Lovato enough time to fulfill her music plans for the coming year.

"Lovato, 21, who has served as a judge for two seasons, is about to headline her first arena tour, which kicks off Feb. 9 in Vancouver and will also feature 'X Factor' alums Cher Lloyd, Little Mix and Fifth Harmony," the report notes.

Lovato talked about her priorities back in November, the report notes, quoting her as saying then: "I think ultimately my main thing is singing. Maybe movies once in a while, if the right role comes along."

She also said at that time that she was planning a break, according to the report.

Lovato said then: "I will take the month of January completely off! I want to vacation! I want to watch crime shows on my DVR on my couch ... I need to do some exercising and I don't really have time to do it. I love horseback riding and never get to do that stuff, but January is my time to do all of that."

Thumbnail image for demi-lovato.pngDemi Lovato

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TVWeek's Cable Television Executive of the Year

Our honoree as this year's Cable Television Executive of Year is one of the most extraordinary leaders in all of television. He's Matt Blank, the chairman and CEO of Showtime. To read a most insightful interview with Matt, please click here.

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NBC and CBS Win duPont Awards for Breaking News -- Here Are All the Winners

NBC News and CBS News were among the winners of the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards for journalism, announced today. Both organizations won the Silver Baton for their breaking news coverage.

NBC News won for its "Devastation in Oklahoma" coverage of the deadly tornado that hit Moore, Okla., with that coverage airing on "Dateline" and "Nightly News."

CBS News was honored for its coverage of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The coverage included an inaccurate report by CBS and other news outlets that indicated the shooter's mother was a teacher at the school. CBS later acknowledged its report was in error.

Two TV stations also received awards for breaking news coverage: KSHB-TV in Kansas City and WBZ-TV in Boston.

A number of other local TV stations, and the Center for Investigative Journalism, also won awards.

"Six of this year’s recipients featured investigative reporting including stories from KMGH-TV, Denver, WFAA-TV, Dallas, and WVUE-TV, New Orleans," the organization noted in its announcement. "The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) will receive two awards for investigative multimedia reporting: one recognizing the cross-platform collaboration with U.C. Berkeley IRP, 'Frontline' and Univision, 'Rape in the Fields/Violación de un Sueño'; the second award will be given to 'Broken Shield.' ESPN will be honored for the first time with a silver baton for investigative reporting."

The awards will be handed out Jan. 21, 2014, in a ceremony at Columbia University, to be hosted by ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos.

Please click here to read the full press release from Columbia Journalism School, with all the winners.

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HBO Sets Premiere for 'James Gandolfini: Tribute to a Friend'

HBO has firmed up plans -- including a premiere date -- for its tribute to "Sopranos" star James Gandolfini, who died in June at age 51.

Deadline.com reports that "James Gandolfini: Tribute to a Friend" will premiere Sunday, Dec. 22, at 8:30 p.m.

The half-hour program will feature friends and colleagues paying tribute to the three-time Emmy winner, along with clips of his performances and behind-the-scenes footage, the report notes.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for james-gandolfini2.jpgJames Gandolfini

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Another Down Night for NBC's 'The Voice'; CBS Drama Sinks to Series Low

One night after the performance finale of NBC's generally strong performer "The Voice" stumbled in the ratings -- delivering the show's lowest number ever for a performance finale, based on Nielsen overnights for the key 18-49 demo -- Tuesday's season finale also hit a sour note.

TVbytheNumbers.com reports that the two-hour finale settled for a 3.9 average rating in 18-49, well below both the 4.9 turned in by last fall's finale and the 4.4 for last spring's finale. The number was up, however, from a 3.1 for last week's show.

Still, as it did Monday, NBC was able to win Tuesday night's prime-time battle with its broadcast rivals in the key demo. The network's "The Biggest Loser" did its part, ticking up one-tenth from last week to a 2.0, and NBC's overall 3.3 average for prime time gave it a comfortable lead over second-place CBS.

CBS saw much of its drama lineup turn in steady numbers. "NCIS" led the way despite slipping one-tenth from a week ago in the 18-49 demo, delivering a 2.8 average, and "NCIS: Los Angeles" held steady with a 2.4. But "Person of Interest" fell three-tenths to tie its series low, a 1.9.

ABC and Fox relied heavily on repeats -- an all-repeat lineup in Fox's case -- and slipped below Univision to tie for fourth place in viewers 18-49. ABC's only fresh program was "What Would You Do?" at 10 p.m., which managed only a 0.7, off two-tenths from a week ago.

For prime time overall, NBC's 3.3 average was easily enough to win adults 18-49, ahead of CBS (2.4 average), Univision (1.1), and ABC and Fox (both 0.8). CBS, however, surged ahead in total viewers, winning the night with an average of 15.6 million to lead NBC (11.5 million), with the others well off the pace: Univision (2.9 million), ABC (2.8 million) and Fox (1.8 million).

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'SNL' Promos: Are They Now More Entertaining Than the Show Itself? Here's the Latest, Featuring Jimmy Fallon

Keeping with the recent tradition of outtake-style promos for NBC's "Saturday Night Live," Jimmy Fallon, who is hosting the upcoming show (with musical guest Justin Timberlake), banged out a series of the always entertaining clips.

Check it out:

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Former Disney Actor Dead at 49

An actor who appeared in a popular Disney series and other television roles, along with performances in a number of feature films, has died.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Daniel Escobar, known for his role on Disney Channel’s “Lizzie McGuire,” died Dec. 13 of complications from diabetes. He was 49.

Escobar played the teacher Mr. Escobar opposite Hilary Duff on the Disney series from 2001-2002, also appearing in the role in "The Lizzie McGuire Movie" in 2003. He had a recurring role on “Dharma & Greg” and appeared on a number of TV shows, including “Weeds,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “How I Met Your Mother.”

His film roles included “Blow,” “The Mexican” and “Sympathy for Delicious.”

daniel escobar.pngDaniel Escobar

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'Duck Dynasty' Star Under Fire for 'Vile' Remarks

One of the stars of the mega-hit A&E reality show "Duck Dynasty" has come under fire for comments he made that an activist group said "push vile and extreme stereotypes." The Los Angeles Times' Show Tracker reports that GLAAD released a strong statement slamming the comments by Phil Robertson.

"In January's issue of GQ, Robertson said that 'homosexual offenders' will not 'inherit the Kingdom of God' and unfavorably compared 'a man's anus' to the vagina," the story reports. "The gay rights group was quick to denounce his comments."

GLAAD spokesman Wilson Cruz addressed the comments in a statement, saying: "Phil and his family claim to be Christian, but Phil's lies about an entire community fly in the face of what true Christians believe. He clearly knows nothing about gay people or the majority of Louisianans -- and Americans -- who support legal recognition for loving and committed gay and lesbian couples. Phil's decision to push vile and extreme stereotypes is a stain on A&E and his sponsors who now need to reexamine their ties to someone with such public disdain for LGBT people and families."

Robertson appeared to soften his comments in a follow-up statement issued by A&E. Robertson is quoted in the statement saying: “I myself am a product of the 60s; I centered my life around sex, drugs and rock and roll until I hit rock bottom and accepted Jesus as my Savior. My mission today is to go forth and tell people about why I follow Christ and also what the bible teaches, and part of that teaching is that women and men are meant to be together."

Robertson adds in the statement: "However, I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other.”

phil robertson-duck dynasty.pngPhil Robertson

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Report: Publicist, Manager for Charlie Sheen Both Quit

The manager who has been representing Charlie Sheen for 16 years has reportedly quit his job with the actor, as has Sheen's publicist. According to The Hollywood Reporter, both manager Mark Burg and publicist Larry Solters notified Sheen last week that they were out.

Burg had worked with Sheen for 16 years, while Solters started working with him during his 2011 meltdown that led to his departure from “Two and a Half Men.”

“While things had quieted down for much of 2012, recent drama involving Sheen’s ex-wife Brooke Mueller and custody arrangements of their children seem to point to a possible refrain,” THR reports. "Says a source: 'Every day is another circus. ... The whole notion of "let me help you" was futile.'"

Solters reportedly told the publication: "I love Charlie. He's a great guy."

Solters got involved with Sheen "after longtime PR man Stan Rosenfield had ostensibly thrown up his hands" during the 2011 meltdown, THR reports. "The public episodes at the time -- nonsensical interviews about 'winning' and Greek mythology followed by a national stand-up tour -- resulted in Sheen's departure from the hit sitcom 'Two and a Half Men,' for which he was paid north of a million dollars an episode."

The report cites an inside source saying Sheen continues to surround himself with yes men. "Charlie equates loyalty with being by his side at all times," the source is quoted as saying. "It's sad because he's a victim of his own wanting to be loved -- a tortured soul."

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for charlie sheen.pngCharlie Sheen

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Love Her or Hate Her, Cable Host Extends Deal Through 2017

A cable news channel host who is often a lightning rod for criticism has signed a deal that will keep her on the air at least through 2017. The New York Post reports that HLN signed prime-time fixture Nancy Grace to the extension.

Grace was approached in July by CNN chief Jeff Zucker, who also oversees HLN, about extending her contract, the story says. Zucker tapped Albie Hecht in September to serve as HLN’s general manager.

Grace's outspoken style and hard-line stance on legal cases -- she openly advocates a victims' rights viewpoint -- have made her a frequent target of criticism. She hinted that the show might see some tweaks, however.

“We might change [the show] up a bit, but my goal has [been] and always will be helping to find missing people, especially children, and helping solve homicides and highlight [criminal] cases I think people should know about,” the former prosecutor told the publication.

Addressing rumors that she was about to be let go from HLN, Grace said, “There are always haters out there, especially for a person who’s in a position that I’m lucky enough to be in.”

The show’s year-to-date ratings are up 15% from last year, the piece adds.

nancy grace.jpgNancy Grace

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Actors' Union Orders Members to Stay Away From Cable Series

SAG-AFTRA is ordering members not to work on a cable show. Variety reports that the actors' guild wants its members to steer clear of “Knife Fight,” a cooking competition show that airs on the Esquire Network.

The union alleges that producer Authentic Entertainment refuses to sign a collective bargaining agreement, the story reports.

“No member may accept work or appear as a guest on this series,” the union’s “no-contract, no-work” order says. “Violating this order may result in disciplinary action in accordance with the SAG-AFTRA Constitution.”

Authentic Entertainment did not respond to a request for comment, the story says.

“Knife Fight” is hosted by "Top Chef" winner Ilan Hall and features chefs competing with each other in an after-hours cooking bout. Drew Barrymore is an executive producer.

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Oscar Winner Targets the 'F-Word' in the Media -- But It's Not the Same 'F-Word' You're Probably Thinking Of

An Academy Award-winning actress has something against the "F-word" -- not the four-letter one, but a three-letter one: "fat."

Jennifer Lawrence, who won an Oscar this year for her lead role in "Silver Linings Playbook," told Barbara Walters during an appearance on the ABC News special “Barbara Walters: The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2013” that it “should be illegal to call somebody fat on TV,” reports People magazine.

Lawrence, the star of “The Hunger Games” films, recently got into a battle with Joan Rivers for teaching young people “the wrong values,” the story says.

Lawrence told Walters, “Why is humiliating people funny?,” referring to catty comments from red-carpet critics such as Rivers, the story says.

"I think the media needs to take responsibility for the effect it has on our younger generation, on these girls that are watching these television shows and picking up how to talk and how to be cool," Lawrence said. "So all of a sudden being funny is making fun of a girl that's wearing an ugly dress."

She added, "If we're regulating cigarettes and sex and cuss words, because of the effect it has on our younger generation, why aren't we regulating things like calling people fat?"

jennifer lawrence-profile.pngJennifer Lawrence

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TV Movie Will Tackle TV's Morning Show Wars

A new television movie is in development that will focus on TV's morning show wars. TVNewser reports that the project, which is being developed for a Lifetime movie, is based on “Top of the Morning,” a book by former New York Times reporter Brian Stelter.

The book, which looks at the ratings decline of NBC’s “Today” and the rise of ABC’s “Good Morning America,” may join Lifetime’s roster of original movies including “Bonnie & Clyde” and “Deadly Honeymoon,” the story notes.

Lifetime has optioned the book and is in the early development stage. Production company DiGA Vision, whose founders Liz Gateley and Tony DiSantos will be the executive producers, had previously bought the rights to the book. DiGA Vision is behind the series “Ke$ha: My Crazy Beautiful Life” and “My Life Is a Lifetime Movie,” the story notes.

Stelter is now the host of “Reliable Sources” on CNN.

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Down and Downer: All Three Major Cable News Nets See Prime-Time Numbers Fall

The three top cable news networks -- Fox News Channel, CNN and MSNBC -- were all down in prime-time ratings this year when compared with 2012, although that year’s ratings were boosted by the presidential election, The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports.

Fox News again ranked as the most-watched cable news network, with an average of 1.774 million viewers from 8-11 p.m., the story notes. Of those, 297,000 were in the key news demo of viewers 25-54.

That represents drops of 13% and 30%, respectively, from the previous year, although ratings were offset by a boost in the fourth quarter, helped by a new prime-time schedule, the story notes.

MSNBC ranked second in prime time with 645,000 total viewers and 203,000 adults in 25-54, representing drops of 29% by both ratings measures.

“Still a work in progress is CNN. The third-place prime-time network, which admittedly had a strong first half of the year thanks to coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing, the Oklahoma tornadoes and the now-infamous 'poop cruise,' has lagged in recent months," the story reports. "It is on track to hit an all-time low in total prime-time viewership (578,000). That's down 15 percent from last year, with a 16 percent drop in the demo (187,000)."

Commenting on prime-time lineup changes at Fox News, the piece notes: "Megyn Kelly's entry at 9 p.m. might be the most significant anchor move during the tumultuous year. 'The Kelly File's' splashy segue into Sean Hannity's old time slot lifted the hour 13 percent among adults 25-54 compared to year-to-date numbers and a more impressive 23 percent in total viewers."

In the overall cable universe, only Fox News registers as a major player in the ratings. "Across all cable nets, FNC came in sixth in prime time and fourth in total day," the report notes. "MSNBC placed 29th in prime time, but it fell short of CNN in total day (30th compared to 28th). CNN's prime-time rank was 31st."

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Frank Darabont Sues AMC Over 'Walking Dead'

“The Walking Dead” developer Frank Darabont and his agency CAA filed a lawsuit against AMC, alleging the network engaged in “self dealing” by low-balling the license fee for the show and using questionable accounting techniques that deprived profit participants of compensation, Nellie Andreeva reports on Deadline.com.

The complaint also claims Darabont was wrongfully fired from the show and should continue to receive executive producing credit and proceeds from related shows, including “Talking Dead” and an upcoming spinoff from Robert Kirkman, the creator of the graphic novel that formed the show’s basis, the story says.

AMC declined comment on the lawsuit, the story notes. Darabont and CAA are requesting unspecified monetary damages.

“Judging by the history of vertical integration lawsuits, the odds are small that the dispute would go to trial," Andreeva writes. "There have been a slew of ‘self dealing’ complaints since the 1995 relaxation of TV’s financial interest-syndication rules -- all of them eventually settled."

“The list includes ‘Home Improvement’ producers’ suit against Disney, ‘NYPD Blue’ exec producer Steven Bochco’s, ‘X-Files’ star David Duchovny’s and ‘M*A*S*H’ star Alan Alda’s complaints against 20th Century Fox TV, and more recently ‘Will & Grace’ creators Max Mutchnick and David Kohan’s case against NBC and ‘Smallville’ creators Miles Millar and Alfred Gough’s against Warner Bros TV,” Andreeva writes.

She adds, “The difference is that Darabont was also fired from the show early into its run, a move Darabont and CAA are using in their case against AMC. The lawsuit, filed [Tuesday] with the New York Supreme Court, comes after sources say efforts by Darabont and CAA to resolve their issues were ‘fundamentally rebuffed’ by AMC.”

The complaint alleges that Darabont “has not received and may never receive one dollar in Profits for developing the Series” despite four seasons of hit ratings and profitability for AMC.

The lawsuit also alleges that AMC fired Darabont without cause soon before the second season aired “precisely in order to avoid its contractual obligations to pay him increased Profits (which vested fully at the conclusion of Season 2) and to avoid its obligation to negotiate to hire him as showrunner for Season 3.”

The complaint also claims that AMC “was unable or unwilling to give any specific reasons for Darabont’s abrupt termination. AMC could not explain why Darabont was not given any notice, warning, or opportunity to cure any perceived problems” when asked for an explanation.

Thumbnail image for frank darabont 2.jpgFrank Darabont

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Actor From DirecTV Cop Drama Snags Lead in New ABC Project

A new ABC drama project has cast its lead along with a number of other roles. Deadline.com reports that the lead role in the pilot “Galavant,” about a heroic prince seeking revenge on an evil king, has been given to Joshua Sasse.

Sasse, 26, has been a regular on the DirecTV drama series “Rogue,” and had a major role in the 2013 feature "Frankenstein's Army." He is slated to play the title character, Prince Galavant, in the new ABC project.

The project has also cast Karen David of BBC’s “Waterloo Road,” Mallory Jansen ("Howzat! Kerry Packer's War") and Luke Youngblood of “Community," the story reports.

“‘Galavant’ centers on handsome Prince Galavant (Sasse) -- a classic once-upon-a-time hero, complete with sword, horse, great hair, courage, mad skills (like dragon-slaying and helping the poor)” but whose true love has been stolen by evil King Richard, the report notes.

However, his love, played by Jansen, decides she prefers the king to Galavant, who is penniless, the story says.

David will play Isabella, a princess whose country has been conquered by King Richard, while Youngblood will play Galavant’s squire.

joshua-sasse.jpgJoshua Sasse

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CNBC Apologizes for N-Word Incident

CNBC apologized after an on-air incident in which the cable channel televised the N-word. The apology came after CNBC teased a segment about Starbucks with a rap song that included the word, The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports.

“The offending word played before the business channel cut to a commercial break, loud enough for viewers to hear,” the story notes.

CNBC anchor Kelly Evans apologized for airing the word, which was part of B2K’s “Fizzo Got Flow.”

“We accidentally aired a piece of music this hour during a tease with inappropriate lyrics," Evans said. "That obviously should not have been on the air and we deeply apologize for that and for any offense that it may have caused."

Here's a short clip containing the music segment and the apology:

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Reports Say At Least Two Winning Tickets Were Sold for Tuesday's Mega Millions Lottery, One in California and One in Georgia. Estimated Jackpot Was $636 Million, the Second Biggest in U.S. History

[Updated at 10:49 pm, PT, on Dec. 17, 2013. The official Mega Millions website now confirms that there are just two winning tickets of Tuesday night's lottery drawing and that the jackpot was indeed $636 million.]

"Lottery officials said late Tuesday that winning tickets for the $636 million Mega Millions jackpot were sold in California and Georgia," Fox News is reporting.

The story continues, "A message on the California Lottery's official Twitter account read 'Check your tickets #SanJose because holiday luck has actually struck YOUR city!' California Lottery spokesman Alex Traverso told Reuters that the winning ticket was sold at a retail location on Tully Road in the Northern California city.

"Later Tuesday, the Texas Lottery posted a message on its Twitter account saying that a winning ticket had been sold in Georgia, though that was not confirmed by Georgia Lottery officials."

However, TVWeek has gone on the official website of the Georgia lottery and it does indeed say that there has been one winning ticket sold in that state.

The $636 million jackpot was the second largest Mega Millions jackpot ever. Last year the biggest jackpot of $656 million was won.

The San Jose Mercury News says the winning Mega Millions ticket in San Jose was sold at Jenny's Gift Shop, located at 1818 Tully Road.

The Mercury News story continues, "Store owner Thuy Nguyen, who said he had just taken over the store four months ago, said lottery sales had 'been keeping me real busy' throughout the day. He planned to reopen the store at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

" 'The lottery called me and let me know (that the winning ticket was sold here), so then when I came and take a look, everybody (was) here, and whoa!' Nguyen said with a huge grin, jumping deliriously around the parking lot before heading out to celebrate.

"Nguyen added with a laugh: 'I am so happy, I feel good.' "

The Mercury News story added, "Lottery officials said Nguyen would receive a prize of about $1 million for selling the winning ticket."

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Mega Millions Jackpot Tonight Estimated to Be a Whopping $636 Million. The Numbers Have Now Been Picked. Here They Are

[Story updated at 8:15 p.m. PT, to include the winning numbers in tonight's Mega Millions lottery drawing.]

Tonight's Mega Millions lottery jackpot has jumped to an estimated $636 million, according to the Mega Millions website.

The site also says that the cash value is estimated to be $341 million, if there is a winner and the winner chooses that option.

The winning numbers in tonight's Mega Millions lottery drawing are 8,14,17,20,39, with the Mega Ball being 7. It was not immediately known if there were any winning tickets sold.

The drawing for the lottery will take place tonight, Tuesday, Dec.17th, 2013, at 11 p.m. ET, which is 8 p.m. PT.

The odds of picking all of the winning numbers is an astonishing 1 in 259 million. (Before October it was one in 176 million, but Mega Millions increased the number of numbers player have to choose from, hence increasing the odds of winning. At the same time, it allows for bigger jackpots.)

The all-time record Mega Millions jackpot is $656 million, which was won in 2012.

Business Insider has published an article with the headline "Math Says You Should Buy A Mega Millions Ticket Right Now."

That article says, "Notice that by far our most likely outcome is that we get none of the numbers right. There is about a 93% chance that we just wind up losing our dollar. Despite this, since the jackpot is so enormously high right now, our average winnings are a nice positive $1.63, indicating that we should consider buying a ticket.

"Another notable property of Mega Millions is that the lower prizes do not help us too much. Without that jackpot, the expected value is a very unhappy —$0.82. So, Mega Millions really is all about the jackpot."

The Business Insider article also says that the calulation above is if you take the entire jackpot. If you take the cash value -- estimated to be about $341 million, "The expected value of a Mega Millions ticket here is lower — just $0.49 as opposed to the $1.63 taking the annuity — but it is still positive, and this is still a viable option."

To be honest we're not sure we here at TVWeek understand all of the math calculations that went into the Business Insider article.

What we do know is this: For a buck, if you're really lucky, you can become very rich.

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This Star of TV, Stage and Film Will Reportedly Play Either the Skipper or Gilligan in the Big Screen Version of 'Gilligan's Island.' And He'll Co-Write the Screenplay

A very talented star of TV, stage and screen will both star in and co-write the motion picture version of "Gilligan's Island," reports Mike Fleming Jr. at Deadline.com.

The article says that the movie version of "Gilligan's Island" "will be fashioned as a star vessel for 'Book Of Mormon‘s' Josh Gad. Gad, Benji Samit and Dan Hernandez will write the script. Lloyd Schwartz, Ross Schwartz, Tracey Silvers and Cathy Silvers will be executive producers. They’re not saying what character Gad would play, but the title character seems a possibility, though he could conceivably play The Skipper."

Gad was nominated for a Tony Award for "Mormon." Among many other credits, Gad starred in the short-lived NBC sitcom "1600 Penn" last season.

joshgad.pngJosh Gad

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CNN Launches New Brand for Documentaries, Unveils First Two Selections

CNN is rolling out a new brand as a destination for acquired documentary films, with the first two selections set to premiere on the cable channel in January.

The channel today announced its “CNN Films Presents” brand, with "March of the Penguins" and "The Imposter" set to kick things off.

"CNN Films Presents will be a sister brand to CNN Films, which was launched in October 2012, and is the network’s brand for acquired or commissioned documentary features, following their exhibitions in theaters," the company said in its announcement. "All CNN Films Presents broadcasts will be acquired films. And, the new brand will also be distinguished from CNN Films in that its documentaries will have broadcast windows that are not first-on-television premieres."

"March of the Penguins," a French-made nature documentary featuring narration by Morgan Freeman, won an Oscar in 2006 as best documentary feature. It will air on CNN starting Jan. 2.

"The Imposter," a British-American co-production, tells the story of a Frenchman who impersonated a Texas child who went missing in 1994. It will premiere Jan. 23.

Said Vinnie Malhotra, senior vice president of development and acquisitions for CNN Worldwide: “CNN Films Presents is a curated series of exceptional documentary feature films from the past for a new audience to discover and for fans to enjoy again. We will revisit classics like 'March of the Penguins,' and more recent critically acclaimed titles like 'The Imposter.'"

CNN Films Presents is curated by Malhotra and Amy Entelis, senior vice president of talent and content development, who also curate CNN Films.

march of the penguins.jpg

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NBC Greenlights Bible Series

NBC has formally given the green light to a project that is a sequel to History's hit miniseries "The Bible." Deadline.com reports that the network is pushing ahead with "A.D.," a 12-hour project from Mark Burnett and Roma Downey.

"The project, produced by LightWorkers Media with Burnett, Downey and Richard Bedser serving as executive producers, is eyeing a premiere in spring 2015," the report notes.

Said NBC Chairman Robert Greenblatt: “Last year when Mark Burnett was launching 'The Bible' on cable, I told him, without hesitation, that if he wanted to tell more of the story, we’d love to do it at NBC. We are firmly in the ‘event’ business and nothing has more event potential than 'A.D.' as it continues immediately after the 'The Bible' ended.”

The report adds: "The order for 'A.D.,' which will be written by BAFTA nominee Simon Block ('The Shooting Of Thomas Hurndall'), comes a week after NBC greenlighted its first miniseries under the network’s current longform push -- the four-hour 'Rosemary’s Baby.' This also marks the second miniseries order for Burnett and Downey in the past week after CBS picked up 'The Dovekeepers,' which also has religious overtones."

NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke commented: “You might think the story is over at the Crucifixion, but as most of the world knows, that was only the beginning. Everyone’s lives were completely altered in an instant and the immediate aftermath of Christ’s death had an impact on his disciples, his mother Mary, and key political and religious leaders of the time. In the first episode alone you see the last moments of the Crucifixion, Judas taking his own life after betraying Christ, Peter denying Jesus three times, and then the miracle of the Resurrection.”

Thumbnail image for roma downey-mark burnett.jpgRoma Downey and Mark Burnett

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Former Reality Show Personality Announces Congressional Bid

A former reality TV personality has announced he's running for Congress. A press release circulated today, apparently from Salahi for United States Congress, announces that former "Real Housewives of D.C." star Tareq Salahi is seeking to replace retiring Rep. Frank Wolf and represent the 10th District of Virginia.

Salahi, who is seeking the Republican nomination, said: “I would like to thank Representative Wolf for his dedication to the Commonwealth and her people whom he has served well and judiciously since 1981."

The release includes a link to SalahiforCongress.com, which opens on crashthevote.com. As of midday today, the crashthevote site still opened with "Salahi for Governor" information, reflecting Salahi's earlier bid to become governor of Virginia. That campaign appeared to have little impact on the 2013 election, which was won by Democrat Terry McAuliffe by a narrow margin over Republican Ken Cuccinelli.

Along with his appearances on the Bravo reality show, Salahi is best known for allegedly crashing a White House state dinner in November 2009 along with his now ex-wife, Michaele Salahi. The couple appeared on "Real Housewives" in 2010.

In the announcement, Salahi is quoted saying: “We learned a lot during our first campaign and the 'Listening Tour' and will build on what we have learned and heard as we move forward toward giving the people a powerful voice. We have heard from our constituents and they want change, fresh leadership, dynamic new ideas to address issues and a strong candidate who will let their voices be heard loudly and clearly."

Salahi also is quoted as saying: "My political goals are sincere and motivated by a desire to once again serve the hard-working people of Virginia and genuinely represent them, their values, their concerns and their needs. I am well acquainted with the financial struggle and hardship many Virginians have been facing and have empathy and respect for the people who have somehow managed to tough it out in these challenging economic times. They need a strong voice on capitol hill.”

salahi for governor.pngcrashthevote.com, Dec. 17, 2013

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Finale of NBC's 'The Voice' Hits a Sour Note in the Ratings

NBC's solid ratings performer "The Voice" hit a sour note with its season performance finale Monday night, based on Nielsen overnights. TVbytheNumbers.com reports that the two-hour broadcast delivered a 3.3 average in the key 18-49 demo, the show's lowest number ever for a performance finale.

The number was also down two-tenths of a point from last week's program. And NBC's "The Sing-Off" slipped two-tenths from last Monday's program, settling for a 2.2 average in viewers 18-49.

The good news for NBC is that those numbers were still good enough to easily win the night. CBS was the only broadcast net that put up much of a fight, and its top show of the night, "How I Met Your Mother," managed only a 2.7 average in 18-49 -- a season low, and down three-tenths from its most recent original episode.

A number of other key CBS programs were also down, although "Mike & Molly" bucked the trend by rising two-tenths from a week ago to a 2.2 average in the 18-49 demo, while "Hostages" ticked up one-tenth to a 1.2. "2 Broke Girls" was off four-tenths from its previous original with a 2.3, and "Mom" equaled its series low, dipping two-tenths to a 1.9.

ABC and Fox both worked some holiday programming and repeats into their lineups, finishing well off the pace of either NBC or CBS. Fox's original episode of "Almost Human" slipped two-tenths from last week in 18-49, delivering a 1.6, while a repeat of "Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas" managed only a 0.9 and a re-airing of "Dragons: Gift of the Night Fury" settled for a 0.8.

ABC found itself in a tie with Univision for fourth place for prime time in adults 18-49, with its two-hour "The Great Christmas Light Fight" falling two-tenths from a week ago to a 1.2. Repeats of "Prep & Landing" and "Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice" both managed only 1.0 averages.

For prime time overall, NBC rolled to a win in the 18-49 demo with a 3.0 average, followed by CBS (1.9 average), Fox (1.2) and ABC and Univision (both 1.1). NBC had a big lead in total viewers, averaging 11.1 million to CBS's 6.6 million, ABC's 4.4 million, Fox's 3.9 million and Univision's 2.8 million.

prep & landing-disney.jpg

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Disney Channels U.S. Ups Programmer

Disney Channels U.S. announced a key promotion in its programming group. Promoted to vice president, multi-platform programming for Disney Channels U.S. was Katharine Linke.

"Linke, who joined Disney in 2000, has oversight of the non-linear programming and scheduling strategy for Disney Channel, Disney Junior and Disney XD content on platforms including three branded WATCH Disney apps, Netflix, Broadband, Electronic Sell-through, Video-On-Demand, Mobile, Airlines and Cruise lines," the company said in its announcement.

Making the announcement today was Paul DeBenedittis, senior vice president, programming strategy, Disney Channels Worldwide, to whom Linke reports.

Said DeBenedittis: "Katharine has been at the forefront of shaping the digital video strategy for Disney Channels; helping to broaden our audience and expand our content to new platforms. Under her leadership, the multi-platform programming team is responsible for over 65 monthly schedules across the digital landscape, and plays a crucial role in delivering on our commitment to provide quality content when and where our audience wants it."

Linke was most recently executive director, multi-platform programming, Disney Channels U.S. "Among her accomplishments is the multi-platform plan for Disney Channel Games 2007, which won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media," the announcement notes.

katharine linke.jpgKatharine Linke

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2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees Revealed

The list of inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for 2014 includes a beauty who broke hearts with her torch ballads in the 1970s, a seminal grunge band, a blue-eyed soul duo and a prog-rock stalwart who made a smooth transition to the video era after going solo.

Linda Ronstadt, Nirvana, Hall and Oates and Peter Gabriel are all on the list, MTV reports. On the other hand, N.W.A., LL Cool J and the Replacements are among the nominees who failed to make the cut.

Also among next year's inductees are the rockers Kiss and folk pop singer Cat Stevens, now known as Yusuf Islam. Gabriel, who will be inducted as a solo artist, is already a member of the Hall of Fame, having joined in 2010 as a member of his old band, Genesis.

"After their leader was inducted in 1999, Bruce Springsteen's longtime backing group, the E Street Band, will also be inducted," the report adds.

Kiss, which has been eligible for induction since 1999, has been the subject of discontent among fans who wondered why it was taking so long.

"After years of grumbling from their notoriously loyal fans about repeated snubs, the 'Rock And Roll All Nite' group, renowned for their flashy costumes, face paint and pyro-filled concerts, made it in part thanks to a fan-voting initiative that gave diehards a say in the final list. With 1.3 million votes cast, Kiss came out on top with 17.2 percent of the vote, edging out Nirvana (15.7 percent) and a pair of proggy acts that didn't make it in this year, Deep Purple (11.9 percent) and Yes (10.9 percent)."

Nirvana made the Hall in its first year of eligibility, "not surprising given the huge impact the trio had on rock and culture," the story reports. "With such landmark hits as 'Smells Like Teen Spirit,' 'Come As You Are' and 'Heart Shaped Box,' Nirvana helped lead the grimy, angsty grunge sound to the top of the charts and into the national, and international, zeitgeist."

"One of the signatures of Nirvana's sound was their laser-like deployment of loud-quiet dynamics. That secret weapon is what really makes them stand out from their fellow 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class," MTV reports. "While the iconic grunge trio whose music defined a generation in the early 1990s were known for Kurt Cobain's haunting howl and searing guitar, most of their fellow inductees in next year's ceremony leaned on a much quieter, subtle sound."

In the nonperformers category, Beatles manager Brian Epstein and Rolling Stones manager/producer/songwriter Andrew Loog Oldham were voted in, the report notes.

The ceremony is set for April 10, 2014, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Here's an example of the work of one of this year's inductees, Peter Gabriel -- one of the great music videos from the early days of MTV, when the format was still seen as an art form:

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More Trouble With Birds? Actress Tippi Hedren Wins Big Award in TV Show Accident

Actress Tippi Hedren, who was attacked by homicidal birds in Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” was awarded $1.5 million in past and future lost earnings for an incident in which a gallon of water hit her on the head during a rehearsal for a TV show, The Hollywood Reporter’s Hollywood, Esq., reports.

It’s thought that the water had accumulated under the plywood roof of the soundstage because a bird’s nest was blocking part of the air conditioning system, the story notes. “Fashion House” was an English-language telenovela that aired on MyNetworkTV.

Hedren had spinal fusion surgery in 2006, just before taking the role on “Fashion House,” and said the surgery had relieved her of headaches. But the water incident brought back the headaches, which persisted despite treatment. She brought a personal injury lawsuit against the owner and lessee of the soundstage in 2006.

The award was the result of a California appeals court affirming a $1.5 million judgment, the story notes.

tippi hedren-the birds.jpgTippi Hedren in "The Birds"

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Donald Trump Sets His Sights on Another Political Office

Donald Trump, whose presidential aspirations a couple of years ago generated months of headlines that cynical observers said were designed to pump up ratings for his NBC show "Celebrity Apprentice," has inserted himself back into the political conversation.

Deadline.com reports that Trump appeared on Fox News Channel's “Fox & Friends” to say that he’s mulling a bid for governor of New York. “I’ll make a decision at some time pretty soon,” Trump said.

The story adds: “That news comes a couple weeks after a group of GOP politicos met with Trump to discuss the possibility of his taking on Gov. Andrew Cuomo next year. In press reports before the meeting, Trump’s EVP Michael Cohen had said Trump had already stated on several occasions that he’s not interested in running for governor of New York.”

Cohen reportedly commented after the meeting: “We had a very interesting meeting and Mr. Trump has agreed to meet with them again at a later date.”

Trump has mulled a run for either governor or president, possibly as a way of stirring up publicity for his various media enterprises, ranging from “Celebrity Apprentice” to the “Miss Universe” pageant, the story notes.

Deadline notes that Trump "famously announced" in May 2011: “I will not be running for president -- See you for a great season!,” with that announcement, the piece reports, "turning NBC’s unveiling of its new primetime schedule into a political news conference and demoting NBC’s pitch to advertisers about new dramas 'The Playboy Club,' 'Prime Suspect' and 'Grimm,' and comedies 'Up All Night,' 'Free Agents' and 'Whitney' to BTW status in media coverage of the presentation."

donald trump.jpgDonald Trump

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CNN Sibling HLN Brings In Veteran Execs as Part of the Cable News Channel's Programming Overhaul -- With More Changes on the Way

An influx of veteran programmers should shake things up at HLN, the sister cable news channel to CNN. TVNewser reports that HLN President Albie Hecht tapped three new hires at the senior programming level.

Former BET and Spike TV executive Keith Brown will join as senior VP for programming, while Kari Kim, who arrives from Worldwide Biggies, will become VP of programming development. Former Nickelodeon VP Adrienne Lopez will become special projects director.

“The hires come as the network continues its programing overhaul: It canceled ‘Raising America’ with Kyra Phillps and “Evening Express” with Ryan Smith in November, and last week saw the departures of anchors Natasha Curry and Carlos Diaz as well as SVP and managing editor Katharine Green,” the story reports.

The report adds: “The new hires will be based in New York, shifting HLN away from its longtime Atlanta roots and making it a more New York-based network. A source close to the network tells TVNewser to expect more changes in the first quarter of 2014.”

hln logo 2.jpg

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Late-Night Fixture, 'Seinfeld' Cast Member and High-Profile Media Mogul Among Newest Members of TV Academy Hall of Fame

Six new members will be inducted into the Television Academy’s Hall of Fame, reports the Associated Press, with the list for 2014 including “Seinfeld” star Julia Louis-Dreyfus, longtime “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno and high-profile News Corp. mogul Rupert Murdoch.

Writer-producer David E. Kelley and network executive Brandon Stoddard are also joining the Hall, with sound pioneer Ray Dolby to be inducted posthumously, the piece adds.

The inductees will be honored during a March ceremony in Beverly Hills.

Bill Cosby, Bob Hope, Walt Disney and Lucille Ball are among the past honorees, the report notes.

julia louis-dreyfus.jpgJulia Louis-Dreyfus

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Fox Show Unveils 'the Least Shocking Plot Twist of the Year'

If you're a fan of Fox's "Animation Domination" lineup -- and you haven't been keeping up -- you may not want to read this. (In other words, spoiler alert.) But in what the Los Angeles Times’ Show Tracker calls “the least shocking plot twist of the year,” Fox’s animated comedy “Family Guy" brought back a fan favorite just three weeks after he was killed off.

As previously reported, fans were outraged when the show killed off Brian, the family’s intelligent, talking dog. The decision sparked a petition to bring the character back, although some fans were suspicious of the show’s decision to kill him in the first place.

In a twist that a number of observers predicted, Sunday’s episode, “Christmas Guy,” featured the baby genius Stewie using his time machine to go back in time and push Brian out of the way of the car that was about to kill him.

“But wait, didn't the series make a point of showing how Stewie had destroyed his time machine, thereby preventing that solution? Yes, but if you're bothered by gaps in plot and logic, ‘Family Guy’ probably isn't the show for you,” the Times notes. The plot does take care of that little technicality, for what it's worth -- see the clip below.

For good measure, the show’s creator, Seth MacFarlane, tweeted on Monday, “I mean, you didn't really think we'd kill off Brian, did you? Jesus, we'd have to be f------ high.”

Here's the clip:

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Disney XD Taps New General Manager

The boy-focused cable network Disney XD has tapped a new senior vice president, programming, and general manager. Deadline.com reports that Marc Buhaj will replace David Levine in the post.

Levine is moving to a new role as vice president, programming, production and strategic development for Disney Channels Europe, Middle East and Africa.

Buhaj, who has also worked as a programming executive at Cartoon Network, was most recently senior vice president of international original series and co-productions at Disney Television Animation, the story says.

“In his new role, Buhaj will oversee Disney XD’s multiplatform programming and scheduling and will help identify acquisition and co-production opportunities. Additionally, Buhaj will provide support of the Disney XD channels around the world in original content development and programming acquisition strategy,” the piece reports.

marc buhaj.pngMarc Buhaj

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Report: Katie Couric Will Earn Millions From Her Part-Time Job at Yahoo

In her part-time job working for Yahoo, Katie Couric will reportedly receive more than part-time money. The New York Daily News reports that the TV veteran will make as much as $6 million a year for the gig.

The Yahoo job will be Couric’s secondary role, while she continues to focus on the second season of “Katie,” her ABC talk show, the story says.

The role with the Internet site represents a significant pay bump for Couric from what she earned as a special correspondent with ABC News, the story notes.

"But the media maven could be looking at an overall reduction next year if ABC, as rumored, decides not to renew ‘Katie’ after the season wraps up in May,” the story reports. “Couric's company is paid $20 million to produce the show, of which about half goes to the star herself.”

katie couric-all smiles.pngKatie Couric

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Emmy Nominee Joins Fox's 'New Girl'

An Emmy-nominated actress best known for her dramatic roles is joining the Fox comedy series "New Girl." The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed reports that Linda Cardellini, an Emmy nominee for her role on “Mad Men,” will join the Fox sitcom in a recurring role.

Cardellini, known for playing Samantha Taggart on "ER" and Lindsay Weir on "Freaks and Geeks," along with her role as Sylvia Rosen, the neighbor of Don Draper, on "Mad Men," will play the wild sister of Zooey Deschanel’s Jess. Cardellini's first appearance is scheduled for February.

Jess’ parents are played by Jamie Lee Curtis and Rob Reiner, who will return to those roles in January, the story adds.

linda cardellini-mad men.jpgLinda Cardellini on "Mad Men"

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Journalists Behind Discredited '60 Minutes' Report Set to Return After CBS News Boss Goes to Bat for Them

11:15 a.m., Pacific Time, on Dec. 17, 2013--Editor's Note: Regarding this story, CBS News has told TVWeek there is "no truth" to the Politico story that Lara Logan and Max McClellan are set to return to "60 Minutes" early next year.

Two journalists who were put on leave by CBS News because of a discredited "60 Minutes" report are set to return to the show early next year.

Politico reports that correspondent Lara Logan and producer Max McClellan, who were behind the program's high-profile screwup on the Benghazi story, have started booking camera crews for news packages, and they could return as early as January. A spokesman for the show said a specific date hasn’t been set.

The pair took leave after an Oct. 27 report cited a security contractor who claimed to be present and active during the Sept. 11, 2012, raid in Benghazi, but reports later contradicted his claims. Logan apologized and the show retracted the story.

“Despite public criticism and internal frustrations among some members of the ’60 Minutes’ team, CBS News Chairman and ’60 Minutes’ executive producer Jeff Fager decided to stand by Logan," the story reports. "Earlier this month, he held a meeting with CBS News staff in which he defended he 42-year-old journalist, saying that as EP he was ultimately responsible for failing to catch the mistake."

lara logan 2.jpgLara Logan

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Simon Cowell on the Future of 'The X Factor' After a Season of Ratings Struggles

Simon Cowell, a judge and executive producer on “The X Factor,” told reporters on a conference call that the show will return to Fox next season, reports the Los Angeles Times’ Show Tracker, which notes that the singing competition “has seen some pretty terrible ratings this season.”

"I might have a different kind of role," Cowell added.

Fox hasn’t yet said anything about a renewal, although in previous years the network gave the show early renewals. A spokeswoman for the network declined to comment, the story says.

Last Thursday’s installment of the show drew 4.9 million total viewers, and was beaten in the key 18-49 demographic by a rival singing competition, NBC’s “The Sing-Off."

Cowell said he's working with Fox on what the next season of "X Factor" will look like -- if the show returns. This season's two-hour finale is set for Wednesday.

simon cowell-x factor.jpg

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ABC Comedy Project Casts Rosie Perez

ABC’s single-camera comedy pilot “An American Education” has cast Rosie Perez to star opposite Jack Whitehall, reports Deadline.com.

The comedy, which is based on the BBC Three series “Bad Education,” will feature Perez playing Rita Gomez, the tough vice principal of a San Diego public school.

Whitehall will reprise his role as a young man, now a British transplant, who becomes an unorthodox teacher.

rosie perez.jpgRosie Perez

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Just-Announced Deal Between Miramax and The Weinstein Company Reunites the Weinsteins With the Company They Founded -- and Means We May Get TV Versions of 'Good Will Hunting,' 'Flirting With Disaster,' etc.

Miramax and The Weinstein Company today announced a multi-year production and distribution agreement that includes development and distribution of content from the Miramax library -- including the promise of future TV projects based on Miramax titles.

"Films created under this partnership will be released in the United States by TWC and sold in the international marketplace by Miramax, and could include derivative works of some of the most recognized titles in the Miramax library from 'Swingers' to 'Shakespeare in Love' in addition to new titles currently in development," the companies announced.

"The partnership also includes the development of several television series based on Miramax titles such as 'Good Will Hunting' and 'Flirting With Disaster,' with Miramax to lead international distribution and team with TWC domestically," the announcement adds. "The multi-year deal is the next important step in Miramax’s commitment to creating new, original content, supporting the Studio’s return to prominence as a major supplier of smart, provocative, quality entertainment."

Said Thomas J. Barrack Jr., Founder, Chairman and CEO of Colony Capital, LLC and Chairman of the Board of Miramax: “As some of the greatest independent filmmakers in history, Harvey and Bob [Weinstein] built Miramax into one of the most recognizable and powerful brands in Hollywood. The iconic library they created has enabled us to capture the value of the digital distribution revolution and harvest revenue far greater than we ever imagined."

Barrack added: “Reuniting Harvey and Bob with the acres of cinematic diamonds that is the Miramax library, and combining the two companies' powerful distribution capabilities, will create an unparalleled partnership in cinematic excellence."

Please click here to read the full press release announcing the agreement.

bob weinstein, left, and harvey weinstein.jpgBob Weinstein, left, and Harvey Weinstein

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Who's the Highest-Grossing Actor of 2013? The List Is Out

A new list of the highest-grossing actors of 2013 has come out, and a number of actors from one movie are featured near the top. The new list from Forbes magazine has "Fast & Furious 6" star Dwayne Johnson at the top, listing his gross for the year at $1.3 billion.

"Fast & Furious" wasn't the top-grossing movie of the year -- that title goes to Robert Downey Jr.'s "Iron Man 3," at $1.2 billion. But Johnson, aka The Rock, pulled ahead of Downey by virtue of appearing in another big movie as well: "G.I. Joe: Retaliation."

"With another 'Fast & Furious' movie slated to hit theaters next summer, Johnson should have another banner year in 2014," the story reports. "He could do even better thanks to 'Hercules.' The film, about the mythological hero’s life after he completes his famous 12 labors, has franchise potential written all over it. If it’s also a big hit, Johnson’s 2014 box office grosses should be huge."

Two other actors from "Fast & Furious 6" also placed high on the list, with Vin Diesel in fourth place and the late Paul Walker sixth. "Fast & Furious 6" earned $789 million in worldwide box office, the story notes.

Here's the Forbes Top 10:

1. Dwayne Johnson -- $1.3 billion
2. Robert Downey Jr. -- $1.2 billion
3. Steve Carell -- $964 million
4. Vin Diesel -- $887 million
5. Sandra Bullock -- $862 million
6. Paul Walker -- $789 million
7. Billy Crystal -- $743 million
(tie) John Goodman -- $743 million
9. Chris Hemsworth -- $701 million
10. Jennifer Lawrence -- $700 million

Thumbnail image for dwayne the rock johnson.pngDwayne Johnson

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Actor Who Changed Hollywood After Suing Warner Bros. Over Hit Movie -- and Winning -- Dead at 82

An actor who was known largely for a cult role in the 1970s, but who had a big impact on the way business is conducted in Hollywood, has died. TheWrap.com reports that Tom Laughlin, who starred as an action hero in the "Billy Jack" movies, died Thursday in Thousand Oaks, Calif. He was 82.

Besides his on-screen work, Laughlin was a producer, director and screenwriter, along with being an educator and a political activist. "The iconoclastic actor’s 1971 vigilante film 'Billy Jack,' over which he sued Warner Bros., became a cultural lightning rod," the report notes.

Laughlin was married to Delores Taylor since 1954, with Taylor co-producing and acting in all four "Billy Jack" movies. At one point in the past decade, "Billy Jack" was cited as the highest-grossing independent film of all time, adjusting for inflation.

The report notes that Laughlin "drew attention for a groundbreaking promotion and release campaign on 1974′s 'The Trial of Billy Jack' that included TV trailers during national news and an 'opening day' nationwide release that helped shape the future of film distribution."

"Billy Jack," a sequel to Laughlin's 1967 motorcycle gang flick "The Born Losers," was produced independently using Laughlin's own money, the report notes, adding: "The numerous political references -- and frontal nudity -- caused several studios to shy away, but Warner Bros. finally agreed to distribute it. Laughlin, upset with the studio’s marketing of the film, sued to get it back, won and re-released it himself.

"That re-release brought attention, box-office success and controversy. In it, Laughlin played the title character, a vigilante former Vietnam War hero who defends the hippie-themed Freedom School and its counterculture and Native American students."

In a review of the movie, which was one of the first to present martial arts to a mainstream U.S. audience, famed critic Roger Ebert said: “‘Billy Jack’ seems to be saying that a gun is better than a constitution in the enforcement of justice. Is democracy totally obsolete, then? Is our only hope that the good fascists defeat the bad fascists?”

After the movie became a hit, Laughlin reportedly said: “The youth of this country have only two heroes: Ralph Nader and Billy Jack."

tom laughlin.jpgTom Laughlin

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Rival Broadcast Net Finds a Way to Beat NBC and 'Sunday Night Football'

NBC has been unbeatable in the Sunday night ratings all fall, with "Sunday Night Football" proving to be a ratings juggernaut. But NBC's Sunday night winning streak appears to have come to an end, based on Nielsen overnights for the key 18-49 demo.

TVbytheNumbers.com reports that Fox claimed a narrow win over NBC for prime time, with a preliminary 4.1 average rating in viewers 18-49 to NBC's 4.0. The key to Fox's success: more football, with NFL overrun fueling a hot start to Sunday prime.

The report notes that numbers for both networks are subject to more than the usual adjustments due to the nature of live programming. But the way prime time breaks down initially is this: Fox is on top with a 4.1 average in the 18-49 demo, followed by NBC (4.0), CBS (2.2), ABC (1.4) and Univision (0.8). NBC still comes out on top in total viewers with 12.2 million, followed by Fox (11.0 million), CBS (9.7 million), ABC (5.7 million) and Univision (1.9 million).

Fox got off to a strong start in prime time, with a 6.9 average in 18-49 for its NFL overrun at 7 p.m., followed by a 6.5 at 7:30 for its football wrapup show "The OT." That led in to a 3.5 for "The Simpsons," up four-tenths of a point from a week ago.

The rest of the Fox lineup was also up: "Bob's Burgers" rose three-tenths from a week ago in adults 18-49 to a 2.4; "Family Guy" also surged three-tenths, to a 3.0; and "American Dad" likewise climbed three-tenths, to a 2.4.

NBC settled for a 4.9 average in 18-49 for its "Sunday Night Football" game between the Bengals and Steelers, well below the 6.0 for last week's game. Leading in to Sunday's game, the pregame "Football Night in America" and "Pre-Kick" coverage delivered a 1.6 in the 7 p.m. half-hour, a 2.1 at 7:30 and a 4.0 at 8 p.m.

CBS had its own troubles, as the finale of "Survivor: Blood vs. Water" served up the lowest rating for any finale in "Survivor" history, a 2.6 average in 18-49. That was one-tenth higher than the show's most recent episode, but off six-tenths from last year's fall finale.

The "Survivor" reunion special following the finale settled for a 1.9 average in the 18-49 demo, while "60 Minutes" dipped three-tenths from a week earlier to a 1.7.

ABC saw its lineup mostly drift downward. "Once Upon a Time" matched its all-time low with a 1.9, down two-tenths from last week in viewers 18-49. "Revenge" slipped one-tenth to a 1.5, and "America's Funniest Home Videos" also fell one-tenth, to a 1.4.

Defying the ABC downtrend was "Betrayal," which ticked up one-tenth from the series low recorded a week ago in the 18-49 demo to a still modest 0.8 average.

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Former MSNBC Chief Erik Sorenson to Become CEO of Consulting Group That Includes Media Search Firm

Erik Sorenson, a former president of MSNBC, has been named CEO of the Sucherman Consulting Group (SCG), effective Jan. 1, 2014, the company recently announced.

Sorenson will succeed Stuart Sucherman, who "will continue his active leadership role as Chairman of SCG, while turning over day-to-day management to Mr. Sorenson, the new majority owner of the company," the announcement said.

Besides doing media consulting, SCG runs a search division for media executives.

The announcement added: "Mr. Sorenson joined SCG in 2010, was appointed COO in 2011 and became an equity partner in 2012. Before joining SCG, Sorenson had a long career in local radio and television before holding a number of senior executive roles at CBS, NBC, Fox and Time Warner, including president of MSNBC, executive producer of the 'CBS Evening News with Dan Rather,' and EVP, programming at Court TV. Mr. Sorenson also ran an Internet publishing company and owned an independent TV production company, which produced programming for ESPN, Discovery, AETN, NBC and MTV."

In a recent New York Times article about Stuart Sucherman, written by our good friend Elizabeth Jensen, she wrote that Sucherman, 77, "shuns interviews and is not widely known outside the clubby world of the television industry. Yet for several decades, he has had a deep influence on what viewers have seen on their television screens ... and his company ... has helped networks like ABC and NBC navigate some of their most vexing problems.

"When David Westin, then president of ABC News, faced reinventing the network’s flailing 'Good Morning America,' Mr. Sucherman helped his team conclude that Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer should anchor the program, a radical change that reversed its fortunes."

Jensen added: "When Herb Scannell was named president of BBC Worldwide America three years ago, Mr. Sucherman 'told me not to do what I wanted to do,' Mr. Scannell said. Many consultants, he said, 'want to tell you what you want to hear, and Stuart doesn’t do that.'

"[Discovery Communications CEO David] Zaslav said: 'He’s the anti-yes man. He always tells you the truth.' He said he regretted not listening when Mr. Sucherman advised Discovery that viewers would not be receptive to an environmental-themed digital channel. 'It took us about a year and a half to learn what Stuart told me in the office that day,' Mr. Zaslav said of the short-lived network, Planet Green."

To read more about Sucherman's career in media, please click on the link above to see Jensen's original story.

stuart sucherman.bmpStuart Sucherman

erik sorenson.bmpErik Sorenson

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CBS News Veteran May Leave the Network to Join the Police Force

A senior correspondent for CBS News may leave the network and go into police work full time. The New York Post’s Page Six reports that John Miller is in talks to exit CBS and rejoin Bill Bratton at the New York Police Department.

"Miller has twice left the news business to serve under Bratton, first in the NYPD and later during the veteran top cop’s stint as commissioner of the Los Angeles Police Department,” the piece reports.

Miller has appeared frequently on “CBS This Morning” and the “CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley” in the past two years, discussing national security and crime.

A spokesman for CBS News declined to comment.

In between his stints in law enforcement, Miller has also been in the news divisions of NBC and ABC.

"In January 2003, he was summoned again by Bratton and headed the LAPD’s counterterrorism and criminal intelligence units," the story reports. "While there, Miller launched the Automated Critical Asset Management System, a terror-target risk-assessment program that’s now used by several other states."

john miller.pngJohn Miller

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'Daily Show's' Seven-Time Emmy-Winning Head Writer Heads Out

The head writer for Comedy Central’s “Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” who has been with the show since 2004 and has won seven Emmys for his work on the series, is leaving the show. TheWrap.com reports that Tim Carvell will move on to a new project along with John Oliver, who filled in for Stewart as "Daily Show" host over the summer.

Carvell, who was “The Daily Show's” head writer and co-producer, was hired away by Oliver to become the showrunner and an executive producer of Oliver’s new HBO series, the story reports.

Oliver announced the upcoming HBO series last month. The show will air Sunday nights and -- not unlike "The Daily Show" -- will provide a comedic take on news and politics.

"This past summer, Oliver distinguished himself admirably hosting 'The Daily Show' while Jon Stewart took a hiatus for his directorial debut," the report notes. "HBO Programming President Michael Lombardo cited his hosting run as a reason for greenlighting the new series."

tim carvell.pngTim Carvell

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End of the Windshield Wiper? It's Our Non-TV Story of the Day

The windshield wiper as we know it could soon be a device of the past -- even though it's currently as ubiquitous as the dial telephone once was that has now been relegated to the scrap heap of history.

We can thank an engineer at carmaker McLaren for this breakthrough, according to an exclusive story in the Sunday Times of London. Since the Sunday Times is behind a paid firewall, the following is from the Daily Mirror, another U.K. paper, based on the Sunday Times' account.

"McLaren’s chief designer Frank Stephenson said: 'It took a lot of effort to get this out of a source in the military. I asked why you don’t see wipers on some aircraft when they are coming in at very low speeds for landing.

“'I was told that it’s not a coating on the surface but a high-frequency electronic system that never fails and is constantly active. Nothing will attach to the windscreen.'

"The pioneering system is similar to technology used by dentists to remove plaque from teeth and doctors scanning unborn babies."

Says another U.K. newspaper, The Daily Mail, "Paul Wilcox, professor of ultrasonics at Bristol University's faculty of engineering, told The Sunday Times: 'The obvious way of doing it is to have an ultrasonic transducer in the corner of the windscreen that would excite [sound] waves at around 30kHz to bounce across the windscreen.' "

A story on the Fox News website adds: "[W]hile it sounds very advanced, one expert tells The Times that it could require only a small transducer to send [the] 30 kHz sound waves across the glass and cost as little as [$16-$17] per car."

McLaren is working on putting such devices on its cars in the future. Unfortunately for most of us, McLaren cars currently cost, at the least, more than $200,000.

Interestingly, according to The Daily Mail, the traditional windshield wiper was "invented by the American property developer Mary Anderson, who received a patent for her window cleaning device in 1903.

"The invention came about during a trip to New York City. It was raining heavily and Mrs. Anderson noticed that drivers had to open the windows of their cars in order to see out of them. She wanted to find a solution and invented a swinging arm device with a rubber blade that was operated by the driver from within the vehicle using a lever.

"At first the invention was highly critiqued as many claimed that the device would actually distract drivers, but by 1916 windscreen wipers had become standard on most vehicles."

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After Taking Heat Over Comments About Santa and Jesus, Fox News Host Offers an Explanation

A Fox News Channel host who came under fire for comments last week about Santa Claus and Jesus has provided an explanation, blaming the controversy on listeners who didn't get the joke, TVNewser reports.

The story reports that Megyn Kelly, who has been taking flak since saying that Santa and Jesus are white, as we reported last week, explained that her comments were meant to be humorous.

“Humor is part of what we try to bring to the show," Kelly said. "Sometimes that’s lost on the humorless.” She added that her comments stemmed from the fact that “we continually see St. Nick as a white man in modern-day America.”

Regarding her comment about Jesus’ skin color, Kelly noted, “By the way, I also did say Jesus was white. As I’ve learned in the past few days, that is far from settled.”

Kelly added: “The fact that an offhand jest I made about whether Santa should be replaced by a penguin has now become a national firestorm says two things: Race is still an incredibly volatile issue in this country and Fox News and yours truly are big targets for many people.”

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for megyn-kelly.jpgMegyn Kelly

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Reality TV Personality Arrested

One of the stars of a popular TV reality show was arrested over the weekend. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Jenelle Lauren Evans, one of four young moms whose lives are tracked on MTV’s “Teen Mom 2,” was arrested Saturday in South Carolina and charged with breaching the peace.

Police were reportedly called to a North Myrtle Beach home to investigate a report of a man and a woman yelling. The story notes, “Evans' boyfriend told police she locked him out of the house.”

Evans was booked at the Horry County jail at about 5 p.m. Saturday and released an hour later. It’s the latest brush with law enforcement for Evans, who revealed earlier this month that she's pregnant. She was arrested earlier this year on drug and assault charges, the story says.

The struggle between the responsibilities of motherhood and her love of partying has been an ongoing storyline for Evans on the MTV show.

Jenelle-Evans.jpgJenelle Evans

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High-Profile NBC Series, Not Yet on the Air, Already Has Its Third Showrunner

Things haven't exactly been going smoothly behind the cameras on an upcoming NBC series. Writing on Deadline.com, Nellie Andreeva reports that the midseason drama “Believe,” co-created by J.J. Abrams and “Gravity” director Alfonso Cuaron, has undergone its second showrunner change.

Executive producer and showrunner Dave Erickson is leaving the show, and will be succeeded by co-executive producer and director Jonas Pate, who has also been named executive producer.

The change is “a rare case” of a director, rather than a writer, taking on the role of showrunner, Andreeva reports.

The first showrunner switch happened when original showrunner Mark Friedman left the project in July, the story notes.

Because of the latest switch, “Believe” will go on hiatus a week earlier than planned, to allow for some script work, and will resume production Jan. 6, the piece adds.

“NBC has not slated ‘Believe’ yet but had been looking to launch it after the Winter Olympics, using the sports event to promote the series and benefiting from the strong awards attention Cuaron is enjoying with ‘Gravity.’ NBC recently announced it would hold a ‘Believe’ panel at the upcoming January press tour,” Andreeva writes.

The report adds: “‘Believe’ is a very high-concept drama -- it centers on a young girl with an extraordinary ability and a man sprung from prison who has been tasked with protecting her from the evil elements that hunt her power.”

Andreeva also notes: “As such, it has been a process after the pilot trying figure out what the series should be, which has proven a challenge.”

alfonso cuaron.pngAlfonso Cuaron

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Why the Late Actor Michael Clarke Duncan -- Who Earned an Academy Award Nomination for 'The Green Mile' -- Is in an Unmarked Tomb

More than a year after the death of Academy Award-nominated actor Michael Clarke Duncan, who starred in the Fox procedural "The Finder" and the acclaimed feature film "The Green Mile," Duncan's body is in an unmarked cemetery tomb because of a fight involving his family and his former fiancee, Omarosa Manigault, reports TMZ.com.

The disagreement is over a bronze plaque that was planned for his vault. Even though the plaque has been paid for, differing stories are circulating about why it hasn’t yet been ordered and mounted.

Manigault “was blocked by his family because they wanted to handle it,” according to one version of the story, TMZ reports. But other accounts say that the opposite is true, according to the story. Manigault reportedly “identified herself as MCD's ‘wife’ on the cemetery paperwork and promised to order the inscription ... but never did.”

The piece adds: “And neither side wants to talk to the other to work it out.”

michael-clarke-duncan.jpgMichael Clarke Duncan

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History Returns to Appalachia, the Backdrop for 'Hatfields & McCoys,' With New Show

History is revisiting Appalachia, the setting for its popular “Hatfields & McCoys” miniseries. The New York Post reports that the cable channel has a reality show in the pipeline about ginseng hunters.

The series, “Appalachian Outlaws," is set to premiere Jan. 9. The program is produced by FremantleMedia.

The show will track people who grow, dig for and sell ginseng, whose root has medicinal purposes and can bring in up to $600 a pound. The ginseng harvest season lasts only two months, from the end of summer until the first frost, the piece notes.

In its description of the show, History says: “With ginseng fever heating up, outsiders are creeping in on locals’ territory to find it, causing massive turf wars over this heavily revered root."

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HBO Angling for Comedy From 'Saturday Night Live' Alum

HBO is in negotiations for a comedy project from a former "Saturday Night Live" regular. Deadline.com reports that the untitled project is co-written by David Spade, who also starred on NBC's “Just Shoot Me."

The project, co-written with Dean Lorey of “The Crazy Ones,” is about a rock 'n' roll manager in Los Angeles named Shane who is trying to stay relevant and signs a Christian boy band called the Five Commandments.

The piece notes, “There is no acting deal in the works with Spade, but the script is written as a starring vehicle for him, with an intention for him to play Shane if the project gets the green light.”

david spade.jpgDavid Spade

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TNT Orders Two Dramas -- One of Them From O.J. Simpson Prosecutor

TNT has given a pilot order to “Proof,” a supernatural medical drama executive produced by “The Closer” star and executive producer Kyra Sedgwick, reports Deadline.com.

The network has also greenlighted a legal drama that’s co-written by O.J. Simpson prosecutor Marcia Clark and “Nashville” showrunner Dee Johnson.

“Proof” is about a female surgeon who investigates cases of reincarnation, hauntings and other paranormal events, trying to find proof of whether there is life after death. Sedgwick reportedly does not plan to star in the project, the story notes.

Clark’s project, “Guilt by Association,” is based on her novel about a Los Angeles deputy district attorney in the special trials unit who works with a female LAPD detective.

marcia-clark.jpgMarcia Clark

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Lindsay Lohan Will 'Open the Flood Gates' in Upcoming Tell-All Book

Actress Lindsay Lohan is reportedly writing a tell-all book that will go into detail about her turbulent life and career.

Lohan "has decided to open the flood gates -- penning a gritty, tell-all book about EVERYTHING ... her arrests, her drug abuse, her acting career, and her family," TMZ.com reports, adding: "She's already gotten several serious publishing offers."

“Sources familiar with the situation tell TMZ, the book started as a series of journal entries, which she wrote in rehab as a therapeutic exercise. The book is still in its early stages, and it doesn't have a clear focus, but she says she wants to open up every part of her life,” the story reports.

Lohan reportedly met last week with the literary agency Waxman Leavall, which has represented celebrities writing books including Bill Murray and Cal Ripken Jr.

Thumbnail image for lindsay-lohan4.jpgLindsay Lohan

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Two Hollywood Legends Have Died

A sad weekend in Hollywood as fans mourned the deaths of two famous actors of the silver screen.

Peter O'Toole, who forever has a place in the pantheon of Hollywood greats for his role as the title character in "Lawrence of Arabia," died Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013, at age 81. According to the BBC, O'Toole "was being treated at London's Wellington hospital after a long illness, his agent added." No cause of death was announced.

Then, earlier today, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013, word came that Academy Award-winner Joan Fontaine, 96, had died in her home in Carmel, Calif. According to The New York Times, Fontaine's death "was confirmed by her assistant, Susan Pfeiffer," though no cause of her death was released.

O'Toole had been nominated for an Academy Award eight times--starting with his role in the 1962 epic "Lawrence of Arabia"--never winning. However, in 2003 he did receive an honorary Oscar recognizing his acting talents.

If you want to see how truly great O'Toole was as an actor, and don't have the time to watch "Lawrence of Arabia," TVWeek recommends you seek out the comedy "My Favorite Year," in which O'Toole plays a guest star on a TV show in the 1950s. It's one of roles for which O'Toole was nominated for an Academy Award and the critic Pauline Kael called O'Toole's acting in "My Favorite Year" "simply astounding."

Joan Fontaine, who had a life-long feud with her sister, Olivia De Havilland, won her Oscar for the movie "Suspicion." Says the Times about Fontaine, she "rose to stardom as a haunted second wife in the Alfred Hitchcock film 'Rebecca' in 1940 and won an Academy Award for her portrayal of a terrified newlywed in Hitchcock’s 'Suspicion' " two years later.

The Times adds "Ms. Fontaine was only 24 when she took home her Oscar in 1942, the youngest best-actress winner at the time, but her victory was equally notable because her older sister, Olivia de Havilland, was also a nominee that year. The sisters were estranged for most of their adult lives, a situation Ms. Fontaine once attributed to her having married and won an Oscar before Ms. de Havilland did."

De Havilland is 97 and lives in Paris.

The Times also says about Fontaine that "She continued acting well into her 70s. She appeared in television movies, including 'The Users' (1978) and 'Crossings' (1986), based on a Danielle Steel novel. A series of appearances on the soap opera 'Ryan’s Hope' in 1980 led to a Daytime Emmy nomination. Her final screen role was as a supportive royal grandmother in 'Good King Wenceslas' (1994) on the Family Channel. She also did theater across the United States and abroad, but never returned to film."

To see Fontaine in one of her signature roles, TVWeek recommends you track down a wonderful movie, "Letter From an Unknown Woman" from 1948.

Peter O'Toole as Lawrence of Arabia.pngPeter O'Toole in his most famous role, as "Lawrence of Arabia"

Joan Fontaine in Rebecca.jpgJoan Fontaine in "Rebecca"

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Matthew Perry Takes on Classic Role, as He Fills Shoes Once Belonging to Jack Klugman, Walter Matthau, Pat Hingle, Jamie Farr, John Larroquette, Nathan Lane and Demond Wilson

"Friends" alumnus Matthew Perry will soon take on a classic role that has previously been played by Jack Klugman, Walter Matthau, Pat Hingle, Jamie Farr, John Larroquette, Nathan Lane and Demond Wilson to name just a few.

The role is that of Oscar Madison in "The Odd Couple," reports our friend Nellie Andreeva at Dateline.com.

According to the story, " 'The Odd Couple' hails from CBS TV Studios and two of its top pods, Timberman-Beverly and The Tannenbaum Co. It marks 'Friends' alum Perry’s return to multi-camera comedy filmed in front of a live audience after two single-camera shows...."

The well-known "Odd Couple" TV series starring Klugman and Tony Randall as Felix Unger was a Paramount show that originally ran for five years on ABC, beginning in 1970, the story notes.

Perry will be the "star, co-writer and executive producer" of "The Odd Couple" reboot, "which has received a script commitment plus penalty," the story says.

 

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'Game of Thrones' Star Lands Major Part in 'Terminator' Reboot

One of the stars of HBO's hit series "Game of Thrones" has landed a major part in the upcoming reboot of "The Terminator," reports Mike Fleming Jr. at Deadline.com.

Emilia Clarke, who plays Daenerys Targaryen in "Thrones," will play Sarah Connor in the new "Terminator," the story says. In the original 'Terminator" movies Connor was played by Linda Hamilton.

Writes Fleming, "This was a hotly contested role and it came down to Clarke and Brie Larson. Both actresses tested for the producers at David Ellison’s Skydance and Megan Ellison’s Annapurna, and Paramount, which will release the film in July 2015. Clarke’s breakout role came in 'Thrones,' where she plays the dragon-commanding heroine Daenerys Targaryen in that massive HBO series, and is probably the most sympathetic of all vying to rule."

Emilia Clarke.jpgEmilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen in "Game of Thrones"

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Khloe Kardashian Files for Divorce from Lamar Odom

Khloe Kardashian Odom, 29, has filed for divorce from Lamar Odom "on Friday, Dec. 13, E! News confirms. The couple was married for four years."

The story continues, "Per TMZ, Khloé cited irreconcilable differences as the reason for the split and is petitioning to legally drop Odom from her name. She is not asking for spousal support and is looking to have a judge prevent Odom from getting support from her as well."

Khloe and Lamar.jpgKhloe and Lamar in happier days

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Report: Charter About to Make Financial 'Bear-Hug' Offer for Time Warner Cable

Charter Communications, the fourth largest MSO in the country, is about to "offer cash and stock, in a so-called bear-hug letter to Time Warner Cable as early as next week," according to a person with knowledge of the matter who asked not to be identified because the negotiations are private, Alex Sherman reports for Bloomberg.

The offer will be "less than $135 per share," the article notes, adding, "Time Warner rose less than 1 percent to $131.41 at the close [of the stock market today, Friday, Dec. 13, 2013,] in New York. The shares have gained 35 percent this year on speculation that a takeover bid is coming. Charter fell less than 1 percent to $131.54."

One analyst told Bloomberg that the cash component of the offer could be about $96 per share.

The definition of a "bear hug," according to Investopedia, is "An offer made by one company to buy the shares of another for a much higher per-share price than what that company is worth. A bear hug offer is usually made when there is doubt that the target company's management will be willing to sell."

The article also says that "Time Warner Cable is still expanding its residential Internet and phone businesses, and business services revenue is set to double over the next four or five years, according to the company’s forecast. The New York-based company would probably accept a bid of $150 to $160 a share, a person familiar with the matter said earlier this month."

The story notes that "Time Warner Cable lost more video subscribers than any other major cable company in the most recent quarter, dropping 304,000 customers in the period, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. While a dispute with CBS added to the losses, that compares with a loss of 27,000 video subscribers at Charter and 129,000 fewer video customers at Comcast Corp. in the same period."

The article adds that "A bid of $135 a share would value Time Warner Cable at about $62 billion, including the value of its debt. That’s about 7.5 times estimates for its 2014 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of $8.24 billion, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Charter currently trades at a multiple of 8.7 times estimated 2014 Ebitda, while Comcast fetches 7.5 times, the data show."

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'Saturday Night Live' Auditions Black Women -- and Will Hire One of Them

“Saturday Night Live” held auditions this week as it seeks to add a black female cast member, with seven or eight candidates participating in an audition Monday night on the "SNL" stage, reports Bill Carter in The New York Times.

The report says one of the women who auditioned Monday will be hired by the show and will begin appearing in January.

Lorne Michaels, the creator and executive producer of the show, told the publication Thursday that he has committed himself to adding a cast member in January. If the addition is a black woman, she would be the first black since Maya Rudolph departed in 2007.

“All told we’ve seen about 25 people,” Michaels said. “A lot of the people we saw are really good. Hopefully we’ll come out of the process well.”

The long-running NBC late-night show has come under criticism recently for its lack of a black female cast member, and has even poked fun of itself over the situation. Jay Pharaoh, one of the show’s black male cast members, said earlier this year that the program needs to “follow up” on the promise of adding a black woman.

The show may bring aboard two new performers, although Michaels said he doesn't want to add too many women because “SNL” already has five female cast members. According to “SNL's" website, the show has 10 repertory cast members and six “featured players.” The female cast members include Nasim Pedrad and Vanessa Bayer.

Deadline.com reports that some of the young performers rumored to have auditioned for the show include Bresha Webb, who stars on the TV One sitcom "Love That Girl!"; improv player Tanisha Long, who is also on MTV’s “Girl Code”; Misty Monroe from the Groundlings; “The Game” recurring actress Gabrielle Dennis; Amber Ruffin, a member of an Amsterdam-based sketch group; and actress and comedian Leslie Jones.

bresha webb.jpgBresha Webb

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Did Netflix Make a Rookie Mistake in Its Golden Globes Submissions?

Every year when the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announces its Golden Globe nominees, there are shows that fans believe to be snubbed, and this year Netflix's “alarmingly good ‘Orange Is the New Black’ was excluded from the list of Golden Globe nominees for best comedy,” writes Mary McNamara in the Los Angeles Times’ Show Tracker.

But the reason isn't because “HFPA members wouldn't know a game-changing comedy if it hit them in the face with a slipper made from maxipads, but because Netflix submitted it as a drama,” she adds.

“I don't know what the execs over at the high-octane streaming service thought they were watching when they saw ‘Orange Is the New Black,’ but I, like most critics, thought I was watching comedy,” she notes.

Its star, Taylor Schilling, was nominated for lead actress in a drama, although how “voters are going to judge her performance against those of her dramatic peers is anyone's guess,” McNamara notes. Schilling is up against Julianna Margulies of "The Good Wife," Tatiana Maslany of "Orphan Black," Kerry Washington of "Scandal" and Robin Wright of "House of Cards."

“Netflix is entitled to submit its shows any way it desires, and the line between drama and comedy grows blurrier every year,” the article notes, adding: "The decision to move 'Orange Is the New Black' from a category in which many expected it to do well does beg a few questions. Is Netflix so attached to 'House of Cards' that it doesn't want its more original show to outshine it? Has creator Jenji Kohan, who one assumes has a large say in the decision, surrendered to the canard that drama is more prestigious/important than comedy? Will the second season skew more 'serious' and possibly less interesting?"

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Comments by Fox News Host Stir Up a Hornets' Nest About Santa and Jesus

Shots were fired by a Fox News host in the so-called "war on Christmas," moving the conversation toward speculation about the racial identities of Jesus and Santa Claus. The Los Angeles Times’ Show Tracker reports that the controversy was fueled when Megyn Kelly said Santa “just is” white.

Kelly made the comment on Wednesday's "The Kelly File" in response to a Slate article, written by a black writer, that argued Santa should be replaced by a new cultural holiday icon, a penguin, because using a black-and-white animal would “spare millions of nonwhite kids the insecurity and shame that I remember from childhood.”

The writer, Aisha Harris, added, “Whether you celebrate the holiday or not, Santa is one of the first iconic figures foisted upon you. … That this genial, jolly man can only be seen as white -- and consequently, that a Santa of any other hue is merely a 'joke' or a chance to trudge out racist stereotypes -- helps perpetuate the whole 'white-as-default' notion endemic to American culture (and, of course, not just American culture).”

The Times notes that Kelly criticized the article, saying, “Just because [an image] makes you feel uncomfortable doesn't mean it has to change.” She added, “I mean, Jesus was a white man too. He was a historical figure -- that's a verifiable fact."

She also informed viewers, “For all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white. Santa is what he is. ... I wanted to get that straight."

Scott Collins writes in the Times article: “Kudos to Kelly for worrying so much about kids under 10, who as everyone knows constitute a major portion of the Fox News demographic. Of course, the little ones also understand what it means to be a ‘historical figure’ as opposed to someone who, say, runs an opinion show on a cable news network.”

But Kelly’s comments caused a furor with some viewers and critics. Mother Jones was one publication that took issue with Kelly, writing that Jesus was not a white man, and neither is Santa “because Santa is fake."

“The historical Jesus was a Middle Eastern Jew. Scholars overwhelmingly agree that he did not look like a white European. He is so often depicted that way because white Europeans -- and their similarly pasty American descendants -- are so often the ones doing the depicting,” Mother Jones notes.

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A Television Institution Has Died: He Hosted the Longest-Running Quiz Program in TV History

The man who hosted the longest-running quiz show in the history of television has died. The Washington Post reports that Washington, D.C., radio and television personality Mac McGarry died Thursday at his home in Potomac. He was 87.

McGarry reportedly died of complications from pneumonia.

McGarry hosted the Washington-based high school quiz competition “It’s Academic” for half a century. The show, which went on the air on Oct. 7, 1961, is recognized as the longest continuously running TV quiz program of all time.

“With an easy-going baritone that sounded like a throwback to the days of fedoras and big bands, Mr. McGarry thrived well into the Internet age," the story reports. "As host of ‘It’s Academic’ ... he liked to describe himself as the area’s most inquisitive man."

McGarry also covered presidential inaugurations and hosted a big-band radio show, among other accomplishments, the story notes.

“But it was as the bespectacled face of ‘It’s Academic’ that Mr. McGarry became a Saturday staple for generations of Washington brainiacs who competed for scholarship money and intellectual glory," the report adds. "So earnestly does the weekly program take academic achievement that cheerleaders and marching bands became part of the show’s backdrop, rooting on their school’s teams."

McGarry hosted the program until June 2011.

Actress Sandra Bullock, who attended Arlington’s Washington-Lee High School, appeared on the show as a cheerleader, the piece notes. Former contestants include TV host and political commentator George Stephanopoulos, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Michael Chabon.

mac mcgarry.pngMac McGarry on "It's Academic"

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Showtime Scraps Controversial Project Despite 'Strong Pedigree'

Showtime has decided not to move forward with a project that generated controversy and criticism. EW.com’s Inside TV reports that the pay-cable net is scrapping plans for “The Vatican."

“The network has elected to scrap the high-profile and talent-heavy project, which starred Kyle Chandler (‘Friday Night Lights’) as a New York cardinal and Anna Friel (‘Pushing Daisies’) as his sister in a provocative thriller,” the story reports. “Ridley Scott (‘Gladiator’) directed the pilot, which was shot earlier this year. It’s less likely for a pilot with this strong of a pedigree on premium cable to blow up on the launch pad.”

“The Vatican” had attracted criticism, with one Catholic group calling it “an assault on the Catholic Church,” the story notes. Still, the reason for the project’s demise wasn’t apparently related to that criticism.

“Showtime Entertainment President David Nevins told us that ‘The Vatican,’ which included a supernatural element, simply wasn’t coming together creatively,” the article says.

anna friel.jpgAnna Friel

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Non-TV Story of the Day: French Cafe Implements Policy Aimed at Snooty Customers -- If You're Rude, You Pay More

A French cafe is taking a proactive approach to dealing with rude customers: At Petite Syrah on the French Riviera, rude people pay more, the U.K. paper The Guardian reports.

The menu outside the Cote d'Azur restaurant reveals that the price of coffee goes down for customers who say, "S'il vous plait," or "please," and drops even further for those who add a "Bonjour."

The cafe has gained international notoriety after taking aim at customers who refuse to mind their manners, the piece reports.

"What started as a local joke generated an Internet buzz this week after a diner tweeted the sign outside the Petite Syrah in Nice on the Cote d'Azur," the story reports. "In an attempt to turn the tables on customers who complain that serving staff are rude, the manager warned he would hit impolite customers where it hurts, in the pocket."

The report adds: "The appeal for some old-fashioned savoir-vivre clearly touched a nerve around the world. Within hours, the story went viral on Twitter. The former centre-right government minister Christine Boutin responded, also by Twitter, that it was an excellent idea, and the story in the local Nice-Matin newspaper received tens of thousands of 'likes.'"

The cafe's manager, Fabrice Pepino, had this comment: "We live in a strange old world. For three years we have put all our passion into what we do, which is trying to offer quality food, and good wines … and it's this that creates the buzz. A few words on a blackboard."

Pepino added: "It wasn't even an original idea. I saw it on the internet and liked it … but I was planning to rub it out."

The report notes: "Pepino said he had not yet had to enforce the politeness policy, and admitted the sign was more of a gentle reminder than a serious threat."

menu-petite syrah.jpgMenu outside the Petite Syrah in Nice, France

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Video: ESPN Reverses Decision on 'Jesus' Ad -- Here's the Commercial

ESPN changed its mind on a Christmas commercial for a children’s hospital that includes the words “God” and "Jesus,” after “relentless attacks from the political right,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

"We have again reviewed the ads submitted for the SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center and have concluded that we will accept the original requested commercial," ESPN said in a statement released Thursday.

“It will run in Saturday's VCU at Northern Iowa basketball game on ESPNU. This decision is consistent with our practice of individual review of all ads under our commercial advocacy standards,” the network said.

ESPN had previously rejected the ad, allegedly because of the religious references, the story notes. That decision sparked negative coverage from sites including The Drudge Report and Breitbart.com, the report adds, putting the issue "front-and-center in conservative and religious circles."

"Those stories were in part based on a Wednesday night report from the Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly, who blasted both ESPN and the hospital, the former for waging 'a war on Christmas' and the latter for not sufficiently standing up for itself, given that the hospital was refusing to talk publicly about its dispute with ESPN," THR reports.

ESPN came under fire from, among others, Glenn Beck and Michelle Malkin, the report notes.

Sarah Palin added her views on Facebook, writing: "ESPN, you've come a long way, baby ... from your known wholesome, bold Americana 'persona' to now being afraid to support freedom and not being bold enough to allow acknowledgment of the 'Reason for the Season.' So disappointing."

THR adds: "ESPN's original decision to reject the ad was based on its guidelines stating that, 'ESPN does not accept advertising that consists of, in whole or in part, political or religious advocacy or issue-oriented advertising.'

"Those guidelines, though, were also being picked apart by the political right on Thursday, given that ESPN often runs political ads, including one that recently promoted the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare."

Here's the commercial at the center of the uproar:

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High-Powered Partnership Comes Together for FX's 'The Bastard Executioner'

An acclaimed TV creator and a film and television producer who has been a part of 43 Oscar nominations and 131 Emmy nods have come together to develop the new FX project "The Bastard Executioner."

Deadline.com reports that Kurt Sutter, the creator of “Sons of Anarchy,” is collaborating with Imagine’s Brian Grazer on the period drama. Grazer has been behind a string of acclaimed films including "Splash," "Apollo 13," "Parenthood," "A Beautiful Mind" and "Frost/Nixon."

"The Bastard Executioner" focuses on a knight living in the time of King Edward III who vows to give up fighting, but is forced to become an executioner.

“I love the network. I love the world. I love the blood,” Sutter said.

Sutter will write the script and executive produce with Grazer and Francie Calfo for Fox 21 and FX Productions, the story says. The project is based on an idea by Grazer, who said he likes the idea of a character who is dealing with the “highest order and the lowest order in the culture. It’s about as morally complex a profession as you can imagine.”

Sutter will likely start working on the project when the seventh and final season of “Sons of Anarchy” is completed. The pilot is slated to film late next year.

Said FX Networks CEO John Landgraf: “For 13 years at FX, starting as a writer and working his way up to an executive producer on ‘The Shield,’ then as Creator/Executive Producer of ‘Sons Of Anarchy,’ Kurt has interwoven literary and pulp storytelling within two of the most successful series in cable history. Now he has conceived a deep, provocative and historically precise narrative journey into our medieval past.”

Grazer's television credits include "Felicity," " Arrested Development," "24" and "Friday Night Lights."

kurt sutter.jpgKurt Sutter

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Starz Pulls Plug on Plans to Air Crime Series

Starz has pulled the plug on its plans for an upcoming crime drama. The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports that the pay-cable network dropped out of the project “Fortitude,” with the network no longer planning to air the series after pulling out of the co-production with Sky Atlantic.

The cable channel had planned to air the 13-episode series in 2014, but Starz said in a statement: "Due to changes in the Sky Atlantic production of ‘Fortitude,’ Starz will not be licensing the series in the U.S.” The project was the first co-production deal between Starz and Sky Atlantic.

Instead, Starz said it will “fast-track” several projects on its 2014 programming slate.

According to Deadline.com’s Nellie Andreeva, the reason for the move was the possibility that “Fortitude” “could not meet the delivery dates needed by Starz.”

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Julie Chen of 'The Talk' Says Rival Chat Show 'The View' Screwed Up

“The Talk” co-host Julie Chen offered some words of criticism to the show's daytime rival "The View." The Los Angeles Times’ Show Tracker reports that Chen made an appearance Wednesday on Howard Stern’s satellite radio show in which she said she believes it was a mistake for “The View” to hire actress Jenny McCarthy.

"What made 'The View' so popular and so good was that you had five different women from different walks of life discussing politics,” Chen said. “And when ... Joy [Behar] left and when Elisabeth [Hasselbeck] left, and they got Jenny in, I think they were trying to lighten the mood at the table. More gossip, more fun, more laughs. Jenny is beautiful and funny and talented and smart. In my opinion, 'The View' doesn't know what it is now."

She added, “No one wants to listen to Jenny McCarthy talk about the New York mayoral race or politics."

Nevertheless, Chen said she thinks McCarthy, a former Playboy Playmate of the Year, would work better on “The Talk,” given that it avoids political discussions, the piece notes.

CBS's “The Talk” appears to have some momentum in its battle for eyeballs with the more established "The View." "The Talk," which has been on the air for three years, drew an average of 2.81 million viewers in the November sweeps, 20% higher than a year earlier. ABC's daytime mainstay “The View,” which has been on the air since 1997, averaged 2.97 million viewers in the first week of the November sweeps, the piece notes.

julie chen.pngJulie Chen

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Has the Death of the Soap Opera Been Greatly Exaggerated?

While the soap opera has been widely reported to be close to death, this season’s numbers show the genre may still have some life left in it, reports TheWrap.com.

“Two years ago, the prognosis for the genre wasn’t looking good. Longtime soap operas ‘All My Children’ and ‘One Life to Live’ were yanked from the air by ABC. And a slew of new talk shows seemed poised to take their place,” the story notes.

It adds, “But a curious thing is happening this season. Like a soap opera character who suddenly reappears, wide awake and ready for scandal after being in a coma for years, the soaps are back.”

CBS’s “The Young and the Restless” is up 10% in total viewers this season, while ABC’s “General Hospital” is near a six-year high in viewers, the story says.

“The Bold and the Beautiful” on CBS and NBC’s “Days of Our Lives” are also seeing better numbers, with the former up 14% in total viewers and the latter up 9% by the same measure.

“Meanwhile, the list of talk shows that once promised to dominate the daytime landscape but have since fallen by the wayside is considerable. Daytime efforts from Anderson Cooper, Ricki Lake, Jeff Probst and others have come and gone like, um, sands through the hourglass,” the piece notes.

It’s difficult to say what’s behind the resurgence, but DVR viewing could be helping, while the remaining network soaps could be picking up viewers who previously watched “All My Children” and “One Life to Live,” the story adds.

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New Drama From 'House' Creator David Shore Finds a Network Home

In what was described as a “competitive situation,” a drama project from “House” creator David Shore and produced by Sony TV has landed at WGN America, reports Deadline.com.

The project, which is written and co-executive produced by feature writer Wayne Beach, is about a Manhattan police officer who believes one of the country’s biggest CEOs is a killer.

Called “American Dream,” the project comes as WGN America is adding to its lineup of originals. It has recently picked up the dramas “Salem” and “Manhattan.”

The project marks the fourth sale for Shore and his Shore Z banner, the story notes.

david shore.pngDavid Shore

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Pumping Some Adrenaline Into the TV Scene: Red Bull, One of the Savviest of Marketers, Plans TV Channel

The owner of Red Bull would love you to soon start to shout "I want my Red Bull TV!"

"Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz is working on an English-language TV channel for the international market," according to Rapid TV News.

The story adds: "The channel, which will focus on documentaries, will launch in 2015, according to German industry magazine Kontakter."

Red Bull, long known for its savvy marketing, is no stranger to the documentary genre. In 2012, the energy beverage sponsored the record space jump of Felix Baumgartner, which captured the world's imagination as he entered a supersonic freefall from 24 miles above the Earth.

YouTube has a number of videos of the jump. Here's a short official compilation made by Red Bull that went viral and has more than 35 million hits:

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Key MTV Executive Departs the Network

A top programming executive at MTV has parted ways with the cable network. Deadline.com reports that Senior Vice President of Scripted Programming Justin Levy is headed out.

The decision was mutual, the story says.

Levy, who joined MTV in 2008, was involved with some of the network’s most popular scripted shows, including “Teen Wolf” and “Awkward.”

The Deadline report notes that two years after Levy joined MTV, "David Janollari came over as head of scripted. When Janollari was elevated two years later, Levy and Clay Spencer, who had been brought in by Janollari, were made co-heads of scripted and upped to SVP in August 2012. Three months later, Susanne Daniels replaced Janollari and Spencer exited. Levy flew solo on the scripted side for a couple of months until Daniels brought in Mina Lefevre as SVP and head of scripted programming."

justin levy.pngJustin Levy

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CBS Orders Two More Seasons of Reality Staple

CBS has renewed a long-running reality program for two more seasons. CBS News reports that the renewal means cycles 29 and 30 of "Survivor" are in the pipeline.

Both installments of the show will air during the 2014-15 television season, the story reports.

"The network also signed a new agreement with Jeff Probst, bringing the Emmy winner back as host and executive producer of the show. He's hosted 'Survivor' since it premiered in 2000," the piece reports.

Said Probst: "'Survivor' has been blessed with incredibly loyal fans. We make this show for them and I am thrilled that we get to do it again."

Executive producer Mark Burnett commented: "I am thrilled that our fans get to continue their love affair with 'Survivor' on CBS through 2015. This current season has become one of the most-loved seasons ever and I promise our fans to make season 29 and 30 even better."

The current "Survivor: Blood vs. Water" wraps Sunday with a two-hour finale, to be followed by a reunion show.

jeff probst.jpgJeff Probst

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'Ironside' Actor Dead at 70

An actor known for his regular role on the Raymond Burr detective series "Ironside" has died. The Los Angeles Times reports that Don Mitchell, who played Burr's assistant and bodyguard Mark Sanger in almost 200 episodes of the 1960s and 1970s NBC drama, died Sunday of natural causes. He was 70.

In addition to numerous TV appearances, Mitchell had one of the lead roles in the 1973 blaxploitation film "Scream Blacula Scream."

Mitchell's television appearances began in the mid-1960s and included guest spots on shows including "I Dream of Jeannie," "Bewitched" and "The Fugitive." He also appeared in "The Virginian," "Tarzan," “Wonder Woman,” “CHiPs” and “McMillan & Wife,” among many other shows.

don mitchell.jpgDon Mitchell

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Killer Deal: Showtime's 'Dexter' Finds a Basic Cable Home

Showtime's acclaimed drama series "Dexter" has landed on basic cable. The serial killer show is set for a January 2014 premiere on NUVOtv, after the English-language, Latino-focused network inked a syndication deal.

The network announced today that it will launch the show Jan. 13 and will air all eight seasons, with episodes running "uncut and in their entirety."

Said Bill Hilary, Executive Vice President, Programming, NUVOtv: “We are absolutely thrilled that NUVOtv has acquired the rights to air the first window of this groundbreaking series on basic cable. 'Dexter's' brilliant ensemble of Latino cast members, in lead and supporting roles, throughout all eight seasons, will resonate positively with our young NUVOtv audience. Having been the #1 rated series on Showtime with the Latino audience, this multi-award-winning drama is a great addition to the slate of new original series planned for NUVOtv over the next year.”

Golden Globe winner Michael C. Hall stars as Dexter Morgan -- a Miami forensics expert by day and a serial killer by night.

The network announcement notes: "The series features a stellar cast of Latino actors including recent Alma-award winner Lauren Velez, David Zayas, Angel Juan Marcos Batista, Aimee Garcia, Christian Camargo, Edward James Olmos and Jimmy Smits, to name just a few."

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CBS Wins a Weak Wednesday Night for the Broadcast Nets

On a night when the general trend in broadcast prime was down, CBS clawed its way to a ratings win over its rival networks, based on Nielsen overnights for the key 18-49 demo.

TVbytheNumbers.com reports that CBS parlayed its lineup of "Survivor," "Criminal Minds" and "CSI" into a lackluster 2.2 average rating for prime time in adults 18-49 to finish ahead of its even more lackluster rivals. "Survivor" and "CSI" both lost ground, while "Criminal Minds" equaled the number for its previous original, a 2.4.

"Survivor" settled for a 2.5 average in the demo, off 4% from a week ago, while "CSI" dipped to a 1.8, down 14% from its previous original.

Second-place ABC had the night's top show on broadcast in "Modern Family," as a number of shows on the Alphabet Network bucked the downtrend. "Family" rose 9% from last week to a 3.5 average in the 18-49 demo.

Also up on ABC were "Back in the Game" -- up 7% from last week with a 1.5 average in 18-49 -- and "Super Fun Night," which bounced back from a series low a week ago to deliver a 1.8, improving 13%

Other ABC shows didn't fare as well. "The Middle" equaled the season low it set last week in viewers 18-49 with a 1.9 average, while "Nashville" lost 13% to match its all-time low, a 1.4.

NBC saw its newly returned "The Sing-Off" lose ground and failed to get a bump from its Kelly Clarkson holiday special. The two-hour "Sing-Off" lost 25% from its Monday delivery in the 18-49 demo, recording a 1.8 average rating, while "Kelly Clarkson's Cautionary Christmas Music Tale" managed only a 1.4 -- equaling the Michael Buble Christmas special from a year ago.

Fox held steady with a fourth-place 1.4 average in 18-49 for its two-hour "The X Factor."

When the dust settled, CBS's 2.2 average in adults 18-49 led the broadcast nets, followed by ABC (1.9 average), NBC (1.7), Fox (1.4) and Univision (1.2). CBS claimed a comfortable win in total viewers, averaging 10.3 million to top ABC (6.8 million), NBC (5.7 million), Fox (4.9 million) and Univision (3.1 million).

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Former Cameraman Calls NBC News a 'Sack Full of Lying Weasels' -- and Sues the Network

George Hyatt, a former cameraman for MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown,” has filed a lawsuit against NBC, claiming he was fired because of age discrimination, reports TVNewser.

Hyatt, 60, claims he was fired by an NBC News supervisor in its Washington Bureau whom he overheard saying he wanted to bring in “young blood,” according to the report. Hyatt reportedly told The Daily Caller that he originally brought the case to the Office of Human Rights in Washington, but that it was dismissed.

“I initially filed a complaint with the DC Office of Human Rights for age discrimination, after exhausting every effort to regain employment at a company [where] I have devoted 30 plus years of my life,” Hyatt said. “I believe that the DC OHR dismissed the case due to understaffing and needed to clear the docket. OHR did not speak to any of my witnesses or make any attempt to contact them, albeit, they did recommend filing with EEOC.”

Hyatt told The Daily Caller that NBC News is “a sack full of lying weasels,” but went easier on "Daily Rundown" host Chuck Todd, saying Todd was not involved in his firing. "Nevertheless, Hyatt said, Todd should 'speak out' on his behalf," The Daily Caller report adds.

Contacted by TVNewser, a spokesman for NBC's news division said, “NBC News does not discriminate on the basis of age in making employment decisions."

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The Tills Are Alive: ABC Jockeys for a Piece of the 'Sound of Music' Action

ABC plans to elbow in on the current popularity of “The Sound of Music" after NBC's recent live production sparked a wave of interest in the venerable musical. TheWrap.com reports that the Alphabet Network plans to air the original Academy Award-winning 1965 film over four hours on Dec. 22.

The move comes after NBC generated huge ratings for its live version of the musical, which starred “American Idol” winner Carrie Underwood and “True Blood” star Stephen Moyer. The live broadcast drew 18.5 million viewers, more than NBC had expected, and the network plans to re-air the program Saturday, Dec. 14.

The 1965 film, which won five Oscars, stars Julie Andrews as Maria -- the role Underwood played in the NBC production. NBC's casting of Underwood drew considerable criticism, as TVWeek Open Mic writer Chuck Ross noted in a recent blog entry examining the production's artistic problems.

“But of course, most viewers are better acquainted with the Andrews film," TheWrap notes. "And if you’re not, ABC’s airing can take care of that."

julie andrews-sound of music.jpgJulie Andrews in "The Sound of Music"

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NBC's 'Today' Show Apologizes for Joke About Nelson Mandela Funeral (Video)

NBC’s morning show “Today” apologized for a joke during a report on Nelson Mandela’s funeral. The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports that the segment discussed allegations that the sign language interpreter who stood near speakers during the funeral used fake signs.

During the report Wednesday, “Today” showed an inset of a man mimicking the motions of sign language. It appeared for several seconds, and the hosts appeared to realize it wasn’t appropriate.

“No, guys, let's not do that," said host Natalie Morales, while Al Roker covered his face with his hands and said, “No, no, wrong.”

The show apologized on Twitter later that day, writing, “We aired a joke in our 9:00 hour that was offensive. We apologize to our viewers.”

The report adds: "The online clip that 'Today' posted on its website shows a different angle than the widely circulated YouTube clip showing the incident [below]. ... Only the audible reactions of Morales and Roker can be heard in the official 'Today' clip."

Here's a video of the incident on Wednesday's show:

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Potential Game Changer: Viacom CEO Says Over-the-Top Services -- That's the Streaming of Cable Channels Over the Internet Without Subscribing to a Traditional Cable TV Service -- Could Be Rolled Out in 2014

"Get ready for cable TV without the cable," reports our good friend Claire Atkinson in the New York Post.

Atkinson writes: "A streaming-only bundle of channels, likely with a coast-to-coast reach, may be offered to viewers for the first time in 2014, according to several TV industry heavyweights."

The story adds, "'I think there’s a very strong chance of that,' Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman said of a so-called over-the-top service rolling out next year."

The report quotes a well-known entertainment analyst, Richard Greenfield of BTIG, saying: “After the struggles of Intel, this topic was dead in the water. After the last 24 hours, it sounds like it’s anything but.”

Atkinson writes that Greenfield is referring to "comments by Dauman and others ... at the [recent] UBS media conference."

The story says Verizon might be the first to jump into an over-the-top service, and adds: "Verizon is having talks via its FiOS team, and its approaches have been welcomed because it can market a service nationally without running into the same regulatory concerns as traditional players, one major programmer told The Post.

"Speculation has also been centered on a Charlie Ergen-backed Dish-branded over-the-top programming play, and on a Comcast Xfinity streaming service, as being the most likely to provide a package of cable-like programming via the Web."

For more details we urge you to click on the link above and read Atkinson's original story.

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Netflix and 'House of Cards' Hit a Home Run as the 71st Annual Golden Globe Nominations Are Announced; We Have the Complete List

Netflix's "House of Cards" is in a tie this morning with HBO's "Behind the Candelabra" in garnering the most Golden Globe Award nominations for a TV show.

Both programs nabbed 4 nominations.

To see a complete list of nominations for the Golden Globe Awards -- in both television and motion pictures -- please click here.

In the battle of the TV distributors, HBO led all companies with 9 nominations, folllowed by Netflix, Showtime and Starz with 6 each. Shows on CBS and NBC received 5 nominations each, while programs on ABC got 4 nominations.

Here are the TV nominations for Best Drama and Best Comedy:

Best Drama

"BREAKING BAD"--AMC
Sony Pictures Television

"DOWNTON ABBEY"--PBS
Carnival Films

"THE GOOD WIFE"--CBS
CBS Television Studios in Association with Scott Free Productions and King Size Productions

"HOUSE OF CARDS"--NETFLIX
Donen/Fincher/Roth and Trigger Street Productions, Inc. in association with
Media Rights Capital for Netflix

"MASTERS OF SEX"--SHOWTIME
Showtime, Sony Pictures Television, Round Two Productions,
Timberman/Beverly Productions

Best Comedy

"THE BIG BANG THEORY"--CBS
Chuck Lorre Productions, Inc. in association with Warner Bros. Television

"BROOKLYN NINE-NINE"--FOX
Universal Television

"GIRLS"--HBO
HBO Entertainment in association with Apatow Productions and I am Jenni Konner Productions

"MODERN FAMILY"--ABC
Twentieth Century Fox Television

"PARKS AND RECREATION"--NBC
Universal Television

On the feature-length movie side, in the Best Drama category the nominees are "12 YEARS A SLAVE,"  "CAPTAIN PHILLIPS," "GRAVITY," "PHILOMENA" and "RUSH."

In the motion picture category under Best Comedy or Musical the nominees are "AMERICAN HUSTLE," "HER," "INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS," "NEBRASKA" and "THE WOLF OF WALL STREET."

To see a complete list of the Golden Globe nominations, please click here.

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Report: Latest Thinking at Universal About 'Fast & Furious 7' Since Paul Walker's Death

"The fiery crash that took Paul Walker's life has plunged Universal Pictures into an unprecedented crisis," writes Kim Masters for The Hollywood Reporter, adding, "Executives are trying to find a way to salvage footage already shot for 'Fast & Furious 7' instead of starting fresh."

The story continues: "Sources say writer Chris Morgan now is at work crafting revisions to the script that Universal execs hope can retire Walker's character from the series using scenes already shot. If he succeeds, cast and crew could be called back to work by late January -- but that's a big if."

The article also notes: "Studio chairman Donna Langley -- in her first major leadership test since being promoted in September -- and production co-president Jeffrey Kirschenbaum, the lead exec on the 'Fast' movies, were designated to run point on finding a creative solution for the franchise. According to a knowledgeable source, the studio already has poured about $150 million into the film, a bill that its insurance firm, Fireman's Fund, might have to pay in full if Universal concludes the picture must be started anew. Fireman's Fund declined comment, as did Universal."

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What Will Former 'Today' Regular Ann Curry Do Next? Her $12 Million NBC Contract Has a Window Coming Up

Ann Curry may be getting close to her next career move, as her $12 million NBC contract has a window in early 2014, and she’s expected to want to move on from the network following her awkward ouster from “Today,” reports Marisa Guthrie in The Hollywood Reporter.

Her representative, attorney Robert Barnett, has tipped the competitors of NBC News to the fact that Curry will be available, the story says. Barnett declined to comment for the story.

“A CBS News executive tells THR he respects Curry's journalistic chops but that there really isn't a place for her at that division,” Guthrie writes. “Sources say Curry, 57, also has not had talks with CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker, her former ‘Today’ producer.”

Guthrie adds: “Al Jazeera America, the Qatar emirate-backed network that launched in August and has struggled to lure viewers, did express interest in Curry this year when executives reached out to numerous anchors and producers to gauge availability. Certainly her style of journalism -- she's an intrepid, empathic interpreter of humanitarian crises -- would be a good fit for AJAM. And the network, available in 55 million homes, has demonstrated willingness to spend top dollar to attract such talent as former NBC News anchor John Seigenthaler and Ali Velshi, lured from CNN.

“But sources there say there are no current discussions with Curry or her reps."

Curry could also create her own production company, news analyst Andrew Tyndall tells the publication. He points to Soledad O’Brien as an example of a news host who went in that direction.

ann-curry2.jpgAnn Curry

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FX Drama Series Delivers Record Numbers

An FX drama series ended its season Tuesday with an episode that delivered record numbers. The Los Angeles Times’ Show Tracker reports that the sixth-season finale of “Sons of Anarchy” drew its biggest audience yet for one of the series' season finales.

The drama’s sixth-season finale drew 5.2 million viewers, which grew to 6.4 million with an encore telecast.

“‘SOA’ carved some deep ratings tracks this year,” the story notes. “Tuesday's episode, titled ‘A Mother's Work,’ was the second highest-rated ever for the series among viewers ages 18 to 49, exceeded only by the premiere earlier this season. That season premiere was the highest-rated telecast in the history of FX.”

The drama has ranked as the third-most watched cable TV drama with viewers in the 18-49 demo, trailing “The Walking Dead” and “Breaking Bad,” the report adds.

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Project From 'Homeland' Producers Gets Series Order

A new series is headed to television from “Homeland” producers Howard Gordon and Gideon Raff. The Los Angeles Times’ Show Tracker reports that FX has given a series order to the new drama, “Tyrant."

The show, which will begin production in Israel in March, is described by the network as “the story of an unassuming American family drawn into the working of a turbulent Middle Eastern nation.”

“From the moment Gideon pitched me the idea, I felt that this was a tremendous opportunity to humanize and dramatize the faces behind the headlines that we read about every day,” Gordon said in a statement.

The drama tracks the younger son of a dictator in a turbulent nation, who returns home with his American wife and children.

gideon raff.pngGideon Raff

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Rob Reiner to Direct and Produce TV Series

Director Rob Reiner is slated to direct and executive produce a cable television series. Deadline.com reports that the Spike TV project, “Basket Case,” is a comedic drama based on the best-selling novel by Carl Hiaasen.

The project will be written by Alex Taub of “Drop Dead Diva.” It’s about an investigative reporter who has difficulty with everything from authority to women. He’s demoted to the obituary section of the paper after a professional misstep, and from there tries to regain his credibility, the story says.

“Corruption, murder, and laughs. I can’t think of a more satisfying combination,” Reiner said. “Carl Hiaasen strikes the perfect balance. I’m so looking forward to entering his twisted world.”

The production is from FremantleMedia North America in association with Random House Television Productions and Castle Rock Entertainment. It’s the first scripted series sale for Random House, which started its TV division a year ago and has a first-deal look with FremantleMedia. Both Random House and FremantleMedia are owned by Bertelsmann AG.

"When it signaled a return to scripted series in April, Spike bet heavily on event series, which made up its entire spring scripted development slate," the Deadline report notes. "The deal for 'Basket Case' does not mean a change of course. 'Though our primary focus has been on finding marquee limited event series, we have vowed that when an unbelievable opportunity for a series presents itself, we will be ready to pounce,” said Spike TV’s EVP Sharon Levy. 'It doesn’t get much better than Hiaasen and Reiner for Spike.'”

Reiner, known early in his career for playing Meathead on “All in the Family,” went on to direct a string of successful films including “This Is Spinal Tap," “The Princess Bride” and “Misery.” On television, Reiner has guest-starred on shows such as “Hannah Montana” and “30 Rock” and directed episodes of Fox’s “New Girl.”

Hiaasen commented: “Among writers of satire, ‘Spinal Tap’ stands as a work of genius. I’m excited to see what Rob will do with my twisted little novel."

rob reiner.pngRob Reiner

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Former 'Walking Dead' Actress Guilty in Ricin Attack on Obama

A Texas woman who had a series of small roles in television shows including AMC’s “The Walking Dead” pleaded guilty in a case in which she was accused of sending letters tainted with the poison ricin to President Barack Obama and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Shannon Guess Richardson's plea is part of a deal that her lawyer, Tonda Curry, has said will limit her prison time to 18 years, the story reports. Prosecutors, however, say she faces life in prison for the charge to which she entered the guilty plea, THR reports.

At a federal court in Texarkana the actress pleaded guilty to a federal charge of possessing and producing a biological toxin. She was arrested earlier this year after officials said she had attempted to frame her estranged husband, Nathan Richardson, for the letters, the story adds.

"Prosecutors say Shannon Richardson mailed three letters from New Boston, outside Texarkana, then went to police and claimed that her husband had done it," THR reports. "She acknowledged in a signed plea agreement document filed Tuesday that she ordered castor beans online and learned how to process them into a substance used to make ricin. She obtained an email address, a PayPal shopping account and a post office box in her husband's name without his knowledge, according to the document."

Richardson admits in the document that on the morning of May 20, she waited for her husband to go to work, and says: "After he left the house, I printed the mailing labels for President Barack Obama, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Mark Glaze with The Raben Group." All of the targets appear to be chosen for their pro-gun control efforts.

"Glaze is director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Bloomberg's group advocating for tougher gun control," THR notes.

The plea document says the letter to Obama read: "What's in this letter is nothing compared to what ive got in store for you mr president."

It reportedly continues: "You will have to kill me and my family before you get my guns. Anyone wants to come to my house will get shot in the face."

Shannon Richardson reportedly admits mailing the letters, then attempting to blame Nathan Richardson and lying to authorities.

The THR report adds: "Curry has said that Richardson wanted to 'tell the government who else was involved in those offenses,' but declined to name anyone. In the document filed Tuesday, known as a factual resume, Richardson does not name anyone else but says that the supplies she ordered 'were used to make ricin'-- not that she made the ricin herself."

Shannon Richardson, 35, has reportedly also appeared on the TV shows “The Vampire Diaries” and "Franklin & Bash," among others, and in the feature films "The Change-Up" and “The Blind Side.”

shannon guess richardson.jpgShannon Guess Richardson

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ABC Series Plunges to Historic Low; CBS Wins the Night Even as 'Victoria's Secret' Show Dips

On a night when an ABC series sank to an all-time ratings low, CBS coasted to a win over its broadcast rivals even as its "Victoria's Secret Fashion Show" saw its numbers decline.

TVbytheNumbers.com reports that "Victoria's" delivered a 3.4 average rating in the key 18-49 demo, based on Nielsen overnights. That number was the best for any program in broadcast prime, even though it was off 6% from last year's show.

CBS also had a 2.8 average for "NCIS" in viewers 18-49, down 7% from the show's previous original, and a 2.4 for "NCIS: Los Angeles," equaling its previous original.

NBC was competitive, but saw its numbers decline across the board from last week. The network was paced by its singing competition "The Voice," which pulled in a 3.1 average in the 18-49 demo, slipping 9% from a week ago.

NBC's "Chicago Fire" fell 4% from last week to a 2.2 average in 18-49, while "The Biggest Loser" slipped 10% to a 1.9.

Fox and ABC tied for third place overall, well off the pace set by CBS and NBC. Fox's two-hour "American Country Awards" managed a 1.4 average in adults 18-49, the same number the show had one year ago.

ABC saw "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." turn in its worst performance in series history with a 2.0 in viewers 18-49, dropping six-tenths of a ratings point from the show's most recent original. "What Would You Do?" was also down, slipping 10% from last week to a 0.9.

The good news for ABC: Both "The Goldbergs" and "Trophy Wife" were up from a week ago. "Goldbergs" surged 21% to a 1.7 in 18-49 while "Trophy Wife" ticked up 9% to a 1.2.

For prime time overall, CBS came out on top in the 18-49 demo with a 2.8 average, followed by NBC (2.4 average), Fox and ABC (both with 1.4 averages) and Univision (1.1). CBS was comfortably ahead in total viewers with 14.4 million, followed by NBC (8.9 million), Fox (5.2 million), ABC (4.4 million) and Univision (2.9 million).

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New Cable Network Coming From A+E

A+E Networks today announced plans to roll out a new cable channel. The company, which owns A&E, History, Lifetime and other cable networks, will rebrand BIO Channel as FYI, with the launch set for summer 2014.

The company said FYI will be "a contemporary lifestyle network reflecting how people actually live their lives today."

Nancy Dubuc, President & CEO of A+E Networks, made the announcement. Jana Bennett, President of FYI and LMN, will oversee the new network.

"FYI will be a personalized experience for each viewer," the company said in its announcement. "FYI embraces the way we really live our lives, proudly-hyphenated and not constrained by one passion or interest. It blends the inspiring personal creativity of our viewers and the emergence of powerful digital entrants to this space with a linear reach that will create a platform for new approaches to content."

Said Dubuc: "The transition to FYI is the next phase in our strategy to bolster the A+E Networks portfolio by evolving and maturing our brands to allow for future growth in the rapidly changing media landscape. FYI will be an upscale network with a younger and more modern sensibility than what we've seen on traditional lifestyle networks, in an effort to appeal to an audience that has been underserved on linear but thrives online."

The company's announcement adds: "As a global media company, A+E Networks continues to maintain its strong position in the marketplace by successfully evolving its portfolio of six core networks. A&E and History are top five networks. Lifetime is seeing double digit-growth. Two years after undergoing its own rebranding, H2 is now the #1 emerging entertainment network, showing double-digit year-over-year growth."

Programming announcements for FYI are expected in early 2014.

Please click here to read the full announcement from A+E Networks.

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NBC Greenlights 'Rosemary's Baby' Project

NBC is developing a project based on the Ira Levin novel “Rosemary’s Baby,” which was also the basis for the 1968 movie starring Mia Farrow as an expectant mother who’s concerned some creepy neighbors have occult plans for her baby.

The network greenlighted a four-hour miniseries based on the piece, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The remake will be set in Paris, with the young couple moving into a creepy apartment building, a departure from the New York City setting of the novel and movie. The plot is similar, with the wife becoming pregnant and then growing suspicious of strange behavior from her husband and neighbors.

Agnieszka Holland, an Oscar nominee, will direct the project, with Scott Abbott and James Wong writing. Production will start in January.

mia farrow-rosemary's baby.jpgMia Farrow in "Rosemary's Baby"

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ABC Family Names Veteran Media Exec as Its New President

ABC Family announced today that a veteran television and magazine executive has been named the cable channel's new president. The position goes to Tom Ascheim, who has been executive vice president and general manager of Nickelodeon Television and CEO of Newsweek.

Ascheim takes on his new post effective immediately.

Anne Sweeney, co-chair, Disney Media Networks, and president, Disney/ABC Television Group, to whom Ascheim will report, made the announcement.

Said Sweeney: “I knew Tom during my time at Nickelodeon, and always thought he was an incredibly smart, strategic executive. Since then, he has only reinforced my opinion of his abilities. Whether in print, television, or the financial sector, Tom has gone from success to success. He has a proven capability of leading creative teams, and I’m thrilled that he’ll now bring his innovative, entrepreneurial spirit to bear on behalf of ABC Family and the Disney/ABC Television Group.”

Ascheim began his career assisting an independent film producer at Geoffrey Drummond Productions and became a financial analyst at Silver Screen Management before joining Viacom in 1990, the announcement notes.

Ascheim added this comment in the announcement: “I had the pleasure of working with Anne at the beginning of my career, so when she offered me the opportunity to join the enormously talented team at ABC Family, I jumped at the chance. While ABC Family has accomplished so much already, I'm very confident that we have only just begun to tap its full potential.”

tom ascheim.pngTom Ascheim

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NBC Sets Rebroadcast of 'The Sound of Music'

NBC's live production of “The Sound of Music” will get an encore airing later this week. The network announced that it plans to re-air the three-hour musical Saturday at 8 p.m., the Los Angeles Times’ Show Tracker reports.

The live production originally aired last Thursday and proved a ratings success for NBC, drawing about 18.6 million viewers, more than network executives had expected.

“While many tuned in, not all were kind to the show. While technically the production was pulled off, many pointed to singer Carrie Underwood, not known for her acting abilities, as Maria, the main character," the story reports. "Times TV critic Robert Lloyd wrote" 'As a stage actress, there was no way to regard her as anything but an amateur.'"

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'Law & Order' Veteran -- One of the Most Familiar Faces of the NBC Franchise -- Exits After Almost Two Decades on the Force

An 18-year veteran of the NBC procedurals “Law & Order” and “Law & Order: SVU” is leaving the franchise. Deadline.com reports that longtime star Dann Florek, who has become a familiar presence as police Captain Donald Cragen, taped his final episode Friday.

Florek first played the character in the first season of the original “L&O” series, which debuted in fall 1990. Florek left the series after its third season, the report notes, but was brought back in 1998 for a TV movie, “Exiled: A Law & Order Movie." He then joined the “SVU” spinoff when it premiered in 1999.

Florek remained on the job at "SVU" for 15 consecutive seasons.

He previously had a run on NBC's "L.A. Law," along with a number of guest appearances on shows including "Hill Street Blues" and "21 Jump Street." Florek has also directed a number of "L&O" episodes.

dann florek.pngDann Florek

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Former Disney TV Star Reveals She Engaged in Illicit Activity on Planes

A former Disney TV star has made a confession to Access Hollywood, revealing during an interview that she was so addicted to cocaine that she would smuggle the drug onto planes and ingest it while in the air.

Demi Lovato, 21, told Access Hollywood, "I would smuggle it, basically, and just wait until everyone in first class would go to sleep and I would do it right there. I’d sneak to the bathroom and I’d do it. That’s how difficult it got and that was even with somebody [with me]. I had a sober companion, somebody who was watching me 24/7 and living with me [and] I was able to hide it from them as well.”

She also told about heading to the airport with a Sprite bottle filled with vodka, adding that she had a lot of help but that she didn’t want it. Lovato, who starred in “Camp Rock” and “Sonny with a Chance,” went into rehab in 2010.

Lovato, who has written a memoir, said she is “very, very good at manipulating people and that was something that I did in my disease -- I would manipulate everyone around me. There were times I would just continue to lie, so that everything looked OK on the outside.”

demi lovato 2.pngDemi Lovato

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Time Magazine Names Its Person of the Year -- and Even Though She Was Leading the Vote as the People's Choice, Miley Cyrus Did NOT Get It

Time magazine has named its Person of the Year for 2013, and even though Miley Cyrus was leading the popular vote, as we reported recently, the controversial pop star did not get the title. That went to Pope Francis.

"What makes this Pope so important is the speed with which he has captured the imaginations of millions who had given up on hoping for the church at all," Time reports. "People weary of the endless parsing of sexual ethics, the buck-passing infighting over lines of authority when all the while (to borrow from Milton), 'the hungry Sheep look up, and are not fed.' In a matter of months, Francis has elevated the healing mission of the church -- the church as servant and comforter of hurting people in an often harsh world -- above the doctrinal police work so important to his recent predecessors."

Noting that Pope Francis is a former janitor, nightclub bouncer, chemical technician and literature teacher, the report adds: "Behind his self-effacing facade, he is a very canny operator. He makes masterly use of 21st century tools to perform his 1st century office. He is photographed washing the feet of female convicts, posing for selfies with young visitors to the Vatican, embracing a man with a deformed face. He is quoted saying of women who consider abortion because of poverty or rape, 'Who can remain unmoved before such painful situations?' Of gay people: 'If a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge.' To divorced and remarried Catholics who are, by rule, forbidden from taking Communion, he says that this crucial rite 'is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.'”

The report also notes that the new Pope remains faithful to the party line on a number of issues. "Francis signals great change while giving the same answers to the uncomfortable questions," the story reports. "On the question of female priests: 'We need to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman.' Which means: no. No to abortion, because an individual life begins at conception. No to gay marriage, because the male-female bond is established by God. 'The teaching of the church … is clear,' he has said, 'and I am a son of the church, but' -- and here he adds his prayer for himself -- 'it is not necessary to talk about those issues all the time.'”

pope francis.jpgPope Francis

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Judge on Fox Show Goes Into Rehab

One of the judges on a competition series that airs on Fox has entered a rehab program. Us Weekly reports that 49-year-old Adam Shankman, a judge on “So You Think You Can Dance,” took the step.

In a statement, his rep said Shankman "is currently seeking treatment in a rehabilitation center. His friends and family support him and wish him well on his journey to recovery."

Shankman, who directed the feature films "A Walk to Remember," "Bringing Down the House" and the 2007 remake of "Hairspray," is also a producer, dancer, actor and choreographer.

The report adds: "Shankman's good friend and 'Hairspray' star Zac Efron recently completed his own stint in rehab. The 26-year-old actor secretly entered rehab this past spring to deal with alcohol and cocaine problems. Efron had 'been struggling with this problem for years and finally realized he needed outside help,' a source told Us of the 'High School Musical' star at the time."

adam shankman.jpgAdam Shankman

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Rocky Start for New CNN Host

Revised at 10:15 a.m., PT, on Dec. 11, 2013, to reference an article from TVNewser. We feel the TVNewser story is a more balanced evaluation of the numbers for this show than the story we previously referenced, which was from TheWrap.

One of the new faces of CNN, which is revamping its programming lineup in an effort to boost the cable network's sagging ratings, got off to a rocky start. The show is "Reliable Sources," now hosted by the former TV reporter for The New York Times, Brian Stelter.

"The debut numbers were down -13% in total viewers and -17% in the [A25-54] demo compared to the average of the three shows Stelter guest-hosted," according to TVNewser, which added, "The show was also down compared to its Q4 average, -10% in total viewers and -9% in the demo. Compared to the year-ago Sunday, 'Reliable Sources' was flat in total viewers and up +4% in the demo."

The story also says that "Stelter’s show was down -7% in total viewers but up +5% in the A25-54 demo" compared to the last four cablecasts of "Reliable Sources" that had been hosted by Howard Kurtz, who left and is now on the Fox News Channel. 

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Couric Responds to Critics of Controversial 'Katie' Segment

“Katie” host Katie Couric opened up about a segment on the show that drew a torrent of criticism, saying in essence that the critics make a good point. 

Couric wrote in an article on The Huffington Post that the show's piece about the HPV vaccine had problems. The show spent “too much time on the serious adverse events that have been reported in very rare cases following the vaccine," she wrote.

As we reported previously, Couric was accused of “fear mongering” in connection with the report, which focused on a mother who claims her daughter died after getting a vaccine. A study in the British Medical Journal found no link between the vaccine and short- or long-term health problems.

Couric wrote: “Following the show, and in fact before it even aired, there was criticism that the program was too anti-vaccine and anti-science, and in retrospect, some of that criticism was valid.”

She added: “There's no question that vaccination is highly effective … Nevertheless, concerns have been raised about reactions to the vaccination. Unfortunately, there's no question reactions can occur, as with all vaccines.”

Couric continued: “As a journalist, I felt that we couldn't simply ignore these reports … However, the time spent telling these stories was disproportionate to the statistical risk attendant to the vaccines and greater perspective is needed.”

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for katie couric.pngKatie Couric

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Whoa! Discovery Considering a Bid to Buy the Food Network, HGTV, DIY, the Travel Channel, the Cooking Channel, Great American Country and CityEats

"Discovery Communications is mulling a bid for Scripps Networks Interactive (SNI), parent company of Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel and other lifestyle-oriented cablers.

"A source with knowledge of the situation said the prospect of Discovery making a run at Scripps Networks was discussed Tuesday at a Discovery board meeting."

So reports our good friend Andy Wallenstein in a terrific scoop in Variety. He was assisted in his reporting by another good friend of ours, Cynthia Littleton. They are two of the best covering the entertainment beat. Please click on the link above to read the entire exclusive. Here are the highlights:

"Knoxville, Tenn.-based SNI has been seen as a prime acquisition target for some time. The company has valuable brands, particularly in Food Network and HGTV, but is small enough to be easily integrated into a larger conglom with cable programming assets. SNI has a market cap of about $11 billion, with the stock closing Tuesday at $75.26, up 52 cents.

"Discovery is known to have kicked the tires on SNI in the past, as has NBCUniversal, Fox and Disney. Disney is said to have been in advanced talks to acquire SNI about three years ago — until board member Steve Jobs nixed the deal, reportedly out of his lack of faith in the future of linear channels."

In a later, follow-up report, Littleton wrote:

"SNI shares soared 14.5% after Variety reported that Discovery board members discussed the possibility of a bid at the company’s board meeting Tuesday.

"SNI shares hit $86.15 in a flurry of after-hours activity, well past the company’s 52-week high of $81.21. The stock was up less than 1%, at $75.25, at close of regular trading.

"Reps for Discovery and SNI declined comment on the prospect of a sale."

The following is from the Scripps Networks Interactive website:

HGTV is America's leader in home and lifestyle programming. The network is distributed to more than 100 million U.S. households and is one of cable's top-rated networks.

DIY Network is the television source for the best know-how and how-to when it comes to any type of do-it-yourself project. It's distributed to more than 56 million U.S. households.

Food Network is a unique lifestyle network that strives to surprise and engage its viewers with likable hosts and personalities, and the variety of things they do with food. The network is distributed to more than 100 million U.S. households.

Cooking Channel is an entertainment brand dedicated to today's more passionate food lover. Distributed to more than 60 million U.S. households, its a network for food people by food people, sparking the conversations that fuel people's passion for food and cooking.

Travel Channel is the only television network devoted exclusively to travel entertainment. Distributed to more than 94 million U.S. households, the network offers a vast array of consumer touch points that directly engage travelers ready to engage travelers everywhere.

Great American Country is America's main street for the widest variety of country music, its artists and the lifestyles they influence. Great American Country is distributed to more than 60 million U.S. households.​​​​​​​.​​​​​​​​​​

From 1997 to mid-2007, Discovery Communications co-owned and then owned the Travel Channel. Scripps now owns 65% of Travel; the remaining 35% is owned by Cox Communications.

Another page on the Scripps Networks Interactive website says:

CityEats is the premier destination for dining out — because you are where you eat. Created in partnership with Food Network, CityEats is the best way to explore restaurants in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York, and book some of the hottest tables in town.

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Comedy Central Gives 'Vote of Confidence' to Comedian Who Has Become a Mainstay of the Channel

Comedy Central gave “a huge vote of confidence” to a comedian who has become a staple of the cable network. The Los Angeles Times' Show Tracker reports that the channel renewed Daniel Tosh's “Tosh.0” series for three additional seasons.

The show will continue for its sixth, seventh and eighth seasons, with the 30-episode sixth season set to debut Feb. 18. Season five wrapped this week.

The show "finds Tosh blithely riffing on some of the funniest and most buzzworthy clips on the Internet," the report notes, adding: “During its five-year run, ‘Tosh.0’ has scored big successes. It's the No. 1 entertainment series on Tuesday nights among the coveted demographic of men ages 18 to 24, and it averages 3 million viewers.”

Thumbnail image for daniel-tosh.jpgDaniel Tosh

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'Breaking Bad' Leads TV Programs With 4 Nominations for SAG-AFTRA Awards -- We Have the Full List of Nominees

In what many observers are describing as an unusually competitive awards season, the list of nominations for the SAG-AFTRA Awards is just out. The awards honor acting and stunt work in movies and television.

Among TV programs, "Breaking Bad" leads the way with four nods, ahead of a strong group with three apiece: "30 Rock," "The Big Bang Theory," "Boardwalk Empire," "Game of Thrones," "Homeland" and "Modern Family."

HBO is way ahead of the pack among networks, with 13 nominations. The closest any other networks come is five, with both AMC and Showtime generating five bids. Among broadcast nets, ABC received four nominations, while CBS and NBC pulled in two apiece.

One of the hottest categories in the awards is outstanding performance by an ensemble in a drama series, which this year has the ensembles from "Boardwalk Empire," "Breaking Bad," "Downton Abbey," "Game of Thrones" and "Homeland" going head-to-head.

Outstanding performance by an ensemble in a comedy series comes down to "30 Rock," "Arrested Development," "The Big Bang Theory," "Modern Family" and "Veep."

Please click here to read the full press release from SAG-AFTRA, including a complete list of this year's nominees in both television and feature films.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for breaking-bad.jpg"Breaking Bad"

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Would YOU Like to Be Queen (or King) for a Day? Somebody Might, as Next Mega Millions Lotto Jackpot -- To Be Drawn Friday -- Is Expected to Hit $400 Million!

"The Mega Millions jackpot grew to an estimated $400 million after no one won the top prize of $344 million" last night, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, Reuters reports. A $400 million jackpot would be the second-largest Mega Millions jackpot ever, the story says.

So it could be a very lucky Friday the 13th -- in the year 2013 -- for someone, as that is the date of the next Mega Millions drawing.

The biggest Mega Millions jackpot ever won was $656 million on March 20, 2012, the story notes, adding, "The next largest prizes in the 17-year history of Mega Millions were worth $390 million and $380 million."

On another lottery note, in a Reuters story of Nov. 22, 2013, the wire service said that a Powerball lottery ticket that was bought in Tampa, Fla., had expired with no one stepping forward with the winning ticket. The unclaimed prize: $16.6 million.

And stick this in your woulda, coulda, shoulda file: That same story says: "This is not the first time a Powerball jackpot went unclaimed. In 2011, a $77.1 million prize expired after a winning ticket holder in Georgia never came forward."

Let's keep those lottery tickets we buy in a safe place and remember where. Come on, let's be careful out there, people.

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TV's Longest-Running Court Show Renewed Though 2014-15

The run for television's longest-running court show is set to get a little longer. Deadline.com reports that the syndicated daytime show “Divorce Court,” from Twentieth Television, has been renewed through the 2014-15 season.

“The show is set to return on Fox stations, as well as Tribune, Sinclair, Meredith, and Scripps-Howard stations. ‘Divorce Court,’ starring Lynn Toler, is the longest-running court show,” the story notes.

The original version of the show first went on the air in 1957.

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'Bonnie & Clyde' Finale Strong -- But Not Up to the High Ratings Bar Set by Part One

A+E Networks' two-part, multiple-network miniseries "Bonnie & Clyde" cemented its place in ratings history with a strong turnout for Monday's finale, which aired on Lifetime, History and A&E. The finale drew 7.4 million total viewers, the Los Angeles Times reports -- down from the 9.8 million who turned out for part one, but enough to keep the show among the most-watched basic cable productions of recent years.

The finale drew 3.1 million viewers in the 25-54 demographic, down from the 4.2 million in the demo who tuned in for the miniseries’ first part, airing on Sunday.

The story reports: “Over the two nights, the series was watched by 8.6 million people overall, making it the third most-watched basic cable miniseries since AMC's ‘Broken Trail’ in 2006. ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ didn't top either last year’s’ ‘Hatfields & McCoys’ or this year's ‘The Bible,’ which both aired on History."

"Hatfields & McCoys," a three-part series, averaged 13.8 million total viewers, while "The Bible," which aired in five parts, averaged 11.4 million total viewers, the report notes.

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Cast Changes and a Behind-the-Camera Move for FX's 'The Bridge'

The FX drama series "The Bridge” is tweaking its cast and shuffling its behind-the-scenes lineup. Deadline.com reports that the police show, set on the U.S.-Mexico border, promoted two cast members, Emily Rios and Matthew Lillard, who previously played recurring characters.

Rios and Lillard will become regulars for the show’s second season, the story reports, with the promotion signaling the increasing importance of their characters to the show’s storyline. Rios and Lillard play El Paso Times reporters, with the pair making a key discovery in the finale of the first season, which will spark an investigation, the piece notes.

“The Bridge” is also undergoing a behind-the-scenes switch, with Elwood Reid taking over day-to-day responsibilities for the show. He developed the series with Meredith Stiehm, who served as co-showrunner on the first season. Stiehm is returning to Showtime’s “Homeland” full time, the piece notes.

Rios played Jessie Pinkman’s girlfriend Andrea Cantillo on “Breaking Bad,” while Lillard is known for playing Shaggy in the “Scooby Doo” film franchise.

emily rios.pngEmily Rios

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NBC Show Returns to Higher Numbers; Modest Debut for ABC's New Holiday Competition Show

NBC coasted to a comfortable win over its broadcast rivals in prime time Monday night, based on Nielsen overnights for the key 18-49 demo, as the Peacock Network's competition show "The Sing-Off" had a strong season premiere.

TVbytheNumbers.com reports that "The Sing-Off's" two-hour premiere episode delivered a 2.4 average rating in viewers 18-49, improving 26% on the show's premiere in September 2011. NBC also got a 3.4 out of "The Voice" -- the same as last week's number.

Second-place Fox was paced by "Sleepy Hollow," which fell to a series-low 2.1 average in the 18-49 demo, slipping 5% from its most recent original installment. "Almost Human" ticked up 6% from last week to a 1.8.

ABC managed a third-place overall finish, built largely around holiday programming. The premiere of the network's new competition show "The Great Christmas Light Fight" came through with a 1.8 average in 18-49, down 14% from the January 2013 premiere of "The Taste" but up a hefty 50% from the number for "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" in the time slot last year.

ABC's telecast of the venerable "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town" delivered a 1.7 in viewers 18-49, the same number it turned in a year ago. A "Castle" repeat at 10 p.m. settled for a 1.3.

The report notes that ABC's numbers may be somewhat inflated due to a simulcast of the "Monday Night Football" game on the ABC affiliate in Chicago.

CBS finished last among the big four broadcasters on a mix of repeats and originals. A fresh episode of "Mike & Molly" scored a 2.0 average in adults 18-49, off 17% from the previous week, while "Hostages" came in with another 1.1, matching last week's result.

For prime time overall, NBC's 2.8 average in the 18-49 demo was easily enough to win the night, followed by Fox (2.0 average), ABC (1.6), CBS (1.3) and Univision (1.0). NBC also won total viewers, averaging 9.9 million to lead ABC (6.5 million), Fox (6.3 million), CBS (5.3 million) and Univision (2.8 million).

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AFI Names Its 10 Best TV Shows and Movies of 2013

The American Film Institute has released its list of the 10 best television shows and the 10 best movies of 2013. USA Today reports that the following 10 TV series made the list, in alphabetical order:

The Americans
Breaking Bad
Game of Thrones
The Good Wife
House of Cards
Mad Men
Masters of Sex
Orange Is the New Black
Scandal
Veep

On the feature film side, the AFI cited the following 10 movies:

12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Fruitvale Station
Gravity
Her
Inside Llewyn Davis
Nebraska
Saving Mr. Banks
The Wolf of Wall Street

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Former MTV Star Sparks Outcry Over Swastika Photo and Pro-Hitler Rant

A former MTV personality sparked an angry backlash after appearing in Nazi gear in a photo posted on her Facebook page and calling Hitler a "special and sweet kid," the New York Daily News reports.

Tila Tequila, 32, described in the story as a "shock-savoring former MTV star," later deleted the photo, which depicts her in front of Auschwitz wearing a swastika armband and Nazi uniform hat, the report notes.

"In a related post Monday evening, the ex-MySpace queen described Hitler as a 'special and sweet kid' who was rejected by art schools and later 'bullied,'” the story reports. "She drew comparisons to her own life, saying she felt 'mocked' and 'rejected' when she tried to convert to Judaism in recent years."

In a subsequent post, Tequila appeared to address the backlash, writing: “I never said I hated anyone, but just because I feel sympathy, compassion, and forgiveness for others such as Hitler means I am now a monster? All for trying to open your eyes to the truth that Hitler was NOT as bad as he was painted out to be?”

Tequila is known for her appearances in men's magazines such as Maxim and Penthouse, and for a variety of TV roles including hosting Fuse TV's "Pants-Off Dance-Off." She was featured for two seasons on the MTV reality show "A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila."

"The 'Shot at Love' alum also rambled that 'Fast & Furious' star Paul Walker’s recent fatal car crash was a 'ritualistic murder' and that other unidentified forces murdered her 'wife' Casey Johnson, the late daughter of New York Jets owner Woody Johnson," the story reports.

Tequila's social media activity prompted a number of negative responses. One example cited in the story came from New Yorker Hannah Vilinsky, who wrote in Facebook comments: “Seriously what is wrong with you? I used to enjoy your reality TV shows on VH1, I am Jewish and a product of Holocaust survivors. How can you sympathize with Hitler? He killed 6 million Jews and millions of others. How can you sympathize with someone who killed innocent people based on ethnicity, sexual orientation and/or disabilities?”

Vilinisky added: “It scares me that you have 1.9 million likes on your Facebook page and post pictures that promote hatred and genocide. Bad PR to say the least."

tila tequila-nazi facebook photo.jpgTila Tequila Facebook photo

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Inspiration Behind Emmy-Winning TV Movie Dead at 81

The man who inspired an Emmy-winning 2002 television movie has died. The New York Times reports that the inspiration behind the TNT movie “Door to Door,” Bill Porter, died Dec. 3 at 81.

Porter, who worked as a salesman despite his severe cerebral palsy, was portrayed by William H. Macy in the TV movie. Porter died of an infection, according to his longtime assistant, Shelly Brady, the story says.

Porter worked for J.R. Watkins, which sells grocery, household and personal-care products, from 1962 until he died, the piece adds.

“The successful door-to-door salesman must be skilled at driving, walking and talking. Mr. Porter did the first of these not at all and the latter two only with great difficulty. But through a combination of persistence, gregariousness and charm, he was for many years Watkins’s top salesman in the region comprising Oregon, Washington, California and Idaho,” the piece reports.

The TV project gained momentum following a profile of Porter on ABC’s “20/20,” which Macy saw and was moved by, the story notes.

“Door to Door” starred Helen Mirren as Porter’s mother and Kyra Sedgwick as Brady. The production won six Emmys, including one for Macy for his acting and a screenwriting award for him and his co-writer, Steven Schachter. It also won for outstanding made for television movie and for directing for a miniseries, movie or dramatic special, won by Schachter.

A birth injury left Porter with cerebral palsy, with Oregon deeming him unemployable. He was turned down by the Fuller Brush Company as salesman, and “the Watkins company turned him away, too, until Mr. Porter, in his first successful pitch, persuaded them to give him their most inhospitable territory in Portland,” the piece notes.

bill porter-william h. macy.jpgBill Porter, right, with William H. Macy,
who played him in "Door to Door"

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'SNL' Alum Tops New Forbes List of Hollywood's Most Overpaid Actors and Actresses -- TV Personalities Are Well-Represented in the Top 10

Forbes magazine has just released its list of the most overpaid actors and actresses in Hollywood for 2013, and a former star of NBC's "Saturday Night Live" -- Adam Sandler -- tops the list.

Sandler isn't alone among TV stars placing high in the standings, with Kevin James, Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carell and Katherine Heigl all in the top 10.

"Adam Sandler is one of the few actors in Hollywood who can still demand a paycheck north of $15 million. That’s great for his bank account but not always so great for the studios that employ him. A string of recent misfires lands the funny man at the top of our most overpaid list," Forbes reports.

The report cites "Jack & Jill" and "That's My Boy" as the "two biggest offenders on Sandler's resume."

The list uses data from Forbes' Celebrity 100 research and Box Office Mojo to determine each actor's return at the box office per dollar paid. Sandler returns $3.40 for every $1 he's paid, according to the magazine.

Here's the top 10, with the return per $1 paid:

Adam Sandler, $3.40
Katherine Heigl, $3.50
Reese Witherspoon, $3.90
Nicolas Cage, $6
Kevin James, $6.10
Denzel Washington, $8.30
Steve Carell, $10
Jennifer Aniston, $10.60
Matt Damon, $10.60
Ryan Reynolds, $10.70

adam sandler.pngAdam Sandler

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Three-Time Oscar Nominee Dies

An actress who received three Academy Award nominations for lead roles in her long career "but whose best-known role was a supporting one, as the marriage-minded baroness in 'The Sound of Music,' died on Monday in Palm Springs, Calif.," The New York Times reports. Eleanor Parker was 91.

Parker's role in the 1965 film called for “an icy demeanor,” the report notes. The part was played by Laura Benanti in NBC’s live production of "The Sound of Music" just last week.

Parker was nominated for Oscars for a variety of roles, including an opera star with polio in 1955’s “Interrupted Melody.” She earned an Emmy Award nomination in 1963 for an episode of NBC’s “The Eleventh Hour.”

“If she never became a star, admirers contended, it was because of her versatility,” The Times reports. “Sometimes a blonde, sometimes a brunette, often a redhead, Ms. Parker made indelible impressions but submerged herself in a wide range of characters, from a war hero’s noble fiancee in 'Pride of the Marines' (1945) to W. Somerset Maugham’s vicious waitress-prostitute in a remake of 'Of Human Bondage' (1946).”

In the 1960s and 70s, she also appeared in many TV movies and in guest performances on several shows, the story notes.

Her other Academy Award nominations were for lead roles in "Caged" in 1951 and "Detective Story" in 1952. She played Sylvia Caldwell on the NBC drama series "Bracken's World," receiving a Golden Globe nomination for the role in 1970.

Parker was also a guest on "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.," "Kraft Suspense Theatre" and other classic TV shows.

eleanor parker-mgm publicity shot.pngEleanor Parker: MGM publicity shot

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TV Veteran Jimmy Smits Talks About Being Kept 'Off Kilter' by 'Sons of Anarchy' Creator Kurt Sutter

Actor Jimmy Smits opened up recently about what's going on at FX's "Sons of Anarchy," where, Smits says, show creator Kurt Sutter is up to his old tricks and keeping all of his characters "off kilter."

TVWeek Open Mic writer Hillary Atkin took part in Smits' in-depth conversation about the show with reporters, and filed a full report. Please click here to read this frank interview with Smits.

jimmy smits-sons of anarchy 2.jpgJimmy Smits

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Report: Fox News Paid Former Exec $8 Million in 'Hush Money'

Former Fox News executive Brian Lewis, an aide to Roger Ailes who is well-known to members of the press and was suddenly fired in July, was reportedly paid $8 million in “hush money” in an out-of-court settlement with the network, according to a Fox News insider cited by Gawker.

The settlement was made after Fox News accused the former executive of “financial irregularities,” with Lewis’ attorney countering that Ailes had “a lot to lose if Lewis ever spilled the beans on their 17-year-long partnership at the right-wing network,” Gawker notes.

Lewis' attorney Judd Burstein reportedly issued a statement back in August that said, in part: "Roger Ailes and Newscorp have a lot more to fear from Brian Lewis telling the truth about them than Brian Lewis has to fear from Roger Ailes and his toadies telling lies about Brian Lewis."

Fox News and Lewis declined to comment on the record for the latest report, Gawker notes, with the report relying mainly on comments from the insider, a Fox News executive. The source reportedly said Friday: “The big talk at work, especially today, is the settlement number," with Gawker adding that "the exact figure had been filtering through the channel’s rank-and-file since early November," according to the Fox News executive.

"The Fox News executive, while acknowledging that $8 million is a hefty severance, said he believes the figure would have been much higher if Lewis actually had seriously damaging information to disseminate about his former boss," the report adds.

Gawker's source also reportedly said: “That whole financial impropriety thing was complete bullshit,” adding, “Everything was about Gabe Sherman.”

Gawker notes: "Sherman, the New York magazine writer, is scheduled to publish his long-anticipated (and unauthorized) biography of Roger Ailes in January; Ailes designated Lewis as Sherman's point of contact at the network."

The Fox News insider also fleshed out some details about Lewis' break with the company.

Gawker reports: "It became apparent to Fox News employees that discussions had ended, the executive said, on November 5, a Tuesday. On that day, 'they cleaned out [Lewis’s] office after not touching it for three months. It was becoming a museum.' Shortly after news of Lewis’s firing surfaced, Politico’s Mike Allen reported that Lewis had been exiled, in July 2012, to the 22nd floor of News Corporation’s Midtown headquarters after losing the favor of his boss, Fox News president Roger Ailes."

Lewis oversaw the cable channel's PR unit, which the insider said struggled with how to handle the Sherman book.

"The turmoil, which the executive compared to the conservative movement’s internecine struggle between the insurgent Tea Party and establishment Republicans, eventually split the press shop into two equally distinct camps. The first camp maintained that total radio silence was the best policy; the second, led by Lewis, argued that the network should try to engage Sherman," Gawker reports.

The Fox News source is quoted saying: “People in the first camp would say things like, ‘Mention the words Gabe and Sherman and you’re fired,’ while people in the second camp were more like, ‘Let’s talk with him.' The day the first camp won Roger over was the day Brian became an enormous liability.”

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NBC Will Follow 'Sound of Music' With Another Live Musical -- and That's Just the Beginning

NBC will stage another live musical, after the network was bolstered by the ratings success of last week’s “The Sound of Music Live!,” reports Bill Carter in The New York Times.

NBC Entertainment chief Robert Greenblatt told the publication that next live production, scheduled for the 2014 holiday season, would be led once again by Neil Meron and Craig Zadan, who were the executive producers behind “Sound of Music."

The production, which starred Carrie Underwood, drew 18.6 million viewers -- three times what Greenwood, Zadan and Meron had predicted, the story adds.

“All weekend, people have been calling us and emailing us,” Greenblatt told the newspaper. “Rights holders of musicals have said, ‘Please do one of our shows.’ We’re excited to try it again.”

Without specifying, Greenblatt said the three men are looking at a “couple of titles” that would fit their requirements: a Broadway show with familiar songs that’s appropriate for all age levels.

NBC could make live musicals an annual holiday event, he added.

“There’s enough to do a handful of these over the next years, if we keep increasing the learning curve,” he said. “There may be a little bit of a phenomenon to the first one of these. Who knows what happens Year 2, 3 or 4. But you’ve got to have events. I think we could do this again -- and again and again.”

Even though Underwood was dinged in social media for her “thin acting resume,” she played a crucial role in drawing fans to the show, Meron told the newspaper.

To read TVWeek Open Mic blogger Chuck Ross' insightul perspective of NBC's presentation of "The Sound of Music" -- entitled, "If Only NBC Had the Guts Carrie Underwood Has," please click here.  

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'Family Guy' Distances Itself From Brian

It’s been one week since the family dog was killed on “Family Guy,” and the Fox animated program has already taken the step of editing the opening credits to remove the character, reports The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed.

In Brian's place, the show has added new dog Vinny, voiced by Tony Sirico of “The Sopranos.”

The show’s Nov. 24 episode angered some fans when Brian, the urbane talking dog, was hit by a car and died. The family then adopted Vinny.

Still, fans who want Brian to return might get their wish, the story notes. The Dec. 15 episode is called “Christmas Guy,” which Fox says is about Stewie, the family’s baby, devising “a master plan to get the one and only thing he wants for Christmas."

family guy-vinny.jpg"Family Guy" -- with Vinny

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Bette Midler to Play the Role She Was Meant to Play, in HBO Project

Bette Midler will play the role many fans and observers have been saying for decades the singer was meant to play. Nellie Andreeva reports on Deadline.com that HBO Films is developing a project based on screen legend Mae West, with Midler to star and executive produce.

“The project is the brainchild of William Friedkin ('The Exorcist'), who will direct and executive produce. Broadway heavyweight Harvey Fierstein, who recently penned the book for Tony-winning musical ‘Kinky Boots,’ is writing the script,” Andreeva writes.

“Mae West” is based on the actress’ autobiography, “Goodness Had Nothing to Do With It,” and will track her rise to fame after she appeared in a Broadway show called “Sex” and battled obscenity charges, the story says.

Andreeva writes: “Instead of taking the road of a wide-eyed Hollywood ingenue, West forged her own path, writing and starring in her own risque plays, including her breakthrough ‘Sex,’ which had her prosecuted and sentenced to 10 days in prison for ‘corrupting the morals of youth.’”

West was a “late arrival” to Hollywood, signing her first movie deal at the age of 39, but became one of the highest-grossing stars of the 1930s.

“Midler’s career path resembles that of West -- she too made a name for herself onstage in New York (she made her Broadway debut in the chorus of ‘Fiddler On The Roof’) before segueing to features in her 30s for a successful movie career, which has earned her two Oscar nominations,” Andreeva notes.

bette midler.pngBette Midler

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Ratings Low Point for CNN's 'Anderson Cooper 360'

The ratings struggles continue for CNN, where “Anderson Cooper 360” recently notched an unhappy milestone. TVNewser reports that the show posted its lowest ratings since it moved to the 8 p.m. time slot in August 2011.

The CNN show’s decline comes amid a wider loss of viewers for the network. As previously reported, CNN’s shakeup by new chief Jeff Zucker has failed to produce positive results, as the cable news channel's ratings appear to keep falling.

“Anderson Cooper 360” drew 255,000 total viewers on Friday and 58,000 in the 25-54 demographic, a low since August 2011. Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor,” meanwhile, averaged 2.42 million total viewers and 447,000 in the 25-54 demo, the piece adds.

“Compared to the same day last year, Cooper’s program was down -60% in total viewers and -67% in the demo,” the article notes.

TVWeek Open Mic writer Chuck Ross blogged last week about Zucker's efforts to resuscitate CNN's ratings by transforming the news network.

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CBS Orders Miniseries From Pair Behind History's Hit 'The Bible'

CBS has ordered a miniseries from the couple behind the hit History miniseries "The Bible." TheWrap.com reports that the network ordered a project based on the Alice Hoffman novel “The Dovekeepers” from husband-and-wife producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey.

Downey, who starred in CBS’s “Touched by an Angel,” will executive produce with Burnett.

“Hoffman’s novel is based on true events in ancient Israel, after 900 Jews were forced out of their homes in Jerusalem by the Romans and besieged in a fortress at Masada, a mountain in the Judean desert. The miniseries will follow the lives of four women whose lives intertwine at the mountain as they each struggle to survive,” the story notes.

roma downey-mark burnett.jpgRoma Downey and Mark Burnett

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A&E Greenlights Magic Show With a Revenge Twist

A&E Network has ordered an unscripted show focusing on magic, with a little revenge also in the formula. Deadline.com reports that the cable network greenlighted “Don’t Trust Andrew Mayne,” starring magician Andrew Mayne.

The series will debut Jan. 13, airing two episodes back-to-back, the story says. The show features Mayne “performing illusions designed to help people get even by teaching a lesson to those who’ve wronged them,” the piece adds.

The magician taps tricks ranging from explosions to disappearing automobiles, with each episode featuring one big illusion and five smaller ones, the article notes.

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Adult Swim Renews Parody Series

Cartoon Network's late-night programming block Adult Swim will bring back a show that parodies public-access talk shows. The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports that the cable channel ordered a third season of “The Eric Andre Show."

The series, which ends its second season Thursday, Dec. 12, has seen double-digit gains year-over-year with adults and men in the 18-24 demographic, the story notes. Guests have included James Van Der Beek, Dominic Monaghan and Eric Balfour.

Andre, who co-hosts along with comedian Hannibal Buress, is also known for his role as Mark on the ABC sitcom "Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23."

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Legendary Entertainment Buys TV Studio Behind 'The Kennedys'

Legendary Entertainment is adding to its television business by buying the television production studio that created “The Kennedys." The Los Angeles Times reports that Legendary has agreed to buy Asylum Entertainment.

The paper reports that Legendary has a deal to buy all of Asylum, which is a decade old and works in both scripted and unscripted programming. Aside from “The Kennedys,” Asylum has created “30 for 30” for ESPN and the 2013 Lifetime movie “Ring of Fire.”

Legendary, controlled by film producer Thomas Tull, is pushing into sports-themed content and this year produced “42,” the biographical film about Jackie Robinson.

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'Boys Don't Cry' Director Signs TV Deal

The director of the acclaimed 1999 feature film "Boys Don't Cry" has signed a deal with a major television studio. Deadline.com reports that ABC Studios signed filmmaker Kimberly Peirce to a first-look deal.

Under the deal, Peirce will direct and produced scripted television projects for network and cable, the story reports.

Peirce’s only previous television job was directing an episode of Showtime’s “The L Word," the report notes. She’s also the director of this year’s “Carrie” remake.

kimberly peirce.jpgKimberly Peirce

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Showtime Pulls the Plug on Its Longest-Running Scripted Show

Showtime has announced plans to wrap up the series that has become the pay cable channel's longest-running scripted show, "Californication." TV Guide reports that the David Duchovny series, which bowed in 2007, will end after a seventh and final season, which rolls out starting in April 2014.

"Showtime promises that these final 12 more episodes will wrap up the stories of Hank Moody (Duchovny), Karen (Natascha McElhone), Becca (Madeleine Martin), Charlie (Evan Handler) and Marcy (Pamela Adlon)," the story reports. "Tom Kapinos created and executive produces 'Californication,' which is also executive produced by Duchovny. The actor stars as a writer who balances his sexual exploits with his career, his ex-girlfriend and his daughter."

Said Showtime Entertainment President David Nevins: "With its unique blend of lyricism and excess, 'Californication' has been one of our groundbreaking signature series. We will always be indebted to Tom Kapinos for leading the creative charge on this memorable comedy, and to David Duchovny for making us root for an unapologetic hedonist like Hank Moody."

The report adds: "'Californication' has grown steadily over its first six seasons on Showtime, and has also won two Emmys (out of five nominations) and one Golden Globe (six nominations). ... As 'Californication' ends its run, new Showtime series in the works include 'Penny Dreadful,' which is set to launch around the same time."

Nevins adds: "Tom [Kapinos] has carefully planned the final chapter of Hank's journey and has brought it to a beautiful and satisfying conclusion for new and long-time fans alike."

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Move Over, 'The View' and 'The Talk' -- Another Female-Centric Panel Talk Show Is Gaining Momentum

A third strong contender appears to be on the way in the field of female-oriented daytime talk show panels, with "The View" and "The Talk" soon to be joined by "The Real."

The one-hour daily talk show from Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution just reached a milestone, gaining clearance for its fall 2014 rollout in more than 70% of the country. The show is hosted by Tamar Braxton, Loni Love, Adrienne Bailon, Jeannie Mai and Tamera Mowry-Housley.

The program, which had a successful four-week summer trial on the Fox-owned stations, has been bought by stations from Cox, Sinclair, Gannett, Local TV, Meredith, Raycom, Media General, Gray, Sunbeam, Griffin and Schurz Groups, among others.

Please click here to read a press release from Warner Bros. Television Group with additional details about the show's rollout.

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Strong Opening for A+E's Multiple-Network 'Bonnie & Clyde'

A+E Networks is touting the strong turnout for Sunday's opening night of its multi-network miniseries event "Bonnie & Clyde." The program, which aired simultaneously on Lifetime, A&E and History, reportedly delivered 9.8 million total viewers and 4.2 million adults 25-54.

"Outside of History’s 'Hatfields & McCoys' and 'The Bible,' the 'Bonnie & Clyde' simulcast is cable’s best miniseries opening among Total Viewers since 2006’s 'Broken Trail,'" the company announced.

An encore of part one is set to air tonight, followed by the conclusion of the two-part program tonight at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

"'Bonnie & Clyde' was the most tweeted about program of the day, according to Nielsen SocialGuide (excluding all sports), while it also ranked number one in Google Trends for Sunday, with more than 500,000 searches. It also attracted more than 420,000 visitors to A+E Networks sites and apps, per Adobe Analytics," the company announced.

The program, produced by Sony Pictures Television, marks A+E Networks’ first-ever simulcast across Lifetime, A&E and History, and stars Emile Hirsch as Clyde Barrow and Holliday Grainger as Bonnie Parker, along with Holly Hunter, William Hurt, Sarah Hyland, Lane Garrison, Elizabeth Reaser, Austin Hebert and Dale Dickey.

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Sarah Palin Gets a TV Show

Former Alaska Gov. and conservative lightning rod Sarah Palin will be the host of a new television series, according to an announcement today from Sportsman Channel.

The program, "Amazing America with Sarah Palin," is part of the cable network's "Red, Wild & Blue America" programming effort, with the channel dubbing Palin its "First Lady of the Outdoors." The show is an anthology series focusing on the nation's outdoors lifestyle, and is set to premiere in April 2014.

Said Palin: "I'm excited to help shine a light on all the great American sportsmen and women in the country who live the outdoors lifestyle. Sportsman Channel is the leader in their industry and I am thrilled to be partnering with them on this show."

Please click here to read the press release from Sportsman Channel, with additional details about the new programming.

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Veteran Ad Sales Exec Named to Key Post With Warner Bros. Domestic TV Distribution

A veteran advertising sales executive has been named Executive Vice President, Warner Bros. Brand Networks, it was announced today by Jeffrey R. Schlesinger, President, Warner Bros. Worldwide Television Distribution. In his new post, John O’Hara "will oversee all operations of the media sales department, handling national advertising time for first-run and off-network television programming distributed by Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution," the company said in its announcement.

The announcement adds that "the first-run series in which O’Hara and his team will sell national barter advertising time and work to develop innovative marketing opportunities include 'The Ellen DeGeneres Show,' 'TMZ,' 'bethenny,' 'Judge Mathis,' 'The People’s Court' and 'Extra.'”

The team will also handle off-net series “The Big Bang Theory,” “Two and a Half Men," "Friends" and “The Middle.”

O'Hara will be based in New York and will report to Ken Werner, President, Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution.

Said Schlesinger: “John is a smart and strategic executive whose knowledge and creativity in media sales, advertising and integrated marketing will truly elevate our Brand Networks group in our mission to deliver unique, out-of-the-box opportunities for our advertising clients."

The announcement notes: "O’Hara joins Warner Bros. from sister company Turner Broadcasting where he worked for 24 years, most recently as executive vice president and general manager, Young Adults Ad Sales, managing ad sales on behalf of truTV, Cartoon Network and Adult Swim."

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Veteran TV Actress Dies -- Best Known for Her Role on a Popular 1990s Comedy Series

A veteran actress known for her string of television roles going back to the 1970s -- including a recurring role on the popular 1990s comedy "Ellen" -- has died. Kate Williamson, who played Mrs. Rodgers on “Ellen,” died Friday, Dec. 6, at her home in Encino, Calif., according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Williamson was 82 and had been in failing health for a while, according to her manager. She died only a few weeks after her husband, veteran character actor Al Ruscio, who was 89, the report notes.

Besides playing the member of Ellen’s book club, Williamson appeared on many TV series, from “Police Story” in the 1970s to “7th Heaven” in 2003. In films, she appeared in 1994’s “Racing with the Moon” and 1997’s “Touch,” among others.

Her other TV work included guest roles on "Hill Street Blues," "Cheers," "JAG," "Home Improvement," "NYPD Blue" and many other series.

kate williamson.pngKate Williamson

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AMC Cancels Drama Series

A rep for AMC confirmed that the cable channel has canceled a drama series that failed to catch on either with critics or with viewers. TheWrap.com reports that the channel won't be bringing back the crime show “Low Winter Sun” for a second season.

The decision was expected, given that the show demonstrated a ratings drop during its run. The drama debuted with 2.5 million viewers in August, but episodes in the later part of the run fell below 1 million viewers. The network shuffled the show to Sundays at 10 p.m., where it ended its run.

The series starred Mark Strong and Joe Geddes as Detroit homicide detectives who murder another cop and try to cover it up.

"A co-production between AMC Studio and Endemol Studios, it also starred James Ransone, Sprague Grayden, Athena Karkanis, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, David Costabile and Billy Lush," TheWrap reports. "Things got so bleak for the series, Ransone even told TheWrap, 'If it doesn’t get canceled, I’ll be goddamn shocked. The ratings were terrible.'”

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Scientology Rift Gets Snippy as Another TV Actress Calls Leah Remini a 'Bigot'

Actress Leah Remini's high-profile break with Scientology apparently didn't sit well with another veteran television comedy actress, as Kirstie Alley, a Scientologist, lashed out at Remini for her comments about the church, TheWrap.com reports. Among other things, Alley called Remini a “bigot,” the report notes.

Alley made the comments in an interview with Howard Stern last week, during a spot to promote her new TV Land comedy “Kirstie.” Remini broke from Scientology earlier this year, and claimed she had lost friends after leaving.

“First of all, I just want everyone to know I have hundreds of friends and people that I know that have come into Scientology and left Scientology,” Alley said. “It is not true that you cannot [depart the church]. ... You’re not shunned, you’re not chased. All that stuff’s bullshit.”

Both Alley and Remini are getting work through TV Land, with Remini taking on a recurring role on the cable channel's "The Exes."

Alley also defended her “Kirstie” co-star Michael Richards, who used the N-word during a 2006 performance at the Laugh Factory.

Richards “apologized and apologized,” and people shouldn’t hold a grudge, Alley said.

Remini's rancorous break from the church made headlines earlier this year, as we reported previously. The "King of Queens" star opened up in September on "Ellen" about her rift with Scientology; that video can be seen by clicking here.

kirstie-alley.jpgKirstie Alley

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Susan Boyle Says She Has Neurological Disorder -- After Living All Her Life With the Wrong Diagnosis; Three-Time Oscar Winner May Play the Singer

Singer Susan Boyle, who became famous after appearing on “Britain’s Got Talent” in 2009, told the U.K.’s The Observer that she has been diagnosed with Asperger’s, a form of autism, The Guardian reports.

Boyle was labeled “brain damaged” after complications at birth, but said she found out about a year ago that she has the high-functioning form of autism.

“It was the wrong diagnosis when I was a kid," she told the publication. "I was told I had brain damage. I always knew it was an unfair label. Now I have a clearer understanding of what's wrong and I feel relieved and a bit more relaxed about myself."

Boyle was bullied when she was a child, with other kids calling her “Susie Simple,” the story says.

“I went to seek a diagnosis from a Scottish specialist," she says. "Nobody told me to. I thought I had a more serious illness and couldn't function properly."

Tests showed that her intelligence was above average, the piece adds. People with Asperger’s often suffer from anxiety, while Boyle said she has also dealt with depression and mood swings. After her rise to stardom, there were reports of emotional outbursts and volatile behavior from the singer, the story adds.

“Fox Searchlight is interested in making a film of her life story with three-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep in the lead role,” the story says.

Boyle said she hopes the diagnosis will help people understand her. “I think people will treat me better because they will have a much greater understanding of who I am and why I do the things I do,” she said.

Thumbnail image for susan boyle.pngSusan Boyle

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MTV Cancels Series

MTV has canceled a series, according to tweets sent by the show’s stars. TVGuide.com reports that the cable channel canceled “Teen Mom 3."

“‘Teen Mom 3’ was one of the best experiences I ever had! I will never forget it!" wrote Briana DeJesus on Twitter. “Time to move on from MTV and do bigger and better things & no I don't mean become a porn star lol."

The reality show debuted earlier this year, but its ratings were lower than those for its forerunner, “Teen Mom 2,” the story reports. “Teen Mom 2” returns for its fifth season Jan. 20.

Another star of the series also tweeted about the cancellation, the report notes. "Alexandria Sekella also seemed to see a silver lining in the news," the story says. Sekella reportedly tweeted over the weekend: "Yes no more teen mom 3. Guess we weren't enough of train wrecks for it to be interesting. America wants to watch crazies oh well #relieved."

alex sekella.pngAlexandria Sekella

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ABC Cuts Drama Series' Season Short

ABC has cut back on its order for a drama series. The Los Angeles Times’ Show Tracker reports that the broadcast network is trimming the number of episodes of the political drama “Scandal” to 18, down from 22.

“The news is somewhat surprising, given the show's Nielsen's performance (12 million viewers a week) and dominance each Thursday night on social media (or at least on the nights when it isn't competing with ‘The Sound of Music Live!'),” the story notes.

ABC declined to discuss its reasoning, but the report notes that it’s possible the network trimmed the order to accommodate Kerry Washington, its star. She’s pregnant with her first child, while her character, Olivia Pope, is already wearing a number of “roomy overcoats and bulky sweaters this season. Perhaps executives at ABC thought viewers would balk at the image of their heroine sporting third-trimester muumuus,” the piece reports.

Thumbnail image for kerry washington.pngKerry Washington

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Fox Schedules Two-Hour Season Finale for Drama Series

Fox is letting its feelings be known about a drama series that has been a ratings success for the network, and will reward the show with a two-hour season finale. EW.com's Inside TV reports that the network will juggle its schedule to fit in the special two-hour block of “Sleepy Hollow.”

The freshman series, starring Nicole Beharie, Tom Mison, Orlando Jones and Katia Winter, has been a rare new scripted hit for Fox this season.

The network has also scheduled a two-hour block of "The Following."

“Fox is shifting around its midseason dates (again) and this time making room to double-pump ‘Sleepy Hollow’ on Jan. 20," the story reports. "Then Fox will air two hours of ‘The Following’ on Jan. 27 (an encore of its post-NFC Champion ‘preview’ episode from the 19th, followed by the dark thriller’s official regular premiere). To be clear: We’re still getting the same number of total hours of ‘Hollow’ (13), only now the last two episodes will run back to back."

Nicole-Beharie.jpgNicole Beharie

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Darren Star Project Casts Lead Actress

Darren Star's latest television project has cast its lead actress. The new project from the creator of "Sex and the City," "Melrose Place" and "Beverly Hills, 90210" will star Sutton Foster of "Bunheads," The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports.

The project is the TV Land pilot “Younger.” Foster will play a New Jersey housewife and mother in her early 40s who finds herself suddenly single. Having trouble reinvigorating her career, she decides to trim some years off her age and passes as a 20-something, landing a job at a hot publishing company.

Star will write the pilot and executive produce.

The casting comes five months after ABC Family canceled “Bunheads” after one season.

sutton foster.pngSutton Foster

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Long-Term Deal Keeps 'Peanuts' Specials on ABC to 2020

The “Peanuts” specials will call ABC home at least until 2020, as the network extended its deal with Peanuts Worldwide LLC and Lee Mendelson Film Productions for an additional five years, reports Deadline.com.

The specials, including “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” have aired on ABC since 2001. The specials also include the classic “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.”

“[E]ven while down from last year this year, the specials certainly have been a return on investment for the network,” the story notes. “Airing on December 3, this year’s ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ was down 34% from its November 28 airing in 2012 but still beat Fox’s new ‘Almost Human’ among Adults 18-49.”

The piece adds: “Last year’s Peanuts Christmas special actually topped the Adults 18-49 demo in the 8PM-9:30PM time slot, beating out ‘The X-Factor,’ ‘Survivor’ and NBC’s ‘Christmas at Rockefeller Center.’”

a charlie brown christmas.jpg"A Charlie Brown Christmas"

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E! Pumps Up Scripted, Looks Down Under

The E! Entertainment network is pushing to develop scripted programming, and has a new comedy in development that is an adaptation of an Australian series. The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports that the cable channel is adapting “Lowdown,” which is about a celebrity journalist and his dysfunctional personal and professional relationships.

The E! comedy is from Universal Cable Productions and the original show’s creators, Adam Zwar and Amanda Brotchie’s High Wire Films, the story notes. Zwar and Brotchie will write the adaptation and executive produce.

Zwar, who starred in the Australian show, isn’t attached for an onscreen role if the show moves forward, the piece notes. The original Australian production featured Oscar winner Geoffrey Rush as its narrator.

The project is Zwar’s second to be adapted for U.S. audiences, with “Wilfred” now going into its fourth and final season on FX. Zwar co-created that show with Jason Gann.

adam zwar.pngAdam Zwar

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Video: Rebecca Black Releases Follow-Up to 'Friday' ... You May Be Able to Guess the New Song's Title

Rebecca Black, who scored a monster hit with her 2011 song "Friday" -- including a video that topped 61 million hits on YouTube -- has unveiled a video of the song's direct successor. Here it is, titled, appropriately, "Saturday":

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Arrest Expected After Altercation Among Guys Connected to Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan

An arrest is "imminent" in an alleged altercation at a party last week in Miami involving people connected with Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton, TMZ.com reports.

Ray LeMoine, a friend of Lohan's, was expected to be arrested in connection with the incident, the website reports.

"Law enforcement sources tell TMZ ... officials now believe they have 'probable cause' to arrest Ray and will most likely make their move in the very near future," the site reported this morning.

LeMoine is accused of punching Barron Hilton, the younger brother of Paris Hilton. LeMoine "has admitted he threw the punches that wrecked Barron Hilton's face during a mansion party in Miami last week -- though Ray claims Barron struck him first," the story reports.

The report adds: "Barron Hilton claims Lindsay orchestrated the attack because she thought he was talking smack about her at the party. LeMoine claims LL had nothing to do with the altercation."

Barron Hilton reportedly wants to press charges, and also wants to sue both Lohan and LeMoine, according to the story.

barron hilton.pngBarron Hilton

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'Sound of Music Live' Delivers a Big Win for NBC; ABC Mainstay Hits Historic Low

NBC rode its high-profile live production of "The Sound of Music," starring Carrie Underwood, to a huge ratings win Thursday night, based on Nielsen overnights for the key 18-49 demo.

TVbytheNumbers.com reports that the production delivered a 4.6 average rating in viewers 18-49 from 8-11 p.m., along with a whopping 18.47 million total viewers, as NBC easily outpaced its broadcast rivals in prime time.

One show did match "Sound of Music's" number, as CBS's "The Big Bang Theory" also recorded a 4.6 in the 18-49 demo. But that number was a season low, and seven-tenths of a ratings point off the pace of the show's previous original installment.

CBS's results overall were mixed: "The Millers" was down three-tenths from its previous original with a 2.5 average in 18-49, and "The Crazy Ones" slipped one-tenth to a 2.1, but "Two and a Half Men" ticked up two-tenths to a 2.1 and "Elementary" held steady with a 1.8.

Third-place ABC saw its veteran drama series "Grey's Anatomy" sink to an all-time low in adults 18-49, falling two-tenths from its previous original to a 2.4 average. But the network's other programs were up: "Once Upon a Time in Wonderland" ticked up one-tenth to a 1.0, while "Scandal" rose two-tenths to a 3.1.

Fox found itself a distant fourth among the broadcast nets, even as "The X Factor" rose three-tenths from a week ago to a 1.3 average in viewers 18-49 and "Glee" climbed two-tenths from its series low last week to a 1.1.

For prime time overall, NBC was comfortably ahead in the 18-49 demo with a 4.6 average rating, topping CBS (2.5 average), ABC (2.2), Fox (1.2) and Univision (1.0). NBC also had a big win in total viewers with 18.47 million, leading CBS (9.50 million), ABC (6.56 million), Fox (3.99 million) and Univision (2.89 million).

"The Sound of Music Live" may have been a big ratings success for NBC, but TVWeek Open Mic blogger Chuck Ross says it came up short artistically. Click here to read why.

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Move Over, Clapton: Another Rock Legend's Axe Is Now the Most Expensive Guitar Ever Auctioned

One of the greatest legends in rock music shoved aside another legend, Eric Clapton, to claim the title as the man behind the most expensive guitar ever auctioned.

"Bob Dylan's sunburst Fender Stratocaster, first unsheathed at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, sold at auction for a record-breaking $965,000 on Friday," Rolling Stone reports. "Dropping nearly a cool million on an axe might seem excessive, but this guitar is one of the most iconic instruments in music history. Dylan's three-song Newport performance is the stuff of legend: Many folk diehards booed the set, viewing the switch to amplified rock as a sell-out (and labeling Dylan a traitor to the folk movement)."

Dylan went on to prove his detractors wrong, by most accounts, using the amped-up sound of the electric guitar to help broaden the audience for lyrically meaningful music -- and eventually bringing the rest of the pop music world along with him.

"Despite the historical importance of the instrument, Christie's auction house wasn't expecting such a massive price: pre-auction estimates for the guitar (which also included the original leather strap and hardshell case) were between $300,000 and $500,000," Rolling Stone notes. "Within the case itself was another hidden gem: early-draft lyrics to [four] Dylan tunes ('Absolutely Sweet Marie,' 'I Wanna Be Your Lover' and two others). Those pieces were estimated between $3,000 and $30,000 by the auction house."

Dylan's Strat becomes the most expensive guitar ever auctioned, taking over the title from Clapton's "Blackie," which sold for $959,500 in 2004.

The report adds: "The buyer of Dylan's Stratocaster remains unnamed for now, but the story of its prior ownership is fascinating: Dylan left the guitar on a private plane, and when the pilot notified the songwriter's management, he never received a response. The Strat has remained in the pilot's family for nearly 50 years, and it was authenticated last year when his daughter, Dawn Peterson, brought it on the PBS program 'History Detectives.'"

That program sparked a controversy over ownership of the guitar, as we reported last year. The dispute was reportedly recently settled out of court.

dylan-newport-1965jpg.jpgBob Dylan with his Strat at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival

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New 'Terminator' TV Series in Development

A new television series version of the "Terminator" film franchise is in the works, four years after "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" wrapped up on Fox, The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed reports.

The new series is being developed in conjunction with the upcoming fifth installment in the movie franchise.

"Skydance Productions and Annapurna Pictures are teaming to bring the Arnold Schwarzenegger franchise back to TV," THR reports. "The producers behind the upcoming fifth installment have tapped 'Thor' and 'X-Men: First Class' writers Zack Stentz and Ashley Miller to write and executive produce a new Terminator television series that will be a companion piece to the rebooted trilogy."

The report adds: "The TV series will follow a critical moment from the first 'Terminator' film (1984), and where the film's story goes one way, the upcoming series will take the same moment in a completely different direction. As the rebooted film trilogy and the new TV series progress, the two narratives will intersect with each other in surprising and dramatic ways."

The first four "Terminator" movies have grossed more than $1 billion in combined worldwide box office receipts.

THR adds: "The TV series will be produced by Annapurna's Megan Ellison and Skydance's David Ellison alongside Skydance chief creative officer Dana Goldberg and TV chief Marcy Ross. Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier will executive produce. Kalogridis and Lussier also will pen the first feature in the upcoming 'Terminator' trilogy, which will be directed by Alan Taylor and released via Paramount Pictures on July 1, 2015."

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Teenager Arrested in Theft of Part From Paul Walker Crash

A teenager was arrested Thursday in connection with the theft of some of the wreckage from the crash that killed actor Paul Walker and his friend Roger Rodas, the Associated Press reports. A second suspect in the theft, meanwhile, was reportedly making arrangements to turn himself in.

"The theft occurred as the 2005 Porsche Carrera GT was being towed from the accident scene Saturday night, Los Angeles County sheriff's officials said," the story reports. "The investigation led detectives to Jameson Witty, 18, who was arrested at his home in Los Angeles and was being held on $20,000 bail, the Sheriff's Department said in a statement. A second suspect, a 25-year-old man whose name has not been released, was outside California and arranging to surrender, the statement said."

Investigators were told by witnesses that they saw someone driving behind the tow truck hauling away the wreckage in the hours following the fatal crash, the piece reports.

"The witnesses said a man got out of the car when the truck was at a stoplight, grabbed the part, and drove away," the story reports. "Detectives identified the two suspects, and while serving a search warrant at a home in Canyon Country, a community north of Los Angeles, they found a red T-top roof panel from the Porsche, sheriff's officials said. They would not say what led them to the two men or what evidence they had against them."

Sheriff's detectives reportedly planned to discuss possible charges with prosecutors. The report notes that investigators are still working to determine what caused Rodas, who was driving the Porsche, to lose control.

The report notes: "Walker, who starred in all but one of the six 'Fast & Furious' blockbuster films that glorified fast cars and dangerous driving, was killed when the Porsche smashed into a light pole and tree then caught fire on Saturday afternoon, authorities said. The seventh installment of the movie series was on a break from shooting for the Thanksgiving holiday."

Thumbnail image for paul walker 4.pngPaul Walker

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Incoming Time Warner Cable CEO Says He's the Right Guy to Sell the Company

In an interview with Bloomberg, the next chief executive of Time Warner Cable said he’s the right guy to sell the company, if the price is right.

“I am the perfect guy to manage the M&A component out there,” Rob Marcus said in the interview. “As much as I’d like to be modest, I am kind of built to manage situations like this.”

Marcus is taking over from Glenn Britt, while Charter Communications -- a smaller competitor in terms of market valuation -- is trying to put together an offer to buy the company. Comcast and Cox Communications have also considered offers, the piece adds.

He’s taking over at a “weird” time, Marcus told Bloomberg. He declined to comment on potential bid prices, but said he isn’t against selling the company.

“I am interested only in the value creation and not in entrenchment or my role here,” he said. He added that he’s not worried about losing his job.

“If I want another job, I’m going to get one. I have no doubt. And it’s going to be a good one,” he said.

rob marcus.pngRob Marcus

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Katie Couric Accused of 'Fear Mongering'

Katie Couric is under fire after airing a report on “Katie” that some critics are deriding as “fear mongering,” reports the Los Angeles Times’ Show Tracker. The report was about the HPV vaccine.

The segment, which aired Wednesday, included Couric and guests discussing the vaccine, Gardasil, which is designed to prevent the transmission of HPV, a sexually transmitted disease. The episode came under fire for a teaser that said, “The HPV vaccine is considered a life-saving cancer preventer … but is it a potentially deadly dose for girls?"

Science writer Seth Mnookin called out the episode as “fear mongering” in a blog post on PLOS -- the Public Library of Science, a nonprofit open-access science publishing outfit.

Mnookin wrote that he was contacted about appearing on the show, and spoke for several hours with a producer. Eventually, he was told the show didn’t want him on the air, but he wrote that he came away feeling they understood the issue.

“The producer seemed to have a true grasp of the dangers of declining vaccination rates and she stressed repeatedly that her co-workers, including Couric herself, did not view this as an “on the one hand, on the other hand” issue but one in which facts and evidence clearly lined up on one side -- the side that overwhelmingly supports the importance and efficacy of vaccines,” he wrote.

“Apparently, that was all a load of crap,” he added.

The show focused on a mother who claims her daughter died after getting the vaccine. Meanwhile, a study published in the British Medical Journal found no link between the vaccine and short- or long-term health problems, while more than 25,000 new cancers attributable to HPV occur each year in the U.S., Mnookin writes.

Other critics also called out the report, with New Yorker writer Michael Specter calling the report “shameful” and saying Couric had lost her credibility.

Couric will address the controversy on today’s show, the Times adds.

Thumbnail image for katie couric.pngKatie Couric

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If Only NBC Had the Guts Carrie Underwood Has

With NBC's live production of "The Sound of Music," starring country singer Carrie Underwood as Maria von Trapp, now a matter of record -- and critics' generally low expectations from Underwood, at least on the acting front, having been met -- TVWeek Open Mic writer Chuck Ross takes a look at how this Big TV Event went awry.

Click here to read his insightful take -- including how NBC could have taken a lesson from its past success.

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Report: ABC Quashed Barbara Walters' Pick for the Year's Most Fascinating Person

The person Barbara Walters wanted to pick as the most fascinating person of 2013 was nixed by ABC executives, the New York Daily News reports.

The publication reports that Walters wanted Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who leaked classified documents to the press.

Snowden, of course, is on the list, as we reported earlier this week when nine of the 10 names on the list were made public. But Snowden is not No. 1 -- and that selection has not yet been revealed.

“Walters had been collaborating with ‘The View’ executive producer Bill Geddie throughout the year on choosing the 10 figures to appear on ‘Barbara Walters Presents: The 10 Most Fascinating People of the Year.’ She had a particular fascination with the former NSA contractor, we’re told, because at one point she believed he would be chosen as Time magazine’s Person of the Year,” the story reports.

One reason for the network's reticence about Snowden may be his lack of availability. The report notes that Snowden "is particular about his outlets, relying mainly on journalist Glenn Greenwald -- formerly of the Guardian -- to tell his stories, and would not participate. Instead, the network did a write-around with old interview clips for his part, much like they did with Gen. David Petraeus in 2012."

Other figures picked for the special include Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence, singer Miley Cyrus and baby Prince George. ABC declined to confirm who will be interviewed for the special or who will be picked as the most fascinating person of the year.

The show will also include Walters’ picks for the most fascinating people of the past 20 years, the story adds.

Thumbnail image for edward snowden-abc.jpgEdward Snowden

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Is TNT's 'Mob City' a Game Changer?

TNT’s new drama series “Mob City,” created by Frank Darabont of “The Walking Dead” and rolling out in an unusual three-week, two-night-a-week format -- remember when the miniseries was a common occurrence? -- got off to a soft start Wednesday night as far as ratings go, The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports.

"Something of an experiment for the procedural-driven network, the period piece did not prove to be much of a game changer with an average 2.3 million viewers off the bat," the story reports.

That number puts "Mob City" a bit below other recent TNT premieres, but the piece notes that the unusual rollout makes direct comparisons difficult.

"There's little to compare to 'Mob City,'" the story reports. "While this opening is far south of summer flagship fare 'Rizzoli & Isles' and 'Falling Skies,' its December launch and 'event' billing are outliers for the Turner network. In the network's targeted adults 25-54 bracket, 'Mob City' raked in 875,000 viewers."

And the report notes that viewer numbers will climb as DVR viewing is added in. “Still, Monday's episode of ‘Major Crimes’ averaged 4.2 million viewers in the second outing of its midseason run,” the piece adds.

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Alec Baldwin Jumps Into the Martin Bashir Controversy

Alec Baldwin, who left MSNBC after allegedly making homophobic remarks to a photographer, has added his voice to the controversy over fellow network host Martin Bashir, who announced he’s leaving MSNBC after getting into trouble over remarks he made about Sarah Palin, reports the Los Angeles Times’ Show Tracker.

As previously reported, Bashir intimated that Palin deserved to have someone “sh-t” in her mouth for her comparison of slavery and the U.S. debt to China. Baldwin, writing on Twitter, said: "I'm sorry to learn that @MartinBashir is out at MSNBC. Bashir created great television.”

Baldwin also wrote: “Broadcasters on certain networks are called upon to offer analysis of events and public policy, day in, day out. Often with tremendous aggression and scalding language. If, over the course of hundreds of hours on the air, they commit a foul..... Then it's like high-sticking in hockey or a late hit in the NFL. Throw a flag. But to end someone's job? I wish @MartinBashir the best of luck.”

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for alec-baldwin2.jpgAlec Baldwin

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Lifetime Developing 'Grim Sleeper' Serial Killer Drama With Sitcom Actress

Los Angeles’ “Grim Sleeper” serial killer is getting the Lifetime movie treatment. Deadline.com reports that the cable channel is developing the drama project, with Dreama Walker set to star.

Walker, one of the stars of the ABC comedy series “Don’t Trust the B---- in Apt. 23,” will play LA Weekly investigative reporter Christine Pelisek, the story reports. The project will be directed by veteran TV film producer Stanley M. Brooks, who left the TV movie industry in 2010 after filing for bankruptcy following a dispute with AFTRA, WGA and DGA over residuals.

“It is fitting that Brooks’ return to the TV movie business is via Lifetime, where he was a top telefilm supplier until severing ties with the network in 2010 amid his guild troubles. (Brooks is married to Lifetime’s head of TV movies Tanya Lopez.),” the piece notes.

“The Grim Sleeper” is based on the true stories of the alleged serial killer called by the same name, after he apparently took a 14-year break between his murders, Deadline reports. Pelisek broke the story about the killer and coined the name, the piece adds.

“It was Pelisek’s work, with support from the relatives of the victims, that put pressure on the LAPD to make the case a priority,” the article reports. “A suspect, Lonnie David Franklin, was arrested in 2010, some 25 years after the first murder, using a novel approach called 'familial DNA,' with DNA from the serial killer’s victims [run] against the California prison population, getting a familial match to a young man. After a lengthy surveillance operation on the man’s father, DNA on a pizza discarded by him proved a perfect match."

Franklin hasn’t yet stood trial, as the case has had a number of delays, the story notes.

Besides "Don't Trust the B----," Walker has had roles on "Gossip Girl," "The Good Wife" and numerous other series.

dreama-walker.jpgDreama Walker

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For Fans of 'Can't Turn Away Even If You Want to' TV: Here Comes 'Botched'

When it comes to trainwreck television, it's hard to beat this for an idea. The New York Post reports that a new unscripted series coming to E! focuses on botched plastic surgery.

The eight-episode “Botched” will follow Dr. Terry Dubrow and Dr. Paul Nassif as they try to help people whose previous surgeries went wrong. Both Dubrow and Nassif are husbands of “Real Housewives,” the piece notes.

The doctors will attempt to correct “frightening facelifts, shockingly bad boob and hideous nose jobs, to devastating tummy tucks and lopsided butt lifts,” according to the network.

The show will debut in the summer or fall of 2014.

terry dubrow.pngDr. Terry Dubrow

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Cable Show Helps Capture High-Profile Fugitive

A series airing on a cable news channel played a role in the capture of a fugitive described as one of the FBI’s most-wanted white-collar lawbreakers. CNBC reports that viewers of its show “American Greed: The Fugitives” helped capture David Kaup.

The FBI arrested Kaup in Las Vegas, after he had reportedly been on the run since December 2012, when he failed to appear at sentencing in Los Angeles, the story reports. He confessed to defrauding more than $11 million from dozens of families through fake mortgage refinancing scams, the piece adds.

"We got a tip from somebody that saw the show," James Bowman, assistant U.S. attorney for California's central district, told CNBC. “They let us know he was in Las Vegas and using a different name. Based on that, we were able to figure out where he was."

David-Kaup.jpgDavid Kaup

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HBO Project Casts 'NYPD Blue' Veteran as U.S. President

A new project at HBO has signed on an actor known for his work on the ABC drama series "NYPD Blue" to portray the U.S. president. Deadline.com reports that the HBO’s pilot “The Brink” cast Esai Morales in the role.

Morales played Tony Rodriguez on "NYPD Blue" from 2001-2004, and is also known for Showtime's "Resurrection Blvd." the PBS drama "American Family" and Syfy's "Caprica," among many other TV and film appearances.

Directed by Jay Roach, written by Roberto Benabib and Kim Benabib and executive produced by Jerry Weintraub, “The Brink” is said to be a dark comedy about a geopolitical crisis.

Morales will play U.S. President Julian Navarro. While the U.S. in real life has yet to elect a Hispanic president, that is a trend on TV, including Jimmy Smits’ Matt Santos on “The West Wing” and Blair Underwood playing Elias Martinez on “The Event,” the piece notes.

Morales recently co-starred on Starz’ “Magic City.”

esai morales.pngEsai Morales

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Networks Scramble to Cover News of Nelson Mandela's Death

The death Thursday of South African leader Nelson Mandela put TV news operations in overdrive. Variety reported Thursday that Mandela's death "sent news networks scrambling to cover the legacy of one of the 20th century’s most influential and revered political activists and humanitarians."

"News of Mandela’s death at age 95 broke late Thursday afternoon ET, which meant a race against time for the Big Three nets to cover the story on their evening newscasts," the story reports. "As of Thursday evening, none of the major broadcast nets were expected to pre-empt regularly scheduled prime-time programming. NBC has its long-awaited 'The Sound of Music Live' telecast set to roll tonight. The Peacock said it would offer expanded news coverage in the evening but had no plans to bump the live musical telecast."

CBS similarly said Thursday afternoon that it had no immediate plans for pre-emptions, adding that it might expand its coverage during prime time Friday or Saturday.

"The news cablers went into wall-to-wall coverage mode. CNN bumped the planned premiere of its docu 'An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story' for a prime-time block anchored by Anderson Cooper. CNN also has correspondent Robyn Curnow on the ground in Johannesburg," the Variety piece reports.

The report adds: "Shepard Smith anchored Fox News’ coverage, with Bret Baier scheduled to take over at 6 p.m. ET. FNC’s coverage of Mandela’s death was expected to continue during the regularly scheduled programming throughout prime time."

Al Jazeera America had Ali Velshi, John Siegenthaler and Tony Harris anchoring its Mandela coverage, the report notes. "The story will give the fledgling U.S. news net an opportunity to demonstrate the depth of its parent org’s international bureaus in showcasing global reaction to Mandela’s passing," Variety adds.

nelson mandela 2.jpgNelson Mandela

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Hollywood Set Designer Dead at 84

A veteran set designer who worked on TV shows such as “JAG” and “Charmed” has died, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The publication reports that Roland Everett Hill Jr. died Nov. 26 from heart failure. He was 84.

Besides his TV work Hill worked on films, including 1988’s “Die Hard,” the story notes. His father, architect Roland Everett Hill, designed the Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland, the piece adds.

A magic fan, Hill Jr. was a lifetime member of the Magic Castle in Hollywood, the report notes.

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Former 'Glee' Star to Return for Show's 100th Episode

One of the former stars of the Fox musical series “Glee” has signed on for a return to the show in what’s turning into a full-fledged original cast reunion for its 100th episode. TheWrap.com reports that Dianna Agron, who played Quinn Fabray on the show, will be back for the special event.

Agron last appeared on the series in February. Other “Glee” alumni who will appear include Mark Salling, Amber Riley, Heather Morris and Harry Shum Jr. The episode will air March 18.

The 100th episode will include songs decided upon by fans, who will vote among 30 songs that have previously been performed on the show.

dianna agron.jpgDianna Agron

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Nelson Mandela Dead at 95

Former South African President Nelson Mandela has reportedly died. Deadline.com reports that the Nobel Peace Prize winner and longtime activist against South African apartheid is dead at 95.

Mandela entered a hospital June 8 after incurring a lung infection, one of a number of recurring health problems he had in recent years. The story reports that his family began gathering at his home in Johannesburg earlier today.

He was South Africa's first black president, serving from 1994-1999.

"Imprisoned in 1962, Mandela spent 27 years as a political prisoner in his own country before his 1990 release and subsequently led the charge to end apartheid with the African National Congress," the story reports. "His fight made him an international symbol for peace and progress, earning him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, and he became a pop culture icon that resulted in everything from feature film and TV movies about him to mass-produced T-shirts and close ties with high-profile figures from Bill Clinton to Bono."

A film based on his autobiography, "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom," starring Idris Elba as Mandela, is currently in theatrical release, with Oscar buzz surrounding the performances of Elba and Naomie Harris, who plays Mandela's wife, Winnie.

Deadline notes: "Mandela’s life has been repped onscreen many times throughout the decades, starting with the 1987 made-for-TV pic 'Mandela' starring Danny Glover. In 2010, Morgan Freeman earned an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Mandela in Clint Eastwood’s 'Invictus,' about his efforts to unite his fractured country through the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Terrence Howard played him in 2011’s 'Winnie,' told from the perspective of Mandela’s second wife."

nelson mandela.jpgNelson Mandela

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Sarah Palin Weighs In on Bashir Incident Following the MSNBC Host's Resignation

Sarah Palin has made her first public comments following the resignation of Martin Bashir from MSNBC over disparaging remarks Bashir made during a commentary about Palin.

USA Today reports that Palin addressed the situation today during an appearance on Fox News Channel's "Fox & Friends," where the former Alaska governor said she's ready to move on.

The report quotes Palin saying: "My role was to accept his apology and be humble enough to accept it and move on."

The story adds: "Palin, a contributor to Fox News, has frequently criticized what she calls the 'lamestream media' for its news coverage. In her comments Thursday, she said it was 'refreshing to see though that many in the media did come out and say, "Look, our standards have got to be higher than this."'"

As we reported previously, Bashir implied in his commentary that Palin deserved to have someone "sh-t" in her mouth because of an analogy Palin had made comparing slavery with the nation's debt to China. Bashir soon followed up with an on-air apology.

Days later, Bashir resigned from his position with MSNBC, as we reported Wednesday.

The USA Today report notes: "In a statement e-mailed to Mediaite, Bashir said he hoped his departure would allow MSNBC 'to focus on the issues that matter without the distraction of myself or my ill-judged comments.'"

sarah palin-podium.pngSarah Palin

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Four Shows on One Broadcast Net Hit Low Marks as the Network's Prime-Time Ratings Struggle Continues

Four prime-time series on one network equaled or surpassed low marks Wednesday night, based on Nielsen overnights for the key 18-49 demo, with two of those shows hitting season lows and two others hitting all-time marks. All four shows are on ABC.

TVbytheNumbers.com reports that the Alphabet Network's "Modern Family" and "The Middle" sank to season lows, while "Back in the Game" fell to a series low and "Super Fun Night" equaled its all-time low.

The good news for ABC: "Modern Family" had enough in the tank to remain the top show on broadcast prime Wednesday night, while "Nashville" remained steady in the 10 p.m. hour. "Modern Family's" 3.1 average in the 18-49 demo was the best number of the night -- even though it was down three-tenths of a point from the show's previous original -- and "Nashville" matched its 1.6 average from two weeks ago.

Additionally, ABC's overall 1.9 average in adults 18-49 was enough to tie CBS for second place -- at least on a night when CBS put up mostly repeats.

ABC's "The Middle" lost four-tenths from its previous original episode for a season-low 1.9 in viewers 18-49, "Back in the Game" fell two-tenths to a series-low 1.4, and "Super Fun Night" slipped one-tenth to a 1.7, equaling its series low.

Winning the night was NBC, which had a strong showing for its two holiday specials. The two-hour "Saturday Night Live Christmas" delivered a 2.6 average in 18-49, while "Christmas in Rockefeller Center" pulled in a 2.3 -- up two-tenths of a point from last year.

CBS's only original programming was "Survivor," which rose four-tenths from its previous original to a 2.6 average in the 18-49 demo. Repeats of "Criminal Minds" (1.7 average) and "CSI" (1.4) filled out the prime-time lineup.

Fox wound up solidly in fourth place, even with its two-hour "The X Factor" ticking up two-tenths in adults 18-49 to a 1.4 average.

For prime time overall, NBC found itself in first place in viewers 18-49 with a 2.5 average, ahead of CBS and ABC (both with 1.9 averages), Fox (1.4) and CW and Univision (both 0.9). CBS moved to the top in total viewers with 8.9 million, ahead of NBC (8.2 million), ABC (6.4 million), Fox (5.3 million), Univision (2.495 million) and CW (2.482 million).

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TV Land Renews Comedy Series

TV Land has made the decision to renew a comedy series. Writing on Deadline.com, Nellie Andreeva reports that the cable channel renewed “The Soul Man” for a third season.

The show, which stars Cedric the Entertainer, ended its second season three months ago, and has received an eight-episode order for season three, the story says. Ric Swartzlander of “Cougar Town” will return as showrunner, after he joined the show at the start of the second season.

“Like with the second season pickup, I hear a key renewal factor was the show’s strong showing among black viewers," Andreeva writes. "Over the first two seasons, ‘The Soul Man’ averaged a potent 3.7 rating among African-American Women 25-54 and a 3.0 rating with African-American Adults 25-54. Season 2 of the series posted gains of +103% among A25-54 and +111% among W25-54 (L+7) versus channel prime average."

On the show Cedric plays a former R&B star who has relocated with his family from Las Vegas to St. Louis, and has to deal with a more mundane life and family conflicts.

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Syfy Makes a Quick Decision on 'Dominion'

Syfy has made an uncharacteristically fast decision on whether to pick up "Dominion" to series. Noting that the cable channel is known for its “lengthy, laborious decision-making process," Nellie Andreeva reports on Deadline.com that Syfy has picked up the project to series just four months after it received a pilot order.

The show is based on the 2010 film “Legion” and is slated to debut in 2014. The supernatural drama follows an army of lower angels who wage war against humanity, although archangel Michael, played by Tom Wisdom, decides to help mankind, the story says.

Besides Wisdom, the project stars Roxanne McKee, Anthony Head, Alan Dale and Christopher Egan.

roxanne mckee.jpgRoxanne McKee

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CNN Anchor -- 'One of the Best Journalists in the Business' -- Leaving the Network

A CNN personality who has been holding down a key on-air post is leaving the cable news channel later this month. TheWrap.com reports that Zoraida Sambolin, who co-anchors "Early Start" with John Berman, will make Dec. 13 her last day on the job.

Sambolin returned to her CNN post in August after taking a few months off to be treated for breast cancer. She announced her diagnosis in May before leaving to undergo a double mastectomy.

She joined CNN in November 2011 to take the "Early Start" post, initially co-hosting with Ashleigh Banfield.

In a statement, a CNN spokesperson told TheWrap: “Zoraida Sambolin is one of the best journalists in the business. Her insightful reporting, kind nature, strength and resilience are universally admired. Although we will miss her, we support and understand her decision and wish her and her family only the best.”

TheWrap report adds: "The anchor is vacating her position to return to Chicago. (Prior to coming aboard CNN, Chicago native Sambolin was the Weekday Edition co-anchor at Chicago’s NBC5 News Today.)"

In an email Wednesday to her co-workers, Sambolin, 48, wrote: “This past year has been full of challenges, blessings and a tremendous amount of reflection. I have come to realize that in order for me to be happy, my family has to be my first priority. I love my job and the gifted and committed people I’ve had an opportunity to work with but life is beckoning me back to Chicago."

Sambolin's email adds: "When I was diagnosed with cancer, I entered a very dark place … not once did I think about not achieving career or material success. Rather, I thought about all the missed moments in life and how I was not ready to sacrifice missing any more. I wanted to live to see my kids grow up. I wanted more soccer games, basketball games, proms, weddings, grandchildren. … I am healthy, cancer free and strong but I know a long life is not promised.”

Sambolin has said that she will work to raise breast cancer awareness and to raise money to find a cure, the report notes.

Her replacement is expected to be named soon.

zoraida sambolin.jpgZoraida Sambolin

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Veteran TV Actor Dead at 72

An actor with a string of television credits going back to “Love, American Style” in the early 1970s has died. Variety reports that Danny Wells, perhaps best known for playing Luigi on “The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!,” died Nov. 28 in Toronto at 72.

"The syndicated 'Super Mario Bros.' show, based on the popular Nintendo video game franchise, aired from 1989-91. Lou Albano played Mario and Wells his brother Luigi," the story reports, adding: "Wells recurred on 'The Jeffersons' as Charlie the bartender, and he played studio boss Jack L. Warner in the 2002 telepic 'Gleason,' which starred Brad Garrett as the comedian."

Wells, who was born in Montreal, launched his TV career with two episodes of "Love, American Style" in 1972-73. Subsequent TV appearances included “Rhoda,” “Columbo,” "Streets of San Francisco," “Starsky and Hutch,” "CHiPs," “Kojak,” “Sanford and Son,” “The Bionic Woman,” “Fantasy Island,” “Eight Is Enough,” “Lou Grant,” “Happy Days,” “The A-Team” and “Murder She Wrote."

Wells also did feature film work, appearing in a number of movies including “Magnolia,” "The Last Kiss," “The Shaggy D.A.” and “Private Benjamin."

danny wells.pngDanny Wells

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What the Other Networks Don't Want You to Know About AMC's 'The Walking Dead'

AMC’s “The Walking Dead” is a huge hit, with a midseason finale that pulled in 12.1 million total viewers, but there’s also a ratings secret about the show that broadcasters and rival cable networks would prefer to keep under wraps, reports the Los Angeles Times’ Show Tracker.

That’s how the show “has evidently discovered some kind of anti-aging miracle potion that allows it to defy typical TV ratings trends,” the story reports.

“The Walking Dead” is not only the highest-rated series in the history of cable television, but it would also rank as the top TV show in the 18 to 49 demo if it aired on broadcast TV, outside of "Sunday Night Football," the piece notes. But what’s really unusual is that the show’s audience isn’t getting older, even though the zombie drama is in its fourth season.

The article reports: “Typically, shows that become hits attract their youngest viewers during the first few seasons. Then, as that audience ages a bit and viewers a few years younger seek out newer fare, the average age begins an inevitable climb toward the upper reaches of the demo.”

The median age of viewers of "The Walking Dead" is 33.2, slightly younger than the average age (33.8) during its first season.

“By TV standards, that's very young indeed -- and exactly the hard-to-get audience everyone wants. Remember, we are in a world where ABC, CBS and NBC are struggling just to keep people in their 40s from fleeing,” the article reports. “[I]t’s a safe bet broadcast executives wouldn't mind if you forgot these stats.”

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Paul Walker Autopsy Paints Grim Picture of Actor's Final Moments

A coroner's report on the death of "Fast & Furious" star Paul Walker reveals that the actor may have initially survived the fiery car crash Satuday that took his life, dying moments later as a result of a combination of fire and his injuries from the impact of the crash, CNN reports.

"The one-page preliminary report released by the Los Angeles County coroner's office Wednesday listed the cause of the actor's death as the 'combined effects of traumatic and thermal injuries,'" the story reports. "An autopsy concluded that Roger Rodas, who was driving the red Porsche Carerra GT, suffered 'multiple traumatic injuries,' but it was not clear in the report if he was still alive when the car burst into flames soon after the wreck."

Los Angeles County Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter told CNN that the autopsies on Walker and Rodas were conducted by two different doctors, and that differences in the descriptions of the men's injuries in the two reports do not mean that their deaths were significantly different.

"It is not known how long each man lived after the crash as the fire began, Winter said. That information may be included when full autopsy reports are released in several weeks, he said," the CNN report adds. "The coroner confirmed what many witnesses told investigators: Rodas was the driver in the crash; Walker was the passenger of the high-performance Porsche that clipped a light pole and a tree before erupting in flames on a Southern California street Saturday afternoon."

The coroner officially ruled the deaths an accident. A toxicology report is due in six to eight weeks, and could reveal whether drugs or alcohol were involved in the collision.

Production on "Fast & Furious 7," in which Walker was one of the stars, was on hiatus over the Thanksgiving weekend and had been scheduled to resume Monday. But the studio announced Wednesday that production on the movie has been suspended.

As we reported previously, producers are considering scrapping the film, which is said to be more than halfway through production, and starting over.

"Video obtained by CNN from a security camera posted on a building on the opposite side of the street from the crash suggests that the fire that engulfed the Porsche did not erupt until about a minute after the car crashed," the CNN report notes. "In the video, which does not show the car, black smoke is seen rising from the crash scene 60 seconds after the light pole and a tree fall. Smoke is faintly visible above the scene after one minute, followed by a heavy plume of black smoke after two minutes."

The description of the video is similar to a clip we posted Wednesday, which can be seen by clicking here.

The CNN report adds: "The crash happened on a wide street in a business park in Santa Clarita, California, about 30 miles north of Hollywood. Walker was attending a holiday toy donation event for his charity, Reach Out WorldWide, when he hopped into the car with Rodas for a ride, witnesses said.

"The Porsche, which was one of only a few hundred made, was on display at the event, which was held at a high-performance car shop owned by Rodas.

"Minutes after the two men drove away, people at the event heard the crash about 500 yards away, witnesses said."

paul walker 4.pngPaul Walker

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Report Offers One Reason Sam Champion Left 'Good Morning America'

Sam Champion, who is leaving ABC’s “Good Morning America” after seven years, made the decision after network executives reportedly balked at giving him his own show, reports TMZ.com.

As we reported earlier this week, Champion will anchor The Weather Channel’s new flagship morning show and also work as the cable network's managing editor.

Another reason Champion decided to leave ABC was that he and his husband want children, but his husband won’t leave Florida. “Good Morning America” is based in New York City. Champion will spend about half his time in Miami with his new job.

Champion was reportedly making about $2.5 million at “Good Morning America,” which TMZ reports is what he will also make at The Weather Channel.

The Weather Channel is partially owned by NBCUniversal.

sam champion 2.pngSam Champion

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Celebrity Chef Says She Used Cocaine

During testimony in the trial of two sisters accused of stealing from a celebrity chef and her former husband, the chef, Nigella Lawson, admitted using cocaine, the Associated Press reports.

But Lawson, 53, said she wasn’t a regular user, according to the report.

Lawson accused her ex-husband, Charles Saatchi, of trying to “destroy” her by spreading false allegations about her supposed drug use, the story says.

“He told everyone that he was taking cocaine out of my nose at Scott's when he knows that is a lie," Lawson said during her appearance as a prosecution witness in the trial. She said Saatchi spread “false allegations that I was a habitual user" who used cocaine on a daily basis.

"People who do that are a lot thinner than I am," she said. "I have never been a drug addict."

As previously reported, Lawson’s future on ABC’s “The Taste” was reportedly in question over allegations of drug use that emerged from the trial. The former aides, Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo, claim that Lawson let them spend money as a way to keep them quiet about her drug use, a charge that Lawson disputed.

Thumbnail image for nigella lawson 2.jpgNigella Lawson

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What's the Highest-Rated Animated Holiday Special This Year?

The holiday special that’s outperforming all others this season is nearly half a century old. Medialife magazine reports that the current ratings champ is the 1964 animated show “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."

The CBS special aired last Tuesday and averaged a 4.9 rating in the demo of children 2-11, ahead of the other nine holiday specials that have aired so far this season, the story says. It’s nearly double the rating for ABC’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” which earned a 2.5 in the demo, and outpaced ABC’s “Shrek the Halls,” which had a 2.2.

“Interestingly, four of the top six shows were made at least 40 years ago,” such as the Charlie Brown Christmas special and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” which averaged a 2.1.

“When it comes to kids’ shows, the classics really are the standard-bearers. Those 1960s shows played on the universal theme of alienation, and they’ve remained relevant for decades afterward,” the story notes.

rudolph the red-nosed reindeer.jpg"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"

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Leading Candidate Surfaces for ABC Family President's Post

ABC Family is narrowing down its choice for a new president, the Los Angeles Times’ Company Town reports. The job opened up in September, when Michael Riley said he would return to his home country, England.

“Among the candidates topping Disney's short list [is] Salaam Coleman Smith, who had headed NBCUniversal's Style Network until the channel was rebranded this fall as the Esquire Network and put under new management. Coleman Smith is also a former programming executive at E! and prior to that was at Nickelodeon,” the story reports.

Other candidates include Christina Norma, former president of OWN, and Dave Howe, the current president of Syfy.

“Though on the surface the jump from Syfy to ABC Family might seem unusual, Howe has boosted the channel's ratings among ABC Family's core audience of women with the drama ‘Eureka’ and the reality show ‘Ghost Hunters,’” the piece notes.

Coleman Smith is seen as the likeliest choice, given her background and track record, the story adds.

“While many have speculated that Kate Juergens, ABC Family's chief creative officer and head of programming, was a logical choice to succeed Riley, she apparently will continue to stay focused on the content side of the channel,” the report notes.

salaam coleman smith.pngSalaam Coleman Smith

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'Orange Is the New Black' Creator Heads to HBO With New Drama

Jenji Kohan, the creator of Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black,” is working on an HBO drama project about a dark chapter in U.S. history -- the Salem witch trials, The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports.

Kohan, who spent eight seasons with Showtime on the series “Weeds,” will write the script with Bruce Miller of “Eureka” and Tracy Miller, with Kohan and Bruce Miller also executive producing. The drama is from Lionsgate TV, where Kohan has an overall deal.

“The untitled Salem period drama explores the circumstances surrounding one of the most compelling chapters in American history, when intolerance and repression set neighbor against neighbor and led a town to mass hysteria,” the story reports.

jenji kohan.jpgJenji Kohan

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Why ESPN Canceled Will Ferrell's Appearance as Ron Burgundy

"SNL" alum Will Ferrell has been popping up everywhere as Ron Burgundy, but one place Ferrell's goofball TV news guy alter ego may not be appearing -- even though he was scheduled to show up today -- is on ESPN's "SportsCenter."

The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports that ESPN shelved the appearance, part of Ferrell’s media blitz in support of the upcoming "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues," to make room for possible breaking news about sexual assault allegations against college quarterback Jameis Winston.

The actor was scheduled to appear at 6 p.m. on “SportsCenter,” along with David Koechner as Champ Kind from the "Anchorman" sequel. But the Florida State Attorney will hold a news conference today at 2 p.m. about the sexual assault allegations, prompting ESPN to cancel the Burgundy spot.

“Ron Burgundy's scheduled Thurs. appearance on @SportsCenter has been cancelled in light of the potential implications of any news from the State Attorney's press conference in Fla.," ESPN said in a statement. “As of this time, there is no reschedule date for Ron Burgundy."

Along with his recent appearance on a local news broadcast in Bismarck, N.D. (please click on the link in the first paragraph, above, to see the video), Ferrell, as Burgundy, recently called a professional curling event in Canada, as we reported previously.

"Anchorman 2" is scheduled for U.S. release Dec. 18.

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Police Documents Show Toronto Mayor Rob Ford May Have Offered $5,000 and a Car for 'Crack Video'; Ford Is Reportedly Seen 'On the Pipe' and May Have Used Heroin

"Toronto Mayor Rob Ford may have offered $5,000 and a car to two men trying to sell a video of him smoking what appears to be crack cocaine seven weeks before the video was revealed in the media, according to newly revealed portions of a police document," the Canadian publication National Post reports.

The report adds: "Toronto police were in the midst of a large drugs-and-guns probe targeting an alleged street gang when secretly recorded conversations led investigators to believe Mr. Ford may have not only known an incriminating video of him existed, but also tried to buy it."

The report cites the following new allegations that the publication says surfaced in the police investigation:

"One of the men suspected of peddling the 'crack video' of Mr. Ford said he also had pictures of the mayor 'doing the hezza,' usually used as a slang term for heroin;

"Alleged gang members said they were not afraid of the mayor turning them in to police because they had pictures of him 'on the pipe';

"The mayor’s close friend and occasional driver, Alexander Lisi, used purported influence over police as leverage in dealing with a gang, saying if he didn’t get his way ‘the mayor would put heat on Dixon,’ which was the gang’s territory;

"The mayor’s cellphone was stolen while he was at a crack house after late-night calls were made arranging a drug delivery 'because Rob Ford wants some drugs';

"Lisi exchanged marijuana to an alleged gang member for the return of Mr. Ford’s stolen phone;

"Mr. Ford appears to have been set up by drug dealers who filmed him consuming drugs knowing it could be valuable, raising the spectre of blackmail;

"A man involved with alleged drug dealers said they 'love and respect Rob Ford' but also 'have Rob Ford on a lot of fucked up situations' so the mayor’s friends should be careful."

rob ford 3.pngRob Ford

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Amanda Bynes Returns Home From Treatment Center; Family Hints at Former Child Star's Next Move

Former Nickelodeon actress Amanda Bynes has returned to her parents’ home after finishing treatment at an inpatient treatment center, reports People magazine.

"Amanda and her entire family would like to thank everyone who's contacted them with good thoughts and wishes for Amanda's recovery," her family said in a statement. "Amanda has completed her inpatient rehabilitation and she's feeling better every day."

Bynes had been involuntarily hospitalized after an incident in July in which she started a fire in a stranger’s driveway, as previously reported.

In the statement, her family notes that Bynes is “looking at various colleges with the intention of majoring in fashion design.”

Thumbnail image for amanda bynes 3.pngAmanda Bynes

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Martin Bashir Resigns From MSNBC

MSNBC fixture Martin Bashir, after getting in hot water over comments he made about Sarah Palin, has resigned from the cable news channel, The Huffington Post reports.

Bashir announced his resignation in an email posted by Mediaite, the report notes. The move follows weeks of controversy after Bashir insinuated that Palin deserved to have someone "shit" in her mouth.

Here's the text of Bashir's email:

"After making an on-air apology, I asked for permission to take some additional time out around the Thanksgiving holiday.

"Upon further reflection, and after meeting with the President of MSNBC, I have tendered my resignation. It is my sincere hope that all of my colleagues, at this special network, will be allowed to focus on the issues that matter without the distraction of myself or my ill-judged comments.

"I deeply regret what was said, will endeavor to work hard at making constructive contributions in the future and will always have a deep appreciation for our viewers -- who are the smartest, most compassionate and discerning of all television audiences. I would also wish to express deepest gratitude to my immediate colleagues, and our contributors, all of whom have given so much of themselves to our broadcast."

MSNBC President Phil Griffin issued a statement saying: “Martin Bashir resigned today, effective immediately. I understand his decision and I thank him for three great years with MSNBC. Martin is a good man and respected colleague -- we wish him only the best.”

The Huffington Post adds: "Bashir had been a host on the network since 2011, and had frequently raised eyebrows with his hyperbolic commentary. But his comments in November in response to remarks about slavery by Palin touched off a firestorm. Among other things, Bashir said that someone should defecate and urinate in Palin's mouth, a punishment delivered to some slaves. He apologized, but the comments continued to haunt him."

The move follows a recent controversy involving another MSNBC personality, the report notes.

"Bashir's resignation came shortly after Alec Baldwin parted ways with MSNBC over anti-gay comments he made towards a photographer," the story reports. "At the time, many wondered why Baldwin, who was suspended for two weeks for statements he made off the air, was seemingly being punished more than Bashir, who was not given any immediate suspension."

Top candidates to fill the void left in the MSNBC schedule by Bashir's departure include MSNBC contributor and guest host Joy Reid and recent hire Ronan Farrow, the piece notes. Reid will at least temporarily fill in for Bashir.

Thumbnail image for martin-bashir.jpgMartin Bashir

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'House of Cards' Gets a Season Two Rollout Date -- With All 13 Episodes to Be Released at Once (Here's a Video Teaser)

The release date has been revealed for season two of the acclaimed Netflix political drama "House of Cards," starring Kevin Spacey. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the season will become available on Valentine's Day -- Feb. 14, 2014.

Once again, the full season will be released at one time, with all 13 episodes becoming available on that date.

"House of Cards," considered the streaming service's signature series, took home three Emmys in September, the report notes -- for casting, directing and cinematography. Along with Spacey, the series stars Robin Wright and Kate Mara.

Wright is one of a number of big names who will direct episodes in the second season, along with Jodie Foster and "Glengarry Glen Ross" director James Foley, the report notes.

Here's a teaser for season two -- and you don't have to worry about spoilers, as this clip takes the word "teaser" quite literally:

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NBC Rises to Win Tuesday Prime as CBS Checks Out; ABC Gets No Help From Show's Season Premiere

NBC saw much of its prime-time programming post ratings increases Tuesday night, rolling to an easy win as CBS aired an all-repeat lineup and fell back to the pack, based on Nielsen overnights for the key 18-49 demo.

CBS did come out on top in total viewers, even with repeats of its Tuesday night drama lineup, TVbytheNumbers.com reports. Meanwhile, struggling ABC had reason to be disappointed by the numbers for the season premiere of "What Would You Do?"

NBC's one-hour "The Voice" was by far the top show on broadcast prime, surging three-tenths of a ratings point from a week ago to a 3.3 average in viewers 18-49. NBC's "Chicago Fire" also posted an improvement, rising two-tenths to a 2.3. "The Biggest Loser" came in with a 2.0, the same as last week.

CBS wound up second in adults 18-49 with repeats of "NCIS" (1.6 average), "NCIS: Los Angeles" (1.4) and "Person of Interest" (1.3).

Third-place Fox saw "Dads" deliver a 1.4 average in 18-49, up two-tenths from the series low the show turned in the previous week. "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" ticked up one-tenth to a 1.6, while "The Mindy Project" dipped two-tenths to a 1.2. A "New Girl" repeat pulled a 0.9.

ABC unveiled its season premiere of "What Would You Do?" at 10 p.m. and wound up in third place for the hour with a 1.0 average in the 18-49 demo. The number was well off the pace of the 1.7 delivered by last year's premiere, and down one-tenth from the 1.1 for the summer finale.

Elsewhere on ABC, "The Goldbergs" sank to a series low with a 1.4 average in adults 18-49, down three-tenths from its previous original, and "Trophy Wife" equaled its series low with a 1.1, slipping one-tenth from its previous original. A repeat of "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." delivered a 0.9.

For prime time overall, NBC came out on top in the 18-49 demo with a 2.6 average, followed by CBS (1.4 average), Fox (1.3), ABC (1.1), CW (1.1) and Univision (1.1). CBS led the way in total viewers with 10.1 million, ahead of NBC (9.0 million), ABC (3.6 million), Fox (2.9 million), Univision (2.8 million) and CW (2.4 million).

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Netflix Moves to 'Pod' Model as It Rolls Out Its First Children's Series

Netflix gained adult fans for its decision to release all episodes of its original series at once, allowing for binge viewing over a weekend, but the streaming site won’t offer the same feature with its first series for children, reports CNN.

The series, “Turbo: FAST,” will be released starting Dec. 24, but with just five episodes at first, the story says. The streaming site plans to release other groups of episodes, which it calls “pods,” at future holidays.

“Historically we have said that original series will be released in ways that best support the story, so if it suits the show, it is always possible we could release in a different way,” a spokeswoman for Netflix said.

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TV Host Dies in Traffic Collision

A television personality who hosted a cable show has been killed in a traffic collision. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that HGTV’s Bill Beckwith, a co-host on “Curb Appeal,” died following a motorcycle crash Monday in San Francisco.

Beckwith, 38, was hit by a car at about 8:30 p.m. near Oak and Steiner streets in San Francisco’s Lower Haight neighborhood, and died at San Francisco General Hospital, the story reports. The driver of the car, who was not identified, stopped and cooperated with law enforcement, the piece says.

Beckwith starred on “Curb Appeal” after founding his own cabinetry and finish work company, BB Design Build, in 2001. The HGTV show features older homes getting makeovers.

In a statement, HGTV said: “The HGTV family is deeply saddened by Bill's tragic death, and we mourn his loss along with his many family and friends who will miss his creativity, adventurous spirit and general love of life."

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What's Behind the Ratings Slide for CNBC and Other Business News Networks?

Even though the stock market is soaring, the ratings for the cable networks that cover the market are going in the opposite direction, reports The Wall Street Journal.

CNBC, for instance, hit a 20-year low in the key 25-54 demographic in the third quarter. Average total daytime viewership has fallen by more than 50% since 2008 at the network, which is the leader in cable business news.

Fox Business Network’s average total daytime audience declined to 58,000 from 71,000 last year. Bloomberg is rethinking its TV network’s business model, after failing to either make a profit or gain 10% of the business news audience, the story adds.

So what’s behind the decline?

First, as competition increases, all cable networks are struggling to maintain their audiences, the story says. But the business networks have an additional issue.

“[B]usiness television has faced the added challenge that individual investors are fleeing the stock market as an increasing amount of trading is done by institutional investors and algorithms, market experts say. By one measure, individual investors have pulled more than $1.17 trillion from the equity mutual funds tracked by research firm EPFR since the beginning of 2008,” the story reports.

CNBC has seen little impact on its financial performance, the report notes, as advertisers continue to find the audience attractive. But despite CNBC’s revamp of its prime-time schedule to include reality programming and entertainment, ratings in the evening have fallen this year, the piece notes.

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NBC Personality Apologizes for Insult

An on-air NBC personality has gotten himself embroiled in a controversy. USA Today reports that the Peacock Network's figure skating analyst, Johnny Weir, admitted he made a mistake by insulting gay rights activists during a recent appearance.

"Before Weir spoke at a Columbia University forum on the role of the athlete on Monday night, Queer Nation, an LGBT rights group, protested outside the event," the story reports. "During the Q&A period that followed, Weir referred to the activists as 'idiots like the ones outside tonight, dumping vodka in the street.'

"On Tuesday he issued a mea culpa in his column for the Falls Church News-Press. He said he was defensive because he's been dealing with 'an unsafe fan situation' that has put him 'on high alert and high self-protection mode.'"

Weir added in his column: "However, I realized that there is no excuse to hurl insults at those who oppose you, or those who think differently than you and as a believer in free will and free speech, I allowed my own fear and emotion to get the better of me and for a moment I became a hypocrite."

Much of the controversy stems from Weir's position on Russia's controversial anti-gay laws.

"A self-described Russophile, Weir has been criticized by gay rights groups for minimizing the impact of the legislation. Weir has deep love of the country. Throughout his career, he frequently wore Russian national team gear. His close friend is the nation's biggest figure skating star, Evgeni Plushenko," USA Today reports. "Weir is also married to Victor Voronov, whose parents grew up in the former Soviet Union."

Weir also wrote: “I have been defending athlete's rights to compete in Sochi, despite Russia's anti-LGBT laws, and have publicly opposed a boycott. This is an issue that is very heated for many LGBT activists who want to protect and save the Russian LGBT community, and I whole-heartedly applaud their bravery.”

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OMG: Report Says Jeff Zucker Plans 'Massive' Changes at CNN That Are 'Likely to Make CNN Traditionalists Cringe'

"After almost a year of tinkering, CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker has concluded that a news channel cannot subsist on news alone," reports CapitalNewYork.com, adding, "So he is planning much broader changes for the network -- including a prime-time shakeup that’s likely to make CNN traditionalists cringe."

The article reports: "Zucker, in his first one-on-one interview since taking control of CNN last January, told Capital he wants news coverage 'that is just not being so obvious.' Instead, he wants more of 'an attitude and a take.'

"'We're all regurgitating the same information,' Zucker says. 'I want people to say, "You know what? That was interesting. I hadn't thought of that." The goal for the next six months is that we need more shows and less newscasts.'"

The report notes that Zucker "wants the network to attract 'viewers who are watching places like Discovery and History and Nat Geo and A&E.' Zucker notes that 'the overall cable news audience has not grown in the last 12 years, OK? So, all we're doing is trading [audience] share. … We also want to broaden what people can expect from CNN.'"

The article adds: "The No. 1 show on CNN is now 'Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown,' a travel-adventure show featuring the bad-boy celebrity chef. Zucker said that inside CNN, his formula has finally been accepted 'because people have seen the results.'"

The Capital story also notes: "Among the prime-time possibilities Zucker is considering at CNN: half-hour shows, perhaps including one for Bill Weir, recently hired from ABC."

Zucker also envisions big changes for CNN sibling network HLN: "HLN 'really just had a great year from an audience standpoint,' he said, but: 'It's not as strong a business proposition, and it's not really what advertisers are looking for. If we wanted to be in the court business, Time Warner would have kept Court TV.'"

We urge you to click on the link in our first paragraph above and read the entire original article at CapitalNewYork.com. And a tip of the TVWeek cap to our good friend Lisa de Moraes, who wrote about the Capital story at Deadline.com -- we would not have found the Capital story otherwise.

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'Fast & Furious 7' Producers May Scrap the Whole Movie and Start Over

After the death Saturday of Paul Walker, one of the stars of the "Fast and the Furious" movies, in a single-car crash in Valencia, Calif., producers of the mega-franchise's latest installment, "Fast & Furious 7," are considering scrapping the entire film and starting over, TheWrap.com reports.

An insider told the website that the cost of such a move is not critical to the decision, because the studio is insured for the loss.

"The nearly $200 million-budget production has been frozen in its tracks since the tragic death of Walker, one of the lead actors in the film, on Saturday. The production is more than halfway finished, but many of Walker’s key scenes remained to be shot," the story reports.

The piece, which cites two inside sources, adds: "Universal Pictures, the producers and director James Wan have been in constant consultation this week to decide on different options, according to an individual with knowledge of the conversations. Because the studio is insured for unexpected losses such as this one, the cost of scrapping the production is not a central factor. The studio would likely be made whole on that cost."

Starting over is reportedly one option that's on the table, with a key question being whether Walker's work would be included in a new version of the movie.

"One individual said they were considering making the movie without Walker’s character, Brian O’Conner. But another individual said that option was not under consideration," the article reports.

Along with Walker, recent installments in the franchise have starred Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster.

"The studio and producers have not yet made the decision to start over, and a final verdict on the direction of the project is still days away, according to the insider," TheWrap reports. "Another insider said that a decision is more likely to take weeks. Both stressed that the studio, producers and directors wanted to get the movie right and not rush a decision."

“Fast & Furious 6,” released earlier this year, made about $800 million in worldwide box office.

"The main concern, the second insider said, is to preserve the integrity of the franchise, which drives hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for the studio," the story reports. "Producers want to be careful not to force the movie to conform to the original cast just for the sake of preserving Walker’s scenes. Another insider said it would be hard to envision the film not including a storyline around Walker’s character, O’Conner."

The studio would not comment, the piece notes.

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Former MTV Veejay to Host Fox Cable Show

A former video jockey on MTV has landed a full-time gig on a Fox cable channel. TheWrap.com reports that Fox Business Network tapped Lisa Kennedy Montgomery to host “The Independents.”

The show will feature Montgomery and her co-hosts, Reason magazine’s Matt Welch and America’s Future Foundation’s Kmele Foster, along with a panel of experts as they talk about the news of the day, the story says. The show will be televised Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday nights at 9 p.m.

“Stossel” will continue airing at 9 p.m. on Thursdays. Montgomery joined Fox Business News in 2012 as a special correspondent to “Stossel.”

Montgomery was known simply as Kennedy when she introduced music videos on MTV. During the 1990s she hosted "Alternative Nation," the channel's late-night alternative rock series.

Her TV background also includes a stint on the 1998 revival of "Hollywood Squares."

lisa kennedy montgomery.pngLisa Kennedy Montgomery

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Major Rock Star -- Who Is the No. 3 Best-Selling Solo Artist of the Past 40 Years, and Was Once Married to One of the Most Beautiful Women in the World -- Signs Up for Very Strange Singing Gig

The rock star who is the No. 3 best-selling solo artist of the past 40 years has signed up for a very unusual singing gig.

Starting Jan. 27, 2014, Billy Joel will play monthly concerts at the Madison Square Garden arena in New York City "as long as the audience demands," the New York Daily News reports.

Tha deal is a first for the Garden. Usually the only place a singer has a deal like this is in Las Vegas.

The story adds: "The Garden must anticipate the demand will be great since they simultaneously announced Tuesday that Joel, 64, will become their first ever musical 'franchise.' That appointment turns Joel into the Garden’s fourth pillar, equal to its three sports teams: the Knicks, the Rangers and the Liberty.

"Already, Joel holds the record for the most Garden shows sold in a sustained run -- 12, back in 2006. In total, Joel has played the Garden 46 times, dating to 1978."

The unusual arrangement already appears to be a success. The Garden has announced that Joel's first four monthly concerts are already sold out, the story says, adding that tickets for the fifth show, May 9, will go on sale Saturday, Dec. 7, at 10 a.m. ET.

May 9 will be Joel's 65th birthday, the article notes.

Joel, who was married to superstar model Christie Brinkley for nine years, had his first big hit, "Piano Man," in 1973.

Joel is a native New Yorker, having been born in the Bronx.

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FX Signs On for More Projects From Louis C.K.

FX has signed Louis C.K. to a production deal that will extend the comedian and actor’s relationship with the network and see him create new shows for the FX networks, reports Bill Carter in The New York Times.

C.K.’s comedy series on FX, “Louie,” has been on hiatus since September 2012 but is scheduled to return in May.

“That show was created under a unique deal that allowed Mr. C.K. complete creative control. Beyond being the star, he wrote and directed every episode, and edited many of them,” Carter writes. “The new deal is similarly structured to allow him to develop shows and then decide whether he will serve as a writer or director. He will be an executive producer on all shows he develops.”

Blair Breard, his production partner on “Louie,” will be a partner in the new deal, the story adds.

louis-ck.jpgLouis C.K.

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History Eyes Controversial Jesus Project

After attracting massive audiences for its miniseries “The Bible,” History has its sights set on another project with a biblical theme. The cable network is exploring a project based on the life of Jesus, but the project could present a controversial viewpoint on him, Nellie Andreeva reports on Deadline.com.

Called “The Lost Years,” the drama would look at how Jesus spent his young adult years, which are undocumented, the story says. The project is from feature writer Scott Kosar of “The Machinist” and producers Eli Roth of the “Hostel” franchise and Eric Newman of “The Thing.”

“There is very little information about Jesus’ life from about the age of 13, following a pilgrimage to Jerusalem he took with his parents, to age 30, when he began his ministry and was baptized by John the Baptist," Andreeva writes. "Because the project is in very early stages, it is unclear whether it would be developed as a regular series or a miniseries."

It’s not a coincidence that Roth, Kosar and Newman all come from a horror background, the story adds.

“I hear that ‘The Lost Years’ was conceived in the horror genre, and it explores a theory about Jesus’ origins as an exorcist. Although the practice of ridding a person’s body of demons and evil spirits existed long before Jesus’ time, the term “exorcism” -- which is done in Jesus’ name -- wasn’t coined until later,” Andreeva writes.

She adds, “In ancient times, when medicine was in its infancy, healing was done mainly on a spiritual level, essentially treating ailments by getting demons out the body. Thus the theory that, as the most powerful healer of his time, Jesus performed rituals akin to exorcism.”

Here's another take on Jesus' "Missing Years," courtesy of John Prine:

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Viacom Shakes Things Up in Ad Sales

Viacom today announced that it has restructured its ad sales team for music and entertainment to create a new convergent executive structure.

The teams handling TV, digital and mobile ad sales for CMT, Comedy Central, MTV, Logo, Spike TV, TV Land and VH1 have been unified under a newly realigned leadership.

Said Jeff Lucas, head of sales for music and entertainment: "The lines among television, online and mobile aren't just blurring -- they've been erased in terms of how our audiences consume and experience content. For a client-centric organization like ours, a convergent structure will keep us on the leading edge of marketing innovation and ensure that we continue to create value for advertisers and audiences alike."

The following executives will have new titles: Melanie Dimemmo will serve as Senior Vice President of Digital Video Sales; Sarah Iooss will serve as Senior Vice President of Partnerships and Client Strategy; and Sharon Silverstein will serve as Senior Vice President of Multiplatform Studio Ad Sales.

Please click here to read the full press release from Viacom.

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New Craig Ferguson Show Cleared in 80% of the Country

A new show hosted by late-night veteran Craig Ferguson has been cleared in 80% of the country, up from 40% just a month ago, reports Deadline.com. The show is “Celebrity Name Game,” a collaboration of Debmar-Mercury and FremantleMedia North America.

The half-hour game show strip, which will debut in fall 2014, had previously signed Tribune Broadcasting's 25 stations. It is now set to launch on 58 Sinclair stations and four CBS owned-and-operated stations, among others.

The pop culture game is based on the board game “Identity Crisis,” the story notes. The game pairs celebrities and contestants as they try to guess famous figures, such as actors and cartoon characters.

The show was developed by Courteney Cox and David Arquette’s Coquette Productions and Scott St. John of “Deal or No Deal,” who will work as showrunner. Debmar-Mercury handles domestic distribution, with FremantleMedia overseeing the international marketplace.

Thumbnail image for craig ferguson.pngCraig Ferguson

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Al Jazeera America Widens Its Reach This Week

The cable news network Al Jazeera America is gaining wider distribution, starting this week. The Los Angeles Times reports that Time Warner Cable will begin carrying the channel this week, potentially as early as Friday.

As previously reported, Time Warner Cable was initially cool to the idea of carrying the network, which was created when pan-Arab broadcaster Al Jazeera bought Current TV. Time Warner Cable took Current TV off its systems after the sale.

Time Warner Cable agreed to carry Al Jazeera America in October, a few months after the network made its U.S. debut, the Times notes.

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NBC Drama Series Receives Second Season

In a move that will come as no surprise to industry watchers, NBC has ordered a second season of a freshman drama series that is one of the few new scripted hits of the current television season.

EW.com’s Inside TV reports that the network will bring back “The Blacklist” for 22 more episodes. The drama stars James Spader as an FBI-wanted terrorist.

“Blacklist” currently ranks as the top drama in the 18-49 demo among the big four broadcasters and is the top-performing new show in both the 18-49 demo and total viewers.

“The success of 'The Blacklist' demonstrates that inspired storytelling is alive and well in broadcast television, and I’m impressed on a daily basis by this creative team’s imagination and the extent to which they will go to capture this grand vision on film,” said NBC Chairman Bob Greenblatt in a statement.

As previously reported, NBC will run the drama series in January without a lead-in from “The Voice,” which poses a programming risk to the network’s ratings hold on the season if viewership falls off as a result.

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Longtime Woody Allen Muse to Accept His Cecil B. DeMille Award

Woody Allen, who will receive the 2014 Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globe Awards on Jan. 12, plans to send his longtime muse, Diane Keaton, to accept on his behalf, Nellie Andreeva reports on Deadline.com.

As previously reported, Allen decided to remain true to his principles of skipping awards shows and Los Angeles, and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association decided to honor the director and actor without receiving a commitment that he would show up.

“Keaton was then approached about receiving the award on his behalf. Keaton and Allen met in 1968 when she auditioned and was cast in his Broadway play, ‘Play It Again, Sam,’” Andreeva writes. “They were a couple for 5 years and are still very good friends today. Keaton appeared in eight Allen films spanning two decades, winning an Oscar and Golden Globe for 1976′s ‘Annie Hall.’”

diane-keaton.jpgDiane Keaton

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Hot NBC Scripted Series Surges

With "The Voice" turning in its expected dominant Monday prime-time performance and another NBC show surging to its best rating since its premiere, the Peacock Network soared to an easy win in the Monday night broadcast ratings, based on Nielsen overnights for the key 18-49 demo.

TVbytheNumbers.com reports that NBC's newest hit drama series, "The Blacklist," pulled its best number in viewers 18-49 since its premiere -- a 3.5 average rating, up five-tenths of a point from a week ago. NBC's two-hour "The Voice," meanwhile, matched "Blacklist's" 3.5, ticking up one-tenth from last week.

Second-place CBS got steady results from its comedy-heavy lineup, while ABC settled for third place with a schedule built on holiday programming.

CBS's sitcoms "How I Met Your Mother" and "2 Broke Girls," along with the drama series "Hostages," all matched last week's numbers in the 18-49 demo -- a 2.9 for "Mother," a 2.7 for "Girls" and a 1.1 for "Hostages." "Mike & Molly" slipped one-tenth to a 2.4, and "Mom" ticked down two-tenths to a 2.1 average.

ABC's two-hour special "CMA Country Christmas" settled for a 1.5 average in 18-49, one-tenth better than last year's number. A repeat of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" delivered a 1.9.

Fox paired an original "Almost Human" -- 1.7 average in viewers 18-49, off two-tenths from the previous week -- with a repeat of "Sleepy Hollow" (0.9 average).

For prime time overall, NBC's 3.5 average led the way in adults 18-49, followed by CBS (2.0 average), ABC (1.6), Fox (1.3) and Univision (1.1). NBC was also well ahead in total viewers, averaging 12.4 million to lead ABC (7.3 million), CBS (6.9 million), Fox (4.5 million) and Univision (2.8 million).

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Top 10 Baby Names: There's a New No. 1 for Boys but the Top Girls' Name Continues Its Streak; Meanwhile, Celebrity Influence Is Declining

A new baby name tops the list of the most popular names for boys, while the name at the top of the girls list remains the same -- for four years running now.

ABC News reports that the just-released list shows Sophia on top of the girls list for the fourth year in a row, while Jackson has taken over as the top name among boys -- bumping last year's No. 1, Aiden, to No. 2 after a long run at the top of the list.

"For the first time in eight years, Aiden has been surpassed in popularity when it comes to baby boy names, according to the just-released Top Baby Names of 2013 list from Babycenter," the story reports.

The report adds: "As far as girl names go, Sophia still reigns supreme. It's the fourth year in a row Sophia has taken the top spot. There was some movement on the girl's list, however: Emily is making a big comeback, according to the website."

BabyCenter Global Editor in Chief Linda Murray said a trend surfaced in which parents are turning more to loved ones, and less to celebrities, for inspiration in naming their babies.

Said Murray: "One of the biggest trends we see this year is a growing desire among new parents to choose a baby name with personal meaning. Family names are all the rage, and grandparents are the number one source of inspiration for new parents. This year, more than half of moms say they found name inspiration in people they know. Celebrity influence is on the decline."

But the report notes that celebrity influence still plays a role. "While it may be hard to imagine a parent wanting their daughter to grow up to be like Miley Cyrus, the name Miley actually rose 16 spots on the girls' list this year," the story notes. "And even though he's across the pond, Prince George is influencing parents stateside. The name George rose 37 percent as a female name and 10 percent a a boy's name. Interestingly, George fell out of the top 10 this year on the BabyCentre United Kingdom Baby Names list."

A couple of huge moves up the list are also attributed to celebrities. "If Kanye West needed more proof that he is indeed taking over the world, his name jumped 2,228 spots since last year," the story reports. "But not so fast Kanye: another celebrity -- Korie from the popular 'Duck Dynasty' -- saw her name rise 13,262 spots. The name Kim is also up. And while there was a slight rise in the name Nori (their daughter's nickname) Babycenter does not have even one baby named North in its extensive database."

Here are the top 10 names for baby boys and girls:

Top 10 Boys' Names

Jackson
Aiden
Liam
Lucas
Noah
Mason
Jayden
Ethan
Jacob
Jack

Top 10 Girls' Names

Sophia
Emma
Olivia
Isabella
Mia
Ava
Lily
Zoe
Emily
Chloe

The report notes: "BabyCenter's Top 100 Baby Names list combines names that sound the same but have different spellings, making it, the site said, 'a true measure of baby name popularity.'"

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'Wheel of Fortune' Scrambles to Explain 'Unfortunate Coincidence' of 'Fast & Furious' Puzzle

Executives at the long-running syndicated game show “Wheel of Fortune” are busy explaining why a game puzzle with the answer “The Fast and The Furious” aired Monday night on about 200 local stations, Fox News reports.

"In messages sent out on Twitter, the show called the incident an 'unfortunate coincidence,' explaining that the show had been taped weeks prior, before star Paul Walker died in a fiery car crash," the story reports.

One message on the "Wheel of Fortune" Twitter account read: “The hearts of everyone at Wheel of Fortune go out to the family, friends & fans of Paul Walker."

"Wheel" host Pat Sajak also posted a message to his followers after the puzzle turned up just days after the crash that killed Walker. Sajak wrote: “Feel terrible about timing of 'Fast & Furious' puzzle tonight. Taped long ago & went out to 200 local stations days ago."

As previously reported, Walker, 40, died along with Roger Rodas, who was driving the 2005 Porsche Carrera GT when it hit a light pole and a tree, then burst into flames.

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Entertainment News Show Renewed for 2014-15

A syndicated half-hour entertainment news program has been picked up for 2014-15. Twentieth Television Executive VP and General Manager of Broadcast Sales Paul Franklin announced that the complany's "Dish Nation" will be back after being picked up by the Fox Television Stations.

“The hilarious personalities featured on ‘Dish Nation’ are clearly resonating with viewers across the country," Franklin said. "The program’s comedic take on pop culture and celebrity news have freshened up the stagnant entertainment magazine genre. The Fox Television Stations are a strong partner who first nurtured ‘Dish Nation’ as a summer test; we are thrilled to return for a third season on their local stations.”

The announcement describes “Dish Nation” as "a daily program highlighting the nation’s funniest radio shows; riffing on what’s hot and happening that day in pop culture. A fresh, new format, 'Dish Nation' gives a comedic twist to the news that’s on everyone’s minds. Whether the latest on celebrity couples, breaking entertainment news, hot pop culture moments or what happened on reality TV the night before -- the 'Dish Nation' personalities from Atlanta, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Dallas offer their outrageous perspectives each day, 52 weeks a year."

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HBO Signs 'Girls' Co-Executive Producer to Two-Year Deal

HBO has signed a two-year overall deal with “Girls” co-executive producer Murray Miller, reports Deadline.com.

With the deal, Miller will become an executive producer on the Lena Dunham comedy series. Miller is also working with “Enlightened” creator Mike White on the half-hour project “Mr. Romance,” which is based on a McSweeney’s magazine article called “The Only Muscle I Can’t Control: In Search of the Next Romance Novel Cover Man.”

Murray-Miller-Mr-Romance-325x400.jpgMurray Miller

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'Alias' Actor Joins 'Sleepy Hollow'

A veteran actor who was a part of the ABC series "Alias" will be turning up on Fox's "Sleepy Hollow." TVLine reports that Victor Garber, who played Jack Bristow on "Alias," is joining the Fox show.

While many details aren’t known, Garber will appear in at least one episode and will portray Ichabod Crane’s father, the story reports. Crane spoke fondly of his father in the Nov. 25 episode, talking about how he spent time with him while his dad was on break from teaching at Oxford.

Garber is also known for playing Jesus in "Godspell" and John Wilkes Booth in "Assassins," along with his work in James Cameron's "Titanic," among many other film and television roles.

victor garber.pngVictor Garber

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TV, Film and Stage Actor Dead at 48 -- He Was a Regular on AMC Drama Series

An actor who played a recurring role on "Law & Order" and was a regular on an AMC drama series has died. Deadline.com reports that Christopher Evan Welch, who appeared on Broadway along with numerous film and television roles, died Monday in a Los Angeles-area hospital after a sudden illness.

Welch, who was believed to be 48, was most recently taping an upcoming HBO comedy series from Mike Judge, “Silicon Valley," on which Welch plays a character named Peter Gregory.

He was a regular on the AMC drama series "Rubicon," which aired for one season in 2010. Welch played Grant Test on the suspense series, which was created by Jason Horwitch and starred James Badge Dale and Jessica Collins. The series was well-received by critics, drawing comparisons to AMC's critically acclaimed shows "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad."

Welch’s other television work included guest appearances on “Elementary,” “The Good Wife," "The Sopranos” and "Nurse Jackie,” and a long-running voice role as Miles "Tails" Prower on "Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog."

His film resume includes playing the narrator in Woody Allen’s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” and a small role in the Oscar-winning 2012 film "Lincoln."

christopher evan welch.jpgChristopher Evan Welch

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TV's Highest-Rated Scripted Series Turns In Another Blockbuster Ratings Performance

The highest-rated scripted series on television scored another milestone in its latest outing. EW.com's Inside TV reports that Sunday's midseason finale of AMC's zombie show "The Walking Dead" demonstrated that the series still appears to be on the rise.

"The zombie drama has risen for every premiere and finale compared to the previous year’s episode, season after season," the story reports. "Sunday’s winter closer maintained that trend: 12.1 million viewers, up 15 percent from last year’s December finale. So far this season is averaging 13 million viewers, up 29 percent from the first half of season three, with a 6.1 rating among adults 18-49. Post-show 'The Talking Dead' had a record 6 million viewers."

The report notes that ratings dipped last week, for the Governor's second episode. But the article notes: "An audience decline for an episode that airs during a holiday week is pretty typical."

The report adds: "Still, 'The Walking Dead‘s' ratings climb does appear to be slowing. By comparison, last year’s finale zoomed 58 percent from the season two winter finale vs. [Sunday] night’s 15 percent rise from season three. The next key tests will be the show’s midseason premiere ... and then the season 4 finale. Will 'The Walking Dead‘s' phenomenal audience climb top out this season? Given this trend, and the strong creative post-prison plan for the back-eight, it doesn’t seem likely."

The midseason premiere is scheduled for Feb. 9. Here's a short trailer from AMC:

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CNN Anchor Defends Interview With His Brother

A CNN anchor is defending himself after coming under criticism over a recent interview with his brother. The Daily Beast reports that Chris Cuomo, an anchor on CNN's “New Day,” is defending his decision to interview his older brother, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Chris Cuomo, who spoke to his brother about the fatal train derailment in New York City, told the Daily Beast in an email sent in response to the criticism: “Obviously I did the intv because it was non political, and frankly, I invite the criticism -- because it exposes the hollowness of a lot of what is out there.”

He added: “Critics say my intv was no diff than any other and then criticize anyway. Think about that. I get the obvious suspicion, but the media has to do better than simply cater to the obvious…and pawn off negativity as a proxy for insight.”

Critics included Salon writer Alex Pareene, who tweeted: “call me old fashioned but I feel like CNN ought to have had someone not named Cuomo interview Governor Cuomo,” the story notes. A Xerox marketing executive asked, “No other journalists available?”

Chris and Andrew Cuomo are members of a political family, with both men being sons of longtime New York Gov. Mario Cuomo.

chris-cuomo 2.jpgChris Cuomo

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Is 'The Blacklist' Ready to Fly Solo? NBC Wants Its Prized New Drama Series to Go It Alone -- and the Season May Hang in the Balance

While a lead-in from “The Voice” has helped NBC’s new scripted hit “The Blacklist” build an audience, TheWrap.com reports that the network is planning a January run for the drama series without assistance from the singing competition.

After Monday’s midseason finale, “Blacklist” will return Jan. 13 with a lead-in from “American Ninja Warrior.” For the two weeks starting Jan. 20, the crime thriller will air after two-hour editions of “Hollywood Game Night.”

The programming poses a risk to NBC’s ratings hold on this season, the piece notes.

“NBC is No. 1 in the key 18-49 demographic this season, in large part because of the pairing of 'The Voice’ and ‘The Blacklist.’ It was also No. 1 at this point last season, before ‘The Voice’ took a winter break and ‘Sunday Night Football’ left the airwaves,” the story reports. “Whether NBC can hold on to No. 1 starting next month will depend to some degree on whether it can keep winning Monday nights without ‘The Voice,’ which doesn’t return until spring.”

The piece points out, “NBC does have one major advantage this winter over last: It will air the Winter Olympic Games.”

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What's Behind Jimmy Kimmel's Ratings Surge?

Jimmy Kimmel is recording his highest numbers since his time slot change put him in direct competition with Jay Leno and David Letterman, reports the Los Angeles Times’ Company Town.

“Jimmy Kimmel Live” drew an average of 2.86 million viewers for the week of Nov. 18, the most recent numbers available. That was up 15% from the previous week and the biggest audience since the show moved to 11:35 p.m. in January, the piece notes.

"Still, NBC's 'Tonight Show with Jay Leno' and CBS's 'Late Show with David Letterman' drew bigger overall audiences, with 4.12 million for Leno and 3.07 million for Letterman," the Times adds.

In 18 to 49, Kimmel's program was up 29% week-to-week, the story says, also marking the show’s best performance since the time switch, not including the weeks helped by the NBA Finals in June.

The show may have received a bump from a controversy over his Oct. 16 broadcast, in which a Kids Table segment included a child saying the U.S. should “kill everyone in China” to get rid of the country’s $1.3 trillion debt to the Asian nation, Deadline.com notes. That controversy stirred up a flurry of publicity for the show -- negative publicity, for the most part, but publicity nonetheless.

The original skit can be seen by clicking here.

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First There Was the Popular TV Series 'The Untouchables.' Then a Popular Movie Version Starring Kevin Costner and Sean Connery. Now NBC Is Looking at Another Show About the Same Character (Who Was Real), Eliot Ness, But Later in His Career

NBC is developing an eight-hour miniseries that is being described as an “ambitious event program.” The description comes from Deadline.com's report noting that the network is working with Craig Zadan and Neil Meron on the project -- "Nemesis," which focuses on Prohibition agent Eliot Ness.

The project, from Sony Pictures TV, is based on the book “Nemesis: The Final Case of Eliot Ness,” by William Bernhardt, which examines Ness’ real-life case tracking down the “Torso Killer,” a serial killer who decapitated and dissected his victims.

The script is being written by Benjamin Brand of IFC’s “Bollywood Hero.”

The piece reports: “This is a big week for Zadan and Meron, who have two high-profile event projects premiering: ‘The Sound Of Music’ on Thursday [a live staging on NBC] and the four-hour miniseries ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ on Sunday on History, Lifetime and A&E, the latter also produced by Sony TV.”

eliot ness.jpgEliot Ness

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NY Train Was Going 82 MPH -- Nearly Three Times the Speed Limit -- Heading Into the Curve Where It Derailed

"The Metro-North Railroad train that hurtled off the rails on a sleepy holiday weekend morning was traveling 82 miles per hour as it approached one of the sharpest curves in the region’s rail system, federal investigators said on Monday -- nearly three times the speed permitted through the turn," reports The New York Times.

The story continues, "The throttle was still engaged -- giving the engine power -- until six seconds before the locomotive, in the rear of the train, came to a stop around 7:20 a.m. Sunday after the train careered toward the Harlem River, killing four people and injuring more than 70, north of Spuyten Duyvil station in the Bronx, officials said."

As previously reported, one of those killed in the accident was James Lovell, 58, who had worked at the "Today" show for more than 20 years.

The Times story adds, "The National Transportation Safety Board is leading the investigation, and a board member, Earl Weener, said the train’s sudden power shift came 'very late in the game.' The board cautioned that it remained unclear if the speed was the result of human error or faulty equipment."

The Times article also says: "Asked if the safety board was looking into the possibility that the engineer, William Rockefeller, fell asleep, was using his cellphone or was otherwise distracted, a spokesman for the board, Keith Holloway, said, 'Part of our investigation, as in all investigations, is to look at human performance factors.'”

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NBC Eyes Friday Horror Block -- Network Is Adapting Film That Starred Benicio del Toro and Anthony Hopkins

NBC, which appears to be working on a Friday horror block, has a drama in development that’s based on a 2010 film starring Benicio del Toro, Anthony Hopkins and Emily Blunt. EW.com’s Inside TV reports that the new werewolf project is based on the film “The Wolfman."

The project is from “Dracula” executive producer Daniel Knauf, the story reports. While the film was what the article calls “rather forgettable,” the TV series is likely to take its own direction and may become part of a Friday horror block along with NBC’s current drama “Grimm,” the report notes.

“‘Grimm’ has been solid-ish, and the concept helps fill prime-time holes on a notoriously tough night of the week with original scripted programming. Dracula has been a very soft performer, however, and werewolf stories have been an inconsistent performer (compared to, say, vampire and zombie projects),” the piece reports.

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'Walking Dead' Creator Frank Darabont Continues to Unleash Sound Bites, Including This One on How TV Became the Hot Medium: Movies, Darabont Says, 'Have Sucked for Some Years'

Asked why many actors and filmmakers are turning to television instead of film, “The Walking Dead” creator Frank Darabont tells The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed that it has to do with the low quality of films.

“The other thing is, a lot of the best writing has fled to television because they don't want it in movies anymore,” Darabont said. “Hopefully the pendulum is swinging back, but I think movies by and large have sucked for some years now because it's all the special effects extravaganzas, and I don't give a damn about any of the characters because there's no writing there.”

Actors “are coming to television for that very reason,” getting roles that they can’t find in feature films, he added.

Darabont, whose new series “Mob City” debuts Wednesday, Dec. 4, on TNT, also said TV is getting darker, allowing “some serious storytelling … with very adult content.”

Asked about his dismissal from AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” Darabont said, “The problem is a very complex one; the crux of the argument was a budgetary argument. I'd rather not get into it again.”

On that same topic, Darabont recently called the people who fired him "sociopaths," as we reported previously.

frank darabont 2.jpgFrank Darabont

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Bombshell: Isn't This What We've All Suspected? Bernie Madoff's CFO Testifies That Madoff's $65 Billion Ponzi Scheme, Which Lasted Years, Was an Open Secret at the Company. It's Our Non-TV Story of the Day

"Bernie Madoff’s longtime right-hand took the stand at the Manhattan federal trial of five former employees of the crooked investment firm Monday, giving the first insider’s perspective into the epic $65 billion fraud," reports the New York Post.

The story continues: "Former Madoff CFO Frank DiPascali, an admitted fraudster turned star government witness, wasted no time throwing his former co-workers under the bus, telling jurors they allegedly knew their con-man boss was committing fraud -- while they all profited handsomely from it."

The article then reprints this exchange form the trial:

"Can you tell us how long fake trading was going on at Madoff Securities?” Assistant US Attorney John Zach asked.

“As long as I could remember,” DiPascali replied.

“It was virtually impossible not to know what was happening,” added DiPascali, who pleaded guilty to fraud in 2009.

The story adds: "In opening statements defense lawyers painted him as a compulsive liar who would do or say anything to shorten the 125-year sentence he faces."

The article reports that DiPascali testified that defendant Annette Bongiorno, Madoff’s longtime secretary, "was at the heart of a scheme to create phony backdated trades.

"He also talked vividly about how three other co-defendants -- former account manager Joann Crupi and computer programmers Jerome O’Hara and George Perez -- once helped him fool a dogged auditor from accounting giant KPMG."

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Luis Guzman and Vinnie Jones Join ABC Project

Actors Luis Guzman and Vinnie Jones have been cast in an upcoming ABC drama project. Deadline.com reports that the midseason show “Mind Games,” which stars Christian Slater and Steve Zahn as two brothers operating a problem-solving firm, added the actors in recurring roles.

Jones will play a slightly psychotic character who threatens Slater’s character’s life, while Guzman will play one of his henchmen, who looks intimidating but who has a warm heart, the story says.

Jones is also co-starring in the ABC comedy pilot “Galavant.”

vinnie jones.jpgVinnie Jones

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The Chernin Group Makes a Bet on Anime

In a bet that a genre that has a broad fan base can be tweaked to provide strong profits, The Chernin Group has taken a majority stake in Crunchyroll, a site dedicated to providing online streaming for anime shows, reports Deadline.com.

Veteran media exec Peter Chernin said his group will “continue to grow the anime vertical” but will also create new channels in different genres. The piece adds that anime has a “mixed record for generating profits.”

Crunchyroll “aims to be the destination of choice for anime fans; in addition to videos it offers e-commerce, news, and social media features. The companies didn’t say how much Chernin is spending, but note that Crunchyroll’s senior management “will maintain a significant stake” as will TV TOKYO,” the story notes.

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NBC's 'Sunday Night Football' Is Way Down, But It's Still Enough to Win the Demo

NBC saw viewer interest plunge for its "Sunday Night Football" broadcast, based on Nielsen overnights for the key 18-49 demo.

TVbytheNumbers.com reports that Sunday's game between the New York Giants and Washington Redskins delivered a preliminary 5.4 average rating in the demo. That was off from an 8.8 average for the game a week earlier between the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos.

Still, NBC won the night in the 18-49 demo, although CBS, which got a bump from football overrun, came out on top in total viewers.

The report notes that the numbers are preliminary and subject to more than the usual adjustments due to the nature of live programming.

CBS scored a football-inflated 3.4 average in viewers 18-49 for "60 Minutes," well above the 1.6 the show had a week earlier. "The Amazing Race" came in with a 1.9, up three-tenths from last week, while "The Good Wife" also rose three-tenths, to a 1.6. "The Mentalist" slipped one-tenth to a 1.5.

Fox aired a mix of repeats and originals, with a fresh episode of "Bob's Burgers" falling three-tenths from a week ago to a 1.6 in 18-49 while "American Dad" dipped two-tenths to a 1.7.

ABC saw "America's Funniest Home Videos" slip two-tenths to a 1.2 in adults 18-49 while "Once Upon a Time" remained at a series-low 1.9. The two-hour special "Christmas in Conway" settled for a 1.1.

For prime time overall, NBC led the way in the 18-49 demo with a 4.4 average, followed by CBS (3.7 average), Fox (1.5), ABC (1.3) and Univision (0.8). CBS took the top spot in total viewers with 16.0 million, ahead of NBC (12.6 million), ABC (6.6 million), Fox (3.4 million) and Univision (2.4 million).

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Who Bumped Kim Kardashian to Become the Top Bing Search of 2013? You May Be Surprised

Microsoft has come out with one of the first of the year-end search trend lists, and the list shows a change at the top. USA Today reports that pop singer Beyonce was the most searched person of 2013 on Bing -- knocking Kim Kardashian out of the spot she held a year ago.

Kardashian had to settle for No. 2 this year, part of a sweep of the top five for women.

"Justin Bieber -- No. 6 -- and President Barack Obama -- 10th -- were the only two men who made it into the top 10," the story reports. "Also making Bing's Top 10 list: Rihanna (3), Taylor Swift (4), Madonna (5), Nicki Minaj (7), Amanda Bynes (8) and Miley Cyrus (9).

Swift is on the rise, climbing from No. 10 a year ago to No. 4. Bynes, Madonna and Obama are all new to the top 10, the story notes.

The report adds: "Microsoft's take on top trends has a decidedly pop culture bent, but Bing also offers a look at top news stories of the year. The birth of the royal baby was the most searched story of the year followed by the Boston Marathon bombing in April."

beyonce-3.jpgBeyonce

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History Working With Oscar Winner on Miniseries About Legendary Military Leader

A legendary military leader is the focus of a high-profile miniseries in the works at History, with Academy Award-winning actress Halle Berry leading the charge.

The project has the working title "Hannibal," and focuses on the Carthaginian general Hannibal Barca. Berry, who won an Oscar in 2002 for "Monster's Ball," is executive producing the effort.

In a press release from History, Berry said: "Hannibal was not only the greatest African general to ever live, he may have been the greatest general, period. His story is an intricate and captivating ride and I’m thrilled to get this project off the ground with our partners at History.”

The project is co-produced by A+E Studios and Red Arrow Entertainment, with Oscar-nominated writer Jeffrey Caine ("The Constant Gardener," "Goldeneye") writing the script. Dirk Hoogstra, Executive Vice President and General Manager, History & H2, announced the project today.

The project begins in 264 BC and tells the story of the Second Punic War between Carthage and Rome, when Hannibal faced off against his archrival, Scipio Africanus.

Along with Berry, Steven Jensen, Vincent Cirrincione and Jeffrey Caine are on board as executive producers. Simon Maxwell is executive producer for Red Arrow Entertainment. Hoogstra, Elaine Frontain Bryant and Julian P. Hobbs are executives in charge of production for History.

halle berry.pngHalle Berry

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Barbara Walters Unveils (Most of) Her 'Most Fascinating People of the Year'

Now we know who nine of the 10 people are on Barbara Walters' list of the "Most Fascinating People of the Year" for 2013. The New York Daily News reports that the ABC News veteran has unveiled the list -- all of them except whoever will be at No. 1.

Walters, 84, is saving the big reveal of No. 1 for her annual telecast, set for Dec. 18.

The youngest member of the list is Britain's Prince George, the Royal Baby -- who's even younger than another youngster on the list: twerk queen Miley Cyrus, who recently turned 21.

Others on the list are Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, who share one of the 10 spots, Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence and ABC anchor Robin Roberts. The stars of "Duck Dynasty" made the list, as did long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad, Pope Francis and NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

The list appears to be the last for Walters, who began the tradition in 1993. She has announced she will retire next year.

Commenting earlier on retirement, Walters said: "I do not want to appear on another program or climb another mountain. I want instead to sit on a sunny field and admire the very gifted women -- and OK, some men, too -- who will be taking my place."

edward snowden-abc.jpgEdward Snowden

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Two Hot Movies Shatter Box Office Records, Combine for a Big Holiday Weekend

All it took was two hot holiday releases to get movie goers into the theaters over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. BloombergBusinessweek reports that the latest "Hunger Games" movie and Disney's animated musical "Frozen" both topped the previous record for the long weekend.

"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" pulled in an estimated $110 million in North American box office sales from Wednesday through Sunday to stand as the new title holder for the holiday weekend. The previous record for the period belonged to the 2001 release "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," with $82 million.

That mark was also topped over the weekend by "Frozen," which tallied $93 million to move into second place all time behind "Catching Fire."

Third place over the weekend went to "Thor: The Dark World," which was released a month ago but still managed to hammer out sales of $16 million at the box office.

"U.S. consumers usually buy plenty of junk over Thanksgiving -- movie tickets included. But the two standout films last week were buttressed by solid reviews. RottenTomatoes.com, which aggregates professional critics, has an 89 percent approval rating on 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire' with 'Frozen' coming in at 84 percent," the report notes.

The piece adds: "Last year, moviegoers were presented with 'Red Dawn,' and 'The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2,' which combined only came up with a fairly rotten 60 percent rating. Comparatively, they brought in $58 million."

The report notes that Lionsgate has the third and fourth movies in its "Hunger Games" series lined up for release during the next two Thanksgiving holiday weekends.

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Major Member of 'GMA' On-Air Team Leaving Show

A major member of the "Good Morning America" on-air team -- who has been with the show for the past 7 years -- is leaving.

"Our friend and colleague Sam Champion is leaving ABC News for a new opportunity at the Weather Channel," ABC News President Ben Sherwood wrote in a memo this morning, Monday, Dec. 2, 2013. "He will become the on-air face of the network, appearing as a host and serving as managing editor. Sam calls it a once in a lifetime opportunity."

Sherwood's memo continues: "For 25 years, Sam has been a vital member of the ABC News family -- joining powerhouse station WABC in 1988 and GMA in 2006.

"Over the years at GMA, Sam has broadcast more than 1,800 weather forecasts. He has traveled to almost every major weather event in the U.S. As many of you know, Sam’s 'Go' bag is always ready and his stellar reporting during Superstorm Sandy contributed to ABC's Peabody Award for coverage of that historic storm."

For its part, The Weather Channel, in its announcement of Champion joining its staff, said: "The award-winning journalist will anchor the network's new flagship morning show, which is set to debut in early 2014. Based at The Weather Channel headquarters in Atlanta, Champion will also assume Managing Editor responsibilities at the network."

The Weather Channel's announcment added: "The Weather Channel will debut its new morning show in early 2014, capitalizing on its position of having its strongest viewership occur during the mornings. The multi-hour show will leverage the network’s advancements in local content delivery, as well as its content partnerships, to help Americans get off to the right start daily, ready for any weather condition they may face."

Said Champion in an announcement: “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me to do what I love most at a network that lives and breathes the weather. The Weather Channel is currently undergoing an incredible renaissance, having recently rebranded its look and feel and transformed the way it presents the weather. While it is an extremely difficult decision for me to leave ABC and my ‘GMA’ family, I look forward to combining my interest in weather reporting and decades of experience to continue making The Weather Channel the premier destination for the more than 46 million weather enthusiasts and beyond. My ABC family could not have been more supportive and gracious during this transition."

sam champion.pngSam Champion

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Well-Known Televangelist Dies

A man who became a familiar presence on television as the face of the world’s largest Christian TV network has died. The New York Times reports that Paul Crouch, who founded the Trinity Broadcasting Network and grew it into a huge Christian television network, died at 79.

The network said Crouch had suffered for a decade from a degenerative heart disease.

Crouch, who founded Trinity with his wife, Janice, expanded the network from one station in California to thousands, but he came under criticism for excessive spending, the story notes. His granddaughter last year accused the network of financial improprieties.

The company expanded quickly after the couple bought their first station, KTBN-TV in Santa Ana, as they looked to technology such as satellite broadcasting as a means to reach more people, the story says. TBN currently airs on 84 satellite channels and more than 18,000 TV and cable affiliates.

Programming includes sermons from preachers such as Joel Osteen, while Crouch until recently hosted a show called “Behind the Scenes” and earlier this year interviewed former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum.

The company also owns the Orlando, Fla., theme park Holy Land Experience.

paul crouch and janice crouch.jpgPaul and Janice Crouch

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'Today' Show Veteran of More Than 20 Years Was Killed in New York Train Derailment on Sunday

The "Today [Show] lost a member of its family this weekend," reports Today.com.

The story continues, "One of the victims of the tragic train derailment in the Bronx was Jim Lovell, 58, an audio technician who frequently worked on 'Today' and other NBC programs. Lovell was on his way to work to do a setup for the Rockefeller Christmas tree lighting special when the train derailed."

That article adds, "Executive producer Don Nash shared the news in a note to the staff:

Jim worked on TODAY for over 20 years. He was not only a skilled technician but also one of the nicest guys you ever met. You may have seen him working at many of our outdoor concerts. He always had a smile on his face and was quick to share a friendly greeting.

Jim is survived by his wife, Nancy Montgomery, three sons, Hudson, Jack and Finn, and a daughter, Brooke. On behalf of all of us who had the pleasure of working with Jim, our deepest sympathies and condolences go out to all of them."

According to Riverdale Press in the Bronx,  "Four people were killed and 63 more were injured Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013, when an inbound Metro North train derailed just north of the Spuyten Duyvil train station on the banks of the Harlem River, according to Edward Kilduff, Chief of the Fire Department of New York."

jim-lovell-nbc1.jpgJim Lovell

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Roseanne Barr Goes on a Rant Over NBC Project, Says She's 'Never Going to Work in Television Again'

Comedian Roseanne Barr went on a rant over Thanksgiving, airing her discontent over a new sitcom project with NBC that’s co-written with “Nurse Jackie” showrunner Linda Wallem, reports Deadline.com.

“I’m never going to work in television again. I’m never going to even attempt it,” Barr said during the rant on Twitter.

She didn’t name Wallem specifically, but she complained that the “show runner disappeared for 7 weeks-never returned any calls from me-I was told she 'goes in2 a cave.’” Barr added that she was disappointed with the script, which had “hardly any jokes,” and said: “I didn’t connect with the characters.”

Barr, in tweets that have since been deleted, also attacked Anderson Cooper as “a toad” and criticized Matt Williams, the showrunner on “Roseanne,” Deadline notes.

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Car Involved in Death of Actor Paul Walker May Have Had a Mechanical Failure

The sports car in which actor Paul Walker died may have crashed because of a mechanical failure, reports TMZ.com.

“Sources connected to Always Evolving -- the shop co-owned by Walker and the Porsche driver Roger Rodas -- tell TMZ they saw evidence of a fluid burst and subsequent fluid trail before the skid marks at the accident scene,” the story notes.

The report adds: “The AE sources point to the fact there is a noticeable absence of skid marks until just before the point of impact. They say if Roger had lost control the skid marks would show swerving, but instead the marks were in a straight line. They feel this cements the theory the driver didn't have steering control.”

As we reported previously, Walker, 40, one of the stars of the “Fast & Furious” movies, died Saturday in a fiery crash. He and his friend, former race car driver Rodas, 38, were both killed when the red 2005 Porsche Carrera GT slammed into a light pole, hit a tree and exploded on impact.

paul walker 2.pngPaul Walker

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Celebrity Chef's Ex-Husband Says Drug Accusation Was a 'Terrible Mistake'

Charles Saatchi, the ex-husband of celebrity chef Nigella Lawson, said he had no knowledge of her ever taking drugs, despite writing an email that described her as drug-addled, reports the Associated Press.

Saatchi made the comments Friday at the trial of two former assistants to Lawson. They are accused of spending the couple’s money. As previously reported, the pair allege that they were allowed by Lawson to spend the money as a way to ensure their silence about her alleged drug use.

At the trial, Saatchi said it was a “terrible mistake” that he wrote in an email to Lawson claiming she was on drugs, AP notes. He added he has “never, never seen any evidence of Nigella taking any drug whatsoever."

nigella lawson 2.jpgNigella Lawson

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Older TV Writers Find a New Market

An older generation of television writers -- including those who worked on classic TV shows such as “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Kojak" -- are finding success in a new market: China, reports The Hollywood Reporter.

E! Entertainment co-founder Larry Namer has created a collective called Metan Wen Zhi Ku, which the article says means “Writing Mastermind.” It has organized about 2,000 older writers to pen content for Chinese audiences.

“While China's media business is developing at a rapid pace, core skills of storytelling are lacking," Namer told the publication. “We believe Metan Wen Zhi Ku will fill this void."

The story adds, “Namer has teamed with Art Eisenson and David Gittins, who head a group of writers who have penned such hits as ‘Miami Vice,’ ‘Hart to Hart’ and ‘Murder, She Wrote.’ While TV scripts often sell for just a few thousand dollars in China, for many of these talents it's a chance to reinvent their careers in the developing market.”

"This allows older writers to get their mojo back," Eisenson told the publication. "We understand television."

Some of the writers working for the group were part of a 2010 settlement of a class-action lawsuit, in which 165 TV writers alleged they were suffering from age discrimination, the story says.

Most writers won’t actually travel to China, the piece adds. Namer will spend much of the year there and will look for deals for the venture, the story notes.

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BBC America Renews Drama Series

BBC America has picked up a drama series for another season. Deadline.com reports that the cable channel renewed the British fantasy series “Atlantis” for season two.

The pickup comes after BBC America debuted the show Nov. 23, resulting in the network’s highest-rated series premiere for one of its “Supernatural Saturday” shows, the piece notes.

The drama, which is based on Greek mythology, drew 838,000 total viewers.

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ABC Family Gives Back Order to Series Ahead of Its Premiere

A new ABC Family drama doesn’t even have a premiere date yet, but the network has given it a back order for seven additional episodes.

Deadline.com reports that the cable channel gave the order to the series “Chasing Life,” meaning the first season will consist of 20 episodes.

The show is an adaptation of a Televisa series called “Terminales,” and stars Italia Ricci as a young newspaper reporter who is trying to balance family and work when she gets the news that she has cancer, the story says.

The series is set to bow sometime in early 2014.

italia ricci.jpgItalia Ricci

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'Doctor Who' Special Racks Up Millions in Theatrical Sales

The “Doctor Who” 50th anniversary special did plenty of business during its first weekend in theaters. Citing BBC Worldwide, Deadline.com reports that the theatrical airings grossed $10.2 million worldwide.

“The Day of the Doctor” was released in theaters along with airing on TV, the story notes. In the U.S., the film brought in $4.7 million in ticket sales last Monday, making it the second biggest film that day following “Catching Fire,” the piece notes.

doctor who-day of the doctor-2013.jpg"Day of the Doctor"

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Amazon Working on Drones to Deliver Packages -- Here's the Video

Amazon.com chief executive Jeff Bezos revealed on “60 Minutes” that his company has a secret research and development project: drones that will deliver packages to consumers 30 minutes after ordering, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The plan is still four or five years away from becoming reality, and must first go through more safety testing and receive FAA approvals, the story notes.

CBS News said the “60 Minutes” team, which included host Charlie Rose, didn’t know that Bezos was going to disclose the secret drone project.

“I only knew that there was a surprise coming," producer Draggan Mihailovich told ’60 Minutes Overtime.’ "I had no idea what it was. They kept saying over and over again, ‘Whatever you think it is, it isn't.’"

The drones, called “Octocopters,” look like “something out of a Philip K. Dick novel,” Mihailovich added.

Here's a video showing how the system will work:

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'Sherlock' Gets U.S. Premiere Date -- With a Much Smaller Window for Spoilers

The just-announced third-season U.S. premiere date for “Sherlock” on PBS means it will air two and a half weeks after its airdate in Britain, with season three set to bow in the U.S. Jan. 19, the Los Angeles Times’ Show Tracker reports.

The modern-day take on Sherlock Holmes stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional detective, who was last seen apparently plummeting to his death from a building’s roof. Dr. John Watson, played by Martin Freeman, witnesses his death.

The 18-day gap between the British and U.S. broadcasts of the third-season premiere will invite spoilers, the story notes, but it’s also an improvement on the four-month lag during the second season.

“Series star Cumberbatch has been vocal about his desire for the shows to run concurrently -- "it seems churlish, really, to deny savvy 'Sherlock' fans,’” the Times notes, citing an interview the actor gave earlier this year.

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How TNT Is Building Suspense for 'Mob City'

TNT is using a carefully mapped-out strategy to build suspense and an audience for “Mob City,” a new show from “The Walking Dead” creator Frank Darabont, reports The New York Times. The strategy focuses on social media.

The first episode’s script will be released in a Twitter stream starting today, Monday, the story notes. All of it will be put on the social media service except for its surprise ending, from the Twitter handle @MobCityTNT and using the hashtag #MobScript.

“[T]he final cliffhanger message will be posted 30 minutes before the show airs at 9 p.m. on Wednesday,” the story notes.

“Bringing the script to life in a different medium is designed to intrigue you so that you want to watch the premiere,” Tricia Melton, senior vice president for entertainment marketing and branding at TNT, TBS and Turner Classic Movies, told The Times. “But this brings a different level of context and I think that it elevates Twitter as a platform because it takes it to a different level of storytelling experience.”

Thumbnail image for frank darabont.jpgFrank Darabont

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Divorce Is Final for Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore

The eight-year marriage between actor Ashton Kutcher and actress Demi Moore is officially over, with their divorce final after two years of separation, reports TheWrap.com.

The marriage officially ended last Tuesday, with both actors agreeing not to pay spousal support. Moore, 51, in March had asked the court for financial support from Kutcher, which the piece calls “an unusual move” given that she was one of Hollywood’s highest-paid actresses in the 1990s.

Kutcher is the star of CBS’s “Two and a Half Men.”

ashton kutcher and demi moore.jpgAshton Kutcher and Demi Moore

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Video: Will Ferrell as Ron Burgundy Co-Anchors Real Newscast at TV Station in Bismarck, North Dakota

"Television viewers in Bismarck, N.D., were treated to some real class this weekend when none other than the great Ron Burgundy read them the news," reports Dirk Lammers for the Associated Press.

The article continues, "Actor and comedian Will Ferrell reprised his 'Anchorman' role for KXMB's Saturday night, Nov. 30, 2013,  news broadcast. The former 'Saturday Night Live' star is promoting 'Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,' a sequel to the 2004 film about a fictional news team's sexist reaction to the arrival of an ambitious female reporter."

The story also says, "Dressed in his signature rust-colored three-piece suit and a striped tie, Ferrell read stories off the teleprompter, punctuated them with exaggerated eye blinks and engaged in witty banter with weekend anchor Amber Schatz and the rest of the Bismarck news team."

You can see a video of the entire newscast below.

The article adds, "KXMB is one of two CBS-affiliated television stations serving central and western North Dakota. The Bismarck station shares programing with Minot's KXMC, but the two stations produce separate newscasts.

"Sales manager Tammy Blumhagen said Ferrell's agent contacted the station in May and asked if he could anchor or co-anchor a newscast as part of the promotion tour for 'Anchorman 2.' She's not sure why KXMB was selected. 'When they called us, we kind of jumped at the opportunity,' she said.

"No money changed hands, Blumhagen said, and both the movie and television station are garnering significant publicity from the numerous shares on Facebook and Twitter."

The story also notes that "Blumhagen said Ferrell was on board with maintaining the integrity of the newscast. Schatz, who typically anchors the weekend newscasts alone, said she didn't learn that she'd share the dais until Wednesday. It was a complete surprise to viewers."



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'Fast & Furious' Star Killed in Fiery Car Crash

One of the stars of the "Fast & Furious" movies was killed in a fiery car crash  in Valencia, Calif., on Saturday afternoon, according to a number of media reports.

Actor "Paul Walker, 40, and [his friend and colleague] former race car driver Roger Rodas, 38, were killed in a 2005 red Porsche Carrera GT Saturday afternoon when Rodas lost control of the supercar on a street in an industrial park in Valencia. The car slammed into a light pole, hit a tree and exploded on impact, just before 3:30 p.m.," reports the Los Angeles Daily News.

Walker was best known for playing Brian O'Conner in the "Fast & Furious" movie franchise.

According to the story, a statement on Walker's Facebook page said, "It is with a truly heavy heart that we must confirm that Paul Walker passed away today in a tragic car accident while attending a charity event for his organization Reach Out Worldwide. He was a passenger in a friend’s car, in which both lost their lives."

The story adds, "The two were partners in a custom car shop in Santa Clarita, Always Evolving, and had been at a charity event at the business prior to the collision, in support of a winter toy drive."

The article also notes that Walker's "Fast & Furious" colleague Vin Diesel tweeted, “Brother, I will miss you very much. Heaven has gained a new angel. Rest in peace."

The story adds: "Walker, a Glendale native, also starred in the suspense drama 'Hours,' which is set for release this month. ... Walker began his career as a child model at the age of two, and as a young adult took supporting roles in films including 'She’s All That' and 'Varsity Blues.' "

Walker had also been in a number of TV shows during his career, including National Geographic Channel's "Expedition Great White" series.

Walker leaves behind a 15-year-old daughter, Meadow, the article says.

TMZ.com first reported Walker's death.

paul walker-custom car.jpgPaul Walker

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