January 2014

Bombshell: Chris Christie Knew About the Lane Closings, Says David Wildstein, Christie's Former Appointee to the Port Authority

"The former Port Authority official who personally oversaw the lane closings on the George Washington Bridge in the scandal now swirling around Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey said on Friday that 'evidence exists' the governor knew about the lane closings when they were happening," reports The New York Times.

The article reports: "In a letter released by his lawyer, the former official, David Wildstein, a high school friend of Mr. Christie’s who was appointed with the governor’s blessing at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which controls the bridge, described the order to close the lanes as 'the Christie administration’s order' and said 'evidence exists as well tying Mr. Christie to having knowledge of the lane closures, during the period when the lanes were closed, contrary to what the governor stated publicly in a two-hour press conference' three weeks ago."

Adds the Washington Post: "The letter, written to the Port Authority general counsel by Wildstein's lawyer, Alan Zegas, disputes the agency's decision not to pay Wildstein's legal fees during the state and federal investigations into the scandal."

The Post story continues: "Suspicions about Christie's involvement with the lane closures began when The Wall Street Journal and the Bergen Record released e-mails between Christie's recently fired deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, and Wildstein, one of which said, 'Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.'

"In a news conference Jan. 9, Christie denied knowledge of his staffers' involvement in the lane closures, adding, 'I am embarrassed and humiliated by the conduct of some of the people on my team.'"

chris christie.jpgGov. Chris Christie

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Video: Budweiser's New Super Bowl Commercial Already Has Almost 25 Million Views

Budweiser has positioned itself near the head of the pack -- again -- among Super Bowl advertisers with a new commercial that has become a huge hit online. The latest "Puppy Love" spot already has close to 25 million views on YouTube, just two days after its release.

See for yourself:

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CBS's 'Two and a Half Men' and 'Crazy Ones' Match All-Time Lows

CBS saw a number of shows lose ratings momentum Thursday night, based on Nielsen overnights for the key 18-49 demo. But TVbytheNumbers.com reports that even with two shows equaling their all-time lows in the demo, CBS was able to win the night.

"The Big Bang Theory" gets a lot of credit for the CBS win. Even losing six-tenths of a ratings point from its previous original episode, "Bang's" 5.1 average in 18-49 was by far the best number for any show on broadcast Thursday night. The closest any other program came was a 3.1 average for Fox's "American Idol," which was down three-tenths from a week ago.

CBS's "Two and a Half Men" and "The Crazy Ones" both delivered 1.9 averages in the 18-49 demo, with both shows falling a half-point from their previous originals and both matching their series lows. "The Millers" was also down a half-point, to a 2.8 average. "Elementary" equaled its previous 2.0.

Fox led out from "Idol" with "Rake," which dipped four-tenths from last week to a 1.3 average in viewers 18-49.

NBC got its best result from its two-hour special "Saturday Night Live Presents: an 'SNL' Sports Spectacular," which delivered a 1.8 average in the 18-49 demo. "Community" and "Parks & Recreation" both matched last week's numbers -- a 1.1 for "Community" and a 1.2 for "Parks."

ABC's two-hour "The Taste" slipped one-tenth from a week ago to a 1.0 -- the same number delivered by a "Shark Tank" repeat at 10 p.m.

For prime time overall, CBS led the broadcast nets with a 2.6 average in adults 18-49, followed by Fox (2.2 average), NBC (1.6), Univision (1.3) and ABC (1.0). CBS won total viewers with 11.3 million, ahead of Fox (8.3 million), NBC (4.2 million), ABC (3.6 million) and Univision (3.2 million).

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NBC Expands Order for Drama Series

NBC has increased its order for a new drama series. The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed reports that the network has ordered additional episodes of "Chicago P.D."

"The 'Chicago Fire' spinoff, which has averaged 6.8 million viewers and a 1.7 rating in the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demo, will get two additional episodes to its rookie-season order, bringing the episode total to 15," the story reports. "'Chicago P.D.,' from executive producer Dick Wolf, centers on uniformed police patrol and the Intelligence Unit that pursues the perpetrators of the city's major street offenses."

The show's cast includes Jason Beghe, Sophia Bush, Jon Seda, Patrick Flueger, Jesse Lee Soffer and Elias Koteas.

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CBS Unveils Plans for Letterman Beatles Celebration

CBS has taken the wraps off its high-profile celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' first "Ed Sullivan Show" appearance, back in 1964. In honor of the occasion, a number of top recording artists will pay tribute to the Beatles next week on "Late Show with David Letterman."

Letterman's show tapes at the Ed Sullivan Theater, the site of the group's historic U.S. performance. Among those participating in the weeklong celebration will be Sting, Lenny Kravitz, the Flaming Lips, Sean Lennon and Broken Bells -- made up of the Shins' James Mercer and producer Brian Burton, or Danger Mouse.

Please click here to read the full press release from CBS, which includes the latest schedule of appearances and the Beatles songs that will be performed.

beatles-1964.jpgThe Beatles

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The Most Famous Super Bowl Commercial Ever -- Called '1984' and Introducing Apple's Macintosh Computer -- Ran 30 Years Ago. Most Believe That Outside of That One Airing It Was Never Shown on TV Again, Except in Highlight Reels. Not So. Read the Truth Now

This Sunday commemorates what many believe is truly a landmark event in advertising. It was in the Super Bowl 30 years ago that Apple ran the most famous Super Bowl commercial ever, a 60-second spot entitled "1984," introducing the Macintosh computer.

Most people believe that, outside of subsequent airings in various highlight reels, that was the only time the commercial aired on TV.

No so. Here's an article from The New York Times by Philip H. Dougherty that was published on Monday, Jan. 23, 1984, the day after that year's Super Bowl:

"Yesterday's Super Bowl telecast marked the opening of a far bigger competition than a mere football tussle: International Business Machines vs. Apple for dominance in the personal computer market.

"Each entered a 60-second commercial with the time alone costing more than $800,000 for each advertiser.

"In the process, the world learned that Lord, Geller, Federico, Einstein, the I.B.M. agency, is once again using the Charlie Chaplin character for PC jr, its new entry. But instead of Gary Merrill as the voice-over, this new campaign features the voice of Estelle Parsons. A baby carriage was also included in the spot for ''the bright little edition to the family.''

"The spot for Apple's Macintosh can only be described as something else. It was created by Chiat/Day ..."

Dougherty then went on to describe the commercial, which you can see below.

Then he wrote, "Since the $400,000 production was scheduled to be played only about 18 times in 11 markets, Jay Chiat was asked, 'How can one amortize the cost of the spot in such a short time?' 'What we are amortizing,' he responded, 'is the future of the company. If we don't do well, I.B.M. will own it all.' "

Fred Goldberg, himself a legendary adman, worked at Chiat/Day at the time and in his memoir, "The Insanity of Advertising: Memoirs of a Mad Man," which was just published at the end of last year, confirms that the famous "1984" commercial was indeed seen repeatedly on TV after the Super Bowl on a limited ad schedule in selected cities.

Goldberg also writes, "Steve Hayden, creative person extraordinaire and then copywriter on the Apple account, gets most of the credit for conceiving the idea. Brent Thomas, responsible for the brilliant art direction in the commercial, along with Lee Clow, a uniquely exceptional art director and creative director at Chiat/Day, gets some credit too. Ridley Scott, the director who actually shot the spot, brought much to the production as well."

Then Goldberg adds this interesting information: "The fact is that an art director and copywriter working in the Chiat/Day San Francisco office on the Apple account a year and a half earlier had come up with the idea, before Macintosh was even a reality. Art director Mike Moser and copywriter Gary Gussick created an ad in 1982 for the Apple III computer: 'Why 1984 Won't Be Like 1984.'

"Steve Jobs saw the concept and rejected it. He didn't feel the product it featured lived up to the revolutionary claim. Boy was he right, as the Apple III died a slow, excruciating death thereafter, not being a very elegant computing solution."

Goldberg then writes that the ad concept was resurrected for the Macintosh.

Here's the "1984" commercial introducing the Macintosh, from YouTube:


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Which Is the Most Trusted News Network? How About Least Trusted? Yep, They're the Same Network -- Again

One news network ranks as both the most trusted and the least trusted news network for the third year running, reports TVNewser, citing a poll from Public Policy Polling. That network is Fox News, which has a big lead in both categories.

“The poll found 35% of Americans trust Fox News more than other TV outlets, with PBS (14%), ABC (11%), CNN (10%), CBS (9%), MSNBC and Comedy Central tying at 6%, and NBC (3%) rounding out the list,” the story says.

Among Republicans, the number of people who view it as trustworthy was particularly high, with 69% of Republicans saying it’s their most trusted network.

“FNC also leads the way as least trusted: 33% ranked it as their least trusted network, followed by MSNBC (19%), Comedy Central (14%), CNN (11%), ABC (5%), CBS (4%), and a tie for NBC and PBS at 2%,” the piece adds.

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CNN Reviving a Show That's Been Off the Air for Almost a Decade

CNN is resurrecting a show from almost a decade ago. TVNewser reports that the cable news channel will bring back “Inside Politics,” which ended a 20-year run on CNN in 2005.

The show will return with John King as its anchor, the story reports. “Inside Politics” is the second show that CNN has recently revived, following its revamp of “Crossfire,” which was also canceled in 2005.

"Inside Politics" will debut Sunday at 8:30 a.m. ET, and will feature King with a rotating panel of political reporters. “Inside Politics” ended its run in 2005 when host Judy Woodruff opted not to renew her contract.

“I’m honored to be part of bringing ‘Inside Politics’ back to CNN, with a focus on ahead-of-the-curve political reporting,” King said in a statement. “It’s a fascinating time in American politics, in Washington and across the country, and we have a remarkable group of journalists committed to sharing their reporting and their insights each week.”

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for john-king.jpgJohn King

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'Dukes of Hazzard' Star Rails Against Reality Show, Calling It a 'Slimy, Semi-Obscene Fake Show'

One of the regulars on the hit 1970s-1980s series “The Dukes of Hazzard” is lashing out at a reality show. EW.com’s Inside TV reports that Ben Jones, who portrayed the mechanic Cooter on "Dukes," came down hard on CMT's new show “Party Down South."

In an open letter to CMT and Viacom, Jones, a former Georgia congressman, calls the series "cultural pornography," a "vile travesty" and “a slimy, semi-obscene fake show from the people who put out 'Jersey Shore.' It is about a bunch of trashy, foul-mouthed morons. It is another massive insult to the South, created by New Yorkers and 'green-lighted' by people in Los Angeles.”

Jones wants CMT to stop promoting the reality show, which is set in South Carolina, during its airings of old “Dukes of Hazzard” episodes.

“Since 1979 America's parents have trusted us with their children. CMT has thoughtlessly violated that trust. Enough is enough,” he wrote.

He added, “There are maybe a million kids watching it on CMT every night. But at every commercial break those kids are being exposed to some of the sleaziest advertising I've ever seen."

EW reported that it had asked CMT for a response, but hadn’t yet heard back.

party down south-cast.png"Party Down South"

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Emmy-Nominated TV and Film Composer Dead at 83 -- His Work Was Featured on 'Kojak,' 'Hawaii Five-0,' 'Columbo' and Many Other Shows

A composer whose work was familiar to millions of viewers through a series of hit television shows has died. Deadline.com reports that John Cacavas, who wrote scores for films and television shows including the 1970s series “Kojak,” died Jan. 28 at his home in Beverly Hills. He was 83.

“The South Dakota native scored numerous TV series and films throughout his career beginning with the 1972 feature ‘Horror Express,’” the story reports. “He went on to score the next two movies in the ‘Airport’ franchise, ‘Airport 1975’ and ‘Airport ’77.’”

His strong friendship with “Kojak” star Telly Savalas led to his role writing scores for the television series, which ran from 1973 to 1978. His other TV work included "Hawaii Five-0," "The Bionic Woman," “Matlock,” “Columbo” and “Quincy.”

He earned two Emmy nominations for original music for a series, with one stemming from a “Kojak” episode and the other for a police series called “Eischied.”

The piece adds: “Cacavas also guest conducted for or had his music performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Boston Pops, the Manhattan Pops, the symphonies of Vancouver, Detroit, San Francisco, Milwaukee and Miami.”

john cacavas.pngJohn Cacavas

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MSNBC Fires Employee Who Sent Out Controversial Tweet

MSNBC has fired the employee who sent out a tweet that dipped into racially sensitive territory, The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports.

As previously reported, MSNBC deleted the tweet after receiving complaints from conservatives about the message, which focused on a Cheerios Super Bowl ad that depicts a biracial family. The tweet read, “Maybe the rightwing will hate it, but everyone else will go awww: the adorable new #Cheerios ad w/ biracial family."

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus responded to the tweet by calling for a Republican boycott of the network. In a letter to MSNBC President Phil Griffin sent Thursday morning, Priebus complained that MSNBC had been engaging in “demeaning attacks” against Republicans.

“With increasing frequency many of your hosts have personally denigrated and demeaned Americans -- especially conservative and Republican Americans -- without even attempting to further meaningful political dialogue,” Priebus wrote.

Griffin responded with a statement that said the tweet was “outrageous and unacceptable.” He added: "We have dismissed the person responsible for the tweet. I personally apologize to Mr. Priebus and to everyone offended. At MSNBC we believe in passionate, strong debate about the issues and we invite voices from all sides to participate. That will never change."

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MTV Fills High-Level Programming Post

MTV has named a veteran television executive to a key programming position. TheWrap.com reports that the cable channel hired BBC veteran Elli Hakami to oversee reality series development.

Hakami joins MTV as executive VP of current series and programming.

"In the role, she will head reality series creation and development on the East Coast alongside MTV’s executive development team," the story reports. "Hakami will be based in New York and report to MTV’s programming president Susanne Daniels."

In a statement, Daniels said: “Over the course of her career, Elli has built a great reputation for delivering incredibly rich and diverse programming during her time with BBC Worldwide Productions, Discovery Channel, TruTV and more. Her expertise and instincts for finding and developing unique unscripted shows and franchises will be an amazing addition to our creative team at MTV.”

Said Hakami: “I have always admired MTV’s ability to innovate and create break through content so I am thrilled to join Susanne and the MTV team.”

"Hakami comes to MTV after working at BBC Worldwide Productions as its senior vice president of programming and production," the report adds. "In that role, she managed the development, talent and production teams for BBC’s unscripted department. During her time at the company, Hakami developed several popular series, including TLC’s 'What Not to Wear,' BBC 2's 'Richard Hammond’s Crash Course,' HBO’s 'Americans in Bed' and National Geographic’s 'Life Below Zero.'”

elli hakami.pngElli Hakami

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Amazon Eyes Price Hike for Its Premium Service

Amazon is contemplating a significant increase in its fee for its premium service Amazon Prime. Citing a comment from Chief Financial Officer Tom Szkutak, Deadline.com reports that the fee, which is now $79 per year, could go up by as much as $40.

Nothing has been decided, Szkutak added. The current price has remained in place for nine years, while delivery and other costs have increased during that time, the story notes.

Amazon’s fourth-quarter earnings “failed to deliver, at least as measured by Wall Street’s optimistic expectations,” the piece adds. Revenue came in at $25.6 billion, lower than analysts’ expectations for $26.1 billion. Earnings were 51 cents per share, below the forecast of 66 cents.

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CBS Orders CIA Project From Producers of 'Revenge' and 'Bates Motel'

CBS has greenlighted an untitled CIA drama project from Nikki Toscano of “Revenge” and Kerry Ehrin of “Bates Motel,” The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports.

CBS ordered a pilot for the project, which is about a retired CIA operative who returns to work after Washington, D.C., is hit by a terrorist event. Toscano will write the script and executive produce, while Ehrin will serve as a consultant.

The project marks the fourth drama pilot order for CBS this season.

“Terrorism-themed series have continued to remain hot since Showtime’s 'Homeland' broke through,” the piece notes.

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Embattled Time Warner Cable Promises Major Service Upgrades in Its Two Biggest Markets, New York and Los Angeles -- Here Are the Details

"Time Warner Cable is planning major upgrades to its Los Angeles and New York operations," reports our good friend Joe Flint in the Los Angeles Times' Company Town blog.

The story reports: "The cable giant, which is resisting a takeover attempt by Charter Communications, said Thursday [Jan. 30, 2014] it will be substantially boosting Internet speeds and its video-on-demand platforms. The improvements in Time Warner Cable's two biggest markets are part of an overall three-year plan to upgrade its systems across the nation."

To read Time Warner Cable's official press release about these two upgrades, please click here.

The story explains that Time Warner "officials said the company is converting its network in Southern California to all-digital, which means any customers that have no cable box and connect directly to a wall outlet will need to get a set-top adapter to receive TV service. The move, Time Warner Cable said, allows for more bandwidth that can then be redeployed for faster broadband.

"The pay-TV distributor said it is also going to make its video-on-demand platform easier to navigate and will boost its library of content to about 75,000 hours of product. Time Warner Cable will also start to offer advanced set-top boxes that can record up to six channels at the same time, officials said. Currently, most customers can only record two channels at the same time."

The story also says: "In Southern California, the first two areas to be overhauled are to be West Hollywood and Costa Mesa."

We urge any Time Warner Cable subscribers, in New York City and Los Angeles especially, both to click on our link to the story in our first paragraph, above, and to click here to read Time Warner Cable's official press release about the upgrades.

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WGN America Secures Rights to CBS Detective Series

WGN America has bought the rerun rights to a CBS detective series. Variety reports that the network, which is working to build out its programming slate, secured the rights to "Elementary."

WGN’s purchase of the Sherlock Holmes detective series comes soon after it bought the rights to “Person of Interest,” another CBS drama, the story notes. “The deals are part of the effort by the new regime at Tribune to make over WGN America into a home for original and acquired drama series,” the piece adds.

The report notes: “The WGN America pact also ensures that ‘Elementary,’ now in its second year, will be renewed for a third season on CBS (not that there was much doubt).”

The reruns will likely begin after the show wraps up its third year on the network, the story adds.

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South by Southwest Festival Adds TV to Its Agenda

The South by Southwest festival, which has focused on film, interactive projects and music, will add television to its annual programming, reports The New York Times.

The new tier will be called “Episodic” and will debut this year, providing previews of six series. Those shows will include HBO’s “Silicon Valley” and the pilot of Robert Rodriguez’ “From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series,” which is slated for the El Rey Network, the piece adds.

The TV and film portion will run from March 7-15 at the festival, which is held in Austin, Texas.

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Amanda Knox, Her Murder Conviction Reinstated, Sets Exclusive TV Interview

One day after an Italian appeals court reinstated her murder conviction, Amanda Knox was scheduled for a sitdown interview this morning, Friday, Jan. 31, 2014, with “Good Morning America” to speak with host Robin Roberts about the ruling, The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports.

Knox was first found guilty in 2009 of murdering her British roommate in 2007, while both were studying in Italy. Her conviction was overturned in 2011, allowing her to be freed from prison and to return to the U.S. Because Italy’s superior court vacated the overturn, the case was sent back for a third trial, the piece notes.

Knox’s story was the subject of a Lifetime movie starring Hayden Panettiere, “Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy.”

amanda-knox.jpgAmanda Knox

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Two ABC Series Hit All-Time Ratings Lows; Fox Rolls, Even With 'Idol' Down

Fox rolled to an easy ratings victory Wednesday night even as its "American Idol" lost a little ground, based on Nielsen overnights for the key 18-49 demo. Meanwhile, ABC struggled as two of its shows equaled or surpassed their all-time lows in the demo.

TVbytheNumbers.com reports that ABC's "Suburgatory" matched its series low, falling three-tenths from last week in viewers 18-49 to a 1.5 average rating. "Super Fun Night" was off four-tenths, hitting a series-low 1.3.

ABC's "Nashville" bucked the trend, ticking up one-tenth from last week to a 1.5 in the 18-49 demo.

Fox's two-hour "American Idol" slipped two-tenths from last Wednesday's number in adults 18-49, settling for a 3.8 average -- still easily the best number for any show on the broadcast networks.

NBC saw "Revolution" match its season low in the 18-49 demo with a 1.3 average, down two-tenths of a ratings point from last week. "Law & Order: SVU" inched up one-tenth to a 1.9, while "Chicago PD" also ticked up one-tenth, to a 1.7.

CBS aired mostly repeats, with its only fresh program, "Super Bowl's Greatest Commercials," generating a 1.9 average in 18-49, one-tenth below last year's installment.

For prime time overall, Fox's 3.8 average led the 18-49 demo, followed by NBC (1.6 average), ABC (1.5), CBS (1.4) and Univision (1.3). Fox also rolled to a big win in total viewers, averaging 12.4 million to lead CBS (7.5 million), NBC (6.5 million), ABC (5.2 million) and Univision (3.2 million).

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'Sharknado' Stars Return for Sequel

Syfy is hoping to recapture the magic of the attention-grabbing "Sharknado," which became a cult sensation in 2013. To that end, the cable channel has lined up the two top stars of the original -- Tara Reid and Ian Ziering -- for "Sharknado 2: The Second One," The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed reports.

The sequel, set in New York, is due to premiere in July, with Ziering and Reid again playing Fin and April.

"Anthony Ferrante will also return to direct the sequel from a screenplay by Thunder Levin, who also penned the 2013 original telepic that made a splash on social media," THR reports. "In 'Sharknado 2,' a freak weather system turns deadly fury on New York City, unleashing a 'sharknado' on the population and its most iconic sites, with Fin and April the only ones able to save the city."

Said Thomas Vitale, Syfy executive VP, programming and original movies: “'Sharknado' was an extraordinary ‘perfect storm,’ which captured the attention of movie fans across the globe. You couldn’t go anywhere without hearing about 'Sharknado'! By reassembling the creative team -- and dropping sharks onto New York’s iconic sites -- we’re unleashing yet another ‘fin’ wave of shark-mania."

Production is set to start Feb. 13 in New York.

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'SNL' Alum's New Series Challenges the Traditional TV Business Model

A former cast member on NBC's "Saturday Night Live" is returning to series television with a project he hopes "shakes up Hollywood."

Nellie Andreeva reports on Deadline.com that actor and comedian Rob Schneider is "self-financing and starring in an eight-episode independently produced comedy series he co-wrote with his wife, Mexican writer-producer Patricia Azarcoya Schneider, who will co-star on the show, and his friend, comedian Jamie Lissow."

Schneider's 2012 sitcom "Rob," which had a short run on CBS, has some parallels to the new project, which is loosely based on Schneider's life and, like "Rob," will feature a professional actress in the role of his wife.

"But the similarities end there," Andreeva writes. "'Rob,' which is the subject of a joke in the pilot of the new series, was a traditional multi-camera, multi-generational sitcom about a guy, his Mexican wife and his in-laws. As the title of the new series, 'Real Rob,' indicates, it is a more honest portrayal of 'an exaggerated version of my life,' Schneider said."

Schneider adds: “I’m not afraid to expose aspects of my life; this is close to the bone.”

"The single-camera, documentary-style half-hour is edgier, geared to cable networks," Andreeva writes. "It centers on Rob, playing a version of himself, his Mexican wife Patricia, also playing herself, Rob’s incompetent assistant whom he cannot fire because he is his friend, and Rob’s personal stalker. The narrative is punctuated by Schneider doing stand-up bits in the vein of FX’s 'Louie' and the early years of 'Seinfeld.'"

All eight scripts, written by the Schneiders and Lissow, are reportedly done, and casting is under way. Shooting is set to start March 3 in L.A. and Florida.

A key focus for the independent production has been keeping costs down. Said Schneider: “The biggest expense on 'Rob' was Rob Schneider, and we managed to cut that cost down to zero."

Andreeva adds: "To mount a series production without the backing of a studio, the Schneiders have relied on help from friends. Schneider is footing most of the bill as 'the majority shareholder on the show' -- 'I’m putting my money where my mouth is,' he said -- but he also has silent financial partners. Also helping out are veteran casting director and former Warner Bros. head of casting Marcia Ross, who is doing the casting, and Mexican cinematographer Carlos Hidalgo Valdes, who is behind the camera. Everyone is getting paid below their regular rate but 'we will all share in success,' Schneider said."

Schneider reportedly has plans to distribute the show internationally, and has his eye on outlets including FX, HBO, Showtime and Netflix.

Said Schneider: “If I pull this off, other actors are going to realize that they can go around the networks and studios and get their shows out to the public. This is an important step in artists controlling their own destiny.”

rob schneider.jpgRob Schneider

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MTV Picks Up Drama Series

MTV is adding to its lineup of scripted dramas. EW.com's Inside TV reports that the cable channel has picked up the unconventional family drama series "Finding Carter."

Based on a script by "Bones" writer Emily Silver, the show comes from executive producer Terri Minsky of "Sex and the City."

"The first drama series MTV has announced this year, 'Finding Carter' is a coming-of-age story about a teenager named Carter (Kathryn Prescott) who seemingly has the perfect life with fun-loving single mom Lori (Milena Govich), until the police bust a high school party and it’s discovered that Lori abducted Carter as a toddler," the story reports. "Now, Carter must return to the family who thought they had lost her. As she navigates brand-new parents, a twin sister, high school, and boys, she vows to find Lori before the only mom she’s ever known is gone forever."

The cast includes Cynthia Watros, Alexis Denisof, Anna Jacoby-Heron and Zac Pullam. The show will take a place in MTV's scripted lineup with "Awkward" and "Teen Wolf."

kathryn-prescott.jpgKathryn Prescott

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MSNBC Deletes Racially Charged Tweet

MSNBC has deleted a tweet that ventures into racially sensitive territory after receiving complaints from conservatives, TheWrap.com reports.

The tweet, posted Wednesday, refers to an upcoming Super Bowl ad for Cheerios, and says: “Maybe the rightwing will hate it, but everyone else will go awww: the adorable new #Cheerios ad w/ biracial family."

"Conservatives took offense, and many began tweeting pictures of their multiracial families. 'Self-unaware overload,' wrote Twitchy founder Michelle Malkin," TheWrap reports. "MSNBC quickly backtracked and deleted the offending tweet. The social media account apologized, tweeting that it didn’t reflect the network’s position."

@msnbc tweeted this apology: “We are deleting the earlier offensive tweet. It does not reflect msnbc’s position and we apologize."

MSNBC.com Executive Editor Richard Wolffe later tweeted about the controversy, writing: “The Cheerios tweet from @msnbc was dumb, offensive and we’ve taken it down. That’s not who we are at msnbc.”

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Jerry Seinfeld Confirms Some Sort of 'Seinfeld' Reunion. George Is Involved, as Is Larry David. Yada Yada. Could It Have Something to Do With the Super Bowl? Leno's Last Night? Fallon's First Night? Or?

Jerry Seinfeld has confirmed a "Seinfeld" reunion as part of a secret project.

Appearing today, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2013, on WFAN radio's “Boomer & Carton” show in New York, Seinfeld was asked about the fact that he and Jason Alexander were photographed outside Tom’s Restaurant at 112th and Broadway earlier this month. The exterior of Tom's was used for the fictional "Monk's" restaurant in the long-running "Seinfeld" series.

Seinfeld said during the radio show appearance that the upcoming reunion is unrelated to his ongoing Web series "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee."

The following is from a news story that has been posted on the CBS New York website:

"Boomer & Carton" producer Al Dukes somehow convinced [Jerry Seinfeld] to participate in a game of 20 questions.

Was it filmed?

“Yes it was. It was filmed.”

Were other Seinfeld characters involved?

“Yes there were.”

Was it a short-form or a long-form filming?

“It’s a short-ish form.”

Was Jason Alexander playing George or himself?

“George.”

Was Larry David involved?

“He was involved.”

Was he on camera?

“No.”

Was his voice heard?

“No.”

When will we see this?

“Very, very soon.”

Was this a one-and-done or will there be more?

“I think it’s one-and-done.”

Is it longer than 60 seconds?

“Yes.”

Was Jason surprised to get the phone call for this?

“No, he remembers that he played that character for many years. He was not surprised that he was asked to play George.”

This filming, was it all done at the table?

“No, there were other locations.”

Seinfeld’s apartment?

“No.”

So there you have it. Sort of.

Perusing the Internet we've seen a number of suggestions that this "reunion" of sorts may have something to do with programming or a commercial in or surrounding the Super Bowl, which will be broadcast, on Fox, this coming Sunday, Feb. 2, from the New York area.

Thinking of other momentous events coming up, we here at TVWeek wonder whether this special project may have something to do with Jay Leno's final night as host of the "Tonight" show, or, similarly, Jimmy Fallon's first night as Jay's successor. Or maybe something to do with the upcoming Winter Olympics on NBC? That one we doubt.

jason alexander-jerry seinfeld-NYC.jpgJason Alexander, left, and Jerry Seinfeld in New York recently in front of Tom's Restaurant

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Former CNN Host Larry King Offers a Surprising (Albeit Tongue-in-Cheek) Solution to CNN's Ratings Woes

Larry King, who worked at CNN for more than two decades, told HuffPost Live that the network “has problems,” referring to the cable news channel's ratings struggles, TVNewser reports.

“I don’t know what they’re going to do,” he said in the video interview. But he did offer a possible solution, albeit tongue-in-cheek.

King joked that CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker should turn to cartoons. “Put ‘Spongebob’ on CNN -- 24 hours -- until a big story breaks. Then we break into ‘SpongeBob,’ and go to the hurricane, and then back to ‘SpongeBob,’” King said.

larry king.pngLarry King

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More Legal Problems for Justin Bieber -- Singer Charged With Assault

Teen superstar Justin Bieber’s trouble with the authorities continues to mount, with the pop singer turning himself in Wednesday at a Toronto police station to face allegations in an assault case, People magazine reports.

Bieber was met with paparazzi and fans as he stepped out of a black SUV and entered the station, the story says.

CBC News in Toronto reported that Bieber was charged with assault in the case, noting that the charges stem from a fight between a limo driver and a passenger on Dec. 30, when the passenger allegedly hit the limo driver in the head several times. The driver stopped and called police, but the passenger had left by the time the officials arrived, the story notes.

Bieber left through a back door in the police building about two hours after he arrived, the piece reports.

Scooter Braun, Bieber’s manager, tweeted that he hopes the public will “be kind and hope for the best in people” and "not assume the worst." Bieber’s attorney in Canada said he believes the singer’s case will be handled as a low-level offense.

"Our position is that Mr. Bieber is innocent," the attorney said in a written statement. "As the matter is now before the courts, it would be inappropriate to address the specifics of either the allegation or the defense at this time."

As previously reported, Bieber was recently arrested in Miami and charged with driving under the influence, among other charges. He also faces an investigation into an alleged egging incident after a complaint by a neighbor living near Bieber's Calabasas, Calif., home.

justin bieber-bw.pngJustin Bieber

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Is the Fonz Headed Back to Broadcast Prime? One Network Is Holding a Spot for Him

The actor who played one of television's most iconic sitcom characters has a spot lined up for what would be a high-profile return to prime time.

Deadline.com reports that ABC has ordered a pilot for “The Winklers,” a family comedy from “Everybody Loves Raymond” creator Phil Rosenthal and Max Winkler, the son of “Happy Days” star Henry Winkler.

The project, which is also from actor Rob Reinis, was created with Henry Winkler in mind, and although the actor who starred as the Fonz on "Happy Days" doesn’t have an acting deal yet in place, he’s expected to star in the pilot. Rosenthal will possibly direct the pilot.

The story reports: “It centers on an emotionally reserved construction worker who learns about love, life and hugs while unexpectedly living with his in-laws -- Henry ... and Stacey Winkler. (In real life, Henry Winkler has been married to his wife, Stacey, for more than 35 years.)”

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for henry-winkler.pngHenry Winkler

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Long-Running Fox Drama Series Renewed -- Possibly for the Last Time

Fox announced the renewal of a long-running drama series. EW.com's Inside TV reports that the network picked up a 10th season of “Bones."

“Our viewers have embraced Emily, David and the entire cast and characters of 'Bones' as their very own, and I think they are going to love what Hart Hanson and Stephen Nathan have planned for Season 10!” Fox Entertainment Chairman Kevin Reilly said.

Reilly told reporters earlier this month that the 10th season of “Bones” would likely be the show’s last, but the Fox press release didn’t mention when or if the series would end after the following season, the story adds.

Fox will move the show to Mondays starting March 10.

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Sitcom Veteran Lands Lead in CBS's Secretary of State Project

CBS has cast an actress known for her sitcom work and for a series of feature films in the title role for its new project about a female Secretary of State. TheWrap.com reports that Tea Leoni will star in the drama pilot “Madam Secretary,” which earlier this week earned a pilot order from the network.

Leoni will play the U.S. Secretary of State, a maverick who deals with a complex family life as well as international diplomacy, the story says. The project is from “Joan of Arcadia” creator Barbara Hall, who is writing and executive producing, as well as executive producers Morgan Freeman, Lori McCreary and Tracy Mercer.

Leoni starred in the comedy series "The Naked Truth," which aired on ABC and NBC in the 1990s. She previously starred on the short-lived Fox sitcom "Flying Blind."

She has also appeared in feature films including "Deep Impact," "Jurassic Park III," "Flirting With Disaster" and "Tower Heist."

tea leoni.jpgTea Leoni

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'Dexter' Star Finds Next Role

One of the stars of the Showtime drama series “Dexter” star has found her next role. The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports that the new role will keep actress Jennifer Carpenter in law enforcement.

Carpenter, who played detective Debra Morgan on “Dexter” for eight seasons, will star in ABC’s drama pilot “Sea of Fire,” portraying FBI Agent Leah Pierce.

Pierce is described as a blunt, eccentric woman who lacks people skills, unlike her partner, Marty. She and Marty are called in to investigate the disappearance of a young girl, with Pierce ending up alienating the townspeople with her frank questions.

The project is based on the Dutch show “Vuurzee,” which is about three teenage girls who star in a pornographic film, which leads to a murder, a disappearance, and other secrets, the piece notes.

jennifer carpenter.pngJennifer Carpenter

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CBS Orders Comedy From Ben Affleck and Matt Damon

CBS has ordered a comedy project that will be executive produced by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon through their Pearl Street Films. The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports that the network ordered the pilot, “More Time with Family."

The project stars comedian Tom Papa as a husband and father who makes changes to spend more time with his family. The project is also executive produced by Dave Becky and Josh Lieberman of 3 Arts, while Josh Goldsmith and Cathy Yuspa will write and executive produce with Papa.

Papa, who previously worked with Damon on the HBO film “Behind the Candelabra” and in the film “The Informant!,” was the host of NBC’s “The Marriage Ref” and also starred in the comedy “Come to Papa.”

While Affleck had been slated to direct, he recently pulled out because of a schedule conflict with the “Man of Steel” sequel, the piece notes. Studio 20th Century Fox Television is now deciding whether to search for a new director or wait for Affleck’s schedule to clear, the story notes.

Thumbnail image for ben-affleck.jpgBen Affleck

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CBS Expands Deal With Amazon.com -- but What Does It Have to Do With Stephen King's 'Under the Dome'?

CBS has expanded a licensing arrangement with Amazon.com, which means shows from the CBS library will remain on Amazon’s Prime Instant Video service, reports the Los Angeles Times’ Company Town.

The deal will extend the licensing period for older CBS shows at no extra charge beyond Prime’s $79 annual fee.

“CBS initially went into business with Amazon three years ago as a digital test," the story reports. "But the relationship proved valuable as funding from Amazon helped underwrite the cost of ‘Under the Dome,’ a summer series based on a best-selling Stephen King novel. CBS greenlit the high-profile project only after making sure the show would make money, and Amazon provided a key piece of the funding."

“Under the Dome” was the most popular show on Amazon’s service in 2013, the piece adds.

Other CBS-owned shows that are available include classics such as “I Love Lucy” and the “Star Trek” franchise.

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20th Century Fox TV Signs 'Modern Family' Producer Danny Zuker

20th Century Fox TV, following an overall deal with “Modern Family” executive producers Paul Corrigan and Brad Walsh, has now signed executive producer Danny Zuker to a three-year pact, reports Deadline.com.

That means Zuker will remain on the ABC comedy, on which he has worked since its first season. He will also work on developing new projects for network and cable.

“Danny is someone every showrunner and network wants to work with; he’s wickedly funny and his scripts are always as relatable as they are hilarious,” 20th TV Chairman Gary Newman said.

danny zuker.pngDanny Zuker

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'Supernatural' Gets a Spinoff -- Zombie Project Also in the Works at CW

The long-running drama “Supernatural” has spawned a spinoff that’s just received a pilot order from the CW, The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports.

Additionally, The CW has also ordered a pilot for “iZombie,” an adaptation of the DC Comics series, from “Veronica Mars” creator Rob Thomas.

“Supernatural: Tribes” will track the conflicts between hunters and monsters in Chicago. It comes from “Supernatural” writer Andrew Dabb, who will executive produce with Eric Kripke, Robert Singer, showrunner Jeremy Carver and McG. Singer will direct the pilot.

“Supernatural” earned a three-year ratings high Wednesday, while the CW is finding success with another spinoff, “The Originals,” based on “The Vampire Diaries.”

“iZombie” is about a medical student who turns into a zombie and gets a job in the coroner’s office in order to find the brains she needs to eat. But when she eats a brain, she gains access to that person’s memories, allowing her to help solve murder cases.

Thomas and Diane Ruggiero of “Veronica Mars” will write the script and executive produce.

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Amazon Sets Sights on Comedy From Director Whit Stillman, Drama From Shaun Cassidy

Amazon Studios is eyeing a comedy from “The Last Days of Disco” filmmaker Whit Stillman, as well as a drama from “Invasion” creator Shaun Cassidy, reports Nellie Andreeva at Deadline.com.

Stillman’s project, “Cosmopolitan,” is about a group of young expatriates in Paris. Stillman wrote the project and will also direct and executive produce.

Cassidy’s project is called “Hysteria” and is about a doctor who investigates an epidemic among high school girls that could be spreading through technology, the story says.

whit stillman.jpgWhit Stillman

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Michelle Obama Books Appearance Opposite Super Bowl

First lady Michelle Obama will appear on a TV program that has been set up as a counterprogramming event on Super Bowl Sunday. The Los Angeles Times' Show Tracker reports that Obama will be on Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl, the network’s “consistently adorable and increasingly popular counterprogramming to the Super Bowl."

Obama hosted a “training camp” at the White House, which was attended by the Obama family’s dogs, Bo and Sunny, as well as 13 shelter puppies and 12 first- and second-graders.

“Bo and Sunny lined the pups up for practice on the White House South Lawn to run through tire and tackle drills, hone their ball and chew toy skills, play fetch with the kids and of course take a requisite water break with the first lady followed by a nap in the grass,” Animal Planet said in a press release.

The event is part of the first lady’s “Let’s Move!” initiative to fight childhood obesity.

“As our family has seen with Bo and Sunny, going outside to walk and play with your pet is a perfect way to get moving and have some fun every day,” Obama said in the statement.

Highlights from the training camp will appear on Sunday’s Puppy Bowl X, which will air from 3-5 p.m. ET.

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Media Veteran Gail Berman Exits BermanBraun

Veteran TV and film executive Gail Berman is stepping down from the company she co-founded in 2007 with Lloyd Braun, TheWrap.com reports. Braun will purchase Berman’s stake in BermanBraun, and will be the company's sole owner.

"BermanBraun operates three divisions -- television, movies and digital -- reflecting the diverse backgrounds of its founders," the story reports. "Berman was the first woman to hold a top job at both a film studio and a TV network, serving as president of entertainment at Fox and then president of Paramount Pictures."

In a statement, Berman said: “When Lloyd and I founded BermanBraun, we wanted to create a different kind of entertainment company -- one that consisted of both TV and Film divisions but also one that established a thriving digital division encompassing content and technology. It has been exciting to take my years of experience and leadership in all areas of content and apply them to this endeavor. I take great pride in the company’s amazing achievements over the past 7 years. It has been my pleasure to work alongside Lloyd and our incredibly talented team at BermanBraun and I wish them continued success going forward. There are several unique opportunities I am considering and intend to make an announcement about my decision very soon.”

gail berman.pngGail Berman

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Video: Delta's New In-Flight Safety Video Is a Feast of 1980s Cultural References

Delta Airlines had some fun with its new in-flight safety video, turning it into a trip back in time to the 1980s -- complete with a cameo by Devo's Gerald Casale in one of the band's trademark red "energy hats."

See how many of the '80s references you can spot:

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Fox Dominates Cable News Coverage of State of the Union

Fox News Channel showed who's boss in cable news in terms of ratings Tuesday night, dominating the coverage of President Obama's State of the Union address, Variety reports.

Fox's coverage outpulled the combined numbers for its chief rivals, CNN and MSNBC, the story reports, with Fox News the only one of the three outlets to see its viewership rise form last year's State of the Union.

"According to Nielsen estimates for roughly 9:14-10:20 p.m. ET, Fox News Channel averaged 4,718,853 viewers -- more than double MSNBC (2,292,169) and CNN (2,081,431)," the story reports. "FNC held a sizable advantage in the key news demo of adults 25-54 as well (1,197,554), with CNN ranking second by this measure (762,450) and MSNBC third (752,054)."

With its coverage anchored by Bret Baier, Fox News averaged 4.51 million total viewers from 9-11 p.m., the report notes, ahead of MSNBC with 2.17 million and CNN with 1.88 million.

"It was a much tighter race a year ago, with Fox News only narrowly leading CNN in total viewers and finishing third in adults 25-54. Compared to the 2013 State of the Union address, held in February, Fox News was up 28% in total viewers (from 3.68 million) and 25% in adults 25-54 (from 956,000), while CNN was down more than 40% in both categories and MSNBC was off by more than 20[%] in both."

bret baier.jpgBret Baier

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New York Congressman Apologizes for Threatening to Throw TV Reporter Off Balcony

A New York congressman has offered an apology after he was caught on camera threatening to throw a reporter off a balcony on Capitol Hill and warning that he would break the reporter in half. You can see the original video clip by clicking here.

Deadline.com reports: "New York Rep. Michael Grimm told a gaggle of reporters outside his office this morning he expects his mother to remind him he was not raised to threaten to throw reporters off of balconies." The Republican politician added that he had set a lunch date with Michael Scotto, the NY1 reporter who was the object of his wrath.

Scotto tweeted that he had accepted Grimm's apology, the report notes.

Recounting the incident this morning on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Scotto reportedly said of Grimm: “He did seem angry -- he seemed angrier than I have ever seen a politician talk to a reporter about a question that he or she didn’t like."

Grimm, whose campaign finance issues have come under scrutiny lately, had the outburst in response to a question about those issues from Scotto, as we reported earlier today.

michael grimm.jpgMichael Grimm, R-N.Y.

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Petition to Deport Justin Bieber Gains Momentum

A petition to deport pop superstar Justin Beiber -- who's Canadian -- has gained enough signatures to warrant an official response from the White House, USA Today reports.

So will the high-maintenance teen sensation be booted from the U.S.? No chance, the story says. "But everyone will have fun with it anyway," the piece adds. "After all, it's another opportunity to vent outrage, feigned or otherwise, at the increasingly idiotic misbehavior by 19-year-old Bieber, ranging from allegedly egging a neighbor's house in California (a possible felony) to drag racing and DUI in Florida (a possible misdemeanor)."

Earlier today the petition on the White House's We the People site reached 106,000 signatures, the story reports. Anything over 100,000 qualifies for a response from the White House.

The petition -- including punctuation errors -- reads: "We the people of the United States feel that we are being wrongly represented in the world of pop culture. We would like to see the dangerous, reckless, destructive, and drug abusing, Justin Bieber deported and his green card revoked. He is not only threatening the safety of our people but he is also a terrible influence on our nations youth. We the people would like to remove Justin Bieber from our society."

The report notes: "Just for comparison's sake, a similar 'Deport Him!' petition was filed on the We the People site against CNN's British-born Piers Morgan at the end of 2012 because some people were upset about something he said -- actually a rant -- against guns on his TV show. That petition got 109,000 signatures; Morgan is still here and still on CNN."

The report adds that a "Don't Deport Bieber" petition has gathered only about 1,500 signatures so far.

justin bieber.jpgJustin Bieber

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Report From NATPE: Turner President Predicts the End of Netflix

"The End of Netflix?" was the screaming headline of the main story in today's NATPE Daily, a print publication available to attendees at NATPE's annual convention this week in Miami Beach.

The story says, "SVOD giant Netflix will be toppled by the growth of TV Everywhere within two years, the president of Turner Broadcasting System told NATPE delegates yesterday [Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014]."

That person is David Levy, who spoke at a marketing session at the convention. The story reports that Levy "said there 'won't be a need for Netflix' once broadcasters and media companies finalized negotiations and rolled out their TV Everywhere services, following a slow start. 'The challenge is that TV Everywhere is not working right now,' Levy said."

Levy added, according to the story, "Netflix is really getting a huge advantage in the sense that there's no easy way to watch all this programming, so they have come in for a very nominal price and figured out an easy way to navigate through all this content."

According to NATPE Daily, Levy added, "Remember, these devices don't work without great content. You can buy a great iPhone and if there's no content on it, who cares? In the end game TV Everywhere will be what the consumers want and it will be easy to authenticate."

The article did not say why just the existence of TV Everywhere by other content players would lead to the demise of Netflix, given that Levy said Netflix has a service that is available for "a very nominal price" and has "figured out an easy way to navigate through all this content," and that the service is clearly very popular with consumers. Plus, Netflix also has Emmy-winning, Golden Globe-winning and Academy Award-nominated original content to compliment the library programs and movies that it licenses.

david levy-turner.pngDavid Levy

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NBC Cancels Series

NBC has pulled the plug on a series that has struggled to gain ratings traction this season. The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed reports that the network canceled the new comedy “Sean Saves the World."

The show stars Sean Hayes of "Will & Grace" as a gay single father.

The network had ordered five additional episodes beyond its initial order of 13, bringing the show's total to 18 installments. So far, 14 have been filmed and 12 have aired on the network.

As for the remaining episodes, NBC might broadcast the two completed episodes after the Winter Olympics, but the four unfilmed episodes won’t be produced, the story says. Production on the show has been shut down.

The show “had an uphill ratings battle from the start,” the piece notes. Starting with a so-so 1.4 rating in adults 18-49, that declined to just 0.7 for the most recent episode.

“Sean Saves the World” is the second comedy cancellation for NBC this season, following “Welcome to the Family,” which was pulled after only a few episodes.

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Los Angeles Film Czar -- Former Leading Exec at 20th Century Fox and Head of the Motion Picture Academy -- Dead at 68

The man who was recently named by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti as the city’s film czar has died, reports the Los Angeles Times. Tom Sherak was 68 and had battled prostate cancer.

Sherak “held high-ranking marketing and production jobs at Fox and eventually rose to chairman of the company's domestic film group. He was instrumental in movies such as ‘Die Hard,’ ‘The Fly,’ ‘Wall Street’ and ‘Independence Day,’ among many others -- and also worked closely with George Lucas and James Cameron while at the studio,” the story reports.

He also served as head of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences from 2009 to 2012, with his tenure marked by change -- including the expansion of the field of nominees for best picture at the Academy Awards.

Sherak’s death is a blow to Los Angeles’ film industry, a separate Los Angeles Times story reports.

The piece points out, “Sherak was charged with making the city more film-friendly and lobbying lawmakers in Sacramento to bolster California's film tax credit program. He was working with a coalition of industry groups to support legislation that would increase funding for the state program and lift some of the restrictions to make it more competitive with New York, Georgia and other states and countries.”

In a statement, Garcetti said he was “devastated” to learn of Sherak’s death. "Tom was a true Hollywood original, moving up the ladder to promote blockbusters, running the Oscars and having a bulging rolodex filled with not just A-list contacts, but so many close friends who were smitten by his humor, drive, and spirit,” Garcetti said. “In just a few short months, Tom laid a policy foundation that my Administration will stand on for the next four years."

tom sherak.pngTom Sherak

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Hollywood Icon Working on a Series About 1970s Tinseltown

An iconic movie producer and former studio chief is working on a pay-cable television series with Television 360 set in 1970s Hollywood, reports Deadline.com.

Robert Evans and Television 360 have a deal with Fox 21, with Evans executive producing along with Guymon Casady, Dean Schnider, Scott Lambert and Brett Ratner, the story reports.

“The vision of the series is much darker than the contemporary inside Hollywood depicted in ‘Entourage,’” the story says. “Set in the ’70s with a creative tone similar to ‘Casino,’ it involves the last days before studios were taken over by conglomerates, when they were run by wily entrepreneurs, and where there was a mob influence, drugs, sex, excess, casting couches, and some of the best movies made in the 20th century.”

However, while the story will focus on an outsider who rises through the Hollywood ranks, the project isn’t based on Evans, the piece notes.

Readers of his memoir “The Kid Stays in the Picture” will remember that Evans began as an actor and then worked his way up to lead Paramount Pictures, where he made classics including “The Godfather" and "Chinatown,” the article notes.

robert evans.pngRobert Evans

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Disney Channel Introduces Its First Same-Sex Couple

The Disney Channel made LGBT history Sunday when it introduced its first same-sex couple, reports USA Today. In an episode of “Good Luck Charlie,” Charlie’s parents set up a playdate for her with a new friend, Taylor. Charlie’s dad believes the mom’s name is Cheryl, and her mom thinks her name is Susan.

The doorbell rings, and the family meets Susan and Cheryl, Taylor’s parents. Charlie’s dad says, “Taylor has two moms!”

The storyline was developed “under the consultancy of child development experts and community advisers. Like all Disney Channel programming, it was developed to be relevant to kids and families around the world and to reflect themes of diversity and inclusiveness,” the network said last summer, when it announced the character news.

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TV Reporter Threatened by Congressman After State of the Union Address: 'I Will Break You in Half' -- Here's the Video

Television reporter Michael Scotto, who works for cable channel NY1, was threatened by New York Rep. Michael Grimm, a Republican, after the State of the Union address Tuesday, reports TheWrap.com.

“The congressman accosted Scott after their brief interview on Grimm’s reaction to the president’s speech. Scotto had attempted to ask Grimm about alleged campaign corruption, when the congressman refused to speak off topic and abruptly walked off camera,” the story reports.

“But the camera kept rolling after Scotto tossed back to the anchors, when Grimm returned and verbally accosted the reporter,” allegedly threatening to throw him from a balcony on Capitol Hill and reportedly adding, “I will break you in half,” the story says.

Grimm released a statement later that night, saying he was “extremely annoyed because I was doing NY1 a favor by rushing to do their interview first in lieu of several other requests.” He added, “The reporter knew that I was in a hurry and was only there to comment on the State of the Union, but insisted on taking a disrespectful and cheap shot at the end of the interview, because I did not have time to speak off-topic.”

The statement continued, “I doubt that I am the first Member of Congress to tell off a reporter, and I am sure I won’t be the last.”

Here's a clip of the incident:

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CBS Picks Up Its Sixth Comedy Pilot

CBS has ordered its sixth comedy pilot this season. The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports that the network ordered “Save the Date” from married writing partners Jackie and Jeff Filgo of “That ‘70s Show."

The project is about a 35-year-old single woman who books a wedding venue and tries to find the right man before the date, the story says. “Save the Date” will be written and executive produced by the Filgos, who previously worked on “The New Adventures of Old Christine” and have writing credits on “That ‘70s Show” and “Hank.”

jackie-jeff-filgo.jpgJackie and Jeff Filgo

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This Year's Emmy Awards Won't Air on a Sunday

NBC is making some changes to the Emmy Awards broadcast, announcing that it will air the ceremony this year on Aug. 25, a Monday instead of the traditional Sunday, and a month earlier than usual, reports the Los Angeles Times’ Show Tracker.

“The move to late August -- the Emmys typically are broadcast just before the TV season officially starts in the third week of September -- was expected in order to avoid a scheduling conflict with ‘Sunday Night Football,’ which usually begins airing in early September. Such a change is not unprecedented: The last two times the network aired the Emmys, in 2006 and 2010, it did so in August,” the story notes.

But shifting to Monday evening is unusual, the piece notes.

Most awards shows are broadcast on Sundays, given that more viewers are available on the weekend. The last time the Emmys aired on a Monday was in 1976, the story adds.

“So why the switch?” the story asks. “If NBC had moved the Emmy Awards to Sunday, Aug. 24, the show would go head-to-head with MTV’s popular Video Music Awards. NBC may also be leaving the evening free in case of a preseason NFL game.”

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After Lagging for Years, NBC Heads Into the Olympics With a Lead in the 18-49 Demo

After years of ratings struggles, NBC is heading into the Winter Olympics in an enviable position: It’s in the lead this season in the key demo of viewers 18-49, Reuters reports.

NBC has been boosted by shows such as “The Blacklist,” a drama starring James Spader, and “Chicago Fire.” It will begin airing the Olympic Games Feb. 6 from Sochi, Russia, which is likely to boost its ratings further and provide an opportunity to promote its regular programming, the story adds.

Last season, the network finished fourth among the top broadcasters in the 18-49 demo.

"The turnaround in broadcast is happening even faster than we had anticipated," Comcast Chief Executive Officer Brian Roberts said in an earnings conference call with analysts.

Still, the network continues to face programming challenges, including on Thursday evenings, with shows such as “The Michael J. Fox Show” earning low ratings, the piece adds.

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Animated Show From 'Community' Creator Dan Harmon Looks Like a Hit

Dan Harmon, the creator and former executive producer of NBC's “Community,” is finding success with his Adult Swim animated series “Rick and Morty,” reports Joe Adalian at New York Magazine’s Vulture.

The show “is turning into something of a juggernaut with young men: Last night's [Monday, Jan. 27] episode jumped up to a 1.5 rating with guys under 35, putting it ahead of FX's ‘Archer’ (1.4 in that demo) and everything that aired on the Big Four broadcast networks (save for ‘How I Met Your Mother’ and ‘2 Broke Girls’),” Adalian reports.

The show even outpaced “Community's" episode last Thursday, when the NBC comedy earned a 1.0 in men under 35, the story says.

Adalian adds: “Adult Swim hasn't renewed ‘Rick and Morty’ for a second season, but with these numbers it's probably just a formality at this point.”

rick and morty.jpg"Rick and Morty"

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Court Show Headed for a Second Season

A syndicated court show that has performed well in its rookie season will be back for a second season. B&C reports that the MGM series “Paternity Court” has been renewed in 80% of the country.

Stations that renewed the show include those from the Hearst, Tribune and Sinclair groups, as well as WLNY-TV in New York, a CBS station, the story says.

“‘Paternity Court,’ which is a sort of hybrid between conflict and court, is hosted by Judge Lauren Lake,” the story notes.

It has “averaged a 1.0 live plus same day national rating in the week ended Jan. 12, according to Nielsen, is in its rookie year,” it adds.

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Fox Drama 'Sleepy Hollow' Promotes Two Actors

The Fox supernatural drama series “Sleepy Hollow” has promoted two actors, Deadline.com reports, with “Fringe” star John Noble and Lyndie Greenwood getting bumped up to regulars.

Noble had a three-episode arc in the first season of the drama, but will return as a regular for its second season. Greenwood appeared in 10 of the first season’s 13 episodes as Jenny Mills, the institutionalized sister of Lt. Abbie Mills.

Noble portrayed Henry Parrish, a “sin eater” who in an early episode helped Ichabod Crane break a curse.

lyndie greenwood.jpgLyndie Greenwood

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CBS Orders Stalker Drama From Creator of Fox Series

CBS has ordered a pilot from Kevin Williamson, the creator of Fox’s “The Following,” reports Deadline.com.

The untitled project is about detectives who work for the Los Angeles Police Department’s Threat Management Unit and handle stalkers, the story says.

From Warner Bros. TV and Williamson’s studio-based Outerbanks Entertainment, the project “was quietly sold months ago and had stayed largely under the radar before starting to pick up heat in the past few weeks,” the article adds.

The report notes: "'Scream' writer and 'Dawson’s Creek' creator Williamson has a very strong track record, with all of his pilots for WBTV going to series, including 'The Vampire Diaries' at the CW and 'The Following' at Fox."

kevin williamson.jpgKevin Williamson

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NBC Picks Up Comedy Projects From Ellen DeGeneres, Jason Bateman

NBC has picked up two new comedy projects. Writing on Deadline.com, Nellie Andreeva reports that the network is moving ahead with the single-camera pilot "Two to Go," from Universal TV and studio-based David Janollari Entertainment and Jason Bateman's Aggregate.

"Written/co-exec produced by Bryan Shukoff and Kevin Chesley ('The Hard Times of RJ Berger,' which Janollari developed and launched at MTV), 'Two to Go' centers on longtime best friends Kurt and Laura, who grapple with the challenges of modern-day dating while their group of friends try and prove that they are destined to be together," Andreeva writes. "Janollari, Bateman and Jim Garavente executive produce. This is Janollari’s second pilot at NBC, joining drama 'Salvation.' Aggregate has upcoming NBC comedy series 'Growing Up Fisher.'"

The other project, from Ellen DeGeneres, features a lesbian lead, and comes 16 years after DeGeneres came out on her ABC comedy, Andreeva points out.

"NBC has given a pilot order to a multicamera comedy executive produced by DeGeneres," the piece reports. "The project, titled 'One Big Happy,' is written/exec produced by openly gay comedy scribe Liz Feldman ('2 Broke Girls'). In it, a gay (woman) and straight (man) best friends decide to have a baby together, but things get complicated when the man finds the love of their life."

"One Big Happy" comes from Warner Bros. TV and DeGeneres’ studio-based A Very Good Production, with Jeff Kleeman of A Very Good Production also exec producing.

Andreeva notes: "Feldman previously worked for two years on DeGeneres’ hit syndicated talk show and wrote for DeGeneres’ first stint as Oscar host. (DeGeneres is back on Oscar duty on March 2)."

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Veteran TV Producer, Known for Landmark Specials, Dead at 81

A veteran producer who was behind the scenes of a string of landmark TV specials has died, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Bob Wynn, a three-time Emmy nominee, died Dec. 12 in Calabasas, Calif., at 81.

His projects included showcases for Tennessee Ernie Ford and Bob Hope in the 1970s. Other subjects for his specials included Judy Garland, Danny Thomas, Debbie Reynolds and Sammy Davis Jr.

He also produced the NBC reality show "Real People," which earned him three Primetime Emmy nominations. The show focused on regular people with unusual stories. "He notably profiled the Navajo Code Talkers, unsung heroes for the U.S. during World War II, on the program," the story notes.

"In 1973 during the height of the Cold War, Wynn took Ford to Moscow with a troupe of singers and dancers for a tour sponsored by the U.S. State Department," the report adds. "The Grand Ole Opry star sang such songs as 'Sixteen Tons' and delighted audiences there as seen in the special 'Tennessee Ernie’s Nashville-Moscow Express' that was 'colorcast' by NBC."

In a 1974 interview, Wynn reportedly said of the Moscow trip: “It was fantastic. There was no language barrier -- they understood country music.”

The report adds: "From 1968-79, Wynn produced several specials starring Hope, including one in 1979 in which the legendary comedian became the first American entertainer to tape a TV special in China."

Wynn also "produced and directed a series of mystery movies on ABC in the 1970s, did the Rock Music Awards from 1975-77 and produced and directed charity telethons starring Davis for years," the report adds.

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Syfy Series Gets Massive Order -- With a Catch

A Syfy series didn't just get an order for a new season -- it got a "super-sized" order, EW.com's Inside TV reports. The series is "Haven," which received an order for a 26-episode fifth season.

"But there’s a big catch. You knew there was a catch, right? The episodes will be split across two years. So 13 episodes this fall and another 13 in 2015," the story reports.

The report notes that "Haven" seasons are usually 13 episodes each, adding that it's unclear why Syfy didn't simply order seasons five and six.

"But sometimes cable networks order an expanded season and split it across two years because the cost of shows rise each season per talent and producer deals, and can significantly rise when multi-year contracts expire," the report adds. "If 'Haven' contracts are up for renegotiation at the end of season 5 (and initially signing talent for five seasons is pretty common), this could be a way of squeezing another two seasons out of the show without having to pay a bigger price tag for season 6."

The show's recent ratings have been about the same as last season -- 2.3 million viewers per week and 926,000 in the 18-49 demo, adding in seven days of DVR playback, the report notes.

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CBS Shows Surge to Season Highs, Fox Show Sinks to Series Low

CBS celebrated a number of high points in the prime-time ratings for Monday night, while a Fox series sank to its all-time low, based on Nielsen overnights for the key 18-49 demo.

TVbytheNumbers.com reports that the CBS shows "How I Met Your Mother," "2 Broke Girls" and "Mike & Molly" all delivered season highs in the 18-49 demo. "Mother" surged seven-tenths of a point from last week to a 3.8, "Molly" climbed five-tenths to a 2.6 and "Girls" rose three-tenths to a 3.0.

Elsewhere on CBS, "Mom" was up a half-point in 18-49 with a 2.4 and "Intelligence" climbed four-tenths to a 1.5.

Fox saw its drama series "The Following" hit a series low, sinking from a football-inflated 4.4 average a week ago in viewers 18-49 to a 2.0. A repeat episode of "The Following" at 8 p.m. delivered a 1.1.

ABC's two-hour "The Bachelor" improved two-tenths from last week's season low, climbing to a 2.5 in the 18-49 demo. A repeat of "Castle" finished with a 1.4 in the 10 p.m. hour.

NBC's "The Blacklist" bounced back from last week's series low, rising two-tenths to a 2.5 average in 18-49. Back-to-back episodes of "Hollywood Game Night" notched a 1.5 and a 1.3.

CBS wound up on top for prime time overall with a 2.5 average in adults 18-49, ahead of ABC (2.1 average), NBC (1.8), Fox (1.6) and Univision (1.4). CBS also claimed a narrow win in total viewers, averaging 9.1 million to lead ABC (8.0 million), NBC (6.7 million), Fox (5.0 million) and Univision (3.3 million).

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Talk Show Host to Sing 'America the Beautiful' at Super Bowl

A television talk show host has landed one of the top singing gigs for the Super Bowl, set for Sunday, Feb. 2. Starpulse reports that Queen Latifah will sing "America the Beautiful" at the event, which takes place at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

"Queen Latifah, 43, was born in Newark, N.J., and raised in East Orange, so the venue will certainly be particularly special for her," the report notes. "This will be the second time the star has sung the song at the Super Bowl, initially performing in 2010."

Latifah hosts the syndicated daytime show "The Queen Latifah Show."

Opera star Renee Fleming will sing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl, as we reported previously. The halftime show will include musical acts Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Queen-Latifah.jpgQueen Latifah

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ESPN Veteran in Line for Vacant Executive Spot on NBC's 'Today' Show

A veteran ESPN producer is in the running to fill a key executive position at NBC's "Today" show. TheWrap.com reports that Jamie Horowitz, the producer of ESPN’s “First Take,” is vying for the role of “Today's" senior vice president, which is currently vacant.

“NBC News is actively searching for a replacement for former ‘Today’ show SVP Alexandra Wallace, who just a couple weeks ago was elevated to the newly created position of senior vice president of news for the network in charge of the D.C. Bureau,” the story reports.

The job carries no production role on “Today,” but “Today” executive producer Don Nash would report to whoever is hired, the story says.

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Fox News Host Attacks Commentator From Her Own Network

A Fox News Channel fixture launched a verbal assault against a commentator from her own network. TheWrap.com reports that Greta Van Susteren singled out commentator Erick Erickson in a post on her blog GretaWire with the headline “What Is Wrong With This Guy?"

Van Susteren went after Erickson after he called Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis “Abortion Barbie” in a tweet.

“I don’t care how much you disagree or agree with Texas’ Wendy Davis, you have to agree that this guy, Erick Erickson, is a real jerk and is really lousy at being a spokesperson for his views,” Van Susteren wrote.

She added that people don’t always agree, but if “you are smart in your debate, you persuade someone who otherwise had disagreed with you.” Van Susteren continued: “And then there are the creeps who take cheap shots because they are too ignorant and small to engage in an important discussion. The best they can do is make themselves look really bad.”

In a tweet, Erickson responded to Van Susteren's criticism, writing: “Well, Abortion Barbie does have a vocal fan club. Might be larger except for the open season on anyone under 40 weeks.”

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Chuck Lorre Vanity Card Explains Joke About Ben Affleck's Manhood

Veteran TV producer Chuck Lorre created plenty of buzz at the recent Producers Guild of America Awards with a joke about Ben Affleck's manhood, and Nellie Andreeva reports on Deadline.com that Lorre referenced the incident in detail Monday in his trademark vanity cards at the end of Lorre's CBS sitcoms "Mike & Molly" and "Mom."

At the PGA Awards Lorre "recounted a brief bathroom encounter with Ben Affleck at the Golden Globes when the two peed next to each other," Andreeva writes. "'Yes, I peeked. And yes, Comic-Con -- he can play Batman,' Lorre said to roaring laughter, a line that later sparked a witty response from best picture presenter Affleck."

On the vanity card, Lorre set the record straight, making it clear the story was fiction. Additionally, Lorre "revealed the original versions of the anecdote that would’ve featured director Martin Scorsese and mogul Harvey Weinstein as well as the reasons he rejected them before settling on Affleck," Andreeva writes.

Here's the text of the card, as posted by Deadline:

Not that it really matters, but the joke I made at the Producers Guild Awards regarding Ben Affleck’s genitals being of sufficient size to fill the caped crusader’s codpiece was just that, a joke. I’ve never met Mr. Affleck in or out of a men’s room. Nor am I in the habit of peeking at another guy’s junk while standing at a urinal. (I mostly stare at the tiles and worry that the invisible auto-flush light beam is secretly cooking my internal organs.) I just wanted to open my speech with a cheap laugh about the Golden Globes. To be completely honest, the original version of the joke had me peeing next to and peeking at Martin Scorsese — who was, at best, a grower not a show-er. I cut it, wisely I thought, because it felt unfair to “belittle” a giant of cinema, even if I had issues with “Hugo.” I then considered telling the same joke with Harvey Weinstein as the celebrity at the neighboring stall, but cut that as well because I worried that he might be able to have me hurt. It was only when I thought of Mr. Affleck that it finally hit me. If I’m going to make up stuff about another man’s penis, why not go positive? Embellish his endowment if you will. It’s still funny. And it also allowed me to work in the Comic-Con Batman angle. Win-win right? Wrong. While the joke did score at the PGA event, it got way too much traction afterward. Which is why I now feel the need to set the record straight. You want to know if Affleck is man enough to be Bruce Wayne? Ask his wife. Or, if you’re feeling man enough, rent “Daredevil.” On Blu-ray.

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New Drama Has Biggest Series Launch in Starz History

A new drama series that premiered over the weekend gave Starz the biggest series launch in its history. The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed reports that the pirate drama "Black Sails" -- a prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island" -- delivered 3.5 million viewers over the weekend and across viewing platforms.

The premiere telecast averaged 850,000 viewers on Saturday night at 9 p.m., while over the course of the weekend that rose to 2.6 million. Additionally, 900,000 people watched the show via on-demand and online viewing, the piece notes.

"Though the premiere telecast did not set a Starz high, both the weekend haul and the Saturday gross (1.7 million) set bests,” the story reports.

The series, which stars Toby Stephens, Hannah New, Luke Arnold and Jessica Parker, received a renewal back in July for a 10-episode second season -- well before the show's premiere.

“That two-season renewal for ‘Black Sails’ might not have been premature after all,” the story notes.

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Lindsey Vonn Headed to the Olympics After All -- but She Won't Be Competing

Lindsey Vonn, a star of downhill skiing who pulled out of the Sochi Olympics because of an injury, will be going to the Winter Olympics after all, but as a commentator for “Today” and NBC Sports, reports Bloomberg.

Vonn will also host a live chat with fans on Facebook. For NBC, scoring Vonn as a commentator may help the network recover some of the billions it’s spent on Olympics broadcast rights, with the company shelling out $4.38 billion to retain rights through 2020. NBC had been planning to heavily promote Vonn as a competitor before she withdrew from the Games.

Vonn, who has sponsorship deals from companies including Procter & Gamble and is a four-time World Cup overall champion, was seen as the most marketable star of the Olympics, the piece notes.

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Former 'Marlboro Man' Dies of Lung Disease at 72

One of the actors who portrayed the “Marlboro Man” in the long-running ad campaign for the Marlboro cigarette brand has died, Reuters reports. Eric Lawson was 72.

Lawson died Jan. 10 of respiratory failure due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, an illness that has been linked to smoking by the U.S. surgeon general, the story notes.

Featured in small parts in TV shows including “Baretta” and “Charlie’s Angels,” Lawson was probably most recognizable for his role as the cowboy in the cigarette ads during the late 1970s and early 1980s. He was one of a series of actors to portray the character.

The image of the Marlboro Man was created in the 1950s as a rugged, masculine icon for the brand, which the article notes was previously considered a women’s cigarette.

Later, however, Lawson spoke out about the dangers of cigarettes and appeared in an anti-tobacco public service announcement for the American Cancer Society. The 30-second ad carried the message, “Secondhand smoke kills,” and featured a horse dying after Lawson, dressed as a cowboy, puffed a cigarette around the ranch.

An obituary notice published in the Los Angeles Times by his family noted that Lawson “was particularly proud of an NBC interview he gave regarding the negative effects of cigarette smoking."

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CBS Orders Project From Morgan Freeman

CBS has given a green light to a drama project from Oscar winner Morgan Freeman and “Joan of Arcadia” creator Barbara Hall. Deadline.com reports that the network ordered a pilot for “Madam Secretary,” which is about the personal and professional life of a female Secretary of State.

Freeman’s Revelations Entertainment is producing with CBS TV Studios. The project marks CBS’s first drama pilot order, although the network also has the straight-to-series drama “Battle Creek.” Meanwhile, NBC, ABC and Fox are “pretty much done with their drama pilot orders,” the piece notes.

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TV Land Greenlights Comedy Starring 'My Name Is Earl' Alum

TV Land has ordered a new comedy featuring one of the stars of the NBC sitcom "My Name Is Earl." The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed reports that the cable channel ordered “Jennifer Falls,” starring Jaime Pressly and created by Matthew Carlson of “The Wonder Years.”

The show stars Pressly as woman with her own career and family who is forced to move back in with her mom (played by Jessica Walter of “Arrested Development”) after she’s fired from her job.

The single-camera comedy will debut in the summer and marks the network’s first single-camera series, the story notes. The project was originally developed as a multicamera comedy.

"We are really excited to make this foray into single-camera comedy," TV Land President Larry W. Jones said. "With Jaime at the helm and such high-caliber talent behind the camera, we have the perfect combination for this multidimensional series."

Jones, Keith Cox, Michael Hanel and Mindy Schultheis will also executive produce, the story adds.

Pressly starred for four seasons on NBC’s “My Name Is Earl,” also a single-camera comedy.

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ABC Orders Pilot From 'Don't Trust the B----' Creator

ABC has ordered a pilot from the creator of “Don’t Trust the B----.“ Deadline.com reports that the new project from Nahnatchka Khan is “Fresh off the Boat."

The project, which had a put pilot commitment, is based on a memoir by Eddie Huang and tracks a Chinese family that moves to suburban Orlando, the story says. The project is written and executive produced by Khan, with Jake Kasdan also executive producing for 20th Century Fox TV. Both Kasdan and Khan are based at the studio.

The main character’s father operates an All-American Steakhouse chain, with the family trying to stay true to their cultural identity while learning how to live in America, the story says.

“This is a setup Khan can relate to as she too is a first-generation American,” the piece notes.

ABC also ordered a comedy pilot from Chris Moynihan. Called “Saint Francis,” the project is about a blue-collar police officer whose traditional beliefs are challenged when his unmarried sister gets pregnant.

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New Daytime Show Reaches Distribution Milestone, Names Exec Producer

An upcoming daytime talk show has picked its executive producer, just as the show reached a distribution milestone. NBCUniversal Domestic TV Distribution announced today that Rich Sirop was named executive producer of “The Meredith Vieira Show.”

The show, which debuts in national broadcast syndication this fall, has now been sold in more than 90% of the country. Among the stations recently added are WCVB-TV Boston, KPRC-TV Houston, WXYZ-TV Detroit, KIRO-TV Seattle, WTHR-TV Indianapolis, WSMV-TV Nashville, WKRC-TV Cincinnati, WBRC-TV Birmingham, WJXT-TV Jacksonville and WNEP-TV Scranton, the company announced.

The 10 NBC Owned Television Stations are also among those on board with the new hour show focused on TV veteran meredith Vieira.

Said Sirop: "Meredith connects with an audience like no other. What you see is what you get -- a real person who is honest, smart, transparent and caring. This new show is the perfect platform to showcase all of these attributes, which set her apart from anyone else on TV and make her one of the most relatable and authentic personalities.”

Sirop previously was executive producer and showrunner on the nationally syndicated game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” from 2010-2013.

rich sirop.jpgRich Sirop

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CBS Greenlights Pilot From People Behind 'Chuck,' 'Meet the Parents'

CBS has ordered a comedy pilot from John Hamburg of the “Meet the Parents” franchise and Matt Miller, a former executive producer of “Chuck,” reports Deadline.com.

The project, "Good Session," is about a couple who visit a therapist to discuss whether they should have a baby, but who then discover they have more topics to cover. The project is from Warner Bros TV, where Miller is under a deal, the piece notes.

Hamburg, who wrote the script with Miller, will direct, and both will executive produce.

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Legendary Folk Singer Dies. Springsteen Called Him 'the Father of American Folk Music'

The legendary singer whom Bruce Springsteen once called "the father of American folk music" has died at age 94.

"Pete Seeger, the singer, folk-song collector and songwriter who spearheaded an American folk revival and spent a long career championing folk music as both a vital heritage and a catalyst for social change, died Monday," writes Jon Pareles in The New York Times.

The story adds that Seeger "was 94 and lived in Beacon, N.Y. His death was confirmed by his grandson, Kitama Cahill Jackson, who said he died of natural causes at New York-Presbyterian Hospital."

Seeger's obituary in USA Today says, "But Seeger, who popularized 'This Land Is Your Land' and 'We Shall Overcome' and wrote 'If I Had a Hammer' and 'Turn, Turn, Turn' [and 'Where Have All the Flowers Gone'] never liked the term folk music. ...

"Seeger, who dropped out of Harvard University in 1938 to ride a bicycle across the country, quoted his father, Charles Seeger, a musicologist: 'My dad, the old professor, used to say, "Never get into an argument about what's folk music and what isn't." ' "

The USA Today story continues: "Seeger influenced scores of other singers, including Springsteen, Joan Baez, Dave Matthews, Rufus Wainwright, John Mellencamp and Arlo Guthrie. All performed in 2009 at Seeger's 90th birthday party at sold-out Madison Square Garden, a fundraiser for his favorite local cause: cleaning up New York's Hudson River.

"That night, Springsteen introduced Seeger saying, 'He's gonna look a lot like your granddad that wears flannel shirts and funny hats. He's gonna look like your granddad if your granddad can kick your ass. At 90, he remains a stealth dagger through the heart of our country's illusions about itself." In 1997 Springsteen recorded a tribute album to Seeger called "We Shall Overcome: the Seeger Sessions."

The New York Times adds, "Mr. Seeger was a mentor to younger folk and topical singers in the ‘50s and ‘60s, among them Bob Dylan, Don McLean and Bernice Johnson Reagon, who founded Sweet Honey in the Rock. ... In 2009 [Springsteen] performed Woody Guthrie’s 'This Land Is Your Land' with Mr. Seeger at the Obama inaugural.

The TImes also notes that in 2009 Seeger said, "My job is to show folks there’s a lot of good music in this world, and if used right it may help to save the planet."

"Mr. Seeger’s wife, Toshi, died in 2013, days before the couple’s 70th anniversary," says The Times, adding, "Survivors include his son, Daniel; his daughters, Mika and Tinya; a half-sister, Peggy; and six grandchildren, including the musician Tao Rodriguez-Seeger, who performed with him at the Obama inaugural. His half-brother Mike Seeger, a folklorist and performer who founded the New Lost City Ramblers, died in 2009."

pete seeger-bruce springsteen 2.jpgPete Seeger (left) and Bruce Springsteen sing "This Land Is Your Land" at the outdoor inaugural celebration of President Obama's first term

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Another 'Breaking Bad' Regular Joins Cast of the Prequel to the Award-Winning Series

A second actor who was a regular cast member on "Breaking Bad" has joined the cast of the prequel to that award-winning series, says our friend Nellie Andreeva in an exclusive story at Deadline.com.

According to the report, "Jonathan Banks has joined Bob Odenkirk in 'Better Call Saul,' AMC/Sony TV’s upcoming prequel to Emmy-winning 'Breaking Bad' that centers on Odenkirk‘s unflappable criminal lawyer Saul Goodman."

The story adds: "The prequel series, slated to debut on AMC in November, will chronicle the evolution of Saul before he ever became Walter White’s lawyer. The deal with Banks means that Saul will have his trusted private investigator/fixer Michael 'Mike' Ehrmantraut by his side. Banks was a regular on 'Breaking Bad' and played Ehrmantraut for 2.5 seasons after being introduced in the drama series' second-season finale."

Many TV buffs will recall Banks from an even earlier dramatic role, when he did such an excellent job on the series "Wiseguy," where he played Vinnie Terranova's boss, Frank McPike, with such aplomb. Banks was nominated for an Emmy for that role.

jonathan banks.jpgJonathan Banks

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MSNBC Shakes Up Its Lineup, Rolls Out Plans for Two New Shows

MSNBC unveiled some changes to its programming lineup, including the belated announcement of a start date for Ronan Farrow's new show. Deadline.com reports that the cable channel announced Feb. 24 as the show's premiere date.

The show, which is still untitled, will air at 1 p.m. ET, the network announced.

"Also joining the daytime lineup is longtime contributor and Grio.com editor Joy Reid," the report adds. "The recent fill-in host’s own show will also start February 24 at 2 p.m. ET following Farrow."

In a statement today, MSNBC President Phil Griffin said: “Ronan and Joy are two of the most thoughtful and impressive journalists out there and I’m excited for what they will bring to the afternoon."

As part of the changes, "Andrea Mitchell Reports" will move to noon, and "NewsNation with Tamron Hall" relocates to 11 a.m. ET.

"A frequent presence on the cabler in recent months, Farrow, the son of Mia Farrow, made news of his own this month when he slammed the Golden Globes tribute to his mother’s former longtime companion Woody Allen," the Deadline report notes.

Farrow, a former State Department official, reportedly tweeted: “Missed the Woody Allen tribute -- did they put the part where a woman publicly confirmed he molested her at age 7 before or after Annie Hall?"

The report adds: "All this comes after months of upheaval with the MSNBC daytime schedule. In early December, Martin Bashir left the 4 p.m. slot and the network after he launched a verbal attack against former GOP Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin. Former noon host Alex Wagner took over Bashir’s place late last year leaving the [noon] slot to a revolving door of on-air talent."

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for ronan farrow.pngRonan Farrow

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Directors Guild Honors Achievements in TV and Film -- We Have the Full List of Winners

The Directors Guild of America Awards picked up where the Emmys left off and offered a possible preview of the Oscars, with "Breaking Bad" creator Vince Gilligan and "Gravity" director Alfonso Cuaron among the night's top honorees.

Besides Gilligan's award for outstanding directorial achievement in dramatic series, other honors in the TV categories included awards for comedy series, TV movie, variety/talk/news/sports, reality programs, children's television and even commercials.

TVWeek Open Mic blogger Hillary Atkin filed a full report, which you can read by clicking here -- and you can click through to the full list of winners.

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Quentin Tarantino Files Lawsuit Over Leaked Script

Director Quentin Tarantino has pulled the plug on his latest big-screen project and is headed instead to court, to sue the website that leaked the script for the movie, CNN reports.

"Tarantino -- the actor and director behind 'Pulp Fiction,' 'Kill Bill' and 'Django Unchained' -- filed suit against the gossip website Gawker on Monday after his script for 'The Hateful Eight' leaked online last week," the story reports. "In a federal court filing, he accused the site of 'blatant copyright infringement by their promotion and dissemination of unauthorized downloadable copies of the leaked unreleased complete screenplay.'"

The suit reportedly says, "There was nothing newsworthy or journalistic" about the website's actions.

CNN adds: "Although Gawker did not post the script to its own site, Tarantino's attorney charged the script would not have been widely accessible if Gawker had not linked to it.

"Gawker turned down repeated requests to remove links to download the script, the complaint charges. A Gawker post offering links to the script remained online Monday."

A spokesman for Tarantino told CNN the filmmaker is scrapping plans to produce "The Hateful Eight." The movie is reportedly a Western.

"He told the gossip site Deadline that he had given the script to only six people, including [actor] Michael Madsen, best known as the killer in 'Reservoir Dogs,' as well as Bruce Dern and Tim Roth, for whom 'Reservoir Dogs' was his breakthrough film," CNN reports. "Somehow, the script leaked. It was posted through a site that lets users anonymously upload and download files."

quentin tarantino.jpgQuentin Tarantino

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CBS Rolls to Big Sunday Ratings Win, Even as Grammys Fall Off

With the Grammy Awards slipping from last year, CBS still trounced its broadcast competition in Sunday prime time, based on Nielsen figures for the key 18-49 demo. TVbytheNumbers.com reports that the awards ceremony delivered an adjusted 9.9 average rating in the demo from 8-11:45 p.m., down from a 10.1 last year.

The Grammys also racked up 28.5 million viewers, by far the largest audience of the night. Leading into the Grammys, CBS's "60 Minutes" delivered a 2.1 average in the 18-49 demo, up from a 1.3 a week ago.

NBC's Pro Bowl scored a preliminary 3.2 average in 18-49, down one-tenth from last year's preliminary number -- although last year's 3.3 was later adjusted up to a 4.0. The report notes that with both the Pro Bowl and the Grammys airing live, more than the usual adjustments can be expected.

ABC saw improved numbers for its two-hour "The Bachelor: Sean and Catherine's Wedding," which averaged a 1.6 in adults 18-49 -- up from a 0.9 for last week's "Bachelor" special and up from a 1.0 for the "Ashley and JP's Wedding" special. "America's Funniest Home Videos" delivered a 1.5.

Fox saw its animation lineup slide: "The Simpsons" fell a half-point in viewers 18-49 from its previous original to a 1.7; "Bob's Burgers" also lost a half-point, to a 1.5; "Family Guy" plummeted seven-tenths to a 2.0; and "American Dad" tumbled eight-tenths to a 1.5.

For prime time overall, the numbers shape up this way: CBS on top in viewers 18-49 with an 8.1 average, followed by NBC (3.1 average), ABC and Fox (both 1.3) and Univision (0.6). In total viewers it's CBS well ahead with 25.9 million, followed by NBC (9.3 million), ABC (5.6 million), Fox (3.0 million) and Univision (1.9 million).

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FX Taking Wraps Off New George Lopez Series

The new George Lopez comedy series at FX moved closer to reality today with the cable network announcing its premiere date. TheWrap.com reports that “Saint George” will bow March 6 on FX.

"The comedy -- which will operate under the same 10/90 model as the network’s Charlie Sheen comedy 'Anger Management' -- will find Lopez playing a recently divorced working class Mexican-American turned successful entrepreneur caught between two cultures," the story reports. "He struggles to balance the parenting demands of his All-American Anglo ex-wife, 'Mackenzie,' and the cultural expectations of his overbearing Mexican-American mother, 'Alma.' As George attempts to relate to his 11-year-old son, 'Harper,' his life is further complicated by his fun-loving but freeloading uncle 'Tio' and cousin 'Junior.'”

Along with Lopez, the cast features Jenn Lyon (“Justified”), Olga Merediz, Diana Maria Riva, Kaden Gibson and Danny Trejo, the report notes.

"As a wealthy businessman, Lopez’s character also gives back by teaching history to a multi-cultural classroom at a night school in downtown Los Angeles, where he’s supervised by tough and sexy Assistant Principal 'Concepcion,'" the story notes. "Ultimately, 'Saint George' is a celebration of a multi-generational family that humorously wrestles with cultural differences."

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Veteran TV News Anchor Dead at 74

A veteran TV newsman who was a fixture on local television has died. The New York Times reports the death Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, of Chet Curtis, who for years was part of a husband-and-wife Boston-area news anchor team.

Curtis, 74, died of pancreatic cancer, the story reports.

Curtis and his wife, Natalie Jacobson, anchored the news twice a night on WCVB-TV, an ABC affiliate, for 18 years. The pair were “the de facto first couple of Boston, very likely the city’s best-known conveyors of news since Paul Revere,” until their professional split in 2000, which shook up viewers, the story notes.

“One of the very few married anchor teams in the country, and by all accounts the only one in a major market at the time, the couple were embraced by their city as cherished neighbors,” the article reports. “Known in familiar tandem as ‘Chet and Nat,’ they were recognized everywhere and profiled in the local and national news media.”

WCVB’s newscast was a ratings leader because of their popularity.

But Bostonians were surprised when they announced their separation in 1999. They never discussed what caused their breakup. They continued as co-anchors until 2000, and then were given separate newscasts. In 2001, they divorced and Curtis moved to the cable channel NECN.

“Throughout their marriage, Mr. Curtis and Ms. Jacobson were interviewed often about balancing work and romance. They made it clear that they wanted to be thought of as newscasters first and foremost,” the article reports.

“Asked by The Boston Herald how they planned to celebrate Valentine’s Day 1998, Mr. Curtis replied, ‘It’s not a big celebration for us,’ adding, ‘Usually it’s a workday during a ratings period.’”

chet curtis.jpgChet Curtis

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Oops: Grammys' In Memoriam Segment Gets Late Actor's Name Wrong

The Grammys ceremony had an embarrassing flub when it was trying to honor stars who died in the past year. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the late "Glee” star Cory Monteith had his name misspelled in the segment.

Screen shots of the misspelled name -- the Grammys showed it as “Montieth” -- hit Twitter with critical remarks from viewers about the botched name.

“Someone’s getting fired,” tweeted Canadian journalist Mike Morrison, while another viewer wrote, “it’s 2014 & no one has spell check?”

Monteith, who portrayed Finn Hudson on the Fox show, died last July at 31. An autopsy said the cause of death was drug use combined with alcohol.

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Report: Susan Boyle Applies for Minimum-Wage Cashier Job

Susan Boyle, who shot to stardom during “Britain’s Got Talent,” has reportedly applied for a cashier job at her local betting parlor in Scotland, reports the New York Post’s Page Six.

Boyle applied for a $10.65 minimum-wage job at Ladbrokes, a British betting company, the story says, citing the London newspaper The Sun.

“Susan Boyle walked into the shop and inquired about the job advertised in our window. We were all in shock,” the deputy manager of the betting parlor told the publication.

Given that Boyle is worth an estimated $33 million, the singer may want to just mingle with people, the story adds.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for susan boyle.pngSusan Boyle

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NBC Moving Forward With Remake of 1986 Movie

NBC has greenlighted a comedy project remaking a 1986 movie. The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed reports that the network ordered a pilot for a remake of “The Money Pit,” which starred Tom Hanks and Shelley Long as a couple who try to renovate a house that's falling apart.

The remake comes from Universal Television and Amblin TV, with Justin Spitzer of “The Office” writing. Amblin Entertainment was the studio behind the original movie.

“Money Pit” is the third project from Amblin TV at broadcast networks this pilot season, along with “The Visitors” at ABC and “Red Band Society” at Fox, the report notes.

Separately, NBC also picked up a singles comedy from The Mark Gordon Co. Called “Fifth Wheel,” an ensemble comedy about a woman whose last single friend gets engaged.

The pickups mean that NBC has 12 comedy pilots in contention, in addition to three comedies the network ordered straight to series: “Mr. Robinson,” “Working the Engels” and an untitled Tina Fey comedy.

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Report: Comcast in Talks With Charter to Buy Parts of Time Warner Cable

Comcast, the top cable provider, is in discussions with Charter about a deal to buy parts of Time Warner Cable, with interest in a pact to provide Comcast with its New York market and parts of New England, reports Reuters.

Citing an unnamed source who's familiar with the situation, the story reports: “Discussions between Comcast Corp. and Charter Communications Inc. have gotten more substantive in recent days, partly because Comcast felt takeover target Time Warner Cable was seeking too high a price for itself."

In one plan under discussion, Charter would first buy Time Warner Cable, and then sell some markets to Comcast to produce cash, the story says. Talks could fall apart at any time, the piece notes.

Comcast has also been considering making a bid for Time Warner Cable, but recently has decided its rival’s asking price of $160 per share is too high.

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Emmy-Nominated Comedian Joins Tina Fey's Fox Comedy Series

A comedy at Fox from Tina Fey and Matt Hubbard has added a popular comedian to the cast. The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports that the untitled project cast Emmy nominee Margaret Cho as the president of a women’s college that opens its doors to men for the first time.

Cho’s character is described as “a divisive figure on campus” who “does her best to be welcoming of the male freshmen but is often irritated by their antics."

Production on the project, which has a series commitment, will start in March, the story says. Cho’s casting will provide a reunion for the actress with Fey, given that she played Kim Jong-Il and his son, Kim Jong-Un, on Fey’s “30 Rock.” Cho earned a guest actress Emmy nomination for the role, the story says.

margaret cho.jpgMargaret Cho

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Longtime TV Partners Re-Up: 20th Century Fox Television and Imagine Television; What Does the Deal Mean for the Future of '24' and 'Arrested Development'?

20th Century Fox Television has signed Imagine Television to a new two-year deal, keeping one of the TV industry’s longest production relationships in place, reports Nellie Andreeva at Deadline.com.

Imagine has been with 20th Century Fox TV for the past 14 years, and during their most recent term the partners revived “Arrested Development” and “24,” the story notes.

“And there may be more in store for both properties. Fox has indicated interest in making ’24’ an event franchise. Netflix had been in conversations with 20th TV, Imagine and ‘Arrested Development’ creator Mitch Hurwitz about more ‘Arrested Development,’ and that now appears very likely, in the form of an original movie or another season,” the piece notes.

Two television series from Imagine TV will soon debut: “Gang Related” on Fox” and “Those Who Kill” on A&E, the story says, adding that other projects are also in the works.

“Under the agreement, 20th TV is the exclusive home of Imagine TV for broadcast and cable. The company has been ramping up cable development lately, resulting in its first cable drama series, ‘Those Who Kill,’” and a separate project with “Sons of Anarchy” creator Kurt Sutter, the piece notes.

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Viacom Boss Sumner Redstone Gets a Huge Bump in Pay

Sumner Redstone, the 90-year-old controlling shareholder of Viacom who “rarely makes it into the office these days,” received a 50% pay increase from his 2012 compensation, reports Meg James on the Los Angeles Times’ Company Town blog.

Redstone’s 2013 pay package was valued at $36.2 million, the company said in a regulatory filing. In 2012, he received a package valued at $24.2 million. “The big jump came as a result of an increase in the value of Redstone's stock option equivalents awarded in 2006,” the piece notes.

That makes his pay package bigger than that of Walt Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger, who was given 2013 compensation of $34.3 million.

“Viacom's top executives have long been among the highest paid in corporate America," the story reports. "In 2013, the top three executives -- including Redstone -- were paid a combined $102 million in cash, stock and other incentives."

Viacom Chief Executive Philippe Dauman, 59, received $37.2 million in 2013 compensation, an increase of 11% from 2012. The company’s No. 3 executive, Thomas E. Dooley, 57, received $29 million last year, the story adds.

sumner redstone.pngSumner Redstone

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Starz Orders Drama Series From 'Breaking Bad' Writer and Producer

Starz has ordered a drama series from a writer and executive producer on "Breaking Bad" -- although the subject matter for the new project would seem to be a long way from the gritty world of meth depicted in the AMC series.

TheWrap.com reports that the new Starz series, "Flesh and Blood," focuses on the world of ballet, with ballerina Sarah Hay cast in the lead role.

Hay will play Claire, described by Starz as a “beautiful, soulful and deeply emotionally wounded young woman.” The project is from “Breaking Bad” writer and executive producer Moira Walley-Beckett.

“From the beginning, we all agreed this project could not go forward unless we found a world class dancer who had the ability to convey the widest range of emotions that Moira has written,” Starz Chief Executive Chris Albrecht said in a statement.

Hay joined the Dresden Semperoper Ballett in Germany in 2010, and become a soloist there in 2012. She has danced the title role in “Cinderella” and Marie in “Nutcracker,” among other roles. She also appeared as a member of the Corps De Ballet in the film “Black Swan.”

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Elizabeth Vargas' Return Helps '20/20' Hit a Ratings High

With Elizabeth Vargas’ return as co-anchor of “20/20” after treatment for alcohol addiction, the ABC News magazine hit a four-year high, reports TVNewser.

The show drew 8.3 million viewers Friday evening, its biggest audience in almost four years, the story reports. It also earned the highest numbers in the 18-49 and 25-54 demographics in almost two years, the story says.

“It’s great to be back,” Vargas said to co-anchor David Muir. “Thank you for all your support and thank you to all our viewers, as well. It really meant a lot to me.”

The show ended its hour with Vargas’ story, the piece adds.

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ABC Orders Four Drama Pilots

ABC has given pilot orders to four dramas. Deadline.com reports that the network ordered “The Astronaut Wives Club," "Warriors," "Agatha" and an untitled project from Richard LaGravenese.

“The Astronaut Wives Club” comes from Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage’s Fake Empire and Michael London’s Groundswell Productions. It’s based on a novel from Lily Koppel and is set in the 1960s, telling the story of the women behind some of the male heroes of the American space race, the piece adds.

The untitled project is about “the love and rivalry between two equally matched, powerful socialites who play out their obsessive attraction and seduction of each other through their manipulation of others,” the story says.

“Warriors” is about military doctors and nurses, while “Agatha” is about an ex-con who becomes a criminologist.

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Oscar-Winning Actress Joins BBC America Series

BBC America has cast an Academy Award-winning actress as the female lead in an original series. Deadline.com reports that Mira Sorvino will play the lead in “Intruders,” an eight-episode series.

The drama, based on a 2007 novel by Michael Marshall Smith, has also cast James Frain.

The series tracks a secret society that is “chasing immortality by seeking refuge in the bodies of others,” the piece notes. Sorvino will play two characters in the same body.

The show stars John Simm, who played the Master in “Doctor Who,” as a former police officer who starts investigating when his wife (Sorvino) goes missing. Frain will play a murderer who is on a secret mission and passes himself off as an FBI agent.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for mira-sorvino.jpgMira Sorvino

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Hit Song 'Get Lucky' Gets Lucky at the Grammys. We Have the Complete List of Winners

"It was a 'Lucky' night for Daft Punk," reports CNN.

The story continues: "The robot-headed duo won record of the year for the hit 'Get Lucky' and album of the year for 'Random Access Memories' at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards Sunday night."

We have a complete list of Grammy winners if you click here.

The CNN article adds: "Daft Punk was typically silent, but singer-songwriter Paul Williams accepted the album of the year award with a generous speech. Williams, who's written such songs as 'We've Only Just Begun' and 'Evergreen,' had struggled to overcome substance abuse problems over the years. 'Then I get sober and two robots asked me to make an album,' he said."

"The Grammys also often manage to single out rising artists, and this year that meant Lorde, Kacey Musgraves and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis," says the CNN story, adding "Lorde earned the third of the big three awards, song of the year, for 'Royals.' The honor is a songwriters' award."

CNN also noted: "Musgraves won for best country album. Macklemore & Lewis, who were nominated for seven awards, won four. ... The pair also took home rap album ('The Heist'), rap performance and rap song (both for 'Thrift Shop'). Macklemore & Lewis beat out some tough competition in the rap categories. Their album was up against offerings from Drake and Kendrick Lamar, and 'Thrift Shop' defeated songs by Jay Z and Kanye West."

Again, to see the full list of Grammy winners, please click here.

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Jay Leno -- and His Wife Mavis -- in '60 Minutes' Interview Say Leno Was Not the Bad Guy When NBC Gave Him Back the 'Tonight' Show After It Had Been Promised to Conan O'Brien

Jay Leno, and his wife, Mavis, told "60 Minutes" last night, Sunday, Jan 26, 2014, that Leno was not the bad guy when he returned to host the "Tonight" show after it had been promised to Conan O'Brien. Here's a transcript of that part of the interview:

Transcript furnished by "60 Minutes":

WHAT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE AN ORDERLY TRANSITION INSTEAD TURNED INTO AN UNSCRIPTED REALITY SHOW THAT PLAYED OUT EVERY NIGHT ON LATE NIGHT TELEVISION

O’BRIEN FROM TONIGHT SHOW: Hosting the tonight show has been fulfillment of a life-long dream for me … . And I just want to say to the kids out there watching: You can do anything you want in life. Unless Jay Leno wants to do it too.

STEVE KROFT: You were the bad guy. You were portrayed as bein' the bad guy.

JAY LENO: Yeah, I -- I didn't quite understand that. But I never chose to answer any of those things or make fun of any of the other people involved. It's -- it's not my way And you just go and you be a comedian and you do what you do.

MAVIS LENO: I'm sorry. This is a subject I'm very, very angry about to this day.

JAY’S WIFE, MAVIS, WAS MUCH MORE UPSET THAN HER HUSBAND

MAVIS: It made me angry because there was this perception that for some reason Jay had decided to give up the show. It was like he gave the show to Conan and then he took it back. That was not what happened, OK? (LAUGH) That was not what happened.

KROFT: There were a lot of people that felt you should have just -- a lotta people including Conan ...

JAY: Yeah.

KROFT: ... felt that you just sort of said -- should have gone off to -- to ABC or to Fox or to someplace else and not ...

JAY: Well, you know something? NBC is my home. Don't forget, back in 2004, I went into work one day and, hey, you lost your show. What? So suddenly it was taken from me, and then they said, "We want to give it back to you." I said, "Fine."

conan and leno.pngConan O'Brien and Jay Leno in happier days

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Sharon Stone to Star in TV Drama

Actress Sharon Stone, better known for her career in movies, including "Basic Instinct" and "Casino," has taken on what will be her first starring role in a TV series if the project goes to series. Writing on Deadline.com, Nellie Andreeva reports that Stone will tackle a starring role in the TNT action pilot "Agent X" (working title).

"Penned by 'The Bourne Identity' scribe William Blake Herron, 'Agent X' centers on America’s first female vice president, [Natalie] Maccabee (Stone), a woman with brains, beauty, and a cool composure that belies a restless mind," Andreeva writes. "After the death of her husband, a Senate candidate, Natalie opted to run in his place, and after a rapid political rise, she now finds herself the newly elected vice president of the United States. Initially apprehensive that her job will be ceremonial in nature, she soon learns that it comes with a top secret duty: protecting the Constitution in times of great crisis with the aid of her Chief Steward and a secret operative designated 'Agent X.'”

The project has some parallels with the HBO comedy series "Veep," in which Julia Louis-Dreyfus also plays the country's first female vice president. Stone reportedly agreed to tackle "Agent X" after being pursued for the role for some time. The pilot, from Beacon Pictures, will be executive produced by Armyan Bernstein.

"This marks the first series starring role for Stone, whose only previous series regular gig was a small part on a short-lived NBC drama at the very beginning of her career more than 30 years ago," the report notes. "The Oscar-nominated actress, repped by Paradigm and manager Chuck Binder, previously did arcs on 'The Practice,' which earned her an Emmy nomination, and 'Law & Order: SVU,' and starred in the 2001 HBO movie 'If These Walls Could Talk 2.'"

sharon stone.jpgSharon Stone

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Video: Jay Leno on Leaving NBC's 'Tonight Show': 'It's Not My Decision'

CBS News has released a short clip, seen below, of its upcoming "60 Minutes" interview with Jay Leno in which the outgoing "Tonight Show" veteran talks about his exit from the late-night show.

Elsewhere in the interview, according to EW.com, Leno says he was "blindsided" by his temporary ouster from the show in 2009, when he was bumped for Conan O'Brien.

The interview airs this Sunday on "60 Minutes." Here's a brief sample:

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Longtime TV Character Actor Dead at 67

A veteran character actor who became a familiar face on television and was best known for his long run on the PBS children's show "The Electric Company" has died. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Luis Avalos, who played Doctor Doolots and other characters on the kids show, died Wednesday at 67 after recently suffering a heart attack.

The Cuban-born Avalos was a part of "Electric Company" from its second season until the show signed off in 1977, the story reports.

"The Havana native also appeared as Dr. Thomas Esquivel on 21 episodes of the NBC drama 'ER' and as Principal Rivas on the ABC comedy 'Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper,' and he had regular roles on the series ... 'Condo,' 'I Had Three Wives' and 'Resurrection Blvd.,'" the report notes. "Other shows on which he appeared included 'The Jeffersons,' 'Soap,' 'Full House,' 'Hill Street Blues,' 'NYPD Blue,' 'Jack & Bobby' and 'JAG.'"

Avalos also worked in films, appearing in "The Butcher's Wife," "Jungle 2 Jungle," "Hollywood Homicide" and others.

"In 2000, Avalos founded the Americas Theatre Arts Foundation in Los Angeles and served as its artistic director to support productions of Latin American-inspired dramas," the report adds.

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Veterans of '30 Rock,' 'MADtv' and 'Mad Men' Join FX's Billy Crystal Project

A Billy Crystal comedy project in the works at FX has been busy adding cast members. The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed reports that the show, "The Comedians," has just added "30 Rock's" Matt Oberg, "MADtv's" Stephnie Weir and "Mad Men's" Megan Ferguson to the lineup.

The show stars Crystal and Josh Gad, a Tony nominee for "Book of Mormon."

"The single-camera entry from Fox Television Studios revolves around a superstar veteran comedian (Crystal) who is reluctantly paired with a younger, edgier comedian (Gad) for a late-night comedy sketch show. Gad's young and hip comic resents -- and rails against -- the pairing," the story reports.

The piece adds: "Oberg will play Mitch, the head writer of the sketch show, who is eager, even when he's being bulldozed by Billy, and will tell anyone who will listen about his past as a comedic jack-of-all trades.

"Weir is set as Kristen, the anxiety-ridden producer of Billy and Josh's sketch show, who frequently finds herself caught in the middle of their arguments.

"Ferguson will portray Esme, a no-nonsense PA who is mostly over it all, including Billy. The casting reunites her with Gad, whom she co-starred opposite in Ed Zwick's feature film 'Love & Other Drugs.'"

Showrunners Larry Charles ("Seinfeld"), Matt Nix ("Burn Notice") and Ben Wexler ("Arrested Development") are among the high-profile team of TV veterans working behind the scenes on the project.

stephnie weir.jpgStephnie Weir

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Thursday Ratings: Down Night for 'Idol,' and Fox's New Dramedy Fares Even Worse

After a big Wednesday night for Fox, it was back to reality for the network in Thursday prime time, based on Nielsen overnights for the key 18-49 demo.

TVbytheNumbers.com reports that even on a down night "American Idol" still had enough draw to put Fox over the top and win the night, but the premiere of the new Greg Kinnear dramedy "Rake," leading out from "Idol," failed to hang on to the "Idol" audience.

"Idol" was down 13% from its Thursday number a week ago with a 3.3 average in the 18-49 demo. The "Rake" premiere followed with a 1.7.

In total viewers, "Idol," with 12.1 million, was beaten by a repeat of "The Big Bang Theory" on CBS, with 12.78 million.

CBS's all-repeat lineup delivered a second-place overall finish for prime time, with "Bang" scoring a 2.9 average in 18-49 and a second episode of the show pulling in a 2.4.

ABC and NBC were well off the pace, although ABC's two-hour "The Taste" managed a 1.1 average in adults 18-49, rising 22% from its performance a week ago. A "Shark Tank" repeat at 10 p.m. matched that number, delivering another 1.1.

NBC's lineup of prime-time originals couldn't seem to get much going. "Community" and "Parks and Recreation" matched last week's numbers -- a 1.1 for "Community" and a 1.2 for "Parks." Moving to 9 p.m., "The Michael J. Fox Show" ticked up 7% to a 0.7, and swapping slots with "Michael," "Sean Saves the World" at 9:30 slipped 13% to a series-low 0.7.

"Parenthood" was NBC's best performer, delivering a 1.3 in the 18-49 demo at 10 p.m., up 8% from last week's series low.

For prime time overall, Fox's 2.5 average in 18-49 led the pack, followed by CBS (1.9 average), Univision (1.3), ABC (1.1) and NBC (1.0). Fox also won total viewers, but by a narrower margin, averaging 9.6 million to lead CBS (8.8 million), ABC (3.9 million), NBC (3.2 million) and Univision (3.1 million).

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HBO Cancels Two Series

Two HBO series are hitting the chopping block. EW.com’s Inside TV reports that the pay-cable channel opted out of giving new seasons to the comedies “Hello Ladies” and “Family Tree.”

Both shows received positive reviews, “but failed to capture the zeitgeist like ‘Girls,’” the story notes. “Hello Ladies” was based on Stephen Merchant’s stand-up show, and starred the comedian as an Englishman looking for romance in Los Angeles. The series will conclude with a special, the piece notes.

“Family Tree,” from Christopher Guest and Jim Piddock, was set up in a documentary format and tracked a young man investigating his genealogy.

stephen merchant-hbo.jpgStephen Merchant

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'Saturday Night Live' Names New 'Weekend Update' Anchor

“Saturday Night Live” has named a new co-anchor for its “Weekend Update” segment. The Los Angeles Times’ Show Tracker reports that the job is going to the show’s head writer, Colin Jost.

Jost will join Cecily Strong in the coveted role of co-anchor for the segment. He replaces Seth Meyers, who is leaving the NBC sketch comedy show to host NBC's “Late Night.”

Jost joined “SNL” in 2005 and has served as the head writer since 2012. “His transition to the ‘Weekend Update’ desk is reminiscent of Tina Fey and Meyers,” the piece notes.

Jost's background includes work as a stand-up comedian and as a screenwriter.

Meyers’ last “Weekend Update” will be on Feb. 1, with Jost's debut in the spot set for March 1.

colin jost.pngColin Jost

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Correspondent Leaves NBC News After Three Decades

A correspondent who has been with NBC News for more than 30 years is leaving the network. TVNewser reports that political and investigative correspondent Lisa Myers announced she's headed out.

“I have had more than 30 fascinating years at NBC News, learning from and working alongside the best of the best, including journalists who paved the way for many of us: Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert,” she wrote in a note that was sent to NBC News employees from Washington bureau chief Ken Strickland.

In the note, Strickland writes that Myers is leaving to “start a new chapter.” While Myers writes that she appreciates “the company granting my request to change gears and pursue new horizons,” the note doesn’t say what she plans to do next.

Myers joined NBC News in 1981 from The Washington Star, where she was the publication’s White House correspondent.

lisa myers.pngLisa Myers

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Legendary Celebrity Lawyer Dies -- He Inspired the Writing of the Recent Tell-All Book About Johnny Carson

A "legendary sports and entertainment attorney died Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, of natural causes after a long illness at his home in Beverly Hills," reports the Hollywood Reporter.

He was Ed Hookstratten, known as "Hook." He was 83.

Henry Bushkin, who was also a lawyer and who worked for Johnny Carson for 18 years, tells this story in his recent tell-all book "Johnny Carson": "The initial spark to write this book was ignited by my friend Ed Hookstratten. 'Hook' said to me one day in early 2008, 'Why not write the book about you and Johnny? No one knew him like you did.' Hook reminded me that he worked for Johnny for more than nine years [after Carson had fired Bushkin] and knew very little about him personally. With any unpleasantness years behind me, I decided he was right."

According to the obituary about Hookstratten written by our good friend Joe Flint in the Los Angeles Times' Company Town blog, he was a “tough negotiator who wasn't shy about raising his voice,” and also “something of an old-school agent who operated as a lone wolf.” 

"He was always a one-man band," Tom Brokaw, who was a Hookstratten client, told the Times. ”I don’t think there will ever be anyone like that again."

While Brokaw initially turned down Hookstratten’s appeal to work for him, he decided to give the attorney a try when NBC offered him the anchor role for “Today.” That “made the brass at NBC quiver,” the story adds. An NBC executive "literally clutched his chest and said, 'You hired The Hook? Oh, my God,'" Brokaw said.

Hookstratten ate lunch at The Grill almost every day and once drove a Rolls-Royce with a license plate that read “Hook.” He also had a talent for getting clients out of trouble spots, the Times piece says, adding:  "Hookstratten is survived by his wife, Aimee, former wife Pat Crowley Friendly, four children and five grandchildren. His son Jon Hookstratten is a senior executive at Fox Broadcasting."

ed hookstratten.pngEd Hookstratten

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Must Read Over the Weekend: a Profile of 'The Dark Lord of the Internet' in The Atlantic That We Could Not Put Down When We Read It. It's Our Non-TV Story of the Day

Here's the tease in the current January/February issue of The Atlantic magazine for an article, by Taylor Clark, titled "The Dark Lord of the Internet": "He may be the most financially successful 20-something you've never heard of, a bizarro Mark Zuckerberg. If you have a credit card, and use the Internet, you would do well to learn more about who he is -- and what he does."

Here at TVWeek, we found this long profile a compelling, could-not-stop-reading page turner. The person in question is 26-year-old Jesse Willms. Says the introduction to the piece, Willms "has already lost two fortunes to legal settlements, but he is building a third." Adds The Atlantic, Willms is "allegedly one of the biggest hustlers in the history of e-commerce..."

One more enticement for you to read this piece -- which you can find if you click on the link in our first sentence, above: We have no doubt that if Willms' story was made into a TV or theatrical movie, it should be called "The Wolf of the Internet."

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CNBC Exec Who Battled Dylan Ratigan Gets the Boot

One of the top executives at CNBC is reportedly headed out the door. The New York Post’s Page Six reports that the cable channel opted not to renew the contract of Susan Krakower, senior vice president of strategic programming and development.

CNBC President Mark Hoffman reportedly told Krakower she’s “too hard on the furniture,” meaning too rough on the talent, the story says.

Krakower is known for a battle with former CNBC host Dylan Ratigan, who said about her during a commercial break, “If you want to pull me off the show, please do. [You are] rude and disrespectful,” according to the piece. Ratigan left the network shortly after that incident, the report notes.

Krakower is said to be in talks to join Morgan Stanley, although a CNBC representative said she remains under contract at the network, according to the report.

susan krakower.pngSusan Krakower

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Fox Sports Bracing for 'Biggest, Boldest and Coldest Super Bowl in TV History'

With the Super Bowl slated for the open-air MetLife Stadium in New Jersey on Feb. 2, Fox Sports said it’s prepared to broadcast the game if it has to be shifted to another day because of bad weather, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

"Being dubbed 'the biggest, boldest and coldest Super Bowl in TV history,' there is chance the matchup between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks may not even take place on Feb. 2 if a big storm hits the Big Apple," THR reports. "In a media call on Wednesday, the Fox Sports crew revealed their broadcasting plans for Super Bowl Sunday -- and what they will do if it turns into Super Bowl Friday or even Super Bowl Monday."

Said Fox Sports President, Chief Operating Officer and executive producer Eric Shanks: "We have been preparing along with the league for multiple scenarios."

THR adds: "The issue became a hot topic after the NFL revealed that Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey could be played anywhere from Friday, Jan. 31, to Monday, Feb. 3, in a worst-case scenario."

Added Shanks: "I think that even the league a couple of weeks ago didn't dismiss the idea of being prepared for other dates, even before Sunday or after Sunday. I think it is the right thing to do."

The current forecast is for a high of 40 degrees and a 30% chance of rain or snow, but weather can change quickly, the piece notes.

“The storm that happened just this week was three days ahead of time and it wasn't really predicted, it was meant to be a small storm then they ended up getting seven to eight inches [of snow] here," said Shanks.

He added that he believes viewers will tune in regardless of whether the game is shifted to another day.

“I don't think we necessarily know yet, but you would have a lot of built-in promotion as the game day delay would be a massive story -- potentially if there was anyone in the U.S. who didn't know the Super Bowl was being played, they might then know," he said.

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How Fitting That With NATPE Starting Monday in Miami Word Came This Week That 'Ellen' Has Been Sold to China

How fitting that with the international marketplace of syndication -- NATPE -- starting Monday, Jan. 27, 2014, in Miami Beach, word came this week that Ellen DeGeneres' daytime talk show has been sold to China.

Writes George Winslow in B&C, "Warner Bros. Worldwide Television Distribution has inked a deal for 'The Ellen DeGeneres Show' to be carried on Sohu Video, a major online video service provider in China. The studio is billing the agreement as the first U.S. daily talk show to be carried in China."

The story continues, " 'We are thrilled that 'Ellen' will now be seen in China and is the first U.S. talk show available there,' added Jeffrey R. Schlesinger, president, Warner Bros. Worldwide Television Distribution."

In a Q&A on the NATPE website with VideoInk, NATPE CEO Rod Perth was asked, "The slogan for NATPE 2014 [in] Miami is 'No Barriers. New Business.' In a few words, please expand on that."

ROD PERTH: There have been barriers between the linear and digital worlds in the past, and they have largely existed within silos that didn’t understand one another. Our theme is focused on the breaking down of those barriers. There should be no barriers to meeting the right people, developing new business possibilities, and then monetizing them. That’s really the heart of it, and that’s why everyone comes to these kinds of events. We think we’re unique because of the incredible diversity of the people we are focused on attracting, and we are pretty proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish so far.

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Fox Orders Comedy Series and Three Pilots

Fox is expanding its comedy lineup, placing a series order for one show and ordering three comedy pilots. The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports that the network placed an order for a six-episode run of “Weird Loners.”

The series is about four people who are afraid of relationships but who form bonds together, the story says. The script will be written by Michael Weithorn, who will also executive produce with Jake Kasdan.

Among the pilots is “Sober Companion,” about a self-destructive lawyer who is given a court-appointed sober companion who turns his life upside down. It is written and executive produced by David S. Rosenthal and Jennie Snyder Urman for CBS Television Studios.

“Dead Boss,” meanwhile, is based on a British series about an overachiever who is wrongly convicted of murdering her boss and has to rely on her sister to prove her innocence. Sharon Horgan and Holly Walsh, who created the British series, will executive produce along with Aaron Kaplan and Patricia Breen for Warner Bros. Television and Kapital Entertainment, the story notes.

The other pilot, "Here’s Your Damn Family,” is from executive producers Steve McPherson and Johnny Galecki. The project lifted its cast contingency, with Jane Kaczmarek set to star. The "Malcolm in the Middle" alum will play a single mother whose son, almost 30 years old, is still living at home without plans to leave.

jane-kaczmarek 2.jpgJane Kaczmarek

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Stand-Up Comedian's Project Gets Pilot Order From ABC

ABC has placed a cast-contingent pilot order for a semi-autobiographical multicamera comedy from stand-up comedian Kevin Hart, The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports.

The project comes from former “Community” executive producers Neil Goldman and Garrett Donovan, and is about a couple who try to create a friendship after they get divorced, in order to help their kids. Hart isn’t slated to star, but may appear in a recurring role if the project goes to series.

Goldman and Donovan are writing the script and executive producing for 20th Century Fox, where they are under an overall deal, the story says.

Hart broke out in Judd Apatow’s Fox show “Undeclared,” which premiered in 2001, and he now sells out large arenas on his comedy tours, performing in venues such as the Staples Center in Los Angeles and Madison Square Garden in New York.

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Angela Lansbury Is Delighted That NBC's 'Murder She Wrote' Reboot Is Dead

Angela Lansbury told the Associated Press that she’s relieved the remake of her popular detective series “Murder, She Wrote” was killed.

As we reported this week, NBC pulled the plug on the reboot, which was slated to star Octavia Spencer as a hospital administrator and amateur detective who self-publishes a mystery novel.

"I couldn't believe that they would even consider doing such a thing," Lansbury told the AP Thursday.

She added that she thought the project was a “terrible disservice” to Spencer. "I have too much admiration for her to saddle her with the awful responsibility of having to bring that title into a different venue,” Lansbury said.

Lansbury, 88, starred as Jessica Fletcher for 12 years, with the CBS drama airing from 1984-1996 and racking up 264 episodes.

angela lansbury.jpgAngela Lansbury

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President Obama Books Interview With Bill O'Reilly Before Super Bowl

President Barack Obama will sit down with Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly in the annual Super Bowl Day discussion, which is slated to air during Fox’s pregame show Feb. 2, reports the Los Angeles Times’ Show Tracker.

The interview will air at 1:30 p.m. PT and is the first of two parts, with the second scheduled to play during Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor” Feb. 3. The second portion will be taped, while the Super Bowl pregame interview will be live.

The sitdown marks O’Reilly’s third interview with Obama. Obama has given interviews on Super Bowl Day with various news hosts, including NBC’s Matt Lauer in 2012 and CBS’s Scott Pelley in 2013.

It’s not clear which topics O’Reilly and Obama will discuss this year, but the Times suggests that the Middle East and Obamacare will be on the agenda.

barack obama 2.jpgBarack Obama

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Justin Bieber Arrested -- Experts Alarmed

Experts are sounding alarms about the behavior of teenage pop star Justin Bieber after the singer was arrested early today in Miami.

"Bieber, 19, was booked at Miami Beach police headquarters early Thursday on charges of driving under the influence, driving with an expired license and resisting arrest 'without violence,' according to police records," USA Today reports. "The superstar admitted to having beer, pot and prescription drugs in his system."

Olivia Barker writes in the USA Today piece: "It's one thing to abandon a dubiously procured pet monkey. Or to urinate in a janitor's bucket. Or to tag a hotel wall. Or to hurl eggs at a neighbor's front door -- or any of the other sophomoric, so-called 'antics' Justin Bieber has been accused of doing of late.

"It's quite another to drive -- indeed, speed -- drunk and high. Underage, no less."

Bonnie Fuller, editor in chief of HollywoodLife.com, is quoted in the report saying: "This is definitely his low point. It's four huge don'ts all wrapped up in one incident."

Fuller adds: "I don't think you can say, 'Oh, you know, he's just 19, just doing teenage antics and if he wasn't a celebrity nobody would pay attention.' Most 19-year-old boys are obeying the law. Lots of them underage drink and party, but they don't get behind the wheel of a car. He's going beyond the normal stuff that a kid in college is going to do.

"God forbid that he should end up like James Dean."

Jamison Monroe Jr., CEO of the Newport Academy treatment center for teenagers, said Bieber's downward spiral is "the same story we've seen over and over. The child star gets access to power and substances and can get anything he or she wants, including a monkey on a private plane. The star thinks they're above the law. We see this with affluent kids on a daily basis, kids who think they live by their own set of rules."

Monroe adds: "I think it's gotten to a point of alarm. We need to take a strong look at it. This is the first time he was actually behind the wheel but if you look at past red flags, this is a culmination of a self-destructive pattern we've been seeing for a while."

But could his latest run-in with the law actually work to his advantage? Maybe so.

"Indeed, the fact that the law has finally caught up with the singer could be to his benefit when it comes to attempting a turnaround," Barker writes.

Said Fuller: "That can be a big wake-up call, especially to young person who's not hardened in any way. He's not had a bad upbringing, he's had a good upbringing. He's had a lot of love in life. He's had direction."

She adds: "There are a lot people around him who care about him and can intervene. He's very close to his mother and very close to his father. His management team he's close to. Will Smith has given him fatherly advice. There are a lot of people who can get through to him and prevent this from going any further."

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Boy, This Is Getting Old Fast: Customer Data From Another Major Retailer Hacked. It's Our Non-TV Story of the Day

Customer data from yet another major U.S. retailer has been hacked.

"Neiman Marcus said Thursday that about 1.1 million customer credit and debit cards may have been hacked by malicious software," reports USA Today.

The story reports: "The sophisticated, self-concealing malware was 'clandestinely' installed on the department store operator's system. The software then actively tried to collect or 'scrape' payment card data from July 16 to Oct. 30, the company explained.

"During that time, about 1.1 million cards 'could have been potentially visible to the malware,' Neiman CEO Karen Katz wrote in a statement on the company's website. "

So far about 2,400 cards that were used at either Neiman Marcus or Last Call stores "were subsequently used fraudulently," the story notes.

The newspaper also ran a chart showing some of the biggest hacks of consumer data in the past decade: Data belonging to 92 million AOL customers was hacked in 2004. TK - TJ Maxx reported data belonging to 94 million customers was hacked in 2007. One hundred thirty million customers had data stolen from the Heartland Payment System in 2009. In 2011 the Sony Playstation Network got hit wtih data breaches affecting 77 million of its customers. Target recently revised the number of possible hits on data it had to "up to" 110 million of its customers. And 4.6 million of Snapchat's customers were recently hacked. 

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Fox Steamrolls the Broadcast Competition

Fox rolled to a huge ratings win Wednesday night, based on Nielsen overnights for the key 18-49 demo. TVbytheNumbers.com reports that none of the network's broadcast rivals could keep up with the torrid pace set by "American Idol."

The two-hour program came through with a 4.0 average in viewers 18-49, up 3% from last Thursday's installment but off 15% from the premiere last week. It also brought in 13.24 million total viewers.

ABC's "Modern Family" was the only thing on broadcast prime that was in the ballpark, delivering a 3.5 average in 18-49, up 9% from the previous week's season low.

ABC was higher across the board: "The Middle" rose 22% from last week's season low to a 2.2; "Suburgatory" ticked up 13% from last week's premiere to a 1.8; "Super Fun Night" bounced back from last week's series low, rising 13% to a 1.7; and "Nashville" picked up by 8% over last week's season low, with a 1.4 average.

NBC's lineup also showed improvement: "Revolution" rose 15% from its series low a week ago to a 1.5 average in the 18-49 demo; "Law & Order: SVU" surged 29% to a 1.8; and "Chicago PD" inched up 7% to a 1.6.

CBS had some repeats in the mix and wound up in fourth place among the broadcast nets. After opening with repeats of "The Crazy Ones" (0.8 average in 18-49) and "Mom" (0.9), the Tiffany Network rolled out a fresh "Criminal Minds" -- which slipped 8% from a week ago to a series-low 2.2 -- and a new "Chicago PD," which improved 7% to a 1.5.

For prime time overall, Fox's 4.0 average was the class of the field in the 18-49 demo, followed by ABC (2.0 average), NBC (1.7), CBS (1.6) and Univision (1.3). Fox was also well ahead of the pack in total viewers, averaging 13.2 million to lead CBS (8.0 million), ABC (6.5 million), NBC (6.1 million) and Univision (3.3 million).

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Emmy Winner Working on High-Profile Miniseries for CBS

CBS has tapped an Emmy-winning writer to adapt a miniseries for the network. Writing on Deadline.com, Lisa de Moraes writes that “The Chronicles of Narnia” writer Ann Peacock will adapt “The Dovekeepers” for the Mark Burnett and Roma Downey-produced project.

“The Dovekeepers” will be a four-hour miniseries based on Alice Hoffman’s historical novel about the Siege of Masada, the fortress near the Dead Sea where the Romans battled a group of Jewish resisters.

“We felt [the book] was best served if the screenplay came through the heart of a strong woman and Peacock is such a woman,” Downey told Deadline. “I met her right before Christmas; she came to our house in Malibu and I sat down with her and she clearly loved the book. Her book had Post-Its sticking out from a hundred different pages where she’d lovingly made notes.”

The project marks a return to TV for Peacock, who won an Emmy for HBO’s “A Lesson Before Dying,” based on a novel by Ernest Gaines, de Moraes writes. She has recently been working on the Starz/BBC America period series “Harem” and “Hunting Eichman” for Mandalay.

The piece adds: “CBS has high hopes for ‘The Dovekeepers.’ Burnett and Downey’s 10-hour miniseries ‘The Bible’ scored big ratings for History back in March of ’13, becoming the ... top cable entertainment telecast of the year when it premiered, and helping make History the No. 1-ranked cable network for that month.”

ann peacock.pngAnn Peacock

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'Hot Bench,' Created by Judge Judy Sheindlin, Is a Go for Fall 2014

CBS Television Distribution has sold the half-hour strip "Hot Bench," from Judge Judy Sheindlin, to stations covering 75% of the U.S., B&C reports, with the project reportedly a go for fall 2014.

"CTD has secured sales to the CBS Television Stations, Tribune Broadcasting Company, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Cox Media Group, Meredith Corp., LIN Television Corp., Nexstar Broadcasting Group, Journal Broadcast Group, Gray Television and Cowles Publishing Company," the story reports.

In a statement, Armando Nunez, president and CEO of the CBS Global Distribution Group, said: “Judy Sheindlin has been a very important part of the CBS family for many years, and everyone at our company is excited to launch this new show and bring Judy’s creative vision to the air. Court has traditionally been a strong performer for stations, and we’re sure this unique take on the genre will be a great addition to the lineups of our station partners.”

In an interview, Sheindlin said: “I think good, entertaining court still has a fascination for the public. I think that what will interest people about these three judges is that they all come to the show with a perspective.”

"Sheindlin said she thought of the idea for 'Hot Bench' -- a term used to refer to an active and engaged judge and also considered as the title for the show that is now 'Judge Judy' -- while on vacation in Ireland with her husband, Judge Jerry Sheindlin," the story reports.

Said Judy Sheindlin: “We visited the Supreme Court in Ireland, which is a three-judge bench and the chief judge is a woman. I thought that would translate into an interesting concept for the next show in the court genre."

judge judy.jpgJudge Judy Sheindlin

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Singers Behind One of the 1970s' Biggest Hits Getting Divorced -- Which Proves the Song Isn't True, If You Want to Look at It That Way

A married couple who sang one of the biggest hits of the 1970s is getting divorced -- something that the song promised wouldn't happen, more or less.

TMZ.com reports that the Captain & Tennille, whose many hits included “Love Will Keep Us Together,” are breaking up after all this time. In other words, the song held true for decades, but in the end, it wasn't enough.

The Captain, Daryl Dragon, told the publication he didn’t see the breakup coming, with Toni Tennille filing legal documents in Arizona claiming their marriage was “irretrievably broken,” the story says. The couple, who hosted their own ABC variety show from 1976-77, have been married for 39 years.

Their hits also included “Muskrat Love” and “Do That to Me One More Time.” The pair was discovered by Neil Sedaka when they performed at a restaurant in the Los Angeles area.

"I don't know why she filed. I gotta figure it out for myself first,” Dragon told TMZ.

The documents mention health insurance coverage, which may be relevant since Tennille blogged in 2009 that her husband had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, and two years later mentioned that his tremors were so bad he was embarrassed to be seen in public, the piece notes.

Her blog included this message from Jan. 16: “The Captain & Tennille appeared to the public as them being the ideal model for a 'rock-solid' married pair. But almost all people naturally evolve over time, & sometimes hidden feelings start to be uncovered ..."

“Love Will Keep Us Together” won the Grammy for record of the year in 1976.

captain & tennille.pngCaptain & Tennille

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Morning News Anchor Returns After Brain Surgery

A fixture of the morning news lineup in Los Angeles is back on the job. The Los Angeles Times' Show Tracker reports that Julie Chang, an anchor and entertainment reporter on “Good Day L.A.,” returned to the program Wednesday after undergoing brain surgery to remove a tumor

“To put it simply, California changed my life," Chang told her colleagues. Her tumor was discovered after she went surfing, which she took up after moving to California, and was hit in the head by a surfboard. A CT scan revealed the tumor.

Chang still doesn’t have all of her vision back, but is close to a full recovery, the story says.

"Good Day L.A." airs on Fox owned-and-operated KTTV.

Thumbnail image for julie chang.jpgJulie Chang

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CNN Sinks to Its Lowest Ratings Since Jeff Zucker Took Over

With this week marking the one-year anniversary of Jeff Zucker's appointment as president of CNN Worldwide, the numbers show Zucker still has his work cut out for him.

Variety reports that CNN delivered its lowest ratings since Zucker took over the cable-news network. Ratings released Tuesday show that for the week of Jan. 13-19, the network averaged 78,000 viewers in the key news demo of adults 25-54 in total day, and 99,000 for prime time.

"Meanwhile, Fox News Channel averaged 218,000 in the same demo for total-day, almost matching CNN and MSNBC (which earned 148,000) combined," the story reports. "In prime, Fox pulled in 261,000 and MSNBC attracted 235,000."

Compared with the same week a year earlier, that’s a 33% slide in the demographic in total day. Meanwhile, CNN also fell 28% in total viewers, and the network posted even steeper declines in prime time, according to the report.

"Fox News, on the other hand, was up in total-day by 3% in adults 25-54 and 6% in total viewers, while MSNBC was down 5% and 11% in these categories respectively," the report adds.

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Netflix Looking at New Pricing Strategies

Netflix is considering new pricing strategies, including charging more for customers who share accounts with friends and family members, reports Bloomberg.

Chief Executive Reed Hastings wrote in an investor letter Wednesday that the company is hoping “to offer new members a selection of three simple options to fit everyone’s taste.” One option would be an $11.99 monthly price for accounts that are shared among family and friends.

Last month, Netflix started offering some new customers a $6.99 monthly plan, while it also offers its standard $7.99 per-month fee.

Netflix could copy a model it used in Ireland, where it recently raised prices but customers were told they wouldn’t see another fee hike for two years, Hastings said.

“We’re still researching and trying to figure out the best way to move forward,” Hastings told Bloomberg in an interview. “Current subscribers will get to keep their current plan and price for a generous time period.”

The price increase in Ireland suggests the company could hike its rates without seeing the kind of customer backlash it encountered in 2011. Netflix angered subscribers by hiking its fees by 60%, as we reported at the time.

Netflix said it will add 2.25 million new domestic customers in the current quarter.

It also said that total streaming subscribers grew to 44.4 million worldwide in the fourth quarter, and that net income for the period jumped more than fivefold, reaching $48.4 million. Revenue, meanwhile, jumped 24% to $1.18 billion.

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Soap Opera Resurgence? Two Years After Facing Cancellation, Network Drama Is Picked Up

A long-running network soap opera has been picked up for another season, two years after it appeared to be on the chopping block. Writing on Deadline.com, Nellie Andreeva reports that ABC has renewed its veteran daytime drama “General Hospital.”

The news comes two years after the series was facing an uncertain future when the network gave its 3 p.m. time slot to Katie Couric’s new talk show, “Katie,” the report notes. Now, however, “Katie” is set to end in May after a disappointing two-year run, while “General Hospital's” ratings have been on an upswing.

“ABC does not officially renew its soaps, but I have learned that, not surprisingly, ‘General Hospital’ will continue next season,” Andreeva writes.

The renewal comes on the heels of CBS and NBC’s decisions to renew competing soaps, which means the “entire lineup of daytime dramas will remain intact as the genre experiences a resurgence,” she notes. CBS has renewed “The Young and the Restless” and “The Bold and the Beautiful,” while NBC has renewed “Days of our Lives,” as we reported separately.

The story adds, “Consider this: All four soaps are in positive territory year-to-year. Leader ‘The Young & the Restless’ (5.2 million viewers season to date, 1.5 in Women 18-49) is up 9% in total viewers and 7% in the female demo as it marks its 25th season as the most watched daytime drama.”

Meanwhile, “The Bold and the Beautiful” is up 14% in viewers, while “General Hospital” has boosted its total viewership by 8% and “Days of Our Lives” is up by 10%.

“The reasons for the resurgence are hard to pin down. Most observers attribute the ratings growth to the fact that, after so many daytime dramas went away, soap fans are migrating to the remaining series,” Andreeva notes.

All the soaps are online, which makes it easier for viewers to keep up with the stories. “The series’ storylines themselves also have been getting positive reaction from fans, possibly helping bring in new viewers,” Andreeva notes.

Nevertheless, the situation is grimmer for two soaps that migrated to online-only, “All My Children” and “One Life to Live,” the piece notes.

“Both stopped production a while ago as producer Prospect Park has been embroiled in a legal battle with ABC and chances for any of them coming back appear infinitely small,” Andreeva reports.

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Animal Planet Show Accused of Cruelty to Animals

An Animal Planet series is under fire for allegedly engaging in cruelty to animals. TheWrap.com reports that the show, “Call of the Wildman,” is the target of an online petition aking the cable channel to stop endangering animals to gain ratings.

The petition cites an investigation by Mother Jones magazine. As of Thursday morning, it had gained more than 23,000 signatures.

“Call of the Wildman” regularly pulls in more than 1 million viewers in its Sunday night time slot, Mother Jones notes in its report. The piece recounts how three baby raccoons, which starred in one of the show’s highest-rated episodes, had come into the Kentucky Wildlife Center “almost dead,” according to a worker at the clinic.

The petition also alleges that an animal on the show was drugged with sedatives, “in violation of federal rules.” TheWrap said Animal Planet hadn’t yet responded to a request for comment.

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'Real Housewives' Stars Ask for Separate Trials

Two of the stars of Bravo's “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” have asked for separate trials in their legal battles. People magazine reports that the request was made by Teresa and Joe Giudice, who are facing up to 50 years in jail for 41 counts of fraud, including loan and bankruptcy fraud.

The couple reportedly filed motions to conduct separate trials on Jan. 15.

“In the court documents, Joe maintains that Teresa had no knowledge or involvement in any criminal activity, but will only testify to that fact if the request for separate trials is granted,” the story reports.

The documents note, “Should the trials be severed, Mr. Giudice has affirmed his willingness to testify as to Teresa’s involvement in the alleged criminal activity. He would be unable to do so in a joint trial wherein his Fifth Amendment rights are invoked."

There’s no confirmation of whether the trials will be separate, the story adds.

joe and teresa giudice.jpgJoe and Teresa Giudice

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ABC Orders Series From 'American Hustle' Director

ABC has ordered a series from the prolific filmmaker behind "Silver Linings Playbook," "Three Kings," "Flirting With Disaster" and many other successful feature films, and whose "American Hustle" is among the leading contenders for the upcoming Academy Awards.

The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports that ABC gave the series order to David O. Russell, who has already racked up SAG and Golden Globe awards for “Hustle."

Russell is attached to executive produce an untitled soap for ABC that will go straight to series. The project marks Russell's first TV drama series. He previously was attached to a 2011 drama at FX that didn’t move forward, the piece notes.

ABC gave a 13-episode order for the drama, which is set at a private country club and looks at the upstairs/downstairs drama.

Russell co-wrote the story with Susannah Grant of “Erin Brokovich,” who also wrote the script.

The order marks ABC’s second recent straight-to-series order, following “Secrets & Lies,” which the network picked up with a 10-episode order.

“The move comes as broadcast and cable networks have been increasingly handing out larger commitments in a bid to lure high-profile producers and talent as the traditional broadcast calendar shifts to more year-round original programming,” the article points out.

david o russell.pngDavid O. Russell

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HBO Passes on One Lorne Michaels Project, Moves Forward With Another One

HBO has given a thumbs-down to a new project from "Saturday Night Live" head man Lorne Michaels. Deadline.com reports that the pay-cable channel took a pass on the pilot “People in New Jersey,” which was executive produced by Michaels and starred comedian Sarah Silverman and "That '70s Show's" Topher Grace as brother and sister.

Directed by Paul Feig, the project was said to be a funny, poignant take on modern life, the piece reports.

Separately, HBO has decided to redevelop another project from Lorne Michaels, an untitled comedy pilot from former “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” writers and performers Diallo Riddle and Bashir Salahuddin. The project will be redeveloped with a production commitment, which means a new script will likely result in a pilot.

The untitled project, which is executive produced by Michaels, stars Riddle and Salahuddin as two 30-something reporters in contemporary Atlanta, the piece notes.

Bashir Salahuddin.jpgBashir Salahuddin

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Study: Most Viewers Don't Like to Multitask While Watching TV

A new study finds that most television viewers don’t like to multitask while watching television. According to The Hollywood Reporter, which cites a study from TiVo, 76% of viewers said they prefer to keep their primary focus on what’s on TV.

When viewers do multitask, however, they like to surf the Internet. After that, the favorite activity is cooking, followed by chatting online.

“TiVo also says that while a lot of people use the Internet to research a show, just 27 percent of them will do so while watching TV and the rest will wait until later -- with 14 percent saying they’ll hit the Internet immediately after the show ends and 32 percent saying they’ll do so within a week,” the piece notes.

While 68% of TiVo users notice when a show promotes a Twitter hashtag, almost two-thirds say they don’t like seeing them during programs. Only 3% said they like seeing the hashtags, the study found.

The piece adds, “TiVo also explored what it calls the ‘Game of Thrones’ Factor, whereby shows ‘practically demand viewers’ full attention due to complex plot twists or dialogue,’ and 73 percent of those surveyed agreed with the statement: ‘There are certain shows that are so important to me or so tricky to follow, I make sure not to do other things while I am watching them.’”

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Daytime Drama Picked Up for Another Two Years

Daytime dramas have had a rough time in recent years, with a number of long-running soaps losing their spots on network TV. But one veteran show, NBC's "Days of Our Lives," can breathe a little easier now that the network has renewed the series for another two years.

The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports that “Days" was renewed through September 2016, which means the soap will be on air to mark its 50th anniversary in November 2015.

The show is demonstrating growth in ratings, chalking up its best season in three years in women 18-49 and its largest total viewership in four years.

“‘Days of Our Lives’ continues to be a fan favorite for the daytime audience, and we are thrilled to keep it going through its 50th season,” said Jennifer Salke, president of NBC Entertainment.

The news of the renewal comes on the heels of longtime cast member Alison Sweeney’s decision to depart the show, as previously reported. Sweeney, who has played Sami Brady on the soap for 21 years and began when she was 16, said she will leave after the end of this year. She said she wants to spend more time with her children, who are now 5 and 9.

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Bill Cosby to Return to Series TV

One of the biggest sitcom stars ever -- a TV legend who helped make Thursday nights "Must-See TV" on NBC -- may be headed back to the network with a new sitcom.

Writing on Deadline.com, our good friend Nellie Andreeva reports in an exclusive story that Bill Cosby, 76, has made a deal with NBC to develop and star in a new half-hour comedy.

"In 1984, 'The Cosby Show' revived the sitcom genre and fueled NBC‘s ratings resurgence," Andreeva writes. "Three decades later, Bill Cosby is looking to bring some of that magic back to NBC, which has been going though a rough time with comedies. The network has made a deal for a half-hour family comedy to star Cosby."

Cosby has reportedly gotten back together with his old "Cosby Show" partner, producer Tom Werner, for the new project.

"The new comedy will be built around Cosby, who will play the patriarch of a multi-generational family and, like the comedian’s previous family sitcoms -- 'Cosby Show' and 'Cosby' on CBS -- will channel his take on marriage and parenting. Cosby and Werner are meeting with writers on the project, which has been put on off-season development track," Andreeva writes.

Cosby and Werner have reportedly been working for some time on the idea of a family comedy with wide appeal.

In November, Cosby told Yahoo TV: “They would like to see a married couple that acts like they love each other, warts and all, children who respect the parenting, and the comedy of people who make mistakes. Warmth and forgiveness. So I hope to get that opportunity, and I will deliver the best of Cosby.”

Cosby also reportedly has a remake in the works of his animated series "Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids."

Bill Cosby.pngBill Cosby

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Down and Downer for ABC, as the Network Finishes Sixth in Prime Time

An all-time low, another even lower number and a sizable drop from last week marked ABC's Tuesday night ratings, based on Nielsen overnights for the key 18-49 demo, as the Alphabet Network finished below even the CW -- placing sixth among the broadcast networks.

TVbytheNumbers.com reports that ABC failed to crack a 1.0 in the key demo, averaging a 0.9 rating in adults 18-49 for prime time, below CW's 1.1. NBC won the night with a 1.9.

ABC's "Trophy Wife" fell to an all-time low, losing one-tenth of a point from a week ago to a 1.0 in the 18-49 demo. "Killer Women" remained in bottom-feeder territory at 10 p.m., matching last week's 0.7. "The Goldbergs," the network's best-performing program of the night, fell 17% to a 1.5.

ABC opened prime time with a repeat of "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," which came in right at the network's average for the night with a 0.9.

The CW, which generally remains mired in sixth place among the broadcast nets, lifted itself up on the strength of "Supernatural" (1.1 average in 18-49, up 10% from last week) and "The Originals" (1.0, up 11%).

NBC got what it needed for the win from its two-hour "The Biggest Loser," which bounced back from last week's season low, rising 12% to a 1.9 average in viewers 18-49, while "Chicago Fire" matched last week's season low, a 1.8. But while NBC took a win in the demo, CBS came out on top in total viewers with an all-repeat drama lineup.

CBS had a 1.8 average in 18-49 for an "NCIS" repeat (with 13.9 million total viewers), a 1.6 for a rerun of "NCIS: Los Angeles" (10.4 million total viewers) and a 1.2 for a "Person of Interest" repeat (7.3 million total viewers).

Fox came in second in the 18-49 demo, as its comedy lineup came back strong from last week's lows. Leading the way was "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," up 36% from last week's season low with a 1.9, while "Dads" improved 25% from a series low to a 1.5.

Fox's "New Girl" rose 13% from its season low to a 1.8 in adults 18-49, and "The Mindy Project" rebounded 36% from its season low to a 1.5.

For prime time overall, NBC led the way in the 18-49 demo with a 1.9 average, followed by Fox (1.6 average), CBS (1.5), Univision (1.3), CW (1.1) and ABC (0.9). CBS finished well ahead in total viewers with 10.5 million, topping NBC (6.8 million), Fox (3.798 million), ABC (3.791 million), Univision (3.2 million) and CW (2.5 million).

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Cable Veteran Lands Fox News Channel Show, Joins Fox Business in February

[Updated on 1-23-13 at 10:55 am, PT. The following item is from THR. THR has revised its story with the following: "UPDATED: The former CNBC financial analyst makes her move official, with plans to anchor FBN during daily market hours as well as a new Sunday show on the flagship."]

A TV personality who is a fixture on cable will have a new show on Fox News Channel (FNC). According to The Hollywood Reporter, financial news veteran Maria Bartiromo is taking on the new Sunday program along with daily hosting duties on Fox Business Network (FBN) during market hours.

Bartiromo, who recently exited CNBC after 20 years with the network, officially starts her new job on Fox Business Network Feb. 1, and FBN reportedly said both of her new programs will premiere before the end of the first quarter.

"Bartiromo will serve as Global Markets Editor, anchoring a daily market hours program on FBN -- as well as a weekly Sunday series on Fox News Channel," THR reports, adding: "FNC Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes spoke optimistically of Bartiromo's role on both nets with The Hollywood Reporter in December."

The report quotes Ailes saying: "We've had that conversation for the last five years, off and on, but we don't see each other very often. I finally decided that she'd be terrific in our lineup, and it happened to fit her timing and her contract. And she'll be seen on Fox News. She's a star, and she'll do some fill-in anchoring."

THR adds: "Bartiromo most recently anchored CNBC’s top-rated markets program, 'Closing Bell with Maria Bartiromo.' Her addition to FBN comes as Ailes continues to invest in the small ratings performer, which still lags behind CNBC."

maria bartiroma.pngMaria Bartiromo

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TV Show Scores Its Highest Rating in 14 Years

While the current television season has posed ratings challenges for many programs, one show recently notched a 14-year high.

TVbytheNumbers.com reports that "Judge Judy" racked up the milestone for the week ending Jan. 12, 2014. The syndicated court program delivered an 8.0 household rating for the week to tie perennial syndication leader "Wheel of Fortune" atop the syndication rankings.

The number was the highest for "Judge Judy" since the week of Jan. 17, 2000.

"Wheel of Fortune" came out ahead in total viewers, averaging 12.8 million to 11.1 million for "Judge Judy."

Placing third in the syndication rankings for the week was "Weekend Adventure," a package of nature shows that airs on weekends on many ABC stations, which delivered a 7.7 household rating with 11.0 million total viewers. "Jeopardy!" was fourth with a 7.3 (11.6 million), followed by "The Big Bang Theory" (daily) with a 6.6 (10.7 million).

Rounding out the top 10: "Family Feud," 5.8 household rating (8.7 million total viewers); "Modern Family," 4.9 (7.5 million); "Law & Order: SVU," 4.3 (6.1 million); "The Big Bang Theory" (weekend), 4.2 (6.9 million); and "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," 4.2 (5.7 million).

judge judy.jpgJudge Judy

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ABC Bringing Back Series, but With Some Changes

ABC announced today that it is picking up a new season of one of its series. The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed blog reports that the network renewed the reality competition show "Wipeout" for a seventh season.

The format will undergo a bit of a tweak, the report notes.

"In the new season, winners will return at the end of the run for a Tournament of Champions, where they will compete for the title of Ultimate Wipeout Champion," THR reports. "The season will continue to feature themed episodes, including a chance to win a date with Jill Wagner and 'Boss and Employee.'"

Said Matt Kunitz, the show's creator and executive producer: "We are always looking for ways to keep the show fresh and exciting. This year, we are amping up the competition with a season-long tournament of champions, with the winner from each episode returning to compete against the other winners in an epic battle for the title of Wipeout Champion."

The show is hosted by "SportsCenter's" John Anderson and "Talk Soup's" John Henson and co-hosted by Wagner ("Teen Wolf").

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NBC Kills Reboot of One of the Most Successful Series Ever

NBC has pulled the plug on a high-profile remake of an iconic television drama series. Writing on Deadline.com, Nellie Andreeva reports that the network has decided not to move forward with its “Murder, She Wrote" reboot.

The news may be welcomed by the star of the original series. The new project, which had Oscar winner Octavia Spencer attached to star, drew a lot of attention last fall, with the original show’s star, Angela Lansbury, announcing that she believed calling the remake by the same name was “a mistake,” as previously reported.

The remake was slated to star Spencer as a hospital administrator and amateur detective who self-publishes a mystery novel, the Deadline report notes.

“Rebooting an iconic series is extremely difficult, as proved by a string of efforts, including NBC’s attempt at a contemporary ‘Rockford Files,’” which didn’t go to series, the piece notes.

Andreeva adds: “Word is that NBC is not giving up on a ‘Murder, She Wrote’ reboot. Because the original series was so beloved, I hear the network brass felt they could try approaching it in a different way, possibly with a new concept. The pass from NBC frees up Spencer, who is expected to be among the most sought-after actresses for pilots this season.”

Spencer won an Oscar in 2012 for her supporting role in "The Help."

octavia spencer.jpgOctavia Spencer

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Actress Who Has Been Playing the Same Character on TV for 21 Years -- Since She Was 16 Years Old -- Calls It Quits

An actress who has portrayed the same character on a long-running series for 21 years is leaving the show. The Los Angeles Times’ Show Tracker reports that Alison Sweeney, who plays Sami Brady on “Days of Our Lives,” made the announcement during an appearance this week on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”

Sweeney grew up on TV, starting on the soap when she was 16 years old. She said she will leave after the end of this year.

“I've been on 'Days of Our Lives' since I was 16 years old, and I have never had more than a two-week vacation in that whole time," she said.

Sweeney added that while she loves the show, the character and the fans, she wants to spend more time with her children, who are now 5 and 9.

Sweeney won’t be leaving TV, however, the story notes. She has also worked as the host of NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” for the past seven years.

She said she isn't sure how her character will leave the show. “It would be awesome to have some sort of happy ending, but then I also think maybe Sami deserves some sort of twisted, 'Breaking Bad' ending,” she said.

alison sweeney.pngAlison Sweeney

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'The Voice Mexico' Contestant Kidnapped, Killed

A former contestant on “The Voice Mexico” was found dead last weekend, after he had been kidnapped by armed gunmen dressed as police officers earlier this month, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Gibran David Martiz Diaz, 22, was found late Saturday at the scene of a shootout in Veracruz, Mexico, between security forces and his suspected kidnappers, the story says. Another body, that of an unidentified minor, was also found at the scene.

The victims had been killed before the shootout, the story notes. The suspects died in the conflict.

Martiz Diaz was a contestant in the third season of the musical competition.

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Weather Channel CEO Pleads With DirecTV: Let Our Customers Go

As much of the Northeast was hit with a blizzard, The Weather Channel Chief Executive David Kenny fired off a letter to DirecTV, telling the satellite-TV operator to waive termination fees for customers who want to switch to a provider that carries the weather network, reports Deadline.com.

Kenny wrote in his letter: “We have heard from viewers across the country, like Heather in Texas who wrote, ‘We just signed on with DIRECTV. … Had I known this was going to happen I would NOT have signed up. I read the fine print (too late) and found that they can do that. It’s wrong.’”

Kenny's letter also says: “As our team of more than 220 expert meteorologists tracks winter storms, wildfires in Southern California, and many other potential weather emergencies, a prompt reply -- not to me, but to your customers -- would surely be appreciated.”

The letter comes after DirecTV blacked out The Weather Channel Jan. 14 after carriage talks failed. Moody’s, meanwhile, has warned that The Weather Channel’s bond rating could suffer if the dispute continues.

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Fox Tweaks Schedule After Disappointing Start for New Comedy Series -- and It Doesn't Bode Well for a Veteran Show

Fox is making an adjustment to its prime-time schedule after the network boss expressed disappointment in the numbers for a new comedy series.

Deadline.com reports that Fox shifted the new military comedy “Enlisted” to a new time slot, swapping time periods with “Raising Hope.” "Enlisted" will air immediately after “Bones” on Friday at 9 p.m., with “Raising Hope” being pushed back by half an hour, airing at 9:30 p.m.

"At TCA last week, Fox Chairman Kevin Reilly admitted he was disappointed by the early ratings performance of new comedy 'Enlisted' but vowed to stick with the show for its 13-episode order and give it a shot," the story reports. "Now the network is giving the military comedy a better chance with a stronger lead-in by moving it to 9 p.m. where it will follow veteran 'Bones.'"

The moves take effect this Friday.

The report adds: "'Bones' has been consistently delivering a solid 1.5 or higher among adults 18-49 in the Friday 8 p.m. slot, half of which has been squandered by 'Raising Hope,' which most recently managed a 0.8 at 9 p.m., leading to 'Enlisted' (0.7). For 'Raising Hope,' the time-period downgrade is an ominous sign that the family comedy may end its run after four seasons."

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'20/20' Anchor Returns From Rehab

One of the anchors on the ABC newsmagazine "20/20" is back on the job after a stint in rehab. The New York Post’s Page Six reports that Elizabeth Vargas returned after undergoing treatment for alcohol abuse.

Vargas was reportedly back at work on Monday and will host the show on Friday. She had announced in November that she was battling an addiction and was seeking treatment.

“Everyone is pulling for Elizabeth and looking forward to her return to ‘20/20,’” an ABC News representative said.

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'Parks and Recreation' Co-Star Moving On to New Steve Carell Sitcom

One of the original cast members of the NBC comedy series “Parks and Recreation” will move on to a new role on TBS after she leaves "Parks." Deadline.com reports that Rashida Jones will play the lead on TBS’s “Tribeca,” a comedy co-created and directed by "The Office" alum Steve Carell.

Jones has played Ann Perkins on “Parks and Recreation” for six seasons. Since her departure was announced last year, she has been in demand for other projects, while she’s also busy as a producer for her production company Le Train Train, the story notes.

In the TBS comedy, which is co-written by Carell and his wife, actress Nancy Carell, Jones will play Angie Tribeca, a 10-year veteran of the Really Heinous Crimes Unit of the LAPD, the story says. Production is tentatively slated to begin in February or March, the piece adds.

rashida jones.pngRashida Jones

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Ridley Scott Miniseries Off to a Strong Start

A miniseries executive produced by Ridley Scott bowed Monday night to strong viewership numbers. The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports that Discovery drew an average of 3.4 million viewers for the first two hours of its six-hour miniseries “Klondike.”

"The scripted drama, the first of its kind at the network, brought its most-watched Monday prime time to date -- and it performed especially well among men," the story reports. "'Klondike' averaged a 2.3 rating among men 25-54. Among adults 25-54, it was somewhat softer, with a 1.7 rating."

The report adds: "Being the network's first scripted effort, there is little precedent for 'Klondike' -- though the order and three-night delivery clearly were inspired by History's gangbuster performance by 'Hatfields & McCoys' in 2012."

Discovery is making a move into scripted original programming, but has said "Klondike" is a one-time event and the channel has no plans for a follow-up.

"Discovery already is reteaming with producers Scott Free Entertainment for adaptation of a miniseries based on Nigel Tranter's historical books 'The Wallace' and 'The Bruce Trilogy,'" the report notes.

The final two hours of "Klondike" are set to air tonight, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014.

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'Law & Order' Veteran Lands Role in Superhero Project

A veteran of almost 200 episodes of NBC's "Law & Order" will co-star in a new spinoff of the superhero series "Arrow." The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports that Jesse L. Martin, who played NYPD Det. Ed Green on the NBC drama series, is joining the cast of the CW's “The Flash.”

Martin will play Detective West, a blue-collar cop who is a father figure to Barry Allen, the Flash. Barry is an assistant police forensic investigator who is searching for clues that a string of robberies might shed light into his tragic past. His character was raised in foster homes after his mother was killed and his father jailed, the piece notes.

Martin is an actor and singer who is also known for his work on Broadway, where he originated the role of Tom Collins in "Rent."

His character on “The Flash” has a daughter named Iris who is a potential love interest for Barry, the piece notes.

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Fox Business Network Host Inks Multiyear Deal

One of the fixtures of the Fox Business Network (FBN) has signed a deal that will keep him on the cable channel for some time. TVNewser reports that Stuart Varney renewed his contract with FBN, signing a multiyear deal to remain as the host of “Varney & Co." The length of the deal was not reported.

Varney has worked at Fox Business Network since the channel debuted in 2007, the story notes. Since 2010, he has served as the anchor of “Varney & Co.” He has also substituted in the host role on “Your World with Neil Cavuto,” since he joined Fox News in 2004.

Fox News Chief Executive Roger Ailes said in a statement: “Stuart’s astute business sense and respect within the financial community make him a premier anchor and an essential part of our team. We look forward to his continued success with FOX Business."

Varney added: “FOX Business is the place I want to be. I am proud to continue to be a part of Roger Ailes’ top-notch team. It’s the best lineup in business television.”

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Pay-TV Networks Dispute Survey That Says They're Losing Customers

HBO, Showtime and Starz are disputing a report issued this week from research firm NPD Group that found a decline in customers for premium television networks, reports Variety.

As previously reported, the study found that the number of households subscribing to HBO and other pay-TV channels slipped 6% during the past two years. At the same time, Netflix and other online video services have seen subscriptions grow by 4%, according to the study.

The pay-TV networks said the findings were wrong.

“The (NPD) study does not accurately reflect actual subscriber counts,” Showtime said in a statement. “While it is true that video services like Netflix have gained, so too have premium cable channels.”

HBO said that NPD’s research was “simply incorrect.” A representative told the publication that both HBO and Cinemax have grown their subscriber bases.

HBO, Showtime and Starz cited SNL Kagan’s estimates for premium-TV channels, which found that penetration of the three networks and Cinemax all grew from March 2012 through September 2013, the story notes.

An NPD spokesman said the company was reviewing the research, but declined additional comment.

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Amazon on Wall Street Journal Report About Amazon Possibly Starting a Live-TV Streaming Service: Fuhgeddaboudit

Amazon is denying a report that it’s developing a live-television streaming service, reports EW.com’s Inside TV. The Wall Street Journal had reported Tuesday that Amazon was talking with entertainment companies about licensing TV channels for an online pay-TV service.

“We continue to build selection for Prime Instant Video and create original shows at Amazon Studios, but we are not planning to license television channels or offer a pay-TV service,” a representative for Amazon told EW.com.

As The Journal pointed out in its story, several other companies are working on similar efforts, including Sony and Google. Intel, meanwhile, as previously reported, said Tuesday that it is selling its Internet-TV set-top box project to Verizon Communications.

The Journal had characterized the Amazon project as in the early stages, adding that it was unclear whether the online retailer would move forward with it.

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Oscar-Nominated Filmmaker to Direct ABC Project

A screenwriter and filmmaker who has one of the hottest movies in this year's Oscar race will direct a project for ABC. The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed reports that John Ridley, the screenwriter behind "12 Years a Slave," signed with the network to direct the pilot for "American Crime," which ABC greenlighted a week ago.

"'American Crime' will examine the personal lives of the players involved in a racially charged trial as their worlds are turned upside down. Ridley will now pen the script, executive produce and direct the project alongside former ABC Studios head of drama-turned-producer Michael McDonald," THR reports.

The story adds: "The ABC Studios project marks Ridley's return to TV and comes three years after HBO passed on his boxing drama 'Da Brick' and five years after 'The Wanda Sykes Show' ended its run. Ridley, whose small-screen credits include the 'Barbershop' TV series as well as 'Third Watch,' is said to have landed the directing gig after executives watched his Jimi Hendrix biopic 'All Is by My Side,' which he wrote and directed."

"12 Years a Slave," penned by Ridley and directed by Steve McQueen, is nominated for nine Academy Awards, including best motion picture of the year, best director for McQueen and best adapted screenplay for Ridley.

Thumbnail image for john ridley.pngJohn Ridley

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One NBC Show Climbs to a Series High Monday Night as Another One Sinks to a Series Low

NBC had mixed results in the prime-time ratings Monday night, with one series setting an all-time high while another reached an all-time low, based on Nielsen overnights for the key 18-49 demo.

TVbytheNumbers.com reports that NBC's "Hollywood Game Night," which aired back-to-back installments, rose 30% over its previous original episode, delivering a1.3 average rating in 18-49 for the 8 p.m. hour. The 9 p.m. episode rose to a 1.5, a series high.

NBC's "The Blacklist" won the 10 p.m. hour among the broadcast nets, despite slipping 8% from last week to a 2.3 average in the 18-49 demo, a series low. Overall for prime time, NBC came in fourth among the big four broadcast nets.

Fox's two-hour seaon finale of "Sleepy Hollow" rose a little, ticking up 5% from last week to a 2.3 average in 18-49, as Fox won a close race for prime time overall.

Second-place ABC saw its two-hour "The Bachelor" match last week's season low, a 2.3 average in adults 18-49, while "Castle" ticked up 5% to a 2.0.

Third-place CBS was paced by a 3.0 average for "How I Met Your Mother" in viewers 18-49 -- equaling last week's number. "2 Broke Girls" followed with a 2.7, matching last week's rating; "Mike & Molly" fell 13% to a 2.1; "Mom" settled for a 1.9, off 10%; and "Intelligence" lost 8% to deliver a 1.1, finishing a distant third in the 10 p.m. hour.

For prime time overall, Fox's 2.3 average in the 18-49 demo was good enough to put it ahead of ABC (2.2 average), CBS (2.0), NBC (1.7) and Univision (1.3). ABC eased into the top spot in total viewers with 8.2 million, followed by CBS (7.6 million), Fox (6.9 million), NBC (5.9 million) and Univision (3.2 million).

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NFL Reveals Its Surprise Choice to Sing National Anthem at Super Bowl

The NFL has revealed who will sing the National Anthem at the upcoming Super Bowl, and the selection will probably come as a surprise to most people. EW.com reports that the league chose opera singer Renee Fleming for the high-profile gig.

"Fleming is an acclaimed opera singer who has picked up four Grammys over the course of her career and is probably best known outside of the classical world as one of the voices on the soundtrack to 'The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King' and for her odd (but not unpleasant) collection of indie rock covers from a few years ago. (She also sang the theme song to the 2012 animated disaster 'Rise of the Guardians.') She’s undoubtedly one of the most competently trained singers to take on the National Anthem at the Super Bowl in some time -- it’s a challenging song that has derailed all kinds of performers, especially on big stages," the story reports.

Super Bowl XLVIII, to air on Fox, is set for Sunday, Feb. 2, when the NFC champion Seattle Seahawks will take on the AFC champion Denver Broncos. Fleming follows in the footsteps of artists including Alicia Keys, Christina Aguilera, Kathy Lee Gifford and the Grambling University Band, the report notes.

"The addition of Fleming completes the circle of music performers at this year’s Super Bowl, with Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers handling the halftime show," the piece adds. "U2 will also reportedly have some sort of presence during the course of the broadcast, most likely in the form of an ad in support of their new single 'Invisible' and/or their upcoming new album. And Prince will be appearing on a special episode of 'New Girl' that is airing right after the game."

Renee-Fleming.jpgRenee Fleming

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TV Movie Opens Big: Basic Cable's Best Turnout for a Telepic Since 2012

A cable movie that premiered Saturday night had the best viewer numbers for a basic cable telepic since 2012. The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed reports that Lifetime's "Flowers in the Attic" opened to 6.1 million viewers.

"The haul marks a basic cable best since the network's remake of 'Steel Magnolias' in October 2012," the story reports. "And among adults 25-54, it was the highest-rated ad-supported telepic since November 2012 with an average 2.6 million viewers in the demo."

The movie is an adaptation of the controversial 1979 V.C. Andrews novel dealing in part with incest, which was also adapted for a feature film in 1987. The Lifetime movie stars Heather Graham and Ellen Burstyn.

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Video: Late-Night Shows Pounce on NFL Player's Postgame Rant

Late-night shows have seized on the opportunity to mine laughs from an explosive postgame interview by NFL player Richard Sherman after his Seattle Seahawks knocked out the San Francisco 49ers Sunday to advance to the Super Bowl.

Below are a couple of samples, from Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Kimmel ...

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The Two Surviving Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, Will Reportedly Perform Together, But Not at the Grammys This Sunday as Previously Reported. Does Letterman Figure in This?

"Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are reuniting for what is sure to be a memorable performance," reports "Access Hollywood."

The story reports: "However, despite rumors, it will not be at this weekend’s Grammys. The former Beatles bandmates will perform together at 'The Night That Changed America: A Grammys Salute to The Beatles' on Monday, January 27, Ringo revealed to 'Access Hollywood' on Monday night."

It was widely reported last week that McCartney and Starr would perform together on the Grammys.

The "Access Hollywood" report also notes: "The special will air on CBS on February 9 -- 50 years to the date of the Beatles’ historic performance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”

Will McCartney and Starr also perform on Letterman? Here's what the website Showbiz 411 says: "Letterman tapes at the Ed Sullivan Theater, where the Beatles made their American debut on February 9, 1964. The plan is that the Letterman show will make the entire week of February 3rd to the 7th a Beatles spectacular. They are talking to Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr about playing at least on one night, probably the Friday -- February 7th. That’s the day the group arrived in 1964."

CBS is also putting on a live symposium in connection with the Beatles anniversary, as we reported separately.

Thumbnail image for beatles-ed sullivan-1964.jpgThe Beatles on "Ed Sullivan" in 1964

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Co-Creator of One of the Most Popular Sitcoms of the 1980s Dead at 92

A successful TV comedy writer and producer who co-created one of the most popular network comedy series of the 1980s has died. Deadline.com reports that Ben Starr, the co-creator of “The Facts of Life,” died Sunday at 92.

"The Facts of Life," which starred Charlotte Rae, Lisa Whelchel, Kim Fields and Mindy Cohn, had a nine-season run on NBC, from 1979-1988. Starr also was one of the creators of NBC's "Silver Spoons," and wrote for many popular TV series, including "Mr. Ed," "The Brady Bunch," "All in the Family," "Mork & Mindy" and "Diff'rent Strokes."

Starr began in show business writing in radio for performers such as Al Jolson and George Burns, later turning to TV and gathering dozens of credits, the story notes. His most recent credit was as a writer on the 2001 “Facts of Life” reunion.

facts-of-life-cast.jpg"The Facts of Life"

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HBO and Other Pay-TV Channels Are Shedding Customers, but Another Market Segment Is Booming

HBO and other premium cable channels are losing customers, but at the same time another market segment is growing. Citing a report from the NPD Group, the Los Angeles Times’ Company Town reports that Netflix and other online video services are gaining subscribers.

The number of U.S. households paying for a premium TV channel has slipped 6% during the past two years. At the same time, Netflix and its rivals have seen subscriptions grow by 4%.

"It's fair to say ... that some of the shift that you're seeing is probably caused by Netflix," said Russ Crupnick, a senior vice president of the NPD Group. "Some of this could be caused by the economy. It could be people looking at their cable bills and saying, 'I can't afford this.'"

About 27% of U.S. homes now subscribe to digital on-demand video services such as Hulu Plus, Netflix or Amazon Prime, the story says. About one-third pay to watch a premium cable channel such as HBO.

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Ken Burns Takes the Wraps Off Upcoming Documentaries

Documentarian Ken Burns revealed that he has 14 films in the works for PBS, which will focus on topics including country music and Hemingway, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Burns told reporters at the Television Critics Association that he has 100 ideas for new projects. “If I were given 1,000 years I would not run out of topics in American history," Burns said.

His next documentary, “The Address,” is about a group of disabled students who memorize President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. It will debut April 15 on PBS.

Another project, about Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, is 14 hours long. Burns is also working on a project about country music that’s slated to air in 2018. The country music project will feature the Carter family and performers such as Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash. It’s also slated to air in 2018.

Other projects will focus on the Vietnam War, Ernest Hemingway (with a 2019 target) and Jackie Robinson.

ken burns.pngKen Burns

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NBC Casts Male Lead in 'Rosemary's Baby'

NBC has settled on a male lead for its four-hour miniseries "Rosemary's Baby." Deadline.com reports that the role has been given to “Suits” star Patrick J. Adams, who will play opposite Zoe Saldana.

The project has also cast Jason Isaacs, who will return to NBC after he starred in “Awake.” He will play the warlock and coven leader Roman Castevet, who was portrayed by Sidney Blackmer in the 1968 film version. Isaacs is also known for his role as Lucius Malfoy in the “Harry Potter” films.

The miniseries, which is based on the 1967 bestseller by Ira Levin, is about a young wife, Rosemary Woodhouse (Saldana), who moves with her husband (Adams) to a Paris apartment building with a creepy past. Rosemary becomes suspicious when she becomes pregnant and her husband and neighbors act in odd ways.

patrick j adams.jpgPatrick J. Adams

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CBS Branches Out With New Venture Focused on Live Events

CBS is working on a new line of business involving live events, reports Brian Steinberg at Variety. The network will introduce the new business with a live event to mark the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ first appearance on U.S. television, when the band appeared on CBS’s “The Ed Sullivan Show,” the story says.

The event will feature a two-hour symposium, which will include archival footage from CBS News and a panel of experts moderated by CBS News senior business correspondent Anthony Mason.

The new venture, “CBS News Live Experiences,” plans to make use of the network's news archives while also tapping its local TV and radio stations to reach local fans, the story reports.

“We are thinking about how we could create more experiences around those assets and bring them to life in ways that go beyond broadcast -- in the infotainment space, in the spoken-word space. We have a lot of opportunities,” said CBS exec David Goodman, who is overseeing the new business.

CBS News President David Rhodes said the company’s news archives have “really been underutilized.”

“It’s not like you’re going to see more archival content in our regular linear broadcast, like ‘CBS This Morning,’ but you’re going to see it, I think, when there are good opportunities,” such as live events, Rhodes told the publication.

The new business is similar to how other media companies have focused on expanding their brands via events, such as The New Yorker’s annual festival and The New York Times Co.’s series of events that tap its staff of journalists, Steinberg writes.

CBS is making the most of the anniversary of the Beatles' arrival in the U.S., including putting on the TV special "The Night That Changed America: A Grammys Salute to the Beatles," as we are reporting separately. "Late Show with David Letterman" is also planning a week of Beatles-focused programming.

david rhodes-cbs news.pngDavid Rhodes

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Charter to Time Warner Cable Shareholders: Take Our Offer Before It's Too Late

"Charter says that Time Warner Cable [TWC] shareholders should take its deal while they can because 'TWC’s value to Charter is declining, driven by continued customer relationship and triple play subscriber losses and financing costs from further delays,' " reports our good friend David Lieberman at Deadline.com.

The story reports: "Late last week TWC said that it will outline its operating plans on January 30. To Charter, that 'slow response should at best concern shareholders as to what if any strategy exists today, and could reflect yet another delay tactic for a consensual deal.'"

Charter's proposed deal for TWC is a cash and stock offer of $132.50 a share or $61.3 billion. The offer includes debt.

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Producer of NBC's 'Death of a Centerfold' Dead at 72

Producer Paul Pompian, whose credits include the 1981 NBC telefilm “Death of a Centerfold: The Dorothy Stratten Story,” has died, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Pompian, 72, died Jan. 1 after a long battle with leukemia, the story reports.

Pompian produced more than 50 films and television productions in his career, including “Swimming Upstream” in 2003, which starred Geoffrey Rush and Judy Davis and was nominated for five Australian Academy Awards, and 1999’s “The Watcher,” which starred Keanu Reeves, James Spader and Marisa Tomei.

At the time of his death, he had projects in development including “Operation Family Secrets,” which was based on the 2011 book he wrote with Keith and Kent Zimmerman, the story notes. He was also developing projects with actor William Shatner and comedian Tom Dreesen.

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Miley Cyrus Goes 'Unplugged'

Miley Cyrus will perform "Unplugged" in an episode of the MTV concert series, TheWrap.com reports. The channel announced plans for the performance during a promotion for its supernatural drama “Teen Wolf."

“Miley Cyrus: MTV Unplugged” will air Wednesday, Jan. 29, and will feature the singer with special guests. Cyrus will perform new versions of her songs, many of them off her newest album, “Bangerz.”

Cyrus is joining a long list of performers who have taken to the “Unplugged” stage, including Nirvana, Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen and Mariah Carey.

miley cyrus-long hair.jpgMiley Cyrus

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Verizon to Buy Intel's Pay-TV Startup

Verizon Communications is buying Intel Corp.’s set-top box startup, as the telecommunications company seeks to broaden its Internet-TV services, reports the Verge.

While the amount of the sale wasn’t disclosed, Intel had been said to be asking about $500 million, the story notes. Verizon will get a project employing about 350 people, who will continue to be based in Santa Clara, Calif.

Despite Intel’s development of a set-top box, its move into Internet TV was stymied by problems in securing content partnerships, the piece reports.

“It's hoped that Verizon, which already offers more traditional TV services, will be able to make internet TV work,” the story reports. “Verizon expects to integrate Intel's internet TV tech with its existing FiOS video services.”

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AccuWeather Announces Start-Up Channel to Challenge The Weather Channel

The weather wars are heating up, as "AccuWeather, the Pennsylvania-based company that currently supplies forecasts to 175,000 paying clients and several hundred local TV stations around the country, announced plans to join the 24-hour weather market by launching its own TV network sometime in September," reports Bloomberg Businessweek.

The AccuWeather announcement comes just days after "DirecTV dropped The Weather Channel from its service, replacing it with a service called WeatherNation. The move left an estimated 20 million people without access to The Weather Channel and gave WeatherNation, a two-year-old upstart out of Colorado, a national audience almost overnight. WeatherNation currently airs the weather on three-hour taped loops and does not report live," Businessweek notes.

The story adds these comments from Barry Myers, chief executive officer of AccuWeather: “We’ve been planning for some time to do this, but it was clear that to keep silent about it, given the [dispute between DirecTV and The Weather Channel], wouldn’t make sense.”

The report adds: "AccuWeather’s new station will stick to straight, no-nonsense forecasts, fashioning itself as the brainy alternative to The Weather Channel, which in recent years has strayed into the reality market with shows such as 'Storm Stories' and 'Lifeguard! Southern California.'

"Myers says he’s still in the process of negotiating deals with cable providers and doesn’t yet know how many of them will end up carrying AccuWeather’s network. But if the DirecTV dispute is any indication, AccuWeather may be poised to steal a good share of The Weather Channel’s market. If that happens, The Weather Channel’s 30-year monopoly on television may finally come to an end."

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Tony-Nominated Actress Who Starred in Famous 'Twilight Zone' Episode That Was the Inspiration for the Movie 'Poltergeist' Dies. She Also Guest-Starred in a Notable 'Star Trek' Episode

A Tony-nominated actress who starred in one of the best-known of the original "Twilight Zone" episodes has died at age 80.

"British actress Sarah Marshall, a Tony-nominated veteran who later appeared in memorable episodes of TV’s 'Star Trek' and 'The Twilight Zone,' has died. She was 80," a story in The Hollywood Reporter says.

The report adds: "Marshall died Saturday in Los Angeles following a long battle with cancer, her daughter-in-law, Trixie Flynn, said.

"Marshall was the daughter of noted British actors Herbert Marshall ('The Letter,' 'Foreign Correspondent') and Edna Best ('The Man Who Knew Too Much,' 'The Ghost and Mrs. Muir')."

The "Twilight Zone" episode she was in was called "Little Girl Lost," penned by the award-winning science fiction and fantasy writer Richard Matheson, based on his short story. It's about a little girl who rolls under her bed one night and disappears into another dimension. Marshall played the little girl's mother, who comes almost completely unhinged over what has happened. This episode, originally aired in March 1962, later was used by Steven Spielberg as the basis of the 1982 movie "Poltergeist," which Spielberg wrote.

Marshall also guest-starred in a notable episode in the original "Star Trek" series. In a season 2 episode called "The Deadly Years," the crew of the Enterprise, exposed to radiation, start to age rapidly. Marshall plays a doctor who helps cure the crew.

Marshall "received a best supporting actress Tony Award nomination for playing Rusty Mayerling in 'Goodbye, Charlie' and a New York Drama Critics Award for her work as Bonnie Dee Ponder in 'The Ponder Heart,' both of which opened in 1959," according to THR.

Marshall was in many other stage productions and TV shows.

She is survived by actor Karl Held, 82, her husband of 50 years, says THR, which adds, "In addition to Flynn and Held, Marshall is survived by son Timothy, grandchildren Seamus, Sarah, Timothy and Eliza and half-sister Ann.

Marshall had nothing to do with the 2008 American comedy "Forgetting Sarah Marshall."

little girl lost.pngSarah Marshall and Robert Sampson play the parents whose little girl is lost behind a wall in another dimension in a 1962 episode of "The Twilight Zone"

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Cable Channel Renews Five Original Series

The Esquire Network has renewed five original series for second seasons, including the cooking competition show “Knife Fight” and the craft brew series “Brew Dogs,” reports TheWrap.com.

“Knife Fight” will return for 24 episodes, while “Brew Dogs” will return for 10. Extreme competition show “Boundless” was renewed for 10 episodes. All will air their second seasons starting in the second quarter of 2014, the piece notes.

One other renewal will roll out its second season in the fourth quarter: “White Collar Brawlers,” which features co-workers duking it out. the show has been renewed for 10 episodes.

The other show to get a renewal is “Best Bars in America,” which will return with quarterly specials this year.

The network has also ordered an interview show called “Friends Call Me Johnny,” from Joel Silver’s Silver Pictures. The show will feature Jean Pigozzi interviewing celebrity friends.

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Amazon Will Turn Sexy 1960s Sci-Fi Film Into a TV Series

Amazon has a project in he works to develop a series based on a sexy 1960s science-fiction movie. Writing on Deadline.com, Nellie Andreeva reports exclusively: "Gaumont International Television’s 'Barbarella' has been set up at Amazon Studios, which has taken in the pilot script penned by feature writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade ('Skyfall')."

In anticipation of a pickup for a pilot, the search is reportedly on for a showrunner.

"'Barbarella' is based on the character created by Jean-Claude Forest in a graphic novel and made famous in the 1968 sci-fi movie staring Jane Fonda as a sexpot tasked with finding and stopping an evil weapons inventor," Andreeva writes. "The project, which has been in the works at GIT for a year and a half, is executive produced by Nicolas Refn ('Valhalla Rising'), who had been attached to direct, and Martha De Laurentiis, whose late husband Dino produced the 1968 movie."

Gaumont already has two series under way, the report notes: NBC's "Hannibal" and Netflix's "Hemlock Grove." Additionally, "Narco" is awaiting a green light from Netflix.

"Amazon Studios has five drama and comedy pilots in the works following the launch of its first original series, comedies 'Alpha House' and 'Betas,'" Andreeva adds.

Jane-Fonda-Barbarella.jpgJane Fonda as "Barbarella"

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Why So Much Instability Behind the Cameras on NBC's High-Profile Upcoming J.J. Abrams Series? Abrams Offers His Reasons

J.J. Abrams offered an explanation for the high rate of showrunner churn on his upcoming midseason NBC drama “Believe” after hearing accusations that the turnover was a sign of trouble. Lisa de Moraes writes on Deadline.com that Abrams attributed the change to “creativity” and characterized it as “a process.”

"The rap on the show is that it has had trouble trying to figure out what it should be," de Moraes writes. "But Abrams, talking to TV critics at Winter TV Press Tour 2014, preferred to think of it as a process by which they found the right fit with the 'incredible pilot' directed by 'Gravity‘s' Alfonso Cuaron -- and in no way a reflection on the two 'great and talented,' and departed, showrunners with whom he said he hopes to work in the future."

Executive producer and showrunner Dave Erickson exited in December and was replaced by co-executive producer/director Jonas Pate, the director of the show's second episode.

"Co-creator/exec producer/original showrunner Mark Friedman left the series in July," de Moraes writes. "Friedman and Cuaron co-wrote the pilot for the high concept project, about the unlikely relationship between Bo, a girl with supernatural powers, and Tate, the man who is sprung from prison to protect her from the nogoodniks who are trying to hunt her down."

The report adds: "Of Pate’s new assignment, Abrams said he’s a big believer 'whoever can do it … does it,' adding that they were lucky to find their new showrunner 'in the family.'”

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Critics Choice Movie Awards Firm Up the Handicapping for the Oscars

A recent awards ceremony -- the Critics Choice Movie Awards, held Jan. 16 -- helped firm up which movies and actors are the ones to watch in the runup to the Academy Awards.

Among the stronger contenders, based on the critics' selections: Cate Blanchett, Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Lupita Nyong’o.,“12 Years a Slave” and “American Hustle."

TVWeek Open Mic writer Hillary Atkin filed a full report on the festivities, put on by the Broadcast Film Critics Association, which you can read by clicking here.

Also note today's coverage of the Screen Actors Guild Awards, which you can find here. A full list of the SAG nominees and winners is available here.

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NBC Gives Series Order to Oz-Themed 'Emerald City,' Greenlights Katherine Heigl Project

NBC has given a series order to the Oz-themed “Emerald City,” which is said to be a dark and modern take on “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” along the lines of HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” reports Deadline.com.

The drama will go to the source material for the Oz tale, the 14 books written by L. Frank Baum. The stories include “lethal warriors, competing kingdoms, and the infamous wizard as we’ve never seen him before,” the piece notes.

NBC has given the series a 10-episode order. It comes from “Siberia” creator and showrunner Matthew Arnold and features a 20-year-old Dorothy Gale as she gets involved with an epic battle for control of Oz, the piece says.

While a writer’s room is expected to be set up soon, casting may be postponed until after pilot season, the article adds.

“Emerald City” is the first of several "Wizard of Oz"-themed projects in development at different networks to receive a series order.

NBC has also greenlighted a drama pilot starring “Grey’s Anatomy” actress Katherine Heigl, called “State of Affairs.” The drama stars Heigl as a CIA attache who counsels the president and also has to deal with a complicated personal life.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for katherine-heigl.pngKatherine Heigl

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Reality Television Personality Dead at 49

A TV personality who was one of the most popular cast members on a cable reality series has died. Variety reports that Roy Garber, a regular on the A&E series "Shipping Wars," died Friday after suffering a heart attack.

A&E on Saturday confirmed the death of Garber, 49.

Garber was one of the show’s top earners, and owned and operated Arbie’s Team Transport in New Hampshire. “Shipping Wars” just aired the final show of its fifth season last week.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of a member of the A&E family,” the network said in a statement. “Our thoughts are with Roy’s loved ones during this difficult time. He will be missed.”

roy garber.jpgRoy Garber

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Potential Game Changer: CBS, NBC, Fox, ESPN and Turner Reportedly All Make Bids For NFL's Thursday Night Football Package

"All four of the NFL's network partners have bid on the Thursday night television package, a person with knowledge of the bidding process told the Associated Press on Sunday."

The AP story adds: "The league has used its NFL Network to televise the games, but recently put up the 13-game series for bids and received them from NBC, Fox, CBS and ESPN. ... Turner Sports has also bid, and there's a strong possibility ESPN would put the games on ABC should it be chosen by the league."

The article also has this quote from NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt, who told TV critics on Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014: "We'd love to have more NFL games.Thursday night games might be really interesting to us. I just can't say. I mean, it's something we're talking about, and we have a great relationship with the NFL."

According to the website Inquisitr, "Sunday night football tends to draw the biggest crowds on television based upon the number. For example, NBC averages 21.5 million viewers on Sunday night alone, and ESPN’s Monday Night Football draws in around 13.7 million.

Inquisitr adds, "How much is NFL Thursday night football actually worth? The NFL Network has been broadcasting the Thursday NFL games itself so far. Although viewership has increased by 10 percent from 2012, the Thursday NFL games only averaged about 8 million viewers, well below Sunday night games. For the privilege of showcasing the package of 19 NFL Sunday night games NBC pays about $950 million. So analysts expect the overall cost [for the Thursday night TV package] to be somewhere around $400 million.

"The biggest news about the deal is that some of the previously Sunday night only games may suddenly become Thursday NFL games. The league would do this in order to increase the ratings and sweeten the deal. Worse, popular TV shows like 'The Big Bang Theory' air on Thursday nights on CBS, so whoever wins the auction may not matter too much since it may force all of the networks to shift the showtimes for their biggest features so they don’t accidentally end up competing with Thursday NFL games."

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First Guest, First Musical Act Set for Fallon's 'Tonight Show'

Jimmy Fallon, who will take over NBC's “Tonight Show” next month, has the guest lineup set for his first show. The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports that Fallow will have actor Will Smith on as his first guest, while the band U2 will be his first musical guest.

Fallon announced the guests Sunday during his session at the Television Critics Association press tour. His first show will air Feb. 17. U2 is releasing a new album later this year, while Smith will next star in Warner Bros.’ “Focus.”

Fallon also said he hopes to collaborate more with Justin Timberlake, who has appeared frequently with Fallon in skits on NBC's "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon."

"Whenever he's available to play," Fallon said. "He's always great to play with."

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New 'Bachelor' Star Has Harsh Words for Gay People

Juan Pablo Galavis, the new star of ABC’s “Bachelor,” aired his views on gay people during a network party Friday, when The TV Page asked him whether gay people should be featured on the show.

His answer: “I don’t think it is a good example for kids to watch that on TV,” he said. He added that gay people are “more pervert in a sense.”

Galavis also said: “Now there is fathers having kids and all that, and it is hard for me to understand that too in the sense of a household having peoples … Two parents sleeping in the same bed and the kid going into bed … It is confusing in a sense.”

His reply was an “interesting opinion,” the Los Angeles Times’ Show Tracker notes, given that Galavis, the father of a 4-year-old girl, is “hooking up with more than two dozen chicks on national television."

Galavis can’t claim he was misquoted because The TV Page has a full audio recording of the interview, the Times adds.

ABC and the producers of “The Bachelor” issued a statement in response, calling Galavis’ comments “thoughtless and insensitive,” the Los Angeles Times’ Show Tracker reports in a separate article.

The ABC statement adds that Galavis' comments “in no way reflect the views of the network, the show’s producers or studio.”

Galavis also apologized, saying his comments were taken out of context and that he has “nothing but respect” for the gay and lesbian community.

"I have many gay friends and one of my closest friends who's like a brother has been a constant in my life especially during the past 5 months," he said in the statement. “The word pervert was not what I meant to say and I am very sorry about it."

juan pablo galavis.jpgJuan Pablo Galavis

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Seth Meyers Names Former 'SNL' Castmate as His First 'Late Night' Guest

Seth Meyers said his first guest on his new NBC show, “Late Night with Seth Meyers” will be his former “Saturday Night Live: Weekend Update” cohort Amy Poehler, reports TheWrap.com.

Poehler, who currently stars on “Parks and Recreation,” will join Meyers when he debuts Feb. 24 in the 12:30 a.m. ET timeslot, the story says. He’s taking over for Jimmy Fallon, who in turn is taking over Jay Leno's spot on NBC's “Tonight Show.”

Meyers said he wasn't sure of his musical guest for his debut. He joked that he tried to book Will Smith and U2 for his debut, but Fallon had already booked them for his first “Tonight Show” episode, the story notes.

Meyers' last day on “SNL” will be Feb. 1, when Melissa McCarthy hosts.

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How a New Meme Called '#Rokering' Got Started

“With every awkward morning show moment, a viral meme can’t be far behind,” TVNewser writes about the new meme called #rokering, named after Al Roker, host and weather forecaster for NBC's “Today” show.

The meme started when Carson Daly noticed Roker standing next to a lamp with a “half-bored, half-grouchy look on his face.” Roker was standing near the lamp because Jeff Rossen took his seat on the anchor desk, forcing him to “lurk awkwardly in the background.”

Daly saw the potential for a viral meme and replicated the pose on Instagram with the hashtag #Rokering. Lost Remote says the meme “was off to the races” within minutes.

carson daly rokering.pngCarson Daly "#rokering"

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President Obama: Marijuana No More Dangerous Than Alcohol. Our Non-TV Story of the Day

"With a majority of Americans now in favor of marijuana legalization, President Barack Obama is now saying weed is no more dangerous to individuals' health than alcohol," reports The Huffington Post.

The article reports: "In an interview with the New Yorker's David Remnick published Sunday, Obama said while he believes marijuana is 'not very healthy,' the drug isn't as harmful as some insist.

" 'As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol,' Obama told Remnick.

"When asked if he believes marijuana is less harmful than alcohol, Obama said it is less damaging 'in terms of its impact on the individual consumer. It’s not something I encourage, and I’ve told my daughters I think it’s a bad idea, a waste of time, not very healthy,' he added."

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'Breaking Bad,' ' Modern Family' Win Top TV Prizes at Screen Actors Guild Awards -- Here's the Full List of Winners and Nominees in the TV and Film Categories

“Breaking Bad” won the award for best drama ensemble at the 20th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, while “Modern Family” won for best comedy ensemble, reports TheWrap.com.

It was the fourth consecutive win for ABC's “Modern Family,” and the first time AMC's "Breaking Bad" won the honor, the piece notes. “Breaking Bad,” which ended its five-season run last year, was the only series to win in more than one category, with star Bryan Cranston winning the award for outstanding performance by a male actor in a drama series.

“I’ve had so many crappy jobs,” Cranston said, noting that he had loaded trucks while aspiring to his acting career. “We are the luckiest people in the world who can say, ‘I am an actor.’”

Please click here to see the full list of winners, along with the nominees, in the television and film categories.

bryan cranston.jpgBryan Cranston

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NBC Gets Crossover Fever, With Tie-ins on Tap for a Number of Series

NBC appears to have “crossover fever,” with several of the network’s shows planning crossover storylines, Deadline.com reports.

Jason Katims, the executive producer of “About a Boy,” said the new show will exist in the same TV universe as his other NBC show, “Parenthood.” “About a Boy” stars David Walton as a bachelor who befriends an 11-year-old neighbor and his single mother, played by Minnie Driver.

Walton will appear on “Parenthood” this week to set up the bridge between the shows, the story says. Katims said Dax Shepard, who plays Crosby Braverman on “Parenthood,” will also appear on “About a Boy.”

NBC is also planning crossovers between the new show “Chicago PD” and “Chicago Fire,” and with the network’s crime juggernaut “Law & Order: SVU,” a separate Deadline story notes.

Executive producer Dick Wolf said “Chicago PD” will cross storylines with “Chicago Fire” for a couple of episodes, while “Chicago PD” star Sophia Bush will film a scene for “Law & Order: SVU.”

“The planned multi-series crossovers could pave the way for more integration within the ‘Chicago Fire’/‘Chicago PD’/‘SVU’ TV universe,” the story notes.

sophia bush.jpgSophia Bush

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Kris Jenner's Talk Show Plans Suffer a Setback

Kris Jenner’s talk show, which has been in the works for some time, got some bad news: The show won’t be picked up by Fox television stations this fall, although the door remains open for 2015, reports Nellie Andreeva at Deadline.com.

“Kris,” from Twentieth Television, had a six-week trial run on some Fox stations last summer, but “didn’t quite make a splash,” Andreeva notes. Still, it had a strong finish, with Jenner’s son-in-law-to-be Kanye West making an appearance and showing the first photo of his daughter with Kim Kardashian.

The “possibility for the talk show, or an additional project for Kris Jenner, for the 2015 season is being discussed and highly considered,” Stephen Brown, EVP Programming & Development, Fox Television Stations, said in a statement.

Andreeva writes, “Additionally, I hear there is a lot of good will towards Jenner across Fox, including both at Twentieth TV and Fox TV Stations as executives had been impressed by her professionalism, work ethics and personality.”

“Kris” had been waiting to hear from Fox TV stations about its future. “Bethenny” is still on the bubble, the piece notes.

kris jenner.jpgKris Jenner

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NBC Renews Low-Rated Sitcom and Orders Comedy Pilot

A sitcom on NBC that's a critical favorite but has perennially low ratings has been renewed, NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt announced today, Jan. 19, 2014.

"Parks and Recreation" will get a season seven, Greenblatt said. Greenblatt also announced a three-year production deal with "Parks and Recreation" star Amy Poehler. Greenblatt didn't say whether the renewal was part of the production deal.

Greenblatt did anounce a new pilot as part of the production deal. Says The Hollywood Reporter, NBC "greenlit a comedy pilot starring 'Orange Is the New Black's' Natasha Lyonne. The untitled comedy was co-created by 'Parks and Recreation' star Poehler, who will also executive produce. Lyonne will star in the project known as 'Old Soul' and play a woman trying to find herself who, in the meantime, is working as the aide to a group of elderly people.

"The comedy hails from Universal Television, Paperkite Productions and 3 Arts. Poehler will exec produce alongside Dave Becky and Happy Endings duo Jonathan Fener and Josh Bycel, the latter two of whom will pen the script."

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NBC Has Picked Its Next Musical to Broadcast Live. Who Should Star in It? Here's One Idea

By Chuck Ross

With its recent broadcast of “The Sound of Music” starring Carrie Underwood attracting more than 20 million viewers in two showings on NBC, the network has announced another musical for the December holiday season this year: “Peter Pan.”

The musical "Peter Pan" will air Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014, and will be broadcast live, at least on the East Coast.

The team that brought us NBC’s “The Sound of Music” -- executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron -- will also bring us "Peter Pan."

Robert Greenblatt, chairman of NBC Entertainment, made the announcement today, Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014, at the TV Critics Association press tour at the Langham Hotel in Pasadena, Calif.

Greenblatt said he has someone in mind to play the lead role, but he did not say who.

Now, some personal thoughts about NBC’s choice of “Peter Pan,” and who the network should recruit to star in the show. In my TVWeek Open Mic review of “The Sound of Music,” I said I thought that production was seriously undermined by Underwood’s poor acting. In that same review I also wrote at length about NBC’s multiple airings of Mary Martin as Peter Pan in the 1950s and 1960s. For many of us baby boomers, that NBC-TV production is among our fondest childhood TV memories. So kudos to Greenblatt, Zadan, Meron and their colleagues for picking this terrific family musical.

To be clear, this version of "Peter Pan" -- which played on Broadway in 1955 -- does not have the familiar songs that were in the 1953 Disney animated version of “Peter Pan,” which included “You Can Fly” and “A Pirate’s Life.”

For me, this is a good thing -- I prefer the score of the Mary Martin version, with songs such as “I’m Flying” and “I Won't Grow Up,” among others. The songs for the NBC version were written by Carolyn Leigh, Moose Charlap, Jule Styne, Betty Comden and Adolph Green.

Here’s my dream casting for the upcoming 2014 NBC version of “Peter Pan.” As previously mentioned, Mary Martin played Peter in the earlier NBC version, and, it’s common for a woman to play the part. Katy Perry would be outstanding. For one, she’s already flown high above a live audience on a TV show -- she did it at the Kids Choice Awards several years ago. NBC needs to make sure she can act, but my gut tells me she’d be perfect. Perry can easily muster that impeccable combination of charm, mischief and wonderment that Peter Pan must embody. Plus she would bring both a tremendous singing voice and a tremendous family-friendly audience of millions to the broadcast.

And for the part of Captain Hook -- made so memorable in the 1955 version by the sensational Cyril Ritchard – what a coup if NBC could get Johnny Depp. He’d be perfect to reinvent a part that Ritchard carried off with such impeccable flamboyance half a century ago. Yes, with Jack Sparrow Depp has already done a pirate to a fare-thee-well, but Sparrow ain’t Captain Hook. The part would present Depp with a whole other set of challenges, and I’ll bet he’d jump at the chance to be in this live family-friendly production (with, hopefully, Katy Perry) that will be seen by millions. Please, NBC, at least make a serious attempt at getting him.

Now, here are the comments I made in my review last month about the original "Peter Pan" on NBC:

The original, live version of “Peter Pan,” starring Mary Martin as that boy who never grows up, was seen as part of NBC’s "Producer’s Showcase” on Monday night, March 7, 1955. Before airing, the show had had a limited run on Broadway. When it was shown by NBC, it was seen by 65 million viewers, at that time the largest audience to ever have watched a TV program. It was so successful that NBC had Martin and the cast -- including Cyril Ritchard as a wonderfully over-the-top Captain Hook -- perform it live, on-air, again the next year.

By 1960, videotape and color were working pretty well, so NBC recruited Martin -- then appearing on Broadway as Maria in the original stage version of “The Sound of Music” -- to stage “Peter Pan” one last time. From then on this color videotape version was repeated several times on TV, and then later transferred to VHS and DVD for us to see it anytime we want, at home.

Jack Gould, who was the first TV reviewer for The New York Times, had watched and reviewed hundreds of TV shows between 1947 and that Monday night in March 1955 when "Peter Pan" originally aired live on NBC. He wrote that the show was an “exhilarating tonic. ... The magic of
TV and the wonder of make-believe were joined in an experience not soon to be forgotten. What made ‘Peter Pan’ so supremely delightful? Miss Martin, yes; many times yes. Cyril Ritchard as Captain Hook too. Sir James M. Barrie [who wrote the original play] as well. But there was something elusive and indefinable, a quality and a heart. Call it sublime fusion of skill and inspiration. … The greatness of the ‘Peter Pan’ telecast stemmed from a marriage of media under ideal circumstances. The advantages of ‘live’ television and the advantages of living theatre were merged as one. Alone neither medium could have offered the miracle of Monday evening.”

“Peter Pan” also worked so well, Gould wrote, because of the brilliance of the production, in “the heavenly flying through the air of Miss Martin, in her glorious performance that had spontaneity and yet was so professionally perfect and assured. The dances of Jerome Robbins? How different in their originality from the TV norm. And the style of Mr. Ritchard, so sure and deft and magnificent fun. There were, in short, many jewels, each brought to its own distinctive sparkle by patience, imagination and fantastic hard work.”

A copy of the 1960 color version of the NBC production of “Peter Pan” was on DVD, but it’s long out-of-print and a used copy usually goes for at least $100 on ebay.

However, you can find it -- the entire 100-minute production, in color -- on YouTube if you click here. The color isn’t the best, and it’s blurry, but at least you can watch it if you’d like. (Hey, NBC, it’s been up there since 2012 and has more than 200,000 hits, so please, don’t make YouTube take it down.)

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ABC Pulls Plug on Prime-Time Series

ABC announced that it's giving up on a low-rated prime-time series. The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed reports that the network is yanking "Killer Women" from the lineup and moving a new show, "Mind Games," into its time slot.

"Mind Games" had been scheduled to roll out for its midseason run March 11, but instead will launch Tuesday, Feb. 25, at 10 p.m. "Killer Women," produced by Sofia Vergara, will have its run shortened. "Mind Games" comes from executive producer Kyle Killen.

"The move comes after the critically panned 'Killer Women,' starring Tricia Helfer ('Battlestar Galactica') opened to a dismal 0.9 among adults 18-49, slipping to a 0.7 in its second airing," THR notes.

Additionally, ABC announced it will bring back "Dancing with the Stars" Monday, March 17, at 8 p.m. and will roll out the limited series "The Black Box" Thursday, April 24, at 10 p.m.

"An all-new Disney-Pixar holiday special, 'Toy Story That Time Forgot,' was added for the 2014 holiday season," the report adds. "ABC also set a special two-night 'Bachelor' event featuring Juan Pablo Galavis on Feb. 24 and Feb. 25 at 8 p.m."

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Puppy Bowl X: Super Bowl Counterprogramming Event Adds Penguin Cheerleaders, Cat VIP Lounge; Check Out This Behind-the-Scenes Video

Animal Planet's Super Bowl counterprogramming event Puppy Bowl has grown up enough that it now faces counterprogramming of its own on other networks -- including Hallmark's Kitten Bowl and Nat Geo Wild's Fish Bowl, Advertising Age reports.

But the Animal Planet program is keeping itself on the cutting edge, including adding penguin cheerleaders and a cat VIP lounge for this year's Puppy Bowl X.

Please click here to read Ad Age's full report on Puppy Bowl X. Meanwhile, check out this behind-the-scenes video from Ad Age:

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'Idol' Loses Ground on Second Night; NBC and ABC Shows Sink to All-Time Lows

The less-than-spectacular premiere week for Fox's "American Idol" continued Thursday night, with the season's second installment serving up a time zone-adjusted 3.9 average rating in the key 18-49 demo, based on Nielsen data.

TVbytheNumbers.com reports that the number was down sharply from the 4.7 turned in by Wednesday's premiere, but was still enough to give Fox a comfortable win for prime time. CBS placed second with an all-repeat lineup, while ABC and NBC tied for fourth place among the broadcast nets with 1.0 averages for the night.

Going head-to-head with "Idol," ABC's two-hour "The Taste" fell to a series-low 0.9 average in 18-49, losing four-tenths of a point from a week ago. A "Shark Tank" repeat on ABC at 10 p.m. did better, managing a 1.2.

NBC saw three series set or equal their all-time lows in the 18-49 demo. "Sean Saves the World" matched its lowest number, a 0.8, falling two-tenths from a week ago; "The Michael J. Fox Show" plummeted four-tenths to a 0.6, a new series low; and "Parenthood" equaled its low point with a 1.2, slipping one-tenth from a week earlier.

NBC's "Community" fell three-tenths from the season high it hit a week ago, settling for a 1.1 average in viewers 18-49, while "Parks & Recreation" lost three-tenths to come in with a 1.2.

For prime time overall, Fox's 3.9 average in adults 18-49 was the best number on broadcast, followed by CBS (1.5 average), Univision (1.2), and ABC and NBC (both 1.0). Fox was also well ahead in total viewers, averaging 13.4 million to lead CBS (7.2 million), ABC (3.4 million), NBC (3.14 million) and Univision (3.07 million).

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Fox Orders Drama Series About Gun Running

Fox will take on the gun trade in a new drama series. EW.com's Inside TV reports that the broadcast network ordered "Runner, described as being "to guns what [the film] 'Traffic' was to drugs.”

The piece quotes the project's logline: “We find our way into the traditionally masculine world of Arms Dealing through the unexpected lens of a woman. After a simple twist of fate, Lauren Marks learns her husband is not the person she believed him to be. Faced with the harsh reality that her life is forever changed, she goes on a truth seeking journey that entrenches her in a US/Mexican war over weapons and terrorism.”

The project comes from writer Michael Cooney ("Identity") and producer Peter Horton ("Grey’s Anatomy"), the report notes.

"Fox also ordered 'Red Band Society,' a project that includes Steven Spielberg among its executive ranks," the story adds, quoting the show's logline: “A group of teenagers meet as patients in the children’s wing of a hospital and become unlikely allies and friends in this comedic young soap. It represents a completely inspired way into young soap, a comedic one-hour, a hospital show, and a (surrogate) family drama.”

The report adds: "'Runner' has received a commitment from the network for 'further investment towards series production this summer,' while 'Red Band Society' is a 'firm go' as a series."

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Non-TV Story of the Day: Obama Announces Overhaul of NSA's Phone Data Program

President Obama today announced plans to overhaul the nation's surveillance system in the wake of an outcry over revelations about how the National Security Agency collects phone data on U.S. citizens.

"Declaring that advances in technology had made it harder 'to both defend our nation and uphold our civil liberties,' [Obama] announced carefully calculated changes to surveillance policies on Friday, saying he would restrict the ability of intelligence agencies to gain access to telephone data, and would ultimately move that data out of the hands of the government," The New York Times reports.

"But Mr. Obama left in place significant elements of the broad surveillance net assembled by the National Security Agency, and left the implementation of many of his changes up to Congress and the intelligence agencies themselves."

In his speech today Obama said he would implement a requirement for court approval for the viewing of phone data, and would forbid eavesdropping on the leaders of U.S. allies -- a move that followed a diplomatic hassle with Germany and other nations, the report notes.

Said Obama: “America’s capabilities are unique. And the power of new technologies means that there are fewer and fewer technical constraints on what we can do. That places a special obligation on us to ask tough questions about what we should do.”

"But Mr. Obama also delivered a stout defense of the nation’s intelligence establishment, saying that there was no evidence it had abused its power, and that many of its methods were necessary to protect Americans from a host of threats in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks," the report adds.

The article notes: "The president did not accept one of the most significant recommendations of his own advisory panel on surveillance practices: requiring prior court approval for so-called national security letters, which the government uses to demand information on individuals from companies. And in leaving much of the implementation up to Congress, he most likely opened the door to extremely contentious battles."

The Times piece adds: "Mr. Obama made only passing reference to Edward J. Snowden, the former NSA contractor whose disclosures of classified information set off a national and international clamor over American surveillance practices. Mr. Snowden’s actions, he said, jeopardized the nation’s defense and framed a debate that has 'often shed more heat than light.'”

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'Partridge Family' Star Dead at 82 -- He Was a Familiar Face on TV for Decades

An actor who was a familiar presence on television from the 1960s through the 1990s has died. The New York Times reports that Dave Madden, who was a regular on "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In" in the late 1960s and on "The Partridge Family" in the early 1970s, died Thursday at a hospice center near his home in Florida. He was 82.

The comedic actor is remembered for his role as agent Reuben Kincaid on ABC’s “The Partridge Family,” which aired from 1970-1974. Kincaid, who managed the band, clashed with the band’s bassist, the pre-teen Danny Partridge, played by Danny Bonaduce. The show’s premise was that a widowed mother, played by Shirley Jones, and her five children formed a band to make a living.

“His relationship with Danny Bonaduce is what made the show work,” Jones said of Madden, “this strange, mad little boy and the grown man who was even worse as a father figure.”

Madden, whose character appeared to be annoyed by the children in the family, actually loved kids, Jones said. Bonaduce later wrote that Madden was a surrogate father to him during his troubled youth, the piece adds.

Before “The Partridge Family,” Madden was a regular on the “Laugh-In” sketch comedy series, and from the late 1970s through the mid-1980s he had a recurring role as customer Earl Hicks on “Alice.”

Madden also appeared in guest roles on a number of TV series over the years, including “Bewitched," "Happy Days" and "Barney Miller," with appearances later in his career on "Boy Meets World" and "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch," among other shows.

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Management Shakeup at Nickelodeon -- Two Top Execs Exit

Nickelodeon is shaking things up in its executive suite. The Los Angeles Times reports the departure Thursday of two senior executives, Paula Kaplan and Sal Maniaci.

"Kaplan, who has served as executive vice president of current TV series, told her team Thursday that she would be leaving the children's network, according to people familiar with the matter," the story reports. "A network spokesman confirmed Kaplan's pending exit but would not elaborate. Kaplan's departure was reported earlier Thursday."

The report adds: "Late Thursday, Nickelodeon said that Maniaci -- who re-joined the Viacom Inc.-owned cable channel, his longtime home, nearly two years ago after a stint at sister outlet TV Land -- also was resigning. Maniaci could not be reached late Thursday."

After returning in 2012, Maniaci was a part of the group working on original programming and live TV events, including the "Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards" and the "TeenNick HALO Awards."

"Maniaci had worked closely with Margie Cohn, who left Nickelodeon last summer in another management overhaul. Cohn quickly landed at DreamWorks Animation as that company's head of television," the Times notes. "Cohn, Maniaci and Kaplan had been at Nickelodeon in the mid-1990s, and over the years helped develop such juggernaut hits as 'SpongeBob SquarePants' and 'iCarly.'"

The kid-focused cable channel has been retooling since enduring a sizable ratings decline almost two years ago, when ratings fell almost 30%, the report notes.

"The lucrative Viacom channel has been trying to develop a new generation of hits," the article adds. "Ratings for the channel have improved in recent quarters, although the Disney Channel ended 2013 as the top children's network for a second year among viewers ages 2 to 11."

The piece adds: "Nickelodeon Group President Cyma Zarghami has reshuffled the decks several times, most notably in the summer of 2012. The August 2012 shakeup forced out Nickelodeon's animation chief Brown Johnson, the executive who was most responsible for creating the network's cartoon sensation 'Dora the Explorer.'"

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Live Awards Broadcast Hit With F-Bombs -- but Did the Censors Catch Them in Time?

Two huge Hollywood stars dropped “f-bombs” within the first half-hour of a live awards broadcast Thursday night. Deadline.com reports that “Gravity” star Sandra Bullock and Bradley Cooper of “American Hustle” let fly with the famous four-letter word during the CW’s Critic’s Choice Movie Awards.

Bullock was accepting her trophy for Best Actress in an Action Movie when the PA system unexpectedly boomed with a voice, the piece notes. While the censors bleeped her reaction, “even the most amateur lip reader could figure that she said ‘What the f**k?’ She smiled and continued with her speech," the piece notes.

A few minutes later, Cooper, accepting the Best Acting Ensemble award for “American Hustle,” called his colleagues “these f**cking actors.”

“The CW actually went 3-for-3 on the bleep button, including a fleeting ‘sh*t’ from Cate Blanchett as she accepted the Best Actress award for ‘Blue Jasmine,’” the piece adds. "That’s better than NBC managed when the network let Jacqueline Bisset’s loud-’n'-clear 'sh*t!' get on the air during the Golden Globes telecast last weekend."

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She Couldn't Get 'Walking Dead' for HBO, but a Top TV Exec May Have the Next Best Thing -- for Cinemax

A former top HBO executive who struck out in her efforts to get "The Walking Dead" for the pay-cable channel has become involved in a new project from "Walking Dead" originator Robert Kirkman -- but this time it's for HBO rival Cinemax.

Writing on Deadline.com, Nellie Andreeva reports that Sue Naegle -- who watched AMC's "The Walking Dead" become the biggest scripted show on television after she tried unsuccessfully to reel it in for HBO -- is on board with Cinemax's "Outcast," an exorcism drama from Kirkman. The project is one of the first as a producer for Naegle, the former entertainment president at HBO.

"Naegle has a relationship with Kirkman," Andreeva writes. "She is known for her love for supernatural and horror fare and is a fan of Kirkman’s graphic novel 'The Walking Dead.' As an HBO development executive, she went aggressively after the property and had talks with Kirkman."

Andreeva adds: "In his pilot writing debut, Kirkman penned 'Outcast' on spec for 'The Walking Dead' international partner Fox International Channels, which developed the project internally before taking it out. I hear Naegle, who was still at HBO at the time, read the script and recommended it to her colleague Kary Antholis, whose team had already been actively pursuing it."

Naegle championed Kirkman's "Walking Dead" while at HBO, and the channel reportedly came close to a deal for the show but ultimately came up short.

"AMC snagged the comic book for what would become the biggest series on television," Andreeva writes, adding that Naegle "now will get to work with Kirkman on 'Outcast,' on which the two serve as executive producers alongside David Alpert of Circle of Confusion. The gig dovetails with her producing deal at HBO."

The report adds: "Based on Kirkman/Skybound’s recently announced comic book by the same name, 'Outcast' follows Kyle Barnes, a young man who has been plagued by possession since he was a child. Now an adult, he embarks on a journey to find answers but what he uncovers could mean the end of life on Earth as we know it."

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Granddaughter of the Queen of England Interning at Sony Pictures Television

The granddaughter of the Queen of England has become an intern for Sony Pictures Television, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Princess Beatrice, the 25-year-old daughter of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, has begun her assignment at the company's London headquarters, the story reports.

Sony Pictures Television distributes shows including NBC’s “The Blacklist” and ABC’s “The Goldbergs,” the story notes.

Beatrice worked at an investment firm in London before traveling to St. Barts and Aspen, Colo., over the summer. While she’s the granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II, she’s not classed as a working member of the royal family and doesn’t receive taxpayers’ money, the piece notes.

She's the oldest daughter of Andrew and Sarah, who divorced in 1996.

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Here's the Show One Hollywood Mogul -- Who Knows a Hit When He Sees It -- Thinks Will Be the Next 'Duck Dynasty'

An entertainment mogul whose name is practically synonymous with "hit" thinks he may have the next "Duck Dynasty" on his hands. The mogul is Harvey Weinstein, who is betting heavily on the TLC series “Trailer Park: Welcome to Myrtle Manor," TheWrap.com reports.

Weinstein, whose company just scored Oscar nominations for “Philomena” and “August: Osage County,” told the publication: “I think people have loved our characters. ['Trailer Park' is] really a fun, crazy family show. I think given the time it could be in the ‘Duck Dynasty’ range. A couple seasons more of people talking about it, I really think it has that kind of potential.”

The report notes that The Weinstein Company ran full-page ads Thursday promoting the show's season-two premiere in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and USA Today. "Amid all the films and TV TWC produces, why give 'Trailer Park' all this attention? The company has identified the show as its next possible franchise, much like what it has done for its shows 'Project Runway' on Lifetime and VH1′s 'Mob Wives,'" the report notes.

Said Weinstein: “We really want to get to the numbers [to] warrant a spinoff show. There’s some amazing stuff in California. If we were really targeting the next place, it would probably be Los Angeles. There’s some incredible parks up there. I mean some of them feel like Beverly Hills.”

The first season of “Welcome to Myrtle Manor,” which bowed on TLC in May 2013, averaged 1.1 million total viewers per episode. The program focuses on a "high end" trailer park in Myrtle Beach, S.C., the story notes.

Said Weinstein: “I think a more sophisticated audience appreciated the comedy of it all. And then there were just people that identify with these people. In a way, they’re making their way through. No one wants to be snobbish about it. It’s funny everyday life, it’s the battles we all face.”

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The Last Female Munchkin From 'The Wizard of Oz' Dies

The last surviving female Munchkin from the 1939 movie “The Wizard of Oz” has died. The Associated Press reports that Ruth Robinson Duccini, who was one of two surviving original Munchkins, died of natural causes Thursday in Solari Hospice Care Center in Las Vegas. She was 95.

At 4 feet tall, Duccini traveled to California with a troupe of little people and was cast in the MGM movie, which starred Judy Garland as Dorothy. She met her husband while working at MGM, and they had a son and daughter.

She later appeared in the 1981 comedy feature “Under the Rainbow,” starring Carrie Fisher and Chevy Chase, which was loosely based on the 1939 auditions for Munchkins in "The Wizard of Oz."

Duccini also appeared at festivals and screenings for “The Wizard of Oz.”

The only surviving original Munchkin is Jerry Maren, 93, who was a member of the Lollipop Guild, the piece notes.

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Wanda Sykes Developing Comedy for NickMom

Nickelodeon’s NickMom, the network’s nighttime comedy block targeted at moms, is working with Wanda Sykes on an untitled comedy, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The project joins a slate of new series in development for the programming block, including a “docu-comedy” and a reality competition, the story says. Sykes will work with her producing partner Page Hurwitz on the project.

Sykes and Hurwitz also have a deal through their Push It production company to bring back “Last Comic Standing” in the summer for NBC, the piece adds.

"Additionally, NickMom has ordered six episodes of a new hidden camera series, 'Undercover Cupid,' from producer Scott Stone," the report notes. "Hosted by 'Whose Line Is It Anyway?'s' Nyima Funk, the series follows unsuspecting single moms and dads who are surprised to meet three eligible dates picked by their kids as they live their lives."

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NBC Orders Project From Former MTV Executive Janollari

Former MTV head of programming David Janollari has received an order from NBC for a drama project. The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports that the network ordered a pilot for “Salvation.”

The project is set at a Texas church, and explores family, faith and corruption. It focuses on a character named Jennifer Strickland who has to protect herself, her children and her church after her husband’s mysterious death.

The project comes out of Janollari’s three-year overall deal with Universal Television. It’s written by Liz Heldens, whose freshman shows “Deception” and “Camp” were canceled after one season, the story notes.

She will executive produce with Janollari.

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Bad Sign for First BET Original Drama Series

The numbers are looking discouraging for BET’s first original scripted drama series. The Los Angeles Times’ Show Tracker reports that “Being Mary Jane” saw a troubling drop in viewership for its second episode.

The episode drew 2.8 million viewers on Tuesday, a decline of more than 15% from its debut episode, which attracted 3.3 million viewers, the story notes.

“The debut installment had already dropped from the more than 4 million viewers who tuned in to the show's movie-length pilot, which aired last May,” the piece adds.

The series stars Gabrielle Union as a successful TV news personality facing challenges in her personal life.

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ABC Greenlights Project From Laurence Fishburne

ABC has greenlighted a project from Laurence Fishburne’s Cinema Gypsy, ABC Studios and Principato Young, Deadline.com reports. The network ordered a pilot for “Black-ish,” which will star Anthony Anderson.

The project is written by Kenya Barris of “The Game” and is based on his own experiences. Anderson will portray an upper-middle-class black man struggling to give his children a cultural identity, while dealing with his assimilated kids, liberal wife and traditional father, the story says.

While there’s no deal for Fishburne to act, he is open to guest appearances, the story says.

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ABC Orders Supernatural Project From 'Grey's Anatomy' Producer

ABC is expanding its relationship with one of the producers of "Grey's Anatomy." TheWrap.com reports that the network ordered a pilot from producer Mark Gordon, about a criminal who is targeted by zealots because they believe she has powers that can be used for either good or evil.

Called “Clementine,” the project is from writer Dean Georgaris of “The Manchurian Candidate.” The Mark Gordon Co. is attached to executive produce, with Nicholas Pepper and Ilene Staple also executive producing.

Gordon has been involved in a string of movies and TV series, including "Criminal Minds," "Army Wives" and "Ray Donovan."

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TV Actor Known for Iconic 1960s Sitcom Dead at 89

An actor who was a familiar presence on television in the 1960s through his role on one of the decade's most high-profile sitcoms has died. People magazine reports that Russell Johnson, known for his role as the Professor on "Gilligan's Island," died today at his home in Washington at 89.

His agent, Michael Eisentstadt, reported that Johnson was with his wife, Constance, and daughter Kim when he died. The actor had reportedly been in good health, and his death came quickly, according to Eisentstadt.

"I spoke to him right before the holidays and he did an autograph job," the agent said." He had just done that and he was fine."

"Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann on the show, posted a picture of herself, Johnson and Bob Denver, who played Gilligan, to Facebook to express her grief," the article reports, quoting Wells writing on the site: "My 2 favorite people are now gone. The Professor [passed] away this morning. My heart is broken."

Bob Denver, who played Gilligan, died in 2005, and was preceded in death by other "Gilligan's Island" cast members. Of the original castaways, the only other survivor besides Wells is Tina Louise, who played Ginger. "Gilligan's Island" aired on CBS from 1964-1967.

Before landing the role on "Gilligan's Island," Johnson had a prolific career in movies and early television, including appearances on the TV shows "Adventures of Superman," "The Lone Ranger," "Circus Boy," "Wagon Train" and "Twilight Zone." He was a regular on the Western "Black Saddle" from 1959-1960.

Film appearances for Johnson early in his career tended to be in B-Westerns and science-fiction movies, among them "Ride Clear of Diablo," "It Came From Outer Space" and Roger Corman's "Attack of the Crab Monsters."

After "Gilligan," Johnson kept up a busy schedule of TV guest appearances into the 1990s, including roles on "Dynasty," "Newhart," "ALF" and "Knots Landing," among many other shows.

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How Did the Phil Robertson Controversy Affect 'Duck Dynasty' Ratings? The Numbers Show a Significant Move

The A&E reality show "Duck Dynasty" returned to the air Wednesday night for the first time since the show's patriarch, Phil Robertson, became embroiled in a politically charged controversy over comments he made that offended gay people and African-Americans.

So did the controversy help pump up ratings, as many predicted it would? Apparently not. Deadline.com reports that the numbers were down significantly.

"A&E’s flagship reality series clocked 8.5 million viewers Wednesday night, snapping a streak of ratings records and posting its first season-to-season drop," the story reports. "Among adults 18-49, the premiere averaged 4.2 million viewers, down 33%. Those are still huge numbers for a cable series, but the Season 5 opener was down from the show’s Season 4 debut, which drew nearly 12 million to become the No. 1-rated nonfiction series telecast in cable history."

Wednesday's show did squeak past the season four finale, which drew an audience of 8.4 million. A recent "Duck Dynasty" Christmas special delivered a little less than 9 million viewers.

"The two back-to-back episodes were the first appearance on A&E of the Robertson family since patriarch Phil’s controversial comments about gay men and African-Americans in a GQ interview, which caused A&E to suspend Phil," the report notes. "After the rest of the family indicated they would not do the show without him, and religious organizations and a legion of conservatives stood by him, A&E reversed its decision, lifting Phil’s suspension."

The article notes that the season's initial episodes, and almost all of the episodes for this season, were shot before the controversy erupted in December, and the show did not address the issue.

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'Idol' Returns, Demolishes the Broadcast Competition

"American Idol" premiered its newest cycle Wednesday night, and the two-hour Fox program crushed everything else on broadcast prime, based on Nielsen overnights for the key 18-49 demo.

TVbytheNumbers.com reports that "Idol" delivered a preliminary 4.6 average rating in viewers 18-49, which was upgraded to a 4.7 with time-zone-adjusted figures. The bad news for Fox: That number was well off the pace of last year's premiere, which delivered a 6.0.

With Fox coasting to a huge win for the night, the other big four networks essentially fought over the scraps. ABC's "Modern Family" was the top show of the night on the other nets, averaging a 3.2 in the 18-49 demo, off three-tenths of a point from a week ago and matching its season low.

Elsewhere on ABC, "The Middle" also notched a season low with a 1.8 in 18-49, down four-tenths from last week; "Suburgatory" premiered with a 1.6, well off the pace of last year's 2.8 premiere number but equaling last year's finale; "Super Fun Night" slipped one-tenth to a 1.6; and "Nashville" recorded a series low, slipping one-tenth from its previous original to a 1.3.

CBS filled an hour with comedy repeats (1.2 in 18-49 for "Two and a Half Men," 1.1 for "The Millers"), then settled for a 2.4 for "Criminal Minds," equaling its previous original, and a 2.0 for "CSI," up two-tenths.

NBC failed to keep pace with the other big four nets, with "Revolution" slipping two-tenths from its previous original to a series-low 1.3 in the 18-49 demo, "Law & Order: SVU" off a whopping six-tenths from a week ago to a 1.5, and "Chicago PD" down a half-point from last week's premiere with a 1.5 average.

For prime time overall, Fox's 4.7 average in adults 18-49 was the class of the field, followed by CBS (1.9 average), ABC (1.8), NBC (1.4) and Univision (1.2). Fox also had a big advantage in total viewers with 15.2 million, leading CBS (8.6 million), ABC (6.1 million), NBC (5.3 million) and Univision (2.9 million).

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Popular 1980s Drama Series Getting a Reboot

A drama series that had a strong run in the 1980s is returning to life in a new, updated form. The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed reports that A&E is working on a reboot of "Highway to Heaven."

"A&E is developing a contemporary remake of the acclaimed late-1980s [Michael] Landon drama, with Mark Wahlberg on board as an executive producer. The project, which centers on an angel sent down to Earth to help troubled souls, is being penned by former 'Hell on Wheels' showrunner John Wirth," the story reports.

The article adds: "The project is being co-produced by Bob DeBitetto’s newly launched A&E Studios and Noreen Halpern’s Halfire-Core Entertainment, in association with Wahlberg's Closest to the Hole Productions and his manager and producing partner Stephen Levinson's Leverage Entertainment. Wahlberg and Levinson ('Boardwalk Empire'), along with Halpern, Wirth and Wayne Lepoff of the Landon estate, are all attached as executive producers."

The original version aired for five seasons on NBC. The series starred Landon as "Jonathan Smith, an angel sent down on probation, and his 'Little House on the Prairie' co-star Victor French as human companion Mark Gordon," the report notes. "Together, the pair is given assignments by God as Landon's character looks to earn his wings. If the remake is ultimately ordered to series, 'Highway' would join other A&E scripted efforts 'Longmire,' 'Bates Motel' and upcoming Chloe Sevigny’s 'Those Who Kill.'"

victor french-Michael Landon-Highway to Heaven.jpgVictor French and Michael Landon in the original

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Philip Seymour Hoffman Gets a Showtime Series, as Pay-Cable Net Slates a Number of New Programs

Academy Award winner Philip Seymour Hoffman, known more for his work on film, is about to become a TV regular. The actor, who won an Oscar for best actor for the 2005 film "Capote," will star in a new Showtime comedy series, EW.com reports.

"'Happyish,' a comedy that also features Kathryn Hahn ('Revolutionary Road') and Rhys Ifans ('Notting Hill'), follows Thom Payne (Hoffman), whose his new bosses at work are half his age," the story reports. "His mentor and boss, Jonathan (Ifans) tells him to 'rebrand' himself, his corporate headhunter tells him happiness is a myth, and Thom’s not sure if his Viagra will interfere with his Prozac, or vice versa."

Showtime also announced plans for a new drama series about extramarital sex. "'The Affair' stars Dominic West ('The Wire'), Maura Tierney ('ER') and Joshua Jackson ('Fringe') and explores the emotional and psychological effects of an extramarital affair. Over 10 episodes, the drama will be told from the male and female perspectives," the piece reports.

The channel also announced that the docuseries "Years of Living Dangerously" will premiere April 13, following the season six opener for "Nurse Jackie" and the season seven premiere of "Californication."

"Penny Dreadful," the pay-cable net's new psychological thriller with Eva Green and Josh Hartnett, is set to roll out May 11.

The article notes: "'Years of Living Dangerously' follows a roster of major film, television and journalists who travel the globe to tackle a range of subjects that address climate change. 'Penny Dreadful' chronicles some of literature’s most terrifying characters like Dr. Frankenstein and Dorian Gray in Victorian London."

Update: For coverage of the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, please see the following links:

Philip Seymour Hoffman dead of apparent drug overdose at 46.

House of heroin: Report says actor had 70 bags of heroin in his apartment.

Arrests made in connection with Philip Seymour Hoffman's death.

How Philip Seymour Hoffman spent his last days.

philip seymour hoffman.jpgPhilip Seymour Hoffman

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'How I Met Your Mother' Apologizes After Being Accused of Racism

The CBS comedy series “How I Met Your Mother” came under fire over an incident in Monday’s episode that some viewers saw as racist, causing the show's co-creators to issue apologies, Variety reports.

In the episode, titled "Slapsgiving 3: Slappointment in Slapmarra," the problem surfaced during a bit about an ongoing "slap bet" involving the ritual of strong slaps among friends.

"Monday’s episode put the show under fire when Jason Segel’s character continued the slap bet with Neil Patrick Harris’, threatening the 'slap of a million exploding suns' that he learned from three masters," the story reports. "The cast’s Alyson Hannigan, Cobie Smulders and Josh Radnor served as said masters, dressed to make them look as though they were Asian.

"Viewers immediately flocked to Twitter to voice their aversion to the use of 'yellowface,' and even created the hashtag '#HowIMetYourRacism.' Co-creator Carter Bays responded Wednesday, apologizing for himself and fellow showrunner Craig Thomas.

In a series of tweets, Bays wrote: "With Monday's episode, we set out to make a silly and unabashedly immature homage to Kung Fu movies, a genre we’ve always loved. But along the way we offended people. We're deeply sorry, and we’re grateful to everyone who spoke up to make us aware of it."

Thomas added in his own tweet: "I second everything @carterbays just tweeted -- we love all #HIMYM fans and apologize that we caused offense."

Bays also said the producers aim to make a show that's "universal," admitting that they fell short with Monday's episode.

The series is in its final season, with the finale set to air in March.

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Oscar Nominations Revealed -- Netflix, After Making Inroads Into the Emmys Last Year, Now Has Arrived at the Academy Awards; We Have the Full List of Nominees

Two films moved to the front of the pack among the nominees for the 86th Annual Academy Awards, announced today, with 10 nominations apiece going to "American Hustle" and "Gravity."

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced a total of nine movies competing for Best Picture. Along with "American Hustle" and "Gravity," nominees for the top prize are "Captain Phillips," "Dallas Buyers Club," "Her," "Nebraska," "Philomena," "12 Years a Slave" and "The Wolf of Wall Street."

Netflix, which broke through last year in honors on the television side -- including snaring a number of Emmy nominations and scoring a win for David Fincher as best director of a drama series for "House of Cards" -- now has a chance to continue that momentum in film. The streaming service's "The Square," about the Egyptian revolution, is nominated for best documentary feature.

The nominees for best performance by an actor in a leading role are Christian Bale for “American Hustle,” Bruce Dern for “Nebraska,” Leonardo DiCaprio for “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Chiwetel Ejiofor for “12 Years a Slave” and Matthew McConaughey for “Dallas Buyers Club.”

Nominees for best performance by an actress in a leading role are Amy Adams for “American Hustle,” Cate Blanchett for “Blue Jasmine,” Sandra Bullock for “Gravity,” Judi Dench for “Philomena” and Meryl Streep for “August: Osage County.”

The awards will be presented March 2.

Please click here to see the full list of nominees.

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CW Cancels Series

The CW is pulling the plug on a show that has failed to gain ratings traction. TheWrap.com reports that the broadcast network is canceling “Breaking Pointe,” a reality series about the Salt Lake City ballet company Ballet West.

CW President Mark Pedowitz made the announcement at the Television Critics Association press tour. “I wish it did better,” Pedowitz said. “Docusoaps are very hard for broadcasters to get going versus cable.”

The show premiered in May 2012 and aired for two seasons.

He added that the future of “The Carrie Diaries” and “Beauty and the Beast” will be determined in May, and that he’s “very bullish” on the network's historical drama “Reign.”

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Longtime ABC Executive Dies

A veteran ABC executive who retired after serving as executive vice president, ABC Broadcast Group, and vice president, Capital Cities/ABC, Inc., has died. ABC announced that Mark Cohen died Dec. 31, 2013, at 81.

"Mr. Cohen joined ABC in the company’s clearance department in 1958. He moved to network sales in 1961, was promoted to director of sales planning in 1964 and to vice president, sales planning in 1967," ABC said in its announcement. "In the early seventies, Mr. Cohen held a number of positions in the business analysis and planning areas, and was named vice president in charge of planning and development for ABC Television in 1974. He was promoted to senior vice president, Finance and Planning in 1976, became Senior Vice President of ABC Television in 1977 and assumed the additional title of Vice President of ABC, Inc. in 1981. From 1983 to 1985, he was senior vice president, ABC, Inc. and in 1985 was promoted to executive vice president."

Cohen left ABC in 1988.

A native of Maine, Cohen was a vice president of the International Radio and Television Society and a former president and executive committee member of the International Council of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

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Commercials in the Upcoming Super Bowl: Higher Prices ... and More Ad Time (Plus: One Surprising Fact About Super Bowl Commercials That You May Not Have Known)

The Super Bowl is the biggest advertising venue of the year, in terms of the audience and the cost for a 30-second ad, but it’s also one of the biggest in terms of sheer commercial time, reports MediaPost’s MediaDailyNews.

"Last year’s event on CBS pulled in 11% more revenue to $292 million over 2012’s game, and was 14% higher to $4 million for the average 30-second commercial, according to Kantar Media," the story reports. "This year's game -- Super Bowl XLVIII -- will air Feb. 2 on Fox, played at MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey. Media buyers contacted by Media Daily News believe the average 30-second commercial in 2014 is going for around $4.1 million to $4.4 million."

Commercial time has been increasing over the past decade. In 2004 and 2005, the game aired about 41 minutes of ads. That rose to 48 minutes in 2011 and 2012, and rose again to 51:40 of commercial time last year, the story reports.

"In 2013, there was some unnatural inflation due to a stadium power outage, where CBS re-ran a commercial pod, uncertain whether those commercials made it to air," the report notes.

The number of commercials has fluctuated in recent years, the story reports: 104 commercials in 2010, 96 in 2011, 78 in 2012 and 97 in 2013.

Here's that surprising fact we promised about Super Bowl commercials: "When it comes to commercial tuning, Kantar Media says last year’s Super Bowl earned a 101.6 commercial tuning index -- which means the average Super Bowl commercial audience was 1.6% larger than for the game itself," the story reports.

"In addition, the company says only 0.7% of the Super Bowl audience tuned away for the average commercial during the 2013 game," the report notes. "This compares to 3% to 4% who tune away during other TV programming."

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'American Idol' Loses a Longtime Sponsor

“American Idol” has lost one of its longtime sponsors. Deadline.com reports that the Fox singing competition is losing its deal with AT&T, which had sponsored the AT&T voting numbers read by Ryan Seacrest after each performance.

AT&T joined the Fox show in its second season, but won’t be back for its 13th season, the story notes. Ford and Coca-Cola, which have sponsored the show since the beginning, will return.

"A lot has changed since ‘Idol’ launched in 2002," the story reports. "Phoning and texting, once the primary way of audience voting, have been pushed out by online voting, which ‘Idol’ has been doing for the last couple of seasons. It is unclear whether there will be another sponsor replacing AT&T, though the show does not necessarily need one."

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Network Kills Superhero Project

A superhero project that was in the works for network TV is dead. The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed reports that the CW pulled the plug on its prequel to "Wonder Woman." The project, "Amazon," explored the origin story of the superhero.

The network announced the project in September 2012, saying it was working with Allan Heinberg of “Grey’s Anatomy” to develop the story of Diana of Themyscira. The script was then redeveloped in May 2013, with “Heroes” writer Aron Eli Coleite working on the project.

"We did not go forward with it," Mark Pedowitz, president of the CW, said at his Television Critics Association press tour session. He added that he remains open to another Wonder Woman project, depending on the material.

“It all depends on the script. We were very careful with ‘Arrow,’ and we're being very careful with ‘Flash,’” Pedowitz said. “These are iconic characters, so we're going to be very careful with ‘Wonder Woman.’ You only get one shot before you get bit."

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Comcast Plans to Change the Philadelphia Skyline

Comcast is working on a plan that will significantly alter the skyline of its home city of Philadelphia and will create one of the nation's tallest buildings. Bloomberg reports that the company will build a $1.2 billion, 59-story office building that will stand next to Comcast's Philadelphia headquarters.

Comcast will start the Comcast Innovation and Technology Center at midyear with the goal of finishing by 2017. The building will also include a Four Seasons hotel. Comcast is partnering with building firm Liberty Property Trust in the project.

At 1,121 feet, the building will be the tallest in the U.S. outside of New York and Chicago. "The current tallest building outside New York and Chicago is the U.S. Bank Tower in Los Angeles, at 1,018 feet, according to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat’s Skyscraper Center website," the story reports.

The project "will be built on the 1800 block of Arch Street in the Center City district of downtown Philadelphia," Bloomberg reports. "It will be the largest private development in Pennsylvania history, Comcast and Liberty said. The glass-and-stainless-steel building was designed by British architect Norman Foster and will include loft-life spaces."

The report adds: "Comcast plans to sign a 20-year lease for at least 957,000 square feet (89,000 square meters), or about 75 percent of the Philadelphia building’s rentable office space. The company will hold 80 percent of the joint venture that will own the tower, with Liberty holding the rest and managing the property."

The new building will also be the headquarters for local TV stations NBC 10/WCAU and Telemundo 62/WWSI.

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Charter Seeks Help From No. 1 Cable Provider in Effort to Take Over Time Warner Cable

Charter Communications isn't ready to give up on its attempt to buy larger rival Time Warner Cable. Reuters reports that Charter has reached out to Comcast Corp. about joining forces to take over TWC.

Citing sources familiar with the situation, Reuters reports: "Charter approached Comcast on Wednesday to discuss carving up the second-largest U.S. cable company's systems and subscribers, the people said, asking not to be named because they were not authorized to speak with the media.

"Charter, the No. 4 U.S. cable provider, and Comcast, the top U.S. cable provider, are in preliminary discussions about how to structure a potential alliance, the people said. One possibility is that Charter buys all of Time Warner Cable and sells off some of its markets and subscribers to Comcast, one of the people said."

Time Warner rejected a bid from Charter this week, as we reported previously. The value of the bid has been reported at more than $61 billion, although the Reuters story reports it as $37.3 billion.

Meanwhile, Charter has done some trash talking about Time Warner, as we reported yesterday.

"It was not immediately clear which geographic markets are under discussion, but analysts have said that Comcast would be interested in Time Warner Cable's largest markets such as New York, Los Angeles and Dallas," Reuters reports. "The two companies held similar discussions late last year but those talks did not progress at that time."

The three companies all declined to comment for the Reuters story.

"A successful tie-up would take out Comcast from the bidding for Time Warner Cable. Comcast, which has also evaluated a takeover bid for all of Time Warner Cable, was seen as the only likely suitor besides Charter," Reuters notes. "Analysts have said any attempt to merge the two largest cable operators, however, would face tough scrutiny from U.S. regulators."

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Will Ferrell's 1960s Astronaut Sitcom Lands at NBC

NBC has ordered a project from Will Ferrell and his production partner Adam McKay, reports EW.com’s Inside TV. The network ordered a pilot for “Mission Control,” an astronaut comedy set in 1962 and featuring a strong woman who deals with a macho astronaut.

David Hornsby of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” will be the showrunner for the pilot.

The idea was previously a movie pitch, the story notes.

“It’s rare for comedies to be set so far in the past," the article adds. "Usually if a sitcom is going retro, it’s set within the last few decades, such as ‘The Goldbergs,’ 'That ’70s Show’ and ‘Wonder Years.’”

However, this won't be the first time astronauts have been at the center of a comedy series. Among the previous efforts, "I Dream of Jeannie" had a successful five-season run on NBC in the 1960s, while "It's About Time," from "Gilligan's Island" creator Sherwood Schwartz, focused on time-traveling astronauts and cave people and survived for one season on CBS from 1966-1967.

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'Veronica Mars' Continues Its Comeback Story: Spinoff on the Way

The comeback story continues for “Veronica Mars,” with an online spinoff in the works, Nellie Andreeva reports on Deadline.com.

The CW made the announcement about the spinoff series, although the network didn’t provide other details.

Creator Rob Thomas later wrote on Twitter that the CW Web series will be “a comedy featuring Ryan Hansen attempting to put together a Dick Casablancas spin-off of ‘Veronica Mars.’” (In the original show, Hansen plays a character called Dick Casablancas.)

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'American Horror Story' Reveals Historical Setting for Upcoming Season

“American Horror Story” has revealed the time period in which its upcoming fourth season will be set. Ryan Murphy, co-creator of the FX drama series, told EW.com's Inside TV the season will be set in 1950.

“If you look historically what happened in the year 1950, there’s some more clues in that year. It’s a period piece. We try and do the opposite of what we’ve done before. Jessica Lange has already started practicing her German accent so I’m very excited!” Murphy said.

The current season, “American Horror Story: Coven,” which is focused on witches, is slated to air its finale later this month.

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Ratings Low Points for ABC, NBC and Fox in Tuesday Prime

A number of broadcast programs hit ratings lows Tuesday night, as a challenging week continued for the big four networks.

TVbytheNumbers.com reports that NBC's "Chicago Fire" slipped to a season low, based on Nielsen overnights for the key 18-49 demo, while "The Biggest Loser" equaled the season low it set a week ago. The two-hour "Loser" notched a 1.7 average, with "Fire" serving up a 1.8 -- off two-tenths from last week.

An ABC program went even further into "dubious distinction" territory, as "Killer Women" fell two-tenths to a 0.7 average in the 18-49 demo -- a distant third in the 10 p.m. hour and a number that matches the lowest for any Tuesday original on broadcast this season.

As bad as the numbers were for NBC and ABC, Fox's results in 18-49 were even worse. "Dads" and "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" equaled their all-time lows, while "New Girl" and "The Mindy Project" matched their season lows.

"Dads" fell off three-tenths from a week ago in viewers 18-49, settling for a 1.2; "Brooklyn" slipped one-tenth to a 1.4; "New Girl" held steady to last week with a 1.6; and "Mindy" dipped one-tenth to a 1.2.

Coming out relatively unscathed was CBS, which won the night with steady numbers for its drama lineup. "NCIS" equaled last week's 3.0 average in adults 18-49, "NCIS: L.A." matched its previous original's 2.4, and "Person of Interest" came in with a 2.0, the same as last week.

For prime time overall, CBS averaged a 2.5 in the 18-49 demo to lead NBC (1.7), ABC (1.4), Fox (1.3) and Univision (1.1). CBS piled up a massive lead for prime time in total viewers, averaging 15.9 million to top NBC (5.9 million), ABC (4.6 million), Fox (3.1 million) and Univision (2.8 million).

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Why CBS Is Sticking With Pilot Season

After Fox Entertainment Chairman Kevin Reilly delivered a blow to the traditional network pilot season during his appearance at the Television Critics Association winter press tour, as we reported earlier this week, another network came to the defense of the model.

CBS Entertainment Chief Nina Tassler said today that the Tiffany Network will stick with the traditional model of a pilot season, The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed Reports. Why? "Pilot season does work for us," said Tassler.

She added, however: “Pilot season isn’t perfect, and it certainly is a very difficult time.”

Tassler also commented on recent remarks by "Lost" co-creator and showrunner Damon Lindelof, who compared the broadcast pilot season to a conveyor belt, implying that it stands in the way of programming quality.

Said Tassler: "I want to hear Damon Lindelof complain about broadcast when he goes to the bank to cash his 'Lost' checks." She added: "The bottom line is ... yes, it's harder, yes, it's challenging, but when you have a great writer and great storytelling and they have to make decisions in a pressurized situation, they're going to make the right and best decisions, period."

THR adds: "She pointed to a recent Forbes article, which addressed the kind of creative adrenaline that can come out of a compressed -- and thus high-pressure -- period like pilot season. 'It’s frustrating but also it’s exciting,' she said of the springtime arms race for talent, pointing to two key examples of juggernauts, 'CSI' and 'The Big Bang Theory,' born out of that pressure cooker environment. The former was an 11th-hour order, which forced a team and script to come together and deliver a hit show, while the latter required a reshoot that added star Kaley Cuoco."

Noting that Reilly's decision may make sense for Fox, Tassler added: "I think you can’t make these broad generalizations."

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'Intelligence' Producer on Show's Ratings Plunge: 'That Sucked'

After his show plummeted in the ratings earlier this week, "Intelligence" executive producer Michael Seitzman said today during CBS's TCA presentation: "That sucked -- there's no other way to put it," The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed reports.

THR notes: "The rookie spy drama, starring Josh Holloway and Marg Helgenberger, premiered to a big 16.5 million viewers and a 2.4 rating on Jan. 7 following 'NCIS.' But days later, when 'Intelligence' launched in its regular Monday time slot Jan. 13, the series nabbed just 6.2 million viewers and sank 50 percent to a 1.2 rating."

"From Seitzman's perspective, he doesn't see airing opposite NBC's 'The Blacklist' and ABC's 'Castle' in the Monday 10 p.m. period as competition," the report adds. "Instead, he diplomatically stated that they're 'friends.'"

The show's initial 13-episode order is in the can, but the show's future remains in question, the piece notes.

Said CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler: "We're going to watch very closely. We think the show -- looking ahead creatively -- is great. Certainly, that time period is a tougher time period right now, but we want to see what the lift is. We want to see what the delayed viewing numbers are. We want to see what the L7 numbers are. We're waiting a moment to see how many other people watch the show. We're going to wait and see."

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HBO Will Bring Back Show for 13th Season

HBO announced today that it will bring back a show for its 13th season -- with the show set to premiere its 12th season this Friday. The show is "Real Time with Bill Maher," Deadline.com reports.

The show's 35-episode season 13 will bow in January 2015, the story reports.

Said HBO Programming President Michael Lombardo: “Bill Maher has been a treasured member of the HBO family since the late ‘80s, and his irreverent wit and fearless insights make him the perfect observer for these unpredictable times."

The Deadline report notes: "The program, which takes on politics and current events, averages a gross audience of 4.1 million viewers per show. Maher headlined his first special on HBO in 1989, starring in nine solo specials. In addition to 'Real Time,' he is also an executive producer of the HBO news magazine show 'Vice,' which returns for its second season March 14. The executive producers of 'Real Time' are Maher, Scott Carter, Sheila Griffiths, Marc Gurvitz, Brad Grey and Billy Martin."

Maher commented: “It’s a pleasure to be returning for a 13th season on HBO. It’s something you rarely see in Hollywood: an on-again, on-again relationship.”

The renewal comes after HBO unveiled plans for a weekly show featuring John Oliver, formerly of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show," a move that led to some speculation about whether Maher's show would continue on the pay-cable net.

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Report: NBC News in Talks With a Familiar Face About 'Today' Job

NBC is in "serious talks" with a familiar TV news personality about moving into a regular job on the network's "Today" show, according to a report by TV Guide citing sources who are familiar with the discussions.

Tamron Hall, who is a national correspondent for NBC News and has been seen in supporting roles on "Today," would move into a role as a full-time co-host on the third hour of “Today,” where she would join the lineup with Natalie Morales, Al Roker and Willie Geist, according to the report. The sources reportedly say Hall will get the job.

The third hour, which airs at 9 a.m., is “devoted to a free-wheeling chat among the hosts," the report notes.

"Hall, 43, regularly fills in on 'Today' reading the news and more recently in the 'Orange Room,' the morning program's segment devoted to trends in social media," TV Guide reports. "She was also part of the 'Today' team's red carpet coverage before the Golden Globe Awards. Ratings for the coverage grew by 12 percent over last year according to preliminary Nielsen numbers. Hall also anchors the 2 p.m. hour on cable network MSNBC and hosts 'Deadline: Crime,' a series on Investigation Discovery."

The report adds: “The Texas native has been looking to raise her profile at NBC News, where she's worked since 2007. Hall has met with at least one other competing network news division in recent months. A spokeswoman for NBC News declined comment."

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Numbers Are In for IFC's New Series -- With 'SNL' Alums Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig Among the High-Octane Cast

IFC’s heavily promoted, high-octane spoof of melodramatic miniseries from the 1970s and 1980s got off to a solid start in the ratings. Deadline.com reports that "The Spoils of Babylon" attracted 911,000 total viewers, including 477,000 adults 18-49, for its premiere.

“That is one of the highest-rated debuts ever on IFC, whose flagship comedy ‘Portlandia’ opened with 263,000 viewers in 2011,” the story reports.

The six-part miniseries has a star-studded cast that includes Will Ferrell, Tobey Maguire, Tim Robbins, Kristen Wiig, Jessica Alba, Val Kilmer and Haley Joel Osment. The show tracks the Morehouse family, with melodramatic elements such as a sister in love with her adopted brother.

The series debuted with two consecutive installments Thursday and will air the remaining episodes over the next four weeks.

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Jeff Zucker on Fixing CNN: 'We Don't Have to Do Anything' -- Network Chief Defends Recent Decisions That Have Drawn Criticism

CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker defended a number of recent moves by the cable channel, which is struggling to raise its ratings while being targeted for criticism on all sides. Despite a flood of recent negative attention directed at the channel, Zucker told TV Guide that the network is “not under any pressure” to make changes to its prime-time lineup.

“We don't have to do anything," Zucker said. "When we find good and smart on-brand programming that's ready to go we'll look for a place for it."

But TV Guide notes that the “network still faces the challenge of growing its prime-time audience. Zucker's strategy of broadening the channel's offerings to include documentaries and series (once staples of CNN's lineup in previous decades when the network was considered more serious) has delivered a few ratings wins.”

The piece adds, “But it continues to be a tricky balancing act as viewers still expect the network to be the go-to destination for breaking news.”

Asked about CNN’s decision to air the film “March of the Penguins” while a major weather event was happening in most of the country, and to air a movie when other networks were covering breaking news about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Zucker defended the network’s decisions.

“We covered Christie for 12 straight hours, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. We had a movie scheduled the night Nelson Mandela died and we took it off. Everything will be on a case-by-case decision. We felt we had to go heavy on Mandela and even though we heavily promoted the movie, I moved it to Sunday night,” Zucker said.

As for “Penguins,” Zucker added, “We kind of thought it was the perfect movie for everyone at home in the cold weather. There is only so much you can do. I understand your point. It will always be news first, but every one of those is an individual judgment.”

Zucker also said the network’s ratings turnaround “will take years.”

The piece also notes that at CNN's recent presentation at TCA, Zucker "had come out swinging at Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes for his recent remark that CNN 'is out of the news business' -- a swipe at the channel's stated intention to look for programming outside of traditional news shows. Zucker, citing a new book about Ailes, countered that his top-rated competitor is an arm of the Republican Party 'masquerading as a news channel.'"

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Comedy Series Starring Former 'Friends' Star Renewed

A comedy series that stars one of the former stars of the long-running NBC hit "Friends" has been picked up for a fourth season. The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed reports that Showtime will bring back Lisa Kudrow’s “Web Therapy.”

The show, based on Kudrow's Web series of the same name, has aired 31 episodes over three seasons on Showtime. The third season concluded in September with “a bit of a cliffhanger,” the piece notes.

“In the show's three seasons, Showtime compiled multiple short webisodes and filled out half-hour installments with additional content. The third run featured episodes culled from seasons four and five of the online incarnation. The online version will wrap its fifth season in February,” the story reports.

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Meredith Vieira -- One of NBC's High-Profile Faces of the Upcoming Winter Olympics -- Is Concerned About Security

Former “Today” host Meredith Vieira said she has concerns about security at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, but added that she will be at Matt Lauer’s side as a commentator for the opening ceremony Feb. 6, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

"I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t [concerned about security]," Vieira said in an interview with the publication. "I really believe the Russian government is going to do everything it can to avoid that situation. This is [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s baby and they don’t want anything to go wrong. But that doesn’t mean things won’t happen elsewhere in the country because I think those terrorists are given an opportunity and they will take it."

THR adds: "Vieira noted that she was part of intense discussions about the situation in Russia and whether it was safe before she made the commitment to go. In the end, she says it has to be about the athletes."

Said Vieira: "I'm basically assured that it will be fine. But it may not be. I know that. But I feel good enough about it that I’m going to be there for sure."

Vieira also said she has concerns about anti-gay laws in Russia, adding that she would love to see peaceful demonstrations in support of gay rights.

“In terms of demonstrations and all that, I would love to see everybody walk out with rainbow ribbons. I think something will happen at the opening ceremony,” Vieira said.

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Former Disney Channel Star Joins New Darren Star Comedy

A former star of the Disney Channel has landed a role in a new TV Land comedy project from "Sex and the City" creator Darren Star. Deadline.com reports that Hilary Duff, the former star of Disney Channel’s “Lizzie McGuire,” will star opposite Sutton Foster in the TV Land pilot “Younger.”

The project, based on a novel by Pamela Redmond Satran, tracks a 40-something woman who pretends to be younger in order to get a job. Foster is playing the main character, who leads a double life as a suburban mom on one hand and a 29-year-old office worker on the other.

Duff will play Kelsey, a 20-something who welcomes Foster’s character to the publishing firm where they work and tries to integrate her into her social life.

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Former Calvin Klein Underwear Model Has a Syndicated Show in the Works

The companies behind two upcoming syndicated shows unveiled plans for the programs, with one of them being a home fix-up show starring former Calvin Klein underwear model and former "General Hospital" actor Antonio Sabato Jr.

The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports that “Fix It & Finish It” will feature Sabato as he leads a team of contractors and designers giving makeovers to homes, cabins and other dwellings.

Another show that's in the works features Chef Jeff Henderson, who has served as an executive chef at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas and also starred in cooking shows. Henderson’s “Flip My Food” will re-create favorite foods, but with fewer calories.

Both series are from Raycom Media and Bellum Entertainment

“These shows continue along with Raycom’s strategy of content creation with strong local production partners," said Paul McTear, president and CEO of Raycom Media.

The story notes: “Bellum also has tapped Michael Howard to sell both series, based in Atlanta. The industry veteran has worked at ad agency Leo Burnett USA in Chicago before embarking on a 24-year career at NBCUniversal during the Lew Wasserman era.”

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TV Drama Production and Film Production in Los Angeles Continue to Slide

Production of feature films and television drama series in Los Angeles continues to erode, the Los Angeles Times reports, citing a report from FilmLA Inc.

Television drama production in the city is down almost 40% from its 2008 peak, the story reports, while film production in Los Angeles is also down from its peak, with a 50% decline from its high point in 1996.

“The data reflect the growing competition California faces to keep film crews close to Hollywood. More than 40 U.S. states and 30 countries offers some type of tax credit or incentive to attract the film industry,” the piece notes.

Industry groups are working to support new legislation that would extend and expand California’s TV and film tax credit, which will expire in 2017. The article reports: “California allocates $100 million annually, but proponents are seeking to at least double the funding levels to better compete with rivals, while removing various restrictions that limit who can qualify for the subsidies.”

In a statement, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said: "This report underscores the urgency of our work to reverse runaway production. The entertainment industry is a cornerstone of our civic identity and our economy, with 500,000 jobs at stake. I will cut red tape at City Hall and fight in Sacramento to make sure L.A. is the best possible place for production and ensure that we are always the entertainment capital of the world."

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Charter Makes Digs at Time Warner Cable While Trying to Buy It

Charter Communications executives took some digs at Time Warner Cable, telling analysts on a conference call that they believe the cable operator is a troubled asset with poor leadership and customer service, reports the Los Angeles Times.

“And Charter is eager to make a deal valued at more than $60 billion to buy it,” the story adds, noting that the hourlong conference call was largely devoted to “shredding Time Warner Cable and its management team.” As we reported earlier this week, Charter made a $61.3 billion offer for TWC.

Among the criticisms Charter executives laid out: Time Warner Cable has substandard video packages, slow Internet service, and has “fallen into the trap of nickel and dime charges to its customers for things like modem rentals and pass-through fees,” Charter Chief Operating Officer John Bickham said.

The call was intended to make the argument that Charter would run the company more effectively and that its bid, which was rejected by Time Warner Cable, is fair, the story notes.

Time Warner Cable responded by saying nothing in Charter's presentation “changes the fact that its proposal is grossly inadequate,” the piece reports.

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ABC Orders Murder Drama From '12 Years a Slave' Writer

ABC has ordered a murder drama from John Ridley, the writer of the movie “12 Years a Slave,” Deadline.com reports.

The network ordered a pilot for the project, “American Crime.” The project focuses on a racially charged murder and the resulting trial, which raise questions about Americans’ views on race, gender and class, the story reports.

Through ABC Studios, Ridley is writing and executive producing with Michael McDonald, former ABC Studios head of drama.

john ridley.pngJohn Ridley

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James Gandolfini Pet Project Gets Go-Ahead at CBS

CBS has started its pilot season by giving an order to a project shepherded by the late James Gandolfini. Deadline.com reports that the network ordered “Taxi-22."

The project is an adaptation of a hit French-Canadian single-camera comedy, which was a “passion project” for Gandolfini, the story reports. Gandolfini, known for playing Tony Soprano on the HBO hit "The Sopranos," first developed "Taxi-22" at HBO, with the project going through three versions and Gandolfini at one point attached to play the lead, a politically incorrect New York City taxi driver.

CBS bought the project in June, with Gandolfini on board to executive produce. Gandolfini, who won three Emmys playing Tony Soprano, died June 19 at age 51 after suffering a heart attack while on vacation in Italy.

“When Gandolfini died, the project’s team was ‘devastated’ but decided to carry on,” the story notes.

The piece adds, “Gandolfini’s executive producer spot on the show has remained empty, with everyone else on board for the pilot, along with veteran comedy writer Tad Quill, who was brought in over the summer as writer/executive producer. CBS TV Studios, where Quill is under an overall deal, is producing.”

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

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FX Orders Projects Starring 'Arrested Development' and 'Hangover' Actors

FX has placed orders for two new projects -- one featuring an actor known for “Arrested Development” and another starring an actor from the “Hangover” feature film franchise.

The Los Angeles Times’ Show Tracker reports that “The Hangover” actor Zach Galifianakis is creating a pilot with Louis C.K., with the project marking the first to come out under FX Productions’ recent deal with C.K. and his production company, Pig Newton. Galifianakis will star in the project and co-write it with C.K.

“Arrested Development” actor Michael Cera, meanwhile, will star in “How and Why,” a pilot from “Being John Malkovich” screenwriter Charlie Kaufman. The project, which also stars John Hawkes of “Winter’s Bone,” is about a highly intelligent man who can’t understand ordinary life, the piece notes.

zach galifianakis.jpgZach Galifianakis

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NBC Series Slides to Season Low; CBS Show Suffers Largest Drop After Premiere

Programs on NBC and CBS suffered unpleasant ratings milestones Monday Night, as the big four broadcast networks finished in a four-way tie for prime time, based on Nielsen overnights for the key 18-49 demo.

TVbytheNumbers.com reports that NBC's "The Blacklist" fell to a 2.5 average in 18-49, down a hefty seven-tenths from its previous original episode and a season low for the series. Elsewhere on NBC, the two-hour "American Ninja Warrior: USA vs. Japan" delivered a 1.9.

CBS's new drama series "Intelligence" fared even worse, suffering the biggest decline of any new program this season for the show's second episode. The show's debut in its 10 p.m. time slot resulted in a 1.1 average rating in the 18-49, a distant third place in the hour and a decline of 1.3 ratings points from the 2.4 delivered last week by the premiere.

The rest of the CBS lineup was up from its previous originals: "How I Met Your Mother" returned with a 3.0 average in viewers 18-49, up three-tenths; "2 Broke Girls" rose four-tenths to a 2.7; "Mike & Molly" climbed two-tenths to a 2.4; and "Mom" rose two-tenths to a 2.1.

ABC's "The Bachelor" dipped to a series low for a regular episode, a 2.2 average in 18-49, down a half-point from last week. "Castle" ticked up two-tenths to a 1.9.

Fox's "Almost Human" rose two-tenths from a week ago to a 2.0 average in the 18-49 demo, while "Sleepy Hollow" matched its previous original with a 2.2.

For prime time overall, ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox all averaged 2.1 ratings in adults 18-49, with Univision trailing with a 1.3. ABC claimed a narrow win in total viewers with 8.2 million, followed by CBS (8.0 million), NBC (6.8 million), Fox (6.6 million) and Univision (3.1 million).

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Critic Booted From New York Film Critics Circle Over Heckling Incident

A well-known film critic was expelled from the New York Film Critics Circle in the wake of an alleged heckling incident that took place at the group's annual awards ceremony. TheWrap.com reports that contrarian critic Armond White was expelled from the group after taking heat over allegedly heckling "12 Years a Slave" director Steve McQueen.

"The group also suspended New York Post chief film critic Lou Lumenick for one year for tweeting voting results and runners-up from their voting process -- something the Los Angeles Film Critics do as a matter of course, but the NYFCC keeps close to the vest," the story notes.

The report adds: "White, a writer for CityArts who is best known for hating what other critics love and loving what they hate, got into hot water after last Monday night’s awards ceremony in New York, where he reportedly shouted at McQueen as he accepted his best-director award for '12 Years a Slave.'

"A Variety reporter seated near White reported that the critic yelled, 'You’re an embarrassing doorman and garbage man! F--k you! Kiss my ass.' White had ripped the film in his review, comparing it to 'torture-porn' films like 'Hostel' and 'The Human Centipede.'”

After the incident the NYFCC reportedly apologized to McQueen and Fox Searchlight, saying it would take disciplinary action.

"White later blasted 'the misreporting and the repetition of lies,' but declined to answer when asked whether he’d yelled at McQueen," TheWrap reports, quoting White saying: “It was talk among my tablemates. The Variety and Wire lines are outright misquotes and lies. You might want to ask why the gutter bloggers continue to misquote and distort the event and NYFCC history.”

TheWrap adds: "White had been a disruptive presence at NYFCC’s awards ceremonies before: He reportedly yelled 'f--- you!' at presenter Michael Moore the year before, and was hostile toward winners when he hosted in 2011 -- when he was NYFCC chair, a position he’d held three times."

armond white.jpgArmond White

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Deputies Raid Justin Bieber's House, Arrest a Friend of the Singer

Pop singer Justin Bieber got a surprise visit from sheriff's investigators today at his mansion in Calabasas, Calif., and while they were there to investigate a complaint by a neighbor who alleged Bieber had egged his house, they made an arrest after reportedly finding cocaine in "plain view," the Los Angeles Times reports.

A friend of Bieber, Lil Za, was arrested, according to E! Online.

The Times report quotes L.A. County Sheriff's Lt. Dave Thompson saying: "The cocaine I believe was in plain view of the deputies when they were looking for the other evidence."

The report adds: "Labeling Bieber a suspect in Thursday's egging incident, sheriff's detectives served a felony search warrant looking for 'video surveillance or other relevant evidence' in the case.

"Sheriff's officials said the incident had been classified as a felony because the homeowner reported the value of the damage to his house at $20,000."

Said Thompson: "The felony comes from the dollar amount of the damage. This residence sustained a great amount of damage that easily achieved the amount. I get that the eggs don’t seem that significant, but it does rise to the level of a felony."

The Times report adds: "A dozen detectives searched Bieber's home beginning at 8 a.m., Thompson said. During the search, eight people, including the singer, were detained inside the home.

"Thompson said the size of the search team was due to the unpredictability of what they might find. But in this case, he said, everyone was cooperative."

Bieber reportedly had a security detail on hand during the search but did not have a lawyer present.

Thompson added: "I don’t believe Mr. Bieber answered any questions."

The Times report notes: "The victim of the egg incident was Bieber's next-door neighbor, and the incident left significant damage to the paint, wood and brick, Thompson said."

Bieber reportedly remains a suspect in the egging incident.

Thumbnail image for justin bieber.pngJustin Bieber

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Disney/ABC Shuffles Lineup as Longtime Exec Announces Retirement

Disney/ABC Syndication Sales today announced changes in its executive lineup after a longtime executive unveiled retirement plans. Howard Levy will retire from the company at the end of this month, the company announced.

Irv Schulman will step up to become head of Syndication Sales, reporting to ABC Sales President Geri Wang.

Said Wang: “Howard’s talent and hard work have built syndication sales into a great business for our company. He has been an important contributor and a great friend; we wish him the best in his retirement. Looking ahead, we have high expectations for the future; Irv’s experience and client relationships should serve us very well.”

Disney/ABC Syndication Sales was previously called Buena Vista Television, and later Disney-ABC Domestic Television. The unit currently represents “Live with Kelly and Michael,” “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” “On the Red Carpet” and “Katie,” and starting in fall 2014 will represent “Scandal.”

Levy has been with Disney/ABC for 24 years, and is credited with launching the sales efforts for “Star Search,” “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” “Solid Gold Hits,” Disney Afternoon, syndicated “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire,” “Katie" and other programs.

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Creator of CBS Sitcom Calls the Show 'Really Bad'

The creator of a comedy series that had a one-season run on CBS trashed his own show during a panel discussion at the Television Critics Association winter press tour. TheWrap.com reports that Justin Halpern, who created, co-wrote and co-executive produced the 2010 CBS comedy “$#*! My Dad Says,” made the comments during a presentation for his new show, "Surviving Jack."

His previous show “sucked” and was “really bad,” Halpern said of “$#*! My Dad Says.” The show, which starred William Shatner in the title role, was canceled after one season.

Halpern said the show had the “wrong tone” and that his father, on whom the show was based, is “unintentionally funny.” The show was based on Halpern's Twitter feed, "Shit My Dad Says."

He added, “That character doesn’t live as well on a multicamera sitcom -- it just doesn’t feel organic.”

Halpern clearly “has higher hopes for his new offering, a Fox comedy set in the ’90s that stars ‘Law & Order: SVU’ vet Christopher Meloni as stern but loving father Jack Dunlevy,” the story notes.

justin-halpern.jpgJustin Halpern

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Federal Court Strikes Down Net Neutrality Rules

A federal appeals court in Washington ruled today that the net neutrality rules of the Federal Communications Commission are not valid, PCWorld reports. The court released its ruling in an 81-page document that included mention of "cat videos on YouTube," the piece notes.

"Net neutrality is no more," the story reports, adding: "To cut to the chase, the court says the FCC simply doesn't have the authority to force Internet service providers to act like mere dumb pipes, passing data through their tubes with a blind eye and sans preferential treatment.

"Unlike phone companies, broadband providers aren't classified as 'common carriers' -- and therein lies the root of the appeal court's decision."

The ruling says in part: "Because the Commission has failed to establish that the anti-discrimination and anti-blocking rules do not impose per se common carrier obligations, we vacate those portions of the Open Internet Order."

The ruling could have an enormous impact on the future of the Internet, according to the report.

"Net neutrality advocates fear that without rules in place, big companies like Netflix, Disney and ESPN could gain advantage over competitors by paying ISPs to provide preferential treatment to their company's data. For example, YouTube might pay extra so that its videos load faster than Hulu's on the ISP's network," the story reports.

The piece adds: "We've already seen shades of What Could Happen in AT&T's Sponsored Data and Comcast's decision to have the Xfinity TV streaming app for the Xbox 360 not count against Comcast subscribers' data caps."

In a statement, Craig Aaron, president and CEO of digital rights group Free Press, said: ”We’re disappointed that the court came to this conclusion. Its ruling means that Internet users will be pitted against the biggest phone and cable companies -- and in the absence of any oversight, these companies can now block and discriminate against their customers’ communications at will.”

The court talked about such scenarios in the ruling, writing: "In support of its conclusion that broadband providers could and would act to limit Internet openness, the Commission pointed to four prior instances in which they had done just that. These involved a mobile broadband provider blocking online payment services after entering into a contract with a competing service; a mobile broadband provider restricting the availability of competing VoIP and streaming video services; a fixed broadband provider blocking VoIP applications; and, of course, Comcast’s impairment of peer-to-peer file sharing that was the subject of the Comcast Order."

The story adds: "Nevertheless, the lack of common carrier status for ISPs forced the court to strike down the Open Internet Order's anti-blocking and anti-discrimination rules -- the very heart of the FCC's net neutrality.

"The ruling left part of the FCC's Open Internet Order intact, however -- most notably the disclosure rules. Basically, if your ISP provides preferential treatment to certain data, it still has to tell you that it's doing so."

In a statement provided to MarketWatch, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler indicated the fight is not over, saying: "We will consider all available options, including those for appeal, to ensure that these networks on which the Internet depends continue to provide a free and open platform for innovation and expression, and operate in the interest of all Americans."

tom wheeler.pngTom Wheeler

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Beatles Reunion: Paul and Ringo to Perform Together

Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, the two remaining members of the Beatles, will reunite for a live performance, USA Today reports.

The event will be part of the Grammy Awards, set for Jan. 26. The ceremony, which will air live on CBS, will include the presentation of the 56th Grammys Lifetime Achievement Award to the Beatles.

"Other performers that were announced today are John Legend, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Kacey Musgraves, Taylor Swift, and Keith Urban," the report notes. "Sara Bareilles will duet with this year's MusiCares Person of the Year Carole King."

The event will be held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Paul-McCartney-and-Ringo-Starr.jpgPaul McCartney and Ringo Starr

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Now We Know Exactly How Much Golden Globes Airtime Was Consumed by People Walking to the Stage -- and Who Took the Longest

If it seemed as though the winners at Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards ceremony took a long time to reach the stage, a new report by The Washington Post confirms that perception. The report says 10% of the broadcast was consumed by people walking to the stage.

On average, winners needed “29 seconds to kiss their significant others, shake hands with their tablemates and navigate the long and winding walk from their seats to the stage,” the story reports.

“‘Dancing on the Edge’ star Jacqueline Bisset took the longest time, at a meandering 66 seconds; Amy Adams did a little American hustle of her own, reaching the stage in a tidy 11 seconds,” the piece notes. All together, it added up to 12 minutes of the 122-minute broadcast, or about 10% of the show’s length.

The report adds: “The Golden Globes were a disaster of table arrangement.”

amy adams.pngAmy Adams

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Big Premiere for New HBO Drama Series

Sunday night's debut of a new HBO drama series gave the pay-cable network its biggest audience for a premiere since “Boardwalk Empire” bowed in 2010. The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports that the new show “True Detective” delivered 2.3 million viewers for its first telecast and drew 3.3 million for the night.

The show stars Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey as homicide detectives hunting for a serial killer in Louisiana.

“Girls,” meanwhile, returned to the HBO lineup Sunday with a series-high 1.1 million viewers, representing a 28% increase from its second-season premiere, the story adds.

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NBC Orders Two Pilots

NBC has placed two orders for pilots. Deadline.com reports that the broadcast network placed orders for “The Mysteries of Laura,” based on a Spanish series, and “Constantine,” based on characters in DC Comics’ John Constantine stories.

“The Mysteries of Laura” is from writer Jeff Rake, Greg Berlanti’s Berlanti Productions and Aaron Kaplan’s Kapital Entertainment. The project has a cast-contingent order and is based on “Los Misterios de Laura,” which is about a female homicide detective who can’t handle her evil twin.

“Constantine” is written and executive produced by “The Mentalist” executive producer Daniel Cerone and David S. Goyer. It tracks a con man named John Constantine who becomes a supernatural detective. The character was played by Keanu Reeves in the 2005 film “Constantine.”

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With the End in Sight, 'Glee' Moves to New York

“Glee” will set the remainder of its season in New York City, Fox Entertainment Chairman Kevin Reilly confirmed Monday at the Television Critics Association press tour.

“The move has been rumored for a few months, but this marks the first confirmation from the network," EW.com's Inside TV reports. "Reilly also confirmed once again that next season, the show’s sixth, will be the last for the musical comedy."

Reilly didn’t specify the cast breakdown for the show’s move to New York, but he hinted there will be changes, the piece adds.

“Some are going to be graduating and moving; creatively, it would be ridiculous that everybody moves to New York,” he said. “There will be some that will graduate and move on and they’ll arc back in when we do special episodes. They’ll always be a part of it.”

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Seth MacFarlane Says He Was Surprised by the Rage Sparked by Brian's Death on 'Family Guy'

Seth MacFarlane, the creator of “Family Guy,” told reporters Monday at the Television Critics Association press tour that he was “surprised” at how Brian’s death caused rage within the show’s fan base, reports EW.com's Inside TV.

“We were all very surprised, in a good way, that people still cared enough about that character to be that angry. We thought it would create a little bit of a stir, but the rage wasn’t something we counted on,” he said.

MacFarlane added that he believes the plot twist helped ratings. “It did what it was designed to do -- it reminded people this is still a show where anything can happen despite the fact it’s been on for a while,” he said.

He noted that he wouldn’t kill off Brian again. As previously reported, Brian was brought back to life when the baby genius Stewie used a time machine to push the dog out of the way of the car speeding toward him.

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Netflix Orders Third Season of Series

Netflix has ordered a third season of one of its original series. The New York Post reports that the streaming service ordered “Lilyhammer,” the fish-out-of-water dramedy that stars Steven Van Zandt as an American mobster who has moved to Norway.

Van Zandt, known for his role as Silvio Dante on “The Sopranos,” plays Frank “The Fixer” Tagliano, who moves to Norway after he enters the federal witness protection program. The show was Netflix’s first original series, debuting in February 2012. It began its second season on Netflix last month.

Before he broke through as an actor on "The Sopranos," Van Zandt was known mainly as the guitarist in Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band and a number of side projects, using the stage names Little Steven and Miami Steve.

steven van zandt.pngSteven Van Zandt

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DirecTV Dumps Weather Channel Amid Carriage Impasse

The Weather Channel has been dropped from DirecTV as the cable network and the pay-TV operator failed to reach an agreement on carriage fees before a midnight deadline Monday, the Associated Press reports.

That means DirecTV’s 20 million customers no longer have access to the weather-focused channel. David Kenny, the chief executive of the network’s parent company, The Weather Co., accused the satellite provider of putting profits ahead of public safety, AP notes.

“We are not looking for a large fee increase," Kenny said, adding that the network wants a “fair deal” that would allow for more investment in the network.

DirecTV said it would provide viewers with weather news via its WeatherNation channel. Still, the two sides are still talking, AP notes.

The Weather Channel dismissed WeatherNation as a “cheap startup that does weather forecasting on a three-hour taped loop, has no field coverage, no weather experts -- certainly not any on par with The Weather Channel network’s industry-recognized experts like tornado expert Dr. Greg Forbes and winter weather expert Tom Niziol,” EW.com’s Inside TV reports.

DirecTV countered that weather news is “readily available everywhere,” which means that “it’s no longer necessary for people to have to pay a premium.”

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Syfy Thriller Opens to Soft Numbers

A new Syfy thriller series debuted to soft numbers, even though it had a strong panel at Comic-Con last summer and received “some hefty promotion,” Deadline.com reports. The show is “Helix,” which premiered Friday.

The 90-minute debut drew just 1.8 million viewers, with a 0.6 rating in adults 18-49. “That’s a far cry from the 2.7 million total viewers the channel drew for “Defiance” when that debuted on April 15, 2013,” the story notes.

“Helix” is about a deadly virus that’s barely contained in the Arctic. It stars Billy Campbell of “The Killing” as a CDC pathologist, and is produced by “Battlestar Galactica” developer and executive producer Ronald D. Moore, the report adds.

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Fox's New 'Larger-Than-Life' Prequel Will Track Young Versions of Bruce Wayne, Classic 'Batman' Villains

While Fox’s drama project “Gotham” had been described as the origin story of Commissioner James Gordon and the city’s villains, the project will include all the classic “Batman” villains and heroes, including a young Bruce Wayne, reports Deadline.com.

“The show will arc a young Bruce Wayne from a child (around 12) into the final episode of the series, when he will put on the cape,” Fox Chairman Kevin Reilly said.

The show will also feature the Riddler, Catwoman, the Joker and the Penguin.

“We will see how they get to become who they are as Gotham is teetering on the edge,” Reilly said. “It is an operatic soap that has a slightly larger-than-life quality.”

The network has greenlighted a pilot, and will set up a writers room next month with the intention to bring the project to series, the story adds. The project is from “The Mentalist” creator Bruno Heller and Warner Bros. TV.

bruno heller.pngBruno Heller

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Report: TV Series Helped Reduce Teen Pregnancy

A television show is being credited with helping to reduce teen pregnancy. The Los Angeles Times' Show Tracker reports that MTV’s “16 and Pregnant” reality show, which has come under criticism for glamorizing teen pregnancy, has apparently helped reduce the number of teen pregnancies.

In the 18 months after the show’s 2009 debut, an increase in Web searches related to the series led to a 5.7% decrease in the number of teen births in the U.S., according to a report by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The study, from Phillip Levine, a professor of economics at Wellesley College, and Melissa Kearney, a professor of economics at the University of Maryland, examined data from Twitter, Google Trends and Nielsen ratings data.

“This is sex education for the 21st century. This is a show that very clearly exemplifies what life is going to be like in the aftermath of having a baby at such a young age,” Levine told NBC News.

The show’s success has spawned several spinoffs, including “Teen Mom 1-3,” the story notes. MTV has renewed “16 and Pregnant” for a fifth season, although there’s no airdate yet.

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Good News/Bad News for HBO Drama Series -- The Bad News Is the Channel Is Pulling the Plug

An HBO drama series got good news and bad news in one fell swoop, getting a renewal while also getting canceled. Deadline.com reports that Aaron Sorkin's "The Newsroom" was officially picked up for a third season, but at the same time word came down that season three will be its last.

Season three is set to premiere in the fall, the report notes.

"Sorkin is back as executive producer/showrunner, with former 'The Office' showrunner Paul Lieberstein joining him and executive producers Alan Poul and Scott Rudin as executive producer in Season 3," Nellie Andreeva writes in the Deadline piece, adding: "I hear Lieberstein already had been working with Sorkin on stories behind the scenes."

The story notes: "The official renewal comes after months of talks between Sorkin and HBO, with speculation whether Sorkin would come back given his busy feature schedule. But he just turned in his high-profile 'Jobs' script, and will now focus his attention to giving his HBO series a proper conclusion."

HBO Programming President Michael Lombardo said: “'The Newsroom' is classic Aaron Sorkin -- smart, riveting and thought-provoking. I’m sure this farewell season will be one to remember.”

The piece notes that returning regulars include Jeff Daniels, Emily Mortimer, Sam Waterston, John Gallagher Jr., Alison Pill, Thomas Sadoski, Dev Patel and Olivia Munn.

jeff daniels-newsroom.pngJeff Daniels in "The Newsroom"

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Fox's New '24' Reboot: How to Squeeze 24 Hours Into a 12-Hour Series

Many of the stars and producers of Fox's acclaimed drama series "24" are back for the reboot, "Live Another Day," and they broke their silence today at the Television Critics Association winter press tour, unveiling plans for the updated "24," The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed reports.

The reboot, which has yet to start shooting, has a May 5 premiere date and will play out in 12 one-hour episodes, the report notes.

Said Kiefer Sutherland, who stars as Jack Bauer: "If this ends up rebooting the show or causing a film to be made, so be it, but we're very happy about these 12 episodes right now."

Sutherland also noted that the TV project is separate from a long-talked-about possible feature film. "The script for the film is very different," he said. "It's an ongoing situation, and there's always an opportunity to do it."

As for squeezing 24 hours of real-time action into half the airtime of the original series, executive producer Howard Gordon said that the schedule this time around has actually been more forgiving.

"Doing good stuff, stuff that you are proud of, takes time and effort. … The more time you have, the better you can craft each episode," he said. "We have every hope that we are going to maintain the quality we had, but it was a marathon. It was punishing. There's a horizon with this. With '24,' you could never see the other side of the stories."

Exec producer Manny Coto talked about how the new show will handle the issue of time, saying the approach will be similar to the real-time approach taken by the original, but with certain hours of the day omitted. "The show still does take place over a 24-hour day even though it is 12 episodes," Coto said. "The show will be progressing in the same way it always did, and it will add up to 24."

THR adds: "Story-wise, the group did reveal several details about where the new run finds Sutherland's Jack Bauer. 'If you remember at the end of season eight, Jack was basically left a fugitive,' said Coto. 'When we pick up four years later, he is still a fugitive. He's hunted.'"

Among those hunting him will be a CIA agent played by Yvonne Strahovski, a casting move announced today.

Said Coto: "The show will open with that dynamic. A CIA agent hunting Jack. He's not exactly Osama bin Laden, but he's a fugitive of high order."

yvonne strahovski.jpgYvonne Strahovski

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Charter Makes $61.3 Billion Offer for Time Warner Cable

Charter Communications Inc. has made an offer to buy Time Warner Cable Inc. for about $132.50 a share, placing the value of the company at more than $61 billion, Bloomberg reports. TWC is the second-largest cable provider in the U.S.

"The proposal includes about $83 cash per share and about $49.50 in Charter stock, Tom Rutledge, Charter’s Chief Executive Officer, said in an interview," the story reports. "The offer is the third-largest for any global company since 2009, data compiled by Bloomberg show."

The report adds: "Charter today sent a letter to Time Warner Cable Chief Executive Officer Rob Marcus, explaining why the company’s offer is beneficial for shareholders. Charter is attempting to acquire Time Warner Cable, a company with an enterprise value more than twice Charter’s size, to create a provider of TV, Internet and phone for about 20 million customers in 38 states. Rutledge said he last proposed an offer in late December, around Christmas, which Marcus rejected."

In a telephone interview today, Rutledge reportedly said: “We haven’t received a serious response. Our objective was to talk to management and try to get them engaged. They have not, so we’re going to make our case to shareholders about why this deal is good for them and hope they ask management and the board to watch out for the interests of shareholders.”

Bloomberg adds: "Rutledge and Charter Chief Financial Officer Chris Winfrey met with Marcus and Time Warner Cable CFO Artie Minson in December to walk through details of the offer, including structure, financing, tax and cash flow implications, according to the letter. Charter indicated its willingness then to submit a proposal in the low $130s, including a cash component of $83.

"When Time Warner Cable responded to that with a request for a higher bid including a higher cash component, Charter determined it wasn’t interested in pursuing a merger agreement, according to the letter."

The report adds: "Time Warner Cable’s response was 'not a serious offer,' said Rutledge, who declined to say the exact price. 'They knew the price they were offering was designed to not appeal.'

"Charter is preserving 'all options going forward,' including nominating a slate of directors to Time Warner Cable’s board, according to a person familiar with the matter. Still, Rutledge would prefer to complete a friendly cash and stock deal as soon as possible, he said. Charter has 'fully negotiated' financing and can be 'in a position to sign commitment letters in a matter of days,' according to the letter."

tom rutledge.pngTom Rutledge

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Golden Globes Hit 10-Year High -- But Was It Enough to Give NBC a Ratings Win?

On a night when the Golden Globe Awards Ceremony on NBC and NFL playoff overrun on CBS had a huge impact on the prime-time broadcast ratings, those two networks finished almost in a dead heat, based on Nielsen overnights for the key 18-49 demo.

TVbytheNumbers.com reports that CBS came in with a preliminary 4.8 average rating for prime time, slightly ahead of NBC with a 4.7. The report notes that the numbers for both networks are subject to more than the usual adjustments due to the nature of live programming.

TheWrap.com is reporting that the Golden Globes hit a 10-year high for total viewers with 20.9 million, while its 6.5 average rating in the 18-49 demo (from 8-11 p.m.) matched its best number for the past 10 years.

But the overrun for the Denver Broncos-San Diego Chargers playoff game from 7-8 p.m. gave CBS a virtually insurmountable head-start on prime time, with an 11.3 average rating in adults 18-49 for the hour and a whopping 36.3 million viewers. Leading out from football -- just as the Golden Globes were getting under way on NBC -- CBS's "60 Minutes" saw a big bump, with a 4.2 in 18-49 and 16.98 million viewers. That 4.2 average was up from a 1.3 a week ago.

Later on CBS, "The Good Wife" notched what could be a season high if it holds up -- a 1.8 average in 18-49, up four-tenths of a point from last week. "The Mentalist" ticked up one-tenth to a 1.7.

NBC opened prime time with a 2.8 average for its "Golden Globes Arrivals Special" from 7-8 p.m.

Fox finished a distant third among the broadcast nets with a mix of repeats and originals from its Sunday animation lineup. Among the fresh programs, "Family Guy" did the best with a 2.6 average in 18-49, down a half-point from last week, when the lineup got a bump from football. "The Simpsons" and "American Dad" both settled for 2.2 averages, which in the case of "The Simpsons" represented a huge drop from its football-inflated 4.6 a week ago. "Dad" was off two-tenths.

Fox's "Bob's Burgers" saw a steep decline, slipping a full point from a week ago to a 1.9 in the 18-49 demo.

ABC came in fourth, with its best number in viewers 18-49 being a 1.6 average for "Revenge," down two-tenths from a week ago. "America's Funniest Home Videos" pulled a 1.0, down six-tenths; and "The Bachelor: Behind the Scenes" generated a 0.9, half the 1.8 delivered by last week's special.

Bucking the downtrend on ABC was "Betrayal, which rose one-tenth from a week ago to a 0.8 in 18-49.

For prime time overall, CBS led the 18-49 demo with a preliminary 4.8, ahead of NBC (4.7 average), Fox (1.8), ABC (1.1) and Univision (0.6). CBS opened up a bit of a lead in total viewers, averaging 18.1 million to NBC's 15.5 million, ABC's 4.2 million, Fox's 3.8 million and Univision's 1.8 million.

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Twitterverse Unloads on Jacqueline Bisset for Her Rambling Golden Globes Speech (and In Case You Missed the Speech -- Here's the Video)

Jacqueline Bisset provided one of the most cringe-worthy moments of Sunday's Golden Globes ceremony when she appeared to freeze up while accepting the trophy for best supporting actress in a TV series, miniseries or TV movie (for "Dancing on the Edge") and then delivered a rambling, at times incomprehensible acceptance speech.

On top of all that, it seemed to take her forever to get to the stage.

Predictably, the Twitterverse erupted, with many users goofing on the actress's difficult moment -- especially on how she just kept rambling.

The website Entertainmentwise gathered a few of the Twitter comments, including these:

“Jacqueline Bisset is in front of me accepting her coffee at Starbucks. I've been standing here an hour and a half now."

“Jacqueline Bisset was also nominated for a Longest Walk to the Stage Ever Golden Globe.”

From actor Zach Braff: “Jacqueline Bisset is still giving her speech to the buffet.”

Other tweets focused on the content of her speech:

“The only person who understood Jacqueline Bisset's #GoldenGlobe acceptance speech was Dennis Rodman."

Ellen DeGeneres offered this: “I helped write Jacqueline Bisset's speech. Did you like it?”

The report notes: "Bisset was quizzed about her speech following the ceremony and this is what she had to say on the matter: 'Sorry it took so long. I was in a daze. ... I was certainly surprised (to win), and I was completely out of it (just beforehand), thinking, "Where is my dinner?" I still hadn't gotten the dinner I was expecting.'"

In case you missed it, here's Bisset's acceptance speech:

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Video: Tina Fey and Amy Poehler's Opening to the Golden Globes

Hosting the Golden Globe Awards for the second year in a row, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler delivered their share of zingers during last night's opening -- especially at the expense of Tom Hanks. See for yourself:

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Mark Burnett Working on Hourlong Wrestling Series for El Rey Network

Reality TV guru Mark Burnett -- the man behind "Survivor," "The Apprentice," "The Voice" and other reality television franchises -- is working on a weekly hourlong wrestling series focusing on a new lucha libre league for the El Rey Network, The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports.

The Mexican wrestling show, created for the new Latino-themed network, will bow in the second half of 2014.

Burnett’s One Three Media is working with Mexico’s Lucha Libre AAA and FactorMade Ventures on the project, which will also include monthly and quarterly specials and pay-per-view lucha libre events.

El Rey, founded by director and producer Robert Rodriguez, is a new 24-hour English-language network focusing on the 18-49 Latino market. It launched in December.

"Starting this business with a new television series on a cutting-edge network like El Rey is very exciting," Burnett said in a statement. "And it doesn't end there. Wrestling is a billion-dollar business in the U.S., and with partners like Robert Rodriguez, Lucha Libre AAA and the rest of our great team, our new lucha libre league will make that market even bigger."

mark burnett.pngMark Burnett

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Fox Boss Says Network Will 'Bypass Pilot Season'

Speaking today at the semiannual Television Critics Association press tour, Fox Entertainment Chairman Kevin Reilly said the broadcast network will bypass pilot season this year. Variety reports that the move is "part of the network’s ongoing effort to develop and produce series on a year-round basis."

During the opening comments before today's executive session, Reilly quipped: "RIP pilot season."

Adds The Hollywood Reporter: "Before he welcomed questions from reporters ... he turned on an egg timer and began reeling off a series of points, from the state of the industry’s ratings system to his plans to blow up pilot season."

THR notes that Reilly's network has already made inroads in that direction.

"In his bid to 'bypass' pilot season, he has been focused on series -- rather than pilot -- orders throughout the year, with some 10 projects already in production without picking up a single pilot," the report notes. "Among the latter: 'Gracepoint' (10-episode order), 'Hieroglyph' (13-episode order) and Batman origin story 'Gotham,' which while it was ordered as a pilot is being prepped for a series."

THR quotes Reilly saying: “The broadcast development system was built in different era and is highly inefficient. It is nothing short of a miracle talent can still produce anything of quality in that environment.”

Variety adds: "Reilly emphasized that the changes in the competitive landscape with cable and in the ways people watch television these days make it nonsensical to continue with the tradition of jamming pilot production into a few months."

Said Reilly, according to Variety: “I’m not making declarations about what anyone else should do. For Fox I think we can build a more talent-friendly way of doing this … that will give us more maneuverability and more scheduling and marketing flexibility.”

"He also stressed the need for network TV shows to be given longer lead times in production and, particularly in the case of mythos-rich serialized shows, shorter orders than 22," Variety adds.

Variety quotes Reilly also saying: “Shows that are highly complex just benefit from a more compact (production). It’s really the rare creator who can tell you where it ends at the end of a season of 22 episodes. The challenge is that with really talented people who are sleeping four hours a night and managing a $100 million machine with hundreds of people producing it -- you can lose your way. When you’re doing 13 you just feel like you have a little bit more control of the ship.”

kevin reilly.pngKevin Reilly

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ABC Pulls the Plug on Low-Rated Series

ABC has seen enough of the unusually low numbers delivered by a new drama series. Deadline.com reports that the network has pulled the eight-hour miniseries “The Assets” after two low-rated episodes.

As previously reported, the new drama series earned a “dubious distinction” on Thursday night when it scored a 0.6 average rating in the 18-49 demographic for its second installment, making it the lowest-rated original episode of any big four drama this season.

“In its defense, ‘The Assets’ does not hail from ABC’s entertainment division but from ABC News as it is based on real events," the Deadline report notes, adding: "The Cold War spy drama doesn’t have stars in it and didn’t get any marketing. There is no plan yet for the six unaired episodes.”

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E! Apologizes for 'Insensitive Classification of Michael J Fox's Parkinson's Diagnosis'

E! has apologized for what it called "the insensitive classification of Michael J Fox’s Parkinson’s diagnosis" after it used a pop-up graphic on its Golden Globes preshow that characterized the actor's Parkinson’s disease as a “fun fact,” reports Deadline.com.

The pop-up box, with the title “Fun Fact,” told viewers watching its live stream, “Michael J. Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1991.”

“We regret the insensitive classification of Michael J Fox’s Parkinson’s diagnosis during our Eonline live stream. We understand the serious nature of the disease and sincerely apologize,” the network said in a statement.

michael j fox.pngMichael J. Fox

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Scripps-Discovery Merger Deal Appears Dead

Discovery Communications and Scripps Networks Interactive have ended talks about a merger, squashing the possibility that the two cable-television network operators might join forces, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The discussions had all been in the early stages, the story notes. Discovery hadn’t made a formal offer for the owner of HGTV, Travel Channel and Cooking Channel. Discovery, which owns networks such as TLC, has a market value of about $30 billion, more than twice Scripps’ $12 billion market value.

“It wasn't clear why the talks ended, but the people familiar with the matter said the family that controls Scripps didn't appear ready to sell,” WSJ notes.

Instead, Discovery will focus once again on expanding overseas, and is currently in discussions to increase its stake in the Eurosport network, the story adds. Discovery currently has a 20% stake.

“The talks were at least the second time that Discovery tried to negotiate a Scripps purchase. Scripps has long been seen as a takeover target for various media companies. Discovery approached the company about three years ago, but the family wasn't willing to sell then,” the piece reports. “Speculation that a deal was possible increased over the past year, after the end of the family trust that tightly controlled Scripps.”

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Weather Channel Goes on the Attack Against DirecTV

The Weather Channel has mounted an offensive against DirecTV. Writing on the Los Angeles Times’ Company Town blog, Joe Flint reports that the move comes amid concerns that the pay-TV provider will drop the network when the current contract extension expires Tuesday.

In a statement, David Kenny, chief executive of Weather Co., the parent of the Weather Channel, said: “For DirecTV to take us off their lineup would be deeply irresponsible to its customers who not only count on the Weather Channel on a day-to-day basis, but depend on us before, during and after severe weather events."

Weather Channel is asking DirecTV viewers to call their senators and congressmen to ask them to keep what the network describes as “this critical public safety resource” in the DirecTV lineup, according to the story.

Flint writes: “The two sides are divided over financial terms, people familiar with the matter said. The Weather Channel, which is increasing its spending on weather-related programming and recently hired "Good Morning America" weatherman Sam Champion to host a new morning show, is looking to boost the fees it gets from pay-TV distributors.”

While the Weather Channel only charges about 13 cents per month per subscriber, much less than entertainment networks such as USA, its audience is much smaller, prompting DirecTV to balk, Flint points out.

Thumbnail image for sam champion.pngSam Champion

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AMC Slates Return for 'Mad Men' Final Season and Premiere for 'Breaking Bad' Spinoff, Unveils Other Programming Moves

AMC has taken the wraps off its premiere plans for the first half of “Mad Men's" final season and the “Breaking Bad” spinoff “Better Call Saul.” The Los Angeles Times’ Show Tracker reports that "Mad Men" will premiere in mid-April, with "Better Call Saul" set for November.

"Also getting launch dates are [AMC's] new scripted Revolutionary War-set spy thriller 'Turn,' which makes its bow Sunday, April 6, at 9 p.m. ET/PT with a 90-minute premiere," the story reports. "The following Sunday, April 13, at 10 p.m. ET/PT will see the premiere of the much-anticipated first half of the final season of 'Mad Men.'"

“Better Call Saul” is about the evolution of the attorney Saul Goodman, played by Bob Odenkirk, before he met Walter White, the meth-making chemistry teacher in “Breaking Bad,” the story notes.

"Meanwhile, 'Halt and Catch Fire' and 'Hell on Wheels' are getting summer premieres," the piece reports. "'Halt and Catch Fire,' which looks at the rise of the personal computing era in the early '80s, will launch in June. Later this summer, AMC's Western drama 'Hell on Wheels,' which moved to Saturdays in 2013 and saw its average audience grow, will roll out its fourth season."

AMC also said “The Walking Dead” will return for its fifth season in October. Its companion show, “The Talking Dead,” was renewed for a fifth season.

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Ambitious 'Ten Commandments' Project Moves Forward With Top Filmmakers on Board

WGN has ordered an ambitious project: a 10-part scripted series called “Ten Commandments,” which will feature 10 different filmmakers, with each giving one of the Commandments a modern interpretation, reports the Los Angeles Times’ Show Tracker.

The filmmakers include Gus Van Sant of “Milk”; Lee Daniels of “Lee Daniels’ ‘The Butler’”; Wes Craven of “Scream"; and Michael Cera, an actor known for his roles in “Arrested Development” and “Juno."

The installments will air over 10 nights, and Oscar-winning producer Bruce Cohen and Bob Weinstein will produce, the story adds.

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The Golden Globes: What Jacqueline Bisset Really Said During Her Acceptance Speech; TV Comedy Winner Is Big Surprise. Plus, We Have the Complete List of Winners

Jacqueline Bisset was so overcome with emotion when she won a Golden Globe Sunday night that at first, when she got to the microphone, she didn't say anything. And then "during her speech, the 'Dancing on the Edge' actress was bleeped at one point, but here's what she actually said: 'For those who have given me s--t, like my mother always said, "Go to hell and don't come back!" ' " reports ABC News. "Dancing on the Edge" was a five-part TV series that originally ran on the BBC.

For a complete list of Golden Globe winners and nominees, please click here.

Says our good friend Scott Collins at the Los Angeles Times' Show Tracker: "[M]aybe the night's biggest shocker came with the TV comedy prize for 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine,' Fox's new cop spoof starring Andy Samberg, who also scored a head-turning coup as lead comedy actor.

" 'I couldn't be more surprised,' Samberg told reporters backstage, adding that in his on-camera acceptance speech he had forgotten to thank his parents, not to mention the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., which organizes the Globes.

"Sunday's wins could prove crucial for 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine,' which has earned generally strong reviews but has struggled in the ratings. Although the September premiere attracted 6.2 million total viewers, only a bit more than half that number have watched episodes since, according to Nielsen. On Sunday, the show was No. 1 [at the Golden Globes] in a field of much better known competitors: 'Girls,' 'Modern Family,' 'Parks and Recreation' and 'The Big Bang Theory.' 'We're very stunned, very grateful, very happy,' said 'Brooklyn' co-creator Dan Goor backstage. Fox executives will decide in May whether to bring the show back."

jacqueline bisset.jpgJacqueline Bisset

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HBO Rolls Out 'Girls' Episodes on YouTube

HBO is breaking out the new season of its Lena Dunham comedy series "Girls" with the help of YouTube. Mashable reports that the pay-cable channel is putting the first two episodes of the third season of “Girls” on the online video site just 12 hours after they debut on HBO.

The episodes were set to appear on YouTube today, Jan. 13, at 10 a.m. ET, the story says.

“Rather than requiring fans to watch live during Sunday's two-part premiere or forcing them to catch up using its HBO GO subscription service, offering the episodes for free on YouTube is one way the network is courting the show's active online fan base,” the story notes.

“For us, this is an increasingly challenging demographic to reach with traditional means," said HBO social media and marketing vice president Sabrina Caluori. "Micro video is really becoming more mainstream."

Mashable adds: "HBO decided to 'be social first' with the way its marketing team released announcements, taking advantage of 'emerging platforms' such as Tumblr, Instagram, Vine and even Snapchat, as well as social giants such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube."

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Sundance Drama Gets Second Season

A drama series airing on Sundance Channel has been picked up for a second season. Deadline.com reports that the cable channel ordered season two of the French drama “The Returned” (“Les Revenants").

The report describes the series as “probably the hottest global drama format at the moment.”

After debuting the first eight-episode season this past fall, Sundance will air the second season beginning in late 2014. Season two is about to go into production, the piece adds.

The drama is about a French town where people who have been dead for several years suddenly return.

“'The Returned’ has proven to be an incredible addition to our slate,” said Sundance President Sarah Barnett. “We were delighted with the overwhelming critical and fan response to the series and we expect that season two will continue to seduce and chill audiences.”

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BBC America Working on Spy Project

BBC America has greenlighted a project set in the Cold War and focusing on espionage. The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports that the six-episode miniseries, “The Game,” comes from “Being Human” creator Toby Whithouse and stars Brian Cox.

"Tom Hughes, Paul Ritter, Shaun Dooley, Chloe Pirrie, Victoria Hamilton, Jonathan Aris and Judy Parfitt also star," the report notes. "Executive producers are Faith Penhale, Brian Minchin and Whithouse."

“The Game” is slated for a fall debut and will focus on the 1970s-era Cold War through the lens of Britain’s MI5, the story says. The project is from BBC Cymru Wales and will be featured in BBC America's “Dramaville” block.

“The cabler has been ramping up its original programming as of late, with the critically hailed ‘Orphan Black’ returning,” the story reports, noting that new shows such as “The Musketeers” and “Intruders” are also in the works.

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Hallmark Adapting 'Chesapeake Shores' Novels

Hallmark Channel is adapting the “Chesapeake Shores” novels by Sherryl Woods for television, The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports.

The 10-book series is about the O’Briens, a multigenerational family who reunite in their hometown on Chesapeake Bay. The series began in 2009 with “The Inn at Eagle Point,” with the most recent installment, “A Seaside Christmas,” released in September 2013.

The series is being developed for a potential 2015 debut. If the project goes to series, it would mark the network’s fourth scripted show.

“Woods’ ‘Chesapeake Shores’ series of books truly embodies the emotions of life’s lessons, family and community, that we know will captivate our viewers,” said Michelle Vicary, executive vice president of programming at Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel.

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What Fun! Actor Who Played Chewbacca Releases a Treasure Trove of Behind-the-Scenes Snapshots From the Time the First Three 'Star Wars' Movies Were Filmed

"Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew has released a collection of 'Star Wars' behind-the-scenes photos on his Twitter" account, reports The Huffington Post. Here's a sample. Please click here to see the rest.

Carrie Fischer and Her Stunt Double.jpgCarrie Fisher as Princess Leia and Her Stunt Double

star wars 2.jpgAnthony Daniels as C-3PO Grabs Some Shade

starwars3.jpgDirector George Lucas Demonstrates for Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

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U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Aereo Case. Why the Ultimate Decision Could Tilt in a Certain Direction

"The Supreme Court has decided that now would be a good time to consider the arguments arising from the Second Circuit’s Aereo decisions to date -- so the Supremes have granted the petition for certiorari filed by the broadcaster parties to the Second Circuit case," reports Harry Cole on the CommLaw blog. This is a blog published by the Arlington, Va., communications law firm Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth.

Cole writes: "While this could ordinarily bode well for the broadcasters -- after all, if the Supreme Court thought the Second Circuit got it right, they could just deny cert and let the Second Circuit’s action stand -- you can probably expect Aereo to claim something of a victory here because ... Aereo itself urged the Court to take the case."

Cole continues with this interesting assessment of the case: "First, Justice Alito recused himself from consideration of the cert petition. As is customary, no reason for his recusal was given, nor did the Court’s order disclose whether he would be recused from the merits end of the case -- although recusal there would seem more than likely. If he’s out, that would reduce the number of justices hearing the case to eight, giving rise to the possibility of a 4-4 split. In that case the decision of the lower court -- i.e., the Second Circuit’s order upholding the denial of a preliminary injunction against Aereo -- would remain in place."

Cole also writes that Aereo's argument for its legality "is based on the Second Circuit’s 2008 Cablevision case in which the Circuit concluded that Cablevision’s Remote Storage-DVR system did not infringe on copyrights held by various program producers whose works were recorded and transmitted through that system."

When the U.S. Supreme Court was deciding whether or not it should hear an appeal of the Cablevision case, it asked the Solicitor General of the U.S. to weigh in with a brief. 

Cole then explains: "In May 2009, the Solicitor General weighed in with a recommendation against Supreme Court review. BUT that recommendation was guarded and hedged. In particular, the Solicitor General noted that 'some aspects of the Second Circuit’s reasoning on the public-performance issue are problematic.' For example 'Some language in the [Second Circuit’s] opinion could be read to suggest that a performance is not made available “to the public” unless more than one person is capable of receiving a particular transmission. ... Such a construction could threaten to undermine copyright protection in circumstances far beyond those presented here, including with respect to [video-on-demand] services or situations in which a party streams copyrighted material on an individualized basis over the Internet.'

"So, at least in the Solicitor General’s view, Cablevision was not necessarily the most persuasive case on a number of fronts, including its interpretation of the Copyright Act’s Transmit Clause. But interpretation of that clause was absolutely crucial to the Second Circuit’s Aereo decisions, and there the Circuit relied extensively on Cablevision. So if Cablevision is really 'problematic,' that may not be a good sign for Aereo.

"Did we mention that the Solicitor General who signed the Cablevision brief -- the brief that characterized the Second Circuit’s Cablevision opinion as 'problematic' -- was (drum roll, please) Elena Kagan?"

Kagan is now an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court. So far she has not said whether she will recuse herself from the case.

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********PLEASE NOTE--THIS ITEM IS A PAID TEXT ADVERTISEMENT************American Legion Seeks Entries for Fourth Estate Awards in Print, Broadcast and New Media

PLEASE NOTE--THIS ITEM IS A PAID TEXT ADVERTISEMENT***

Call for Entries


The American Legion seeks entries for Fourth Estate Awards in print, broadcast and new media

INDIANAPOLIS (Jan. 13, 2014) – The nation’s largest veterans organization announced today the call for entries in its annual Fourth Estate Award program for excellence in journalism.

"Once again, The American Legion will award multiple prizes to recognize the outstanding achievements being made in print, broadcast and new media, or Online (Internet-based) media,” said Benedict A. Lee, national chairman of the organization’s Media and Communications Commission. “The winner in each category will receive a $2,000 stipend to cover expenses and travel to accept the awards at the 2014 American Legion National Convention to be held in Charlotte, N.C. in August.”

The deadline for 2013 submissions in all categories is March 14, 2014. 

An entry form and updated rules and information have been posted on The American Legion website at http://www.legion.org/presscenter/fourthestate.   Send questions to pr@legion.org anytime.

The expansion recognizes Internet journalism while affording print and broadcast achievements an opportunity to each be recognized in the annual competition.

The submissions are judged on the quality of reporting that the journalist believes produced a positive effect on society.

“We invite journalists who have made a difference for the better in their community, state or nation to send us their entry,” Lee said. “There is no entry fee and no single medium is limited as to the number of entries.”

 Some past winners have included Newsweek Magazine, ABC News, Dateline NBC, USA Today and the Detroit News.  The complete list can be found on The American Legion website.

 Contacts:  Joe March or John Raughter (317) 630-1253.

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New Broadcast Drama Earns Dubious Distinction

A new drama series earned a "dubious distinction" Thursday night, based on Nielsen overnights for the key 18-49 demo. TVbytheNumbers.com reports that ABC's "The Assets," which scored a 0.6 average rating for its second installment -- down from a 0.7 for last week's premiere -- became the lowest-rated original episode of any big four drama this season.

At the other end of the broadcast ratings spectrum, "The Big Bang Theory" was the class of the field with a 5.6 average in 18-49, up 4% from a week ago, as CBS rolled to a dominant win on the night. It was the best number for "Bang" since Feb. 21, 2013. The show also delivered a whopping 20.08 million total viewers.

The rest of the CBS lineup was also up in the 18-49 demo: "The Millers" equaled its series high with a 3.3 average, rising 18% from a week ago; "The Crazy Ones" climbed 20% to a 2.4; "Two and a Half Men" drifted up 9% to a 2.4; and "Elementary" was up 11% with a 2.0.

NBC was well off the pace, even with its prime-time lineup mostly up. "Community" had a season high with a 1.4, 8% better than last week's premiere; "Parks and Recreation" returned with a 1.4, topping its previous original by 40%; "Sean Saves the World" improved 25% on last week's series low with a 1.0; "The Michael J. Fox Show" also rose 25% from a series low a week ago to a 1.0; and "Parenthood" held steady with a 1.3.

ABC's two-hour "The Taste" was even with a week ago, delivering a 1.3 average in the 18-49 demo.

Fox aired two repeats of "Sleepy Hollow" and settled for a 0.7 average, finishing a distant fifth in 18-49.

The overall numbers for prime time show CBS well ahead of its broadcast rivals with a 3.0 average rating in adults 18-49, followed by NBC and Univision (both with 1.2 averages), ABC (1.0) and Fox (0.7). CBS had a huge lead in total viewers with 12.1 million, followed by ABC (4.0 million), NBC (3.6 million), Univision (3.2 million) and Fox (2.4 million).

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Must Read: No Basic Cable Network Received More Acclaim Last Year Than AMC. In an Interview That Will Appear Nowhere Else Online, Here Are AMC President Charlie Collier and AMC Original Programming Chief Joel Stillerman Talking About What's Up in 2014

[Editor's note: This interview was conducted by our good friend Michael Schneider for the print edition of TV Guide. We are indebted to Michael and the print edition of TV Guide for allowing us to run this important interview in full.]

By Michael Schneider

AMC is coming off another banner year, having ended 2013 as a top 10 cable network, averaging 1.4 million viewers in primetime -- up 18% from the year before. "The Walking Dead" led that growth, as the most-watched program in all of cable, while "Breaking Bad" impressed in its final hurrah.

Of course, the channel also faced a few challenges: "Low Winter Sun" was canceled after one season, and AMC engineered another showrunner change on "The Walking Dead" while facing a legal challenge from the smash hit's original developer, Frank Darabont.

Looking ahead one year, AMC is preparing for the conclusion of its original hit "Mad Men." But for now, AMC President Charlie Collier and original programming head Joel Stillerman are bullish on the channel's upcoming prospects, including new series "Turn" (about spies during the Revolutionary War) and "Halt & Catch Fire" (the computer industry in the 1980s, starring Lee Pace). Collier and Stillerman spoke with TV Guide Magazine about those new shows; the status of its "Breaking Bad" and "The Walking Dead" spinoffs; how "The Killing" lives on even after AMC put a bullet in it; and more.

TV Guide Magazine: How would you describe 2013 for AMC?

Charlie Collier: It was a good year for us. It's exactly the same stuff we were talking about seven years ago. Wanting to be eclectic by design.

Joel Stillerman: I feel a ton of momentum on the development side. Two pilots that both got picked up to series ("Turn" and "Halt & Catch Fire"), and that's the first time that happened. Our pilot "Line of Sight" (starring David Morrissey) is in the can and really good. No decision yet on a series order. But it's a very solid pilot. "Knifeman" (about an 18th century London surgeon) and "Galyntine" (a post-apocalyptic thriller) made it an epic year for us in terms of commitments and development. All of them highly original, there's some cool television in there.

TV Guide Magazine: Why two series orders at once? Have the economics changed?

Collier: We have yet to make a pilot that didn't go to series. You want to be able to make the things that you nurtured and set out to make. When we saw (the "Turn" and "Halt" pilots), we wanted to make both of them for all the right creative reasons.

Stillerman: The baseline going in has been, if we love them both, we'll make them both. It's not a guiding principle, not something we're trying to do.

TV Guide Magazine: Why move "Hell on Wheels" to Saturday?

Collier: We put it behind the movies that people have been watching for 30 years on our air, Westerns on Saturday. We thought we could support it better there. And it worked. (AMC renewed the show for a fourth season.)

TV Guide Magazine: What about your next batch of pilot orders?

Stillerman: A potential decision on pilots may come in the next 6-8 weeks, after we do our usual battery of tests.

TV Guide Magazine: How are things going with "Better Call Saul"?

Stillerman: There's not much to say, but they just opened the writers room and (co-creators) Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould and a few of the "Breaking Bad" alumni are in there as well, so there's some continuity. Vince is trying to embrace a new tone for dramas. Obviously Saul is an inherently hilarious character, but we talk a lot about how Bob Odenkirk is just so great and unexpected in "Nebraska." He's playing a drama role with so much emotion and so much depth. Dramatically there are a lot of things they can do with that character that will break your heart, but comedy-wise it's also so rich.

Collier: We've had a lot of questions about spinoffs. If Vince Gilligan says he wants to do something, you say, "I'm in," because it's Vince Gilligan. If you have Robert Kirkman saying he wants to explore what else is going on in the zombie apocalypse, you say, "That's phenomenal." It's a special moment to see them start again and be so engaged.

TV Guide Magazine: So where do things stand on the "Walking Dead" spinoff?

Collier: It's in the early phases. Robert Kirkman and Gale Anne Hurd are trying to figure out what the driving values are for the show. The bar that they have set for themselves is high. They want to make sure they protect the mother ship. And then they're trying to get looked at this world. They're sweating the details.

TV Guide Magazine: Speaking of "The Walking Dead," you're now on your third showrunner, but Scott Gimple will be back for season five. Is he a keeper?

Stillerman: He has done a terrific job. He has taken that show to a place we always knew it could get to in terms of the quality of the character storytelling. But equally important, he's been a total pro to work with and won the support of everyone on that team from the cast to the writer's room to the lengthy list of executive producers. He has the momentum behind him. I think he oversaw the writing of a great season. The show got to a place we're all happy about. It really needed to become as good as it could be in character storytelling. It didn’t have that kind of structure in the earlier seasons; it was a little more episodic. This is a little more novelistic.

TV Guide Magazine: Can you address original developer Frank Darabont's recent legal complaint?

Collier: It's in active litigation and we can't comment.

TV Guide Magazine: How do you fill the "Mad Men" void once it goes away?

Collier: The "what's next" question is something we've been answering since we started. We’ve got "Halt and Catch Fire" and "Turn." They are truly not like anything else we have on our air and big original swings that we hope connect. We don't try to replace "Mad Men."

Stillerman: If you look at "Turn," the role that spying and revolution play is on the front page of newspapers all over the world right now. And for "Halt," the role that tech is playing in our lives is a totally relevant and fascinating premise.

TV Guide Magazine: Would you rule out the possibility of a "Mad Men" spinoff?

Collier: Anything would have to be creator driven. If Matt Weiner came to you and said he had an idea, wouldn't you pay attention?

TV Guide Magazine: Why didn't "Low Winter Sun" work?

Stillerman: We didn’t feel like it connected in the way we really needed it to. It was a tough decision for us and we waited for all the data to come in.

TV Guide Magazine: Can you believe that "The Killing" will come back one more time, but for Netflix?

Collier: There is a passionate core audience for that show that Netflix is seeing as well. For us, it was a passionate audience but was it big enough? The trick is, what do you learn from it?

TV Guide Magazine: What did you learn, especially after the viewer outcry when the murder mystery wasn't resolved at the end of Season 1?

Stillerman: We have to be on the top of our game with how we manage the audience's expectations. No one knows if the history of that show would be different had the outcome been different.

Collier: You see a lot of that learning in how we brought the conclusion of "Breaking Bad." Because we really started to think, OK, what do people really want, how do we give them access to the show, what is the best way to set expectations?

TV Guide Magazine: Netflix took a lot of credit for "Breaking Bad's" final season success. What's your relationship like?

Collier: It's been an interesting relationship for us that has allowed us to really double down and commit to scripted drama in a way that I'm proud of. A year (after our run) they get the show and it creates a reason to reintroduce the show to new people.

TV Guide Magazine: You have a new head of reality (Eliot Goldberg); how's that genre going for AMC?

Stillerman: We feel like we can bring some of what we've done on the scripted side to that genre, and really create some brand-defining shows. Our track record is mixed so far. Certainly "Talking Dead" is a major standout for the channel. "Comic Book Men" has really come into its own. Next up, "Game of Arms" is "Fight Club" meets "Deadliest Catch." We're not in any rush, and we don't have a mandate to do more than we need to or more than what we think is good.

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Report: NBC Makes a Point of Getting Airtime for Ann Curry After Rumors Circulate That Her Job's in Jeopardy

"NBC wants you to know that Ann Curry remains very much on the job: She’s reporting from the Central African Republic, a region many fear is on the brink of genocide," TheWrap.com reports.

The report adds: "In a striking contrast of First World and Third World problems, Curry is the subject of recent reports that NBC isn’t planning to renew her contract even as she covers a human rights crisis."

NBC has said it is mounting an "all-out counteroffensive" to restore its morning staple "Today" to the top of the ratings after it lost ground to "Good Morning America" -- just as the drama over Curry's ouster from the show was playing out in 2012. Now NBC is busy denying reports that her future with the network is in jeopardy, TheWrap notes.

"But nothing speaks louder than an international assignment to cover legitimate news," the story reports. "Curry is aggressively covering the crisis, filing reports and tweeting about camps of displaced people, a little girl lost in a camp of 100,000 people, and women waiting in a Doctors Without Borders clinic.

"In one of her reports, Amy Martin, head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in CAR, described the region as 'like Darfur, plus anarchy.'”

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Golden Globe Awards Set for This Sunday -- Here Are the Predicted Winners in the TV Categories

With the Hollywood Foreign Press Association set to hand out its Golden Globe Awards this Sunday -- in a ceremony to air live on NBC, hosted by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler -- TVWeek Open Mic writer Hillary Atkin has made her predictions in all the television categories.

Please click here to read how Hillary handicaps the field -- and who she says will win.

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Report: Almost Half of Americans Watch TV While Also Looking at Another Device

About 44% of Americans use another device while watching television, even though only 13% of those people say the experience makes TV viewing “much more enjoyable,” according to The Hollywood Reporter, which cites a report from CES and NATPE.

Still, 67% of those people say that it makes their TV viewing “somewhat more enjoyable.”

The most commonly used second screen is a smartphone, with millennials (between the ages of 13 to 34) the most likely to multitask with a phone and TV. Women are also more likely to use second screens while watching TV than men.

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Where Is the Show You Want to Watch -- on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, VOD, Linear TV or Somewhere Else? Finally, a Simple Solution May Be Coming

Consumers are becoming increasingly frustrated with the proliferation of TV programming services, mainly because it's hard to figure out where to find what they want to watch, Advertising Age reports. But at least one company -- TiVo -- says a solution is on the way.

Here's a video from the recent Consumer Electronics Show in which TiVo's Tara Maitra, senior VP and general manager, content and media sales, talks about what her company is doing to address the problem:

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Acclaimed HBO Drama Series Will Wrap Things Up

The end is in sight for a much-honored HBO drama series. The Los Angeles Times' Show Tracker reports that the pay-cable channel has decided to wrap “Boardwalk Empire” after a fifth and final season.

Season five will debut this fall, the report notes.

In a statement, show creator Terence Winter said: “We're thrilled to get the go-ahead for a fifth season of 'Boardwalk Empire.' After much discussion with my creative team and HBO, we've decided to wrap up the series after such a great run and look forward to bringing it to a powerful and exciting conclusion."

The show stars Steve Buscemi as Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, who rules Atlantic City during Prohibition.

Boardwalk-Empire-2.jpg"Boardwalk Empire"

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How Will Death of Actor Affect HBO Series?

The recent death of one of the cast members on an HBO series became a topic of discussion during the show's panel Thursday at the Television Critics Association winter press tour.

Mike Judge, the creator of HBO’s “Silicon Valley,” said at the presentation for the show that the death of actor Christopher Evan Welch won’t impact the story line of the comedy’s first season, reports TheWrap.com.

Judge and executive producer Alec Berg did have to rewrite some scenes, but it didn’t impact the story, the piece notes. Still, Berg pointed out that Welch's absence could impact later seasons, if the show is renewed.

“Should there be subsequent seasons … he’s a character that we don’t have in our arsenal anymore,” Berg said.

He added, “[Welch] was incredible and we loved writing for him.”

Welch, 48, had lung cancer. As previously reported, he died in December. He had a regular role on the AMC series “Rubicon” and was the narrator in Woody Allen’s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.”

christopher evan welch 2.pngChristopher Evan Welch

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OMG: Target Now Says Security Breach Last Fall Could Mean Data from Up to 110 Millon Customers Was Stolen. Some Store Closures Also Announced. It's Our Non-TV Story of the Day

Giant retailer Target now says that the data breach it experienced between Thanksgiving and Christmas "puts up to 110 million people at risk," reports the Minneapolis StarTribune. Target is based in Minneapolis.

Target has previously made an admission that data was breached for about 40 million of its customers. The retailer now says that, in addition to that, "the thieves who accessed its data system from late November through mid-December also obtained personal information on 70 million customers," according to the StarTribune.

The exact number of total customers affected cannot be currently determined because Target says it is likely that there are some duplicate names on the two lists of breached data.

While the breach that affected the 40 million involved financial data, Target says the breach of the 70 million only involved "names, mailing addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses," according to the newspaper account.

The story adds: "The company also said it will close eight poorly performing stores in its 1,800-unit chain, the first time in recent memory it has shut down such a large number at once."

The article quotes Gregg Steinhafel, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Target, saying: "I know that it is frustrating for our guests to learn that this information was taken and we are truly sorry they are having to endure this. I also want our guests to know that understanding and sharing the facts related to this incident is important to me and the entire Target team."

The report adds: "In addition, the company revealed its own financial impact of the theft for the first time, saying that shoppers turned away from its stores after the incident was revealed on Dec. 19 and it expects lower sales and profits as a result. Target shares fell about 1.7 percent in first hour of trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

"Target said that customers would encounter 'zero liability' from any damage they suffer due to the theft of Target’s data. It offered to provide free credit monitoring and identity theft protection for customers for a year."

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Paula Abdul Feeling Burned, Files Lawsuit

Former “American Idol” judge Paula Abdul alleges she's been burned, and she's taking her case to court. Abdul filed a lawsuit against the tanning company Uvasun, claiming she suffered severe burns from a tanning treatment, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Abdul alleges she purchased a SlimStar infrared body wrap treatment, which was applied “negligently, carelessly and recklessly.” She claims it left her with “severe and painful burns all over her body, with an especially severe second- or third-degree burn on a portion of the plaintiff's left thigh."

Abdul alleges the injuries caused her “great mental, physical and nervous strain, pain and suffering, and loss of earnings potential.” She claims she needed medical attention as a result of the alleged injury.

THR was awaiting a reply to a request for a comment from the defendants.

Thumbnail image for paula-abdul.jpgPaula Abdul

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HBO's 'Girls' Renewed for Fourth Season -- and Then the Show's Panel at TCA Deteriorates Into Verbal Altercation

HBO announced Thursday that it has officially renewed “Girls,” with just three days before the comedy returns for its third season, at the Television Critics Association winter press tour, The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports.

While the renewal came as little surprise given the show's positive critical reception, the panel included some verbal sparring, after a “Random Guy Who Covers TV” asked creator and star Lena Dunham what the point was of the show’s nudity, writes Lisa De Moraes at Deadline.com.

“I don’t get the purpose of all the nudity -- particularly by you,” he said. The man added that he understood the nudity on HBO’s “Game of Thrones” as an attempt to “be salacious and titillate people.”

Dunham responded: “It’s a realistic expression of what it’s like to be alive. I totally get it if you’re not into me. That’s your problem.”

But executive producer Judd Apatow didn’t brush aside the question so easily, asking with what De Moraes says was a sneer, “Do you have a girlfriend? Does she like you?” He then suggested the man tell his girlfriend about how he asked the question and “let me know how it goes tonight.”

De Moraes adds: “Apatow apparently lives in that alternate universe in which everyone loves ‘Girls.’”

Later, after questions about the show’s racial diversity and whether Dunham likes the characters on the show, executive producer Jenni Konner rounded back to the question about nudity, the story notes.

“I’m in such a rage spiral about that guy!” Konner said. “Looking at him, I’m going into such a rage! Accusing a woman of showing her body so much! It just makes me sort of sick.”

She demanded to know which publication the man works for, and Apatow joked, “We don’t expect that from The New York Times.”

The verbal altercation briefly went off in another direction after Konner chimed in: “I don’t expect that from Us Weekly." De Moraes writes: "The critic from Us Weekly, who was in the room and had not asked the question, took exception with her accusation, insisting he was pro-Dunham-nudity on 'Girls.' Then, someone got the bright idea of comparing the women of 'Girls' to the women of 'The Golden Girls,' which seemed to calm everyone down."

The article doesn’t identify the "Random Guy Who Covers TV" or which publication he writes for.

Thumbnail image for lena-dunham.jpgLena Dunham

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Camryn Manheim Lands in New CBS Drama

CBS is bringing aboard Camryn Manheim, who won an Emmy for "The Practice" in 1998, in a co-starring role in an upcoming drama series. Deadline.com reports that Manheim will appear opposite Halle Berry in the new summer drama series “Extant."

The drama, from Steven Spielberg’s Amblin TV and CBS Television Studios, is about an astronaut (Berry) who wants to reconnect with her family after spending a year in space. Manheim will play her best friend and confidante.

This marks Manheim’s first series regular role since she appeared in CBS’s “Ghost Whisperer,” which wrapped in 2010.

camryn manheim.jpgCamryn Manheim

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'Devious Maids' Showrunner: ABC's Passing on the Show Was a 'Blessing'

“Devious Maids” showrunner Marc Cherry said at a Television Critics Association panel that ABC's decision not to move ahead with the show was a “blessing,” and expressed satisfaction with the drama’s home on Lifetime, reports TheWrap.com.

“Interestingly, Cherry said he has only received one note from Lifetime, which was over a difference of opinion on a casting decision. The showrunner said he ultimately won out and it has worked well, though he did not reveal the character or actor’s name,” the story notes.

The show’s co-executive producer Eva Longoria, who was a star of Cherry's former ABC show “Desperate Housewives,” will direct her first-ever television episode in "Devious Maids'" second season, the story adds.

The second season of the drama starts taping Wednesday, with the season premiere set for April 20.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for eva-longoria.jpgEva Longoria

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Random House Moves Publication Date for Roger Ailes Bio

The "happiest voice in the room" when it comes to all the angry back-and-forth over a new biography of Fox News chief Roger Ailes appears to be the book's publisher, Random House.

The company has pushed up the publication date of Gabe Sherman’s book on Ailes, "The Loudest Voice in the Room," by a week because of media attention and intense interest in the book, reports Politico. Fox News and Sherman have been arguing publically about whether the book was thoroughly fact-checked, among other issues, as we reported previously.

“The Loudest Voice in the Room” will now be published Jan. 14, instead of Jan. 21, a spokesperson for the publisher told Politico.

“Sherman portrays Ailes as a towering media mogul and powerful political figure who is at turns volatile, manipulative and bullying,” the story says.

Ailes has sought to discredit Sherman’s reporting, telling The Hollywood Reporter that Random House “refused to fact-check the content with me or Fox News.”

But Sherman told Politico that he stands by his reporting, noting in an email that he made “a dozen requests both in writing and in person to speak with Roger Ailes. ... A team of two fact-checkers spent more than 2,000 hours vetting the manuscript before publication. Roger Ailes declined every request to discuss the reporting with me."

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'Lost' Co-Creator Rips Network TV

“Lost” co-creator Damon Lindelof ripped network television at the Television Critics Association panel for his new HBO series “The Leftovers,” reports Deadline.com.

“We can all agree that cable is far superior to network,” he said. “I think that when you slow the conveyor belt down, Lucy and Ethel, the quality control goes up.”

He added, “The beauty of working with HBO is they say how much story do you got?” That frees him from creating “weeks of episodes that are not essential,” he said.

“Leftovers” is written by Tom Perrotta and Lindelof and is based on Perrotta’s 2011 bestseller, which is about the world three years after the Rapture takes 2% of the world’s population, the story says. The series is expected to debut this summer.

Thumbnail image for damon-lindelof.pngDamon Lindelof

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'Game of Thrones' Gets Premiere Date -- With a New HBO Series to Debut the Same Night

HBO took the wraps off scheduling plans for season four of “Game of Thrones.” The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports that the series will return for its fourth-season premiere April 6 at 9 p.m.

The night will also see the return of “Veep” and the debut of the comedy “Silicon Valley,” the story notes.

The next season will finish HBO’s adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s “A Storm of Swords,” the third in the book series’ planned seven novels.

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Lifetime Planning Sequel to 'Flowers in the Attic,' Before the Telepic Even Airs

Lifetime revealed that it is working on a sequel to “Flowers in the Attic,” announcing the followup before the TV movie airs Jan. 18, reports the Los Angeles Times’ Show Tracker.

The sequel will be based on the second book in the V.C. Andrews series, “Petals in the Wind.” Kayla Alpert, who adapted Andrews’ “Flowers in the Attic” for Lifetime, will write the sequel, which picks up a decade after “Flowers” ends.

"I will just say it is a very juicy, compelling revenge drama," Alpert said at the Television Critics Association press tour.

“Buzz for the newest adaptation (there was a 1987 film that's available on Netflix) has been building since the project was greenlighted by Lifetime earlier this summer -- as one might expect,” the story notes. “The preteen incest novel has amassed quite the following since its release in 1979, and has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide, Robert Sharenow, Lifetime's executive vice president and general manager, noted ahead of the panel.”

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Roger Ailes Biographer Strikes Back at Fox News

The author of a new biography that paints an unflattering portrait of Fox News chief Roger Ailes responded to a claim by Fox News that the book was not fact-checked, saying it was indeed fact-checked and indicating that Fox News, and in particular Ailes, were responsible for putting up roadblocks to vetting the reporting, Politico reports.

Gabriel Sherman, the author of "The Loudest Voice in the Room," told the website in a statement: "During two and a half years of reporting, I made a dozen requests both in writing and in person to speak with Roger Ailes about every aspect of my book, 'The Loudest Voice in the Room.' A team of two fact-checkers spent more than 2,000 hours vetting the manuscript before publication. Roger Ailes declined every request to discuss the reporting with me."

Ailes and Sherman have been waging a war of words over the book that goes back a few years. As we reported previously, the book, which comes out Jan. 21, includes the claim that Ailes called popular Fox News host Bill O'Reilly "a book salesman with a TV show," along with other negative portrayals of Ailes.

"In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, conducted in December and published on Wednesday, Ailes criticized Sherman and Random House for not fact-checking the book's content with Fox News," Politico reports.

Asked about the book during that interview, Ailes is quoted as saying: "Bette Davis said, I think it was Bette Davis, ‘What other people think of me is none of my business.' Attacking me and Fox News is nothing new -- it’s a cottage industry. What’s new is that Random House refused to fact-check the content with me or Fox News -- that tells you everything you need to know about this book and its agenda."

Politico adds: "The book, which is based off interviews with more than 600 people who know or have worked with Ailes, includes several less than savory revelations and paints a portrait of Ailes as a 'volatile' and 'domineering' manager."

gabriel sherman.jpgGabriel Sherman

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Chris Christie: A Master Class on How to Talk to the Media About a Scandal. And Yet ...

TVWeek Open Mic blogger Chuck Ross, like many observers, was most impressed with Chris Christie's press conference today about Bridgegate. And yet, something about it bothered Ross, who thinks it should bother you too. To read what Ross has to say, please click here.

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NBC Breaks Out Its New Drama 'Chicago PD' -- So How Did It Do?

On a night that saw a close prime-time ratings battle among three broadcast networks, NBC rolled out its new drama series "Chicago PD" Wednesday night. So how did it do? Based on Nielsen overnights for the key 18-49 demo ... not bad.

TVbytheNumbers.com reports that the drama series delivered a 2.0 average rating in its 10 p.m. time slot, where it was up against the second half of CBS's "People's Choice Awards" and a repeat of "David Blaine: Real or Magic" on ABC. The report notes that the numbers may be subject to more than the usual adjustments due to regional sports pre-emptions.

The "Chicago PD" premiere was up a hefty 54% from the premiere of NBC's "Ironside" back in September, and equaled the number for the "Deception" opener a year ago.

CBS had enough to pull out a win for the night in a close race with NBC and ABC. CBS's two-hour "People's Choice Awards" came in with a 2.3 average in the 18-49 demo, off 15% from a year ago and the show's lowest rating in six years. CBS led into the awards with repeats of "2 Broke Girls" (1.5 average at 8 p.m., 1.6 at 8:30).

ABC and NBC tied for second place with 1.9 averages in viewers 18-49. NBC had a 1.6 average for "Revolution" at 8 p.m., 14% better than the show's previous original, while "Law & Order: SVU" delivered a 2.1, surging 31%.

ABC's programming had mixed results, with "The Middle" rising 10% from its previous original to a 2.2 average in 18-49, "Modern Family" holding steady with a 3.5 and two episodes of "Super Fun Night" delivering a 1.5 -- down 17% and a series low -- and a 1.8.

Fox aired the two-hour "Stepbrothers," settling for a 1.2 average in adults 18-49 and a distant fourth-place finish, tied with Univision.

For prime time overall, CBS's 2.1 average in the 18-49 demo led the broadcast networks, followed by ABC and NBC (both with 1.9 averages), then Fox and Univision (both at 1.2). CBS led total viewers with 8.9 million, followed by NBC (7.8 million), ABC (6.0 million), Univision (3.0 million) and Fox (2.9 million).

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One Movie Star Dominates People's Choice Awards

One big-screen veteran clearly dominated the People's Choice Awards, even with a TV fixture and a pop singer also among the night's big winners, USA Today reports.

The night belonged to Oscar-winning actress Sandra Bullock, who has yet to come back to Earth after the release of "Gravity." Bullock snagged four People's Choice Awards, including favorite movie actress and favorite movie duo, an award she split with George Clooney for "Gravity."

Also having big nights were daytime TV fixture Ellen DeGeneres and pop singer Justin Timberlake, each of whom took home three awards. Timberlake got favorite male artist, favorite R&B artist and favorite album, for "The 20/20 Experience."

"With her win for favorite daytime TV host, Ellen DeGeneres became the winningest female in the award show's history, with a total of 14 crystal trophies," the story reports. "In his acceptance speech, Timberlake actually thanked 'Ellen for the personal inspiration and the cookies -- she bakes a hell of a cookie.'"

More than 700 million votes were cast by fans to determine the winners.

"'Iron Man 3' took home the awards for both favorite movie and favorite action movie. 'The Big Bang Theory' won favorite network TV comedy, with its star Kaley Cuoco winning favorite comedic TV actress," the report adds.

Queen Latifah was named best new talk-show host. Adam Sandler was named favorite comedic movie actor for the fourth consecutive time. And Britney Spears took home her first People's Choice Award for favorite pop artist.

"Jennifer Hudson was awarded the second annual People's Choice Award for favorite humanitarian, in recognition of her work with the Julian D. King Gift Foundation," the story reports. "Along with her sister, Julia Hudson, she founded the organization in 2009 in honor of her late nephew, Julian King. The foundation provides positive experiences for children of all backgrounds."

sandra-bullock.jpgSandra Bullock

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Late-Night Talk Show Renewed -- This Story Also Answers the Question: Who's the Voice of the Baby in Those E-Trade Commercials?

A late-night cable talk show has been picked up for another run. The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports that TBS renewed “The Pete Holmes Show,” which will return for 13 weeks starting Feb. 24.

The show, which had a seven-week run last year, averaged 500,000 viewers following its Oct. 28 premiere. Its median viewer age is 36. The show airs after “Conan” Monday through Thursday.

“The first 28 episodes were a joy to make, and I'm so thrilled we get to keep going," Holmes said. "We have so much more we want to do, and I'm looking forward to the opportunity to make great comedy, continue to evolve the show and really push the limits of potty language and tasteful male nudity. I can't wait!"

Holmes is the host of the “You Made It Weird” podcast and the voice of the baby in the E-Trade commercials.

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NBC Prepares for Violence, Security Issues at Sochi Olympics

NBC is preparing to cover potential violence at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, coming up in Sochi, Russia, reports Capital New York, which describes Sochi as “a unique case.”

“For starters, one of the largest terrorist groups operating in Russia, the Caucasus Emirate, has promised to attack the Games,” the story reports. “Last month, two suicide bombers struck in Volgograd, Russia, killing 30 people. Those attacks heightened fears of possible attacks in Sochi, just over 600 miles away.”

The network has a game plan for coverage, in case security issues arise, the story says.

“Sadly, at every Olympics since ’72, that has been on people’s minds as you are going in,” Jim Bell, the executive producer of NBC’s Olympics coverage, told Capital New York. He was referring to the 1972 Munich Olympics, where the Black September group killed 11 Israeli athletes. “You’re thinking, ‘Well, shit, what if something really bad happens?’ because it still has that potential.”

Foreign correspondent Jim Maceda is already in Sochi, reporting on the aftermath of the Volgograd bombings, while chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel is in the area “to kind of become steeped in all the issues of the Caucasus,” Bell told the publication.

“Today” and “NBC Nightly News” will both originate from Sochi, while on-air talent will also be in Russia during the Games, including “Today” co-hosts Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie, the story reports. NBC News President Deborah Turness will also be on-site.

As for keeping its guests and staff safe, the network also has a “full team of people” in place to ensure their security, NBC Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus told the publication.

Still, NBC is sending fewer people to Sochi than it did for London and Vancouver, the story notes. “Security may be one factor, but logistics is another,” given its remote location and how few people speak English, requiring translators, equipment and even cars to be brought in, the story says.

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MSNBC Tweaks Lineup in Wake of Bashir's Exit

MSNBC continues to deal with fallout from Martin Bashir's hasty departure. TVNewser reports that the cable channel will rotate a cast of hosts in its noon hour when Alex Wagner moves to 4 p.m. ET.

Joy Reid has been filling in at 4 p.m. since Bashir's exit. As previously reported, Bashir resigned after getting in hot water over comments he made about Sarah Palin.

Reid will also fill in at noon, the piece reports. Another member of the rotating cast at noon will be Ari Melber of MSNBC's panel show "The Cycle."

“MSNBC has tried out hosts temporarily before permanently giving them a show in the past, including Rev. Al Sharpton, who filled in at 6 p.m. for most of the summer in 2011 before being named permanent host,” the story notes.

The network also has a vacancy at 11 a.m., with Thomas Roberts moving to the early morning hours starting Jan. 13, the story says. It’s not clear yet what will happen with the 11 a.m. hour or in which time period Ronan Farrow will be scheduled.

joy reid.jpgJoy Reid

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Dennis Rodman Offers an Explanation for His North Korea Outburst

Former NBA star Dennis Rodman has apologized for an outburst during a CNN interview that has been widely covered by the media and provoked outrage in Washington.

CNN reports that Rodman "apologized Thursday for his much-criticized outburst about an American citizen imprisoned in North Korea, saying he was stressed out and had been drinking when he made the remarks on CNN."

The interview drew an especially harsh response from John McCain, as we reported previously. You can click here to see a video of the original CNN interview of Rodman by Chris Cuomo.

"The eccentric basketball veteran is in North Korea for a controversial visit that has been rife with bizarre moments, including Rodman's rendition of 'Happy Birthday' to the country's leader Kim Jong Un at a packed sports stadium on Wednesday," CNN reports. "In an exclusive interview Tuesday with Chris Cuomo of CNN's 'New Day,' Rodman provoked outrage by appearing to suggest that Kenneth Bae, who has been held in North Korea since 2012, may have done something to deserve his sentence of 15 years of hard labor."

In a statement released today by his publicist Jules Feiler, Rodman reportedly said: "I want to first apologize to Kenneth Bae's family. I want to apologize to my teammates and my management team. I also want to apologize to Chris Cuomo."

CNN adds: "Rodman attributed his outburst to stress. 'I embarrassed a lot of people,' said Rodman, who traveled to North Korea with other former NBA players for a basketball game against a North Korean team. 'I'm very sorry. At this point I should know better than to make political statements. I'm truly sorry.'"

Bae's family said earlier in the week that it was shocked by Rodman's comments, the CNN report notes. Bae's sister Terri Chung said Tuesday: "He was in a position to do some good and to help advocate for Kenneth. He refused to do so. But then instead he has chosen to hurl these outrageous accusations against Kenneth. He clearly doesn't know anything about Kenneth, about his case. And so we were appalled by that."

Rodman said the day of the interview had been "very stressful," CNN notes.

"Some of my teammates were leaving because of pressure from their families and business associates," Rodman said. He added that his dream of "basketball diplomacy was quickly falling apart."

Rodman added: "I had been drinking. It's not an excuse but by the time the interview happened I was upset. I was overwhelmed."

dennis rodman.jpgDennis Rodman

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NBC Finds Its Lead Actress for 'Rosemary's Baby' Miniseries

The role of Rosemary, which was played by Mia Farrow in Roman Polanski's 1968 feature version of "Rosemary's Baby," will be played by Zoe Saldana of “Avatar” in the upcoming NBC miniseries, EW.com’s Inside TV reports.

Rosemary is an expectant mother who moves into a Paris apartment with her husband, but grows increasingly suspicious that her husband and neighbors have creepy motives about her unborn baby.

The 1968 movie was set in New York, rather than Paris.

NBC’s project is a four-hour miniseries and is based on the 1967 novel by Ira Levin.

Saldana has worked mostly on the big screen since her breakout roles in the 2000 movie "Center Stage" and 2002's "Crossroads." Besides her performance as Neytiri in James Cameron's 2009 3D showcase "Avatar," she played a young Uhura in "Star Trek" (2009) and Anamaria in "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" (2003). She also played the lead role in the 2011 action movie "Colombiana."

zoe saldana.pngZoe Saldana

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Lindsey Vonn's Withdrawal Leaves NBC in Search of a New 'Face of the Olympics'

NBC is seeking another story to feature during the Winter Olympics with downhill skiing champion Lindsey Vonn’s withdrawal, Bloomberg reports, noting that NBC Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus addressed the topic at a news conference.

“How do we adjust? We change a little bit of our promotion, we look for another story,” Lazarus said. “We will miss her. We wish we still had Lindsey there, but we don’t.”

Instead of using Vonn in NBC promotions leading up to the Games, which will air Feb. 7-23, skiers such as Julia Mancuso and Ted Ligety could be featured, or snowboarder Shaun White. All are U.S. athletes. Another idea is to feature teams such as the U.S. and Canadian hockey squads, the story notes.

Vonn, 29, withdrew seven weeks after she hurt her surgically repaired knee while training, the piece adds.

lindsey-vonn.jpgLindsey Vonn

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Attention Parents of Preschoolers: Disney Junior Renews Three Shows

Disney Junior has renewed three shows. The cable network, which aims its programming at preschoolers, picked up third seasons of “Sofia the First” and “Doc McStuffins” and a fourth season of “Jake and the Never Land Pirates," Deadline.com reports.

All three shows ranked among the top cable series for kids 2-5 last year, and in the top 10 preschooler cable TV series in total viewers and with women 18-49, the story notes.

“Sofia the First,” about a little princess, has been performing especially well in the ratings, with its special last month ranking as the second-most-watched telecast with kids 2-5 in cable TV history, the piece notes.

In addition to Disney Junior, all three shows air on Disney Channel. All three have received attention from the Annie Awards, presented by the Hollywood branch of the International Animated Film Association.

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NBC Orders Comedy From 'Happy Endings' Creator

NBC is moving forward with a single-camera comedy project from the creator of "Happy Endings." The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed reports that the network gave a pilot order to "Marry Me," from David Caspe.

The comedy is about a longtime couple who decide to tie the knot, but realize it’s tougher than it seems, the story says. The project is from Sony Pictures Television, where Caspe has an overall deal.

Caspe’s “Happy Endings,” a critical favorite, was canceled about six months ago by ABC. He has a few other projects in the works, including “Ball Street” at Showtime and “Roommates” at CBS.

This marks NBC’s second comedy pilot order, following “Bad Judge,” which stars Kate Walsh.

david caspe.jpgDavid Caspe

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Investigation Discovery Renews Charisma Carpenter Series

Investigation Discovery has given a second season to “Surviving Evil,” a show hosted by “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” actress Charisma Carpenter, reports TheWrap.com.

The show will return for a 10-episode second season, with filming slated for early 2014. The program features stories about people who have fought back against violent attacks.

“As one of ID’s biggest hit series of 2013, and one that generated passionate discussion among our viewers, it’s with great enthusiasm that we set our sights on a second season of ‘Surviving Evil,’” said ID’s general manager, Kevin Bennett, in a statement. “We feel especially lucky to welcome back Charisma, who adds an important layer of depth to the series as a survivor and symbol of female empowerment in Hollywood.”

Carpenter herself survived a violent attack when she was 22 years old, the story says.

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Universal Cable Productions Reshapes Development Team

Universal Cable Productions has made some key moves to reshape the leadership of its development team. Writing on Deadline.com, Nellie Andreeva reports that the company hired Dawn Parouse Olmstead of “Prison Break” to lead the team.

The hiring of Olmstead marks the first big executive move from Jeff Wachtel, who became the president of NBCU Cable Entertainment in September, Andreeva notes.

Additionally, Richard Rothstein, senior vice president of development and current programming, will be in charge of the studio’s current scripted series, the story reports.

Olmstead and Rothstein will both report to Wachtel, with Olmstead taking the title of executive vice president development.

“It’s a real coup for us to land a creative producer at Dawn’s level to spearhead our newly escalating effort to create and own original content,” Wachtel said. “She is one of the smartest and most focused producers I’ve ever met, and she is the perfect person to take our in-house scripted studio to the next level.”

Wachtel also said the company has been in need of centralized oversight for its growing number of existing series.

“Richard has been a key member of the team that has created one of the best series-to-success ratios in the business,” he said.

The hiring of Olmstead came after weeks of negotiations, Andreeva writes. Olmstead currently has a lot of projects in the works, including Bravo’s “Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce,” which is produced by UCP, and Lifetime’s “The Lottery.”

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BET's 'Being Mary Jane' Has Mediocre Debut

BET’s first original scripted drama, “Being Mary Jane,” delivered less than spectacular ratings for its series debut Tuesday, reports the Los Angeles Times’ Show Tracker.

While a movie-length pilot that aired in July attracted more than 4 million viewers, the debut of the show drew only 3.3 million viewers for the first of two airings, the story reports. An additional airing attracted 1.8 million viewers.

The show stars Gabrielle Union as a television personality who has a messy personal life.

Thumbnail image for gabrielle-union.jpgGabrielle Union

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'My Grandmother's Ravioli' Gets a Third Season

The Cooking Channel has renewed “My Grandmother’s Ravioli” for a third season, bringing back host Mo Rocca as he visits grandparents across North America to learn their favorite family recipes, The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports.

“We want cranky, crusty grandparents who will really ride me,” Rocca joked of the show’s future episodes.

The Cooking Channel will air 13 new episodes in late 2014, the story says. Rocca is a correspondent for “CBS Sunday Morning” and a panelist on NPR’s “Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me!”

He told the publication that he’s looking for more diverse dishes, locations and couples in the next episodes.

"The best grandparents are the ones who probably have never seen the show and are definitely not interested in being on a reality show," Rocca told the publication. "Usually volunteered by their kids and their grandkids, they're people who just kind of do their own thing, spend time with their families and cook."

Casting recently began for the third season.

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'SNL' Adds Two African-American Women Writers to the Show

" 'Saturday Night Live' has just added a new African-American woman to its cast, and now the show is adding two to its writers' room as well," reports Lesley Goldberg in an exclusive story for The Hollywood Reporter.

Goldberg writes: "LaKendra Tookes and Leslie Jones, who were discovered during the sketch show's recent auditions, will join 'SNL's' writers' room starting on Monday, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

"Tookes and Jones were both among the black female comedians who auditioned during showcases held in New York and Los Angeles after the long-running Lorne Michaels sketch series faced widespread criticism that its new cast lacked diversity -- specifically the inclusion of an African-American woman."

The article adds, "Sources tell THR that producers were impressed with both Tookes and Jones and thought they were talented, smart and funny. Currently there are no plans to have either of them appear onscreen, though a number of 'SNL' writers in the past have transitioned to larger roles. Most recently, Mike O'Brien was promoted to featured player for the current 39th season after joining 'SNL' as a writer in 2009."

lakendra tookes.jpgLaKendra Tookes

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Meryl Streep Unloads on Walt Disney as Sexist, Anti-Semitic

One entertainment icon had more than a few unkind words for another one as Meryl Streep "delivered a sharp rebuke to Walt Disney for alleged sexist and anti-Semitic views at the National Board of Review awards gala in New York," the Los Angeles Times reports.

"Streep was on hand to present an acting award to Emma Thompson for her portrayal of the prickly British author and 'Mary Poppins' creator P.L. Travers in the new film 'Saving Mr. Banks,' which dramatizes Disney's efforts to persuade Travers to adapt her books into a musical," the report notes.

Citing media reports, the Times says Streep first fired off some humorous quips, but then "turned serious and called Disney 'a gender bigot,' noting that 'some of his associates reported that Walt Disney didn't really like women.' She quoted a letter that Disney's company wrote in 1938 to an aspiring female animator, which said, 'Women do not do any of the creative work in connection with preparing the cartoons for the screen, as that task is performed entirely by young men.'"

The three-time Oscar-winning actress also accused Disney of supporting an anti-Semitic lobbying group.

"Streep's comments offer a markedly different perspective from the sparkly portrayal of Uncle Walt in 'Saving Mr. Banks.' In the film, Disney is portrayed by yet another beloved Hollywood star, Tom Hanks, as a wholesome, good-natured genius whose main concern is making merriment," the Times notes.

Hanks has reportedly talked previously about the movie's avoidance of "the skeletons in Disney's closet," the report says, with the actor noting that the movie is more about Travers than it is about Disney.

The Times piece adds: "Presumably, Streep's grudge against Disney isn't insurmountable, as she is set to appear in the upcoming Disney film 'Into the Woods,' based on the Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine musical."

meryl streep 2013.jpgMeryl Streep

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ABC and CBS Premiere New Dramas -- With Much Different Ratings Results

The premiere of a high-profile new drama series was part of a winning combination for one network Tuesday night, as CBS rolled to an easy win over its broadcast competition, based on Nielsen overnights. On ABC, another new drama failed to pump life into the network's numbers.

TVbytheNumbers.com reports that CBS's "Intelligence" opened with a 2.4 average rating in the key 18-49 demo and 16.6 million total viewers, putting the show second in broadcast prime on the night in both measures, behind only CBS's "NCIS." The 2.4 average in viewers 18-49 was 33% better than the premiere of "Golden Boy" a year ago, and also 33% better than the September 2013 premiere of "Hostages," whose time slot is being taken over by "Intelligence."

CBS's "NCIS" delivered a 2.9 average in 18-49 and 20.7 million total viewers, better than all the broadcast competition Tuesday night. "Person of Interest" had a 2.0 with 12.1 million viewers.

ABC's new series "Killer Women" premiered with a soft 0.9 to finish a distant third in the 10 p.m. hour behind "Person of Interest" and NBC's "Chicago Fire." ABC's "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." returned to a 2.1 in the 18-49 demo, matching its series low and its most recent original.

Elsewhere on ABC, "The Goldbergs" ticked up 6% from its most recent original to a 1.7 in 18-49, and "Trophy Wife" held steady with a 1.2.

NBC's two-hour "The Biggest Loser" tumbled 15% from its previous original to a 1.7 average in 18-49, while "Chicago Fire," minus "The Voice" as its lead-in, was off 14% with a 1.9.

Fox's comedies were mixed, with "New Girl" hitting a season low with a 1.6 in adults 18-49, down 16% from its previous original, and "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" drifting down 6% to a 1.5, while "Dads" rose 7% to a 1.5 and "The Mindy Project" climbed 8% to a 1.3.

For prime time overall, CBS averaged a 2.4 in the 18-49 demo, ahead of NBC (1.8), Fox and ABC (both 1.5) and Univision (1.3). CBS averaged 16.5 million total viewers to lead NBC (5.9 million), ABC (5.0 million), Univision (3.4 million) and Fox (3.2 million).

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With Season-Five Pickup a 'Formality,' 'Game of Thrones' Tweaks Its Lineup

“Games of Thrones” hasn't been picked up yet for a fifth season, “but that is simply a formality,” reports Nellie Andreeva at Deadline.com. With that in mind, the HBO drama series has tweaked its lineup for the season five, promoting Michiel Huisman to series regular.

Huisman replaced Ed Skrein in the role of Daario Naharis, a love interest for Daenerys who was introduced in season three, the story notes. The character is recurring in the upcoming fourth season.

Huisman has co-starred in HBO’s “Treme” and has recurred on ABC’s “Nashville.”

michiel huisman.jpgMichiel Huisman

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Sen. John McCain on Dennis Rodman's Latest Meeting With North Korea Dictator: Rodman Is a 'Dangerous Idiot' Aiding a 'Brutal, Crazy Man'

Sen. John McCain is not happy with Dennis Rodman once again visiting North Korea and its leader Kim Jong-Un.

"I think [Rodman is] an idiot, but he's a dangerous idiot, because he gives good propaganda to ... arguably, the most brutal, crazy man on Earth," McCain told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV, according to the Newsmax website.

The story notes: "Rodman is organizing a basketball game with other basketball greats to help celebrate Kim's 31st birthday on Wednesday.

"Rodman has always been a whacko, as you know, but the fact that he and his friends are giving good propaganda for this brutal dictator who had his uncle killed, had his ex-girlfriend shot, and supervises the biggest gulag on Earth ... it helps this two-bit dictator," McCain is quoted as saying Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. "What he's doing is helping this guy and giving him an increased prestige, and that's what's wrong."

As previously reported, an angry Rodman yelled at CNN's Chris Cuomo in a recent interview when Cuomo questioned some of the actions of the Korean regime.

john mccain.pngJohn McCain

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'Going Out at the Right Time': A Long-Running Cable Drama Eyes Its Endgame

The end is in sight for a long-running cable drama series, with the people behind the show talking about "going out at the right time." Variety reports that FX President Nick Grad said the current plan is to wrap “Justified” after its sixth season, although the plan could change depending on the needs of the creative people involved in the show.

“We like having shows that rate really well, and there’s an instinct that you want it to go on forever. But it doesn’t,” Grad said. “Another metric that’s important to us [beyond ratings] is, ‘What shows are going to be talked about in the next 20 years?’ If you’re making a great, 80-hour movie, it has to have a beginning, middle and end. Going out at the right time is going to make your show last forever -- we want to make shows that stand the test of time.”

The fifth season of “Justified” will introduce new characters, including one played by Michael Rapaport, the story notes.

The fifth season of the show, which stars Timothy Olyphant, will be the first since author Elmore Leonard died. Leonard’s short story “Fire in the Hole” was the basis for the show.

michael rapaport.pngMichael Rapaport

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Character Actor Dead at 91 -- Known for His Work in a Beloved Holiday Special

Known for his work in a holiday special that has been a television staple for decades, and for appearances in a number of classic movies, actor Larry D. Mann has died, CBS News reports.

Mann, who voiced the crusty prospector Yukon Cornelius in the Christmas classic “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” was 91. He died of age-related causes on Monday in Los Angeles, his son said.

Mann, who was born in Toronto, had a number of roles in films, including small parts in “The Sting” and “In the Heat of the Night,” while his TV appearances included “Gunsmoke” and “Bewitched.” His last role before retiring was on the TV show “Homefront” in 1991, his son said.

One of Mann's most enduring roles was in a long-running series of TV commercials for Bell Canada. Mann played the title role of "The Boss" in the ads, which aired for 10 years starting in 1981. In the example below, Mann is on the left, on the stationary bike.

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Golden Globe-Nominated Actress to Star in New NBC Thriller

An actress who received a Golden Globe nomination for an ABC series is set for a lead role in a new NBC show. The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports that “Pushing Daisies” alum Anna Friel will star in the NBC pilot “Odyssey,” which is described as a “Traffic”-like thriller.

From writer and executive producer Peter Horton, the drama is about three families that are affected when a female soldier, a corporate attorney and a political activist are drawn into a military conspiracy, the story reports.

Friel will play Sgt. Odelle Ballard, who has left her child and husband at home and is the only woman in her squad, the piece notes.

Friel was nominated for a Golden Globe for best performance by an actress in a TV series, musical or comedy, for "Pushing Daisies" in 2008.

Until a few weeks ago, Friel was attached to the controversial Showtime project "The Vatican," which the pay-cable channel -- under pressure over the project from the Catholic Church -- elected to scrap, as we reported previously.

anna friel 2.jpgAnna Friel

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New Biography Paints Unflattering Portrait of Fox News Chief Roger Ailes; Among the Highlights: He Wanted to Elect the Next President, Gloated Over the Departure of Lachlan Murdoch and Spoke Unkindly of Bill O'Reilly and Brian Kilmeade

A new book about Fox News chief Roger Ailes, “The Loudest Voice in the Room,” casts a critical light on the executive, describing him speaking disparagingly of his most popular on-air talent, calling Bill O’Reilly “a book salesman with a TV show” and Brian Kilmeade “a soccer coach from Long Island,” The New York Times reports.

The Times’ Julie Bosman and Bill Carter got an early copy of the 560-page biography, which is written by Gabriel Sherman. It will be published Jan. 21 by Random House.

The book details how Ailes wanted to influence national politics, telling his executives, “I want to elect the next president.” He also battled Lachlan Murdoch, a son of News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch, and openly gloated when the son eventually stepped away from the company.

“The book aims to be an exhaustive look at Mr. Ailes’ life and his monumental career, particularly as chairman of Fox News Channel,” Bosman and Carter write. “The book describes in detail Mr. Ailes’ professional ambition, his desire to influence American politics through a conservative prism, and his status as a visionary who possessed an intuitive understanding of the power of television to shape public opinion.”

Even before its publication, the book has come under attack from people connected to Fox News, the story notes. Some employees and contributors to Fox News have “ taken to Twitter to attack Mr. Sherman,” the piece notes.

“Mr. Ailes, in what some viewed as an attempt to pre-empt Mr. Sherman’s book, cooperated with another biography, 'Roger Ailes: Off Camera' by Zev Chafets, which was published last year by Sentinel, a conservative imprint at Penguin,” the story notes.

Sherman interviewed 614 people who knew or worked with Ailes, and spent three years reporting and writing the book.

“Former employees cited in the book talked of Mr. Ailes’ volatile temper and domineering behavior. In one anecdote, a television producer, Randi Harrison, told Mr. Sherman that while negotiating her salary with Mr. Ailes at NBC in the 1980s, he offered her an additional $100 each week ‘if you agree to have sex with me whenever I want,’” The Times writes.

A Fox News spokeswoman released a statement Tuesday saying: “These charges are false. While we have not read the book, the only reality here is that Gabe was not provided any direct access to Roger Ailes and the book was never fact-checked with Fox News."

roger ailes.jpgRoger Ailes

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Why NBC Will Offer Every Event at the Winter Olympics Via Live Streaming -- All Except One, That Is

If you’re hoping to use live streaming to watch one of the most popular events of the upcoming Winter Olympics, forget it. NBCUniversal will offer almost the entire thing via Internet streaming, but Brian Steinberg reports in Variety that it's holding out on one key event: the Opening Ceremony.

The Opening Ceremony is among the most popular events at any Olympic Games, and NBC is reserving that portion of the Olympics for television alone, Steinberg writes.

The decision comes even though the network has decided to stream every competition in the Games, the report notes. The Olympics, being held in Sochi, Russia, will kick off with the Opening Ceremony Friday, Feb. 7.

“We want to put context to it, with the full pageantry it deserves,” Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBC Sports Group, told Variety of the network's decision.

“He said executives believed an unvarnished live stream of the colorful ceremonies would not make sense without description. What’s more, the company feels the opening-ceremony telecast is enjoyed by families who gather together, making it a natural for the boob-tube,” Steinberg writes.

That might help ensure higher ratings for the ceremony, the story points out. The ceremony will be hosted by Matt Lauer, Meredith Vieira and Bob Costas, as well as New Yorker editor David Remnick, who is serving as a “special correspondent of sorts” for the broadcasts, Steinberg writes.

NBC hasn’t yet decided whether to live stream the Closing Ceremony, Lazarus said. The company is “leaning” toward putting the event online, he added.

Here's the Opening Ceremony from the previous Winter Olympics -- the Vancouver Games in 2010:

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High-Profile CBS Series Heads to Amazon

Under a new deal between CBS and Amazon, a high-profile CBS drama series will be offered for streaming four days after it airs on the broadcast channel. TheWrap.com reports that the agreement involves the new Steven Spielberg-Halle Berry series “Extant.”

"The deal is almost identical to one for last summer’s 'Under the Dome': 'Extant,' starring Halle Berry and produced by Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Television, will premiere on CBS in June. Amazon Prime Instant Video will be the exclusive, with streaming available four days after episodes air on TV," the story reports.

The piece adds: “'Under the Dome' averaged 15.06 million viewers and was the most-watched scripted summer series in 21 years. It was also watched by more customers than any other TV season on Prime Instant Video in 2013."

Said Scott Koondel, chief corporate licensing officer for CBS Corp.: “Our partnership with Amazon for ‘Under the Dome’ helped build a creative, financial and marketing model for event television in the summer. We look forward to using the same model for ‘Extant,’ a series whose creative auspices, on-screen talent and intriguing concept is already generating great excitement.”

“Extant” is "a mystery thriller about a female astronaut trying to reconnect with her family after a year in outer space," the piece adds. "Her experiences lead to events that will change human history."

Thumbnail image for halle berry.pngHalle Berry

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Hulu Rolls Out Slate of New Original Series

Hulu has taken the wraps off a slate of new original programs to roll out this year. USA Today reports that the lineup includes "Hotwives of Orlando," which the story describes as "a spoof of Bravo's 'Real Housewives' franchise that stars Casey Wilson, Angela Kinsey and Kristen Schaal as catfighting vixens."

Also on tap is the supernatural comedy "Deadbeat," starring Tyler Labine and Cat Deeley, which is set for 10 episodes with the first due to premiere April 9.

"Hulu also plans new seasons of several returning series including 'The Awesomes,' a superhero cartoon from Seth Meyers and Mike Shoemaker, coming this summer; 'Behind the Mask,' a documentary about sports mascots; 'East Los High' (summer), a teen drama; 'Moone Boy' (April), a family comedy starring Chris O'Dowd; 'Quick Draw' (fall), a comedy Western; and 'Rev' (summer), a British series about an inner-city vicar," the story reports.

The programming will be offered via Hulu Plus, with some material available on the free Hulu site, the report notes.

"Hulu co-produced 'Deadbeat' with Lionsgate studio, and is merely the outlet for 'Hotwives,' which hails from Paramount Insurge, the studio behind 'Burning Love,' a similar parody of 'The Bachelor,'" the report notes. "But both fit the service's quest for projects with 'an irreverent sense of humor,' says development chief Charlotte Koh."

Koh adds: "We're not afraid to take a chance on shows that will require a certain amount of proactive discovery on the part of the audience."

Cat Deeley.pngCat Deeley

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NBC to Revisit Notorious Figure Skating Incident With Its Newest Employee: Nancy Kerrigan

NBC has hired Nancy Kerrigan as a skating analyst for the Sochi Winter Olympics, with the figure skater also breaking her 20-year silence on the Tonya Harding incident in an NBC documentary, The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports.

Kerrigan was the victim of “the whack heard around the world,” when an assailant hit her on the right knee just weeks before she was scheduled to compete in the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Games.

The attack was reportedly masterminded by the ex-husband of figure skater Tonya Harding, who claimed she knew nothing about it until after the attack. She later pleaded guilty to conspiracy to hinder prosecution and resigned from the U.S. Figure Skating Association.

Kerrigan will speak for the first time about the attack in an NBC documentary from sports correspondent Mary Carillo, the story says.

“What we tried to do was a character study," Carillo said at a press conference with Kerrigan and NBC Olympics executive producer Jim Bell. "It took years to convince Nancy. Tonya Harding has been very public for 20 years. She has used her fame and infamy to get all kinds of things; she was on a TV show, she boxed. [Kerrigan] has stayed very quiet. And I understand that. They both became something of a punchline."

The documentary doesn’t have an airdate, but it will be broadcast during the Olympics, the story reports.

Kerrigan said she was nervous about how she would be portrayed, but agreed to work with NBC because she felt comfortable with Carillo and her longtime producer, Margaret Grossi, the piece notes.

Nancy-Kerrigan.jpgNancy Kerrigan

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Despite Legal Challenges, Aereo Rounds Up Millions in New Funding

The legal issues surrounding Aereo haven’t scared off potential investors, with the television streaming service securing $34 million in new financing, TheWrap.com reports.

The funding will support Aereo’s nationwide expansion, hiring and new technology, the story says. The additional funding comes from its chief backer, Barry Diller’s IAC, as well as Gordon Crawford and Himalaya Capital Management. Previous investors Highland Capital Partners and FirstMark Capital also joined in, the story says.

The funding “comes as broadcast networks are asking the Supreme Court to hear their claim that Aereo is illegally stealing their signals. The court could announce a decision as early as Monday,” the story notes.

Aereo uses tiny antennae to relay broadcast feeds to customers’ computers. The service is currently available in cities including New York and Boston.

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FX Orders Denis Leary Project

FX has ordered a project from Denis Leary, which could bring the actor back to the network where he starred in "Rescue Me" for seven seasons. EW.com’s Inside TV reports that the cable channel ordered a pilot for “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll."

The project is about a middle-aged rock star named Johnny Rock, played by Leary, who never found the fame and riches he was looking for because of his problems with drugs and alcohol. The show picks up as he tries to get his band back together.

The description for the show says, “25 years later, the sex might be harder to find, the drugs might be Luvox and Crestor and Cialis -- but rock ‘n roll will never die. It just has a bigger prostate.”

The pilot will shoot in the spring and is from FX Productions and Fox Television Studios.

denis-leary.jpgDenis Leary

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Drama Starring Former 'Office' Actor Gets Series Order at Fox

Fox is asking one of the former stars of the NBC comedy series “The Office” to investigate mysteries, giving the drama “Backstrom,” starring Rainn Wilson, a 13-episode order, reports the Los Angeles Times’ Show Tracker.

The series is from “Bones” creator Hart Hanson and is based on a pair of Swedish novels. The TV project focuses on Detective Everett Backstrom, a grouchy investigator with Portland’s Serious Crimes Unit, who will be played by Wilson.

“He attempts to solve cases while also trying to clean up his own behavior. We'll go out on a limb here and guess that he's probably only successful at one of those things,” the story notes.

“Backstrom” was originally at CBS, but when the pilot wasn’t picked up last summer, the project moved to Fox, where “Bones” is in its ninth season. Production will start in early 2014, although it’s not clear when the series will air on the network.

Thumbnail image for rainn-wilson.jpgRainn Wilson

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'Honey Boo Boo' Family Involved in Crash

Members of the family featured on the TLC reality series “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” were involved in a traffic collision Monday night, the Los Angeles Times’ Show Tracker reports, noting that all the family members are fine.

“As many of you have heard we were in a car accident last night. It was really scary for us, since it was the first time any of us had ever been in a wreck,” the family’s matriarch, Mama June Shannon, said in a statement Tuesday. “We are definitely really sore today, but our top priority is to celebrate Pumpkin’s birthday. She turned 14 today and no matter how sore we feel we are going to go out and celebrate. As always we want to thank everyone for their support and well wishes."

The people in the car included Shannon, Alana “Honey Boo Boo” Thompson, Lauryn “Pumpkin” Shannon, Jessica “Chubbs” Shannon and June Shannon’s husband, Mike “Sugar Bear” Thompson, the story says. Mike Thompson was driving when they were hit by another car.

The family was taken to a nearby hospital, but no one had serious injuries, the story adds. The film crew for the show wasn’t with the family at the time.

The third season of the show will premiere Jan. 16.

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Sony Officially Announces Test of an Over-the-Top Streaming TV Service. Company, at CES, Also Announces Gaming Service

"Sony Corp. will begin testing an Internet-based television service in the U.S. this year, challenging traditional cable and satellite providers including Comcast Corp. and DirecTV," writes Cliff Edwards on the website of BloombergBusinessweek.

The story continues, "The product will combine live programs with an on-demand library of films and TV shows, Andrew House, chief executive officer of Sony Computer Entertainment, said today [Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014] at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas."

The story adds that Sony didn’t offer details of any content agreements for the TV service. However, in August TVWeek reported that Sony was close to a deal with Viacom to license some of its programming for this new over-the-top service.

Furthermore, BloombergBusinessweek reported that "The Tokyo-based company will also test a video-game streaming service for PlayStation consoles, smartphones and TVs.

"The cloud-based efforts highlight Chief Executive Officer Kazuo Hirai’s bid to remake Sony for a new generation of consumers who want easy access to content anytime, anywhere. Sony’s products must embody the Japanese spirit of 'kando' -- to inspire or capture users emotionally, Hirai said today from the stage at CES. 'We don’t consider any product a success unless we have delivered that "Wow,"' Hirai said. 'The mission of Sony is to inspire and fulfill people’s curiosity around the world.'"

The story also says, "Sony sees Web-delivered content from its TV, movie and music units as crucial to turning around the struggling television manufacturing unit, which hasn’t made a profit in nine years and ranks fourth globally in revenue, according to Statista, a research service.

"Obtaining rights to films and TV shows may be difficult and expensive, said Craig Moffett, senior research analyst at MoffettNathanson LLC in New York. 'The digital rights issues are incredibly complicated,' Moffett said in an e-mail. 'Sony might therefore be required to get the rights not only for the networks, but also for the individual shows. And in many cases, those rights simply aren’t available. They have already been sold to companies like Netflix.'"

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Telenovela Star, Former Miss Venezuela, Killed in Robbery Attempt

A telenovela actress and her ex-husband were shot and killed in front of their 5-year-old daughter Monday night while reportedly resisting a robbery attempt in Venezuela, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Monica Spear, 29, a former Miss Venezuela, and Henry Thomas Berry, 39, were killed on a roadside after their car broke down. near Puerto Cabello, the story reports, citing a statement from the prosecutor's office.

"It said their daughter was in stable condition after getting medical attention for unspecified injuries. Local media reports said the couple had a good relationship despite being divorced and were awaiting a tow truck when attacked," THR reports.

The report adds: "Spear was crowned Miss Venezuela in 2004 and had acted in numerous soap operas for Telemundo, most recently 'Pasion Prohibida.' She split her time between Venezuela and the United States and was on vacation when slain."

The report notes that Venezuela "has one of the world's highest murder rates and violent crime is so rampant that Venezuelans tend to stay home after dark. Spear's death triggered a wave of anger on social media directed at the populist government's poor record on crime."

monica spear.jpgMonica Spear

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CES 2014: 'Breaking Bad' Creator Vince Gilligan on How Tech Is Fueling TV Storytelling

Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai brought out "Breaking Bad" creator Vince Gilligan during Hirai's keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas for a chat about how technology is helping to fuel richer storytelling, The Hollywood Reporter's Behind the Screen reports.

Sony execs also talked about a launch later in 2014 for a new cloud-based TV service offering live and VOD programming, the piece notes, but he stopped short of offering much detail on the project.

"Gilligan talked up high-resolution large TVs and how they have changed the way storytellers like him compose shots," THR reports.

Said Gilligan: “When I grew up, TV series were framed and cut to a smaller screen size, which led to a lot of talking heads. With giant, wide TVs, you get to frame and emulate John Ford or Sergio Leone and, in the case of 'Breaking Bad,' you can place characters in an endless expanse of Mexico prairie, which gets to look very painterly and cinematic. That's a wonderful development.”

THR notes: "The Emmy winner namechecked Sony's head-mounted display, still in development, as 'a thing to watch' since 'it will allow folks to be enveloped by storytelling.'”

Gilligan also commented on the impact of SVOD services on the delivery of content.

“When I started out on shows like 'The X Files,' the conventional wisdom was that serialized storytelling was to be avoided, that one episode completes the story. SVOD allows a hyper-serialized form of storytelling and gives people the freedom to access content when they feel like it," Gilligan said.

"He also praised the quality of images captured on digital mini-cameras for certain scenes in 'Breaking Bad,' which he said were indistinguishable when cut into motion picture film," THR adds.

Sony Computer Entertainment President and CEO Andrew House announced the company's upcoming cloud-based TV service for the U.S., which will reportedly combine live TV with VOD.

"House said the service will be distinguished by a personalized interface which will serve up recommendations," THR reports. "It will feature a 'watch and resume' function spanning multiple devices from a PS4 to a tablet."

Said House: “Our goal is to transform the user experience so that finding live and VOD is immediate. We will make TV a more personalized and dynamic experience.”

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for vince-gilligan.jpgVince Gilligan

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ABC Gets Good News in Monday's Ratings

The good news for ABC in Monday's prime-time ratings was that a franchise show returned with its season premiere and rolled to a dominant win for the night. The bad news: The win came against severely depleted competition on the other broadcast networks.

Much of what aired on broadcast prime was repeat programming, as the networks took a breather to avoid competing with the BCS National Championship Game between Florida State and Auburn, which aired on ESPN.

ABC's "The Bachelor" steamrolled its broadcast competition, based on Nielsen overnights for the key 18-49 demo. TVbytheNumbers.com reports that the two-hour season premiere delivered a 2.7 average rating. up 17% from last season's premiere. Leading out from it, "Castle" had a season-low 1.8, off 14% from its most recent original episode.

Fox's only fresh show was "Almost Human," which ticked up 6% from its previous original to a 1.7 in 18-49, good enough to help Fox to a third-place overall finish in prime time behind ABC and Univision.

CBS opened prime time with an hour of repeats before rolling out the two-hour series finale of "Hostages," which equaled the show's season low with a 1.0 in the 18-49 demo, off 17% from the show's previous original.

NBC's all-repeat lineup produced a fifth-place overall finish, with the best number being a 1.1 for "The Blacklist."

The overall numbers for broadcast prime show ABC comfortably ahead in the 18-49 demo with a 2.4 average, followed by Univision (1.4 average), Fox (1.3), CBS (1.2) and NBC (1.0). In total viewers it's again ABC on top with 8.6 million, ahead of CBS (5.2 million), Fox (4.5 million), NBC (4.2 million) and Univision (3.5 million).

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Charlie Sheen Unloads on His 'Two and a Half Men' Replacement Ashton Kutcher

Three years after Charlie Sheen's rancorous departure from CBS's "Two and a Half Men," the Hollywood bad boy appears to still be thinking about his old show.

TheWrap.com reports that Sheen has suddenly unleashed a Twitter tirade against Ashton Kutcher, who replaced Sheen in the lead role on the sitcom. Among other things, Sheen reportedly called Kutcher not only "lame," but also "really lame."

"Sheen’s social-media blitzkrieg against Kutcher began on Sunday, when he posted a photo of his former 'Men' co-star Jon Cryer with Kutcher," the story reports. Sheen reportedly wrote: “hey Jon!!! u r a GENIUS!!! I effin love and MISS YOU old pal! Q; who’s your lame side-kik?”

"Sheen added the hashtags #NiceTryCanonBoy and #CH, seeming references to Kutcher’s endorsement deal with Nikon cameras, and to Sheen’s old 'Two and a Half Men' character, Charlie Harper," the piece adds. "By Monday, Sheen must have experienced some backlash -- because he published an update to his supposed detractors, along with an even bigger insult hurled at Kutcher."

In that post, Sheen reportedly wrote: “Hey relax everyone! read the hash tag! oh and Jon I’m so sorry I insulted your sidekik I meant REALLY lame." He included the hashtag “#HyLmN," which the report was unable to decipher.

"Sheen also asked Kutcher to stop 'barfing' on 'Two and a Half Men,' while making a reference to Kuthcer’s former reality prank show 'Punk’d,'" TheWrap adds.

That post from Sheen reads: “Hey Ashton sorry bro all good. now quit barfing on my old brilliant show. Remember Punk’d? how duz it feel?”

"Sheen, who was ousted from 'Two and a Half Men' in 2011 and currently stars in the FX adaptation of the film 'Anger Management,' hasn’t been shy about criticizing the show since his departure. He’s characterized the series as 'dead' and said that Kutcher sucks on the show," the report notes. "However, he recently indicated his interest in playing nice with his former 'Men' boss and arch nemesis Chuck Lorre, reaching out across (what else?) Twitter to tell Lorre, 'I have an idea that u need to hear after I make amends to you and yours, which I will do in person.'”

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for charlie sheen.pngCharlie Sheen

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TV Veteran Named Maxim's Woman of the Year for 2014

Maxim magazine didn't waste any time naming its Woman of the Year for 2014, selecting a veteran television actress for the honor. The male-targeted publication revealed on the cover of its January/February issue that Eva Longoria is its choice.

"She was the sexiest suburbanite in history on 'Desperate Housewives,' and now she's a big shot producer, a savvy businesswoman, and our 2014 Woman of the Year," the magazine noted. "Is there anything Eva Longoria can't do? (Hint: The answer is no.)"

Longoria is a two-time Screen Actors Guild Award winner as part of the "Desperate Housewives" ensemble, and was nominated individually for a Golden Globe for her work on the ABC series. She has increasingly become involved in television production, notably as an executive producer on "Devious Maids."

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Veteran Character Actress Dies

A character actress who had a long career in television and movies, including a regular role on the NBC soap opera "Santa Barbara" in the 1980s, has died. Deadline.com reports that Carmen Zapata died Sunday at 86.

In a career going back to the late 1960s, Zapata appeared in films including "Portnoy's Complaint" and “Sister Act” and was on dozens of TV shows. She played the mayor for nine seasons on the bilingual PBS show “Villa Alegre.”

She appeared as Mrs. Castillo on "Santa Barbara" from 1985-1989, and had a lead role on the short-lived ABC summer replacement series "Viva Valdez," a comedy about a Mexican-American family in East Los Angeles, in 1976.

Her other TV credits included “Bonanza,” “Love, American Style” and "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman,” among many others. She received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2003.

Along with her work on the screen, Zapata was known for her humanitarian efforts, including co-founding the Bilingual Foundation of the Arts and the Screen Actors Guild Ethnic Minority Committee.

carmen-zapata.jpgCarmen Zapata

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With Record Ratings for 'Downton Abbey's' Return, the End of This Popular Show Is in Sight

The British period drama “Downton Abbey” shattered ratings records on its season-four return Sunday to PBS. The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports that the premiere averaged 10.2 million viewers, making it the highest-rated drama in PBS history.

At the same time, it seems that the end is in sight for the popular series. The show's creator and sole writer, Julian Fellowes, last week had this exchange with a reporter for the Wall Street Journal:

WSJ: But there will be a season 5 for "Downton"?

Julian Fellowes: Yes. I don't know yet if there is a season 6, but it's not going to go on forever. It won't be "Perry Mason."

The original "Perry Mason" ran for nine seasons on CBS, starting in 1957.

As for what Fellowes will do once "Downton" ends, as previously reported, he has a deal to create a new drama series for NBC titled "The Guilded Age."  Fellowes told The Journal about that upcoming project: "It will happen when 'Downton' finishes because I just couldn't do both at once. I haven't written it yet, but it's about the old aristocracy, the Winthrops and the Stuyvesants and the new money of oil and gas and shipping in the 1870s. It will all be fiction -- it won't be real people -- but when those families descended on New York, they took over. Although I am sure any Winthrop probably feels superior to a Vanderbilt or an Astor, nevertheless there is a certain element of realpolitik to this and the fact is that they delivered a certain type of American Renaissance, and became princes with their palaces on Fifth Avenue. That more puritan Edith Wharton modest aristocracy of the 18th Century in America was displaced by these princes and robber barons."

Regarding the ratings of the season four "Downton" debut this past Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014, the number for the two-hour program was up 22% from last year's premiere. The third season of “Downton Abbey” debuted in January 2013 with 7.9 million viewers, and the show went on to deliver 8.2 million viewers for the season finale -- a PBS record at the time.

“As ‘Downton Abbey's' international audience has grown at a rapid pace over the last few years, the question of PBS airing it on a delay has often been called into question,” the THR piece notes. “The broadcaster has explored the option of debuting seasons of the show closer to their airtime on ITV, much as it does with ‘Sherlock,’ but PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger recently noted that the current schedule works.”

Kerger addressed the subject during the Television Critics Association press tour last summer, saying: "We have looked at this whole issue of spoilers and thought about how to best steward the broadcast. We look carefully at the [competition] in the fall schedule with that in mind. We look at how we get promotion and buzz about it -- and that word of mouth has actually benefited us. We don't want to mess with that if it's working so well."

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In Heated Interview From North Korea, an Angry Dennis Rodman Explodes at CNN's Chris Cuomo. See the Video

Dennis Rodman, in North Korea with other former NBA players to play a basketball game against a North Korean team, exploded in anger today in an interview with CNN's Chris Cuomo.

"Check out the footage below of Rodman laying into CNN personality Chris Cuomo over a question about Kenneth Bae, the U.S. citizen who has been detained in North Korea for more than a year," reports Philly.com, the website of The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News.

The article adds, "The former NBA star is in North Korea (again) with a slew of other former basketball stars for an apparent birthday gift for Kim Jong-un. Vin Baker, Cliff Robinson, Kenny Anderson, Rodman and others will play a game against North Koreans on Wednesday."

In another part of the interview, according to the Washington Times, "Cuomo pressed ... Mr. Rodman on how [he] could celebrate Kim Jong-un after he executed his uncle and detained an American citizen. 'It is amazing on how we strive on negativity,' Mr. Rodman said. 'Does anyone know this guy is only 31 years old?'

"Mr. Cuomo countered, 'He could be 31, or he could be 51. He just killed his uncle, and he is holding an American hostage. The family is desperate for his return.'

"Mr. Rodman said that the trip is not about him. 'If I could open the door a little bit, just a little bit,” Mr. Rodman said. “No one ever asked anyone in the world why we have Olympics and we have struggles around the world, with all the countries around the world, but when the Olympics are around, there are no problems. It is all about the game. People love to do one thing -- sports.'”

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'Saturday Night Live' Adds Black Female Cast Member

After pressure to bring more diversity to its cast, “Saturday Night Live” has added a black female cast member, reports the Los Angeles Times’ Show Tracker.

“SNL” auditioned actresses across the country before hiring Sasheer Zamata of the Upright Citizens Brigade comedy troupe. Zamata will appear beginning with the Jan. 18 episode, the first new installment of the year, the story reports.

She will be the show’s first black female cast member since Maya Rudolph left the NBC late-night show in 2007.

The show came under fire last fall after cast member Kenan Thompson said he had started to refuse to dress in drag to play female black characters. The show poked fun at itself over its diversity problems when Kerry Washington of “Scandal” hosted in November.

Meanwhile, executive producer Lorne Michaels had said finding a black female cast member was a priority for the program.

sasheer zamata.jpgSasheer Zamata

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Glenn Beck Defends Embattled MSNBC Host

Conservative Glenn Beck, the founder of The Blaze TV and a former Fox News host, came to the defense of MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry, who has been under fire for joking about Mitt Romney’s black grandchild, reports TheWrap.com.

Beck said he didn’t understand why Harris-Perry apologized for the incident, because he didn’t believe she “said anything bad.”

As previously reported, former presidential candidate Romney accepted Harris-Perry’s apology for making fun of a photo of his family, which included his adopted black grandson. She and some of her panelists joked about how the child stood out amidst the white family, speculating that he might grow up to marry Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s child.

“When I got home and I saw the apology for what she said about Romney, I thought I was going to lose my mind," Beck said Monday on his radio program. "She apologizes for what? It was a break with comedians. Yes, it wasn’t nice. Yes, it was hurtful and divisive if that was the intent, but it clearly was not.”

Beck said that while he “vehemently” disagrees with Harris-Perry on almost everything, he had written her a letter with his thoughts on the segment. He added, ”I don’t think she’s a bad person, and I don’t think she said anything bad, either.”

glenn beck.pngGlenn Beck

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Rookie Talk Show Picked Up for Second Season

A syndicated daytime talk show that made an impact in its rookie season has been picked up for season two. The New York Post reports that “The Queen Latifah Show” received a second-season renewal on CBS stations, with the talk-variety show now slated to remain on daytime TV through 2015.

The show will return with a broadcast clearance in 97% of the country, the story notes. The show is the top new talk show this season in total viewers, outpacing rivals including “The Arsenio Hall Show” and “Bethenny.”

Meanwhile, the talk show landscape continues to shift. Among the changes, Katie Couric’s syndicated program won’t be returning, and Meredith Vieira will be hosting a new daily talk show.

It’s not yet known whether “Arsenio” or “Bethenny” will return for a second season, the story notes.

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Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David Are Working on a New Project. Given That the Pair Created the Mega-Hit 'Seinfeld' Together, Like You, We Are Eager With Anticipation

Jerry Seinfeld revealed that he’s working on a new project with his “Seinfeld” co-creator Larry David. The Los Angeles Times’ Show Tracker reports that Seinfeld mentioned his plans in a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” Q&A with fans.

Seinfeld didn’t disclose many details, but described the project as “big, huge, gigantic."

The Times reports: "In response to a question about the most mundane thing David and Seinfeld ever obsessed over, he wrote, 'We never obsess over anything that isn't mundane. Most recent was intentional mumbling. We wrote this script for this thing that you will eventually see but I can't reveal what it is at this time. All I can do is tell you is that it's big, huge, gigantic. Even bigger than that Amazon package.'"

The report notes that the last time the pair collaborated on a script was on the hourlong 1996 episode of “Seinfeld” called “The Cadillac.” Their sitcom aired on NBC for nine seasons.

jerry seinfeld.pngJerry Seinfeld

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Sony Re-Ups With Producer and Writer Behind 'The Shield,' 'Last Resort' and Other Shows

Sony Pictures TV has signed a new three-year overall deal with a veteran TV producer and writer who has been behind shows including "The Shield," "The Chicago Code," "Terriers" and "Last Resort."

Deadline.com reports that the new pact with Shawn Ryan is slated to begin in June when the current deal expires. Ryan's credits also include "The Unit" and "Lie to Me."

Ryan moved to Sony in 2011 after spending more than 10 years at 20th Century Fox TV. He co-created and executive produced ABC’s “Last Resort” and wrote and executive produced the studio’s “Beverly Hills Cop” pilot for CBS last season, the story notes.

Currently he has two projects set up at different networks: an untitled pilot at Fox, which is set in 1950s Hawaii, and an ABC drama with “Last Resort” co-creator Karl Gajdusek, the piece reports.

“Ryan also has projects in the works on cable, including a mining town drama at HBO and FX limited series ‘Mad Dogs,’ based on the British black comedy/psychological thriller miniseries,” the story adds.

shawn ryan.pngShawn Ryan

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Legendary Chinese Film and TV Mogul Run Run Shaw, Producer of 'Blade Runner,' Martial Arts Films, Dies at 106

"Sir Run Run Shaw, one of the pioneers of the 20th century Chinese film industry, has died age 106," reports Variety.

The story continues: "Shaw, who co-founded the Shaw Brothers film studio with his brother Runme, had been involved in the film industry in Shanghai and Singapore since age 19. The Shaw Brothers company was in its heyday in the 1960s and 1970s and was influential in both the Asian and Western film industries. He personally has credits on some 360 films, ranging from martial arts classics to Ridley Scott’s 'Blade Runner.' "

The New York Times obituary about Shaw says that he is generally "seen as [the] creator of [the] Kung Fu genre."

Regarding Shaw's experiences in the TV industry, The NY Times writes: "His investments in the new phenomenon of Asian television were to prove even more lucrative than his movie productions. In 1972 he began Television Broadcasts (TVB), and he soon gained control of 80 percent of the Hong Kong market. TVB churned out 12 hours of its own programming a day, much of it soap operas and costume dramas that riveted Chinese television viewers on the mainland and throughout Southeast Asia."

The Times obituary adds: "In later years, the aging mogul ... seemed in need of help to keep his media empire intact. Concerned with the rise of cable and satellite television, he sold a 22 percent stake in TVB to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation in 1993.

"Mr. Shaw had intended to maintain control over his media business by balancing his one-third share in TVB against Mr. Murdoch’s 22 percent and the 24 percent held by Robert Kuok, one of Hong Kong’s richest entrepreneurs. But the balance of power shifted when Mr. Murdoch sold his equity to Mr. Kuok shortly afterward. Then, in 1996, in Hong Kong’s first case of a hostile takeover, Mr. Kuok forced Mr. Shaw to sell him his shares in TVE, the lucrative publishing, music and real estate subsidiary of TVB. The deal reduced Mr. Shaw’s TVB stake to 23 percent."

The Times story also notes that Mr. Shaw, who became friendly with Macy's CEO in the early 1990s, "was once viewed as a white knight in New York. In 1991, when Macy’s was on the verge of bankruptcy, he bought 10 percent of its preferred shares for $50 million, becoming one of the largest shareholders in R. H. Macy & Company."

run run shaw.pngRun Run Shaw

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Projects From Tori Spelling and Ashley Tisdale Get Series Orders

Two high-profile TV comedy projects have received series orders. The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed reports that ABC Family gave series orders to a project from “Beverly Hills, 90210” actresses Tori Spelling and Jennie Garth and one from “High School Musical” actress Ashley Tisdale.

“Mystery Girls” stars Spelling and Garth as two former detective TV show starlets coming back together to solve a real-life mystery. The project is executive produced by Spelling, Garth and Maggie Malina.

“Young & Hungry” is about a wealthy young tech entrepreneur who hires a food blogger to be his personal chef. It will star Emily Osment, Jonathan Sadowski, Rex Lee, Aimee Carrero and Kym Whitley, with Annie Potts in a recurring role. The project is executive produced by Tisdale, along with Eric Tannenbaum, Kim Tannenbaum and Jessica Rhoades.

Production on both series will start early this year with the projects set to debut later this year.

Thumbnail image for Tori-Spelling.jpgTori Spelling

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Action Hero Contemplates Bid for Arizona Governor

An actor who has starred in a string of big action movies is reportedly contemplating a bid to become the governor of Arizona. People magazine reports that Steven Seagal, known for movies including "Under Siege," "Above the Law" and "On Deadly Ground," has said he would "remotely" consider the move.

Seagal, a 61-year-old martial arts expert, is quoted commenting to Phoenix news station ABC15 about the idea: "It was kind of a joke, but I suppose I would remotely consider it."

"Seagal made the remarks while promoting his Reelz Channel reality series, 'Steven Seagal -- Lawman: Maricopa County,'" the report notes. "On the series, Seagal teams up with controversial Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whose policies and views regarding racial profiling have made him a flashpoint in immigration law."

Asked about the top problem facing the state of Arizona, Seagal said: "I think it's open borders. I think that across these borders any kind of terrorism can come, and does come."

The story adds: "He also defended his co-star, the self-proclaimed 'America's Toughest Sheriff,' telling ABC15, 'Is Joe Arpaio a racist? No, he's not. And I'm not going to say I don't think he's not, he's not.'"

Another celebrity who's looking into politics is "American Idol" alum Clay Aiken, who recently said he's "actively considering" running for Congress in North Carolina, the report notes.

steven seagal.jpgSteven Seagal

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Veteran TV Producer Dies at 68

A former Showtime executive who started at as a page at NBC on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson,” veteran TV producer Dennis Johnson died Dec. 23 while vacationing in the French West Indies, reports Deadline.com. He was 68.

Johnson suffered a heart attack while on vacation in Gustavia, Saint Barthelemy, French West Indies. He died at a hospital in Gustavia, his longtime partner, Russ Patrick, said.

After working as a page, Johnson became director of comedy and variety programs at NBC, then vice president of programming at ABC. He next moved to Osmond Television, working for the Osmond family.

“Eventually, he became SVP of Programming at Showtime, where he established the Black Filmmakers Program. He was president of the National Association of Minorities in Cable (NAMIC) and served on the Board of the Special Olympics,” the story reports.

He later served as a producer in features, including the 2008 release “Hope & Redemption: The Lena Baker Story.”

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How Embarrassing! What Happens at the Consumer Electronics Show When the Electronics Don't Work. A Major Hollywood Director Storms Off Stage. Watch the Video

It was disaster city for big-time Hollywood director Michael Bay and Samsung at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas today, Monday, Jan. 6, 2014.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Bay claims he was done in by his own over-eagerness and then when some electronics -- in this case a TelePrompter --  went on the blink.

The Times said that Bay, 48, stormed off the stage while he was part of a TV set presentation by Samsung Executive Vice President Joe Stinziano. Here's the video showing what happened:

Later, according to the Times, Bay posted this on his blog: "Wow! I just embarrassed myself at CES."

Bay added, according to the story, "I rarely lend my name to any products, but this one is just stellar. I got too excited to talk, that I skipped over the Exec VP's intro line and then the teleprompter got lost. Then the prompter went up and down -- then I walked off. I guess live shows aren't my thing."

The product being presented to the press and others was Samsung's 105-inch curved ultra-high-definition TV set. 

Bay is the director of a number of Hollywood blockbusters, including "Transformers," "Armageddon" and "Pearl Harbor."

The story also says that Samsung suffered another embarrassment caused by a technology miscue at CES: "Bay's meltdown, which became the most talked-about moment yet at the consumer electronics show, was just the latest social media headache for Samsung.

"On Sunday night [Jan. 5, 2014], a Times reporter tweeted a photo from a Samsung reception that showed the company's rain machine misspelling the word 'experience' (the falling water instead spelled 'experiece').

"The image was retweeted nearly 400 times by Monday afternoon, with people making cracks about the missing N. 'LEAVE SAMSUG ALOE,' one person tweeted."

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NBC Gets Back in Business With 'Office' Alum

NBC has placed a series order for a comedy from an alum of the network's "The Office." The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed reports that the network ordered six episodes of "Mr. Robinson" from Craig Robinson.

"'Mr. Robinson' centers on a journeyman musician (Robinson) who gets a job as a music teacher at a middle school. While teaching the kids everything from rock to the blues, he simultaneously learns how to put the school's rules to the test," the story reports.

The piece adds: "Brothers Mark Cullen and Robb Cullen have boarded the project, from Universal Television and 3 Arts, and will executive produce alongside Howard Klein and Mark Schulman. The original pilot hailed from 'The Office's' Owen Ellickson, who penned the original script and exec produced alongside Greg Daniels and Tracy Katsky. Daniels is no longer involved and Robinson will not be credited as a producer, as he was on the original pilot."

The Cullen brothers will be showrunners on the project, the piece notes. They recently had a short run on ABC with the semi-autobiographical baseball comedy "Back in the Game," which was canceled in November.

"Additional deals for original co-stars Larenz Tate, Jean Smart, Amanda Lund, Amandla Stenberg and Steve Little are expected to come shortly," the report adds. "A premiere date for the series has not yet been determined and it's unclear if the comedy is in contention for this season or the 2014-15 frame."

The article notes: "'Mr. Robinson' becomes the second new series at NBC starring a former 'Office' alum. The network handed out a straight-to-series order for an untitled half-hour from EP Tina Fey and starring Ellie Kemper. That series will bow in the fall. Should 'Mr. Robinson' be slated for 2014-15, it would join 'Working the Engels,' NBC's third series slated for next season."

"Mr. Robinson" and the Krysten Ritter vehicle "Assistance" were the remaining pilots in contention from last year's large group of pilots at NBC, the piece notes, adding that "Assistance" is no longer in contention.

Thumbnail image for craig robinson.pngCraig Robinson

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Cable TV Provides Most of Hollywood's Profits

A new analysis of financials at the giant media corporations reveals that the cable television segment accounts for more than 60% of Hollywood profits, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

THR crunched the numbers for the first three quarters of 2013 and found that Disney, Time Warner, Viacom, Fox, NBCUniversal and CBS Corp. all saw gains in cable stemming from ad growth and carriage fee negotiations.

Leading the way is Viacom, with 89% of its total operating profit coming from cable. Viacom's cable properties include MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, BET, VH1, Spike TV and CMT. The company's 2013 operating profit from its cable TV operations, according to the analysis, was $3.1 billion, representing an increase of 11.2% from the previous year.

Time Warner was close behind in its percentage of profit from cable, with 86%. Key cable holdings for the company include HBO, CNN, HLN, TNT, TBS, truTV, Cartoon Network and TCM. The company had $3.9 billion in operating profit from cable in the period, up 10.4% from 2012.

Here's how the other companies break down:

NBCUniversal: 76% of total operating profit from cable. (Key holdings include USA, Syfy, Bravo, E!, CNBC, MSNBC, Golf Channel.) 2013 operating profit from cable: $2.6 billion (up 6.6% from 2012).

21st Century Fox: 68.5% of total operating profit from cable. (Key holdings include Fox News Channel, Fox Business, FX, Fox Sports 1.) 2013 operating profit from cable: $3.1 billion (up 12.5% from 2012).

Walt Disney: 61% of total operating profit from cable. (Key holdings include ESPN, Disney Channel, ABC Family.) 2013 operating profit from cable: $5.1 billion (up 7.6% from 2012).

CBS Corp., with a much smaller cable portfolio, is cited as the exception to the rule of media giants receiving much of their profit from cable, but the company did see significant growth in its cable division. CBS Corp. received 25% of total operating profit from cable, with key holdings including Showtime, Smithsonian Networks and CBS Sports Network. The company had $699 million in 2013 operating profit from cable (up 11.7% from 2012).

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Sunday Ratings Blowout: One Broadcast Network Tops All the Others -- Combined

Sunday's prime-time broadcast ratings were a lopsided affair, with one network topping the combined total for all the other broadcast nets, based on Nielsen overnights for the key 18-49 demo.

TVbytheNumbers.com reports that Fox, which got a jump-start from the NFL playoffs, was the runaway ratings champ, averaging a 6.6 rating in the demo for prime time. The competition -- NBC, ABC, CBS and Univision -- averaged a combined 5.0.

The end of the NFC wild card game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers helped get prime time off to a good start for Fox, which averaged a 13.3 rating in 18-49 for the 7 p.m. half-hour, when the game was still on, and a 12.1 from 7:30-8 p.m., with programming consisting of the tail end of the game and the wrap-up show, "The OT." It helped that the outcome of the game came down to the final play, with the 49ers winning it on a last-second field goal.

Leading out from football, Fox's "The Simpsons" got a big bump, averaging a 5.2 in the 18-49 demo, up 49% from the previous original, which aired Dec. 15. The report notes that Fox's lineup of animated shows all began 7 minutes late, and substantial adjustments can be expected.

Fox's "Bob's Burgers" turned in a 3.2 average in viewers 18-49, up 33% from the Dec. 15 installment; "Family Guy" held steady with a 3.0; and "American Dad" delivered a 2.5, up 4%.

Second-place NBC had a 1.3 in 18-49 for its two-hour "Dateline" and a 2.0 for the two-hour "Best of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" prime-time special.

Third-place ABC actually had some good ratings news: a season high for "America's Funniest Home Videos," with a 1.6 in adults 18-49; and a 13-week high for "Revenge," with a 1.8. The one-hour special "The Bachelor: Countdown to Juan Pablo" also scored a 1.8, while "Betrayal" settled for a 0.8.

The CBS lineup was down, including a season-low 1.2 average for "60 minutes" in viewers 18-49, down 43% from the previous original; a 1.4 for "The Good Wife," off 13%; and a 1.5 for "The Mentalist," down 17%. A repeat of "Elementary" delivered a 1.0.

For prime time overall, Fox's 6.6 average in the 18-49 demo was the class of the field, followed by NBC (1.6 average), ABC (1.5), CBS (1.3) and Univision (0.6). Fox held a big advantage in total viewers as well, averaging 17.8 million to lead CBS (8.3 million), NBC (5.8 million), ABC (5.8 million) and Univision (1.9 million).

colin kaepernick.jpgSan Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick

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Madonna Under Fire Over Internet Photo of Her Son

Madonna is starting off the new year with a new controversy, drawing fire over a photo she posted of her 13-year-old son, Rocco, proudly displaying a liquor bottle, USA Today reports.

Posted on Instagram over the weekend, the photo of Rocco and two young friends holding booze bottles was accompanied by a caption saying: "The party has just begun! Bring it! 2014."

"Does this mean the Material Girl encourages underage drinking? Lots of Instagram commenters seemed to think that's exactly the message the photo is sending, and they were not too happy about it, while others came to her defense," the story reports.

For her part, Madonna says it's all just a joke. The pop star wrote in a later Instagram caption: "No one was drinking we were just having fun! Calm down and get a sense of humor! Don't start the year off with judgement!"

The photo was one in a series of pics Madonna has posted during a holiday ski trip in Switzerland, the report notes.

rocco and friends-madonna's son-13.pngRocco, center, and friends ringing in the New Year

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CES 2014: DreamWorks Animation and Technicolor Join Forces in 4K Streaming Service

DreamWorks Animation and Technicolor took the wraps off their new 4K streaming service at Monday's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the service, M-GO, is set to launch in the spring on Samsung Ultra HD TVs.

"In the drive to bring 4K to the home, there’s a chicken-and-the-egg situation between the need for Ultra HD set penetration and 4K content," the report notes. "M-GO, a pay-as-you-go digital movie and TV streaming service that is a joint venture between Technicolor and DreamWorks Animation, is addressing the latter by announcing a 4K streaming service Monday at CES."

The service will initially offer about 100 movies and TV programs, from all of the major Hollywood studios and television networks.

"Some will be provided in native 4K, the rest will be upscaled to 4K using a Technicolor process," the report notes. "DWA movies will be among the available content."

The Consumer Electronics Association estimates that 500,000 Ultra HD TVs will ship in the U.S. in 2014, the piece notes.

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Actor on Popular Soap Opera Fired for Allegedly Groping Actress -- and What the Show's Fans Plan to Do About It

One of the stars of a long-running soap opera was fired for allegedly groping one of his co-stars. TMZ.com reports that “The Young and the Restless” star Michael Muhney was canned following an alleged incident involving 20-year-old actress Hunter King, who plays Summer on the show.

Muhney, who played Adam Newman on the CBS soap opera, allegedly grabbed King’s breasts on two occasions and also reportedly bullied and harassed her, the story says. Muhney, 38, has reportedly created problems on the set before, the story says.

The show has been on the air since 1973. Muhney started on the show in 2009.

His last show will air Jan. 30. Calls and emails to his representative weren’t returned, TMZ notes.

Meanwhile, some fans aren’t happy about his firing, and have collected $785 to hire a plane to fly a banner over CBS Studios that will read, “No Adam Newbie, Just Michael Muhney,” a separate TMZ story says.

michael muhney.jpgMichael Muhney

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News From the Consumer Electronics Show: Roku Unveils a Smart TV

Roku, which has had a device that has been streaming movies from Netflix since 2008, announced the Roku smart TV at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

"Roku plans to license its software to television manufacturers, which will build and distribute the Roku TV," says a story on the Los Angeles Times' Company Town blog. "Two Chinese electronics manufacturers, TCL and Hisense, are the first to partner with Roku on the smart TV."

The story continues, "Roku is entering a competitive market, with established television manufacturers including Samsung, LG and Sony; and entrants from Silicon Valley, such as Google Inc.'s re-branded Android TV (formerly known as Google TV). Apple has long been rumored to be working on a TV.

" 'If you think about streaming, the two categories of products growing are set-top boxes like ours ... [and] smart TVs,' said Jim Funk, Roku senior vice president of product management. 'We want as big a platform as possible for Roku.' "

While TV sets that feature 3D have not caught fire with consumers, smart TVs could be the next TV product to find favor with viewers.

The New York Times reports today: "Out of all the TV makers’ tricks, smart TVs appear to be gaining some traction. In the year that ended in November, 22 percent of televisions sold in the United States were Internet-connected TVs, compared with 11 percent in the previous year, according to [the NPD Group, a research firm].

"And an NPD survey found that 38 percent of people who bought smart TVs found the Internet connectivity and apps to be important; two years ago, 33 percent of respondents said the feature was important."

The New York Times story adds: “ 'The TV industry is in a doldrum because many people have more sources for their content, and many people have upgraded and they’re not ready to upgrade again,' said Raymond M. Soneira, president of DisplayMate Technologies, a consulting firm that studies displays."roku TV.jpg

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NBC Launches 'All-Out Counteroffensive' to Reclaim 'Today' Show's Morning Advantage

NBC is starting an “all-out counteroffensive” to take back the ratings crown among morning news programs, airing a promotional campaign for “Today” that will be seen on every media outlet owned by NBC’s parent company, Comcast, reports Bill Carter in The New York Times.

The ads will feature a new tagline, “Rise to Shine.”

Carter writes, “Those words can cover a multitude of meanings for a show that starts at sunup, but the subtext is unmistakable: NBC wants -- and surely needs -- its flagship news program to rise again.”

The ad campaign comes after a reversal of fortune for the show, which had topped ABC’s “Good Morning America” in the ratings every week for a record 16 years until it shed viewers around the time of its ouster of Ann Curry as co-host, the piece notes.

“GMA,” meanwhile, has gained in the ratings since September 2012.

“The ‘Today’ show is the crown jewel,” Deborah Turness, the new president of NBC News, told The Times. “In my universe it is absolutely No. 1. My priority from the day I walked in the door in August was to rebuild the show and get it back to the top.”

deborah turness.pngDeborah Turness

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Report: Spielberg Has His Sights Set on Making Film From a Script That's 50 Years Old!

Steven Speilberg "has his sights" on making a movie from a script that's nearly 50 years old," reports Mike Fleming Jr. in an exclusive story for Deadline.com.

The script, by onetime blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, is called "Montezuma," and, says Fleming, is "an epic tale of the kinship and ultimately the bloody collision between Montezuma and Cortez as the latter led the Spanish infiltration into Mexico."

The story adds, "The project, considered one of the great unmade scripts in moviedom, has an illustrious history. Trumbo wrote it for actor/producer Kirk Douglas, with whom he did the classics 'Spartacus' and 'Lonely Are the Brave.' Trumbo turned in a 205-page draft in 1965, when Martin Ritt was supposed to direct Douglas in the film. It never happened."

Fleming notes that Trumbo's original version is now being "rewritten by Steve Zaillian, who teamed with Spielberg on the Oscar-winning 'Schindler’s List.' "

According to the entry about Trumbo on Wikipedia, "Trumbo won an Oscar for 'The Brave One' (1956), written under the name Robert Rich. In 1975, the Academy officially recognized Trumbo as the winner and presented him with a statuette. In 1993, Trumbo was posthumously awarded the Academy Award for writing 'Roman Holiday' (1953). The screen credit and award were previously given to Ian McLellan Hunter, who had been a 'front' for Trumbo."

Trumbo died in 1976 at age 70.

dalton trumbo.jpgDalton Trumbo

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'I'm Not Sorry' -- Comedian Stands Firm After Taking Heat Over Pearl Harbor Joke

A comedian who drew criticism for a Pearl Harbor joke she told on NBC’s “New Year’s Eve with Carson Daly” is standing behind the joke. The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports that Natasha Leggero responded to the criticism by writing a letter in which she declares, “I’m not sorry."

The controversy started when Daly was talking with Leggero, Jane Lynch and Anthony Anderson about a tweet that SpaghettiOs posted on the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack. Some people were offended by the tweet, as it showed the food’s mascot holding an American flag, an image that was criticized as exploitive.

Leggero cracked, “I mean, it sucks that the only survivors of Pearl Harbor are being mocked by the only food they can still chew."

Veterans and others criticized her comment in the days afterward.

In an open letter posted on Tumblr, Leggero wrote, “Do we really believe that the people who fought and defended our freedom against Nazis and the Axis powers will find a joke about Spaghetti O’s too much to bear? Sorry, I have more respect for Veterans than to think their honor can be impugned by a glamorous, charming comedian in a fur hat.”

The letter adds: "On the one hand you have me, making a joke about how old people can’t chew tough foods very well. On the other hand you have Veterans who receive inadequate care upon their return from active duty, rampant sexual assault against female soldiers, staggering rates of suicide, traumatic brain injury, PTSD, substance abuse and depression among soldiers and political gridlock that prevents these problems from getting solved quickly.

"Where do you think your outrage and action would be better served, calling me a cunt or doing something about the above problems?"

The letter suggests that readers make a donation to the Disabled American Veterans foundation, and provides a link to the organization's website.

natasha leggero.jpgNatasha Leggero

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Hall of Fame Sports Broadcaster -- Who Was Still Announcing Ballgames -- Dies at 89

A Hall of Fame broadcaster who was the only Major League Baseball player to have fought in two wars has died at age 89.

Jerry Coleman, who died yesterday, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014, had been, for many years, the voice of the San Diego Padres.

"In 42 years as broadcaster of Padres games, Coleman became the link between the major league team and San Diego. To many, he was its very identity," the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

The article adds: "Coleman died at Scripps Memorial Hospital with complications of head injuries he'd suffered in a fall last month. Coleman had been in and out of the hospital since the early-December fall, according to several of his close friends, and also contracted pneumonia."

Coleman also played major league baseball for the New York Yankees, and, for one year, was the manager of the Padres.

In recent years, Coleman had cut down the number of games in which he appeared in the broadcast booth to 20-30.

Fellow Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully said of Coleman, according to the Union-Tribune, “Bottom line: People loved Jerry and respected him, because you could tell from listening to him what a wonderful person he was. I considered it a great privilege for me to be one of those who voted for Jerry’s induction into Cooperstown. What an amazing life.”

The Union-Tribune obituary adds: "Coleman’s humility and self-effacing ways belied an extraordinary personal history of courage, sacrifice and accomplishment. Addressed affectionately and respectfully at the ballpark as 'The Colonel,' he was a Marine Corps aviator in both World War II and the Korean War. And he was an All-Star second baseman for the dynastic New York Yankees who once was Most Valuable Player of a World Series."

In a statement issued Sunday, baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said: "Jerry Coleman was a hero and a role model to myself and countless others in the game of baseball. He had a memorable, multifaceted career in the national pastime -- as an All-Star during the great Yankees' dynasty from 1949-1953, a manager and, for more than a half-century, a beloved broadcaster, including as an exemplary ambassador for the San Diego Padres. But above all, Jerry's decorated service to our country in both World War II and Korea made him an integral part of the Greatest Generation. He was a true friend whose counsel I valued greatly."

jerry coleman at mic.jpgJerry Coleman

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Star of Emmy-Winning Show About Money Dead at 83

A TV commentator who starred in a multiple Emmy Award-winning television program focused on money has died. Bloomberg reports that George Goodman, who went by the pseudonym Adam Smith as the star of the 1980s television series “Adam Smith’s Money World,” died late last week at 83.

Goodman reportedly died Friday from complications related to acute myeloid leukemia.

Goodman helped average investors understand the economy and markets through books such as 1967’s “The Money Game.” Later, he starred in the PBS show “Adam Smith’s Money World,” borrowing the name of the 18th-century Scottish philosopher.

The half-hour show ran for 13 years and became the most honored program in its field, reportedly being nominated for more Emmy Awards than any other business show and winning five Emmys.

“He changed the way we think about financial journalism,” Peter Landau, who succeeded Goodman as editor of Institutional Investor, a financial magazine, said on The Business News Luminaries’ Honorees page. “Instead of being told that the Dow Jones Industrials declined two points or something equally boring, all of a sudden we were awakened to the fact that exciting things happen on Wall Street."

george goodman.jpgGeorge Goodman

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'That '70s Show' Actress Died From Multiple Drug Intoxication

“That ‘70s Show” star Lisa Robin Kelly, who died at age 43 in August, died of multiple drug intoxication, reports TheWrap, citing the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Department.

Kelly died after entering a rehab facility, a move that was “preceded by a history of legal and substance-abuse woes,” the story notes.

“Further details from the coroner’s department were scant, aside from the fact that the fatal intoxication took place by oral ingestion, and that the manner of death was accidental,” the piece adds. “The coroner’s report, which requires additional time for transcription, is not yet available to the public.”

lisa-robin-kelly3.jpgLisa Robin Kelly

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Discovery Boss Gets Big Contract Extension, Could Make $100 Million This Year

Discovery Communications Inc. has beefed up its employment agreement with Chief Executive David Zaslav, adding six years to his contract and giving Zaslav one of the most lucrative deals in media, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The extension comes after a period of sustained growth for the company, the report notes.

"The deal announced Friday modifies how Zaslav's annual compensation is calculated to provide him with substantial stock holdings in the company. He will receive a base salary and bonus targets of about $10 million a year in the early years of the agreement," the story reports.

"Zaslav, who joined Discovery in January 2007, will continue to collect one of the most lucrative executive compensation packages in corporate America," the piece notes. "In 2012, he received compensation valued at nearly $50 million. The prior year, he garnered $52.4 million in cash, stock awards and other compensation.

"With the allocation of more than 1 million restricted stock units this year, Zaslav's 2014 compensation could exceed $100 million, based on the current value of Discovery shares."

In a statement announcing the new pact, John Malone, chairman of Liberty Media Corp. and a Discovery board member, said: "David has done a superb job. He built a strong management team that has expanded the company's reach and relevance, increased its market share domestically and around the world, and created a bigger, stronger portfolio of brands."

A regulatory document was filed Friday with the Securities and Exchange Commission detailing the agreement.

The report adds: "The actual amount paid to Zaslav will be tied to several company performance objectives, 'which will be determined each year by the compensation committee of the board … in consultation with Mr. Zaslav,' the regulatory document said. His contract, which took effect Thursday, expires Dec. 31, 2019.

"Zaslav, who turns 54 this month, will be entitled to generous stock awards, which are designed to make him a significant shareholder in the company."

david zaslav.pngDavid Zaslav

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BET Aims to Broaden Image of Black Culture With New Original Drama Series, Described as 'One of the Most Sexually Frank Shows' on TV

BET on Tuesday will debut “Being Mary Jane,” the first original scripted drama developed for the network, after years of criticism that its programming doesn't reflect well on African Americans, the Los Angeles Times’ Show Tracker reports.

Executives are viewing the program, which stars Gabrielle Union as a cable news network host, as a “game changer” because it “is seeking to broaden pop culture's image of African Americans,” the story says.

"Our programming can never be all things to all black people," Loretha Jones, president of original programming for BET Networks, told the publication. “But by expanding, we're showing more representations that are reflective of the complexity of our culture."

BET also started recently airing reruns of “Scandal,” the ABC drama starring Kerry Washington.

"Being Mary Jane" is about a successful TV news star whose personal life is messy, as she financially supports a large family and is attracted to men who don’t view her as marriage material, the story says.

The drama may be out to “push buttons,” the story says.

“‘Being Mary Jane’ may be one of the most sexually frank shows on non-premium television," the report notes. "In one scene, Mary Jane uses a vibrator before meeting a date for a late-night meal. In another, her 19-year-old single niece, who is pregnant and already the mother of two children, announces she is considering a porn career because she's good at sex."

gabrielle-union.jpgGabrielle Union

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Mitt Romney Accepts Apology From MSNBC Host

Appearing on Fox News, former presidential candidate Mitt Romney accepted the apology of MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry for making remarks about a photo of his family and their adopted black infant grandson, The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports.

As previously reported, Harris-Perry led a panel that made fun of the black grandson, with the host showing family photos to panel members. One guest sang, “One of these things is not like the other,” and Harris Perry responded with laughter. Harris-Perry also joked about the child one day marrying the child of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian.

“The folks at MSNBC made a big big mistake and they've apologized for it and that's all you can ask for," Romney told Fox News.

Harris-Perry started her Jan. 4 show with an on-air apology, saying, “My intention was not malicious, but I broke the ground rule that families are off limits, and for that I am sorry,” reports Deadline.com.

The former Massachusetts governor accepted the apology and said he wanted to move on, the story adds.

"I'm going to move on from that. I'm sure they want to move on from that. Look, I've made plenty of mistakes myself and they've apologized for this and, you know, I think we can go on from there,” Romney said.

"I think her apology was clearly heartfelt and we accept that," he added.

mitt romney.jpgMitt Romney

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Ryan Seacrest Start-Up Is Sued

A company backed by “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest is being sued by troubled smartphone maker BlackBerry, reports USA Today.

BlackBerry filed a patent infringement lawsuit Friday, alleging an iPhone keyboard made by Typo Products illegally copies technology and designs pioneered by BlackBerry, the story says. Typo is a Los Angeles start-up backed by Seacrest and entrepreneur Laurence Hallier.

The keyboard isn’t yet for sale, although Typo has been taking early orders, the story says. BlackBerry is seeking a court order to prevent Typo from selling the keyboard without a licensing deal, along with unspecified damages, the piece adds.

typo products marketing.jpg

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Oldest Surviving 'Gone With the Wind' Cast Member Dies

The oldest surviving cast member of the classic 1939 film “Gone with the Wind” has died. E! Online reports that actress Alicia Rhett died Friday at 98 from natural causes.

Rhett’s only movie role was in the Oscar-winning drama. She was discovered by director George Cukor while she performed in a South Carolina theater production.

In “Gone with the Wind,” she played India Wilkes, Ashley Wilkes’ sister. She was considered for the role of Melanie Hamilton, but that role went to Olivia De Havilland.

Only three other “Gone with the Wind” cast members are still alive, and all are younger than Rhett. They are De Havilland, 97; Mary Anderson, 93, who played Maybelle Merriweather; and Mickey Kuhn, 81, who played Beau Wilkes.

Alicia Rhett in 1939.pngAlicia Rhett as India Wilkes

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Saul Zaentz, Who Produced Three Best Picture Oscar Winners -- and Who Had a Notorious Feud with Rock 'n' Roller John Fogerty -- Dies at 92

"Saul Zaentz, 92, who parlayed a successful career in the music business into an Oscar-winning second act as an independent movie producer, died Friday, Jan. 3, 2014, at his home in the San Francisco area from complications of Alzheimer's," reports our good friend Duane Byrge and Mike Barnes on the website of The Hollywood Reporter.

The story reports: "After presenting such major acts as Creedence Clearwater Revival on his Fantasy Records label, Zaentz moved into producing and shared three Academy Awards for best picture -- for 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest' (1975), 'Amadeus' (1984) and 'The English Patient' (1996).

"Zaentz then received the Irving G. Thalberg Award in 1997 from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for his 'consistently high quality of motion picture production.' "

For years Zaentz and the Creedence Clearwater Revival's John Fogerty were involved in acrimonious lawsuits


saul zaentz.jpgSaul Zaentz

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They Were Known as the Most Important Duo in the History of Rock 'n' Roll -- Phil Everly of the Everly Brothers Dies at 74

"Phil Everly, 74, who with his brother, Don, made up the most revered vocal duo of the rock-music era, their exquisite harmonies profoundly influencing the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Byrds and countless younger-generation rock, folk and country singers, has died," reports the Los Angeles Times.

The story continues, "Everly died Friday at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank of complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, his wife, Patti Everly, told The Times. 'We are absolutely heartbroken,' she said, noting that the disease was the result of a lifetime of cigarette smoking. 'He fought long and hard.' "

Don Everly is 76.

According to CNN's obituary, "Rolling Stone [magazine] labeled the Everly Brothers "the most important vocal duo in rock," having influenced the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Simon & Garfunkel and many other acts. Along the way, they notched 35 Top 100 songs -- more than any other vocal pair."

The obituary in The New York Times included this: "Paul Simon, whose song 'Graceland' includes vocals by Phil and Don Everly, said in an email [today, Saturday morning, Jan. 4, 2014]: 'Phil and Don were the most beautiful sounding duo I ever heard. Both voices pristine and soulful. The Everlys were there at the crossroads of country and R&B. They witnessed and were part of the birth of rock and roll.' "

The Everly Brothers are in both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Country Music Hall of Fame.

The New York Times obituary added this: "In 1973, at a concert in California, Phil Everly smashed his guitar and walked offstage, and Don Everly announced the duo’s breakup. They recorded solo albums for the next decade before reuniting in 1983, with a concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London that was filmed as a documentary. They returned to the studio for a 1984 album, 'EB84,' that was produced by the British pub-rocker Dave Edmunds and included a song written for the Everlys by Paul McCartney; they made two more studio albums in the 1980s.

"Among musicians the Everlys had generations of admirers. The Beatles included Everly Brothers songs in their live sets and modeled the vocal harmonies of 'Please Please Me' on 'Cathy’s Clown.' The Beach Boys recorded the Everlys song 'Devoted to You.' Linda Ronstadt had a Top 10 hit with 'When Will I Be Loved' in 1975. On his four-album set 'These Days' in 2006, the country songwriter Vince Gill recorded a duet with Phil Everly, 'Sweet Little Corinna.' "

We found the following video on YouTube: "The Everly Brothers performing Cathy's Clown ... accompanied with the Crickets. Recorded live on the Alma Cogan Show in the UK during 1961."

As you look at the video, Phil is on your left.
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NBC Series Premieres to All-Time Low Number

An NBC series returned Thursday night with the opener for its fifth season, and the program set a new ratings low for a season premiere for the show, based on Nielsen overnights for the key 18-49 demo.

TVbytheNumbers.com reports that the "Community" premiere delivered a 1.3 average in 18-49, well below the 1.9 for the season premiere a year ago. A second episode followed with a 1.2 average.

Things didn't improve for NBC in the 9 p.m. hour, where "Sean Saves the World" fell to a series-low 0.8 in viewers 18-49, losing two-tenths from the previous original episode, and "The Michael J. Fox Show" also hit a series low with a 0.8, off one-tenth. At 10 p.m., however, "Parenthood" ticked up one-tenth to a 1.3.

Winning the night was CBS, paced by "The Big Bang Theory" with a 5.3 average in the 18-49 demo, up two-tenths from the previous original as the network's entire prime-time lineup posted modest gains. "The Millers" rose three-tenths to a 2.9, "The Crazy Ones" was up one-tenth with a 2.0, "Two and a Half Men" climbed two-tenths to a 2.1, and "Elementary" inched up one-tenth to a 1.8.

On a generally slow night for broadcast prime, ABC and NBC tied for third place behind CBS and Univision. ABC's two-hour second-season premiere of "The Taste" managed only a 1.2 in adults 18-49, nowhere near the 2.1 delivered by last year's series premiere. The new show "The Assets" bowed to a feeble 0.7 average at 10 p.m.

Fox aired repeats of "Sleepy Hollow" (0.6 average in 18-49) and "Bones" (0.7), finishing well off the pace in fifth place.

For prime time overall, CBS led the way in the 18-49 demo with a 2.7 average, followed by Univision (1.3 average), ABC and NBC (both with 1.1 averages) and Fox (0.7). CBS was way out in front in total viewers with 10.9 million, ahead of ABC (4.4 million), NBC (3.3 million), Univision (3.2 million) and Fox (2.5 million).

community-nbc.jpg

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TV Chef Opens Up About Fraud Trial

Television chef Nigella Lawson, appearing on “Good Morning America” to promote the second season of ABC’s “The Taste,” spoke about the fraud trial of two of her former personal assistants, calling it “mortifying,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

“To have not only your private life, but distortions of your private life put on display is mortifying," Lawson said. "My only desire really was to protect my children as much as possible, which I wasn't, alas … I couldn't do.”

The chef called the trial a ”ridiculous sideshow of false allegations about drug use, which made focus on the actual criminal trial impossible." She added that she was “unsurprised” that the former assistants were acquitted.

Lawson, called as a witness in the case, had to respond to drug-use accusations, and said she sometimes felt as if she were the one on trial.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for nigella lawson 2.jpgNigella Lawson

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'Duck Dynasty' Family Launches Its Own Gun Line (Video)

Duck Commander, the company owned by the family featured on A&E’s “Duck Dynasty,” has created its own line of guns with the gunmaker Mossberg, reports CNN Money.

The line includes nine different shotguns, two semiautomatic rifles and a semiautomatic pistol. Some shotguns have started shipping to distributors, although Mossberg declined to name specific retailers that will sell them, the story notes.

The “Duck Dynasty” reality show features the Robertson family and patriarch Phil Robertson, who founded Duck Commander 40 years ago. He was recently suspended and then reinstated by A&E after reportedly making anti-gay remarks and racist comments in an interview with GQ magazine.

Robertson and his sons are featured in video ads for the new guns that are on Mossberg’s website, including one featuring Phil saying, “Do you know what makes me happy, ladies and gentlemen? To blow a mallard drake's head smooth off."

See for yourself:

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'Saturday Night Live' Arrives in China

The NBC late-night comedy show “Saturday Night Live” has found its way to China, with the website of online media group Sohu Video showing 10 episodes from the current 39th season, the Associated Press reports.

“Future episodes will be available online without subtitles the Monday after airing in the United States, and a version with Chinese subtitles and explanations of cultural references will be available at 10 p.m. the following Saturday, Sohu said in its announcement Thursday,” the story notes.

The piece adds: “Topics have featured China, including a sketch of a press conference with then Chinese President Hu Jintao berating President Barack Obama over the national debt.”

Sohu Chairman Charles Zhang said he doesn't expect the show to create trouble in China, the report notes.

"Things that are controversial in America are pro