January 2012

Simon Cowell, Fox Exec Mike Darnell and Paula Abdul Herself Talk About Her Leaving 'X Factor'

After what amounts to the mass firing of regular cast members from Fox’s “X Factor,” as reported early today, the show’s creator has broken his silence.

USA Today reports that Simon Cowell issued a statement thanking all three departing cast members -- host Steve Jones and judges Nicole Scherzinger and Paula Abdul -- but singling out one of them for the highest praise.

Cowell said in the statement: "I want to say a massive thank you to Paula, Nicole and Steve for being part of ‘The X Factor’ last year. We had a lot of fun making the show together and importantly, we found some real talent and stars. You do develop friendships with the people you work with and Paula, in particular, is a very close friend and I expect to be working with her on another project in the near future.”

Fox’s president of alternative entertainment, Mike Darnell, also had words of encouragement for Abdul. In a statement, Darnell said: "We love Paula. She is a remarkable talent and we appreciate all of her contributions. We're lucky that she is a part of the Fox family, and we look forward to working with her again soon."

Abdul was equally warm and fuzzy in her own statement on the situation, saying: "I've learned through my longevity in this industry that business decisions oftentimes override personal considerations. Simon and I, along with Fox and Fremantle, have been communicating about this for a while now, and I have absolute understanding of the situation. Simon is and will remain a dear friend of mine and I've treasured my experience working this past season with my extended family at Fox and Fremantle. I want nothing more than for ‘The X Factor’ to exceed ALL of their wildest dreams.”

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'SNL' Cast Member Abruptly Exits Show

One of the regulars on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” is leaving the show effective immediately, Entertainment Weekly reports. Paul Brittain, who has been a featured player since 2010, will be out of the lineup starting with this Saturday’s episode.

According to EW sources, Brittain decided it was the right time to move on. A source told the publication that Brittain “had the opportunity to pursue other projects, and he and the show parted ways amicably.”

Brittain, an Illinois native and the nephew of Bob Newhart, is known for his celebrity impressions, including James Franco and Johnny Depp.

Neither NBC nor the actor's representative had any comment on Brittain’s exit.

paul-brittain.jpgPaul Brittain

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HBO Series With Dream Team Pedigree Gets Renewal

It's been one of the most eagerly anticipated shows of the season, and it's been renewed for season two after just one official airing. Oh, the joys of working in pay cable.

HBO's "Luck," with Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte in front of the camera, and David Milch and Michael Mann behind the camera, has been renewed for season two and 10 more episodes, according to our good friend Nellie Andreeva at Deadline.com.

Writes Andreeva: " 'Luck‘s' second season will premiere in January 2013. 'We couldn’t be more thrilled with the critical response to this beautiful piece of work, and we are very excited about where David and Michael plan to take these incredible characters,' said HBO Programming president Michael Lombardo.

" 'Luck‘s' first episode, originally previewed after the 'Boardwalk Empire' season finale in December to 1.1 million viewers, drew another 1.1 million in its regular premiere at 9 PM on Sunday. If that were a true series debut, it would be in line with the launches of such softly rated HBO series as 'Treme' (1.125 million) and the now-defunct 'Bored To Death' (1.034 million). 'Luck' was rebroadcast again at 10 PM (711,000) and 11 PM (420,000) for a total of 3.3 million sampling the pilot in the December preview and on Sunday."

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Shocking Shakeup at 'X Factor.' You Won't Believe Who's Not Returning to the Show

There's been a shakeout at the 'X Factor" that's shocked much of the industry.

Simon Cowell has decided that Paula Abdul will not be returning to the show, according to a number of media accounts.

Not surprisingly, neither judge Nicole Scherzinger nor host Steve Jones will be returning either.

That leaves just Cowell and L.A. Reid as the two returning on-air players at the show.

Nigel Lythgoe, the longtime showrunner of "American Idol" tweeted "Shocked to see Simon has fired Paula Abdul, Nicole and Steve from the X Factor," according to E! Online.

While Jones admitted that he had been let go from the show, Scherzinger was claiiming that it was her idea that she leave the reality series, according to another article at E! Online.

Says that article, " '[Scherzinger] wants to focus on her music career,' a source said. 'She's spoken to Simon [Cowell] and he's given her his blessing. 'X-Factor' took a lot more of her time than she ever expected. She didn't have any time really to work on her music. She was doing 'X Factor' six days a week.' "

Nice try, "source."

Here's The Hollywood Reporter's version of how the decisions were made: "According to a show insider, a series of 'X Factor' season 2 offsite meetings are taking place wherein show creator Simon Cowell has assembled his team and creative brain-trust for a post-mortem. The purpose: detailing what went wrong and what was done right on season 1 of the Fox singing competition.

"Among the brash verdicts, says THR's source: that Abdul's role was seen as 'irrelevant to the mix,' in part through no fault of her own (as mentor to the groups, her contestants were picked off early in the competition).

The THR report adds, "Still, Abdul was not without her controversies on the show. Many blamed her for the dismissal of season 1 favorite Rachel Crow, precipitated by advice Abdul gave to Scherzinger to let the decision be made by the public vote. America then sent the 13-year-old packing."

The THR story also says that both Jones and Scherzinger were informed Monday night, Jan. 30, 2012, that they would not be returning to the show.

A number of media accounts say that Fox has confirmed that Jones and Scherzinger will not be returning to the "X Factor," but that Abdul's firing remains unconfirmed officially by Fox.

Abdul was not able to be reached for comment by any of the publications that reported this story on Monday night.

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'Cosby Kid' Heads to Broadway

One of the “Cosby Kids” -- who appeared as a toddler on NBC’s long-running 1980s sitcom “The Cosby Show” -- is headed to Broadway, Playbill reports.

Actress Raven-Symone, who joined “Cosby” at age 3 and appeared on the show’s last three seasons, has landed the Whoopi Goldberg role in the Broadway version of "Sister Act," the story reports. She will take over the part from Tony nominee Patina Miller.

Raven-Symone, who also starred in “That’s So Raven,” is slated for a six-month run.

The story of the Broadway show follows the plot of the film. According to producers: "When disco diva Deloris Van Cartier witnesses a murder, she is put in protective custody in the one place cops are sure she won't be found -- a convent! Disguised as a nun, she finds herself at odds with both the rigid lifestyle and an uptight Mother Superior. Using her unique disco moves and singing talent to inspire the choir, Deloris breathes new life into the church and community, but in doing so blows her cover. Soon the gang are giving chase, only to find themselves up against Deloris and the power of her new found Sister Hood."

Raven-Symone is a two-time Kids’ Choice Award winner for “That’s So Raven.”

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News Corp. Announces Departure of Key Communications Executive

News Corp. has announced a change in its executive ranks. Leaving the company, effective Feb. 10, will be Senior VP of Corporate Affairs and Communications Teri Everett.

The company promoted Julie Henderson to senior VP, Corporate Affairs, and chief communications officer, The move will expand Henderson’s current roles in corporate communications and strategy to add oversight of the company’s global communications, corporate affairs and corporate social responsibility efforts.

News Corp. Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch said in a statement: “I am immensely grateful to Teri for leading our communications efforts so adeptly in recent years. During her more than 10 years with News Corporation, Teri gained not only the trust and respect of all who worked with her -- but my great appreciation as well. She has been one of our most effective and well-liked executives. I respect her decision and wish her sincere good luck in her next endeavors.”

Everett has been with News Corp. since 2000, having joined as VP, Corporate Communications. She became head of the company’s global corporate affairs and communications effort in December 2009.

Said Everett: “The past decade has, without a doubt, been the highlight of my career. News Corp. executives are a peerless group and I will miss them immensely. I will always be grateful to Rupert and Chase for their support over the years and am thrilled that Julie will be succeeding me. While it may be a tired cliche, I am ready for something new.”

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Music Network Rebrands

A multiplatform music network that is a fixture of the “high numbers” on cable systems is rolling out plans for a new name, new logo and new brand strategy.

MC_Logo.jpgMusic Choice announced today that it “will embark on a new brand strategy of ‘Living Music’ complete with new logo. Starting today, consumers of the national music service will see the new mark on all products including Music Channels, Video On Demand, SWRV and online properties. The new brand strategy was created by strategic branding firm Siegel + Gale.”

Christina Tancredi, chief operating officer of Music Choice, said in a statement: “2012 will be a big year for us at MC and this is just the start of delivering a more immersive, engaging and personal music experience to our 50 million + fans. MC symbolizes the role music plays in our lives, not just what format to listen to. It is about the emotional connection consumers want to their favorite artists. MC gives music fans the opportunity to create that experience whether listening to our music channels, watching On Demand videos or interacting with SWRV. This year we plan to roll out more product features that will allow consumers to enjoy music not only on their TV, but wherever they go!”

The company said the retooling will extend throughout the MC Audio Channels -- the more than 45 music channels that reach 52 million households. It will also include MC On Demand, which reaches 51 million households and has 1.2 billion annual views for shows including “Live Undefined” and “Will Call.” The system has artist profile shows in development under the titles “Co-Signed” and “Decoded.”

Also included in the reboot is SWRV, which company says is in 9 million households. MC describes it as “the first and only 24/7 interactive video music network for millennials where they are in control. SWRV offers a full schedule of interactive programs, including SWRV Takeover, Level Ten, and Vid-ications.”

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Fox Orders Pilot for Project Starring 'The Office' Actress

Another character may be leaving "The Office," with Fox ordering a comedy pilot produced by and starring the show's Mindy Kaling, reports TVLine.com.

The project would star Kaling as an OB/GYN who has a Bridget Jones-type of personality, with trouble handling both her personal life and her professional life, the story notes. Kaling would leave NBC's "The Office" if the show gets picked up to series, the piece adds.

As previously reported, co-star Rainn Wilson is in talks to star in a spinoff of "The Office" for a potential midseason 2013 debut.

mindy-kaling.jpgMindy Kaling

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Newt Gingrich's Use of Iconic Song During Campaign Gets Him Sued

Republican hopeful Newt Gingrich is being sued over his alleged unauthorized use of a Grammy-winning song during his presidential campaign, Bloomberg reports.

The song is "Eye of the Tiger," well-known from its appearance in "Rocky III." Rude Music, which is owned by a co-author of the song, sued Gingrich Monday in federal court in Chicago, seeking to keep him from using the song at campaign rallies and asking for unspecified monetary damages, the story notes.

“Newt 2012’s and Mr. Gingrich’s unauthorized public performance or inducement of or contribution to the public performance of the copyrighted work infringes Rude Music’s copyright,” the lawsuit alleges.

"Eye of the Tiger," released in 1982, was also nominated for an Academy Award and topped U.S. pop music charts. It was performed by the rock band Survivor.

A representative for Gingrich's campaign didn't immediately respond to a request for comment, the story notes.

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Former CNN Anchor to Fill In for Keith Olbermann

A former CNN anchor will fill in for Keith Olbermann on Current TV's "Countdown" this week, reports TVNewser.com. Eliot Spitzer will host the show while Olbermann is suffering from bronchitis, according to the report.

Spitzer will handle the network's Florida primary coverage, marking his first hosting role on TV since he left CNN in July, the piece notes. It's possible that his gig is meant to test Spitzer for a more long-term role on the network, the story adds.

Olbermann and Current have been battling over Olbermann’s role in covering the 2012 presidential election, as previously reported. Olbermann was notably absent from Current’s recent presentation at the Telvision Critics Association press tour, when he was said to be on vacation, as we reported earlier this month.

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