Judge Exits Singing Competition Series

Another singing competition series is joining the trend of shaking up the judging panel, following similar moves by “The X Factor and “The Voice.” This time it’s NBC’s “The Sing-Off.”

Judge Sara Bareilles is leaving the show, reports.

The story reports: “The Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter wants to ‘focus on her music,’ says a source close to Bareilles. She replaced original ‘Sing-Off’ judge Nicole Scherzinger for the show’s third season after Scherzinger departed to Fox’s ‘X Factor.’”

Reality guru Mark Burnett is reportedly overhauling “The Sing-Off” before it bows for its fourth season. “The move creates at least one opening on the judges panel for the lively a cappella competition. ... It’s not yet clear if there are more departures to come,” the piece reports.

The show is hosted by Nick Lachey, with Ben Folds and Shawn Stockman in the other judges’ seats.

The report notes: “Since ‘The Sing-Off’ premiered in December 2009, the series has [had] its ups and downs in the ratings, but has maintained a fan base of admirers. When it wasn’t renewed in 2012, many thought the show was canceled. But last month NBC announced ‘The Sing-Off’ would return sometime during the holiday season.”

Sara-Bareilles.jpgSara Bareilles

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Mob Boss Tony Soprano vs. Dunder Mifflin Boss Michael Scott as Feuding Dinosaur Bone Collectors? Believe It

TV’s Tony Soprano and Michael Scott -- longtime “Sopranos” kingpin James Gandolfini and Dunder Mifflin boss Steve Carell on “The Office” -- are continuing their comedic collaborations with a new HBO project, “Bone Wars,” reports.

Carell and Gandolfini recently co-starred in the feature “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.” The new project, with the two men starring and executive producing, is headed for the small screen.

“The project, now in development, is based on the real-life Bone Wars (aka the Great Dinosaur Rush) between Edward Drinker Cope of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia and Othniel Charles Marsh of the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale,” the piece reports. “Set during the post-Civil War birth of American science, the film is a sophisticated comedy about one of history’s most notorious feuds -- the great dinosaur fossil race between paleontologists Marsh (Gandolfini) and Cope (Carell) -- a decades-long competition that led to the discovery of more than 160 dinosaurs and their mutual downward spiral.”

The project is looking for a writer, the piece notes. Joining as exec producers are Alexandra Ryan of Gandolfini’s Attaboy Productions and Thom Hinkle of Carell’s Carousel Television.

The report notes: “Gandolfini and his Attaboy banner have had constant presence at HBO since the end of ‘The Sopranos.’ He developed a few projects including the original movie ‘Hemingway & Gellhorn,’ which he executive produced, and starred in the film ‘Cinema Verite’ and the pilot ‘Criminal Justice.’”

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How Strong Were Ratings for the Premiere of NBC's New Drama Series? It Depends on How You Spin It

A high-profile NBC drama series bowed Thursday night, and while it wasn’t exactly a ratings disaster, it wasn’t quite a juggernaut either. reports that “Hannibal” delivered a 1.6 average rating in the key 18-49 demo, based on Nielsen overnights, finishing third in the 10 p.m. time slot.

The number was an improvement of 78% from the premiere of the network’s “Do No Harm,” which came up with a 0.9 in viewers 18-49 on Jan. 31, the piece points out. But it was down 20% from the 2.0 for “Awake” in its premiere just over a year ago. The “Hannibal” rating was NBC’s best result for entertainment programming in the time period since March 15, 2012, and was 60% better than the network’s average this year in the time slot.

For prime time overall, NBC placed fifth in both the 18-49 demo and total viewers, trailing not only its big 4 rivals -- CBS, Fox and ABC -- but also once again finishing behind Spanish-language Univision. NBC’s “Community” fell to a series low with a 1.0 in 18-49, losing 9% from its previous original. “The Office” also hit a series low, a 1.7, down 11%. “Parks and Recreation” was down 6% to a 1.5, while “Go On” made its time slot premiere at 9:30 p.m. with a 1.1, losing a hefty 42%.

CBS won the night with a 3.1 average rating in viewers 18-49 for prime time overall, followed by Fox (2.3 average), ABC (2.2), Univision (1.5) and NBC (1.4). CBS also won total viewers, averaging 13.3 million to Fox’s 7.7 million, ABC’s 6.9 million, Univision’s 3.6 million and NBC’s 3.3 million.

CBS’s “The Big Bang Theory” was the top show of the night, ticking up 2% from its previous original episode for a 4.9 in adults 18-49. “Two and a Half Men” surged 12% to a 3.8. “Person of Interest” lost 7% for a season-low 2.7, and “Elementary” equaled its series low, losing 9% for a 2.1.

ABC had 2.7 averages in 18-49 for both “Grey’s Anatomy” (down 7% from a week ago) and “Scandal” (up 4%, and No. 1 in the 10 p.m. hour). “Wife Swap” managed only a 1.2 at 8 p.m., down 14%.

Fox’s “American Idol” continued its recent soft ratings, matching its series low with a 2.8 average in viewers 18-49, equaling its week-ago number. “New Girl” had a 2.0, slipping 9% from its previous original, while “The Mindy Project” delivered a 1.4, up 8% from Tuesday’s result.

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HBO Documentary in the Works About Hollywood Figure Who Died in 2012

A popular Hollywood screenwriter, director and producer who died last year is the subject of an upcoming HBO documentary. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the project will focus on the late Nora Ephron.

“Ephron's son, journalist Jacob Bernstein, is developing what is being billed as an intimate portrait of his mother, an acclaimed writer/director known for such films as ‘When Harry Met Sally,’ ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ and ‘You've Got Mail,’” the story reports. “He will direct and co-produce the project, titled ‘Everything Is Copy,’ which was a lesson that her mother, also a self-reflective screenwriter, had taught her early on.”

Co-directing will be Nick Hooker, with Matt Parker and Carly Hugo attached as producers, the report notes. The project is set up at HBO Documentary Films.

The piece adds: “Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter, who won both an Emmy and Peabody award for ‘9/11,’ is on board as an executive producer. Carter previously teamed with HBO on ‘His Way,’ a documentary centered on legendary producer Jerry Weintraub.”

Ephron died almost a year ago at 71 of pneumonia, a complication from acute myeloid leukemia.

The report notes: “In early March, Bernstein penned a lengthy remembrance of his mother's final days in a New York Times magazine entry entitled ‘Nora Ephron's Final Act.’ Included in the piece was a retelling of her last moments of consciousness, which were marked by still-sharp jokes, crossword puzzles and hallucinations.”

nora-ephron.jpgNora Ephron

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History Renews Its First Scripted Series

The first season of the History channel’s first scripted series has gone well, becoming the No. 1 new cable series of 2013. Now the channel has announced it is bringing back “Vikings” for a second season.

Dirk Hoogstra, executive VP of development and programming for History, announced the series is coming back with a 10-episode order for season two. The announcement comes just five episodes into season one.

“’Vikings’ continues to be the #1 new cable series in 2013 and has propelled History to #1 in cable in its Sunday 10-11 p.m. time period,” the cable channel announced. “Over the five weeks, the hit drama series averaged 5.0 million total viewers, 2.2 million Adults 25-54 and 1.9 Adults 18-49. This past Sunday, episode five delivered 4.7 million total viewers, 2.2 million Adults 25-54 and 1.7 million Adults 18-49. This was up 4% among total viewers and up 5% among Adults 25-54 from last week.”

Said Hoogstra: “’Vikings’ is a win win for us. As our first scripted series, ‘Vikings’ has paid off in a big way with critical acclaim, strong ratings and a passionate, loyal fan base. It came out of the gate strong and has stayed on top, solidifying History as a major player in the scripted genre, just as we are in reality.”

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James Brown Channel Coming to YouTube, With Launch Timed to Mark a Landmark 1968 Event

The Godfather of Soul, James Brown, will be the focus of a new YouTube channel. reports that Shout Factory is launching the channel, which will feature concert footage and testimonials. Additional material will be made available on DVD and via other merchandise.

The launch “coincides with the 45th anniversary of Brown’s Boston concert following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.,” the report notes. “Many historians believe that the concert helped to prevent riots from breaking out as they had in several other cities.”

The launch is a collaboration with the James Brown Estate, with the material to be found at and

Said Jeffrey Thompson, Shout Factory VP of digital strategy and business development: “These digital destinations will continue to evolve as we program content specific to key events as well as discover and add new video assets, leveraging Shout Factory’s unique content curation capabilities.”

Shout Factory founders Richard Foos, Bob Emmer and Garson Foos said in a statement that the initiative is “an integral part of our commitment to leverage a variety of digital entertainment platforms to celebrate the very best of pop culture.”

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Al Jazeera Hires First Anchor -- and He's a Familiar Face From CNN

Al Jazeera has hired its first anchor for its new U.S. cable channel, and it's a familiar face from CNN. The New York Times' Media Decoder reports that CNN’s Ali Velshi is moving to Al Jazeera.

As we reported Thursday, Velshi's last day at CNN will be today, April 5, and the announcement of his departure was made during a staff meeting Wednesday at CNN.

Velshi, who has been the chief business correspondent and an anchor at CNN, will become the host of a half-hour prime-time business program on the new network. It's not clear when it will replace Current TV, which Al Jazeera bought earlier this year.

Velshi said his reason for taking on the new job was that he “was really struck by their commitment to building a strong news organization." He added that he's not worried about aligning himself with the Al Jazeera brand name.

“I think the product will trump any preconceived notions that people may have going into it,” he told The Times. “They’re very determined for this brand to make an impact and for this brand to be a meaningful provider of news.”

Thumbnail image for ali-velshi.jpgAli Velshi

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Actor Departs HBO's 'Girls' Amid Reports of Creative Differences

An actor on the HBO show “Girls” has left the comedy series, with some media outlets reporting a creative clash between the actor, Christopher Abbott, and the show’s creator, Lena Dunham.

Abbott, who played Charlie on the series, won't return for the third season, reports The New York Times' ArtsBeat.

On "Girls," Abbott's character was a seemingly aimless man who breaks up with Marnie (Allison Williams), then hits upon success by creating a popular iPhone app, the story says.

“Charlie and Marnie seemed to have reconciled in the Season 2 finale of ‘Girls,’ but Mr. Abbott’s departure suggests that plot line won’t extend very far into Season 3, which is now in production,” The Times reports. “A press representative for Mr. Abbott said in an e-mail on Thursday morning that he was ‘grateful for the experience of collaborating with Lena, Judd [Apatow] and the entire “Girls” cast and crew, but right now he’s working on numerous other projects and has decided not to return to the show.’”

The New York Post cites sources saying Abbott and Dunham clashed as production began on the new season.

Said one source cited in the piece: “They’ve just started work on Season 3, and Chris is at odds with Lena. He didn’t like the direction things are going in, which seems a bit odd since the show put him on the map.”

The writing staff has also reportedly been shaken up for the new season, according to the Post.

christopher-abbott.jpgChristopher Abbott

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'Game of Thrones' Breaks Another Record -- One That HBO Probably Isn't Happy About

"Game of Thones" broke a big record with its third-season premiere, but it's one that HBO probably isn't too happy about. The Los Angeles Times' Show Tracker reports that the program broke a record for online piracy.

The episode, called "Valar Dohaeris," broke records for simultaneous illegal downloads through BitTorrent and other sites, the story says.

The season premiere, with more than 1 million downloads and 160,000 simultaneous users sharing files, broke a previous record held by the third-season premiere of "Heroes," which had just over 144,000 simultaneous downloads.

Last year, "Game of Thrones" was the most pirated show, the story says.

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