Viola Davis, who stars in the ABC hit drama “How to Get Away with Murder” – and who was Oscar-nominated in the movie “The Help” – “is attached to star in an HBO telepic about the life of Harriet Tubman, the activist who helped devise a system that allowed hundreds of slaves to escape to freedom via the Underground Railroad,” writes our good friend Cynthia Littleton in Variety.
The story adds, “Davis is developing the project with Amblin TV and writer Kirk Ellis, who has penned historical projects for HBO including its ‘John Adams’ miniseries, and ‘Entourage’ exec producer Doug Ellin. The untitled movie is based on the book ‘Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman: Portrait of an American Hero’ by Kate Clifford Larson.”
Notes Entertainment Weekly, “This is the third Underground Railroad-related project in the works: WGN has a 10-episode production titled ‘Underground’ helmed by Akiva Goldsman [who wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay for ‘A Beautiful Mind’] while NBC is working on miniseries ‘Freedom Run,’ produced by Stevie Wonder.”
“Paul Ryan, an actor, TV host and former ‘Entertainment Tonight’ correspondent, has died,” Deadline reports. Ryan, 69, “died April 23 of leukemia at Providence Saint Joseph Hospital in Burbank,” the report continues.
Deadline also notes, “His acting career included more than two dozen roles over four decades, with bit parts on such popular series as ‘Bewitched,’ ‘Emergency!,’ ‘Mission: Impossible,’ ‘Night Court,’ ‘Highway To Heaven,’ ‘Murder, She Wrote’ and ‘Desperate Housewives.’”
The Hollywood Reporter, in its obituary, writes, “Survivors include his mother, Joyce. A memorial will be held at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, April 28, 2015, at Mount Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries in the Hollywood Hills.
I first met Paul back in 1977, when I was selling cable TV subscriptions door-to-door for Theta Cable Television, based in Santa Monica, Calif. That was the year he started “The Paul Ryan Show” on Theta’s public access channel. Back then, almost anyone who wanted to have a show on cable TV could, on what were known as public access channels.
What made Paul’s show special is that he had actual celebrities on his show. He had been in a 1973 movie called “The Affair” with Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner.
As Peter Boyer wrote in an Associated Press article in 1980, “‘The Affair’ brought Ryan some good Hollywood contacts, but not much in the way of work. So he became interested when a friend told him about public access.”
Ryan told Boyer, “‘I called Theta Cable and said, ‘My name is Paul Ryan. I want to do a talk show.’ And they said, ‘Fine, when do you want to start?’”
In the show’s first three years, Boyer wrote, “Ryan’s guests have included Peter Ustinov, Lee Grant, Sophia Loren, Bob Barker, Marty Feldman, Christopher Reeve, Ursula Andress, Robin Williams, John Ritter and Henry Fonda.”
I remember I would ask Ryan who some of his upcoming celebrity guests were going to be so I could use the info in my sales pitch to get people to subscribe to cable service.
At the time of the Boyer article, Paul’s show had just been picked up for national distribution by the Satellite Program Network.
I didn’t know Paul that well, but I was impressed as hell that he could get big celebrities on his TV show. He told Boyer, “What I want to do eventually is an international talk show.” Boyer wrote, “He just may make it, considering his record. Ryan is a rare creature, a cable TV star.”
Neither of us could have possibly imagined what pioneering work Paul was doing with his show, or that three decades later cable would be such a force in TV programming.
Here’s a short clip I found on YouTube from one of Paul’s Theta Cable public access shows from 1978. His guest is Madeline Kahn.
An Oscar-nominated screenwriter who was a part of a dynastic Hollywood family has died. The Los Angeles Times reports that Don M. Mankiewicz died Saturday at his home in Monrovia, Calif.
His son said the 93-year-old Mankiewicz did of congestive heart failure.
Mankiewicz was part of a well-known Hollywood family that included his father, Herman J. Mankiewicz, who wrote the script for “Citizen Kane,” and his uncle, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, who directed a number of classic films including “All About Eve.”
Don Mankiewicz received an Oscar nomination for his script for the 1958 film “I Want to Live!” He also created the TV series “Ironside” and “Marcus Welby, M.D.” He wrote for “Schlitz Playhouse,” “Studio One in Hollywood” and “Playhouse 90,” among many other shows, in the early TV days.
His later credits included “MacGyver,” “Simon & Simon” and “McMillan & Wife.”
“Don Mankiewicz grew up in Beverly Hills. At Halloween, he later joked, he and his brother, Frank — who became an aide to Robert F. Kennedy and head of National Public Radio — sat in the backseat of the family limo while their chauffeur knocked on doors and asked for candy. His parents’ dinner guests included the Marx Brothers and Greta Garbo,” the Times reports.
The big winners included two vetean daytime soaps, with NBC’s “Days of Our Lives” and CBS’s “The Young and the Restless” tying for the ceremony’s top prize, Outstanding Drama Series.
Other top winners included Maura West and Anthony Geary, both of ABC’s “General Hospital,” as Outstanding Lead Actress and Actor in a Drama Series.
Perennial Emmy winner “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” claimed Outstanding Talk Show-Entertainment, while Outstanding Entertainment Talk Show Host went to Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan of “Live! with Kelly and Michael.”
Betty White was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award, with TV legends including Regis Philbin, Marie Osmond and Charo among the presenters. The ceremony featured a tribute to the late Joan Rivers, with Rivers’ daughter Melissa sharing her thoughts on her legendary comedienne mom.
NBC’s investigation of alleged misstatements by suspended “Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams has reportedly widened, with The New York Times, citing sources with inside knowledge, reporting that the probe has looked into “a half-dozen instances in which he is thought to have fabricated, misrepresented or embellished his accounts.”
The Times adds: “The investigation includes at least one episode that was previously unreported, these people said, involving statements by Mr. Williams about events from Tahrir Square in Cairo during the Arab Spring.”
The Times report notes about that incident: “Speaking [on 'The Daily Show with Jon Stewart'] of clashes between protesters seeking the overthrow of the Egyptian government, and a pro-government group on horses and camels, [Williams] said he had ‘actually made eye contact with the man on the lead horse.’ Later the Times report notes that Williams wasn’t actually in Tahrir Square, but had done his reporting “from a balcony overlooking Tahrir Square.”
The investigation of Williams was launched in response to a high-profile embellishment by Williams of an attack on a helicopter while Williams was covering the Iraq war in 2003. Williams is currently serving out a six-month suspension from his anchor chair in the wake of his Iraq account, and has been the subject of increasing speculation over whether he will return to his job.
NBC’s internal investigation is reportedly being led by Richard Esposito, the news division’s senior executive producer for investigations.
The Times report adds about the investigation, “When completed, it is expected to form the basis for a decision on whether to bring him back. It is not clear when that decision will be made.”
To read more about the Times report, please click here, which will take you to the original Times article.
A series that has racked up 13 Primetime Emmy Awards during its run will be back for another season. Discovery Channel announced that it has renewed “Deadliest Catch” for season 12.
The reality series, which has been airing since 2005, has been a staple on awards shows, including taking home three Primetime Emmys last year — for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program along with Outstanding Cinematography and Picture Editing for Reality Programming. It was named Outstanding Reality Program in 2011.
The series follows the exploits of crab fishermen on the Bering Sea, off the coast of Alaska. Along with its accolades, the show has pulled in strong ratings.
“In its most recent season premiere, which aired April 14, ‘Deadliest Catch’ placed first among all cable shows in key demos and led Discovery to finish as the #1 cable network in Prime delivering a 2.51 P25-54 AA% and averaged 4.03 million total viewers P2+, up +7% in both categories versus last season’s average,” Discovery noted in its announcement.
The network adds: “‘Deadliest Catch’ is also pulling in top ratings among women. The premiere was a top 10 cable program on Tuesday night with women (coming in at #7), beating Lifetime’s ‘Dance Moms,’ Bravo’s ‘Watch What Happens Live,’ E!’s ‘Botched’ and A&E’s ‘Married at First Sight.’ In addition, the series is growing it’s younger demo and posted a +16% increase from last season’s premiere in P12-17 rating.”
ABC is interested in having actress-singer Raven-Symoné as a co-host on “The View,” writes Emily Smith in a scoop for the New York Post’s Page Six.
The piece says Raven was a guest host in March and ABC executives were impressed. Though the piece quotes an ABC “source,” there is no official comment from ABC or Raven in the story.
Raven-Symoné, 29, who has been on TV since she’ was 3 years old, is probably best known as the star of “That’s So Raven,” the Disney Channel hit that ran from 2003-2007.
If Raven does get a regular gig on the “The View,” judging from her appearance on the show last month, she’s not afraid of controversy. Here she’s defending Rodner Figueroa’s comments about Michelle Obama looking like a cast member of “Planet of the Apes.”