Apr 24, 2017
4:00 pm

Noted Author Robert M. Pirsig Dead at 88 — He Penned One of the Defining Books of the 1970s (AP)

The author of a book that became an unexpected bestseller and virtually defined an era has died. The AP reports that Robert M. Pirsig, whose novel “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” became a million-selling classic after being rejected by more than 100 publishers, died today at his home in South Benwick, Maine.

Pirsig, 88, had been in failing health. His publisher, William Morrow, announced his death.

“‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ was published in 1974 and was based on a motorcycle trip Pirsig took in the late 1960s with his 12-year-old son, Chris,” the AP reports. “The book’s path to the best-seller list was long and unlikely. It began as an essay he wrote after he and Chris rode from Minnesota to the Dakotas and grew to a manuscript of hundreds of thousands of words. After the entire industry seemed to shun it, William Morrow took on the book, with editor James Landis writing at the time that he found it ‘brilliant beyond belief.'”

The report adds: “Pirsig’s book ideally suited a generation’s yearning for the open road, a quest for knowledge and skepticism of modern values, while also telling a personal story about a father and son relationship and the author’s struggles with schizophrenia. A world traveler and former philosophy student, Pirsig would blend his life and learning into what he called the Metaphysics of Quality.”

Pirsig later wrote a sequel, “Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals.”

“Chris was killed by a mugger in 1979 and later editions of ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ would include an afterword about him,” the AP notes. “In 2006, the author told The Guardian that his son had not cared for the book.”

Apr 24, 2017
3:40 pm

Elton John Cancels Shows Due to Health Issue (AP, YouTube)

Singer and piano man extraordinaire Elton John has canceled more than a month’s worth of tour dates after contracting  what the AP reports is “an unusual bacterial infection” while on tour in South America. The infection reportedly left John in intensive care for two nights.

“John is scrapping all upcoming April and May dates of ‘The Million Dollar Piano’ at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, as well as performance on May 6 in Bakersfield, California,” the AP reports. “The ‘Rocket Man’ and ‘Daniel’ singer says in a statement that he became ‘violently ill’ on a flight to the United Kingdom from Chile and ‘underwent immediate treatment’ at a hospital, where he was released on Saturday.”

John, 70, is expected to make a full recovery and may be back on stage as soon as June 3 in Twickenham, England.

Apr 24, 2017
1:33 pm

Another Fox News Host Defending Himself Against Allegations of Misbehavior (AP)

Following the ouster of Bill O’Reilly from Fox News, some of the spotlight has shifted to Fox News star Sean Hannity as allegations of misbehavior at the cable network continue to make headlines.

The AP reports that Hannity ripped into comments by Debbie Schlussel, who was a guest on Hannity’s Fox News show more than a decade ago. Schlussel said during an interview Friday with Oklahoma radio station KFAQ that Hannity repeatedly asked her to come to his hotel room, and that soon after she refused the invitation, she stopped appearing on his show.

Schlussel clarified today that she doesn’t believe Hannity’s behavior was sexual harassment. Nonetheless, the AP reports that Hannity has lashed out at Schlussel, calling her account “100% false and a complete fabrication.”

“KFAQ host Pat Campbell asked Schlussel if anyone at Fox News ever made her ‘uncomfortable’ or made ‘sexual advances.’ She responded by saying she declined Hannity’s repeated requests to come to his hotel with him while he was in Detroit for a broadcast of his show more than a decade ago,” the AP reports. “She said it was made clear to her after the program that she ‘wouldn’t be back on his show.’ She says she made two more appearances on Fox after that, one on Hannity’s show.”

The report adds that Schlussel “told The Associated Press on Monday that her description of the Detroit incident was true, but that the behavior didn’t rise to sexual harassment. She says she believes she was ‘blackballed’ from the channel by Hannity.”

Hannity has released a statement in which he calls Schlussel a “serial harasser who has been lying about me for well over a decade.”

Apr 24, 2017
1:23 pm

Bill O’Reilly Returns With ‘No Spin News’ Tonight (Billoreilly.com)

Bill O’Reilly is refusing to be silenced by a little thing like being fired from Fox News. The outspoken conservative cable star declared he’s back in action with a banner on billoreilly.com announcing a new installment of his “No Spin News” podcast will air tonight.

O’Reilly requires a premium membership for his Internet users to view the podcast under normal circumstances, but he’s seizing on the opportunity provided by his abrupt exit from FNC to drum up business for his online operation. The banner declares the the podcast will be available for free through Sunday, but beginning May 1 a premium membership will be required.

Tonight’s podcast will air at 7 p.m. ET, according to O’Reilly’s announcement.

Apr 24, 2017
1:01 pm

NBC Fast-Tracks Megyn Kelly’s Sunday Night Show (NY Post)

NBC News has its newest star on a fast track. The network now plans to put Megyn Kelly to work starting next month, with her Sunday night show expected to premiere in June, The New York Post’s Page Six reports, citing an NBC insider.

“Kelly had been expected to start in July after her Fox contract expired, but she was just released from her Fox deal two weeks ago,” The Post reports. “She will join Kate Snow as part of NBC News’ Sunday night programming.”

The report adds: “NBC News vet and former ‘Dateline’ executive producer David Corvo will executive produce Kelly’s Sunday show with another longtime NBC producer, Elizabeth Cole. NBC News Chairman Andy Lack flew to Russia earlier this month to meet with Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, sparking buzz that a Putin interview may launch Kelly’s show.”

Plans for Kelly’s other main assignment at NBC, a weekday morning show, apparently aren’t going as smoothly.

“We’re told NBC is still scrambling to find a staff and executive producer for the weekday morning show, which will debut in the fall,” The Post reports, citing another source saying: “It’s a very real problem. There’s no staff in place. They have no idea what they’re going to do with Megyn. Ideas range from talk show to studio audience to news show. It’s a problem.”

Another NBC insder offered a different take, saying: “Megyn’s morning show is almost entirely staffed — and it doesn’t air for another five months. They just haven’t announced anybody.”

Apr 24, 2017
12:51 pm

‘Seinfeld’ Veteran Jason Alexander Has a New Series (Deadline)

Jason Alexander, still best remembered for playing George on “Seinfeld,” has received a series order from the AT&T Audience Network for “Hit the Road,” his new comedy.

Deadline.com reports that the series, in which Alexander will star and executive produce with Primary Wave Entertainment, received an order for 10 half-hour episodes. Fabrik Entertainment, which is behind “Bosch,” will produce.

“Co-created by Alexander, Emmy-nominated comedy writer Peter Tilden and British screenwriter Dean Craig (‘Death at a Funeral,’ ‘Moonwalkers’), ‘Hit the Road’ is about the greatest family band you’ve never heard of — yet!,” Deadline notes. “This chaotically dysfunctional family of would-be rock/pop stars traverse the country in a cramped tour bus sacrificing privacy, comfort and dignity while in search of fame and fortune.”

Alexander plays Ken Swallow, patriarch of the Swallow family band.

Apr 24, 2017
12:47 pm

One of the Key Figures in the TV Quiz Show Scandals of the 1950s Dies at 95 (NY Times, YouTube)

A key player from a dark chapter in the early days of television — the quiz show scandals of the 1950s — has died. The New York Times reports that TV producer Albert Freedman died April 11 in Greenbrae, Calif.

Freedman, 95, reportedly died of heart failure.

Freedman famously rigged the competition on his NBC quiz show “Twenty-One,” including giving questions in advance to contestant Charles Van Doren in 1956 to ensure that he would defeat reigning champion Herbert Stempel. Van Doren was deemed at the time to be a more TV-friendly contestant.

After the fix was uncovered, the ensuing scandal tainted the young medium of television and Freedman was indicted for perjury.

Freedman later denied that quiz shows were fraudulent, saying in a statement to The New York Times that the shows were about “showmanship, spectacle and illusion.”

Perjury charges against Freedman were dropped after he admitted giving questions to contestants in advance.

Freedman was played by Hank Azaria in Robert Redford’s 1994 feature film “Quiz Show,” about the 1950s scandals.

Here’s a clip of Freedman from a few years ago in which he discusses how he helped prepare Van Doren for his appearances on the show and talks about the quiz shows’ role in popularizing television …

Apr 24, 2017
12:31 pm

Battle Over Ann Coulter Appearance Heads to Court Amid Threats of Disruptions (USA Today, Twitter, TVWeek)

A planned speaking engagement by outspoken conservative commentator Ann Coulter has been a pretty big headache already for the University of California, Berkeley, and now the legal dispute over the appearance is headed to court.

Coulter tweeted this morning that a lawsuit has been filed against the university demanding an appropriate and safe venue for her appearance, which is set for this Thursday. USA Today reports that the suit was filed by the Young America’s Foundation and the Berkeley College Republicans, who are seeking damages for constitutional rights violations after the university attempted to cancel the speech.

As we reported late last week, the university later reversed that decision and the speech was back on. In originally canceling the event, the university cited safety concerns.

“The UC Berkeley Police Department said they have received notice that groups that previously protested and fomented violence in Berkeley have planned to agitate again at Coulter’s speaking event,” USA Today reports. “UCPD wrote a letter to the attorney representing the Berkeley College Republicans and YAF, which supports the Coulter event, that said the university cannot protect Coulter and student supporters from anticipated violence as no campus venues could accommodate the security threats.”

Apr 24, 2017
10:19 am

Legendary TV Producer, 94, Launches New Podcast — and A-List TV Stars Line Up
(TVWeek, PodcastOne)

The legendary TV producer behind “All in the Family,” “One Day at a Time,” “The Jeffersons,” “Good Times,” “Maude” and other wildly successful sitcoms is launching a new podcast at age 94. “All of the Above with Norman Lear” is set to premiere Monday, May 1.

The show, which will run on PodcastOne, can be accessed here.

In a promotional blurb on the website, PodcastOne says the show “takes listeners on an enlightening ride of conversation, from comedy to family, current events, music, politics, social issues and more. While topics will cover any and everything you can think of, the show will always feature the unique perspectives of celebrities, politicians and everyday folk.”

The lineup of celebrity guests who have already been announced includes a few TV heavyweights. Julia Louis-Dreyfus will appear on the podcast, as will America Ferrera, Jerrod Charmichael, Charles Barkley and Amy Poehler.

Apr 24, 2017
9:27 am

FX’s ‘Fargo’ Is Back, But How Is It Doing in the Ratings? (TVWeek)

The acclaimed crime series “Fargo” returned to FX for its third season last week, and the cable network announced that the show had a strong debut.

The season premiere on Wednesday, April 19, averaged 3 million total viewers in L+3, up 8% from the turnout for the season two premiere.

“On a Live+3 basis, the premiere telecast (4/19/17, 10:00-11:30 PM) delivered 3 million total viewers, an +8% gain over the premiere of the second installment (2.78 million) and +9% over Year Two’s season average ratings (3 million vs. 2.76 million),” FX said in announcing the results. “Adults 18-49 held steady as compared to the previous installment’s premiere (-2%, 1.06 million vs. 1.08 million) and season average ratings (-2%, 1.06 million vs. 1.08 million).”

The announcement notes that “Fargo” was a top five program for the night in several key demos: #4 in Adults 25-54 and Total Viewers (3 million); and #5 in Adults 18-49 (1.06 million).

“Fargo” hails from Peabody-, Golden Globe- and Emmy Award-winning executive producers Noah Hawley (creator/showrunner/writer/director), Joel & Ethan Coen, Warren Littlefield and John Cameron. The series is produced by MGM Television and FX Productions, with MGM Television serving as the lead studio.

“Set in 2010, the third installment of ‘Fargo’ centers on ‘Emmit’ and his slightly younger brother ‘Ray Stussy’ (Ewan McGregor),” FX notes. “Emmit, the Parking Lot King of Minnesota, sees himself as an American success story, whereas Ray is more of a cautionary tale. Forever living in his more successful brother’s shadow, Ray is a balding and pot-bellied parole officer with a huge chip on his shoulder about the hand he’s been dealt — and he blames his brother. Their sibling rivalry follows a twisted path that begins with petty theft but soon leads to murder, mobsters and cut-throat competitive bridge.

Carrie Coon stars as “Gloria Burgle,” the steady chief of the local police department. Mary Elizabeth Winstead stars as Ray’s girlfriend, “Nikki Swango.”

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