Mar 5, 2015
6:20 am

DiCaprio and Netflix Join Forces for Series of Films (Entertainmentwise)

Streaming service Netflix and actor Leonardo DiCaprio have entered into a multi-year partnership to create a series of documentary films. Entertainmentwise reports that the series will have an environmental focus.

The move follows a similar arrangement that resulted in DiCaprio’s wildlife documentary “Virunga.” That film, which was executive produced by DiCaprio and distributed by Netflix, was nominated for an Oscar this year for best feature documentary.

In a statement, DiCaprio said: “Working with Netflix on ‘Virunga’ has sparked a shared vision about projects that we want to develop and bring to viewers. There’s never been a more critical time for our planet or more of a need for gifted storytellers to help us all make sense of the issues we face.

“Through this partnership with Netflix, I hope to give documentary filmmakers doing urgent and important work the chance to have their films seen immediately by audiences all around the world.”

DiCaprio has been gaining a reputation for environmental activism, with the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation raising millions to protect the habitats of endangered species. The actor addressed the U.N. Climate Change Summit in September.


Mar 5, 2015
12:32 am

Questions Still Unanswered About Bizarre Ending of Ellen DeGeneres’ Furniture Design Show on HDTV. Another ‘Twist’ to Come Today? (Washington Post; TVWeek)

By Chuck Ross

Ellen DeGeneres got the hype started this past Monday afternoon, March 2nd,  at 1:21 in the afternoon (PT) when she tweeted “Tonight’s the finale of my Design Challenge on HGTV. You’re not gonna believe what happens at the end. I promise it’s not what you think.”

Later that day she tweeted, “My Design Challenge finale is about to start! I’m telling you, you’re not gonna believe what happens.”

As the finale wound down, DeGeneres tweeted, “Who would you pick to win the show?”

And then “Make sure to watch ’til the very end, ‘cause it ain’t over ’til it’s over. And it ain’t over.”

And next, breathlessly, “Make sure to watch ’til the very end, ‘cause it ain’t over ’til it’s over. And it ain’t over.”

And THEN: “Here comes the twist. Don’t miss the ending!”

Phew. She ended her tweet string with this: “What a great season full of incredible designers & pieces. I hope you had as much fun as I did. Thanks for watching!”

Judging from the explosion in social media after the “twist” reveal, most viewers did not seem to be having the fun watching the end of the short six-episode season that DeGeneres had hoped they had.

As we previously reported, Ellen announced that contestant Tim McClellan won “Ellen’s Design Challenge,” which included $100,000 and having his work featured in a spread in HGTV magazine. Confetti fell from the ceiling, hugs were had all around. McClellan was thrilled.

Then, on the screen flashed the words “One Week Later”

That’s when viewers were told, matter of factly, that McClellan had been disqualified because of the similarity of his last piece of furniture to another piece of furniture already available in the marketplace.

An unseen narrator says “After the finale, it was discovered there was an existing piece of furniture designed by European designer Simon Schacht that resembles Tim’s. That led to the conclusion that Tim did not fulfill the requirement of the final challenge, which was to create an original piece.”

On-screen viewers saw both McClellan’s final piece and Schacht’s piece. Yes, they were similar. Viewers were then told that the runner-up, Katie Stout, had won the design challenge, including the $100,000 and the spread in HGTV magazine. Viewers then saw Stout again, this time on the set of Ellen’s talk show, where Stout had been invited so Ellen could surprise her with the news that Tim had been disqualified and that she was actually the winner of the design challenge. More confetti, hugs and end of show.

Regardless of viewers’ reactions, we can tell you that “Ellen’s Design Challenge” was “among the highest rated series in HGTV history,” according to an announcement HGTV put out Tuesday afternoon, the day after the finale aired.

The announcement continued, “The finale on Monday, March 2, which was the highest-rated show of the night on HGTV, averaged a .86 P25-54 rating — making HGTV a top 10 rated cable network in primetime among viewers P25-54. Averaging a .83 P25-54 rating this season, the six-episode furniture design competition grew 48% versus the prior 13 week average. Since its premiere on Monday, January 28, at 9 p.m. ET/PT, ‘Ellen’s Design Challenge’ consistently ranked as a top 10-rated cable program for the Monday 9P-10P time period among P25-54.”

One of the reporters covering “Ellen’s Design Challenge” has been Emily Yahr of the Washington Post. Yahr is described by the Post as a reporter who “covers pop culture and entertainment for” the paper.

Though HGTV was quick to get out the ratings for the show, Yahr has not been about to get any answers about why the ending of the show was so bizarre. Yahr writes, “Angry viewers filled Twitter and HGTV’s Facebook page with hundreds of comments, the majority feeling cheated that McClellan (a fan favorite) saw his prize money taken away and reputation tarnished by a mysterious ruling. So many unanswered questions remained: Who realized that McClellan’s table resembled Schacht’s? When did they find out? Who tipped them off? Why didn’t they realize this before awarding him a “life-changing” prize? And most importantly: Was this all a publicity stunt to get more viewers?”

Yahr adds, “HGTV has remained mum: A spokeswoman would only give us the same statement uttered by the narrator.  Meanwhile, McClellan hasn’t returned multiple calls we made to his Arizona furniture store — but is apparently scheduled to make an appearance on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” on Thursday. Which just underscores the other strange vibe of this whole thing.”

Yahr then quotes the tweets DeGeneres made above and notes that DeGeneres has also hyped McClellan’s appearance on her “Ellen” talk show on Thursday with this tweet: “It’s the most talked about moment in furniture design show history. Tim was disqualified after winning my show.Thursday he tells me his side.”

Yahr then writes, “…why would a producer appear so openly gleeful about a ‘twist!’ that leaves one person admittedly elated, but another whose reputation and bank account takes a hit? Or is this another famous DeGeneres prank? Can we expect a ‘twist’ happy ending where McClellan keeps his prize after all?”

We here at TVWeek have had the same thought. Like Yahr and a lot of “Design Challenge” viewers, we have similar questions about the finale, and could find no one connected with the show willing to answer any of our questions on Wednesday. One person with knowledge of the circumstances of what really went down who declined to answer any of our questions on Wednesday, added that a further conversation with us could take place after the airing of McClellan’s appearance on “Ellen” on Thursday, if we still had any questions.

We also tried to reach McClellan, and though we were told on Wednesday that he was indeed here in Los Angeles – where we are as well – he did not return our phone messages we left with his shop in Arizona (though McClellan was described in the show as being from Durango, Colorado, his shop is actually in neighboring Arizona).

Furthermore, our suspicion is that Yahr is right when she concludes, “With HGTV not providing an explanation, we’re going to guess that even if there is another ‘twist!’ in store, the network has a fundamental misunderstanding about the kind of reality show ‘twists!’ viewers love.”

ellen logo


Mar 4, 2015
12:23 pm

Andrew Lack Steps Down From Post, Signaling Return to NBC News (Variety)

Former NBC News President Andrew Lack has resigned from his current job as he appears to be positioning to reclaim a top post at NBC. Variety reports that Lack stepped down from his position with the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

In a statement, the Board of Governors said: “Andrew Lack was a strong choice to serve as the BBG’s first CEO and Director. He has a passion for our work, appreciation for our history and understanding of the importance of our mission.”

Lack had been on the job only since January.

Variety calls his resignation “another sign that talks between the journalism honcho and the media company are coming to fruition.”

Lack is now widely expected to return to NBCUniversal in a senior role. Variety cites sources close to the situation saying he is expected to head a unit including NBC News, MSNBC and CNBC.

“Pat Fili-Krushel, a veteran media-industry executive who has held top roles at Time Warner and Walt Disney and is currently chairman of NBCUniversal News Group, is expected to take another role within the company,” the report notes. The piece cites a source saying NBC News President Deborah Turness is likely to remain in her job.

One key player who is likely to benefit from Lack’s return is Brian Williams, as we reported previously.

nbc news-logo

Mar 4, 2015
12:11 pm

Drama Series Gets Extended Order (TVWeek)

A drama series that is in its third season received an order for 12 additional episodes. TNT announced that it extended the order for “Cold Justice.”

The cable channel also ordered two new “Justice Served” specials, to be hosted by John Walsh of “America’s Most Wanted.”

“The specials will update viewers on victims’ families and the status of cases as they have proceeded through the legal system,” TNT said in its announcement. “In addition, the spring edition of ‘Justice Served’ will include a look at ‘Cold Justice: Sex Crimes,’ TNT’s new series set to launch this summer.”

“Cold Justice” airs Fridays at 8 p.m. (ET/PT) on TNT. The show is set to air its winter finale this Friday, March 6.

Spring episodes are due to air starting April 10.

Cold Justice

Mar 4, 2015
12:01 pm

Character Actor Known for ‘Seinfeld’ Role Dies (THR)

A character actor whose work included a memorable role on the hit NBC sitcom “Seinfeld” has died. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Daniel von Bargen died Sunday, March 1, after a long struggle with illness. He was 64.

Von Bargen was best known for playing George Costanza’s boss, Mr. Kruger, during the final season of “Seinfeld.” He also played Commandant Edwin Spangler on ABC’s “Malcolm in the Middle.”

“In February 2012, von Bargen was seriously injured when he shot himself in the temple in an apparent suicide attempt, distraught because he had been battling diabetes and was set to have two toes removed,” THR reports.

The THR story adds: “The versatile von Bargen rose from the dead as the satanic Nix in the Clive Barker horror film ‘Lord of Illusions’ (1995); played a futuristic sheriff in ‘The Postman’ (1997), directed by and starring Kevin Costner; and portrayed a Southern lawman who pursued George Clooney’s character in the Coen brothers’ ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’ (2000).”

daniel von bargenDaniel von Bargen

Mar 4, 2015
11:59 am

Presidential Hopeful Raises Eyebrows With CNN Interview on Homosexuality — Here’s the Clip (CNN)

In an interview this morning with Chris Cuomo on the CNN show “New Day,” presidential hopeful Dr. Ben Carson offered views on homosexuality that many observers may find controversial.

Carson has not formally declared his candidacy for president, but has reportedly formed an exploratory committee to contemplate a bid for the Republican nomination in 2016. In the interview, Cuomo asked whether being gay is a choice and Carson responded: “Absolutely.”

Carson, a neurosurgeon, indicated that homosexuality can be proved to be a choice because some people “go into prison straight — and when they come out, they’re gay.”

Carson’s argument, CNN reports, “is at odds with the majority of the medical community, including the American Psychological Association, who says ‘most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.’”

Here’s the clip:

Mar 4, 2015
11:58 am

There’s a New (Old) No. 1 in Smartphone Sales (LA Times)

The new No. 1 seller of smartphones in the world is a familiar name in the space, but it hasn’t been on top since 2012. The Los Angeles Times reports that Apple moved ahead of Samsung globally in the fourth quarter to reclaim the title.

Apple reportedly sold 74.8 million units in the quarter, with demand for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, especially in the U.S. and China, helping to drive the results. The report cites research firm Gartner.

Anshul Gupta, principal research analyst at Gartner, wrote in a report: “Samsung’s performance in the smartphone market deteriorated further in the fourth quarter of 2014, when it lost nearly 10 percentage points in market share.”

Gupta adds in the report: “Samsung continues to struggle to control its falling smartphone share, which was at its highest in the third quarter of 2013. This downward trend shows that Samsung’s share of profitable premium smartphone users has come under significant pressure.”

The Times adds: “It was, however, also a record quarter for the smartphone industry overall: Worldwide sales of smartphones increased 29.9% year over year to reach 367.5 million units sold.”

For 2014 overall, a total of 1.2 billion smartphones were sold, a 28.4% increase from 2013.


Mar 4, 2015
11:57 am

30-Year Media Veteran Joins Discovery in High-Level Position (TVWeek)

Discovery Communications this week announced the hiring of a longtime media industry executive as president, global business and legal affairs, production management and studios. Marc Graboff will take the post, reporting to Bruce Campbell, chief development and digital media officer and general counsel.

Graboff, a 30-year veteran of media and entertainment, will oversee Discovery’s worldwide business affairs and production operations and management, along with the Studios Group, the company announced.

Lee Bartlett was named president of the Studios Group, and will report to Graboff.

Please click here to read the full announcement from Discovery.

marc graboffMarc Graboff

Mar 4, 2015
11:51 am

Retail Giant Announces It Will Cut Thousands of Jobs (Forbes)

One of the largest U.S. retailers laid out a plan to transform the company, with thousands of job cuts among the changes that are on the way for Target.

Forbes reports that CEO Brian Cornell unveiled the plan at Tuesday’s investor meeting, with the company setting its sights on cutting $2 billion in costs over the next two years.

The plan also includes boosting the stores’ food offerings and expansion via new urban locations.

“The Minneapolis-based company also said it would cut several thousand positions over the next two years, mainly from headquarters locations, in relation to cost-cutting efforts,” Forbes reports. “Target hopes to save $2 billion over the next two years in order to free up capital for key growth and profitability initiatives. The company has been working to move on from costly blunders, including a massive data breach and unsuccessful foray into Canada.”

Said Cornell: “While we’re in the early days and there’s no doubt that transformation can be challenging, we’re taking the steps necessary to unleash the potential of this incredible brand.”

Cornell stepped in as CEO six months ago.

target logo

Mar 4, 2015
11:44 am

Why a Hot New Movie Is Being Boycotted in the U.S. (Variety)

A new feature film that has already received Oscar buzz faces a boycott in the U.S. from four major theater chains. Variety reports that “Beasts of No Nation,” starring Idris Elba, is being boycotted by the theaters because it will be shown by Netflix simultaneously with its theatrical release.

The streaming service this week bought the rights to the movie for $12 million, reportedly following a bidding war.

“Four of the country’s … largest exhibitors — AMC, Regal, Cinemark and Carmike — separately told Variety that they do not plan to show the drama about child soldiers in Africa because they do not want to provide screens to films that do not honor what is typically a 90-day delay between a theatrical debut and a home entertainment release,” the publication reports.

Variety notes: “In a release touting the deal, Netflix said the picture will have a qualifying run for Oscar consideration in ‘select theaters’ later this year — language that seemed to acknowledge that ‘Beasts of No Nation’ will have trouble securing a berth in many theaters.”

Netflix also got into a dispute with theater owners last fall when it revealed plans to work in partnership with The Weinstein Company and Imax on distribution of the “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” sequel.

Industry sources indicated that “Beasts of No Nation,” written and directed by “True Detective” director and producer Cary Fukunaga, could still be distributed by between 200 and 250 arthouses and indie theaters. The movie stars four-time Emmy nominee Elba, known for playing Stringer Bell on “The Wire.”


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