Jun 22, 2017
10:07 am

HBO Sued for Defamation (Daily Beast)

A defamation lawsuit was filed Wednesday against HBO, Time Warner, the writers of the pay-cable network’s “Last Week Tonight” and its host, John Oliver, by coal baron Robert E. Murray, the Daily Beast reports.

The suit focuses on the most recent episode of “Last Week Tonight,” in which Oliver reportedly attacked Donald Trump’s use of coal miners for PR purposes.

“The suit, filed on June 21 in the circuit court of Marshall County, West Virginia, holds that Oliver and his team ‘executed a meticulously planned attempt to assassinate the character of and reputation of Mr. Robert E. Murray and his companies’ by airing an episode that ripped into him. Murray runs the country’s largest privately owned coal company, Murray Energy Corporation,” the story reports.

The story quotes a section of the complaint that says: “They did this to a man who needs a lung transplant, a man who does not expect to live to see the end of this case.”

“The lawsuit isn’t a surprise to Oliver,” the Daily Beast notes. “In fact, the British comic said on the episode of his show that aired on June 18 that he expected it, noting that Murray has sued several other media outlets in the past (including, in May, The New York Times). In the episode, Oliver criticized Murray’s business practices, saying he doesn’t do enough to protect his miners’ safety. Oliver also noted that his team contacted Murray’s company before the episode aired, and that the company sent a cease-and-desist letter — the first time that had ever happened to his show.”

The report adds: “At the heart of Murray’s complaint is Oliver’s discussion of the collapse of one of his mines in Utah, which killed nine people. Oliver said on the show that a government report concluded the collapse happened because of unauthorized mining practices, and also noted that Murray holds the collapse actually happened because of an earthquake.”

Jun 22, 2017
10:01 am

Fitness Model Killed When Whipped Cream Dispenser Explodes (TVWeek, Instagram, BBC)

A popular Internet personality who blogged about fitness, travel, lifestyles, fashion and food was killed in a freak accident when a whipped cream dispenser exploded.

The family of Rebecca Burger posted a message on her Instagram account saying: ‘It is with great sadness we announce the death of Rebecca who died … June 18th, 2017 in an accident in the home. The grieving family.”

Burger’s family also posted a warning about faulty whipped cream dispensers, along with a photo of the type of dispenser involved in the accident, which you can see below.

The French fitness model died after the dispenser reportedly exploded and struck her in the chest.

“French media reported she had died of cardiac arrest after the incident, despite medical attention,” the BBC reports. “The popular fitness and travel figure was well-known in France, with some 55,000 Facebook fans and 154,000 followers on Instagram.”

The BBC report notes that a French consumer group has been warning for years about faulty connectors on the gas capsules used on the dispensers.

“The injuries caused range from broken teeth and tinnitus to multiple fractures and, in one case, the loss of an eye, consumer magazine 60 Millions said. But the magazine says new dispensers made since 2015 appear to be safe,” the BBC reports. “In 2013, one victim of an exploding cream dispenser told RTL radio: ‘I had six broken ribs, and my sternum was broken.'”

Jun 22, 2017
9:29 am

Fox Rolls Out Schedule for Fall (TVWeek)

Fox announced its premiere dates for fall today, unveiling a schedule that includes the new shows “The Orville,” “Ghosted” and “The Gifted.”

Seth MacFarlane’s “The Orville” will get the ball rolling on Fox’s fall season with two special post-NFL airings, on Sunday, Sept. 10, and Sunday, Sept. 17, before moving to its regular time period on Thursday, Sept. 28.

The new family adventure series “The Gifted” premieres Monday, Oct. 2, leading out from the season three premiere of “Lucifer.”

The live-action buddy comedy “Ghosted,” with Craig Robinson and Adam Scott, joins Fox’s Sunday lineup starting Oct. 1, leading out from the season 29 premiere of “The Simpsons.”

Click here for the full schedule and additional details on the new programs.

“The Orville” (Fox)

Jun 22, 2017
9:17 am

Juror Says 10 of the 12 Cosby Jurors Thought the Comedian Was Guilty (ABC News)

One of the jurors in the Bill Cosby criminal trial said 10 of the 12 jurors agreed that Cosby was guilty on two of the three counts, ABC News reports. On the third count, only one juror thought Cosby was guilty.

A mistrial was declared in the case, with the jury deadlocked after about 52 hours of deliberations. The prosecution has indicated it will retry the case.

“The final, intractable votes on the first of the three counts was 10 to two to find Cosby guilty of digitally penetrating accuser Andrea Constand without her consent, the juror said,” ABC News reports. “On the second count, that she was unconscious or unaware during the incident, the juror said the vote was 11 to one to acquit. On the third count, that the alleged assault occurred after Cosby gave Constand drugs or intoxicants without her knowledge, substantially impairing her for the purpose of preventing her resistance, the jury was deadlocked at 10 to two, in favor of a guilty verdict, according to the juror.”

Jun 22, 2017
7:57 am

Studio Chief Confirms Plans for ‘Downton Abbey’ Movie (AP)

The “Downton Abbey” movie is a go, with the president of NBCUniversal International Studios confirming that production is expected to begin next year, the AP reports.

Studio chief Michael Edelstein said the producers hope to have 20 cast members from the TV series on board. Edelstein discussed plans while he was in Singapore to help open “Downton Abbey: The Exhibition,” featuring costumes, locations and never-before-seen footage from the series.

“There’s a movie in the works. It’s been in the works for some time,” Edelstein said, adding: “We are working on getting the script right and then we’ve got to figure out how to get the [cast] together. Because as you know, people go on and do other things. But we’re hopeful to make a movie sometime next year.”

The report notes that cast members attending the exhibition were unaware of the movie.

Sophie McShera, who played Daisy Mason on the show, said when told about the movie plans: “Oh, well, you’ve got confirmation before us. We have no idea if that’s happening. But we would all love to be part of the film if it was to happen, for sure.”

The “Downton Abbey” exhibition will later head to the U.S. and Australia, the report notes.

Jun 22, 2017
7:03 am

Another Big Cable Merger May Be in the Works (NY Post)

The wheels have begun to turn on what could become another big merger for the cable industry. The New York Post reports that cable giant Charter Communications, which already owns Spectrum — formerly Time Warner Cable — is looking into acquiring Atlanta-based Cox Communications.

“Charter Chief Executive Tom Rutledge is eyeing family-owned Cox despite the fact that the latter has repeatedly rejected overtures from larger rivals, industry insiders say,” The Post reports.

The report quotes one source saying: “If they’re going to sell it to anyone, they’re going to sell it to an old cable guy,” meaning Rutledge.

“Rutledge is a former chief operating officer at Cablevision, which was acquired for $17.7 billion from the Dolan family last year by French-based Altice NV, which has also acquired Suddenlink,” The Post notes.

Cox is the third-largest U.S. cable company, with 6.2 million customers.

Charter wasn’t commenting, and Cox downplayed talk of a possible sale. The report quotes Cox spokesman Todd Smith saying Wednesday: “Cox has been very clear and consistent that we are not for sale and, in fact, we’re aggressively investing in our network, products and strategic partnerships and investments of our own.”

Jun 22, 2017
6:19 am

First-of-Its-Kind TV Tax Credit Passes NY Legislature (Deadline)

A tax incentive that’s being called the first of its kind has made it through the New York state Legislature. Deadline.com reports that the measure, whose aim is to boost women and minority writers and directors in television, needs the signature of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, along with appropriation in the state budget, to become law.

“The bill, which received the backing of the DGA and the WGA East, calls for a new tax credit of up to $5 million … in the state’s next budget to be allocated toward TV shows that employ writers and directors who are women and/or people of color,” Deadline reports.

The report quotes Lowell Peterson, executive director of WGA East, saying: “People in the TV industry have understood for years that enhancing the diversity of writing and directing improves the stories that appear onscreen. The missing link for policymakers has been putting money at the point of hire, and this legislation is an important step in that direction.”

Jun 22, 2017
6:11 am

Ron Howard Officially Takes Over as Director of ‘Star Wars’ Han Solo Movie (TVWeek, THR)

Lucasfilm announced today that the upcoming standalone “Star Wars” movie about Han Solo, scheduled for release on May 25, 2018, will be directed by Ron Howard.

In a statement, Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy said: “At Lucasfilm, we believe the highest goal of each film is to delight, carrying forward the spirit of the saga that George Lucas began forty years ago. With that in mind, we’re thrilled to announce that Ron Howard will step in to direct the untitled Han Solo film. We have a wonderful script, an incredible cast and crew, and the absolute commitment to make a great movie. Filming will resume the 10th of July.”

The move comes just days after co-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller parted ways with the production after working on it for more than four months, as we reported previously.

“Creative differences over style and tone came to a head between the duo and Lawrence Kasdan, with the studio backing the veteran screenwriter,” The Hollywood Reporter’s Heat Vision reports. “The firing sent shockwaves around Hollywood and beyond as the movie was about three-quarters through principal photography and the replacement of a director at that stage is near-unprecedented.”

Three and a half more weeks of shooting are scheduled, along with five weeks of reshoots built into the schedule, THR notes.

“Howard, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter, will meet with the actors — Alden Ehrenreich is playing the iconic smuggler, Donald Glover is playing Lando Calrissian, with Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke and Thandie Newton also on the roll call — to soothe a rattled set and will pore over a rough edit to see what the project needs,” THR adds.

Howard has a track record with Lucas, THR notes, including acting in Lucas’ 1973 movie “American Graffiti” and directing the 1988 film “Willow,” a Lucas pet project.

Jun 22, 2017
5:27 am

How Ritz-Carlton Is ‘Disrupting Two Industries in One Fell Swoop’ (Bloomberg)

Ritz-Carlton announced a plan today for a brand extension that marks a first for the hotel industry: an expansion that will take its luxury brand to the high seas. An in-depth report by Bloomberg concludes that the company is building the anti-cruise ship.

“As part of the newly minted Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, the five-star hotel brand will launch three small, ultra-luxury ships with laid-back itineraries and spacious, open-concept design schemes that flip the traditional cruise experience on its head,” Bloomberg reports. “The maiden vessel will pull out of the shipyard late in 2019, with bookings opening next May.”

Bloomberg says the move has the effect of “disrupting two industries in one fell swoop.” The report notes that “this will be the first time guests can combine cruise and land vacations with a single operator, by booking pre- and post-hotel stays with Ritz-Carltons in port cities.”

We encourage readers to click on the link above to Bloomberg to read the full report.

Jun 22, 2017
5:19 am

Netflix Gets the Gang Back Together — Again — for ‘Wet Hot American Summer’ TV Series (Netflix)

Netflix today gave fans of “Wet Hot American Summer” a chance to reunite with the gang of misfits from the 2001 cult classic (and the 2015 prequel series), who are getting back together for a new eight-part limited series, “Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later.”

The show launches Aug. 4. Click here to read more about the series in the announcement from Netflix.

Here’s the official trailer, released today by Netflix — with a warning about language …

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