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TVBIZWIRE
Feb 18, 2019
1:42 am
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Report: New Evidence Suggests Jussie Smollett Orchestrated Attack as Two Men Arrested in Case Last Week Are Released (CNN)

“Two law enforcement sources with knowledge of the investigation tell CNN that Chicago Police believe actor Jussie Smollett paid two men to orchestrate an assault on him that he reported late last month,” reports CNN.

The story says “The [two] men, who are brothers, were arrested Wednesday but released without charges Friday after Chicago police cited the discovery of ‘new evidence.’”

The article adds, “Smollett’s attorneys, Todd S. Pugh and Victor P. Henderson, issued a statement to CNN Saturday night saying Smollett was angry about these latest developments: ‘As a victim of a hate crime who has cooperated with the police investigation, Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with. He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack. Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying.'”

To read CNN’s full story about this item, please click here.

 

TVBIZWIRE
Feb 18, 2019
1:30 am
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TVWeek’s President’s Day Schedule (TVWeek)

TVWeek will be closed today for the Presidents’ Day holiday, and will not publish our e-newsletters. As always, we will continue to let you know about breaking news through our TVWeek EXTRA alerts. We will resume our regular publishing schedule tomorrow, Feb. 19, 2019.

 

TVBIZWIRE
Feb 15, 2019
1:21 pm
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Arrests Made in Jussie Smollett Attack
(TMZ, NY Post, TVWeek, Instagram)

Police in Chicago have arrested two men in connection with the alleged Jan. 29 attack on “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett, according to media reports.

TMZ reports that the men — who have connections to the Fox drama series — have been booked for battery, although at the time of the report they apparently had yet to be formally charged.

“The men are brothers from Nigeria named Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, and Chicago cops are now calling them ‘potential suspects’ … as opposed to persons of interest,” TMZ reports. “We know it was their home cops raided Wednesday and seized a long list of potential evidence … including several bottles of bleach.”

The men, who go by the nicknames Ola and Abel, have come up as figures in the story of the Smollett attack since they were picked up for questioning Wednesday night at O’Hare Airport on their return from Nigeria. According to The New York Post, police revealed today that the brothers were arrested at that time and have been held since then.

“The beefy brothers, who describe themselves as actors and models, have links to ‘Empire’ — Ola played a prison inmate on season 2 of the hit Fox series, while Abel says he’s also worked on the show,” The Post reports.

It is unclear how well the brothers and Smollett know each other. Ola reportedly also recently had a part on “Chicago PD.”

Police have not confirmed that the Osundairo brothers are the same men seen in a grainy photo released from surveillance footage. Smollett has said he believes the men in the photo are his attackers. You can click here to see that photo.

“A Chicago law enforcement source tells us the next step may be a lineup in which Jussie will be asked to identify the culprits,” TMZ reports. “This raises a potential problem because … Jussie initially said his attackers were white and yelled ‘MAGA country.'” The report adds that the Osundairos “just don’t fit that profile.”

The Post report notes that authorities have 48 hours from the time of the arrests to issue charges against the men being held, which means if it’s going to happen it can be expected to take place sometime today.

Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo (Instagram)

TVBIZWIRE
Feb 15, 2019
1:19 pm
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‘Billions’ Set to Return Next Month — and Showtime Releases an Enticing Clip
(TVWeek, Showtime)

Showtime is getting “Billions” fans fired up for next month’s premiere of the acclaimed drama series’ fourth season, and what better way to do it than with an intriguing teaser video, which you can watch below. (Spoiler alert, for both the clip and the following text.)

The teaser was released under the title “I Can Make You a Legend.” Season four premieres on Showtime on Sunday, March 17. The series stars Paul Giamatti and Damian Lewis.

“When everyone is out for revenge, no one is safe,” Showtime says in promotional material accompanying the clip’s release. “This is never more true than in season four of ‘Billions.’ Bobby Axelrod and Chuck Rhoades, former enemies, and Wendy Rhoades (Maggie Siff), the chief counselor to each, have come together to form an uneasy but highly effective alliance, aimed at the eradication of all their rivals, including Grigor Andolov (guest star John Malkovich), Taylor Mason (Asia Kate Dillon), Bryan Connerty (Toby Leonard Moore) and Waylon ‘Jock’ Jeffcoat (guest star Clancy Brown). Ambition and betrayal have long been at the heart of ‘Billions,’ and this season all the characters find out exactly how high a price they’ll have to pay to satisfy those needs.”

The series also stars David Costabile, Condola Rashad, Kelly AuCoin, Jeffrey DeMunn and Malin Akerman, along with new guest stars Samantha Mathis, Kevin Pollak, Jade Eshete and Nina Arianda.

“Billions” is created and executive produced by showrunners Brian Koppelman and David Levien. The series was also created by Andrew Ross Sorkin.

Here’s the new teaser …

TVBIZWIRE
Feb 15, 2019
1:17 pm
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CBS Offering Buyouts to Veteran Employees
(L.A. Biz, Miami New Times)

“CBS Corp. is encouraging its veteran employees to retire early with buyout offers that started to go out last week,” L.A. Biz reports. “The voluntary buyouts are being offered to longtime workers whose age plus the number of years they have worked for the company totals 80 or more years.”

The Miami New Times reported that the buyouts were being offered to hundreds of employees nationwide, across multiple divisions. New Times noted that 20 employees at local station WFOR-TV had received offers.

The New Times report said CBS offered some employees two weeks of severance pay and medical coverage for each year they’ve worked for the company.

L.A. Biz adds: “The move comes on the heels of a similar offer that HBO made to its longtime employees last week. In that case, the voluntary retirement packages were offered to older workers who had been with the company for a decade or more.”

TVBIZWIRE
Feb 15, 2019
12:59 pm
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Sony Is Sued Over NBC’s ‘The Blacklist’ (Variety)

Sony, the studio behind NBC’s James Spader drama series “The Blacklist,” has been sued for wrongful termination by a former executive producer on the show.

Variety reports that Michael Watkins, a veteran TV director and cinematographer who was an EP on “The Blacklist” for several seasons, alleges in the suit that he was fired after being wrongfully blamed for a scuffle on the set.

“According to his suit, he was fired in February 2018 after he allegedly ‘laid hands’ on a male camera assistant,” Variety reports. “Watkins alleges that the claim was never investigated, and that if it had been, the company would have discovered that it was the assistant who [became] frustrated and laid hands on Watkins.”

Variety adds: “Watkins claims that Laura Benson, a co-executive producer on the show, used the incident as a pretext ‘in order to facilitate her own rise in position and power’ on the show. He also alleges that after he was gone, executives bad-mouthed him to various people, saying that he was ‘blackballed’ at Sony for the ‘beating’ of the camera assistant.”

TVBIZWIRE
Feb 15, 2019
12:44 pm
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Emmy-Nominated Comedy Series Renewed (TVWeek)

A multicamera sitcom that was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award in 2018 was just picked up for a third season. Netflix announced the renewal for “Alexa & Katie.”

The series, which stars Paris Berelc and Isabel May, was nominated last year for Outstanding Children’s Program.

The third season will launch in two parts featuring eight episodes each, Netflix said.

“The series follows two lifelong best friends on their journey as they face not only the challenges of high school but also the lingering complexities of Alexa’s battle with cancer,” Netflix noted. “Season 3 will follow Paris Berelc (Alexa) and Isabel May (Katie) through their junior and senior years of high school as they learn that together, they can get through anything.”

Among the returning cast members are Tiffani Thiessen, Eddie Shin, Jolie Jenkins, Emery Kelly, Finn Carr and Jack Griffo. Series creator Heather Wordham will continue as executive producer.

TVBIZWIRE
Feb 15, 2019
12:23 pm
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New Transformers Series on Track for 2020 Premiere (Deadline, TVWeek, Twitter)

A new Transformers TV series is in the works, and is set to roll out next year. Netflix announced plans today for “War for Cybertron,” an animated series on which the streamer is reportedly partnering with Hasbro and Rooster Teeth.

Polygon Pictures is the animation studio.

Deadline reports that the series will examine the origins of the battle between Autobots and Decepticons.

The report quotes John Derderian, director of anime for Netflix, saying the series “will explore the expansive universe of Cybertron in a way that audiences have never seen before.”

TVBIZWIRE
Feb 15, 2019
10:11 am
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Ben Affleck Officially Retires as Batman — Watch the Ceremony (TVWeek, ABC)

Ben Affleck made it official that he will no longer play Batman in the feature film franchise, confirming the rumor during an appearance on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”

Kimmel and Affleck held a brief ceremony to officially retire Affleck’s Batman cape — here’s the clip, posted by ABC …

TVBIZWIRE
Feb 15, 2019
9:57 am
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Netflix Lockdown Was Triggered by a Fired Employee, Authorities Say (KTLA)

A gun scare Thursday afternoon that triggered intense police activity and had Netflix’s Hollywood headquarters on lockdown for a period of time was prompted by a called-in threat from a recently fired Netflix employee, KTLA reports, citing lot security and police.

“The man, who was taken into custody but ultimately released without charges, was never actually on the lot, according to Los Angeles Police Department Officer Tony Im,” KTLA reports. “No gun was found when the person was taken into custody, Im said.”

The incident took place at the 11-acre Sunset Bronson Studios lot, where Netflix and KTLA are located along with other media facilities. A disgruntled Netflix worker who had been fired Wednesday reportedly called in a threat to a former co-worker, claiming he had a gun and was on the Hollywood lot, “ready to take action.”

“KTLA employees were alerted that they were on lockdown about 4:26 p.m., and were advised to avoid windows. Soon after that, aerial video from Sky5 showed people being led out of Netflix’s Cue building in the middle of the lot,” KTLA reports. “Shortly before 5 p.m., police said the suspect had been detained.”

The report notes that about a dozen LAPD vehicles responded to the scene.

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