What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:15 AM 9/15/2017

by THR Staff

What's news: An ESPN controversy over a SportsCenter anchor's criticism of Trump has been reignited by the president. Plus: "Patriotic" TV may not sell well abroad, CBS bets big on Star Trek to boost All Access, Tom Hanks writes fiction and what to watch for at the Emmys. — Matthew Belloni, Erik Hayden and Jennifer Konerman

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  • Can "Patriotic" TV Play Abroad?

    Illustration by: Leo Espinosa

    American series, already slumping overseas, face a backlash over a glut of military themes for Trump voters, Scott Roxborough finds:

    The biggest trend of the fall television season is a move toward what could be called "Patriotic TV." Shows like CBS' SEAL Team, NBC's The Brave and The CW's Valor focus on the U.S. military or the heartland, a move seen by some as an attempt by broadcast networks to appeal to Trump's army of supporters.

    But the shift in focus is threatening one of the most lucrative aspects of the American TV business: international sales. And the risky move comes at a time when U.S. programming is facing more challenges from home-grown product around the world.

    "These shows are all really well made and the production values are great, but some of it is pretty jingoistic: lots of breast-beating and flag-flying," says Stephen Mowbray, head of acquisitions for Swedish public broadcaster SVT. "Really patriotic, nationalistic shows are really hard for us to place," agrees Silke Regier, an acquisitions executive with leading German network RTL.

    Why does this matter? Global sales make up an increasingly large part of a TV studio's bottom line. International content licensing revenue at CBS, for instance, soared to $1.5B in 2015, up from $500M a decade earlier. The bedrock of the global business traditionally has been European free TV networks. But that's where American series now are having the toughest time. 

    Elsewhere in TV...

    ^ESPN faces Trump tweet backlash over Jemele Hill comments. Jeremy Barr notes: A few days after his spokesperson addressed the controversy from the briefing room podium, President Trump said that ESPN should "apologize for untruth" in a tweet on Friday morning. 

    Trump is, without doubt, referring to a mini-controversy that's been brewing within right-wing media outlets and amplified by the White House. On Monday, SportsCenter co-host Jemele Hill wrote on Twitter that "Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists." Full story. 

    Comedy Central keeps Trevor Noah for 5 more years. The network has handed out a massive five-year contract extension to keep Noah front and center of The Daily Show through 2022 (through the next presidential election). 

    HBO moves forward with fantasy drama Who Fears Death. The premium cabler has tapped Selwyn Seyfu Hinds to adapt Nnedi Okorafor's fantasy novel, with former HBO programming president Michael Lombardo also boarding the drama as an executive producer.

    History greenlights Bill Clinton impeachment drama series. The six-part scripted series is titled The Breach: Inside the Impeachment of Bill Clinton, and is described as a "political thriller" with a detailed account of how the Monica Lewinsky scandal unfolded. 

    ^CBS is trying to change the streaming game with Star Trek Discovery. Natalie Jarvey writes: The network hopes to put its stand-alone subscription service All Access into warp drive with the Sept. 24 premiere of the high-stakes original drama, an attempt to build a streaming business that escapes the cable subscriber losses and ratings declines that have beset the television industry.

    + "The goal is to always have something new rolling out week to week, starting now," says CBS Interactive chief Marc DeBevoise. Currently, All Access is a relatively small player in OTT— it has about 2M subscribers, compared with the 52M U.S. Netflix members. Full story.

    Netflix taps Melissa Cobb to lead family content. The exec has joined the streaming giant as vp kids and family, where she will oversee the creation and acquisition of the platform's more G-rated fare. Based in the L.A. office, Cobb will report to chief content officer Ted Sarandos.

    Showtime sets Jim Carrey comedy from Michel Gondry. Scripted comedy Kidding has received a 10-episode straight-to-series order, reuniting Carrey with his Oscar-winning Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind writer-director Gondry, who will helm the series. 

    CMT plans new daytime talk show. The cabler has picked up Kellie Pickler's forthcoming daytime talk show produced by Faith Hill. Co-hosted by Pickler and TV personality Ben Aaron, Pickler & Ben will welcome celebrities, tastemakers and experts.

    Charles Randolph, Rupert Wyatt plan sci-fi series. The Big Short scribe and Rise of the Planet of the Apes director are joining forces with Gaumont and Ivanhoe Pictures co-producing a sci-fi thriller series titled Red Rush that has yet to be picked up.

  • Women Take Lead in Toronto

    Courtesy of TIFF

    The most encouraging trend at this year's Toronto Film Festival was the plethora of fine female performances, including superb work from Saoirse Ronan, Sally Hawkins, Frances McDormand, Emma Stone, Jessica Chastain and Margot Robbie, chief critic Todd McCarthy writes:

    If there was a grand slam winner at Toronto 2017, it was Fox Searchlight, which brought to town its trifecta of the big Venice victor, Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water, Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton's hugely entertaining Battle of the Sexes and Martin McDonough's insidiously engaging Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. It's hard to remember when a single company debuted three such singular and accomplished films together at any festival at the same time (they will be released between late September and early December).

    If, on the American indie front, there was another champ this September, it had to be longtime indie stalwart Greta Gerwig, who broke through as a writer-director with the significantly autobiographical, wonderfully observed and vitally engaging Lady Bird; it's the rare film about which, at least this far, there seems to be no dissent whatsoever. Gerwig traverses territory that's been trodden countless times before but makes is all feel fresh again. Full critic's wrap.

    Elsewhere in film...

    ^New! Fiction by Tom Hanks. THR presents a new story from the actor, about an absurdly unglamorous reality of a blockbuster Hollywood press tour across Europe as seen through the eyes of its fictional leading man. Read Hanks' short story.

    Warner Bros. high-concept comedy casts Sandra Bullock. The actress is set to co-produce and star in the untitled comedy from writing duo Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse. Bullock will produce with Michael Bostick of Rocket Science Entertainment. 

    Fox's Brad Pitt sci-fi epic gets winter 2019 release date. James Gray's upcoming Ad Astra is described as a film about one man’s journey across a lawless and unforgiving solar system. It will open in theaters on Jan. 11, 2019, New Regency and 20th Century Fox said.

    New Line plans next horror film with James Wan, Chris Bender. The Warner Bros. division behind the hit horror movie It has picked up the rights to the short Dutch horror film, Sweet Tooth. James Wan and Chris Bender, are teaming up to produce the feature adaptation.

    + Borys Kit writes: Horror is a specialty of New Line, the only studio arm that continues to consistently serve up the genre. It is heading into its second weekend with $151M domestically already under its belt and after shattering numerous box office records. Annabelle: Creation has earned over $281M worldwide and is still in release.

    Lionsgate's John Wick: Chapter Three sets 2019 release. The studio will release Summit's third installment of the Keanu Reeves shooter franchise on May 17, 2019. No plot details have yet been unveiled for the upcoming threequel. 

    ^Fox unveils Red Sparrow trailer. The first teaser trailer for the spy thriller has been unveiled, offering a glimpse into Jennifer Lawrence’s next action venture. Watch

    New trailer: All the Money in the World. Kevin Spacey transforms into J. Paul Getty in the rescue thriller, also starring Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams, based on the infamous 1973 kidnapping. Watch

    ► Skydance plans Super Day Care with Michael B. Jordan. The Creed actor is producing the animated project. Alan Schoolcraft and Brent Simons, the team behind the 2010 DreamWorks Animation movie Megamind, are coming on board to write.

    Nazi thriller Operation Finale adds Split actress. Haley Lu Richardson has joined MGM's story of the capture of Nazi Adolf Eichmann. Oscar Isaac is leading the thriller, with Ben Kingsley also cast.

    ► Animated Ark and the Aardvark rounds out cast. Aubrey Plaza, Jenny Slate, Craig Robinson, Rob Riggle and Stephen Merchant have joined the cast of Unified Pictures’ animated feature film. Kung Fu Panda's John Stevenson is directing. 

    ► Netflix's Gore Vidal biopic adds to cast. Michael Stuhlbarg, Freya Mavor and Nikolai Kinski have joined the cast of Gore, starring Kevin Spacey. Michael Hoffman is directing the film based on the biography Empire of Self: A Life of Gore Vidal.

    Also: Drafthouse chain under fire as Devin Faraci breaks silence. Seth Abramovitch writes: It has been less than 48 hours since Alamo Drafthouse CEO Tim League ignited a firestorm by announcing that, just 11 months after a woman came forward to accuse blogger Devin Faraci of sexual assault, the writer had been quietly rehired by the company as a copywriter. Details. 

  • Emmys! Red Carpet Preview

    Rodin Eckenroth/WireImage

    TV's big night is this Sunday, and though fans are already asking how many awards their favorite shows will take home, another question remains: What does host Stephen Colbert have planned? Full preview:

    + Host Q&A with Stephen Colbert: "The biggest television star of the last year was Donald Trump" ... "The fact that he's not nominated, it's a crime. It's a high crime and a misdemeanor that you are not nominated, sir. Where's the investigation of that? Where was James Comey on that?"

    Who will win/Who should win: Awards analyst Scott Feinberg shares his objective predictions for the top categories, whereas chief TV critic Tim Goodman identifies his personal preferences.

    + Nominees pick their ideal seatmates: Laverne Cox says she would be glad to settle in next to Alexander Skarsgard ("if he were single and interested") as Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Reese Witherspoon, Jane Fondaand more reveal which stars would make them "geek out."

    + The full party guide. Chris Gardner has a rundown of all the glitzy events, including the Emmys Governors Ball, the HBO Emmy party, Netflix, Fox, Hulu, AMC and more.

    What else we're reading...

    "Jordan Klepper wants to be a Colbert for the Breitbart era." Dave Itzkoff's profile: "A former correspondent for The Daily Show plays an incendiary fringe pundit on his new Comedy Central series, The Opposition With Jordan Klepper." [The New York Times]

    "The apolitical politics of the celebrity hurricane telethon." Spencer Kornhaber notes: "Amid raising $44 million, Stevie Wonder and Beyoncé blew past the question of whether it’d be divisive to talk about climate change." [The Atlantic]

    "How Jason Alexander overcame the Seinfeld curse." Derek Lawrence writes: "Jason Alexander doesn’t believe in the so-called Seinfeld curse, but the actor, who will forever be known as George Costanza, acknowledges that being part of the beloved series has cost him." [EW]

    "What the hell is Daniel Craig doing in this L.A. riots movie?" Jada Yuan writes: "It’s like sitting through a feature-length version of Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi commercial." [Vulture]

    "I’m sorry I haven’t seen your favorite movie." In Shouts & Murmurs, Talib Babb writes: "You must think I hate you, what with the way I knowingly continue to show contempt for this movie you hold so dear to your heart." [The New Yorker]

    Today's birthdays: Tom Hardy, 40, Josh Charles, 46, Tommy Lee Jones, 71, Oliver Stone, 71, Norm Crosby, 90.

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