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The big deal



The principals are calling it a "next-generation" service and a "game changer" for the industry, but no one seems entirely sure just what it is yet. Still, when Viacom (and Paramount), MGM and Lionsgate say they're teaming to create their own premium channel, one with a yet-to-be-defined VOD element, people tend to listen. Those wondering if maybe it was all just a bluff in negotiations with Showtime — where all three film companies have output deals — lost some ammunition Wednesday when news broke that former Showtime exec Mark Greenberg has been tapped to lead the new venture. Now, all they need is carriage.

All choked up



Can someone choke to death and cough at the same time? It's a question that has baffled man since the dawn of time, so is it really any surprise that it led James Caan to storm off the set of David O. Russell's "Nailed"? To recap: Caan's character was to have choked to death on a cookie. Russell wanted him to cough during the take, while Caan suggested this was physiologically impossible. It's what we in Hollywood call "creative differences." And in case you're flashing back to a certain "Huckabees" YouTube video, producer Douglas Wick assured that Russell, who once managed to elicit a right cross from charmer George Clooney, was professional throughout the incident.

Rewarding move?



Has SAG already pulled its DVD residual and new-media demands off the table? At least one person thinks so. Entertainment attorney Jonathan Handel interpreted Wednesday's AMPTP decision to extend negotiations with SAG as a "reward" for showing flexibility, pointing to a Tuesday missive to SAG membership in which the topics were conspicuously absent. "There is no other reason for (those items) to disappear," he said.

'Bad' taste



In the most heartwarming TV development since that guy was asked whether "fat people re-pulse" him on "The Moment of Truth," Fox is turning the white-hot glare of reality justice on deadbeat dads. "Bad Dads" (™ Mike Darnell) will feature a child support bounty hunter of sorts who will track down the dads in question and "squeeze them until the women get paid." Yeah!

The squeeze



Fan of the RomaCinemaFest? Keep an eye on the mayoral election taking place Sunday and Monday in the Italian capital. Center-right candidate Gianni Alemanno is planning some belt-tightening at the 3-year-old event if he wins, including a shrinking of the staff and at least a $1.6 million cut in its budget.

Their name is signed



"My Name Is Earl" scribes Danielle Sanchez-Witzel and Hilary Winston both inked deals this week, with Sanchez-Witzel landing a seven-figure overall deal at Universal Media Studios and Winston taking a two-year development deal at Sony Pictures TV.

End credits



With ABC primetime soap "Cashmere Mafia" on life support, Lucy Liu has lined up Plan B, a role on ABC primetime soap "Dirty Sexy Money." ... Ang Lee is stepping into the director's chair on Focus' gay-themed Woodstock memoir "Taking Woodstock."
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