Around the World: Britney Spears' TV power
"How I Met Your Mother" has locked up a renewal the old-fashioned way ... with stunt casting. Britney Spears' much-hyped guest shot on Monday's show failed to give viewers the train wreck some might have hoped for, but it did give the CBS comedy its highest rating ever in the 18-49 demo -- a 4.5 -- removing it from the fall sked bubble and helping CBS take the night.
Nerddom threw down the gauntlet this week, facing off with the Weinstein Co. over the impending release of "Star Wars"-fanatic tale "Fanboys" and threatening bicoastal protests at screenings of "Superhero Movie" this weekend as well as a broader boycott of Weinstein titles. At the root of the dispute is a Harvey Weinstein-mandated reshoot/rediting of the film that eliminates a subplot involving a cancer patient. Now the Weinstein Co. is saying that they'll release both versions of the film on DVD and are working on a theatrical release for the original as well. So far, the nerds aren't buying. "It's not going to work, Darth Weinstein," one group said of the compromise. Guess we'll find out.
Shekhar Kapur picked up the banner of fallen comrade Anthony Minghella this week, stepping in to direct Minghella's portion of romantic indie "New York, I Love You." Minghella, who had penned his section of the triptych before his death, had asked the "Elizabeth" director to step in for him before going in for surgery two weeks ago. Meanwhile, in Minghella's native U.K., viewers turned out to watch his final directing project, BBC telefilm "The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency." More than 6 million watched the Easter Sunday broadcast, which will air in the States next year on HBO.
Sirius Satellite Radio's $5 billion buyout of rival XM took a big step closer this week as the Justice Department gave the merger a thumbs up. The DOJ's argument in favor of the deal hinges on the fact that the satellite broadcasters are competing alongside an array of choices -- from traditional radio to the Internet to MP3 players -- making it "unlikely that the trasaction would harm consumers in the longer term." The controversial merger, which also has consumer groups roiled, now moves on to the FCC, where chairman Kevin Martin promises it will face a "high hurdle" for approval.
Speaking of the FCC, Washing-ton is already handicapping who might be running the show next year. If Hillary takes the Dem nom and the general election, former commissioner and major campaign donor Susan Ness is seen as the favorite. On the Obama side, Julius Genachowski, a friend since Harvard Law and a onetime aid to FCC chairman Reed Hundt, leads a pack that includes his policy director, Karen Kornbluh, and FCC veteran Don Gipps. Names being bandied about if McCain wins include Disney lobbyist Bill Bailey, Google counsel Pablo Chavez and FCC staffer Maureen McLaughlin.
The shuffle at MGM continued this week as new boss Mary Parent brought New Line's Cale Boyter into the fold as exec vp production. Boyter's jump tells a twofold story: one of an exec ramping up production ops and one of an impending exodus at a studio where 450 of its 600 jobs are expected to disappear. Meanwhile, MGM COO Rick Sands is thought to be negotiating a new deal or, more likely, a way out as his role diminishes. A number of staffers that reported to him are answering to Parent these days.
A week after bringing "Mr. Show" creators Bob Odenkirk and David Cross back into the fold, HBO kept the comedy mo-mentum going, ordering pilots from Barry Sonnenfeld and Darren Star. Sonnenfeld will direct and exec produce the darkly comic "Suburban Shootout," while Star is tackling "Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl," an ensemble series based on former call girl Tracy Quan's memoir.
And now ... the comfy chair!
"It's an absolutely different environment than anything else that exists." At $35 a pop, Graham Burke better hope so. The Village Roadshow boss this week took the wraps off a $200 million joint venture to build 50 luxury cinemas across the U.S. via a Burbank-based joint venture. The company promises that its planned Gold Class auditoriums, which sit just 40, will be an even higher-end experience than that provided by other theaters targeting upscale patrons.
Elizabeth Banks will be cuddling up with Josh Brolin's George W. as Laura Bush in the upcoming "W" from Oliver Stone. ... Bob Newhart is heading back to TV this August, solving "Herb's Murders" in a Hallmark Channel telefilm. ... "Fugitive" scribe Jeb Stuart is stepping behind the camera for the first time since 1997's "Switchback" to direct the independently financed "Blood Done Sign My Name." ... Jaime King has given her heart to Lionsgate's "My Bloody Valentine 3-D."