Week in Review: Communication breakdown

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That Spielberg, what a guy: Few can argue with Philippe Dauman, who this week called Steven Spielberg "one of the great filmmakers of our time and all time." Still, that comment is a far cry from one he made in September, when the president and CEO of DreamWorks parent Viacom called the potential loss of Spielberg, who can leave DreamWorks when his contract expires next year, "completely immaterial" to the bottom line. Whether Dauman has had a change of heart, or is simply rolling out some new steps in a delicate dance of courtship, remains to be seen.

Communications breakdown:
Uh oh, Kevin Martin got a Dingellgram. Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., one of Congress' most dogged investigators, sent a letter to the FCC chairman this week saying he thinks the agency is losing its grip on things and he's launched an investigation into its methods. Martin has been pushing to undo the general ban that keeps one company from owning a newspaper and a TV station in the same city, and he's been trying to regulate the cable industry using subscriber research numbers that some don't think are accurate.

Table tennis:
Most of us know it's a good idea to listen to what your significant other has to say, and now the WGA and the studios seem to have gotten the message: The latest sessions to end the writers strike have been productive, and name-calling and bickering has been absent (witness statements with words like "common ground" and "substantive").

Next Friday, when ABC's "Boston Legal" wraps production, the acclaimed dramedy will be one of the last scripted shows to do so. The cast and crew have been able to keep their jobs for so long thanks to series creator/executive producer David E. Kelley, who cranked out the scripts of three episodes days before the beginning of the strike. His feat is a throwback to the 1950s and '60s, when scribes were cranking scripts fast to satisfy series' 39-episode orders.

Jay Leno became the last among the high-profile late-night TV hosts to keep his staffers on the payroll as the strike goes on. "The Tonight Show" host will dip into his pocket for at least a week to fork over the salaries of about 80 staffers who were laid off Nov. 30. While the other hosts made the moves pre-emptively, Leno's came after the staff of his show was laid off. Better late than never.

The big game:
In a move that will redraw the video game landscape, Vivendi has agreed to pay $9.8 billion to merge its Vivendi Games unit with Activision and take a 52% stake in the new firm. The new gaming giant will house such hit franchises as "World of Warcraft" -- with more than 9.3 million subscribers, the world's biggest massively multiplayer online role-playing game -- "Guitar Hero" and "Tony Hawk," and it will match or overtake market leader Electronic Arts in key performance measures.

Elisabeth Murdoch's Shine Prods. is poised to make a $200 million swoop on Reveille, the production company behind "Ugly Betty" and "The Office." Launched by Ben Silverman in 2002 with backing from Barry Diller's IAC, Reveille has been without Silverman since he left in June to take a top post at NBC Universal. An acquisition by London-based Shine would place Reveille within a production super-indie valued at as much as $514 million.

End credits:
Russell Crowe will replace Brad Pitt in "State of Play," saving Universal and Working Title's delayed political thriller from shutting down. ... Johnny Depp has joined Michael Mann for a film about the Depression-era crime wave at Universal. ... Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch and James Franco are in final negotiations to appear opposite Sean Penn in Gus Van Sant's biopic "Milk." ... Steven R. McQueen, the grandson of the late Steve McQueen, is starring in the Disney Channel original movie "Minutemen."
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