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The year isn’t even quite over yet, and already it’s clear that 2007 is destined to be one of the more intriguing and dubious ones surrounding entertainment since … well, since, um, 2006. OK, look, these years have all been pretty crazy lately. You know it. I know it. Even Britney Spears knows it kinda sorta. And she should, of course, since it’s more than partly her fault. Just think about this: Rupert Murdoch now owns the Wall Street Journal. ‘Nuff said. What follows are many, but hardly all, of the more prominent (along with some less prominent) showbiz stories to emerge thus far in ’07.
The meek shall inherit the multiplex
A new cinematic trend emerges: overweight oafs as romantic leads with hearts of gold, as evidenced by these Judd Apatow comedies: Universal’s “Knocked Up” (Seth Rogen) and Sony’s “Superbad” (Jonah Hill). Yes, if you are fat and nerdy, Katherine Heigl can be yours. Coming soon: lawsuits charging the implanting of wildly unrealistic expectations and grossly inflated self-image.
Well, no one can say they weren’t thinking of the children
A firestorm erupts during the summer over the forthcoming fall CBS reality series “Kid Nation,” featuring 40 kids age 8-15 living on their own in an abandoned New Mexico mining town, with critics and others urging boycotts due to purported “Lord of the Flies”-esque exploitation of the children. Advertisers pull out. Viewers never pull in. Can you say “Much ado about nada,” boys and girls?
If that’s all there is, then let’s keep killing
HBO’s landmark mob drama “The Sopranos” ends its run in June with a frustratingly ambiguous series capper that at once sparks confusion, despair and outrage. It also launches a national debate of whether or not Tony Soprano is dead after we see him and his family seated in a diner when the screen goes dark. America ultimately finds a measure of closure with the knowledge that Tony dies on in our hearts.
The hit that kept on hitting
The screwy Eddie Murphy comedy “Norbit” (DreamWorks/Paramount) is released in February and hits No. 1 during its first weekend in release, which some believe helps torpedo a supporting actor Oscar campaign for “Dreamgirls” that had propelled him to presumptive favorite status. “Norbit” seems to remind Academy voters about to mark their ballots that “Oh wait, it’s that Eddie Murphy.” He loses to Alan Arkin for his “Little Miss Sunshine” performance.
Rod Stewart warned us that the first cut would be like this
Apple geeks who waited in line to buy an 8GB iPhone for $599 in June are incensed when company chief Steve Jobs — in a rare PR misstep — trims the price to $399 on Sept. 5. The subsequent outrage forces Apple to issue a $100 Apple Store credit to the overcharged early customers. Jobs struggles to appear even semiconcerned.
Oscar finally accepts movie master Marty into the club
Following years of frustration when he lost out in the best director race while helming such film classics as 1980’s “Raging Bull” and 1990’s “Goodfellas,” Martin Scorsese finally takes home the elusive Academy Award for “The Departed” (which also earns best picture and adapted screenplay).
At least Rupe hasn’t changed its name to the Fox News Journal — yet
The future of the nation’s preeminent business sheet, the Wall Street Journal, becomes just another holding in the Rupert Murdoch empire when the News Corp. chairman purchases it for $5 billion in July despite some opposition from members of the Bancroft family, which has owned the Journal since 1902. Murdoch’s goal of owning everything ever created continues apace.
Imus finds ‘nappy’ time not so happy time
Veteran radio shock jock Don Imus is fired from his job as a syndicated personality with CBS Radio in April for derisively referring to members of the Rutgers University women’s basketball team as “nappy-headed hos.” Despite the obligatory sincere apology and on-air diversity instruction from the Rev. Al Sharpton, the level of public outrage forces CBS’ hand.
Thanks for the great ratings, now get lost
As the clock ticks closer to “The Tonight Show” host Jay Leno’s force-out from NBC in 2009 to accommodate Conan O’Brien’s ascension to the “Tonight” throne, word begins to filter around that Leno no longer feels like playing the good soldier and greatly resents the arrangement in light of his having topped the late-night ratings for 15 years and all. He’s now expected to land on the air elsewhere.
If I see ‘The Life of Reilly’ in even one more headline …
NBC Universal main man Jeff Zucker demonstrates his unique business savvy by giving NBC Entertainment chief Kevin Reilly a three-year contract re-up in March and is forced to settle with Reilly to the tune of some $6 million after forcing him out less than three months later. Reilly, shoved aside despite his role in bringing the network “Heroes,” “The Office,” “My Name Is Earl,” “Deal or No Deal,” “30 Rock” and “Friday Night Lights,” is hired in the same post at Fox in July.
You mute me, you really mute me!
Accepting her Emmy Award for lead actress in a drama for ABC’s “Brothers & Sisters,” Sally Field has the plug pulled by host network Fox during her acceptance speech for uttering the line, “If mothers ruled the world, there wouldn’t be any goddamned wars in the first place.” Fox insists the censoring has nothing to do with Field’s anti-war rant per se. But of course, it’s just dandy for the network to run ads that discuss erections of four hours or more.
Mandy Patinkin departs, launching a thousand Barry Manilow song references
Angering his executive producer and leaving his network flummoxed, mercurial star Mandy Patinkin bolts from his third-year CBS drama series “Criminal Minds” over the summer. No explanation is given by anyone for the departure, but speculation runs to Patinkin’s strong aversion to steady employment.
Don’t maketh your comedy for $200 million or the world will smite thee
The budget for the summertime Steve Carell comedy “Evan Almighty” crept past the $200 million mark, which makes Universal execs all kinds of upset when the film takes in a mere $31.2 million on its opening weekend — this, despite having retained a marketing firm to target the film to the religious community. Things may have been different had someone thought to retitle it “The Passion of the Evan.”
You think I care that he just quit? Fire that man!
On his way out the door in August, WMA assistant Shai Steinberger fires off a company-wide e-mail that quickly goes viral in which he professes one of the things he will miss about WMA — among many other things — is “trying (unsuccessfully) to get lucky with a gorgeous summer intern in the legal files closet of the 150 building.”
Giving the presidential race a cyber-rattling twist
The presidential debate format receives a decidedly modern makeover when YouTube and CNN go in together on a Democratic event in South Carolina that finds the candidates responding to questions submitted via cyberspace and screened by CNN. The Republican brain trust dismisses the successful gambit as “hopelessly fresh and dynamic.”
Forget Spielberg — it’s Judd’s world now
Writer-director Judd Apatow emerges as the “It Boy” of 2007 with his three-pronged feature comedy assault over the latter half of the year: “Knocked Up” and “Superbad” and Sony’s music bio spoof “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story” (coming in December). His success has to embolden nerds throughout this great land.
For a brief moment, we all were enslaved by the glory of his unfortunate hair
With his “ponyhawk” hairstyle and dubious singing talents, youthful crooner Sanjaya Malakar explodes into a camp icon on Fox’s “American Idol” during March and into April, reaching the top seven before finally being eliminated — allowing judge Simon Cowell to be taken off suicide watch.
But he’s really, really good at reading the TelePrompTer
“American Idol” front man Ryan Seacrest is tabbed to host the Primetime Emmy Awards telecast in September despite an inability to sing, dance, act or tell jokes. The republic somehow remains standing — if barely.
However, she’s comfortable in her belief that babies are delivered by stork
One fine day in September on ABC’s “The View,” new panelist Whoopi Goldberg asks fellow newbie Sherri Shepherd if she believes the world is flat. Shepherd responds that she doesn’t know and has in fact “never thought about it.” ABC immediately ponders a series name change to “The Vapid.”
Unwanted: Dead or alive
Many are stunned in March when it’s announced that film-based Premiere magazine will cease its print edition and live on solely via the Internet. What is perhaps most shocking is the fact Premiere was still publishing at all, as it’s believed that Ted Kaczynski, aka the Unabomber, is its only remaining subscriber.
That poor lion seems to be in distress! Oh, wait, never mind — it’s Phil Spector
Facing charges of second-degree murder in the shotgun death of actress Lana Clarkson, batty music producer Phil Spector is the fortunate recipient of a mistrial in September after the jury deadlocks. He’s soon to be retried. His hair, however, already has been convicted of crimes against humanity.
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