What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:11 AM 11/4/2017

by Ray Rahman

House of Cards -Kevin Spacey-H 2016
David Giesbrecht/Netflix

In the Weekender: Why are L.A.'s Silicon Beach bros heading inland? Plus: Netflix fires Kevin Spacey, Lord of the Rings heads to TV, and a closer look at some best restaurant lists and ABC's hit medical drama The Good Doctor. Happy Saturday! — Ray Rahman

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  • Silicon Beach Bros Invade Brentwood

    Your weekend read: Snapchat's Evan Spiegel and the L.A. digital jet set is migrating north for space, privacy and a respite from anti-tech sentiment: "No one wants to be picketed." Peter Kiefer writes: 

    The borders of Silicon Beach loosely extend to Venice Beach, Santa Monica and Playa del Rey, where the L.A. area's largest tech employers — Google, Yahoo, Snap and Riot Games — have set up shop the past decade. But when Snap founder Evan Spiegel put down personal roots, the Silicon Beach wunderkind (credited with either transforming or destroying Venice, where Snap is headquartered, depending on whom you ask) settled on a ZIP code that struck many observers as counterintuitive. With wife Miranda Kerr, the 27-year-old plunked down $12 million last year for a Gerard Colcord-designed estate just below the Getty Museum in Brentwood.

    With the Silicon Beach tech community now in its adolescence (Google announced its move to Venice seven years ago) and adjacent real estate surging to record per-square-foot highs amid dwindling inventory, a trend has taken hold: Tech titans are leaving Santa Monica condos and Venice bungalows in the rearview mirror of their Teslas as they head to the quiet calm offered by Brentwood.

    "My prediction all along was that they would end up coming to Brentwood," says the Agency's Santiago Arana, who has brokered multiple deals in the neighborhood for tech moguls. Full story.  

  • R-Rated Comedy Curse

    Box office watch: Don’t look for Bad Moms Christmas to break the R-rated comedy curse this weekend, at least not entirely. Pamela McClintock emails: 

    Based on early numbers, the Bad Moms sequel will have a tough time matching the $23.8M debut of the original in late July 2016. The first film — fueled by women — was a sleeper hit, earning $113.3M domestically and becoming STXfilms’ top-grossing release. STX wasted no time with a follow up, despite the fact that any number of R-rated comedy sequels have faltered in recent times. Generally bad reviews and a mediocre B CinemaScore aren’t helping Bad Moms Christmas, which looks to open to around $22M (the first film earned a glowing A CinemaScore). 

    The sequel, costing $28M to produce, certainly isn’t a bomb. Nor is it a smash success. Earlier this year, the R-rated comedy Girls Trip opened to $31.2M on its way to earning $115.1M domestically and $137M globally for Universal and prolific producer Will Packer. Otherwise, live-action comedies have continued to struggle.

    Like Bad Moms Christmas, both of those films were rated R. STXfilms isn’t the only studio trying to mine a good thing. On Nov. 10, Paramount — which needs a box-office win — opens Daddy’s Home 2, starring Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell. Released on Christmas Day in 2015, the first Daddy’s Home earned $150.4M domestically and $242.8M worldwide. It remains to be seen how much Daddy’s Home 2 — which carries a friendlier PG-13 rating — hurts Bad Moms ChristmasFull story.

    Inside story: With Hollywood in tumult over ever more emerging harassment claims, the focus has shifted from the company that bears Harvey Weinstein's name. But what's really happening at The Weinstein Co. now? Tatiana Siegel emails:

    The company has been in free fall ever since Oct. 5, when the first claims of Harvey Weinstein's sexual harassments and assaults surfaced. In the ensuing weeks, dozens more women have come forward with additional claims. Weinstein was subsequently fired and removed from the company's board of directors.

    If you believe some reports from last week, a bidding war for The Weinstein Co. is afoot, with 22(!) companies in the mix including Viacom and Lionsgate. In reality, there’s interest from only the usual suspects that circle distressed assets like Fortress Investment Group and Vine Alternative Investments. But even with a certain fire sale looming, there might be a glitch.

    A judge is now being asked to restrain TWC from selling off any assets thanks to a maneuver from a lawyer by the name of Alfred Siegel, the Chapter 7 Trustee of Genius Products, which was once chaired by Steve Bannon and owned by an investment group led by President Donald Trump's former chief strategist.

    Film news update...

    ? Brett Ratner harassment claims turn spotlight on friendship with Warner Bros. CEO. Questions about the Warner Bros. studio and CEO/chairman Kevin Tsujihara’s relationship with Ratner have come into focus in the wake of reports about the filmmaker’s alleged sexual misconduct. Full story. 

    ? Thor composer Mark Mothersbaugh wanted to change the way Marvel scores sounded. The longtime film composer and legendary Devo founder says he watched a viral video that criticized previous Marvel movie scores before working on Thor: Ragnarok. Q&A.

    ? Is Disney's new Lion King an animated film? With the virtual production, questions once again surround the blurring of the lines between live action and CG. You would be hard-pressed to looked at those vistas and realize it wasn't shot on location.

  • What's Up, 'Good Doc'?

    Critic's take: As we get deeper into the fall TV season, one thing has become clear: ABC's surgeon-with-autism drama The Good Doctor is a hit with viewers, ranking as one of the most-watched shows on television — full stop. How did this happen? Daniel Fienberg emails:

    I remain astounded by the week-to-week success of The Good Doctor. I'm not shocked that it's doing well. The networks are all aware that there's been a gap in the market for a down-the-middle medical procedural. It's part of why CBS keeps trying to make Code Black happen even if audience have already proven twice that they don't care. But in a season of disappointing new broadcast shows, for The Good Doctor to be threatening to be one of the most watched shows on all of network TV? That's crazy.

    Is The Good Doctor any good? It's OK. Freddie Highmore has done a good job of modulating his performance since the pilot. He has locked onto an almost sing-song cadence, and the show has taken some pains to delve into his limitations and gifts as an autistic doctor in a world in which people are perhaps a little too clueless on what autism means. The rest of the ensemble is still somewhat unformed, but the early one-note villains have been fleshed out some and this week's episode was the first that focused on the doctors around Shaun more than on Shaun. When it does that, The Good Doctor is almost just a straight-up generic medical show, which makes it a lot less interesting to me.

    One lesson The Good Doctor has certainly proved is that although Fox keeps relentlessly rebooting bits and pieces of its bygone lineup, including The X-Files and 24 and Prison Break, with limited success, the show Fox could bring back that would probably instantly become the network's most watched series is, of course, House. In lieu of that, expect Fox to push the midseason drama The Resident hard. And expect to see a ton of new medical shows on the network dockets for next fall.

    Streaming update: Do you have a favorite show on Facebook Watch? If Mark Zuckerberg's original-content experiment works, you might soon, Natalie Jarvey emails:

    When Facebook first introduced its new video tab, Watch, at the end of the summer, its programming strategy was all over the map. It stocked Watch with dozens of short-form shows from the likes of Tastemade and All Def Digital, offered up live MLB and MLS games and even greenlit a handful of shows from TV producers like Bunim Murray (Ball in the Family) and 3 Arts (Loosely Exactly Nicole). But now, after two months of experimentation, Facebook appears to be refining its content plan.

    In a call with investors on Wednesday, Mark Zuckerberg stressed that he doesn’t just want people to come to Watch to passively watch television. Instead, he wants them to interact with the content and connect with other viewers. “When done well, video brings us closer together,” he said. “We’re going to focus our product on all the ways to build community around the videos that people share and watch.” Facebook’s recent batch of renewals seems to support that strategy. Returning the Favor with Mike Rowe, for instance, was given a second season in large part because it has developed an enthusiastic audience that has even begun to offer up suggest future subjects for the feel-good show.

    But questions linger about whether Facebook will become a full-scale producer of content. Zuckerberg reiterated plans to invest in programming for Watch while also expressing hope that the business will eventually be supported primarily through advertising. That could be hard as the social network begins to seek out more ambitious projects — it recently picked up Kerry Washington-produced drama Five Points and an English-language remake of Norwegian hit Skam — and Zuckerberg admitted as much. “Not all kinds of content can be supported by ads, no matter how effective,” he said. The only thing holding Facebook back may be its fear of calling itself a media company. 

    TV news update...

    ? Netflix severs ties with Kevin Spacey. After days of speculation, the streaming service finally pulled the plug: Spacey is out, and the sixth season of House of Cards will likely go on without him. "We will continue to work with MRC during this hiatus time to evaluate our path forward as it relates to the show," Netflix said in a statement." In addition, Gore, Netflix's planned Gore Vidal biopic also starring Spacey, has been shut down as well.

    ? Lord of the Rings TV series in the works. Warner Bros. Television, whose feature film counterpart produced the feature film series, is in preliminary stages of discussions for a potential TV series based on the J.R.R. Tolkien best-sellers. Amazon Studios, who has a new genre-focused push under company CEO Jeff Bezos, has emerged as a potential buyer.

    ? Review: SMILF. "There is much to like in the pilot for Showtime's latest dramedy, which was created by, stars and is directed and produced by Frankie Shaw, joining the ranks of likeminded 'artisanal television' efforts by talented creators looking to put their distinctive stamps on stories for the small screen,” Tim Goodman writes. “But it's the two subsequent episodes of SMILF that Showtime made available that truly point to the series being special.” Read more.

  • Is This the Best Restaurant?

    Weekend dining diary: Just because a restaurant tops a critic's "Best of" list doesn't mean anyone should go there. Gary Baum emails: 

    Pulitzer Prize-winning Los Angeles Times restaurant critic Jonathan Gold crowned otherworldly-if-polarizing tasting menu extravaganza Vespertine the best dining spot in the city on his eponymous annual 101 Best Restaurants list. Three days later, after mounting backlash, he published an interview with himself questioning the decision at length.

    I visited early on, publishing a skeptical take. LA Weekly’s Besha Rodell turned herself in knots to like it in a farewell review in her post as critic, while The New York Times’ Pete Wells made a special West Coast visit in search of transcendence, coming away decidedly let down.

    I had lunch a few weeks ago with the executive producer of a venerable animated series. (At the lovely if soulless Jean-Georges Beverly Hills.) He’s a big foodie, an investor in restaurants, a friend of the city’s chefs. “Your review made Vespertine sound like such a nightmare that I just had to go check it out for myself,” he told me. $1,200 later? “It fulfilled expectations.”

    Here’s my public service announcement: There’s no need to hate-visit the most overhyped new tasting menu restaurant of the year. (Unless you’re expensing, like dining critics.) Instead, check out the massively hyped — yet actually worth-it — N/Naka, also in Culver City. Or the massively under-hyped Dialogue in Santa Monica and Shibumi in downtown L.A.

    What else we're reading...

    — The Golden Age of "Struggle Parent" TV. Rob Harvilla writes: "From Stranger Things to Black-ish to SMILF, it is a great time for well-intentioned, constantly overwhelmed (and occasionally plain crude) TV parents." [The Ringer]

    — More companies are buying insurance to cover executives who sexually harass employees. Danielle Paquette writes: "Companies have dramatically increased their insurance coverage against sexual harassment complaints in recent years following high-profile scandals, as corporate America reckons with the growing risks of workplace misconduct." [Washington Post]

    Thor: Ragnarok's Taika Waititi is here to save the blockbuster. Ira Madison III writes: "Everyone wants to work with director Taika Waititi — he makes hilarious, award-winning movies." [GQ]

    — How Joan Didion shaped the world of Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird. Yohana Desta writes: "Both Lady Bird and Gerwig cast themselves in junior Didion molds, artistic spirits who want to flee somewhere more famous—only to look back on the town they left with a warm, nostalgic glen." [Vanity Fair

    What else we're hearing...

    + How will Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone be remembered? [Popcast NYT]

    + How to make a Marvel movie funny, with director Taika Waititi. [The Big Picture / Ringer]

    + Richard Linklater's Last Flag Flying, Hollywood's disgrace du jour. [The Frame / KPCC]

    Today's birthday's: Sean Combs, 48, Matthew McConaughey, 48, Ralph Macchio, 56, Jeff Probst, 56, Kathy Griffin, 57.