What's news: Will Harvey Weinstein get prison time without a trial? Plus: Inside the Roseanne writers room.... Comcast's weakness in its bid for Fox.... James Murdoch on his post-deal plans.... Lionsgate acquires a majority stake in 3 Arts Entertainment.... The face of AMC's zombie franchise is leaving. — Erik Hayden
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On the cover: Harvey Weinstein and the legal case for (and against) prison time. Eriq Gardner writes:
What legal observers are now asking: Will there be a trial? Might there be two trials? And if a trial happens, will the scores of other Weinstein accusers — some quite famous — be allowed on the witness stand to share their own stories of being victimized by a man who was once among the most powerful in entertainment?
+ A plea bargain? The "high likelihood" of testimony from multiple accusers leads Pace Law School professor Bennett Gershman to conclude that this will be an extremely tough defense for Weinstein and his attorneys. He expects Ben Brafman to buy time and then seek a plea bargain. If, for example, Weinstein pleads guilty to third-degree rape, he'd face just four years in prison, plus probation and having to register as a sex offender.
+ What Weinstein's team will argue. The mogul's lawyers likely will argue that prosecutors haven't alleged sufficient facts to support the charges, and they'll make constitutional arguments about denial of due process. Once the New York judge gets through these preliminary matters — and state judges love the attention from celebrity criminal cases — the debate will begin in earnest about the nature and scope of a trial.
+ When could there be a courtroom showdown? It probably won't come for a year or two (in the meantime, Weinstein posted $1 million in bail and can't travel outside New York and Connecticut). Full story.
On Tuesday, veteran writer Dave Caplan expected to wake up and go to work on what would be the first day of prep on TV's No. 1 show. Instead, he ended the day without a job after ABC, following a racist tweet by star Roseanne Barr, canceled the show. He recalls the whirlwind day:
"We knew that it was going to be a kind of a bittersweet greeting of the new writers because we had really wonderful talent scheduled to write the next 13 episodes. We also knew that we couldn't start today. We hadn't found out that ABC had canceled the show yet, but we also knew that none of us were in the frame of mind to start writing the show under the circumstances....
"We found out first through the press. We weren't sure if it was accurate. But then we heard from Tom Werner that the show was canceled. We all knew it was a possibility but the suddenness of it was a shock." Inside the writers room.
+ Reruns dropped from networks. Viacom's Paramount Network, TV Land and CMT pulled reruns from their respective schedules as did Hulu. A rep said: "We support ABC’s decision and are removing the show from Hulu."
+ Roseanne Barr's latest explanation. She blamed her racist messages attacking Valerie Jarrett on "ambien tweeting." "[Guys] I did something unforgiveable so do not defend me. It was 2 in the morning and I was ambien tweeting-it was memorial day too-i went 2 far...." Details.
+ Barr's agency drops her. "We are all greatly distressed by the disgraceful and unacceptable tweet from Roseanne Barr this morning. What she wrote is antithetical to our core values, both as individuals and as an agency," ICM Partners wrote in an internal note to all employees.
+ Was it inevitable? Daniel Feinberg writes: "ABC shouldn't be expressing outrage at one tweet. The network should be expressing disappointment at an employee who cost the company millions and cost dozens of extremely talented co-workers their livelihoods by not being able to resist being reprehensibly racist, when merely being tangentially gross was apparently condoned." Full column.
Elsewhere in TV...
? AMC's Walking Dead franchise face is leaving. Andrew Lincoln will exit the zombie drama in its upcoming ninth season, sources confirm. Meanwhile, co-star Norman Reedus is in the midst of negotiating a rich deal that will pay him more than $20M as he will become the new No. 1 on the call sheet.
? Netflix picks up Locke and Key. After eight years and multiple writers and outlets, IDW's beloved comic is finally coming to the small screen. Sources say that Netflix is near a series-order deal for the drama based on Joe Hill's graphic novel from showrunner Carlton Cuse.
? E! cancels The Arrangement. The show debuted last year to an impressive 1.3M total viewers with three days of DVR. The second season returned in March and slipped considerably from the first.
? BBC casts Death and Nightingales. Jamie Dornan and Matthew Rhys are set to lead the three-part drama, which will be adapted and directed by Allan Cubitt. Filming will begin this summer in Northern Ireland.
Quoted: "It's not The Obama Network, it's not the MSNBC shift. There's no political slate to the programming," — Netflix's Ted Sarandos, saying the Obamas will be producing "entertainment," not news, as part of the multiyear deal.
^Comcast's weakness in its hunt for Fox assets: Big debt. Analysts say they're concerned that Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts might be too willing to take on a pile of debt to beat his rival Disney as the companies gear up for what's likely to be a ferocious battle to gain ownership of large parts of Fox.
+ Disney, Fox set July 10 shareholder votes on $52.4B deal. But Fox says it "may postpone" its shareholder meeting in Manhattan, N.Y., in case Comcast goes ahead with a competing offer or the like.
+ James Murdoch on post-deal plans: "I'm really focused on trying to land the plane," he said at the Recode conference Tuesday, though he did acknowledge that he tends to switch jobs every five years or so, and "I think it's time to do something new."
? National Amusements adds new details of CBS feud in lawsuit. Shari Redstone earlier pitched Leslie Moonves on merging CBS and Viacom, and then possibly selling the combined entity, the complaint reveals.
? NBC launches directing initiative for unscripted. Intended for female and ethnically diverse talent with at least one directing credit, the program will help feed the pipeline for new talent behind the camera on alternative series on NBC.
? Behind the deal: How Fox body-slammed rivals for WWE rights. It first sparked to life when Peter Rice phoned Nick Khan (repping WWE) and asked to meet should NBCU not exercise an option to retain SmackDown. NBCU had the right to match any offer of $200M or less per year; Fox came in with $205M. Details.
Could John Lasseter really return to Disney in a "reduced" role after a sabbatical? Barry Avrich, the director of #MeToo doc The Reckoning, writes in a guest column:
What exactly does a reduced role mean for Lasseter? No hugging? No kissing? He can shake hands, but he must wear gloves and avoid leering? Maybe he works from his laptop in a secluded location?
This could be a precedent that shapes the future for many executives and artists who have been exiled in recent months, some of whom are accused of behavior not considered "Harvey-like" enough to warrant permanent termination. Are co-workers and victims really ready to just forgive and coexist? Full column.
Elsewhere in film...
? Lionsgate acquires majority stake in 3 Arts Entertainment. The studio, led by CEO Jon Feltheimer, has won a battle to acquire the Los Angeles-based management firm to get closer to Hollywood talent.
? MoviePass parent company to buy Emmett Furla Oasis Films. The deal helps Helios and Matheson Analytics launch MoviePass Films with the producer of Lone Survivor and Broken City.
? Sony's strategy shift shuts down sale rumors. With healthy cash reserves and predictions of generating $18B more by 2021, Sony will be looking to bolster its entertainment businesses. That's good news, potentially, for Sony Pictures.
? Blumhouse enlists Jamie Foxx for Spawn. The franchise reboot will be directed by Todd McFarlane, one of the founding artists at Image Comics, who wrote the first draft of the low-budget production.
? Disney lands lucrative China release date for Incredibles 2. The sequel will hit theaters in the country June 22. Zootopia ($235.6M) was the highest earning Hollywood film of the year in China in 2016, and Pixar's Coco earned a massive $189M.
? Paramount picks up sci-fi action pitch. The studio is developing an untitled pitch from Mortal Media, the banner of the NBA's Blake Griffin and the NFL's Ryan Kalil. The feature hails from Aaron Buchsbaum and Teddy Riley.
? Universal's Little rounds out cast. Regina Hall will join Issa Rae and Marsai Martin in the comedy. Hall was attached as an exec producer, but now will also star in the movie that centers on a woman who gets the chance to relive the carefree life of her younger self.
? Puppet lawyer fights Melissa McCarthy movie lawsuit. Fred, a puppet, is representing producers of The Happytime Murders, a forthcoming R-rated puppet film. The movie is now the subject of a trademark lawsuit brought by Sesame Workshop. Details.
With 11 networks post-Scripps merger and a track record for finding talent, Discovery content chief Kathleen Finch opens up about her ideal producer and rumors that 'Fixer Upper' stars Chip and Joanna Gaines are eyeing a talk show. An office visit.
What else we're reading...
— "Kim Kardashian heads to the White House." Emily Jane Fox reports: "Months of talks between Jared Kushner and Kim Kardashian is set to culminate in a meeting with President Trump, in which the reality-TV star will ask him to pardon a 62-year-old great-grandmother serving a life sentence." [Vanity Fair]
— "On paid YouTube, sci-fi comedy and the grown up Karate Kid." Mike Hale watches YouTube Premium: "It’s a scrappy, entertaining little bunch of shows, though, with an underdog’s energy and signs of an appealingly high-low, genre-smart curatorial sensibility." [The New York Times]
— "Attn: expands from bite-sized videos to TV specials." Jack Flemming writes: "Attn: recently moved out of its cramped offices on Melrose to a 15,500-square-foot spread on Hollywood's Seward Street. The company, which has 130 employees, plans to hire 100 more workers in the next year." [Los Angeles Times]
— "Black, gay, fabulous: How Tituss Burgess changed television." Kevin Fallon writes: "With the final season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt now on Netflix, Burgess reflects on the character that didn’t just change his life, but the landscape of television, too." [Daily Beast]
— "Neko Case is still fighting." Rob Harvilla's profile: "The alt-country heroine presents the tragedy, the comedy, and the joyful grossness of humanity — along with some of the best songs of 2018." [The Ringer]
Today's birthdays: Joachim Ronning, 46, Idina Menzel, 47, John Ross Bowie, 47, Duncan Jones, 47, Antoine Fuqua, 53, Mark Sheppard, 54, Stephen Tobolowsky, 67.