What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:16 AM 6/15/2018

by THR staff

Gary Barber - Photo-Illustration - One Time Use Only - Getty - H 2018
Beck Starr/WireImage (Mayer), Getty Images (Barber)

What's news: CBS is hiring an investigator to look into claims against the former showrunner of NCIS: New Orleans. Plus: MGM's former CEO gets a $260M buyout, the Academy unveils its newly elected board of governors and a tour of L.A.'s comedy clubs with a top agent. — Erik Hayden

[Note: To receive this Today in Entertainment newsletter by email each day, click here.]

  • 'NCIS' Investigation

    New: NCIS: New Orleans producer CBS Television Studios is hiring an outside investigator to look into allegations of harassment and misconduct against Brad Kern, the former executive producer and showrunner of the CBS procedural, Maureen Ryan reports: 

    + A new deal. At the same time, CBS Television Studios has inked a new two-year overall deal with Kern. He was previously the subject of two internal investigations by CBS, both of which began in 2016, not long after his arrival at the show in January of that year.

    + Background: He also was the focus of a December story in which more than a dozen insiders described an alleged pattern of misogynistic bullying, racially insensitive comments and harassing behavior during his time at NCIS: New Orleans and stretching back at least 15 years.

    + CBS responds: In a statement, CBS says it dealt with Kern's earlier issues. Amid the sexual harassment reckoning in Hollywood, the studio also has initiated a new, independent probe to look into the claims against Kern both then and now. Kern has subsequently hired crisis management publicist Howard Bragman. Full story. 

    Elsewhere in TV...

    ? French TV giants to take on Netflix. France’s three major television groups are joining forces to create a joint OTT platform in the hopes it retains viewers. Public broadcaster France Televisions and privately owned M6 and TF1 groups will create an equally-owned joint venture as a stand-alone company.

    ? CBS' Star Trek: Discovery makes showrunner change. Out are Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts, who originally took over the role at the helm of the drama from Bryan Fuller. Exec producer Alex Kurtzman will take over on season two.

    ? Amazon inks Nicole Kidman to first look deal. The actress has signed a deal for her Blossom Films banner to develop film, TV and digital projects. The Jennifer Salke-led streamer noted that the two companies will work together to develop series as well as movies that will "engage viewers in theaters."

    Jerry Springer future uncertain as production halts after 27 years. The CW swooped in with a deal to air the series, but the order is currently just for repeats. Sources say the network is considering an order for more new episodes - but, as of now, staff members are looking for new jobs.

    Quoted: "I know firsthand what it feels like to be red hot with top Hollywood productions fighting to hire you. I also know what it feels like when you get that chilly call informing you that the agency will no longer be representing you." — From a new column by RuPaul Andre Charles.

    ^Ryan Murphy is making good on a promise to American Horror Story viewers. The eighth season of his FX horror anthology will feature the highly anticipated crossover of earlier seasons Murder House and Coven.

    Showtime goes back to the 1980s with new order. The cabler has handed out a 10-episode series order to the comedy Black Monday. The project, starring Don Cheadle and Andrew Rannells, was developed with the title Ball Street.

    ? Fox casts Leah Remini in Middle America comedy. The actress has been tapped to star in an untitled show from the team behind It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Picked up with an off-cycle pilot order in May, the project revolves around a woman, her ex-husband and her new wife.

    ? HBO to skip San Diego Comic-Con. For the first time in years, the cabler has opted to sit out the July 18-22 pop culture confab. The decision means that there will be no panels for Game of Thrones or Westworld.

    ? NBC's This Is Us star previews cliffhanger. Susan Kelechi Watson discussed the Beth-centric ending of season two at the latest TV Talks panel at New York's 92nd Street Y. Full interview.

    [icon:deals] Paradigm taps Pierre Brogan to lead unscripted TV efforts. The agent will lead representation and packaging efforts in the space. Brogan, who will be based in the agency's Beverly Hills office, began his career in Paradigm's nonscripted TV department. Details.

  • Netflix's Comedy Gold Rush

    Comedy club tour: Senior writer Seth Abramovitch tags along with UTA comedy touring agent Andrew Skikne as he pops into packed venues to take in everyone hoping to land that career-changing deal. 

    + Live comedy pays. A newer comic just breaking into the L.A. circuit can earn anywhere from $1,250 to $2,500 per week; more established names can pull in anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000 in the same period.

    + Those dream deals. Netflix is wooing superstar comics with eight-figure deals, including Dave Chappelle (a reported $60 million), Louis C.K. ($26 million), Amy Schumer ($20 million) and Jim Gaffigan ($10 million). 

    + Attendance is up. The number of those trekking to comedy clubs has increased steadily from 14.62 million annually in 2008 to 18.32 million in 2017, according to market research outfit Statista, with Los Angeles at the epicenter. Full feature. 

    Elsewhere in film...

    ? MGM buys out former CEO's $260M stake. As part of the deal, the studio and former top exec Gary Barber have agreed to standstill provisions with respect to MGM-related matters for a three-year period.

    ? Huayi Brothers unveils 2019 slate. The company will handle the Middle Kingdom release of Baltasar Kormákur's Adrift and Doug Liman's Chaos Walking, starring Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley, along with several other high-profile upcoming U.S. films. Details. 

    ? Ant-Man and the Wasp tracking for $75M opening. If prerelease surveys are correct, the sequel will debut ahead of the original Ant-Man, which launched to $57.2M in 2015 on its way to a solid global total of $519.3M.

    ? Netflix enlists Wesley Snipes for comedian biopic. The actor joins Eddie Murphy in Dolemite Is My Name!, a biopic of comedian Rudy Ray Moore. The cast includes Mike Epps, Craig Robinson and Tituss Burgess. The film begins production this week in L.A.

    Quoted: "The Hollywood film quota is a speck on this mountain of issues between the U.S. and China on trade." — Ellen Eliasoph, the first studio exec to work in Beijing, talking about the market's evolution.

    ^Marvel hires first female composer to score one of its films. Pinar Toprak will score Captain Marvel, which stars Brie Larson as the hero. "So many thoughts racing through my head. And the main one is gratitude," Topar wrote.

    ? Tessa Thompson-starrer Little Woods finds distribution. NEON has picked up the North American rights to writer-director Nia DaCosta's Tribeca drama starring Thompson and Lily James.

    ? Jackie Chan to release memoir in November. "Never Grow Up will tell the story of the Rush Hour rise to becoming a global star and also detail his "numerous" near-death experiences on and off camera," the Associated Press writes.

    ? Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston's Murder Mystery adds to cast. Luis Gerardo Mendez, one of Mexico’s biggest stars, has joined the Netflix whodunit. Kyle Newacheck is directing the feature, which also has cast Luke Evans.

    *R.I.P., Georgann Johnson. The veteran film, television and Broadway actress, who portrayed the mother of Jane Seymour's character on Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, died June 4 in Los Angeles. She was 91. Full obit.

    [icon:therace] Academy elects new board of governors. Alfred Molina, Susanne Bier, Tom Duffield and Bonnie Arnold have been added to the board of governors, which on Thursday unveiled its newly elected board for 2018-2019. Details. 

  • Louie Anderson's Take

    Comedy Actor Roundtable highlight: "I didn't realize that it would make a difference," Louie Anderson says about transforming into his Baskets character Christine. "I thought I would be able to just put that on and I could still be who I am, but there was a definite change." Full clip.

    What else we're reading...

    "Will AT&T be able to handle HBO?" John Koblin writes: "With the court approval of its acquisition of Time Warner, a telecommunications company moves one step closer to the glittering arena of show business." [New York Times]

    "The hysterical debate over Silicon Valley’s next big thing." Maya Kosoff asks: "Is Bird, a scooter company now seeking a valuation of $2 billion, the next Uber - or Juicero?" [Vanity Fair]

    "Big tech already has the best show in town." Dan Gallagher notes: "Tech companies have shown they don’t need to own large media agencies to establish a strong presence in the business." [Wall Street Journal]

    "Publishers turn to Hollywood talent agencies." Tim Peterson notes: "BuzzFeed Studios and Refinery29 have each signed with WME in the past year, and HuffPost signed with ICM Partners in April." [Digiday]

    — "Pixar’s Bao is so much more than an appetizer." Inkoo Kang writes: "This moving encapsulation of the Asian-immigrant experience is the studio’s best short in years." [Slate]

    What else we're watching...

    + Stephen Colbert's plea on immigration. "So for Father's Day call your elected representatives and demand they do something. Because I sincerely believe that it doesn't matter who you voted for, if we let this happen in our name, we are a feckless country." Full clip. 

    From the archives...

    + On June 15, 1960, Billy Wilder's Oscar best picture winning comedy The Apartment, starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine, premiered in New York at the Astor and Plaza theatres. Flashback review. 

    [icon:birthday] Today's birthdays: Neil Patrick Harris, 45, Leah Remini, 48, Ice Cube, 49, Courteney Cox, 54, Helen Hunt, 55, Julie Hagerty, 63.