What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:32 AM 2/13/2018

by Ray Rahman

Courtesy of ABC;CBS;NBC;FOX;The CW

What's news: With help from the Olympics, NBC finally bests CBS in overall viewers. Plus: The New York attorney general has harsh words for Weinstein, LeBron James is having a House Party and our broadcast TV scorecard tallies up all the pilots, renewals and cancellations so far. — Ray Rahman

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  • Weinstein Chaos

    Drew Angerer/Getty Images

    The day after filing an expansive human rights lawsuit against The Weinstein Co., New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman elaborated on his office’s four-month investigation into the company, writes Ashley Cullins:

    The AG emphasized that the crux of the investigation focused on TWC as a whole, not just disgraced mogul Harvey Weinstein. "We have never seen anything as despicable as what we've seen here," Schneiderman said during a Monday press conference. “It was flagrant. It was flamboyant. They knew how pervasive it was, and, not only did they fail to stop it, they enabled it and covered it up.”

    Specifically, the AG called out COO David Glasser and the TWC board, saying that they had legal duties to stop the misconduct: “Management, including the COO and the human resources staff, never launched a single formal investigation into any of the complaints of discrimination, harassment or abuse. And there were many, many complaints.” Read more.

    Elsewhere in film...

    Does Annihilation have a whitewashing controversy on its hands? “Writer/director Alex Garland is not being true and honest to the characters in the book,” MANAA board member Alieesa Badreshia said. “He exploits the story but fails to take advantage of the true identities of each character. Hollywood rarely writes prominent parts for Asian American and American Indian characters, and those roles could’ve bolstered the careers of women from those communities.”

    + Here's why: In the novel Authority — a direct sequel to the original Annihilation — Natalie Portman's character is described as being of Asian descent, with the author describing her as having “dark, thick eyebrows, a slight, slightly off-center nose (broken once, falling on rocks), and high cheekbones that spoke to the strong Asian heritage on one side of her family.” Similarly, a character played by Jennifer Jason Leigh is described as being half-American Indian/half-Caucasian.

    Martin Scorsese's budget for The Irishman is only getting bigger: According to reports, the production budget for the director's first Netflix feature has ballooned into the $140 million range — and is still growing. A lot of this has to do with the special effects needed to de-age Robert De Niro in the film, which spans decades. 

    Fox's Kingsman lawsuit: A screenwriter named R. Spencer Balentine is suing the studio, claiming that Kingsman: The Secret Service is based on his work, not the comic series from a Marvel imprint. Details.

    Blade Runner 2049, Coco top Lumiere Awards: Those films were the big winners at the ceremony held by the Advanced Imaging Society in L.A. last night. Other honorees included the "Be Our Guest" sequence from Beauty and the Beast, Altered Carbon's augmented reality experience and Spider-Man: Homecoming VR.

    Unsane first clip: You can now watch a full, anxiety-inducing clip from Steven Soderbergh's iPhone-shot movie starring Claire Foy. Video.

    ^LeBron James is producing a House Party movie: The NBA star and his SpringHill Entertainment Partner Maverick Carter are working on a revival of the ole Kid 'n Play-fronted comedy franchise from the '90s, with Atlanta's Stephen Glover and Jamal Olori writing. “This is definitely not a reboot. It’s an entirely new look for a classic movie,” James says. “Everyone I grew up with loved House Party. To partner with this creative team to bring a new House Party to a new generation is unbelievable.”

    Bette Midler, Sharon Stone set for The Tale of the Allergist's Wife: The duo will star in the odd-couple comedy adaptation of the Broadway play, with Andy Fickman (Parental Guidance) attached to direct. 

    Michael Fassbender enters Kung Fury: He's been cast in David Sandberg's hotly anticipated action comedy, a follow-up to one of the biggest cult short films of recent years. (The original, with more than 30 million views on YouTube, can be seen here.)

    X-Men news: There's a Kitty Pryde movie in the works. Deadpool director Tim Miller and comic-book author Brian Michael Bendis are teaming up for a stand-alone movie for fan-favorite Kitty Pryde, played in previous X-Men movies by Ellen Page.

    Jim Parsons will star in The Legend of Georgia McBride: The Big Bang Theory star will play veteran drag queen Miss Tracy Mills in the stage-play adaptation from Fox 2000 and New Regency. 

    From Paddington to Willy Wonka: Paul King, the director behind the acclaimed Paddington movies, has set his sights on another beloved British literary title to adapt — he's in final negotiations to direct Willy Wonka, the Warner Bros. reimagining of the classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory story.

    ► Kathy Bates joins Netflix's The Highwaymen: Bates, Kim Dickens and John Carroll Lynch will appear alongside Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson in the John Lee Hancock-directed Texas Rangers drama.

    Keira Knightley's and Matt Smith's spy thriller: The very English pair will star in Official Secrets, which centers on a British intelligence whistle-blower (Knightley) who leaked top-secret intel exposing an illegal U.S.-U.K. spy operation.

    ► Alicia Vikander teams up with Morten Tyldum: She'll take the lead role in the director's adaptation of the Karen Dionne dramatic thriller The Marsh King's Daughter

    ► Ethan Hawke as Nikola Tesla? Yep: Just like Nicholas Hoult and David Bowie before him, Hawke will play the electricity pioneer in the upcoming biopic Tesla.

    Chris Columbus set to spend Five Nights at Freddy: The Harry Potter vet will write and direct a film adaptation of the video game (set at a pizza parlor where the Chuck E. Cheese-esque animatronic animal band goes on killing sprees at night) for Blumhouse.

    Kevin Williamson signs first-look deal with Miramax: The Scream and Dawson's Creek creator's new pact will have him developing "high-level motion picture genre content" for the production banner, which is being rebuilt by CEO Bill Block. 

    Paul Dano's directorial debut goes to IFC Films: Wildlife, Dano's 1960s-set drama starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan, made its premiere at Sundance.

    Tom Hanks tackles Shakespeare: The man who'll be playing Mr. Rogers soon will first be seen as Falstaff in the Shakespeare Center's production of Henry IV in L.A. this June. 

  • Ratings Gold

    Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

    For the first time in a long time, NBC can say it has more viewers than CBS, writes Michael O'Connell:

    For the first time since 2002, NBC actually ranks as the most-watched network on TV — not just the highest-rated, a title it has again been assured of since the fall. Most-watched status has belonged to CBS for nearly all of the last 15 seasons (2007-08 went to Fox). 

    NBC's current advantage among total viewers is slim, besting CBS with an average 9.57 million viewers in primetime to 9.39 million in the most current available data from Nielsen. But that tiny lift, a lead of barely 2 percent, stands to get bigger as the network continues its thus-far impressive coverage of the Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, through Feb. 25.

    Will it be enough to hold onto No. 1 until the end of the season? That remains to be seen. Read more.

    Elsewhere in TV...

    Why doesn't YouTube just ban Logan Paul? YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki has an answer for why the rat-tasing, suicide forest-visiting, Tide Pod challenge-encouraging personality is still on her site: "We can't just be pulling people off of our platform," she explained at a conference last night. "They need to violate a policy and we need to have consistent behavior." She added that the decision to demonetize his account is "actually a pretty strong statement in itself."

    Peter Rice talks: At the same conference last night, the Fox chief spoke about the Disney deal in light of Comcast's renewed interest: "We struck a deal that we thought was good for Fox shareholders," he said, adding that the Fox assets are "a great fit for Disney."

    + He also had thoughts on Hulu: "By the time the deal closes, I think Hulu will have an excess of 20 million subscribers. It's added more subscribers in the U.S. than Netflix has both the last two quarters." (Hulu currently reports 17 million members.)

    + And Hulu's live TV service: "It's growing faster than any of the others and they're all growing quickly," he said, adding that, combined, the OTT bundles account for over 4 million subscribers for Fox and its networks. "For the last quarter, it has essentially wiped out any cord-cutting for us."

    + And the NFL: Did Fox overpay for Thursday Night Football rights? "I don't think so. Anytime you go to an auction, somebody wins and everybody who loses says that the winner overpaid. You either have the most watched content on television or you don't have it."

    Omarosa talks Pence: Not long after discussing Trump's presidency, Manigault is now warning her Celebrity Big Brother housemates about the Veep, telling them: "As bad as y'all think Trump is, you would be worried about Pence. So everybody that's wishing for impeachment, might want to reconsider their life. We would be begging for days of Trump back if Pence became president, that's all I'm saying."

    PBS protests: Just as it does every time a Republican budget threatens to slash its budget, PBS put out a statement against potential cuts in funding laid out by Trump's new budget. "Public broadcasting has earned bipartisan congressional support over the years thanks to the value we provide to taxpayers," CEO Paula Kerger said. Full statement.

    CNN cuts: A few dozen CNN Digital employees will see their jobs eliminated this week as part of a broader restructuring and reorganization of several departments, including video and production. The cuts were described by an individual familiar with the situation as "a mixture of consolidation and cost-savings."

    Starz and Altice end dispute: The two parties have agreed to a new, multiyear deal giving Altice USA rights to offer the full suite of Starz linear and on-demand channels as well as online services.

    13 Reasons Why author expelled from Society of Childen's Book Writers and Illustrators: Jay Asher has been kicked out of the prominent organization due to allegations of sexual harassment. 

    Boston's SMILF flap: It all started when a city councilor criticized locally placed posters for the Showtime series, writing on Facebook that he'd heard the show was a "degrading, crude and inaccurate portrayal" of Southie. Creator Frankie Shaw, a Boston native, responded by inviting him to actually watch the show (and pointing out that Ben Affleck gets away with it all the time), and fellow New Englander Seth MacFarlane also weighed in, saying the politician "treads on dark ground."

    Between Two Ferns wins a humanitarian award: Mike Farah and Brad Jenkins of Funny or Die and Scott Aukerman and Zach Galifianakis of Between Two Ferns will be honored with the Venice Family Clinic's Humanitarian Award for their work in promoting the Affordable Care Act and social issues.

    ^Broadcast Scorecard: A complete guide to what's new, renewed and canceled for the 2018 season, including network-by-network breakdowns of where every current show stands in the cancellation sweepstakes. See it here.

    Michelle Wolf lands a Netflix late-night show: The Late Night With Seth Meyers and Daily Show With Trevor Noah vet will hold down her own weekly talk show for Netflix, planned to launch later this year. Joked Wolf: “You can expect the types of jokes my former bosses would tell me we couldn’t do on TV."

    + Roll call: Not even half a year after canceling Chelsea, Netflix now has talk shows from David Letterman, Joel McHale and, soon, Wolf.

    Mary J. Blige joins Netflix's Umbrella Academy: The Oscar nominee is heading to TV to join the streamer's latest superhero comic book adaptation. She'll play Cha-Cha, a time-traveling hit woman. 

    Regina Hall, Paul Scheer, Casey Wilson join Showtime's next Don Cheadle comedy: They'll all star as series regulars in Ball Street, a Wall Street comedy pilot from David Caspe. Wilson and Caspe are no strangers: They worked together on his previous show, Happy Endings — and they're married. 

    Hannah Simone is the new Greatest American Hero: The New Girl actress will star in the Nahnatchka Khan update of the 1980s comedy for ABC.

    RIP, Ron Scott: The Hollywood publicist who represented David Hasselhoff, Richard Dean Anderson and John Stamos during their days as young soap opera stars, died Saturday at age 74.

    ► From AT&T to Otter Media: Tony Goncalves, who most recently oversaw AT&T's digital brands (including the launch of DirecTV Now) has been named CEO of Otter Media, owner of Fullscreen and Crunchyroll.

  • Obama Style

    Mark Wilson/Getty Images

    At her portrait unveiling yesterday, Michelle Obama proved she's still a fashion icon. Ingrid Schmidt writes:

    The focal point of Michelle Obama’s portrait is a custom Milly dress designed by that label’s creative director, Michelle Smith, explicitly for the portrait. The flowing, floor-length stretch poplin gown features a graphic pattern with pops of colorful stripes against crisp black and white.

    The design is based on a similar dress shown on the runway as part of Milly’s spring 2017 collection, which the designer intended as a bold statement of acceptance geared toward the LGBTQ community, “who is feeling threatened right now under Trump and the administration,” Smith told THR. Read more.

    And now for our fifth edition of ...

    ↱The Three-Question Interview: a series of short Q&As with interesting executives and personalities. Next up: Marc Hustvedt, CEO of the digital comedy network Above Average.

    So somewhat recently, Seeso — NBC Universal’s stab at a comedy streaming site — went under. Are there any lessons to be learned there? Well, we could talk for hours about Seeso and what happened. It was certainly a very noble effort. But building a loyal audience around comedy is hard — you really need to have a distinctive voice. And frankly, I think you need more time than they were given. And the subscription/paywall model they had was certainly challenging.

    People have been talking about Peak Comedy lately, and it can seem likely everyone has a Netflix special or web series now. What’s your take on the state of comedy programming right now — is this a golden age or a bubble? I think certainly consumers are turning to comedy, particularly comics and stand-up, in a way we haven’t seen in a really long time. And a lot of that is a credit to Netflix. That said, when you talk about the really impactful cultural shows that we really obsess over as a culture, I think about Game of Thrones and Stranger Things. It isn’t led by comedy shows yet. I think we still have room to go to have that massive comedic hit. And I definitely think there will be a comedic show that is a hit like that.

    Does Above Average have plans to take on Netflix when it comes to stand-up specials? I think the market for stand-up specials is a bit distorted at the moment. Even the quotes — in the past, I’ve produced a number of specials, like Maria Bamford and Ari Shaffir, back when it was the Louis C.K. $5 comedy special model. It was a much different time. Now you’re getting very significant offers from Netflix that are frankly impossible for other buyers of stand-up to compete with.

    What else we're reading...

    — "Who's allowed to wear a Black Panther mask?" Kwame Opam writes: "As children express fandom for Marvel’s latest superhero, parents face new questions about race, cultural appropriation and permission." [The New York Times]

    — "Confessions of an Oscar voter: Why I loved Three Billboards and don't get Get Out." Michael Musto gets one to talk. [Daily Beast]

    — "Could Netflix be giving up on prestige films?" David Sims writes: "The surprise release of The Cloverfield Paradox, along with acquisitions of other schlocky genre movies, suggests the company is leaning into its 'direct-to-video' approach." [The Atlantic]

    — "Molly McNearney on writing for the Oscars telecast, taking a stand and bearing a famous baby." David Kamp interviews Jimmy Kimmel Live!'s co-head writer (and the host's wife). [Vanity Fair]

    — "Atlanta Monster: In pursuit of justice and a hit podcast." Sarah Larson writes: "Bringing the right kind of attention to the story could do some good. But is this team making smart, responsible choices?" [New Yorker]

    — "The Onion's A Very Fatal Murder is a sly, pitch-perfect parody of crime podcasts." Nathan Rabin writes: "The comedy unfolds over eight installments that collectively run about an hour and follow the absurdist podcast investigation of smug New Yorker David Pascall as he travels deep into the heart of flyover country." [Splitsider]

    — "15 minutes of fame is too much. Try 6 seconds." Katherine Rosman writes: "Giphy Studios thinks it can help old-school companies like H &R Block break into private messaging with branded GIF campaigns." [New York Times]

    What else we're seeing...

    + "Milo Ventimiglia reveals reaction to This Is Us death." [Jimmy Kimmel Live!]

    + "Whose fault is it when the stock drops?" [Daily Show]

    What else we're hearing...

    + "Bill Gates: 'America First' will harm the United States." The tech mogul sits down with Jeffrey Goldberg. [The Atlantic Interview]

    "The rise of Alex Ross Perry: From the art house to the mouse house." The director discusses his latest film, Golden Exits, as well as his upcoming Winnie the Pooh adaptation for Disney. [The Big Picture/The Ringer]

    Today's Birthdays: Mena Suvari, 39, Henry Rollins, 57, Peter Gabriel, 68, Stockard Channing, 74, George Segal, 84, Kim Novak, 85.