What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:22 AM 4/2/2018

by Ray Rahman

Ready Player One Still 17 - Publicity - H 2018
Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros.

What's news: The industry mourns the loss of Steven Bochco. Plus: Ready Player One gives Steven Spielberg his best box-office opening in a decade, Sinclair comes under fire over anti-media mass messaging and Hollywood prepares for its big Saudi visitor. — Ray Rahman

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  • Steven Bochco Remembered

    The unwavering TV giant, winner of 10 Emmys, has passed away, writes Michael Barnes:

    Steven Bochco, the strong-willed writer and producer who brought gritty realism and sprawling ensemble casts to the small screen with such iconic series as Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law and NYPD Blue, died Sunday morning at the age of 74.

    Bochco, who had leukemia, received a stem cell transplant from an anonymous 23-year-old in late 2014.

    "Steven fought cancer with strength, courage, grace and his unsurpassed sense of humor," spokesman Phillip Arnold said. "He died peacefully in his sleep [at home] with his family close by." Read more.

    Hollywood pays tribute: "Today, our industry lost a visionary, a creative force, a risk taker, a witty, urbane story teller with an uncanny ability to know what the world wanted," Bob Iger tweeted.

    "All of us who grew up watching great TV and have benefited from the ground he broke owe pioneer Steven Bochco a debt of gratitude," wrote Beau Willimon.

    "An exceptional human being," said Goldie Hawn. "A great friend, father and partner." More tributes | Bochco in his own words.

    The reviews are in...

    NBC's Jesus Christ Superstar Live: "Pulsing with kinetic energy right from the overture, the show was a thrilling hybrid of Broadway and arena spectacle, taking the material back to its roots, and you could feel the excitement in the live audience even at home," writes David Rooney. THR's review.

    The buzz: "Electrifying." — AV Club. "Absolutely incredible." — Daily Beast. "A glorious glitter bomb." — EW.

    Ratings: Per early ratings, the biblical belt-fest put out a solid showing for the night, tying CBS' 60 Minutes among households and topping ABC's American Idol. It averaged a 6.0 overnight rating among Nielsen's metered market households, putting it in an advantageous position for total audience.

    Compared to NBC's last live production, Hairspray in December 2016, the show was essentially flat... Full story.

    Elsewhere in TV...

    ? John Oliver on Sinclair: "Brainwashed cult." The Last Week Tonight host once again aimed fire at Sinclair Broadcast Group last night after a Deadspin video — showing dozens of Sinclair newsrooms around the country parroting to-camera the same Orwellian anti-media message — went viral. Watch.

    + Other critics: "Terrifying," Joss Whedon wrote of Deadspin's Sinclair video. David Simon didn't mince words either, comparing viewers of Sinclair stations to "rubes" and station employees to "whores." Read more.

    ? Stephen Glover says a proposed Taylor Swift episode was the "last straw" for the Deadpool series. “There really was a Taylor Swift episode. It was HILARIOUS. And it definitely was the last straw lol,” Glover wrote in a tweet that has since been deleted. “Our show wasn’t too black. It wasn’t really that black at all. But we definitely wanted to give ‘Rick and Morty’ a run for their money and I think we would have. Proud of the gang.”

    ? Media executives are fretting about Brexit impact. That's according to a new survey that finds that "Many media companies in the U.K. and elsewhere think a hard Brexit may cause significant immediate damage," including the possible end of "an era for binge-watching." Full story.

    ? The Counterpart finale: a deep dive with creator Justin Marks. Plus, intel on the show's future: "The second season is the Cold War after the Berlin Wall has been formed and how people start to draw battle lines...." Read more | J.K. Simmons interview.

  • Spielberg's Good Weekend

    Ready Player One marks director Steven Spielberg's biggest opening in a decade, writes Pamela McClintock:

    Box office: Steven Spielberg's self-proclaimed return to popcorn fare easily won the box-office Easter egg hunt, grossing $41.2 million to score the holiday weekend's biggest opening ever for a non-sequel. That brings the movie's four-day bow to a better-than-expected $53.2 million after launching a day early on Thursday.

    The sci-fi adventure is Spielberg's biggest domestic bow since his last Indiana Jones movie a decade ago. 

    Not done yet: Despite the good news so far, the movie hasn't yet won the game, writes McClintock: "Ready Player One's debut isn't enough to guarantee success for a film that cost Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow $175 million to make before a major marketing spend. Box-office experts predict the movie will need to earn north of $420 million globally to break even, if not closer to $500 million." Read more.

    Spielberg finally cracks China: The movie rocketed to a strong $61.7 million start over the weekend, making it Warner Bros' best opening weekend ever in the country. It's also the third-biggest Hollywood debut this year, behind only Black Panther ($67 million) and Pacific Rim Uprising ($65 million).

    How Spielberg keeps confounding his critics: "Spielberg shape-shifts in the blink of an eye," Stephen Galloway writes. "The director who made Schindler’s List is the same one who made Jurassic Park in the very same year. Each is quite brilliant but in a completely unrelated way." Read more.

    The Lena Waithe interview: The actress and writer discusses making her big-screen debut in Ready Player One, her future TV ambitions and more. Q&A.

    The rest: Tyler Perry's and Lionsgate's latest film together, the marital psychological thriller Acrimony, bowed at No. 2 over the weekend with a solid $17.1 million. In third place came Black Panther, with a weekend gross of $11.3 million, bringing the cume to $650.7 million. Full story.

    The buzz this week...

    The Saudi Crown Prince comes to Hollywood. Mohammad bin Salman, on a whirlwind three-week tour of the U.S. to help firm up business ties and promote his country’s sweeping reforms, has a series of engagements planned starting Monday, including a dinner party hosted by Rupert Murdoch tonight.

    The co-executive chairman of 21st Century Fox is understood to have also invited Disney CEO Bob Iger and Warner Bros. chairman Kevin Tsujihara, giving the Crown Prince the opportunity to pick the brains of top entertainment industry brass. 

    Not everyone's excited: Several protests have been planned focusing on Saudi Arabia’s ongoing military attacks on Yemen, currently suffering from a major humanitarian crisis. Codepink will be demonstrating Monday outside WME’s Beverly Hills office at 11 a.m. and at the same time Tuesday outside the Rand Corporation in Santa Monica. Full story.

    In other news...

    Live Nation in trouble? According to a New York Times report, the DOJ is surveying claims that the ticketing company is forcing venues to use its subsidiary, Ticketmaster, as vendor for high-profile events — which could be a violation of antitrust law. Read more.

  • The 'Good Doctor' Problem

    Today is World Autism Awareness Day — three experts explain what Hollywood gets wrong about this complex and widespread disorder:

    At the moment, Dr. Shaun Murphy is TV’s most popular surgeon. With near-perfect recall, a photographic memory and savant-like diagnostic abilities, he is the poster boy of “Hollywood Autism.”

    But the reality of autism is very different from depictions on TV and in film, where autistic people are almost always portrayed as awkward white male geniuses. In addition to Dr. Murphy (Freddie Highmore) on ABC’s The Good Doctor, there's theoretical physicist Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) on CBS’ The Big Bang Theory and Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) on BBC’s Sherlock. Read more.

    What else we're reading...

    — "Meet Barry McCarthy, the man behind Spotify's daring public offering." Theodore Schleifer writes: "If Spotify’s unusual 'direct listing' offering is successful, credit will go to a Spotify executive who doesn’t want any attention." [Recode]

    — "Hayley Atwell on the superwomen of Howards End." Anthony Lane writes: "What connects Captain America and E. M. Forster? They seem unlikely bedfellows...." [New Yorker]

    — "Rules of engagement: How cities are courting Amazon's new headquarters." Laura Stevens, Shibani Mahtani and Shayndi Raice write: "Many cities are nixing the fancy hotels, dinners at the governor’s mansion, private planes and small gifts — all typical core aspects of a traditional site visit." [Wall Street Journal]

    — "Russian bots are rallying behind Laura Ingraham as advertisers dump her show." Sonam Sheth and Michelle Mark write: "According to one website that tracks Russian propaganda on Twitter in near-real time, the hashtag #istandwithlaura saw a 2800% jump in 48 hours." [Business Insider]

    — "North Korea issues rare apology over media access to K-pop show." Choe Sang-Hun writes: "On Sunday evening, several South Korean pool reporters were barred by their North Korean minders from entering the concert hall. " [The New York Times]

    — "How Petula Clark and Harry Belafonte fought racism arm in arm." Simon Goddard writes: "Petula Clark was an uncool '60s pop star on the rise when, 50 years ago today, she held on to Harry Belafonte’s arm on US television, and sparked a race relations furor." [Guardian]

    What else we're hearing...

    + "Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook's hardest year, and what comes next." The founder goes deep in a new interview. [The Ezra Klein Show/Vox]

    + "Neil Patrick Harris/Michael Imperioli." From Dougie Howser to The Sopranos, Marc Maron interviews them both. [WTF]

    What's ahead this week...

    Monday: The Crossing debuts on ABC.

    Tuesday: The Last O.G. debuts on TBS.... Fixer Upper airs its series finale on HGTV.... Legion season two premieres on FX. 

    Thursday: Jersey Shore Family Vacation debuts on MTV.

    Friday: Blockers, A Quiet Place and Chappaquiddick hit theaters nationwide.... The Boss Baby: Back in Business drops on Netflix.... David Letterman's Jay-Z interview also drops on Netflix. 

    Today's Birthdays: Jesse Plemons, 30, Michael Fassbender, 41, Adam F. Goldberg, 42, Pedro Pascal, 43, Clark Gregg, 56, Christopher Meloni, 57.