Around the World: NBC's 'infront,' 'Fitna' controversy


No pilots, no problem
Not sure if they'd agree it's the "dream schedule" NBC co-chairman Ben Silverman, left, tabbed it, but advertisers seemed to like the Peacock's "infront" presentation Wednesday, praising the stripped-down effort. "The brevity was a positive," veteran media buyer Bill Cella said. The potential shrinking of the pilot process also earned kudos. "Being able to read shooting scripts when you know the talent could be just as effective as seeing a pilot," Green Room Entertainment's Guy Carter said. Highlights of the 65-week sked include a spinoff of "The Office," the final season of "ER" and a unique deal that will see critical fave "Friday Night Lights" get a death-row reprieve via a deal to share the show with DirecTV. NBC also announced plans for "Celebrity Apprentice," "Celebrity Family Feud" and "Celebrity Circus," moving the network to the front of The Reporter's new "Shows with the word 'Celebrity' in the title" index.

Divided we bargain
Wasn't it just a week ago that SAG and AFTRA were mending fences and preparing to again present a unified front in contract negotiations with producers? Actually, it was. But that all came to an end Saturday as AFTRA -- due in part to a flap over which union would represent "The Bold and the Beautiful" -- decided to go their own way, ending a decades-long history of joint bargaining. After the split, the only question was who would sit down with producers first. "It's only right that we're the ones to go to the table first," SAG president Alan Rosenberg offered. AFTRA boss Roberta Reardon agreed ... sort of, saying that her guild "let SAG go first." SAG's ambitious opening proposal, to be delivered April 15, will seek a boost in DVD residuals as well as streaming residuals that kick in the first day a TV show hits the Internet, things the WGA couldn't secure after a 100-day walkout.

'Earth' revolves
Want to turn that novel into a film or TV project? Try getting an Oprah Winfrey book club mention. FX was scoping out Ken Follett's "The Pillars of the Earth" about five years ago before the project fizzled in development. Now, riding high again with Oprah's imprimature, the sweeping medieval epic is back on track courtesy of Scott Free Prods. and German partners Tandem Communications. The parties are planning a limited series along the lines of Showtime's "The Tudors," and presales begin next week at MIPTV in Cannes.

Diller's day
John Malone's Liberty Media might hold 30% of IAC/InterActiveCorp. stock, but it found out this week that it has 0% say in partner Barry Diller's decision to split the firm into five companies. A judge ruled that, with 62% of the voting shares, only Diller has the proxy to vote those shares as he sees fit. IAC stock jumped 10% after the news broke.

Power principle
Hollywood has its own version of the Archimedes Principle: For every new executive added to a corporate hierarchy, another will be displaced. So despite those murmurs that MGM might "find a new role at the company" for Rick Sands, you knew exactly how this would end. And so, a week after Mary Parent was an-nounced as MGM chairman, Sands stepped down, ending a two-year-plus run as COO. No word yet on Sands' successor or how MGM might divvy up his responsibilities.

Call it a comeback
A busy week on the pilot front included a green light for Ray Romano, who is headed back to TV with the drama "Men of a Certain Age," which he will write, exec produce and star in for TNT. Simon Baker, meanwhile, is hoping the third time's the charm at CBS, where he has signed on to star in "The Mentalist." He previously starred in the net's "The Guardian" and "Smith."

End credits
"The Soup" host Joel McHale, Scott Bakula and a bunch of other actors you might not expect to see in a Steven Soderbergh film are co-starring in Soderbergh's "The Informant." ... William Petersen is back at his "CSI" microscope for what's believed to be a $600,000-per-episode deal. ... Henry Lee Hopper, son of Dennis, is being stalked in the Wes Craven horror pic "25/8."

Much ado
The controversy around Dutch politician Geert Wilders' anti-Islam short "Fitna" kept swirling this week as it was first yanked from Web host -- after threats to its staff -- then ultimately was reinstated. Separately, Dutch pol Eh-san Jami backed off plans to release his animated satire "The Life of Moham-med" after the government asked him to back down. On the plus side, no riots.