Week in Review: Deals, 'No Deal'


The big deal: The principals are calling it a "next-generation" service and a "game changer" for the industry, but no one seems entirely sure just what it is yet. Still, when Viacom (and Paramount), MGM and Lionsgate say they're teaming to create their own premium channel, one with a yet-to-be-defined VOD element, people tend to listen. Those wondering if maybe it was all just a bluff in negotiations with Showtime -- where all three film companies have output deals -- lost some ammunition Wednesday when news broke that former Showtime exec Mark Greenberg has been tapped to lead the new venture. Now, all they need is carriage.

No big 'Deal': President Bush brought the full weight of his approval ratings to a much-hyped appearance on NBC's "Deal or No Deal," resulting in the lowest Monday rating in the game show's history. The episode was down 27% from its season average in the 18-49 demo.

All choked up: Can someone choke to death and cough at the same time? It's a question that has baffled man since the dawn of time, so is it really any surprise that it led James Caan to storm off the set of David O. Russell's "Nailed"? To recap: Caan's character was to have choked to death on a cookie. Russell wanted him to cough during the take, while Caan suggested this was physiologically impossible. It's what we in Hollywood call "creative differences." And in case you're flashing back to a certain "Huckabees" YouTube video, producer Douglas Wick assured that Russell, who once managed to elicit a right cross from charmer George Clooney, was professional throughout the incident.

Cannes goods: Indiana Jones? Check. Steven Soderbergh's four-hour -- yes, four-hour -- Che Guevera biopic? Check. Woody Allen? A kickboxing panda? Check and check. They might be scaling back the Festival de Cannes after last year's 60th anni blowout, but there's no shortage of star power or high-profile U.S. films on tap this year. Clint Eastwood -- who scrambled to get his "Changeling" ready in time -- will face off with a Competition field that includes Soderbergh, Wim Wenders, Walter Salles and recent winners Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne. Also running with the big dogs is Charlie Kaufman, who will be in town with his directing debut, "Synecdoche, New York." Still up in the air is the opening-night film. Steven Spielberg's "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," originally thought to be a contender for that slot, is out of the mix, according to festival GM Thierry Fremaux.

Rewarding move? Has SAG already pulled its DVD residual and new-media demands off the table? At least one person thinks so. Entertainment attorney Jonathan Handel interpreted Wednesday's AMPTP decision to extend negotiations with SAG as a "reward" for showing flexibility, pointing to a Tuesday missive to SAG membership in which the topics were conspicuously absent. "There is no other reason for (those items) to disappear," he said.

'Bad' taste: In the most heartwarming TV development since that guy was asked whether "fat people repulse" him on "The Moment of Truth," Fox is turning the white-hot glare of reality justice on deadbeat dads. "Bad Dads" (™ Mike Darnell) will feature a child support bounty hunter of sorts who will track down the dads in question and "squeeze them until the women get paid." Yeah!

The squeeze: Fan of the RomaCinemaFest? Keep an eye on the mayoral election taking place Sunday and Monday in the Italian capital. Center-right candidate Gianni Alemanno is planning some belt-tightening at the three-year-old event if he wins, including a shrinking of the staff and at least a $1.6 million cut in its budget.

End credits: With ABC primetime soap "Cashmere Mafia" on life support, Lucy Liu has lined up Plan B, a role on ABC primetime soap "Dirty Sexy Money." ... Ang Lee is stepping into the director's chair on Focus' gay-themed Woodstock memoir "Taking Woodstock."