EXCLUSIVE: James Lesure (Mr. Sunshine), Michael Cassidy (Privileged) and Adam Busch (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) have been cast opposite Danny Masterson in the TBS half-hour pilot Men At Work, a multi-camera sitcom created by Breckin Meyer. The project, from Sony Pictures TV and Jamie Tarses’ studio-based Fanfare, is an ensemble comedy that explores bromance, sexcapades and office adventures of four buddies who work at a magazine. It centers on Milo (Masterson), a nice guy recently dumped by his girlfriend who enlists the help of his three friends (Lesure, Cassidy, Busch) to reactivate his manhood. Busch is with the Glick Agency and Benderspink.
PREVIOUS, 8 PM: AT&T informed its customers that the NHL Network could be removed from the U-verse TV lineup tonight. “We have tried to reach a fair, long-term deal with NHL Network in order to continue delivering this channel to U-verse TV U450 and Sports Tier customers,” AT&T said in a statement. “Unfortunately, it appears that as of midnight EST, Oct. 1, NHL Network will no longer be available on U-verse TV because we will no longer have an acceptable agreement to carry the channel.” Fans can still catch the games on their local channels or on NBC and Versus, both of which inked deals this spring for the rights to 100 regular-season games.
Michael Ovitz And IMG World And Teddy Forstmann’s Brain Cancer: The Real Story, And Also What Ovitz Told Me About It
EXCLUSIVE: First, let me knock down this untrue rumor: I know for certain there is no IMG World board meeting on a conference call or otherwise today to discuss ousting board member Michael Ovitz in response to allegations he’s maneuvering inside the board and with Forstmann, Little & Co investors to run and/or own the global management and production giant. Also, let me say definitively that Mike Dolan is and will remain for some time IMG’s President/COO because he was handpicked by chairman/owner Teddy Forstmann to run the company. The 71-year-old Forstmann is battling brain cancer in a very public and courageous struggle. Forstmann specifically told his board members that, no matter what happened to him, Dolan was to be given a minimum of 2 to 3 years to continue running IMG’s global sports, fashion, entertainment, and media business if not longer. IMG’s board is purely an advisory board since this is a private company (and not like a board of directors of a public corporation) and therefore does not have the power to remove any board member much less Ovitz.
What the real story is, according to my months of reporting, is that IMG management has lawyers working on how to remove Ovitz from the board and prevent him from interfering with Dolan’s running of the company or with Forstmann, Little & Co investors. “This prick was fucking around with management. Is he being put in his place? Yes,” an insider tells me. The allegations against Ovitz include that he is “harassing” management by demanding IMG financial records; pressuring Dolan and senior IMG executives to report to him by trying to set up a so-called executive committee within the board to oversee IMG activities because of Forstmann’s illness and treatment; and approaching Forstmann, Little & Co partners and investors telling them he was interested in buying IMG with the backing of Greg O’Hara, the managing director of One Equity Partners LLC.
(One Equity Partners is a private equity firm that often functions as the leveraged buyout arm of JP Morgan Chase & Co which is a primary investor. O’Hara is becoming quite a controversial character because of the Hollywood company he keeps: besides Ovitz, he is also trying to raise money for embattled Ryan Kavanaugh to buy out his Relativity Media’s investor Elliott Associates. But so far that has been all talk and no action. Same now with Ovitz, who according to my reporting was not anywhere close to securing the money to buy out IMG.)
Recently, according to my sources, Dolan decided, “Ovitz goes or I go.”
“So really the fight is between Mike Ovitz and Mike Dolan, the handpicked guy by Teddy to run the company,” an insider tells me. “Ovitz is interfering with running the company while Teddy is sick. It’s like what Alexander Haig did when Reagan was shot: ‘I’m in charge here.’ That’s the bullshit he’s trying to pull. So now lawyers are advising Mike Dolan.”
Ovitz has strenuously denied to me that he wants to run and/or buy IMG or has attempted to do so. (See Ovitz’s comments below.) “Of course he’s denying it. He’s a scumbag,” a board member tells me. “But the problem for him is that he cast a net so wide looking for backing and money. He’s out of the closet. He’s not even subtle about it. He wants to own the company, and he doesn’t believe in current management. But this is a very healthy company. Throw the motherfucker Ovitz out. Teddy doesn’t need to deal with this shit.”
The allegations against Ovitz might be harder to believe if he didn’t have a history of trying to destabilize companies to further his own ambitions. And Ovitz also has a history of using people’s illnesses to his advantage in business situations. (At the same time, to be fair, Ovitz also has a history of helping people to recover from illness. He is a complex guy…)
Back in early May, I was first tipped by an insider that “Ovitz is trying to become CEO of IMG while Teddy Forstmann has brain cancer”. As a long-time Ovitz watcher, I was naturally intrigued. Especially because Ovitz (despite his protestations to the contrary) has been trying to find his way back into the business spotlight ever
It’s been a busy week for Hollywood studios settling on release dates. Here’s what’s happened:
Unauthorized, Sundance Now, Oct. 7**
Puss In Boots, DreamWorks Animation, Oct. 28 (Nov. 4)
Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol, Paramount, Dec. 16 sneak previews (Dec. 21*)
The Adventures of Tintin, Paramount, Dec. 21 (Dec. 23)
War Horse, DreamWorks/Touchstone/Disney, Dec. 25 (Dec. 28)
The Lucky One, Warner Bros, April 20, 2012 (Aug. 12, 2012)
Argo, Warner Bros, Sept. 14, 2012 (–)
Gangster Squad, Warner Bros, Oct. 19, 2012 (–)
EXCLUSIVE: Syfy’s drama Alphas is heading into Season 2 with a new showrunner. Bruce Miller has joined the series starring David Strathairn as executive producer/showrunner. He replaces Ira Steven Behr, who is departing after running the series in its first season. Alphas, from BermanBraun, Universal Cable Prods and co-creators Zak Penn and Michael Karnow, follows a team of ordinary citizens who possess extraordinary and unusual mental skills. It was renewed for a second season earlier this month. Miller will serve as an executive producer on the show alongside Penn and BermanBraun’s Gail Berman, Lloyd Braun and Gene Stein. Karnow serves as co-executive producer. The gig extends Miller’s relationship with Syfy. He most recently served as an executive producer/showrunner on the network’s series Eureka, which wrapped production on its fifth and final season last month. ICM-repped Miller’s series credits also includes ER, Medium and 4400.
The final season of NBC’s Chuck and the first of the network’s new drama Grimm will start a week later than originally announced. NBC said today that the two series will now launch on Oct. 28 as part of a two-night Halloween block that will start off on Thursday, Oct. 27, with Halloween-themed episodes of the network’s comedies – Community, Parks and Recreation, The Office and Whitney.
TV Land has acquired broadcast rights to The Dick Van Dyke Show. The sitcom will premiere on Oct. 3, exactly 50 years after it debuted on CBS. TV Land is marking its anniversary by running episodes in a three-hour block from 6-9 PM Oct. 3-7, and giving it the marathon treatment the following weekend. After that, its regular spot will be weekdays at 7 PM. Starring Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore, the classic workplace comedy created by Carl Reiner ran for 5 seasons, from 1961-66. All 159 episodes of the series are also currently available on Hulu.
The much-hyped Hulu auction may end up a bust because “the bids are not coming in as high as (the company’s backers) hoped,” Business Insider reports. Hulu was looking for more than $2B, but the site has said that Dish Network came in at $1.9B. Google’s believed to have topped that with $4B, but that’s contingent on program licensing terms that Hulu’s owners Disney, News Corp, and Comcast apparently can’t swallow. That’s exactly the dilemma that many executives anticipated in June when Hulu put up the “for sale” sign. News Corp COO Chase Carey also indicated last month that his company would be willing to hang on to Hulu. The online video venture’s CEO Jason Kilar and Disney are believed to be the ones who are most eager to sell.
A month after Bela Bajaria was given the reins of NBC’s production arm with the mandate to re-establish it as a full-fledged, stand-alone studio, Universal Television has sold two projects to non-NBC networks, comedy End Of The World to ABC and untitled FBI drama to CBS. In addition to Bajaria’s hire, the company’s rapid transformation over the past month also includes the assembling of a top executive team under her with the appointment of heads of comedy, drama and casting, as well as a name change from Universal Media Studios to Universal Television and a new logo (above, animated version below). This marks a return to UMS’ old days, before it was consolidated into NBC 3 years ago, when it developed and produced series for other networks, including Sons And Daughters and Complete Savages for ABC. Here are details on the first 2 non-NBC projects to come out of Universal TV:
Verizon’s fight to overturn the FCC’s net neutrality rules is on. The phone giant today asked the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. to step in and consider whether regulators have the right to set rules for the Internet. Verizon Deputy General Counsel Michael Glover says that the FCC’s “assertion of broad authority to impose potentially sweeping and unneeded regulations” on the Web is “inconsistent with the statute and will create uncertainty for the communications industry, innovators, investors and consumers.” The FCC says the rules are needed to protect competition: They would bar most broadband providers from favoring their own services — for example, Comcast couldn’t transmit videos from Hulu faster than ones from, say, Netflix. ”Ruling in Verizon’s favor would end the open Internet as we know it and leave companies like Verizon in charge of which sites and services work and which don’t,” says Matt Wood of consumer activist group Free Press — which just filed its own appeal to make the rules tougher.
Verizon’s challenge was expected: It tried early this year to have the net neutrality rules shot down but the court said the effort was premature since they hadn’t been formalized yet. That changed last week when the FCC put the regulations into the Federal Register.
Hedge fund manager John Thaler seems to think Netflix has been beaten up enough. He recently increased his stake to about 4M shares, or 7.6% of Netflix’s total, according to an SEC filing today from his JAT Capital Management. At the end of June he had 467,812 Netflix shares. Since then the company’s market value has fallen nearly 57%; shares closed today at $113.16, down three cents. Thaler specializes in tech and media investments. His other major holdings in media include Cablevision and IMAX.
EXCLUSIVE: Sony Pictures has hired Dante Harper to adapt Foundation, the groundbreaking Isaac Asimov science fiction trilogy which Roland Emmerich is developing to direct. Emmerich has been attached since the studio acquired the property in early 2009 when he and former Centropolis partner Michael Wimer won a multi-studio auction as the rights became available. Originally published as a short story series in Astounding Magazine in 1942, Asimov’s Foundation is the complex saga of humans scattered on planets throughout the galaxy, all living under the rule of the Galactic Empire. The protagonist is a psycho-historian who has an ability to read the future and sees that the empire will collapse imminently. He sets out to save the knowledge of mankind from being wiped out. Robert Rodat was first writer on the project.
Harper broke onto the scene with a Timothy McVeigh biopic called Dreamland that Plan B is producing. He wrote Black Hole for David Fincher at Paramount and did the production rewrite worl in Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, which stars Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton. Harper’s big sale came when his script All You Need is Kill was acquired by Warner Bros. The film is on a fast track, with Doug Liman directing. The studio is out to cast and the film is a priority. Harper is repped by CAA and Management 360.
This becomes the second major development on a work by the late Asimov. 20th Century Fox, which previously …
EXCLUSIVE: I’m told that Sony Pictures Classics is near a deal to distribute Hysteria, the Tanya Wexler-directed romantic comedy based on the surprising truth of how Mortimer Granville came up with the world’s first electro-mechanical vibrator as an advance in medical science. The film created a — wait for it — buzz when it premiered September 15 at Roy Thomson Hall. Hugh Dancy, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jonathan Pryce, Rupert Everett and Felicity Jones star in the film. Samuel Goldwyn Films and Millennium also chased the title. Sony Pictures Classics partners Michael Barker and Tom Bernard have this evening’s opening-night film of the New York Film Festival with the premiere of Carnage, the Roman Polanski-directed feature adaptation of Yasmina Reza’s Tony-winning play. Polanski shot the film in Paris, with Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly starring. Hysteria was repped by Cassian Elwes and Elle Driver.
ABC has bought a multi-camera comedy starring Saturday Night Live alum Jim Breuer. Former According To Jim executive producers Judd Pillot and John Peaslee will write and run the project, which originated at ABC Studios. It is a multi-generational comedy that follows Breuer and his wife living under the same roof with his father and three daughters. Levity Entertainment Group, which manages Breuer, is attached to executive produce. Breuer, who is a regular guest on the The Howard Stern Show, is repped by UTA, which also reps Pillot and Peaslee, along with Brillstein.
Prospect Park has been busy securing talent in front of and behind the camera for its relaunch of One Life To Live, which it acquired with All My Children after the soaps were given the boot by ABC Daytime. It also has given its online network a name. All of the deals are pending WGA agreement, which is expected, but the company is being careful not to ruffle any guild feathers on the matter. Here’s the release:
Rich Frank and Jeff Kwatinetz of TOLN have confirmed today that a deal is in place for “One Life to Live” Emmy®-winning Head Writer and Consulting Producer Ron Carlivati, subject to a WGA agreement, to continue with the show when it moves online at the beginning of next year. Carlivati has been with the show since 1996 and a head writer since 2007.
Pending a final agreement with AFTRA, additional deals are in place for cast members Melissa Archer (Natalie Buchanan Banks), Kelley Missal (Danielle Rayburn), Sean Ringgold (Shaun Evans), Andrew Trischitta (Jack Manning) and Jerry VerDorn (Clint Buchanan) to join previously announced cast including Ted King, Michael Easton, Kassie DePaiva and Erika Slezak.
EXCLUSIVE: Danny Masterson has landed the lead in TBS’ pilot Men At Work, a multi-camera sitcom created by Breckin Meyer. The project, from Sony Pictures TV and Jamie Tarses’ studio-based Fanfare, is an ensemble multi-camera comedy that centers on Milo (Masterson), a nice guy recently dumped by his girlfriend who enlists the help of his friends to reactivate his manhood. Meyer, Tarses and Julia Franz are executive producing. That ’70s Show alum Masterson, repped by UTA and Masterson Management, most recently starred in and produced comedy pilot Playing with Guns. He toplined both the original pilot at Spike TV and the second, revamped version, ordered by Comedy Central earlier this year.
Starz has signed a rare overall deal with Spartacus co-creator, executive producer and showrunner Steven S. DeKnight. Under the exclusive two-year pact, DeKnight will continue to serve in his current role on Starz’s flagship series which will premiere its second season in January. “Steven is a rare talent who we want to stay in business with,” said Carmi Zlotnik, Managing Director of Starz. Added DeKnight, “It is a rare, wonderful opportunity to collaborate with an emerging network on forging their identity in scripted programming. I look forward to continuing this incredibly rewarding relationship.”
CBS Films In Deal For Martin McDonagh’s ‘Seven Psychopaths’ With Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell And Chris Walken
EXCLUSIVE: CBS Films is negotiating to co-finance Seven Psychopaths, the next film by In Bruges writer/director Martin McDonagh. CBS Films will distribute the film in the United States. The film reunites McDonagh with his In Bruges star Colin Farrell, who plays a screenwriter who struggles to find the handle on his script, called Seven Psychopaths. He gets drawn into the dognapping escapades of his friends (played by Rockwell and Walken). Once the beloved Shih Tzu owned by a psychopathic gangster goes missing, the screenwriter finds himself fueled with all the drama he needs for his screenplay, if he can stay alive long enough to write it all down. The film’s produced by Graham Broadbent and Peter Czernin, with Tessa Ross set as executive producer. CBS Films executive vice president Scott Shooman will oversee it when it shoots in Los Angeles this fall.
CBS Films, whose president/CEO Amy Baer just finalized her exit to produce for the company starting in late October, has made a strong effort under COO Wolfgang Hammer to supplement its home grown pictures with films that are acquired either finished or at script stage. CBS Films began its acquisitions uptick with The Mechanic, and recently made the big deal of the 2011 Toronto Film Festival acquiring Salmon Fishing in the Yemen for north of $5 million. CBS Films also made a script stage acquisition of the Colin Firth-Cameron …
EXCLUSIVE: Kearie Peak, COO of Dean Devlin’s Electric Entertainment, will be departing the company where she has been for eight years. Peak was one of four key executives at Electric along with chairman and CEO Devlin, Marc Roskin and Rachel Olschan. She was involved in transforming the company from a studio-based production entity to an full-fledged indie that is financing its series, including TNT’s Leverage, which is in pre-production on Season 5. Peak, who served as an executive producer on Leverage as well as a co-producer on Electric’s successful TNT movie franchise The Librarian, said that “the time is right to pursue other avenues” and thanked “Dean and everyone at Electric for an amazing run.” Said Devlin: “Kearie has played an important role in the evolution of Electric Entertainment. I’m grateful for her dedication to the company and wish her great success in her new endeavors.”