There were spies on ABC but it was truly show time on Fox and NBC last night. With its first live elimination show of Season 6, last night’s The Voice (2.7/9) rolled out a sizzling performance from mentor Shakira as well as cutting two contestants. Coming off its lowest Monday result ever and with the return of the Twitter instant save for a second season, the singing competition show was down 10% from last Tuesday. That’s a new low for the show in terms of regular episodes. Still, The Voice was the top-rated and most watched show of the night with 10.95 million watching. While NBC likely doesn’t want those standings to change, it might see a change in The Voice’s 18-49 rating later in the day when the final numbers come in – the show has commonly seen an adjustment upward from the preliminaries. With its 9:01 PM Voice spillover start, freshman About A Boy (1.9/6) saw a 6% bop up from last week in preliminary ratings. Fellow newbie Growing Up Fisher (1.5/4) was even with last week’s low. Getting a 1.8/5 among the 18-49s, NBC was No. 1 last night with an all-encore CBS coming in tops in total viewers with 9.41 million watching. CBS’ NCIS repeat was the second-most-watched show of Tuesday’s primetime after The Voice with an audience of 10.42 million.
We’re heading into the homestretch of pilot season as the broadcast networks are beginning to view and test the completed pilots, a process that will continue for about two weeks before the nets move on to making pickup and scheduling decisions. Based on buzz around town, here are the most talked-about pilots three weeks before the upfronts.
Related: PILOTS 2014: Early Buzz Edition
Every year, there is at least one pilot that comes out of nowhere and surprises everyone. We may have that this season in ABC‘s multi-camera Cristela. It was not even supposed to be a pilot. Developed at 20th TV-based 21 Laps/Adelstein for more than a year, the semi-autobiographical project co-created by and starring rising Latina stand-up comedian Cristela Alonzo was sold to ABC last summer with significant penalty. But when pilot-pickup time came along, ABC quickly loaded on high-profile sitcoms, including the 20th TV-produced The Winklers, starring Henry Winkler, and the untitled Kevin Hart project starring Romany Malco. Cristela didn’t get a pilot order, but the producers, who also are behind ABC’s Tim Allen sitcom Last Man Standing, decided to take the penalty, which I hear was about $500,000, and use it to shoot a presentation. (ABC called it “proof of concept.”) Cristela ended up filming a full-length pilot on the stage of Last Man Standing using that sitcom’s crew, led by director/co-exec producer John Pasquin, with very little time to rehearse and prep. Because it was supposed to be a presentation, Cristela was not budgeted to get a testing, but I hear 20th TV brass liked the finished product and had it tested. I hear the results blew expectations, with Alonzo, who has no previous acting experience, scoring higher than most stars in recent 20th TV comedy pilots, including Allen, New Girl‘s Zooey Deschanel and The Crazy Ones‘ Robin Williams.
The CW has unveiled its summer schedule, which includes originals on all five nights the network programs. That includes the reboot of Whose Line Is It Anyway? which originally launched last summer, now moving to a new night, Mondays. It will be joined by original episodes of Beauty And The Beast, which has been benched for the rest of the season; two new scripted offerings, Canadian comedy Seed and web-to-TV comedy Backpackers; docu-reality series Famous In 12; and two magic series, Penn & Teller: Fool Us and a Masters Of Illusion revival. Here is the CW summer schedule with premiere dates and descriptions of the new series:
UPDATE: Warner Bros Taps Former Clinton Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers As Communications Chief; Sue Fleishman Exiting
UPDATED WITH COMMENTS FROM MYERS AND FLEISHMAN: Warner Bros has hired former White House Press Secretary and longtime political strategist/analyst Dee Dee Myers as EVP Worldwide Corporate Communications and Public Affairs replacing nine-year veteran Sue Fleishman. The move comes after Fleishman had to negotiate through a very rocky transition at the studio through several shakeups in 2013. That included the ascension of new Warner Bros Entertainment CEO Kevin Tsujihara and the exits of the other two WB biggies angling for that gig — Warner Bros TV boss Bruce Rosenblum last May and Warner Brothers Pictures Group President Jeff Robinov the next month.
Myers is coming into a studio rocked by these exits. And although Warner Bros is still reaping the benefits of the pictures greenlit by Robinov — Gravity, The Lego Movie, 300: Rise Of An Empire, and others — it is being led by a studio chairman who has been in the job only a year and is seen as still trying to get his footing. The question is what will happen once the studio blows through all the projects set in motion by Robinov and what characteristic mark will Tsujihara make during his tenure? Fleishman was seen as Barry Meyer’s guy, which is kind of interesting because so was Tsujihara so go figure. Fresh blood now.
Warner Bros. has had a terrific run at the box office from those aforementioned films and is a force to be reckoned with TV powerhouse with such properties as The Big Bang Theory, The Voice, Two and Half Men, The Following, to name a few. They are also partnered with CBS in the CW Network where they produce Arrow, The Vampire Diaries, Shameless, and syndicated hit The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
Myers is a smart, aggressive woman who is not afraid to speak up. In fact, she wrote a book Why Women Should Rule The World about how things might be better worldwide if more women were in leadership roles. Her husband has long worked as a journalist (at the New York Times and Politico) and is currently the national editor and political correspondent at Vanity Fair (where Myers also wrote). Originally from Los Angeles, she worked for many years with former Mayor Tom Bradley and other politicians before heading to Washington, working with Walter Mondale’s campaign, Michael Dukakis, Dianne Feinstein, and then, of course, with President Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton as the White House press secretary for the first two years of the administration. She was the first female press secretary and one of the youngest to hold the job.
She is certainly not the first political press secretary/strategist to make the move to Hollywood. Years ago, Anna Perez, Barbara Bush’s press secretary, was hired at CAA. Zenia Mucha, currently EVP and chief communications officer at Disney, worked for Sen. Alfonse D’Amato and NY Gov. George Pataki. And Kori Bernards at Universal Pictures previously worked at the MPAA and in D.C. for 13 years with then-Minority Leader Richard Gephardt and Nancy Pelosi (now House Minority Leader). “There is a fair number of people who go back and forth,” said Myers. “There’s an affinity between politics and entertainment but that being said, it’s very different and there will be a transition for me.”
New Line has added Colton Haynes (Teen Wolf) to the cast of San Andreas. Haynes, who plays Roy Harper on the CW superhero show Arrow, joins Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario in the quake pic directed by Brad Peyton. Beau Flynn and Tripp Vinson are producing the film about an ex-Special Ops firefighter pilot (Johnson) who searches a devastated California for his estranged daughter after the Big One hits. Rob Cowan is exec producer and Hiram Garcia is co-producer on the pic. Haynes’ credits include TV series Look, The Gates, and The Nine Lives of Chloe King. He’s repped by ICM and Podwall Entertainment.
With less than a month until the upfronts, we’re kicking off our annual Pilot Buzz series. As usual, the first edition only includes a limited number of projects that have been garnering early attention as many pilots are still filming. So, if a pilot is not mentioned, it probably means it is too early to weigh in or the feedback I’ve received is inconclusive at this time.
Shonda Rhimes. Viola Davis. Need we say more? ABC’s sexy suspense legal thriller How To Get Away With Murder, executive produced by Rhimes and starring Davis, is packing some heat early on. Secret & Lies starring Ryan Phillippe also is getting encouraging early response. It also has a seven-figure penalty and is directed by Charles McDougall, whose strong pilot record includes Desperate Housewives, The Good Wife and most recently, Resurrection last season. Then there is Marvel’s stealth Agent Carter project. Last year, the company went into Fort Knox mode on its Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot, which was kept under lock and key. They took that a notch further this year with Agent Carter. Because there is a prototype — the project is inspired by a one shot, which was featured on the Blu-ray release of Iron Man 3 — word has been that it would forgo a pilot and go straight to series. The script was finished more than three months ago (“the script is great,” ABC’s Paul Lee said back in January), the option on one-shot’s star Hayley Atwell came up and was extended, but the green light never came. Now there is talk that a pickup for Agent Carter may come along with a renewal for Marvel’s freshman Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., with the new series possibly serving as a bridge between the fall and spring portions of S.H.I.E.L.D. Also getting various level of early traction at ABC is mystery Sea of Fire and several dark horses, alien drama The Whispers (aka The Visitors), medical drama The Warriors and mystery Clementine.
EXCLUSIVE: For his latest project, documentary filmmaker Brent Hodge turned his lens on a cult subculture of My Little Pony fans known as “Bronies”: men ages 13 to 30 who are obsessed with the Hasbro animation and toy franchise about magical talking horses that was created in the early 1980s and marketed to young girls. A Brony Tale, premiering April 26 at the Tribeca Film Festival, tracks the phenomenon through the eyes of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic voice artist Ashleigh Ball, who embarks on her first trip to meet legions of Brony fans at the annual BronyCon. Check out the trailer and peek into the world of the Brony exclusively on Deadline:
Sean Penn To Direct Charlize Theron and Javier Bardem In ‘The Last Face’ For River Road’s Bill Pohlad
An interesting film project is quickly coming together now with Sean Penn, Charlize Theron and Javier Bardem, which is readying to be shot in Africa. The love story, called The Last Face, will be directed by Penn and is on the verge of getting the go-ahead from River Road and Bill Pohlad, with Bill Gerber and Matt Palmieri also producing. Adèle Exarchopoulos (Blue Is The Warmest Color) is also on board. Theron, who is romantically linked with Penn, will star as a doctor who doing humanitarian relief work in Africa amidst violent political conflicts in the region. She meets another doctor (Bardem) who is doing the same work, and the story revolves around tough moral decisions that must be made during time of civil unrest. Exarchopoulos is expected to play a journalist.
This will be Penn and Pohlad’s fourth collaboration. They previously worked together on Into the Wild, which garnered two Oscar noms. Pohlad also produced Terence Malick’s Oscar-nominated Tree Of Life, which Penn narrated and starred, as well as Fair Game. Of course Pohlad was one of the producers of this year’s Best Picture winner 12 Years A Slave. Penn, Theron, Bardem and Pohlad are all Oscar winners.
It is very difficult for showrunners to wrap production on a season without knowing if their series would get another season. Unfortunately, that is the nature of the network business, and about two dozen shows go though that every year. Here is a look at each network’s comedy and drama series in peril and their odds for survival.
With all the drama carnage at ABC this season (Lucky 7, Betrayal, Killer Women, Mind Games, The Assets), the network is pretty lean on the hourlong side, and all shows currently on the air have a good shot at coming back. That includes two freshman series, fall drama Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., despite slipping in the ratings, and midseason entry Resurrection. Of returning dramas, there is no doubt about renewals for Shonda Rhimes’ Grey’s Anatomy, especially with stars Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey signed on, and Scandal, as well as Castle and Once Upon A Time. While it was heavily on the bubble last season, country music drama Nashville appears in a stronger position this spring and looks likely to continue. And, despite its ratings erosion, Revenge remains a signature, upscale drama for ABC that the network also owns. Because of its heavy mythology with a revenge storyline that has been central to the show since the pilot, it is unlikely that ABC would abruptly end the series without giving it a final chapter to wrap things up.
Things are far murkier on the comedy side where there are three shoe-ins, anchors Modern Family and The Middle and freshman The Goldbergs. None of these hail from ABC’s sister studio, and building a steady comedy pipeline at ABC Studios has been important for the overall health of the company. There are three ABC Studios-produced comedy series on ABC at the moment, all on the bubble: freshmen Trophy Wife and Mixology and sophomore The Neighbors. The network will likely renew at least one comedy from its own studio. (Last year, it picked The Neighbors vs. 20th TV’s How To Live With Your Parents.) Of the three, Trophy Wife seems to have the biggest support and is the most promotable, with a star cast led by Malin Akerman and Bradley Whitford. But the name cast also makes Trophy Wife the most expensive, and its ratings are pretty soft. The Neighbors, which comes from prominent Disney writer Dan Fogelman, costs way less, and, while only doing so-so on Fridays, it could deliver something ABC Studios has not seen in a while: a third-year comedy. (Fogelman also has comedy pilot Galavant in the running at ABC.) Then there is Mixology, which has not done well behind Modern Family. It stands out with its unusual structure — set in a bar over the course of one night — it has quickly built a core fan base and has supporters at ABC. But relaunching a heavily serialized comedy in the fall four months after a brief midseason run would be a challenge and growing ratings for such a show with a continues storyline would be very difficult. ABC has a recent history of sticking with narrow, quirky relationship comedies like Happy Endings and Don’t Trust the B—- but all were eventually cancelled. 20th TV’s Last Man Standing starring Tim Allen is quietly wrapping its third season. It has done a decent job as a Friday 8 PM anchor and is ABC’s only multi-camera series. With several high-proile multi-camera pilots, the network could use Last Man Standing as a building block. (How about Allen paired with another comedy vet, Henry Winkler of The Winklers?).