Adult Swim is looking to stir a debate with a series order to Black Jesus, a half-hour live-action scripted comedy from The Boondocks creator Aaron McGruder. The show stars newcomer Gerald “Slink” Johnson (Grand Theft Auto V) as Jesus living in present-day Compton, CA on a daily mission to spread love and kindness throughout the neighborhood with the help of his small but loyal group of downtrodden followers. The series pickup for Black Jesus comes on the heels of the Jesus race controversy triggered by Fox News star Megyn Kelley’s recent “Jesus is white” comments.
Black Jesus co-stars Charlie Murphy (Are We There Yet), Corey Holcomb (The Cleveland Show), and John Witherspoon (The Boondocks). Production on the new series has begun in Los Angeles for a premiere later this year. Possibly because of its subject matter, the network had kept the project pretty quiet. Its May 2013 upfront slate included a live-action pilot by McGruder but no premise was announced. McGruder, who created the series, will serve as executive producer through his 5 Mutts Prods. along with writer-director Mike Clattenberg (Trailer Park Boys) and LEG’s Norman Aladjem and John Bravakis. Johnson previously guest starred in an episode of McGruder’s Adult Swim animated comedy Boondocks.
Tom Verica (American Dreams) has joined the cast of ABC drama pilot How To Get Away With Murder starring Viola Davis and executive produced by Shonda Rhimes. The sexy, suspense-driven legal thriller centers on ambitious law students and their brilliant and mysterious criminal defense professor, Annalise Dewitt (Davis), who become entangled in a murder plot that could rock their entire university and change the course of their lives. Paradigm-repped Verica will play Annalise’s husband Tom, a psychology professor who comes from a long line of academic royalty.
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Pilot Locations 2014: New York Production Rises, Los Angeles Plummets, Texas Hot
By Nellie Andreeva – While California Gov. Jerry Brown is still “not committed” to expanding the state’s film and TV tax credit, Los Angeles is seeing another drop in broadcast pilot production to what appears to be an all-time low. New York, which also lured The Tonight Show franchise away from Los Angeles, returns this year as the most popular drama location and reinforcing its strong position in comedy.
Dish And Disney Finalize Output Deal That Ends Their Ad-Hopper Dispute
By David Lieberman – The companies have officially announced a “wide-ranging” deal, which “will result in dismissal of all pending litigation between the two companies, including disputes over PrimeTime Anytime and AutoHop.” The agreement calls for Dish to disable AutoHop functionality for ABC content within the C3 ratings window. The pact also for the first time allows Dish customers to access Disney’s authenticated live and VOD products.
White House Backs Broadcasters In Aereo Case
By David Lieberman and Dominic Patten – The Solicitor General’s office put the Obama administration solidly in the anti-Aereo camp with a 40-page amicus brief filed with SCOTUS.
‘The Wire’s David Simon Takes On Oprah-Produced HBO Mini On Martin Luther King
By Mike Fleming Jr. – I’m hearing that David Simon, the architect of the HBO series The Wire, Homicide and most recently Treme, will spearhead the HBO six-hour MLK miniseries adaptation of America: In The King Years, based on the celebrated book trilogy by Pulitzer Prize-winner Taylor Branch. Read More »
After spending most of 2014 gushing over the Oscar nominees and relatively few others, the specialty box office biz got a massive jolt this weekend with the arrival of Wes Anderson‘s Berlin opener The Grand Budapest Hotel. The Fox Searchlight film broke records for a live-action opener, grossing a massive $800K in four theaters (the ArcLight Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, the Landmark in West LA, the Regal Union Square in NY, and the AMC Lincoln Square in NY) for a stunning $200K per-theater average. Other openers braved opening alongside Budapest this weekend with various results.
Related: Box Office: ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’ Checks In With Record Debut
Three of the bigger openings this weekend had not reported numbers as of this afternoon. Magnolia Pictures opened the Elijah Wood-starring thriller Grand Piano in one theater each in New York, L.A. and Austin. The distrib’s genre label Magnet Releasing is behind the North American rollout of China blockbuster Journey To The West: Conquering The Demons, which grossed $205 million in its home territory alone last year. It opened Friday in 10 markets ahead of a broader U.S. rollout. Another pic, the Italian drama Miele (Honey), opened in a single NY theater before expanding to LA next week. We’ll update with those numbers when they arrive.
Related: Specialty B.O. Preview: ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’, ‘Grand Piano’, ‘Journey To The West, More
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EXCLUSIVE: Jennifer Beals is set as the lead in the TNT pilot Proof, a supernatural medical drama executive produced by Kyra Sedgwick. Written by Rob Bragin and directed by Alex Graves, Proof centers on Dr. Kathryn Russo (Beals), a skeptical, hard-science, brilliant female surgeon with a caustic edge who has been struggling with the devastating loss of her teenage son and a growing estrangement from her surviving daughter. She is persuaded to investigate cases of reincarnation, out-of-body experiences, hauntings — all of it looking for verifiable proof to answer one of life’s greatest questions: Is death truly the end, or is there something else beyond? Sedgwick exec produces with Jill Littman, Tom Jacobson, Bragin and Graves. The L Word alumna Beals, repped by APA, Untitled and Patti Felker, also was pursued for broadcast pilots this season. She previously starred in Fox’s Chicago Code. She also co-created and is executive producing Laughs Unlimited, in development at HBO, with Oren Moverman, Tony Swofford, Lauren Schuler Doner and Adena Chawke. Read More »
Saturday Night Live has its best luck with routines in which guest hosts make fun of themselves. That was the case last night when Lena Dunham, the creator and star of HBO’s Girls, acknowledged the vigorous debate over her show’s frequent nudity. She did it in the monologue (watch below) with a familiar set-up: She says SNL‘s a place “where people respect boundaries,” and then cast members predictably don’t. She also filmed a fake trailer (also below) for a movie about the biblical story of Adam and Eve where she plays her overanxious character from Girls and Taran Killam does an overwrought parody of Adam Driver, who portrays her boyfriend on the show. Check out the clips:
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‘Gone With The Bullets’ Sets China Release Date
Jiang Wen’s Gone With The Bullets has secured a December 18 release date in China. The film is the follow-up to Jiang’s blockbuster Let The Bullets Fly, which made $140M worldwide in 2010. Based on a true story, 3D comedy Gone With The Bullets is set in 1920s Shanghai. Ma Zouri (Jiang Wen) and Xiang Feitian (Ge You) establish a notorious beauty pageant called the Flowers Competition. All of the city’s elite attend the gala event, but when an unexpected winner is crowned, it sets into motion a series of tragic events that change their destinies. Per FilmBizAsia, Jiang’s Buyilehu Film told local media that it hopes the title will represent China at the Oscars next year. The film will be handled internationally by Sony Pictures Releasing International. December is a hot time locally for Chinese films with U.S. movies often out of the frame. FBA says other films believed to be eyeing a December release include Tsui Hark’s The Taking Of Tiger Mountain, Jean-Jacques Annaud’s Wolf Totem and Chen Kaige’s Taoist Mountain. Read More »
Broadcasting veteran Ted Bergmann, who produced the first NFL and Grammy telecasts and was present to record the German surrender to the Allies for radio in 1945, has died. He was 93. Bergmann died March 2 following surgery at St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica. During the course of his 70-year broadcast career, Bergmann produced such shows as Three’s Company and its two spinoffs; The Arthur Godfrey Show; and Love Thy Neighbor, a 1973 ABC series about a black couple in a white neighborhood that was so controversial that Sears and Proctor & Gamble pulled their advertising. A Brooklyn native, Bergmann started his TV career as an NBC page. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the Army, soon earning the rank of captain and covering stories in the European theater for the NBC radio program Army Hour. On May 6, 1945, the 24-year-old Bergmann took a recording crew to a schoolhouse Reims, France, to preserve the German surrender to the Allies for radio. He was the last surviving witness to the event. Returning to the U.S., Bergmann rejoined NBC. Within five years he became a top executive with the DuMont Network, where he was the first to broadcast NFL games and live boxing and launched such notable TV personalities as Jackie Gleason and Bishop Fulton Sheen. During the 1950s, Bergmann segued to TV advertising, working with such firms as McCann-Erickson and Parkson Advertisting Agency. Read More »
The premiere of CNN’s new Chicagoland didn’t get totally whacked last night but it certainly didn’t make a ratings killing either – in fact it came a distant third in terms of total viewership compared to its cable news time slot rivals. The 10 PM debut Thursday of the cable news network’s heavily promoted 8-part documentary series drew 227,000 viewers among adults 25-54 with 629,000 total viewers. That was a drop in total viewership of 7% from the 673,000 that the second hour of CNN’s much less hyped And The Oscar Goes To… documentary pulled in on February 27. That also leaves Chicagoland in third place behind the 1.43 million total viewers who watched Fox News Channel’s Hannity and the 816,000 who tuned into MSNBC’s Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell.
CNN To Experiment With 10 PM Formats Starting Monday
‘Piers Morgan Live’ Ratings Sink To Second Lowest Ever
In terms of the key news demo, Chicagoland was up 58% from the weak 144,000 viewers who watched the Oscars docu in the same time slot last week. Yes, that’s up just over 100% from the limbo low 113,000 viewers among the 25-54s that CNN has averaged on the previous four Thursdays in the time slot. However even with the full marketing efforts of CNN both on and off-air, Chicagoland was not that much ahead of the 207,000 among the 25-54s that MSNBC got last night with The Last Word– a show that was … Read More »
HBO has unveiled its promo for Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, which unveils on April 27 (see below). The new weekly satire current events show from the former The Daily Show With Jon Stewart correspondent (and stand-in host) will air at 11 PM on Sundays. Last November, HBO announced it had snagged Oliver to do a weekly show. Oliver took his final Daily Show bow in December, and Stewart had him in tears as he surprised the Brit comic with his own retrospective, on his last day. During the ambush, Oliver, who’d been with the Comedy Central late-night program for more than seven years, was mostly speechless and fighting tears.
Oliver got rave reviews covering for Stewart over the summer on Comedy Central while Stewart took time off to direct his first film, Rosewater. And though Oliver told PBS’ Charlie Rose in an interview, “I don’t think it’s going to change my life”, and that his goal had been only “not to destroy that machine” during his brief tenure, it proved to be a game changer for Oliver — and for Viacom Entertainment Group president Doug Herzog, whose empire includes Comedy Central, and who learned from the experience that there can be life after Stewart — unless HBO comes to the same realization and is looking for another topical late-night show. Watch Oliver’s HBO promo here:
The pact calls for the Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm alum to develop and supervise projects for the pay cable network. Berg serves as executive producer/showrunner, along with Mike Judge, on Judge’s upcoming HBO comedy series Silicon Valley. Additionally, he has directed a couple of episodes of the series. Berg was previously an executive producer/writer/director on Larry David’s HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm for four seasons. He first worked with David on NBC’s Seinfeld, where Berg rose through the ranks from staff writer to executive producer. He shared in two best comedy series Emmy nominations for Seinfeld and three for Curb. Berg is repped by UTA and attorney Ken Richman.
TBS has picked up a 10-episode second season of multi-camera comedy Ground Floor, created by Bill Lawrence and Greg Malins and starring Skylar Astin and Briga Heelan. The renewal extends TBS’ streak of renewing its freshman series, which includes sitcoms Men at Work and Sullivan & Son and reality comedy King of the Nerds. Ground Floor started off lower than the other two scripted comedies, drawing 1.6 million viewers for its premiere vs. 2.7 million for for Men at Work and 2.5 million for Sullivan & Son. But Ground Floor launched against much stronger competition during the November sweep; it has been pretty consistent, and TBS brass believe in its upside potential. Ground Floor finished its first season with an average of 1.8 million viewers in Live + 7 delivery, including 1.1 million adults 18-49 and 575,000 adults 18-34. The renewal keeps Lawrence and Malins with two projects each at TBS. Lawrence has series Cougar Town, while Malins has pilot Your Family or Mine. Read More »
Paul Reiser has been set to recur on Andrew Gurland’s new FX series Married, which was picked up to series in January and will debut this summer. Created, directed and executive produced by Gurland, Married stars Nat Faxon and Judy Greer as Russ and Lina Bowman, who can barely remember what was like before kids, debt, and suburbia rained on their romance. But every once in a while they are reminded what drew them together in the first place: They’re best friends. Reiser will play the older love interest of co-star Jenny Slate’s character. Brad Gelman also co-stars. Reiser, who had a pair of films — Whiplash and Life After Beth — premiere at Sundance this year, most recently appeared in HBO’s Behind The Candelabra. He is repped by Gersh, New Wave Entertainment, and attorney Jeff Finkelstein.
Related: 2014 FX Pilots
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