Mild Spoiler Alert…
Although Downton Abbey‘s fourth season doesn’t begin airing in the U.S. for another few weeks, the regular UK season wrapped last month and the Christmas special is now nearly here. As is custom, the episode will air over two hours on Britain’s ITV on December 25th. It will air Stateside at the end of S4′s Masterpiece run which begins January 5th. The teaser below offers a glimpse of Shirley MacLaine in her return as Cora’s mother Martha Levinson, and of Paul Giamatti as Cora’s brother Harold. While not terribly spoilerish, those who’ve seen nothing of the fourth season may want to think twice before clicking play.
EXCLUSIVE: This was a very competitive signing, with all major agencies pursuing the Downton Abbey star who didn’t have an U.S. agency representation. WME will represent Michelle Dockery in all areas. Dockery’s role as Lady Mary Crawley on Downton Abbey, which returns for Season 4 on PBS January 5, earned the British actress two Emmy nominations and a Golden Globes nom. Dockery will next be seen in Universal’s Non-Stop, and she was just tapped to play Sir Ben Kingsley’s daughter in Self/Less for Focus. On stage, Dockery earned a Laurence Olivier Award nomination for her role in the play Burnt By The Sun. She continues to be managed by Sandra Chang at Anonymous Content and by Christian Hodell at Hamilton Hodell in the UK.
Network drama has been on a roll with a string of strong premieres the last two seasons — Revolution, The Following and Arrow last season and The Blacklist, Sleepy Hollow and Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. and The Originals this fall. But the genre will have to rely heavily on the quality vs. quantity principal if its wants to continue its hot streak as the volume is definitely not there for next season. The drama buying got off to a very sluggish start in the summer and never found a higher gear. Drama pitches were down across the board. For instance, I hear NBC took in 280 hourlong pitches, down from 330 last season. It eventually ordered 20-30 fewer drama scripts this year vs. 2012. “It was like Halloween with the networks living on a street where no one came to trick or treat,” one industry insider lamented. “They were open for months but no one was knocking on their doors.” Why was that? Likely because network dramas are not that special any more.
For decades, the broadcast networks were the home of drama series everyone was watching and critics loved. Then in 1999, David E. Kelley almost didn’t go out on stage to receive a best drama series Emmy for his ABC series The Practice. In his defense, he said he “thought they had made a mistake, and that The Sopranos had won.” It hadn’t, and broadcast dramas held their grip on the top a category for four more years until HBO’s mob drama in 2004 became the first cable show ever to win the best series Emmy in a precursor of the tidal shift to come. Cable dramas now have won the top Emmy for the past seven years, with no signs of them letting up, while the U.S. commercial broadcasters were shut out completely from the category the last two years. Right now, working on a cable drama is more prestigious that writing on a broadcast one. With broadcast dramas no longer the syndication cash cows they once were, studios don’t pay a premium for writers to develop such shows anymore. “If they are not getting real money to develop for broadcast, writers may as well do cable for the creative freedom,” one observer noted. Besides the prestige and awards recognition, cable dramas also are becoming more lucrative financially because of services like Netflix where serialized series are a top draw. And let’s not forget that the highest-rated scripted series on television for the past two years is a cable drama, AMC’s The Walking Dead. All that has led to an exodus of broadcast showrunners to cable. The writers room of Emmy-winning first season of Showtime’s Homeland alone featured enough showrunner-level writers to service several broadcast dramas. Read More »
Emmy-winning director Robert Mandel is stepping down as Dean of the AFI Conservatory after nine years with the graduate level film school. Mandel, who directed Independence Day (1983), F/X (1986), Touch and Go (1986), Big Shots (1987), School Ties (1992), The Substitute (1996), and A Season on the Brink (2002), will remain on faculty at AFI while returning to filmmaking. His television credits include directing the X-Files pilot and episodes of Nash Bridges, Prison Break, and LOST. Mandel is an AFI Conservatory alumnus himself, Class of 1979 who established an AFI Fellow-Alumni mentoring program and career office for students and added acting, independent film finance, television, and showrunning courses to the curriculum.
Governor Jerry Brown talked about the promise of California and played up the state’s economic comeback during a campaign fundraiser Thursday at Disney Studio boss Alan Horn’s Bel-Air home. A mostly industry crowd of about 100 including Robert Downey Jr. and Larry Flynt turned out for the 6:30-8:15 PM event, which was put on by a Hollywood political patrician guard. Co-hosts included Jeffrey Katzenberg, Warner Bros’ Barry Meyer and Kevin Tsujihara, Fox’s Jim Gianopulos, Universal’s Ron Meyer, Paramount’s Brad Grey, Sony’s Michael Lynton and MPAA chief Chris Dodd as well as Steven Spielberg and David Geffen, though Geffen didn’t attend. All of the co-hosts had pledged to raise $54,440 each for Brown’s re-election campaign next year. Tickets for the event went from $5,000 to mogul-level $27,200. Details are sketchy about the exact amount of money raised … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Revolution‘s Giancarlo Esposito has lined up historical drama Patriotic Treason as his next directing project, with Oscar-nominated Ed Harris set to star as radical abolitionist John Brown. Adapted by Oscar nominee Jose Rivera (Motorcycle Diaries, On The Road) from Evan Carton’s 2006 book Patriotic Treason: John Brown And The Soul of America, the film centers on the controversial figure known for his 1859 raid on Harper’s Ferry. Brown hoped the attack would ignite a slave uprising. Instead it left 11 dead and led to Brown’s capture, after which he was found guilty of treason and hanged. Political enemies considered Brown a madman and a terrorist but the notoriety of his violent attacks are credited with sparking the Civil War. The Emmy-nominated Esposito will also star in Patriotic Treason as Frederick Douglass, the freed slave-turned-abolitionist and orator who declined to join Brown’s Harper’s Ferry attack. Read More »
Service appears to have been restored after about a half-hour period during which visitors to the popular video site found a “500 Internal Service Error” headline followed by text that said: “Sorry, something went wrong. A team of highly trained monkeys has been dispatched to deal with the situation.” No word yet on what happened. Here’s the statement from a YouTube spokesperson: “Some people encountered errors, or a slower than normal experience on YouTube today. We worked quickly to address the issue and fixed the problem. We’re sorry for any inconvenience this caused.”
Tika Sumpter has joined the cast of Universal’s James Brown biopic Get On Up. She will play Yvonne Fair, a singer in the James Brown Revue who recorded Brown’s “I Found You,” which later was reworked into his classic “I Got You (I Feel Good).” Tate Taylor is directing the pic, which stars Chadwick Boseman as the Godfather of Soul along with Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and Nelsan Ellis. Jez Butterworth & John-Henry Butterworth and Steven Baigelman wrote the script, and Brian Grazer and Mick Jagger are producing along with Victoria Pearman and Erica Huggins. Sumpter appears on Tyler Perry’s The Haves And Have-Nots and next will be seen in the feature Ride Along. She is repped by WME and Brookside Artist Management.
Boyd Kestner and Natalie Imbruglia will star in Little Loopers, an indie family comedy from director Jimmy Valdez. Kestner plays a once-promising golfer whose community service leads to him coaching kids. He’s not really into it, but his interest piques when he meets the organization’s devoted director (Imbruglia). The cast also includes Rob Morrow, Jay Ferguson and Gregg Bello. Valdez and Chris Barish are producing the film, which is shooting is Palm Springs. Kestner’s recently credits include the features Zoey To The Max, The Aggression Scale and Hanna’s … Read More »
In new Chairman Tom Wheeler’s first open FCC meeting since his confirmation late last month, the commission today eased the rules on foreign ownership of broadcast stations. Dispensing with the old 25% cap, now overseas companies can invest more than that in American outlets. Of course, it isn’t an automatic process. In its vote Thursday, the commission said will assess on an individual basis each such investment. The change came as no real surprise: It was introduced in late October by then-Acting Chair Mignon Clyburn. Today, the change passed unanimously with all five commissioners voting for it. The new rule was widely supported by the likes of NAB to the Minority Media & Telecommunications Council, which had pushed for such easing.
FCC Chairman To Phone Companies: Unlock Wireless Devices
New Chairman Tom Wheeler Restructures FCC’s Leadership
UPDATED: Andy Cohen has been walking that delicate line between being a top Bravo executive and one of the network’s most recognizable personalities. He won’t walk it anymore. Cohen is stepping down from his post as head of development for Bravo Media. He is launching a production company, Most Talkative, which has signed a multi-year first-look deal with Bravo, the network’s first pact of this kind. The pact, which starts at the beginning of 2014, allows Cohen to develop and pitch projects to all NBCUniversal networks, broadcast and cable. Additionally, his Bravo late-night talk show Watch What Happens Live has been renewed for two more years. He also will continue to host Bravo’s reunions and specials and serve as executive producer on The Real Housewives franchise. “Andy has influenced the course and the shape of Bravo tremendously over the past 10 years as a production and development executive, and as creator and host of our flagship late night show, becoming the face of the network,” said Frances Berwick, President of Bravo and Oxygen Media. With Cohen’s departure from his executive duties, VP Development Lara Spotts will assume the role as head of Bravo’s development team, reporting to Berwick. Cohen will carry on with his executive duties for the next couple of months, helping Spotts transition into the job. Cohen started at Bravo in 2004 as VP of Original Programming & Development and was upped to SVP … Read More »
Paradigm has signed UK actress Daisy Lewis, who joined PBS’s hit drama Downtown Abbey this season playing a new love interest for Tom Branson. Lewis appeared last year in Radius-TWC’s Pusher remake and starred opposite Maggie Smith and Hugh Bonneville in 2009′s From Time To Time, written and directed by Downton Abbey‘s Julian Fellowes. She’s also appeared on Netflix’s Borgia and guested on Season 3 of BBC’s Doctor Who. Lewis is also repped by Independent Talent Group in the UK. Downton Abbey makes its U.S. Season 4 premiere on January 5.
Molly Ringwald has signed with Resolution. The actress is developing and exec producing a drama at Lifetime as a potential starring vehicle with Jon Scott Shepherd writing. Her credits range from the 1980s films Sixteen Candles, Pretty In Pink and The Breakfast Club to the 1996 ABC comedy Townies and a five-year run on The Secret Life Of The American Teenager. She continues to be managed by Untitled Entertainment.
Emmy-nominated Cara Buono has signed with CESD for theatrical representation. The actress, writer, and director, who earned her Emmy nod for her Season 4 turn as Dr. Faye Miller on AMC’s Mad Men, also appeared on the final … Read More »