The Honeymooners actress Sheila MacRae has died. The 93-year-old UK-born MacRae passed away March 6 , at the Lillian Booth Actors Home in Englewood, NJ. She is best known to American audiences for her 4-year stint as Alice Kramden in the mid-’60s revival of The Honeymooners within The Jackie Gleason Show on CBS. In addition to her 1966-70 run as Ralph Kramden’s wife, MacRae was on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 with her then husband, singer Gordon MacRae, the night the Beatles debuted in America. The actress appeared on General Hospital in the 1960s and on NBC’s Parenthood TV series for the 1990-91 season. MacRae had a career on the stage as well in Guys and Dolls, Absurd Person Singular and other productions. One of her last acting appearance was in the one-women show An Evening With Sheila MacRae.
Body of Proof alum Geoffrey Arend has signed on as a series regular opposite Tea Leoni and Tim Daly in CBS’ drama pilot Madam Secretary, from creator/ep Barbara Hall, ep Morgan Freeman and CBS Studios. Written by Hall, the series explores the personal and professional life of a maverick female Secretary of State (Leoni) as she drives international diplomacy, wrangles office politics and balances a complex family life. Arend, repped by UTA and TGE, will play Matt, a speechwriter for Secretary of State McGill (Leoni). Lori McCreary and Tracy Mercer also exec produce.
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Friday Night Lights alum Matt Lauria has been tapped for a starring role opposite Frank Grillo in DirecTV’s gritty drama series Navy St., returning to the satcaster where FNL ended its run. From Byron Balasco and Endemol Studios, the dark family drama is set against the backdrop of Navy Street, a Venice, CA-based mixed martial arts (MMA) gym owned by Alvey Henderson (Grillo), a former fighter who never made it big due to a drug addiction but is now sober. Lauria will play Ryan Revis, a world class athlete and UFC light heavyweight champion who is returning to the gym that made him a star from time in prison. Lauria, repped by WME and Gotham/Principal, recently recurred on Parenthood.
Actor-writer Colton Dunn (Key & Peele) has been cast opposite Rob Lowe and Rob Riggle in NBC’s single-camera comedy pilot The Pro. Written by Pete Huyck and Alex Gregory, The Pro centers on former tennis doubles champion “Big Ben” Bertrahm (Lowe), whose career flame-out and misguided investments have left him working as the pro at a tennis and golf club. Dunn will play Lewis, the head engineer and club bookie who fears a change in the status quo when successful and wealthy Bobby Welch (Riggle) arrives as the new tennis pro. Dunn, repped by Paradigm and Prinicpato-Young, has recurred on Parks And Recreation, The League and Burning Love.
NBC’s ‘Chicago Fire’, ‘Parks & Rec’, ‘Grimm’ And ‘Parenthood’ Go Digital To Keep Fans Engaged During Games
NBC announced today it will offer digital series for four of its primetime series; Chicago Fire, Parks And Recreation, Grimm, and Parenthood to keep fans focused in February while Olympics take over NBC’s primetime. All digital series will be streamed on NBC.com, Hulu and YouTube.
From today’s announcement:
NBC today kicks off its most ambitious Olympics coverage ever in Sochi, airing the Winter Games across NBC, NBC Sports Network, USA, MSNBC, and CNBC (Curling, Nothing But Curling). Its planned 1,539 hours of coverage outstrips its Vancouver and Torino coverage combined, and Kantar Media has forecast NBC’s Sochi-palooza will result in a whopping 5,500 minutes of Olympics TV ad time. The Sochi Olympics also are expected to be real barn-burner, ratings-wise — but for reasons that might unravel NBC’s larger Games Goals. Security concerns – the big story so far in Sochi — are expected to drive up ratings, as some viewers tune in to see if anything bad happens. “If anything, the prospect of a terrorist event, the controversy of [Russia's] anti-gay laws – those things in an odd way have increased awareness and interest in those games,” Bob Costas, NBC’s primetime Olympics host, acknowledged to reporters during a recent news conference. He added, “Obviously, we have our fingers crossed that nothing happens.”
That kind of Must See TV, however, may not mesh up with NBC’s long-held belief the Olympics are the perfect platform off of which to promote, and launch, new programming. The broadcast network plans to premiere two new primetime comedies – About A Boy and Growing Up Fisher – following Olympics coverage on Saturday, February 22, and the Closing Ceremony on Sunday, February 23, respectively. But by far NBC’s biggest play will be its debut of its Jimmy Fallon-hosted Tonight Show, making its much-ballyhooed return to New York City. Fallon will debut as host immediatly after Games coverage during NBC’s second week of Sochi coverage: The first week of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon will air at midnight; on Monday, February 24, it moves back to the franchise’s earlier, regular timeslot, followed by the premiere of Late Show With Seth Meyers. According to outgoing Tonight Show host Jay Leno, NBC moved up its planned hand-over in order to feed Fallon the huge Olympics audience.
Happy Endings‘ Zachary Knighton is joining another single-camera ensemble comedy series, Fox’s six-episode Weird Loners, from writer/exec producer Michael Weithorn, exec producer Jake Kasdan and 20th TV. It tells the story of four relationship-phobic people who are unexpectedly thrust into one another’s lives and form an unlikely bond in a townhouse in Queens, NY. Knighton, repped by UTA, 3 Arts and James Adams, will play one of them, Stosh, a whip-smart and rakishly handsome sales rep with a cynical edge, an inveterate womanizer whose knee-jerk seductions always have him in hot water, like getting fired for sleeping with his boss’ fiancee. Knighton, who is recurring on NBC’s Parenthood, is part of the in-demand cast of Happy Endings. He and Eliza Coupe already have booked series (USA’s Benched for Coupe), Casey Wilson is starring in NBC comedy pilot Marry Me, with the rest, including Adam pally and Damon Wayans Jr. still heavily pursued.
The Parenthood star has signed with ICM Partners. Monica Potter snagged a Golden Globe nom for her role as a soccer mom battling an illness on the NBC drama. She also was a regular on TNT’s 2009 drama Trust Me and recurred on Boston Legal. Her big-screen credits include The Last House On The Left, Saw, Along Came A Spider and Patch Adams. Potter also is represented by The Schiff Company and Felker Toczek. ICM last week signed Spike Lee; David Zellner and Nathan Zellner, the filmmakers behind Sundance Jury Prize winner Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter; and actor Pierre Boulanger of Sundance pic God Help The Girl.
EXCLUSIVE: Matthew Modine is the latest celeb filmmaker to seek funding via crowdsourcing with his just-launched campaign for The Rocking Horsemen, a 1960s-set music pic about five high schoolers who hear the emerging sound of rock ‘n’ roll and decide to form a band. But he’s not following the likes of Zach Braff and Spike Lee down the Kickstarter yellow brick road. Modine, who wrote and will direct the film, is using Slated, an online platform/marketplace launched last year, to raise just his under-$5M budget. (Check out his Slated project here.) Unlike backers on Kickstarter or Indiegogo who typically receive small rewards of sentimental value in return for donations, Modine’s Slated investors will get the opportunity to participate in a meaningful financial way as equity investors, owning an actual piece of the project they’re investing in.
In the brave new world of film financing wrought by big-name campaigners like Braff, Lee, and the Veronica Mars gang, donation-based Kickstarter and similar crowdfunding ventures aren’t win-win for everyone. Fans throwing cash down in exchange for “perks” don’t benefit monetarily from becoming Kickstarter donors. Even Indiegogo, which unlike Kickstarter allows filmmakers to take home funds even if they don’t reach their posted fundraising goals, isn’t the most viable option for mid- or higher-budgeted projects, particularly those lacking in name stars or sizable fan support. Equity film crowdfunding, on the other hand, was made viable by the 2012 JOBS Act which allows for the solicitation of accredited investors by entrepreneurs and start-ups. Since the SEC is still finalizing regulations on exactly how that’s to be implemented, platforms like Slated — and others in the works — can’t yet broker monetary transactions themselves. But they can match-make filmmakers with financiers, who can then privately seal the deal.
Slated, then, is less a Kickstarter peer and more akin to an OKCupid for film financing: a gated online marketplace intended to connect like-minded filmmakers, investors, sales reps, and other industry figures with the ultimate goal of financing indie projects of a certain size.
EXCLUSIVE: One of the longest production relationships in the TV business is staying intact. Imagine Television has signed a new two-year deal with 20th Century Fox Television, where the company, overseen by Imagine Entertainment partner Brian Grazer, has been for the past 14 years. During Imagine’s most recent pact with 20th TV, the partners successfully rebooted two of Imagine’s signature series: the Emmy-winning 24 and Arrested Development. A 24 follow-up, event series 24: Live Another Day, is slated to premiere on Fox in May, and a new season of Arrested Development was released on Netflix last year. And there may be more in store for both properties. Fox has indicated interest in making 24 an event franchise. Netflix had been in conversations with 20th TV, Imagine and Arrested Development creator Mitch Hurwitz about more Arrested Development, and that now appears very likely, in the form of an original movie or another season.
Looks like NBC‘s got crossover fever, not just in the crime drama department but in its comedy slate. A few hours after Chicago PD creator Dick Wolf teased that show’s upcoming crossovers with Chicago Fire and Law & Order: SVU, About A Boy EP Jason Katims revealed today at TCA that the new half-hour comedy does indeed exist in the same TV universe as his other San Francisco-set show, Parenthood. The small screen adaptation of Nick Hornby’s novel of the same name premieres February 21 before settling into its Tuesday 9 PM slot and stars New Girl‘s David Walton as Will, a bachelor man-child who befriends the 11-year-old misfit kid next door (Benjamin Stockham) and his single mother Fiona (Minnie Driver). Walton popped up briefly this week on Parenthood to set up the bridge between the shows. “It turns out Will also has his own poker game so Dax Shepard will be making an appearance as Crosby Braverman on About A Boy,” said Katims.
The pilot episode pretty much covers the events of Hornby’s book and subsequent film adaptation starring Hugh Grant, right down to Marcus’s performance at the school talent show (substituting One Direction for Roberta Flack). Katims …
The success on other nights this fall has made NBC‘s ratings struggles on Thursday even more glaring. “Thursday night is a real challenge for us, something that we’re well aware of as we head into pilot season and start to think about the fall schedule next year,” NBC Chairman Bob Greenblatt said at TCA today. “Comedy has proven to be very difficult for us.” No kidding. This past Thursday, The Michael J. Fox Show hit a series low of 0.6 rating in 18-49, a number a show rarely logs and lives to see another airing. ”We’re, obviously, not happy about a .6 for any show and especially for Michael J. Fox,” Greenblatt said. “We like that show. We like Sean Hayes’ show a lot. Creatively, we think they’re good shows, and we’re really unhappy that we can’t find an audience for them in those time periods. So we’re going to still work hard to see what we can do on Thursday nights. It is a real, real uphill battle.”
Greenblatt’s initial assessment of Michael J. Fox Show‘s renewal chances was pretty grim: “Obviously, we have to see how it plays out for the next few months and then get in the scheduling room and make some hard decisions. It’s not anywhere near where we’d like it to be.” He got more optimistic as the session went on. “I’d love to figure out a way to bring it back,” he said. “We may move it around the schedule a little bit.”
EXCLUSIVE: Tyler Ritter is following in the footsteps of his father, the late John Ritter, with a starring role on a multi-camera comedy. Tyler has been cast as the lead in CBS’ new pilot for The McCarthys, from Sony TV and Will Gluck’s Olive Bridge Entertainment. The comedy is being retooled as multi-camera after shooting a single-camera pilot last season. Written/co-executive produced by Brian Gallivan, The McCarthys revolves around a big, sports-crazed Irish Catholic clan in Boston and the gay son (Ritter) whose greatest sin is not his sexuality but his desire to spend less time with his family. This marks the biggest role to date for Ritter whose father toplined such sitcoms as Three’s Company and 8 Simple Rules. Tyler’s older brother, Jason Ritter, already has several series under his belt, including The Event and Parenthood. Tyler is repped by UTA and Principal Entertainment.
Lyndon Smith, Keith Nobbs, Wass Stevens and Elizabeth Masucci are set as series regulars in Ed Burns’ TNT pilot Public Morals, executive produced by Steven Spielberg. Written and directed by and starring Burns, Public Morals is set in 1967 in New York City’s Public Morals Division, where cops walk the line between morality and criminality as the temptations that come from dealing with all kinds of vice can get the better of them. It centers on cop Terry Muldoon (Burns), who knows the line between the good guys and bad guys is thin, and he is determined to raise his sons to be honest and hardworking as he deals with the dark underbelly of the vice world. Nobbs will play Pat Duffy, a troublemaker fresh from prison that everyone knows not to trust. Smith, repped by Buchwald & Assoc. and Main Title, will play Pat’s sister Deidre, a beautiful beatnik. Stevens plays Vince Latucci, a senior on the force who grew up on the streets of Little Italy. Masucci plays Christine, Muldoon’s loving wife and mother of 4.