The upcoming fourth season of Showtime‘s flagship drama Homeland will debut October 5. The announcement was made at the top of Homeland‘s TCA presentation when the show also unveiled its first Season 4 trailer (watch it below). Set in the Middle East, the season was shot in South Africa after three years in North Carolina. It sees Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) assigned to a volatile and dangerous CIA station in the Middle East.
Veteran showrunner René Echevarria has signed a premium two-script deal with Legendary Television. No concepts have been set yet, but I hear Echevarria may explore titles from Legendary’s movie library. He has background in shepherding big properties to the small screen with his tenure on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Echevarria also served as executive producer/showrunner on Fox’s Terra Nova and executive produced MTV”s Teen Wolf. Additionally, he co-created USANetwork’s The 4400 and worked on Medium and Castle.
The CW president Mark Pedowitz likes to set the tone for his TCA executive session with a music theme that plays while he is walking out. Today it was a Buena Vista Social Club tune in honor of the network’s new dramedy Jane The Virgin. Expectations are high for the charming comedic soap in the mold of Ugly Betty, which also put the CW on the list of networks with high marks on diversity this season. A couple of years ago, touting Beauty And The Beast‘s Kristin Kreuk as Asian American was the best Pedowitz could come up with when pressed on the whiteness of the network’s new series. Now, the network has a Latino family show. “I believe shows need to reflect what America looks like,” he said today.
Pedowitz was asked to lay out the distinction between BeautyAnd The Beast, which was renewed, and fellow bubble series Star-Crossed, The Carrie Diaries and The Tomorrow People that wasn’t. “Beauty And The Beast has a very engaged fan base, and it is a very profitable show,” Pedowitz said of the remake, which is a big international seller for sister studio CBS TV Studios. As for those that didn’t make the cut, Pedowitz admitted to having received 90 boxes of pasta from angry fans of cancelled alien romance Star-Crossed. Read More »
TNT’s summer sci-fi drama Falling Skies has been renewed for a fifth and final season, and the network also gave a second-season order to freshman hit The Last Ship and a fourth-season pickup to Major Crimes. Falling Skies‘ final run will be for 10 episodes. TNT has ordered 13 episodes of Last Ship, an increase over its first-season order of 10 episodes. The network is also ordering 15 episodes of Major Crimes. Negotiations on a renewal of TNT’s top drama Rizzoli & Isles are underway, with that pickup expected soon. No decision yet on TNT’s other freshman drama, Murder in the First, which has not been as strong as Last Ship
I hear it was the producers’ wish to finish Falling Skies after five seasons as they felt that was the time they needed to wrap the story in the best possible way. For TNT, the pending loss of the demo rating dynamo would have been a big blow had it not been for the arrival of another breakout adventure drama, Michael Bay’s The Last Ship, which this summer, much like Rizzoli & Isles, came on just before previous TNT flagship, The Closer, wrapped its run. Falling Skies helped launch Last Ship much like The Closer launched Rizzoli & Isles. Last Ship has averaged more than 7.2 million viewers in Live + 7 and ranks as basic cable’s #1 scripted series this summer with adults 18-49 and adults 25-54 as well as also cable’s #1 new series for … Read More »
With a marathon of sessions every day, some awkward situations during press tour are unavoidable. But I can’t remember a day in TCA history with two blunders of the magnitude we had today. These two questions should easily top the list of cringe-worthy moments at this summer’s TCA.
First, a critic addressed Morgan Freeman, executive producer of CBS’ upcoming drama series Madam Secretary. Here is the exchange, with props to the famous actor for keeping his cool and patiently answering the ridiculous line of questioning:
QUESTION: This may be a senior moment but I don’t remember seeing Morgan in the pilot. What role is he going to have? I didn’t even know he was cast in the show.
LORI MCCREARY: He’s not.
MORGAN FREEMAN: I’m not.
QUESTION: What is your role, then? I’m sorry. I’m confused.
MORGAN FREEMAN: Executive, executive producer.
QUESTION: So you’re not going to actually have any on‑air role at all, then?
MORGAN FREEMAN: Well, we can’t say definitely no, but right now, no.
QUESTION: Right now at this point, none at all?
MORGAN FREEMAN: Right.
QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.
Later in the day, just as all of us were trying to make sense of the horrible news coming out of the Ukraine where a passenger jet went down, CBS held a panel for its new action procedural Scorpion. In the pilot, a group of geniuses race against the clock to help planes, stranded in the … Read More »
I’ve learned that Amazon has given a pilot order to Mad Dogs, based on the British black comedy/thriller series. The original show’s creator, Cris Cole, wrote the adaptation and is executive producing with The Shield creator Shawn Ryan for Sony Pictures TV, where Ryan is under an overall deal. Emmy winner Charles McDougall is set to direct. The project was originally set up at FX as a potential limited series last year. The U.S. version follows the reunion of four fortysomething guys who head to Belize to visit their old school friend, when things take an unexpected and dark turn. (Check out a trailer for the UK version below.) British production company Left Bank, which is behind the original series, is co-producing with Sony.
Mad Dog premiered in 2011 and aired for four seasons (a total of 14 episodes) on Sky1. Sony TV previously did a pilot for Amazon based on the feature Zombieland. Mad Dogs joins a growing roster of comedy and drama pilots from Amazon’s third pilot season that include The Cosmopolitans, Hand Of God, Red Oaks, Hysteria, Cocked, Point Of Honor, Salem Rogers: Model Of The Year 1998, Down Dog, The Outlaws and Really.
Two months after the upfronts, where the broadcast networks introduced the pilots they had chosen to join their 2014-2015 schedule, there is still hope for a handful that didn’t make the cut. Sony TV, which already successfully rescued its cancelled NBC comedy series Community with a deal at Yahoo, has been in conversations with TV Land for its Jim Gaffigan single-camera comedy pilot. The family comedy, inspired by Gaffigan’s real life, went through two incarnations at CBS with pilot orders in 2013 and 2014. TV Land had been interested, and conversations have been going on for the past month or so. I hear TV Land is well down the road of trying to make the show work there. I hear the cable network is currently looking to reduce the actors’ compensation to get the budget — which already has been adjusted down — feasible. If the project goes at TV Land, I hear Sony would likely have a passive role and Peter Tolan, who co-wrote and executive produced the CBS pilot, would probably consult.
ABC Studios extended the options on the cast of ABC drama pilot Clementine a month ago. I hear the studio and ABC are exploring the possibility to do Clementine as a summer series. The action project co-produced by The Mark Gordon Co centers on habitual criminal with supernatural abilities Clementine Ross (Sarah Snook), who digs into the mystery of her origins after she becomes the target of a group of zealots.
Three comedy pilots, all from outside studios, are awaiting for the new regime at Fox to weigh in: The Pro, from ABC Studios, Cabot College, from Universal TV, and Sober Companion from CBS TV Studios. Previous Fox chairman Kevin Reilly had expressed interest in Rob Lowe and Rob Riggle’s workplace single-camera pilot The Pro, which was set up at NBC last season. I hear the studio has extended the options on stars Lowe and Riggle as it awaits word. Matt Hubbard’s Cabot College, executive produced by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, had been in talks with Fox for a possible six-episode order, which were put on hold when Reilly stepped down. Cabot College was one of two Fox comedy pilots from this past cycle that were considered frontrunners. The other, Sober Companion, starred Justin Long and Nick Frost. Despite not getting a series order in May, the network was interested enough, with Reilly commissioning a second script. The project now too awaits review from Dana Walden and Gary Newman, who are taking oversight of the network later this month. Long and Frost are no longer under deals but I hear they loved the project and working together so much, they would be open to coming back in case of a pickup. Read More »
Talpa Media Group has tapped veteran unscripted producer Jay Bienstock as new CEO for Talpa Media USA. The top position at Talpa Media’s U.S. outpost had been vacant since the departure of CEO Simon Jones last year. Bienstock comes from A. Smith & Co., where he most recently served as Managing Director. At Talpa Media USA, he will oversee the company’s current slate, which includes the Emmy-winning NBC series The Voice and Fox’s upcoming Utopia. Both series were created by John de Mol, owner of Talpa Media Group. “We have been looking for a talented creative executive but also one with the business acumen of Jay to join Talpa and lead our U.S. division,” said de Mol. “We are excited to have Jay on board and look forward to the success we believe Jay will bring us within the Hollywood community.” Read More »
The Emmy-winning writer-producer is opening a new chapter, moving to CAA after a stint at WME and its predecessor Endeavor. He most recently created and executive produced the CBS comedy series The Crazy Ones starring Robin Williams. Kelley, who pulled the rare feat of winning both the best drama and best comedy series Emmy Awards with The Practice and Ally McBeal in 1999, continues to be with attorney Michael Gendler.
This morning’s announcement by Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella of one of the largest layoffs in tech history, a plan to cut 18,000 jobs, triggered a whirlwind of speculation about the future of the fledgling Xbox Entertainment Studios. In a memo, Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft’s Xbox division and Microsoft Studios, just confirmed that the company will close the Entertainment Studios in the coming months. Nancy Tellem, Jordan Levin and some of the XES team will stay on for some time to shepherd original programming already in production, including the documentary series about technology Signal to Noise and the Halo game franchise extensions, digital feature Halo: Nightfall and the Halo TV series, which will continue as planned with Microsoft’s 343 Industries and Amblin. Xbox also will continue to support and deliver interactive sports content like ‘NFL on Xbox.’ XBox’s app partnerships are not impacted.
The demise of Xbox Entertainment Studios underscores how hard it is for tech companies, especially of the scale of Microsoft, to get into the content business. The decision appears sudden as just a couple of months ago, Xbox Entertainment Studios unveiled a very extensive first development slate, which included dramas, live-action and animated comedies, unscripted and event series. Levin was brought in as EVP in charge of development only six months ago.
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During CBS’ executive session, Entertainment chairman Nina Tassler discussed the network’s plans for late-night where David Letterman will retire from Late Show this coming season, to be succeeded by Stephen Colbert, and Craig Ferguson too will be leaving The Late Late Show. “We’re looking at it through a different lens,” Tassler said about CBS’ ideas for the 12:30 AM slot, currently occupied by Late Late Show. “The knee-jerk reaction is to go for another traditional, behind-the-desk interview show. But we are looking for all types of hosts, there is the political world, not just the comic world.” The Late Late Show replacement may or may not be a talk show, Tassler said. Employing the post-Craig Kilborn strategy of on-air tryouts with revolving hosts is a possibility.
As for the timing of the late-night transition, that still is being worked out, Tassler said. The network is in conversations with Colbert about the format of his Late Show, to which he will not be bringing the persona from his Comedy Central program. “He does want the interview format,” Tassler said, noting that talks are going back and forth whether to have a band on a show or not.
With only two weeks until The Big Bang Theory is slated to go back into production, the entire original cast, Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, Kaley Cuoco, Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar, have no contracts and are not close to signing one. But CBS Entertainment chairman is not worried. “We’re feeling very confident that everything will work out,” she said. “These deals always get miraculously done.”
American networks have been looking to bring the variety format back to primetime, most recently NBC with The Maya Rudolph Show, now they have another choice. ITV Studios America is shopping an U.S. version of the popular ITV program Saturday Night Takeaway. Originally launched in 2002, Saturday Night Takeaway, hosted and executive produced by top British TV presenters Ant & Dec, is one of the most successful entertainment variety shows in the UK. It offers a mix of games, physical tasks as well as pranks that often involve the show’s celebrity guests (watch below a clip with an elaborate prank on TV chef Gordon Ramsay). Audience members are chosen at random to participate in challenges, and viewers at home can be selected to receive surprise visits with the chance to win prizes. After nine seasons, Saturday Night Takeaway went on hiatus in 2009. It came back last year, winning BAFTA for Entertainment Programme and Entertainment Performance (Ant & Dec). The format has local versions in several countries including Germany, Serbia, China and Belgium.
They say to succeed in Hollywood, all you need is to get your foot in the door, whatever that door is. For 31-year-old Terrell Lawrence, it was the accounting department of a talent agency, ICM Partners. After graduating from University of South Carolina in 2005 with a major in Media Arts, he moved to Los Angeles and the next year landed a job as an accounting analyst at ICM. But like thousands of others, Lawrence secretly harbored a dream of becoming a writer. Word of Lawrence’s aspirations got to young ICM TV lit agent Laura Gordon, who has been building a client roster after getting promoted to agent at the end of last year. She read a Big Bang Theory spec Lawrence had written and worked with him on an original sample. As both Lawrence and Gordon are well liked within the agency, other agents in the TV lit department offered to help, including partner Ted Chervin, who introduced the budding comedy writer to client Bill Lawrence. Bill Lawrence’s shows were fully staffed but he liked Terrell’s writing and recommended him to another top comedy showrunner, Greg Malins, with whom Bill had created the TBS comedy series Ground Floor. The introduction led to a writer staffing job for Terrell on Malins’ new TBS comedy Your Family or Mine… and a vacancy in ICM Partners’ accounting department for another budding writer with a knack for numbers.
Flagship CBS comedy series The Big Bang Theory is slated to go into production on its upcoming eighth season on July 30. But with only two weeks to go, the entire original cast of the hit comedy is still without contracts. I hear the two sides are still far apart and there has been little dialogue.
The situation resembles the 2010 salary renegotiations when Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, Kaley Cuoco, Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar too faced the start of production in the midst of talks with producing studio Warner Bros. TV. The difference is that back then, they had existing contracts and were obligated to show up for work, which they did while their teams were negotiating big pay bumps behind the scenes. This time around, none of the five have deals in place as their contracts on the show expired at the end of last season. Big Bang‘s newest cast members, Melissa Rauch and Mayim Bialik, who renegotiated their contracts last fall with substantial salary increases, are the only actors currently under contracts.
That means that, if new deals with the Original Five are not reached in the next two weeks, production on Season 8 may be pushed. I hear that even if Big Bang doesn’t start start production until after Labor Day, it still is expected to be able to deliver an hourlong season premiere for September 22 but insiders do not think things would go that far. (Big Bang‘s 2010 salary renegotiations didn’t wrap until September.) Warner Bros. TV is known for going down to the wire but being able to close big cast deals on time, including multiple negotiations on Two And A Half Men. Read More »
Chris Coelen’s unscripted production company Kinetic Content, backed by Red Arrow Entertainment, has promoted Karrie Wolfe and Katie Griffin, formerly SVP and VP Development, respectively, to co-head the company’s newly created Development and Programming department. In their new roles, Wolfe and Griffin will supervise a staff, including newly promoted Manager of Development Kayleigh Lamb, as well as Kinetic’s in-house casting team. Wolfe and Griffin have shepherded such Kinetic series as Emmy-nominated The Taste (ABC), Little Women: LA (Lifetime), which was just renewed for a second season, Married At First Sight (fyi), and Betty White’s Off Their Rockers (Lifetime).
HBO Films has landed the rights to Robert Schenkkan’s play All The Way, which last month won the Tony for best play and best leading actor in Bryan Cranston. Emmy winner Cranston will reprise his role as President Lyndon Johnson, with Pulitzer Prize-winner Schenkkan writing the adaptation. The film will be produced by Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Television as well as Tale Told Prods. and Moon Shot Entertainment, with Spielberg, Darryl Frank & Justin Falvey, Schenkkan and Cranston executive producing and James Degus co-executive producing.
As Deadline reported last month, Spielberg recently optioned the play with the intention of adapting it for TV with Cranston as the star. Him teaming with HBO is not a surprise given their long history with the Emmy-winning epic miniseries Band Of Brothers and The Pacific, the latter of which Schenkkan worked on as a writer and co-producer. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Coming off a recurring role on the Fox drama The Following, Susan Heyward has been tapped as the female lead in Powers, the Sony Playstation Network series based on the graphic novel by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming. Also cast in the direct-to-series project, whose first two episodes will be directed by David Slade from scripts by Charlie Huston, are Max Fowler (The Killing) and Adam Godley (Breaking Bad, Suits).
Combining the genres of superhero fantasy, crime noir and police procedural, Powers, produced by Sony Pictures TV, is set in a world full of people with superhuman abilities and where all of those powers are just another catalyst for mayhem and murder. It follows the lives of two homicide detectives, Christian Walker and Deena Pilgrim (Heyward), who are assigned to protect humans like us and investigate cases involving people with superhuman abilities, referred to as Powers who glide through the sky on lightning bolts and fire and who clash above cities in epic battle, oblivious to the mortals below. Pilgrim is described as equal parts beauty and sarcasm, a wunderkind detective with edgy style. Read More »