EXCLUSIVE: Lost alum Mark Pellegrino, who played Jacob on the hit ABC series, is reuniting with Lost co-showrunner Carlton Cuse. Pellegrino has been tapped as a lead in Cuse’s 10-episode straight-to-series A&E drama The Returned. Cuse wrote the first episode, and he and Raelle Tucker will write and executive produce the supernatural/suspense drama, an adaptation of the acclaimed French series. The Returned, from A+E Studios and FremantleMedia North America, focuses on a small town that is turned upside down when several local people, who have been long presumed dead suddenly reappear, bringing with them both positive and detrimental consequences. Pellegrino will play the rugged Jack, father of 20-year-old twin girls Lena, and Camille, who died in a school bus crash four years ago at age 16 and are now coming back. Pellegrino, repped by Domain and Framework, co-starred on the CW’s The Tomorrow People this past season, and his series credits also include Supernatural, Revolution, Being Human, The Closer and Dexter.
EXCLUSIVE: Following the success of Wahlburgers, A&E has greenlighted another Boston-set reality pilot executive produced by Mark Wahlberg about a fledgling business enterprise. Tipping its hat to hit comedy The Big Bang Theory, the half-hour project is tentatively titled Big Brew Theory. It follows four quirky and highly intelligent MIT grad students who have pooled their life savings to achieve their dream of creating a home grown micro-brewery and team up with a beautiful MIT undergrad to launch their business. The Big Brew Theory reunites frequent collaborators Wahlberg, Stephen Levinson, Stephanie Drachkovitch and Bill Thompson. This marks Wahlberg’s fourth reality pilot at A&E, all set in his native Boston. Two of them, Wahlburgers, which he produces with Levinson and Drachkovitch, and Breaking Boston, which he produced with Levinson, Drachkovitch and Thompson, went to series. Wahlberg, Levinson and Thompson also previously produced a Boston teamsters pilot for the network.
A U.S. version of the acclaimed and popular French drama The Returned (Les Revenants) is a go. A&E has given a 10-episode straight-to-series order to the project, also titled The Returned, which had been on fast-track development since the network acquired the rights to the French series last fall. Carlton Cuse (Bates Motel) wrote the first episode, and he and Raelle Tucker (True Blood) will write and executive produce the supernatural/suspense series, a co-production between A+E Studios and FremantleMedia North America, with three scripts already completed. Casting will begin immediately.
Based on the International Emmy-winning French suspense series by Fabrice Gobert, which in turn was inspired by the French feature film of the same name directed by Robin Campillo, The Returned focuses on a small town that is turned upside down when several local people, who have been long presumed dead suddenly reappear, bringing with them both positive and detrimental consequences. As families are reunited, the lives of those who were left behind are challenged on a physical and emotional level as strange phenomena begin to occur. I hear A&E’s version is faithful to the original. “The Returned has the potential to be one of the most compelling drama series on cable, thanks to phenomenal scripts written by Carlton and Raelle,” said A&E general manager David McKillop. This marks the second straight-to-series order for Cuse at A&E, where he also has Psycho prequel series Bates Motel, recently renewed for a third season. With the pickup of The Returned, Cuse ties Julie Plec as the writing drama producer with the most series on the air, 3: Bates Motel, and The Returned at A&E and the upcoming horror series The Strain at FX — not too shabby for the former Lost co-showrunner who had been eyeing a slower pace following his intense stint on the complex ABC series.
Midway thought its second-season run, A&E Network’s drama Bates Motel has been renewed for a 10-episode third season to begin production in the fall. The contemporary Psycho prequel series debuted to 3 million Live+same day viewers last season, with its second season opener inching up. With DVR viewing factored in, the Season 2 premiere averaged 4.6 million viewers in Live+7 as Bates Motel continues to be A&E’s top-rated drama series in adults 18-49. “The incredible writing team and talented Bates Motel cast has made this series one of the most compelling original dramas on television,” said A&E EVP David McKillop. Episode 6 of Bates Motel‘s 10-episode second season airs tonight. The series shifted to 9 PM at the beginning of the season to launch new drama Those Who Kill but moved back to its old 10 PM slot after Those Who Kill was pulled following two low-rated airings. (It has since been relaunched on sibling LMN.) Bates Motel stars Vera Farmiga as Norma Bates and Freddie Highmore as Norman. Universal Television is producing, with Carlton Cuse and Kerry Ehrin executive producing.
Tonight, A&E will unveil the final episode on what will forever be known as The First Season of Duck Dynasty After Phil Robertson Gave That Interview. Much navel-lint gazing has occurred over this fifth season of the network’s flagship reality series, what with the Robertson family patriarch having spent his hiatus appearing in a GQ article comparing homosexuality to bestiality and reminiscing about the Jim Crow south. A&E suspended Phil, causing religious and conservative groups (and a swath of Fox News Channel talent) to rally around him, and his family to indicate they would not continue the show without him. A&E wrapped up the action-packed show hiatus by un-suspending Phil in time for the season debut, though it had virtually the entire season in the can.
This season opened on January 15 with 8.5 million viewers tuned in, snapping a streak of ratings records and posting the show’s first season-to-season drop. In the demo, the opening night’s 4.2 million viewers was down 33%. (Duck Dynasty’s Season 4 debut had drawn drew nearly 12 million to become the No. 1-rated nonfiction series telecast in cable history, edging the Season 4 finale, which was watched by 8.4 million. More recently, the one-hour Duck Dynasty Christmas special logged nearly 9 million viewers.) The second week of Season 5 continued the downward trend after Night 1, drawing just 6.7 million total viewers, down an eye-opening 21% from the season opener. And its 3.6 rating in the adults 25-54 demo was down a less-rough 14% from last week. By last week, the penultimate episode of this season clocked just 4.7 million viewers.
A&E has pulled its other Wahlberg docu-series, Breaking Boston from its lineup after just one episode because…well, 311,000 viewers. The series, about four working-class women coming of age in hardscrabble Boston, was inspired by the tough, hard-as-nails female characters in Mark Wahlberg‘s Oscar-nominated movie The Fighter. A&E ordered the pilot in November 2012 and picked up the series last May. It debuted Thursday, March 13.
A&E Network already was home to Wahlberg‘s family restaurant docu-series Wahlburgers which, last month got an order for 18 additional episodes. But that project, from 44 Blue, Closest to the Hole and Leverage, has averaged 3.5 million total viewers since its debut last month in the post-Duck Dynasty slot. News of Breaking Boston’s cancellation was first reported by Variety, which said it noticed the show was missing from newspaper and interactive program guides for tonight.
UPDATE MARCH 24: After a two-week hiatus, Those Who Kill is returning on the air but on a different network, A&E low-profile sibling LNM (Lifetime Movie Network). Beginning March 30, the freshman drama will be airing every Sunday at 10 PM. For more details, read our story here.
PREVIOUS: A&E will be going back to the drawing board with underperforming new drama series Those Who Kill. The series has been pulled after two episodes in the the Monday 10 PM slot, behind Bates Motel. The Psycho prequel series now will move back to the 10 PM slot where its first season aired. The series premiere of Those Who Kill starring Chloe Sevigny drew a soft 1.4 million viewers, down from the series debuts of A&E’s Bates Motel (3 million) and Longmire (4.1 million) and holding onto less than half of its Bates Motel lead-in. The freshman’s audience dropped to 830,000 in the second episode. There is no conclusive evidence that the move to 9 PM has had a significant impact on Bates Motel, with its second-season premiere up a smidgen from Season 1 and the second episode down. Despite Those Who Kill‘s paltry ratings (0.5 in 18-49 for the premiere, 0.3 for Episode 2), A&E brass want to give the show another shot, with a relaunch at another time, likely of the entire 10-episode first …
Playing a police detective who tracks down serial killers on A&E Network‘s dark new drama series Those Who Kill could be draining, star Chloe Sevigny said — but not nearly as draining as guesting on The Mindy Project. ”I did Mindy and went home and cried,” she told TV critics at the TCA Winter TV Press Tour today, because she thought she’d done terribly on it. At the end of each work day on Those Who Kill, however, she went home and thought she’d done alright. Doing HBO’s polygamist drama Big Love was also trying, she said, because “everybody was yelling at her all day because everybody thought I was the bad guy.”
Related: TV Teaser: A&E’s ‘Those Who Kill’
Those Who Kill is based on a popular Danish crime series format inspired by the bestselling work of author Elsebeth Egholm. The series centers on Catherine Jensen (Sevigny), a freshly minted and incredibly smart police detective who tracks down serial killers. Jensen enlists the help of Thomas Schaffer (James D’Arcy), a forensic psychiatrist, to help her get into the minds of serial killers, all the while luring Schaffer into her own personal investigation of her missing brother.
Days after A&E announced it had decided to end Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson’s involuntary hiatus over remarks he made in a GQ interview – and just days before the hit reality series’ return to A&E’s lineup — the Robertson family and a popular gun manufacturer unveiled a new Duck Commander line of shotguns, semi-automatic rifles, semi-automatic pistols, etc.
Willie Robertson, CEO of the family’s Duck Commander, made no reference to the imminent announcement on New Year’s Eve, when he and wife Kori appeared on FNC’s ball-dropping late-night special. The press had hoped for something zippier out of that appearance than the “there will be fun good comedy from the family” and “we’re just glad to be back to work… and A&E and us are fine” script to which Willie stuck like glue no matter how many different ways FNC’s Bill Hemmer and Elisabeth Hasselbeck tried to gin up some headlines with questions about the family’s battle with A&E over Phil’s interview. Kori contributed, “We’re all happy, happy, happy. … The best thing about this show is we get to do it as a family.” The only shred of news Hemmer and Hasselbeck managed to pry out of Willie was the “spoiler” that he hires a “good looking assistant for me…and that will be revealed on the show this year.” Asked how father Phil was celebrating the New Year, and his victory over A&E, Willie said, “I reckon he’s asleep” because it’s duck hunting season and he has to get up early.
A&E’s ‘Duck Dynasty’ Headache Continues Despite Phil Robertson’s Return; FNC Snags New Year’s Eve Interview With His Kin
A&E’s Duck Dynasty headache might not be over: Fox News Channel officially announced it will ring in 2014 with Willie and Korie Robertson during its All-American New Year special, which starts at 9 PM Eastern on Tuesday. Appearing live via satellite from Steamboat Springs, CO, for their first television appearance following A&E‘s reinstatement of Phil Robertson on the hit reality series, his son and daughter-in-law will discuss the situation with FNC’s Bill Hemmer and Elisabeth Hasselbeck. The couple also will reflect on 2013 and discuss the year ahead, FNC promised. (Hasselbeck, you’ll recall, visited the Robertson’s home and Duck Call center in Louisiana, with Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade, when she made her debut on Fox & Friends).
FNC on-air talent were among those blasting A&E over its decision to put Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson on hiatus indefinitely, owing to comments he made about homosexuality in a GQ interview. Sean Hannity gave out A&E exec phone numbers on his radio show; FNC contributor Sarah Palin took to social media to voice her support for Phil Robertson, saying that his suspension is an attack on free speech. “Free speech is an endangered species,” she wrote on Facebook.
UPDATE, FRIDAY 6:20 PM: Earlier this week, TV industry sages forecast that if A&E wanted the Robertson family to continue starring in the network’s cash cow Duck Dynasty, after the network put patriarch Phil on indefinite hiatus over incendiary comments he’d made in a GQ interview (the family issued a statement saying they were standing with Phil) the network would have to “eat crow” — and forecast A&E would “do it right after Christmas.”
Which, of course, is exactly what happened! And here’s what the industry is saying about that, via Twitter:
- Thomas Roberts, MSNBC anchor: Just dialing into #DuckDynasty update. Homophobia will not be conquered overnight & certainly not aided by A&E execs.
- Joe Scarborough: As predicted early. Biggest bias in LA is $$$.
- Dan Abrams: But talk about trying to bury the #DuckDynasty news. . after 5p on the Friday before New Years.
- W. Kamau Bell: “Hardest 9 days of my gay hating life.” – Phil Robertson on A&E lifting his suspension from Duck Dynasty.
- Billy Eichner, creator of Funny Or Die’s Fuse TV game show Billy on the Street: Very excited A&E is resuming Duck Dynasty with Phil Robertson. We need more ignorant homophobic racists who probably hate women on the air.
- Andy Lassner, Ellen exec producer: A&E has lifted its suspension of Phil Robertson. Family & friends are said to be gathering tonight to celebrate inside his beard.
- Justin Stangel, Late Show with David Letterman exec prod: A&E lifts Phil Robertson’s suspension from #DuckDynasty. Thank God! I can finally leave my Y2K bunker
More to come…
PREVIOUS, TUESDAY, 10:30 AM: Five Things A&E Did Wrong has become the hot parlor game among TV industry execs at holiday get-togethers. Cable news network execs, meanwhile, are giving thanks for the cultural warfare that has erupted, during this traditionally slow news period, over A&E’s decision to suspend Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson for comparing homosexuality to bestiality in a GQ interview even Phil’s family has acknowledged was “coarse.”
A&E has been dazedly dog paddling since the interview came out and its hit show suddenly stopped quacking like all those other homespun reality series on TV and began Bible-thumping like the religious parable it actually is.
In case you’re one of the many who spend the holiday season hiding under a flat rock: A conservative Christian group has hit 210,000 signatures and counting on its petition demanding A&E immediately reinstate Phil, one retailer has reversed its decision to yank Duck Dynasty products off its shelves because of customer blowback, and a big-box retailer can’t keep up with customer demand for Duck Dynasty merchandise. Conservative possible presidential candidates are taking Phil to their bosom, and he invited the Daily Mail to his church on Sunday to witness him preaching: ‘Jesus will take sins away. If you’re a homosexual, he’ll take it away. If you’re an adulterer, if you’re a liar, what’s the difference? If you break one sin, you may as well break them all.”
“A rookie mistake.” That’s how one TV industry veteran who’s put in time dealing with rogue reality stars described A&E’s handling of its Duck Dynasty nightmare.
Duck Dynasty reality star Phil Robertson spoke publicly for the first time today following his A&E suspension and defended the anti-gay comments that got him in hot water with the network. “We are a bunch of rednecks from Louisiana, but I am not uneducated, I have a degree from Louisiana Tech. But this week I have been called an ignoramus,” he told a Bible study group in West Monroe, Louisiana as reported by The Daily Mail. “This week I have been asked, ‘Is this the first time you have brought up sin?’ I said, ‘Are you kidding? I have been traveling to and fro spreading this message. ‘Then he said, ‘Well do you invite yourself to go and get your Bible and tell people what you are now sharing with us?’ I said, “No they are inviting me.” Last week Robertson set off a still-blazing media firestorm with his comments in GQ magazine’s January issue calling homosexuality a sin. “I love all men and women. I am a lover of humanity, not a hater,” Robertson said Sunday. Leading a prayer he said, “I will not give or back off from my path because you conquered death, Father, so we are not worried about all the repercussions,” without direct mention of A&E and the Duck Dynasty show. Later during the church’s service, son Alan Robertson addressed the media firestorm …
UPDATE, 2:45 PM: Some Washingtonians were disappointed this afternoon when no one stepped up to ask President Obama a Duck Dynasty question during his last news conference of the calendar year. The disappointed ones had a pool going, in re which reporter would ask POTUS a question about the recently suspended Duck Dynasty star. “Moral dilemma for White House reporters: Duck Dynasty question guarantees pickup and/but..practical dilemma for @pfeiffer44: how much prep?” tweeted Mark Halperin, senior political analyst for Time magazine, Time.com, and MSNBC. (instead, Obama got asked whether 2013 had been the “worst year of your presidency,” a couple NSA surveillance questions and what he thought was his biggest mistake of the year. Answer: ACA rollout.)
A&E has no plans to edit down, or out, show patriarch Phil Robertson’s appearances in the nine episodes that have already been completed of the show’s upcoming 10-episode fifth season, scheduled to debut on January 15. And it is hoping he will be back for Season 6. That said, the network is giving some thought to pushing back start of production on the next batch of episodes currently slated for spring, according to informed sources, as it attempts to see what it can salvage from the wreck left by this week’s GQ article and newly unearthed Phil video. In that 2010 video, Robertson is seen making an impassioned speech against the “gross sexual immorality” of “women with women” and “men with men.” The video, first uploaded by various attendees of a Wild Game Supper of the Berean Bible Church, somewhere in Pennsylvania, shows Robertson alternately demonstrating bird calls, defining his pursuit of happiness as “to blow a duck’s head smooth off,” and discussing the “shameful lust” going on in this country.
“Women with women. Men with men. They committed indecent acts with one another. And they received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion,” Robertson said in the video. “They’re full of murder, envy, strife, hatred. They are insolent, arrogant God haters. They are heartless, they are faithless, they are senseless, they are ruthless, they invent ways of doing evil.”
PREVIOUS, 8:47 AM: A&E Network has had to beef up security at its New York headquarters after receiving death threats and suspicious packages from people enraged about the network’s decision to suspend Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson. No formal meetings are schedule today between A&E and the Robertson clan, who yesterday issued a statement saying they “cannot imagine” doing the show without Phil — which, loosely translated, means “No Phil – no show.” That said, the network, which has had a good working relationship with the family (as the clan noted in its statement), is “always talking to them,” as one source with knowledge of the family said. The decision to suspend Phil Robertson triggered a firestorm and has created some strange bedfellows; last night Jon Stewart defended Phil’s “right to say ignorant shit” — joining Phil defenders Sarah Palin, who’d tweeted “Those ‘intolerants’ hatin’ and taking on the Duck Dynasty patriarch for voicing his personal opinion are taking on all of us,” and Republican Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who’d pronounced it “It is a messed up situation when Miley Cyrus gets a laugh, and Phil Robertson gets suspended.”
A+E, which yesterday thought it had put out a major fire in announcing it had yanked the star of its biggest series over incendiary comments the guy made in GQ, this morning got torched by those who are outraged Phil Robertson got the hook exercising his free-speech rights. So long as the bearded, camouflaged, conservative Christian, non-professional actors of Duck Dynasty were doing nostalgic, old-fashioned, down-homey things, like huntin’, fishin’, drivin’, and havin’ dinner with the family, or making whacky comments like “Y’all on fire – like donut grease,” A+E was happy to put the Robertson clan on the air and count the money that came rolling in.
But when family patriarch Phil Robertson explicitly espoused some of the beliefs the network knew to be the family’s backstory — vaguely citing Bible scripture to GQ in comparing homosexuality to bestiality and prostitution, and using “homosexuals” in the same sentence as “terrorists,” the network went into full “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on at Ricks!” mode:
We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series Duck Dynasty…His personal views in no way reflect those of A+E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from …
The miniseries’ second night viewership across A+E Networks‘ History, A&E and Lifetime, was down 24% from Night One. Of the 7.4 million viewers, 3.1 million fell into the 25-54 age bracket. On History, the miniseries, starring Emile Hirsch and Holliday Grainger in the title roles, logged 2.8 million viewers overall; Lifetime and A&E networks each averaged 2.3 million.
Overall, the two-part miniseries averaged 8.6 million viewers — 3.6 million in that age bracket. That secures Bonnie & Clyde‘s status as basic cable’s third most watched miniseries since ’06, behind History’s mega hits Hatfields & McCoys and The Bible. Bonnie & Clyde had grossed 9.8 million viewers and 4.2 million demo viewers during its world premiere on Sunday. History also led the simulcast that night, with 3.7 million viewers, followed by Lifetime (3.1 million) and A&E (3 million).
The project, which also starred Holly Hunter and William Hurt, marked A+E Networks’ first-ever simulcast across the three networks. Sony Pictures Television produced the mini, from executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, based on the script byJohn Rice and Joe Batteer, directed by Bruce Beresford.
A&E Networks, revving up for its first ever triple-cast, of new four-hour two-night miniseries Bonnie & Clyde, announced today it had lined up six “premium sponsors” on the project — including the 20th Century Fox release of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, as well as, ironically, Match.com, plus Jeep Cherokee which will use the time to position itself as the “ultimate escape vehicle.”
Lifetime, A&E and History channels will simulcast the miniseries starting Sunday, December 8 at 9 PM ET. Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild) and Holliday Grainger (The Borgias) star in the title roles of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, the infamous Depression-era outlaw couple; the cast also includes Holly Hunter (The Piano) and William Hurt (Too Big to Fail).
From today’s announcement:
A&E announced today it will premiere its latest homage to the Wahlberg brothers on January 22; Wahlburgers will show brothers Mark and Donnie heading back to Boston to join forces with brother Paul in a hamburger restaurant that’s already working on its second location, and serves as home base for the gang from the old neighborhood, including, A&E says, the real Johnny “Drama” Alves, Henry “Nacho” Laun, Mark’s chidhood pal Billy Leonard, and family matriarch Alma.
This is not to be confused with the teamsters reality-series pilot A&E had ordered from Mark Wahlberg, the Boston-set six-episode reality series about four female friends struggling to break through their blue-collar surroundings that A&E ordered from Mark Wahlberg, or Donnie Wahlberg’s reality series Boston Finest that somehow escaped A&E’s notice and wound up on TNT.
“We’re thrilled to partner with the entire Wahlberg family as they graciously lift the curtain to share this new side of their story,” said A&E exec vp and GM David McKillop of the series, on which Mark and Donnie Wahlberg are among the executive producers.
Wahlburgers is produced for A&E Networks by 44 Blue Productions, in association with Closest to the Hole Productions, Leverage Entertainment and Donnie D Productions. In addition to the two Wahlberg’s Stephen Levinson is exec producing. For 44 Blue Productions, exec producers are Rasha Drachkovitch and Jym Buss. Executive Producers for A&E are Lily Neumeyer and Devon Graham.