EXCLUSIVE: ABC‘s multi-camera comedy pilot from actor-comedian Kevin Hart is undergoing a change following the table read. The character of Mircea, Derek’s (Romany Malco) post-divorce girlfriend, has been reconceived and will now be called Mandy. As a result, Amber Stevens, who had been cast as Mircea, is exiting, and Army Wives alumna Ryan Michelle Bathe has been tapped to play Mandy. Mircea was originally written as Derek’s new live-in girlfriend, a former super-model who once jet-setted around the world, who is now a hostess at a local restaurant and very much in love with the newly divorced Derek. The character of Mandy is still being fine tuned but, in broad strokes, she is Derek’s optimistic girlfriend who fears she may have gotten in over her head when she encourages Derek to make peace with his over-dramatic, overbearing, ex-wife.
Unlike other limited-run series this season like CBS’ Hostages and ABC’s Betrayal, which quietly finished their freshman runs with no hope of coming back, ABC is actually officially announcing that next week’s season finale …
Boris Kodjoe (The Real Husbands Of Hollywood) is set as a series regular in The Club, (formerly known as untitled Susannah Grant), ABC‘s 13-episode upstairs/downstairs drama set at a private country club from CBS TV Studios and ABC Studios. Kodjoe will play Deacon, a Hall of Fame pro football player who moved his family back East and is trying his hand at real estate. Infuriated by the bureaucracy, and ultimately realizing that knowing the right people will make things easier, he joins the Club. He’s repped by Gersh, Untitled, and Bloom, Hergot, Diemer, Rosenthal, LaViolette, Feldman, Schenkman and Goodman.
Related: 2014 ABC Pilots
Aereo may have agreed with broadcasters late last year that the best venue for their ongoing legal “war of attrition” is the Supreme Court. But as today’s response brief (read it here) to the plaintiffs reveals, that’s all the two sides agree on in this case. “This Court should not rewrite the Copyright Act in an effort to protect petitioners from lawful and logical advancements in technology or from the economic consequences of their transmitting works for free over the public airwaves,” said the Barry Diller-backed subscription streaming service in its filing today at the SCOTUS. “The ‘one-to-one’ transmissions from Aereo’s equipment – individual transmissions from personal recordings created from data received by individual antennas – do not constitute ‘public’ performances,” the dense, 100-page brief also noted one of the broadcasters’ primary complaints about the company. With the high court scheduled to hear oral arguments on the case on late next month, Aereo now must send in an amicus curiae brief of its own by April 2.
Incoming Disney/ABC TV Group President Ben Sherwood On Getting The Big Job, His Learning Curve & ABC Topper Paul Lee
It has been a whirlwind of three months for Ben Sherwood. In December, he signed a new long-term contract with ABC News, which he had led since December 2010. Now he has been given the keys to a much bigger Disney TV kingdom, named the successor to Anne Sweeney as co-chairman, Disney Media Networks and president, Disney/ABC Television Group. “It was as quick as it seems,” Sherwood said of the hiring process. He said he learned the surprising news that Sweeney would be stepping down in February 2015 to become a TV director along with everyone else when she and Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger made the announcement less than two weeks ago. “There was a very clear succession plan,” Sherwood said. “(Iger) had a number of conversations with people internally and reached the decision pretty quickly.” However, Sherwood acknowledges that the plan may have been hatched over the six-month period in which Iger and Sweeney had been discussing her exit before making it public.
Sherwood could be working with ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee, who had been negotiating a new contract, something Sherwood welcomes. “I’ve worked with Paul for the past few years, and I know he is an incredibly bright and talented guy,” Sherwood said. “He’s had share of hits and is primed for more, and I’m really excited about this development cycle.”
As for his own replacement atop ABC News, “we follow the same blueprint and have a robust succession process,” Sherwood said, noting that “we have a deep bench at ABC News.” He called fining a successor “a top priority.”
“Honored” by the new job, Sherwood said he plans to approach it as a journalist in the next 12 months when he will be learning the ropes as a co-president (and understudy) to Disney/ABC Television Group alongside Sweeney. “I have a great deal of curiosity, and, as a journalist, I’ll be asking a lot of questions, I’ll be digging deep and learning a lot.” He has ideas he wants to bring to the job overseeing a portfolio of networks but declined to share them. “I approach this with humility, and I think it would presumptuous for me to lay out particular ideas,” he said.
ABC‘s summer schedule includes the series premiere of its just-announced spinoff Bachelor In Paradise, which will debut with a two-hour episode Monday, August 4 at 8 PM. It will follow the newest cycle of another Bachelor spinoff, The Bachelorette, which bows Monday, May 19 at 9:30 PM before it moves to its regular time period Monday from 8-10 PM. They join new series The Quest, to bow Thursday, June 19 at 8 PM; Rising Star, the interactive competition show set for Sunday, June 22 at 9 PM; and new drama The Astronaut Wives Club on Thursday, July 24 at PM. ABC will air five original scripted series this summer, the most in a long time if not ever. That includes The Astronaut Wives Club, fellow freshman Black Box, which debuts in late April, as well as returning summer series Mistresses and Canadian imports Motive and Rookie Blue. Among the notable dates: Jimmy Kimmel Live: Game Night will air each night after the NBA Finals beginning with Game 1 on June 5. Here’s the network’s full schedule:
With ABC News chief Ben Sherwood named today to replace Anne Sweeney as president of Disney/ABC Television Group, betting money is on James Goldston, senior vice president of ABC News, stepping in to replace Sherwood at the helm of the news division. ABC News declined to comment.
Goldston’s the guy credited with saving Nightline from oblivion, and turning Good Morning America into the franchise that deposed NBC’s Today as king of the morning show ratings — though Goldston already had been upped to Sherwood’s No. 2 guy, and Tom Cibrowski, who’d worked with Goldston on GMA, had been promoted to GMA chief when the program actually went in for the kill. Discussions about Goldston generally include the expression “golden gut” and he is said to be well-liked in the news division. He’s also considered so valuable to the news operation that discussion of Sherwood-replacement plans don’t seem to include any other names.
Ben Sherwood To Succeed Anne Sweeney As Disney/ABC Television Group President, ABC’s Paul Lee Closing In On New Contract
ABC News president Ben Sherwood cemented his status as Disney’s golden TV boy as he has been appointed a successor to Anne Sweeney. Sherwood will assume the title of co-chairman, Disney Media Networks and president, Disney/ABC Television Group on February 1, 2015, a day after Sweeney ends her 10-year run in the same post. ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee is expected to finalize a new multi-year contract, ensuring the network’s stability at the top heading into next month’s upfronts. Sherwood’s appointment comes after a short search, with the news wiz considered an early frontrunner as Disney again looked within ranks for the next top executive hire.
Sherwood will begin the transition as Co-President, Disney/ABC Television Group alongside Sweeney immediately, while also continuing to oversee ABC News until a successor is named. “Ben is one of those unique executives who combine rich creative experience with great business acumen,” Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger said. “He’s also focused, strategic, and competitive, as evidenced by the success of GMA, the Yahoo deal that delivered ABC News online dominance, and his vision behind our new cable and digital joint venture, Fusion. These reasons, and many others, make Ben the ideal candidate to oversee the future of the Disney/ABC Television Group.”
While Sherwood’s career trajectory resembles that of Jeff Zucker, who also transitioned from the No. 1 morning program, Today, to running NBC (they both also went to Harvard), observers point out that Sherwood also has entertainment experience. He took a break from the news business and became a best-selling author, with his novel The Death And Life Of Charlie St. Cloud turned into a studio feature. Still, it was Sherwood’s accomplishments as head of the ABC News division that propelled him to the reins of Disney’s entire non-sports TV portfolio. Among them is leading Good Morning America to No. 1, brokering a successful online partnership with Yahoo to and launching Fusion, a joint venture news and lifestyle network with Univision. “Over the years, he has moved from success-to-success, and helped create a more vibrant, collaborative and powerful news division that embraces innovation and risk-taking,” Sweeney said. “Ben’s now set to bring those same attributes to bear for the larger group, and I could not be more thrilled. This announcement simply highlights the fact that our talent and succession planning process works.”
More Marvel Cinematic Universe crossovers are in store next month as ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. heads into its final season 1 stretch with some added Marvel juice. The ABC superhero spinoff series returns to air Thursday, April 1 ahead of the Friday, April 4 theatrical debut of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Today’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. PaleyFest panelists hinted at Captain America crossovers with S.H.I.E.L.D., which will be back for seven episodes in a row starting April 8 culminating in the Season 1 finale, said exec producer Jeph Loeb. He danced around officially spilling on how the show will overlap with Captain America, but since they already welcomed Thor: The Dark World film co-star Jaimie Alexander on a ratings-lifting crossover episode following the events of that film earlier this month, “it wouldn’t surprise anyone if [events from] the movie you mentioned were to happen in the show we’re talking about,” he teased.
The series has yet to be renewed for a second season, and Loeb made an effort during PaleyFest’s fan-centric panel to thank ABC’s Andy Kubitz for scheduling their final seven episodes without further scheduling breaks. He and fellow EPs Jeff Bell, Maurissa Tancharoen, and Jed Whedon are heading into production on the season finale (“It’s a long season and everybody’s running on fumes,’ said Tancharoen) and they’re still holding out for an official Season 2 renewal. “Who do I have to shank?” asked one fan in the audience, inquiring after the show’s Season 2 prospects while holding a Thor plush in one hand.
Loeb, Bell & Co. would probably like to know the answer to that question themselves.
The network that brought you The Bachelor, The Bachelorette and Bachelor Pad is taking its franchise on a likely humid vacation this summer. ABC has ordered Bachelor In Paradise, in which alums of the other shows shack up and chase love …
PILOT SEASON 2014: Network Casting Chiefs On This Season’s Biggest Challenges, Casting Coups & Fresh Faces
Spring arrived yesterday, bringing the end of the annual two-month mad dash known as pilot casting season. Heading into pilot season this year, there was a lot of concern that the proliferation of original scripted programming on cable and digital platforms would put an additional strain on broadcast pilot casting, further depleting the talent pool. Going head-to-head with the casting of more than a dozen cable and digital pilots/series — including multiple-pilot slates on TNT, Amazon and FX and high-profile series on Netflix, USA and WGA America — the broadcast networks escaped mostly unscathed, successfully casting more that 80 pilots/direct-to-series, with only three comedy pilots rolled because of difficulties finding actors.
Related: Pilot Season 2014: The Overachievers
This pilot season brought an additional wrinkle, with Fox’s Kevin Reilly declaring in January that his network plans to bypass the traditional pilot cycle going forward. There were more straight-to-series and limited/event series orders this season, and several networks started casting a handful of projects early. But overall, it was mostly business as usual, with thousands of castings sessions crammed into eight weeks that resulted in the casting of more that 1,500 roles. We saw Oscar winners and nominees like The Help‘s Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer (plus Halle Berry earlier in the season) come to television, TV stars like David Schwimmer, Patricia Arquette, Mary-Louise Parker and Josh Duhamel make a return, and the casts of cancelled shows Happy Endings and Nikita be sought after.
Related: Primetime Pilot Panic!
As we close the book on this year’s casting season, let’s hear from the women (and a man) who were in the middle of it all, leading the casting charge at the broadcast networks. I asked the exhausted heads of casting (“I need a vacation,” one of them exclaimed) Tess Sanchez (Fox), Keli Lee (ABC), Grace Wu (NBC) and Peter Golden (CBS), plus Lori Openden (the CW), whose network doesn’t compete directly with the Big 4 as it targets younger talent, to answer questions about the challenges of this pilot season, progress on cast diversity, their and their competitors’ biggest casting coups, the season’s biggest discoveries, and the toughest roles and types to cast. (Find out how many child actors Fox saw for the Bruce Wayne role in Gotham.) Here are their answers: