Fox has pulled the plug on its planned live special that was going to feature professional stuntman Eddie Braun and daredevil Big Ed Beckley trying to jump across Idaho’s Snake River Canyon to mark the 40th anniversary of Evel Knievel’s failed attempt to leap over the 2,300-foot-deep canyon. Jump Of The Century was supposed to feature the two rivals re-creating the 1974 stunt — one on a rocket and one on a rocket-powered motorcycle. The special, announced at Fox’s upfront presentation in May, was on a tight schedule as the anniversary of Knievel’s stunt is September 8. I hear preparations were moving slow, with some of the contraptions taking a long time to design and build, and the budget was poised to go significantly above the original estimate due to growing production expenses.
The target date for the special was October 27, when the days are shorter and weather often is unpredictable, making lighting and other logistics for a primetime special difficult and expensive to pull off. Some of that was built into the premise — setting such dangerous stunts safely live on TV is hard and expensive. Word is Discovery lost millions and millions of dollars on its Mount Everest jump special, which was cancelled after a deadly avalanche at the summit.
Related: Discovery Cancels Everest Jump In Wake Of Avalanche Deaths
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Nearly 5,000 people applied to participate in Fox’s reality series Utopia, Fox’s reality TV guru Simon Andreae told TV critics this afternoon. Showrunners have whittled that prodigious list down to about 40, and are now selecting the 15 who will get to go live in some isolated made-for-TV makeshift community in southern California for a year while trying to forge a new society that believes in filming its citizens 24/7 for broadcast on TV and on the Internet.
Utopia, from reality vet John de Mol, is a reality series featuring a group of everyday people whisked to an isolated location for an entire year and challenged to create their own civilization. The show builds dramatic tension from the provision that any of the “colonists” can be replaced at any time by someone from the show’s audience. It’s based on a Dutch show that’s been running since January. The show premieres Sept. 7.
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Fox’s Gracepoint, an American remake of the British series Broadchurch, is not a shot-for-shot recreation — though it may seem like it’s going in that direction in the first two two episodes, after which it will begin to differ substantially, the exec producers promised to dubious TV critics this afternoon at the TCAs.
The first portions of the British eight-parter were “so well done, why would we contort ourselves to tell it differently?” Carolyn Bernstein said when some critics commented about how the two episodes they’d seen of Gracepoint replicated early Broadchurch episodes. “We didn’t want to fix something we all thought was excellent,” Bernstein explained at Summer TV Press Tour 2014. She and EP/showrunner Dan Futterman promised it will begin to differ substantially.
Further muddying things, in October, Fox announced that Broadchurch star David Tennant had been cast in its 10-hour series. In Fox’s version, Tennant plays an American detective who is the lead investigator in a shocking murder that puts a small town under scrutiny. Though this time it’s set in an American town, like the original it follows the tragic and mysterious death of a young boy found dead on a beach surrounded by rocks and a jutting cliff face, from where he may have fallen. Although his cause of death remains unsolved, the picturesque seaside town where the tragedy occurred is at the heart of a major police investigation and a nationwide media frenzy.
The American version purports to have a different killer.
“I don’t … Read More »
While Fox’s Red Band Society drama deals with the grave topic of ill-stricken teenagers in a Los Angeles children’s hospital, the potentially grim subject matter didn’t daunt network executives, the show’s executive producers said today at TCA. Commenting on the recent string of illness-centered dramas, including The Big C, and Chasing Life alongside the ABC Studios-produced Red Band Society, series EP Margaret Nagle said, “Teens and twentysomethings aren’t about the immortality as seen in Twilight. Rather, they’re more focused on dramas that deal with mortality. They’re very forthright about these things. The way that the show can work is that it has to tonally go to that place of teen life, i.e. My So-Called Life. Even M.A.S.H. was an influence with this series. Those shows were willing to go to a place with their material that were off-center, and off-center was where they thrived.”
Originally intended to be part of ABC’s lineup, Red Band Society landed on Fox’s fall schedule instead. EP Justin Falvey said that Fox “feels like it’s a better fit.” Read More »
TV critics attending Summer TV Press Tour 2014 wanted to talk to the cast and crew of Fox’s new Mulaney about its similarity to NBC’s long-running comedy series Seinfeld. In the new multi-cam comedy, from NBCU and originally developed for NBC (the network passed on the pilot), former Saturday Night Live writer John Mulaney plays a fictionalized version of himself — a standup comic trying to take his career to the next level. Martin Short co-stars as a comedy legend and now game-show host, for whom Mulaney works; Elliott Gould plays his wacky next door neighbor. Nasim Pedrad, Seaton Smith and Zack Pearlman round out the cast. Mulaney is exec produced by Lorne Michaels, David Miner, Dave Becky, Jon Pollack, Andrew Singer and Andy Ackerman.
Exec producer/director Ackerman, perhaps best known for his work on Seinfeld after directing nearly 90 episodes, was asked to discuss the new series’ many similarities to that long-running NBC comedy. After turning to Mulaney and murmuring, “You’re no Jerry Seinfeld,” he turned to TV critics and said, “This is a cast I’m really excited about… I had the privilege to work with that great cast, and I see so many similarities in terms of the chemistry. And we have an opportunity to take John’s voice, and what he’s doing I’m really excited about…and if I have any small percent of [Seinfeld’s] success I’d be thrilled.”
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If Batman isn’t going to show up in Fox’s upcoming fall series Gotham, and if the show largely deals with the origins of future Police Commissioner James Gordon, well then, shouldn’t the show more aptly be titled Gordon? Such weighty questions about how Gotham will expand on the Batman universe, not to mention the show’s potential resonance with fans, were at the heart of the series panel at Sunday’s TCAs. One issue that was raised was how Gotham would create tension, especially if it doesn’t plan to kill off such legendary villains such as The Riddler and The Penguin, which would mess with Batman mythology.
Gotham executive producer Bruno Heller sarcastically responded, “It’s a sad thing when you can’t bring tension by killing people. One of the show’s great advantages with this world is that people know where it’s going, there are people who are invested in the story.”
Ben McKenzie, who plays Gordon, equated Gotham to “Greek tragedy. The fate comes in the first act. The series is about the interesting journey and how the city falls into disrepair and total anarchy.” Read More »
With the departure of Fox’s previous top programming executive and the network’s new co-heads not in place yet, their boss, Fox Networks Group chairman Peter Rice, took the stage on his own at the network’s executive session at the TCAs this morning. Top question of the day: Fox’s new executive structure, in which the network and sibling 20th TV are both under the oversight of the same executives, Dana Walden and Gary Newman.
“We’d been the odd man out,” Rice said, a reference to the other broadcast networks, which have closely integrated with their studios. “As competition for talent has become more intense, it has put us at a disadvantage, and to have the network and the studio aligned would be helpful.”
Rice was asked to elaborate on the ways the previous setup disadvantaged Fox. “The old structure had a clear advantage for the studio: a big independent studio that was able to sell to everyone, which it has done extremely successfully,” Rice said. “But the network was increasingly disadvantaged. The ability to be reactive only because you are a buyer, that funnel became narrower and narrower as the (landscape) became more competitive… By putting these things together, we’re telling the creative community, we have this great network and a great studio, you can speak to us in a single voice.” Read More »
Peter Bart and Mike Fleming Jr. worked together for two decades at Daily Variety. In this weekly Sunday column, two old friends get together and grind their axes on the movie business.
Bart: Like 7th grade boys staring in the mirror, corporate CEOs these days keep asking themselves, “Am I big enough?” What scares them is the prospect of becoming a takeover target, and there’s been a rush of takeover talk lately —Rupert Murdoch’s bid for Time Warner being the most dramatic. Size means safety in the corporate universe and Time Warner became vulnerable by ridding itself of Time Inc., AOL and Time Warner Cable — the latter becoming a target for Comcast. With giants like Google, Apple and Amazon looming, CEOs are scared they can’t measure up, but the folks who should really be frightened are the creatives and their audiences. Bigness means giant fees for bankers and profits for shareholders, but the impact of the monoliths is easy to read — a universe of corporate plodding, tentpoles and sequels.
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For two and a half decades, Hank Azaria has been voicing Moe, Apu, Chief Wiggum and a slew of other characters on The Simpsons. Now he’s add to his Fox voice portfolio Bud Buckwald. Ahead of its TCA presentation today, Fox announced that the Emmy winner will play the lead character on Bordertown, the new animated comedy from Family Guy’s Mark Hentemann and Seth MacFarlane. It has not been scheduled yet, but given how hot-button the immigration issue is at the south border, Fox may want to bring the show on sooner rather than later.
Exploring family, politics and everything in between, the series centers on two very different families living in a fictional Southwest desert town on the U.S. – Mexico border. Azaria’s Bud Buckwald is a married father of three and a Border Patrol agent who is just a tad behind the times and feels slightly threatened by the cultural changes transforming his neighborhood. He lives next door to Ernesto Gonzalez (Nicholas Gonzalez), an ambitious immigrant and family man, who has been in the country less than 10 years, but is already doing better than Bud – which, it turns out, is a bit of an issue for the less-industrious native. Azaria joins previously cast members including Alex Borstein, Missi Pyle, Judah Friedlander, Gonzalez and guest voice Efren Ramirez.
Fox also announced upcoming guest stars … Read More »
Chernin Entertainment and Fox have acquired The Long Run, a spec script by Iron Man 3 and Mission: Impossible 5 screenwriter Drew Pearce. Pearce will make his directorial debut on the project. Chernin and Fox are keeping the line log under wraps, other than to acknowledge it is an original crime action comedy.
Pearce recently directed for Marvel the short film All Hail The King, as kind of a sequel to Iron Man 3. It starred Ben Kingsley (who played Mandarin in that film), Scoot McNairy and Sam Rockwell. This marks Pearce’s second deal with Fox. He previously co-wrote Delinquents with Jason Segel, the Sex Tape star who’s attached to play the lead. Pearce and Segel are producing it together. WME and attorney Warren Dern rep Pearce. Here’s a look at Pearce’s Marvel short: Read More »
Rupert Murdoch’s $80B offer for Time Warner makes two things clear: The much anticipated round of content company merger mania is here — and likely will include Time Warner even though it rejected the proposal from Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox. And virtually no deal idea is too big or outlandish. One major question at this point is whether a large digital company such as Google will seize the opportunity to buy a major content company. Giants such as Fox and Time Warner want to defend the pay TV status quo — the lucrative bundle that requires subscribers to buy channels they don’t watch. If they become more powerful, then it could slow efforts by Internet companies to claim a piece of the giant ad pie that goes to TV.
Content company stock prices today reflect their new popularity. In addition to Time Warner (+15.6% at mid-day) we see Discovery +6.6%, Viacom +4.3%, Lionsgate +3.7%, AMC Networks +3.4%, and Scripps Networks +3.4%. “The urgency to find a ‘dance partner” will increase across the sector,” Bernstein Research’s Todd Juenger says. “Nobody wants to be the company that gets left out of the consolidation wave, and companies would rather control their own destinies.” What’s more, every investment banker in the world now smells opportunities to collect millions in fees if they can propose and facilitate deals.
Time Warner has two things that make it especially attractive. Read More »
Utopia, the way-out-there Fox reality show from John de Mol that would send “pioneers” to settle an uninhabited part of Earth together and figure out how to run it, has posted a teaser trailer featuring bits of interviews with some of those would-be colonists. Fifteen pioneers will be chosen for the experiment, then recorded around the clock, with video on the Internet as well as on TV. The catch, a pioneer can be replaced at any time by one of the show’s audience. It’s based on a Dutch show that’s been running since January. The show premieres for three nights in a single week this fall, beginning Sept. 7. Here’s the teaser:
Fox and Warner Bros TV have dropped a new 45-second teaser for Gotham, the gritty cop drama based on DC Comics’ Batman lore that premieres September 22. Ben McKenzie stars as James Gordon, war hero and newbie Gotham City homicide cop tasked with solving one of the city’s highest-profile crimes: The murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne. Here he crosses paths with some of Gotham’s once and future criminal masterminds, including Jada Pinkett Smith as Fish Mooney, Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot, and Camren Bicondova as Selina Kyle: Read More »
SPOILER ALERT: This story contains details of tonight’s 24: Live Another Day finale.
Amidst a near-war with China, a sword-induced beheading, a time shift and the loss of a longtime character, tonight’s finale on Fox of 24: Live Another Day could have seen the final curtain come down on Kiefer Sutherland’s anti-terrorism agent, says the series’ former showrunner. “We certainly tried out a lot of different endings and we rearranged the furniture every which way in the room,” reveals LAD EP Howard Gordon of the limited-event series and Jack Bauer’s fate. “So we knew what it looked like for other characters to have met with different ends and we tried them all on, up to and including Jack himself. This has always been a show that is really about the days and the life of this man and no day is probably as intense as a person’s last day. So killing Jack was something that was intriguing to us all but it had to be done just right. And that didn’t present itself to us,” the EP adds.
Related: Photo Gallery: The Best Of ‘24’ & Jack Bauer
What ultimately did present itself for the one-hour finale was the death of Audrey Boudreau, a character on the show since its fourth season in 2005 played by Kim Raver. “This was a really challenging decision to make and a difficult one to make because she was a such a … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Having just revived NBC’s Community, Yahoo might be looking to do the same with another recently cancelled cult broadcast comedy series, Fox‘s Enlisted. I hear talks are under way between the online giant and Enlisted producer 20th Century Fox TV for a second season of the military series, created by Kevin Biegel, on Yahoo’s streaming service Yahoo Screen. Sources cautioned that the conversations are preliminary and it’s unclear whether they would result in a deal.
Much like Community, Enlisted has a passionate and loyal following, something that is attractive to digital platforms which crave core groups of passionate fans. Interestingly, following the news of Yahoo’s deal for another season of Community, Enlisted fans targeted Yahoo Screen with a major save-our-show campaign, pitching the service a Community/Enlisted double feature.
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In a conference call with reporters following the announcement of Fox Television Group, a unit combining Fox and 20th Century Fox TV that will be run by the studio’s Dana Walden and Gary Newman, the duo stressed that each company will continue to operate independently going forward, with each having its own P&L and management team. However, there will be synergies. “They will have shared creative and financial goals: to create more hits and, with the benefit of more collaboration and a more streamlined approach to development, create more hits together,” Newman said. “We’re a mature industry-leading studio that will continue to produce for multiple networks with a greater focus now on providing FBC with the best possible shows.”
Upon starting their new expanded duties on July 28, Walden and Newman plan “to be involved both companies,” Newman said. There are no plans for bring in a president of entertainment at Fox or make executive changes for the time being. The network’s top programming executive is COO Joe Earley, who was given development oversight a few months ago. “He has been doing a fantastic job, and there is a terrific executive team at Fox,” Walden said. “There are no immediate plans to bring anyone new.” Still, the two will take some time “to immerse ourselves in the culture at Fox and make recommendations,” Walden said, vowing a hands-on involvement, including hearing pitches. Over at the studio, Walden noted the recent promotions of Jonathan Davis to President of Creative Affairs and Howard Kurtzman to President, Business Operation, indicating that the two would be asked to step up to cover more ground as their bosses expand responsibilities. Read More »
As they have added oversight of Fox in addition to running 20th Century Fox TV, Dana Walden and Gary Newman wasted no time in making it clear that there will be no direct pipeline from the studio to the sister network, which will remain an independent buyer evaluating projects on their merits, not the source. “Be assured the network will remain committed to developing the boldest ideas, no matter the sources,” they wrote in an internal memo announcing the appointment this morning. “We want the best shows on FBC, period. A thriving FBC will mean a more fertile ground to nurture the passion projects of all creators.” Similarly, the duo stressed that 20th TV-based creators will not be forced to sell to Fox but their projects will continue to be placed where they have the best chance to succeed. Read the full memo here: Read More »
21st Century Fox just announced a long-rumored restructuring, which will see 20th Century Fox TV chairmen and CEOs Dana Walden and Gary Newman overseeing a new business unit within Fox Networks Group, Fox Television Group, which will combine Fox Broadcasting Co. and 20th TV. The two will assume their new expanded duties later this month, reporting to Peter Rice, Chairman of Fox Networks Group. The appointment fills a void at the top of the network left by the departure of chairman Kevin Reilly in May. (Walden and Newman had previously reported to Chase Carey, president and chief operating officer of 21st Century Fox, as 20th TV was not part of the Fox Networks Group, while Reilly had reported to Rice.) The move reverts to a structure from a decade ago when Fox and 20th TV too were part of the same unit, Fox Television Entertainment Group, run by Sandy Grushow.
In their new roles as chairmen and CEOs of Fox Television Group, Newman and Walden will be responsible for most facets of running Fox including programming, digital and marketing, with only ad sales and affiliate relations not under their purview. They also will continue oversight of 20th TV, which they have led for the past 15 years. “As we look to the future of the broadcast television business, it is clear that the best path forward is to operate our creative and broadcast divisions under the leadership of a single team, and that Gary and Dana are the perfect executives to take on this new role,” said Carey. “While TCFTV and FBC will each continue as an open supplier and an open network, respectively, the closer alignment of these two properties, coupled with a unified vision from Dana and Gary, gives us a clear advantage in creating even more hit content that will benefit both businesses.”
As news of Walden and Newman’s expanded responsibilities started to trickle down over the past few days, the reaction from industry types has been positive as many praised the duo’s work at 20th TV. Whether it has a good selling season or a not-so-good one, it is a very well-run studio, observers say. However, there was some trepidation among rival networks that they may no longer have access to 20th TV’s best projects, which could be steered to Fox, a network in dire need of a ratings turnaround. Walden and Newman moved in swiftly to assuage possible concerns with an internal memo this morning, in which they vowed no preferential treatment for 20th TV-produced shows at Fox and stressed that 20th TV will continue to sell to everyone. Read More »
Fox has unveiled the premiere dates for the upcoming 2014-15 TV season, and the “social experiment” series Utopia is getting a special three-night launch. The rookie show from John de Mol, in which 15 everyday Americans are sent to an undeveloped location and challenged to create their own civilization, will bow from 8-9 PM September 7, 9 and 12. Batman prequel series Gotham checks in on Monday, September 22; new dramedy Red Band Society arrives Wednesday, September 17; and the 10-episode drama Gracepoint premieres Thursday, October 2. Here are the premiere dates for all of Fox’s new and returning fall series (all times are ET/PT): Read More »