EXCLUSIVE: Zooey Deschanel is becoming a full-fledged TV producer. The New Girl star has launched a production company with her Hello Giggles partner Sophia Rossi, which has inked a two-year first-look deal with 20th Century Fox TV, the studio behind New Girl. Under the pact, Deschanel and Rossi will develop new projects for the studio. The two tried their hand at producing this season with Must Be Nice, a comedy written by New Girl consulting producer J.J. Philbin and produced by 20th TV, which sold to Fox, the network that airs New Girl. Deschanel and Rossi executive produced that project with Molly McAleer (2 Broke Girls), their partner at female-centric Web site Hello Giggles, which the trio launched in 2011. “We’ve known Zooey as an actress through New Girl, and as we got to know her as a producer through the script she developed, we quickly realized that there is so much more to her,” 20th TV chairman Gary Newman said. “Zooey and Sophia have their finger on the pulse of young people and particularly young women, and we really responded to that.” Deschanel is repped by UTA, Seven Summits and Hanson Jacobson; Rossi by UTA, Ziffren Brittenham and 3 Arts.
Charlie Mason is an AwardsLine contributor
A whole thesaurus-full of adjectives has been bestowed upon Zooey Deschanel over the course of her almost-15-year showbiz career. But none have had quite the staying power of “adorkable,” the descriptor that Fox coined to sum up her character Jess Day on the fall breakout New Girl. Mind you, it doesn’t faze the 32-year-old actress, who in real life comes off far brainier than zany. “It was a really great tagline for the show’s first season,” says the sitcom veteran (Frasier), movie star (Elf) and indie darling ((500) Days of Summer). “I can’t complain.” Nonetheless, it probably won’t be long until she gets stamped with another label: Emmy nominee.
AWARDSLINE: I hope you’re not superstitious, because I’d like to wish you luck with that Emmy nod I suspect you’re about to get.
ZOOEY DESCHANEL: Oh, thanks. But I haven’t won anything since fifth-grade student council, so I try not to think about that stuff. I mean, obviously, I would be to-the-moon excited if I were to be recognized. But I would never want to even assume (that I might get a nomination).
EXCLUSIVE: I’m hearing that The Artist star Jean Dujardin will make a surprise appearance on Saturday Night Live in an hour or so. From what I’m told, the producers wanted him, and it was a dream of his to do the show. So he flew in Friday from Paris for …
She may be the most annoying showbiz actress, and he the most promising actor. But enjoy Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt together singing a ditty by Nancy Wilson in this new video Deschanel posted to her website:
In between juggling five series — Family Guy, American Dad, The Cleveland Show and the upcoming Flintstones and Cosmos reboots — his first feature and emceeing duties at the Comedy Central roasts, Seth MacFarlane is fostering a budding music career. And tonight, the uber TV producer earned two Grammy nominations. One was for a song from Family Guy, Christmastime Is Killing Us, which he co-wrote, in the Best Song Written For Visual Media category. It was the only song from a TV show to make the cut. The other nod was an even bigger surprise: MacFarlane’s debut album as a singer, Music Is Better Than Words, was nominated for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album alongside heavyweights Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett and Harry Connick Jr. and international sensation Susan Boyle. I think it is safe to say that this is the first time MacFarlane’s name has been mentioned in the same sentence as Ms. Streisand. (Below is a snippet from one of MacFarlane’s sold-out live performances of Music Is Better Than Words, which was turned into an EPIX special.)
After two highly rated airings, Fox’s new comedy series New Girl is getting an early back-nine pickup — which in this case is a back-11 pickup — bringing the order to the show starring Zooey Deschanel to 24 episodes. The 20th TV/Chernin Entertainment series, which gave Fox the elusive first live-action half-hour comedy hit in a decade, launched with a big 4.8 rating among adults 18-49 last week. Last night, it logged a 4.5, topping all Tuesday competition in the demo both weeks.
New Girl was created by Liz Meriwether who is executive producing with Peter Chernin, Katherine Pope and helmer Jake Kasdan, who directed both the pilot and last night’s second episode. “We love the charming Zooey Deschanel and the entire cast, we’re knocked out with the work that Liz Meriwether and the whole staff is doing and we are really psyched about the upcoming episodes in the pipeline,” Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly said. “It’s great that audiences have responded so positively so far and we’re confident that even more people will embrace the show — and more comedy on Fox — this season.” New Girl is the first new fall series to get a back-nine order.
‘New Girl’ Opens Big, Tops Night
For the first time in a decade, Fox can say that it has a live-action half-hour comedy hit on its hands with New Girl, which blew past all ratings projections to open with a big 4.8/12 in adults 18-49 (10.3 million viewers overall). New Girl‘s performance caught everyone by surprise, including Fox’s head of marketing Joe Earley. While he is elated today, just a couple of days ago he was worried as the network’s risky promo stunt of putting the New Girl pilot on iTunes, VOD, airplanes and Hulu and in hotels for two weeks ahead of the premiere had started to get out of hand. Fox had made the deal to raise awareness for the series starring Zooey Deschanel, as the show’s intent-to-view levels had been consistently high but its awareness numbers were lagging. In exchange for getting the pilot for free streaming, distributors committed to promote the show across their platforms, including a prominent placement on the homepage of iTunes, which was taking a pre-premiere window on a show for the first time. After the first week, things looked good — awareness for New Girl was up by 6%, something Earley said could not have been achieved by the network’s standard marketing campaign alone. (Free press for the sneak peek experiment might have helped, too.) After awareness went up, the buzz metrics also started jumping, and chatter on the show increased 400%. “People were talking peer-to-peer, and it was overwhelmingly positive,” Earley said. “So we figured any viewing lost (by the promotional streaming) would be replaced by people who didn’t intend to watch.”
Hurricane Irene: Worst Movie Weekend Of 2011? ‘The Help’ #1 Again, ‘Colombiana’ #2, ‘Afraid Of The Dark’ #3, ‘Our Idiot Brother’ #6
SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM, 4TH UPDATE: This weekend’s numbers bounced around, especially after Rentrak, the box office reporting service, sent out the following advisory: “We wanted to make you aware that a possible 1,000 theatres could be affected by the weather on the East Coast. We’ve been hearing about closures at many theatres and wanted to advise you that both Saturday and Sunday grosses will be affected.” This is turning into the worst moviegoing weekend of 2011, in a race with only Super Bowl weekend, because of the expected miniscule $80M expected for total North American box office grosses. Theater chains like AMC, Regal, and Clearview Cinemas were closing, location counts were dropping, and major releases were finding cover. Hurricane Irene came ashore along the Atlantic Seaboard on Saturday starting in North Carolina and heading due north. Mass transit was suspended in many areas while heavy rains and high winds pounded the region, causing one studio exec to complain to me, ”Business is in the crapper right now. Any way you slice it business is getting creamed this weekend.” The storm, at one point bigger than the size of Europe, created a state of emergency up the East Coast from North Carolina to Massachusetts and will depress box office by 10%, 20%, or more. Considering that this weekend’s 3 major opening movies were only expected to debut modestly even in fair weather, studios and distributors have a Mother Nature excuse when their films underperform at the North American box office. So I can’t humiliate them for not hitting double digits. Drats!)
1. DreamWorks/Disney’s The Help is a lock again for #1 with $4.4M Friday and $5.9M Saturday for a $14.3M weekend as the bestselling book-turned-pic enters its 3.5th week into 2,778 originally booked theaters. The cume is estimated at $96.6M and should pass the $100M plateau mid-week.
2. Sony Pictures/TriStar’s Luc Besson-produced and co-written PG-13 actioner Colombiana starring Zoe Saldana as the female assassin. It did the best of the newcomers opening to $3.7M Friday and also $3.7M Saturday to a $10.3M weekend with an original booking into 2,614 theaters. It earned an ‘A-’ CinemaScore from audiences. “Given the devastating weather system on the East Coast, the film performed better than expected and is off to a solid start and should hold well for the coming holiday weekend and into the Fall,” the studio said. Sony Pictures did a distribution deal for Colombiana which was fully financed by EuropaCorp and partners TF1 Films Production, Grive Productions with the participation of Canal+ and Cinecinema. They also put up the P&A for this title. For the media and promo campaign, Sony tied into the revenge theme of the movie with custom branded promotions and tie-ins with outlets like BET where there was “back to payback” stunt. The studio placed sneak peaks of the film in programming blocks where the cable channel was broadcasting revenge-oriented titles like Romeo Must Die and A Man Apart. Zoe Saldana shot custom interstitials. On channels like G4, a sweepstakes gave the winner time with Zoe’s trainer and to remake a scene from the film. Activities also specifically targeted urban audiences and Spanish language press. TriStar Pictures and Stage 6 Films present a coproduction EuropaCorp. Directed by Olivier Megaton, Colombiana gave writing credits to Luc Besson & Robert Mark Kamen, and produced by Luc Besson and Ariel Zeitoun.
3. FilmDistrict’s Guillermo del Toro-written and co-produced haunted house movie Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark, starring Katie Holmes and Guy Pearce was originally booked into 2,760 theaters. It debuted with $3.6M Friday and $2.9M Saturday and will make $8.6M this weekend. It earned an unfortunate ‘C-’ CinemaScore from audiences. “All things considered, not a bad Saturday and ultimately the weekend total was good despite the hurricane,” said FilmDistrict’s Bob Berney. ”Our key large urban East Coast markets were really killed.” Females under 25 responded strongest to Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark and in markets with large Latino populations. Berney has known Guillermo since distributing his Academy Award-winning Pan’s Labyrinth at Picturehouse. that’s also where Berney released The Orphanage which del Toro exec-produced. Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark had been in the works for some time ever since del Toro made Mimic for the original Miramax. Guillermo based the new movie on a 1973 TV pic that had “scared the crap” out of him as a kid in Mexico. Del Toro chose director Troy Nixey from his work in comic books and a short film that Guillermo really responded to. Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark was shot while Guillermo was in New Zealand preparing The Hobbit (remember that?) and would fly over to Melbourne where Nixey was shooting and remained very involved in the $28M production. After Disney sold Miramax to the Colony Capital/Ron Tutor group, FilmDistrict acquired Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark around Sundance this year. It was the closing night pic at the LA Film Festival and put together a Comic-Con panel with del Toro and Guy Pearce. Attendees called it the most highbrow discussion of the Con steeped in both film history and profanity. Guillermo has a “Presents” credit on the film and his pedigree has been one of the key marketing points of the film. “Jeanne and I were really happy to be working with Guillermo again,” Berney emailed me. “He really is the ’hardest working man in show business’ and the most generous and nicest guy as well. Not to mention that he holds the record for ‘F bombs’ at Q&As and panels around the world.”
4. Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes (Fox) Week 4 [3,374? Theaters]
Friday $2.6M, Saturday $3.6M, Weekend $8.6M, Cume $148.4M
5. Spy Kids 4D (Dimension/Weinstein Co) Week 2 (3,305? Theaters)
Friday $1.5M, Saturday $2.5M, Weekend $5.7M (-51%), Cume $21.7M
6. The Weinstein Co’s not-so-raunchy R-rated comedy Our Idiot Brother showcasing Paul Rudd surrounded by Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel and Emily Mortimer originally booked into 2,555 theaters. It opened to $2.3M and $2.5M Saturday for a $5.7M weekend. It earned a disappointing ‘C+’ CinemaScores from audiences. This film was acquired by TWC and Ron Burkle’s YUK Films at the Sundance Film Festival for $6 million in exchange for U.S., Germany, France, Japan, and Benelux rights. Alliance has Canada via their recent acquisition of Maple Films. Directed by Jesse Peretz from a script he wrote with his sister Evgenia, he reached out to producer Anthony Bregman (Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind) who in turn enlisted producer Peter Saraf (Little Miss Sunshine) and they put the whole deal together in a few weeks. TWC’s marketing campaign involved not only the traditional media buys but a lot of extras on the Internet as well — like the Funny Or Die video with Harvey Weinstein and Paul Rudd. Rudd went on MLB.com talking sports. There also was a ’Search for Willie Nelson’ (the dog’s name in the film) viral campaign. And an Idiot Photo Booth social campaign. Our Idiot Brother gave writing credits to Evgenia Peretz and David Schisgall and producing credits to Stefanie Azpiazu, Caroline Jaczko, Aleen Keshishian, Anthony Bregman, Peter Saraf, and Marc Turtletaub.
How often does a TCA panel on a TV show includes a question to the star: “When did you first know that you were adorable?” That happened today during the session for Fox’s new comedy New Girl starring Zooey Deschanel as a dorky girl moving in with three guys. The indie darling was, well, adorable, in her responses, including blushing in dismissing the adorable label. “I don’t think I’ve ever read a role as good for myself,” she said of her part on the show. The producers talked about the casting change, with Lamorne Morris replacing co-star Damon Wayans Jr, who had to pull out after the pilot due to his commitment to ABC’s Happy Endings. Instead of making this a straight recasting, the producers decided to keep the pilot as is with Wayans Jr as one of Jess’ roommates and then have his character move out and introduce Morris in Episode 2 as a new roommate. “We were really happy with the pilot, the chemistry was where we wanted it,” executive producer Brett Baer said. “So we wanted to bring in a new character that would really bring a new energy to the show.” Added Jake Kasdan, director of the pilot and executive producer of the series, “We thought the overall dynamic was very rich and were looking to preserve that but tailoring to a different actor.”
Here is the second-annual honor roll of the best and brightest at the broadcast upfront. First off, to all who got their pilots picked up to series — congratulations. You’re already winners. This is a list of those who took their upfront success to an extra level:
Whitney Cummings: The undisputed queen of Upfront 2011. She is behind two new comedy series that are among the highest-profile new half-hour entries next fall. She created, stars in and executive produces her eponymous comedy for NBC, which was assigned the network’s best comedy slot, following The Office. She also co-wrote on spec with Michael Patrick King the CBS comedy 2 Broke Girls, which broke records as CBS’ best-testing pilot (comedy or drama) ever. Both were the first comedy pilots to get a series order at their networks. Cummings, who also has a talk show in contention at E!, will serve as an executive producer on 2 Broke Girls but will be full-time on Whitney, which was in first position. I hope that doesn’t impact 2 Broke Girls, which King is expected to run/co-run, because the pilot indeed looks great. Honorable mention in the category of creators with multiple projects for Andrew Reich and Ted Cohen. One of their two ABC pilots, Work It, was picked up to series, while the other, Smothered, is very much in contention for midseason.
What a comeback for J.J. Abrams! After his high-profile NBC drama Undercovers went bust last fall, some questioned whether the networks will continue to bet on him. But bet they did this upfront, with both pilots he produced, CBS’ Person of Interest and Fox’s Alcatraz, going to series. Person of Interest instantly became one of the most anticipated new fall series when CBS made it its new Thursday 9 PM anchor. The network also said it was its best-testing drama pilot ever. And over at Fox, Alcatraz prevailed over several high-profile pilots to land one of only two drama series spots. Then, as icing on the cake, Abrams’ modestly rated but well-liked Fox sci-fi series Fringe got a renewal for next season, bringing the producer’s series for next season to three.
3RD UPDATE: Fox Orders ‘Finder’, ‘Alcatraz’, ‘Daughter’ & ‘New Girl’ To Series, ‘Council’, ‘Locke’, ‘Bellevue’, ‘Outnumbered’ & ‘Iceland’ Dead; ‘Exit’, ‘Album’ & ‘Common’ Still In Play
UPDATE 9 PM: A Locke & Key limited series/miniseries was a stretch, and it seems that it is not happening. The show is now heading to the death pile. And yes, comedy Outnumbered is dead too. Surprisingly, multi-family comedy Little In Common starring Rob Corddry and Kevin Hart, which had …