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Donald Trump’s Presidency Yields Boom in Satirical Comedy TV Series, Apps

40 minutes ago

Donald Trump’s accidental jobs-creation program? Generating a huuuuge windfall for comedy writers, producers and digital entrepreneurs.

To be sure, it’s hard to find humor in the current crisis Trump has brought on himself — after defending the white nationalists who fomented a violent rally in Charlottesville, Va., and saying it’s “foolish” to remove “beautiful statues and monuments” of Confederate generals.

But overall, his epically turbulent presidency and egomaniacal personality have produced a flood of TV and digital satire, including a wave of apps whose entire point is to make fun of him.

American politics has always been good for the comedy business, dating back to George Washington and continuing on through the rise of political cartoons in the 19th century to Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.” However, experts say Trump is unique among modern presidents in yielding a bounty of satirical content, while the internet has made it possible for wags to boot up »


- Todd Spangler

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‘Jetsons’ Live Action Series Lands Put Pilot Order at ABC

55 minutes ago

A “Jetsons” live action series has scored a put pilot order at ABC, Variety has learned.

Based on the classic Hanna-Barbera cartoon, the series would be a multi-cam sitcom set 100 years in the future that follows the exploits of the Jetson family.

Robert Zemeckis will executive produce along with Jack Rapke via their Compari Entertainment banner. Gary Janetti, who has written for and produced shows like “Family Guy” and “Will & Grace,” will write and executive produce. Compari’s Jackie Levine will serve as a co-executive producer. Warner Bros. Television will produce in association with Nickelby Inc. and Compari.

The original “Jetsons” animated series aired for 24 episodes on ABC from 1962-1963 in primetime as a futuristic counterpart to the pre-historic animated sitcom “The Flintstones.” It followed George, Jane, Judy, and Elroy Jetson along with their robot maid Rosie and family dog Astro. The series was later revived by Hanna-Barbera in 1985 in syndication with 41 new episodes being produced. The »


- Joe Otterson

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TV Ratings: ‘Marlon’ Starts Solid on NBC

1 hour ago

The series debut of NBC’s comedy “Marlon” scored the second most-watched new summer comedy premiere on the Big 4 broadcast networks in 10 years, according to Nielsen overnight data.

Airing at 9 p.m., “Marlon” averaged a 1.3 rating in adults 18-49 and 5.4 million total viewers. That is one of the best premieres for a summer comedy series since CBS’ “Creature Comforts” nabbed 6.2 million viewers in 2007. Earlier this summer, the Tuesday timeslot debut of ABC’s “Downward Dog” drew 5.7 million viewers, but that series was ultimately canceled. A second episode of “Marlon” at 9:30 p.m. dropped to a 1.0 and 4.1 million viewers, losing approximately 23% of its audience in the key demo and 24% in total viewers.

Earlier on NBC, “America’s Got Talent” (2.1, 10.7 million) was the highest-rated and most-watched show of the night.

On CBS, “Big Brother” (1.9, 6.3 million) was even. A new episode of “Salvation” at 9 p.m. (0.5, 3.1 million) was also even, while a second episode at 10 p.m »


- Joe Otterson

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‘The Tick’ Star Griffin Newman Opens Up About His First Big Break as an Unlikely Action Hero

2 hours ago

When I first became friends with Griffin Newman, he was an actor whose biggest screen credit was the guy Kevin Costner spills coffee on in “Draft Day” — and I was a freelancer with no idea if I’d ever get a full-time job. Since then, things have improved for both of us, and with Newman’s new series “The Tick” debuting on Amazon, I’m in the unprecedented position of recusing myself from a review. (My colleague Maureen Ryan will be covering it instead). With that caveat, I thought it might be fun to chat with my friend about how much his life has changed, and how jumping from being a fan to having fans is a unique transition. I talked with Newman about his upcoming role starring as Arthur Everest in “The Tick” — a role that has already generated fan enthusiasm — and now that he’s making rent, his most fervent desire: an action figure of »


- Sonia Saraiya

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‘MTV Unplugged’ Plots Fall Return With Shawn Mendes (Exclusive)

3 hours ago

Popular MTV franchise “Unplugged” will return to the network this fall. Shawn Mendes, who’s currently No. 1 at Top 40 radio with his latest single, “Nothing Holdin’ Me Back,” will kick off the reboot with a performance from downtown Los Angeles’ Theater at Ace Hotel. “MTV Unplugged Shawn Mendes” is scheduled to air on Sept. 8.

“MTV Unplugged,” which features music acts reinterpreting their songs — and usually a cover — acoustically, first aired in 1989 and has showcased memorable performances from the likes of Nirvana, Jay-z, Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen, Miley Cyrus, Tony Bennett, Mariah Carey, Katy Perry, Lil Wayne, and Adele, among others. But for 19-year-old Mendes, it was a clip of Pearl Jam performing on the show in 1992 that got him hooked on the concept — even if it took place years before he entered the world. “It wasn’t so much about the commercial, showman side of it; It was really about the music,” Mendes »


- Rebecca Rubin and Shirley Halperin

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News Corp. and Telstra’s Foxtel to Merge With Fox Sports Australia

4 hours ago

Foxtel and Fox Sports Australia are set to be combined into a new premium pay-tv sports and entertainment company Down Under, a move designed to pave the way for an eventual Ipo.

Parent companies Telstra and News Corp. announced the merger Thursday, saying the combined entity would align ownership and management and offer Australian consumers greater choice. The companies aim to complete the transaction in the first half of 2018, subject to the necessary regulatory approval.

News Corp. CEO Robert Thomson said the proposed restructuring of the two companies would “unlock value for News Corp. shareholders and provide a clearer vision into the depth and strength of our Australian assets.”

“The new structure will simplify management control and ensure that the company is best placed to leverage the skills of its talented Australian employees and program makers,” Thomson said in a statement. “There is no doubt that the world of content is becoming more complicated and competitive, and »


- Robert Mitchell

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Turner Sets U.S. Rights Deal for European Soccer Rights, Plans Streaming Service

5 hours ago

Turner has grabbed U.S. rights to UEFA European soccer league games with plans to launch a direct-to-consumer streaming service next year. The deal marks the latest push by a major media conglom into the premium subscription streaming content arena.

Turner said Thursday it has set a multi-year deal for English-language rights to UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League games starting with the 2018-19 season. The games will air on Turner’s various linear TV platforms — TNT, TBS and TruTV — and will be the basis of a subscription digital offering. Turner said it would carry more than 340 games per season with the linear and digital offering combined.

Turner will use its Bleacher Report digital sports news hub as the launching pad for the streaming service. Pricing is still being determined, and it will incorporate advertising, Turner said.

“The launch of Turner’s new Ott sports platform and partnership with UEFA aligns with the company’s continued »


- Cynthia Littleton

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HBO Social Media Accounts Hacked (Exclusive)

14 hours ago

Way to kick HBO while it’s down.

As if the Time Warner-owned cable network didn’t have enough problems to worry about with cyberattacks, a notorious hacking group took over the company’s Twitter and Facebook accounts Wednesday night.

“Hi, OurَMiَne are here, we are just testing your security ,HBO team please contact us to upgrade the security – ourmine .org -> Contact,” read a message on both social platforms at approximately 8 p.m. Pt.

OurMine is well known for taking over Twitter accounts of a wide range of media accounts in recent years including Netflix, Marvel and Google. The damage doesn’t seem to ever extend beyond just demonstrating the group’s ability to take over the account.

In addition to taking over the main accounts at HBO, the Twitter account for “Game of Thrones” was also exploited. HBO managed to scrub the offending tweets shortly after they were posted.

Breaking: »


- Andrew Wallenstein

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Fox News Host Eboni K. Williams on Receiving Death Threats After Segment Criticizing Trump

16 hours ago

Eboni K. Williams had never received anything like the responses she garnered after she aired her grievances with President Trump while on-air on “The Fox News Specialists.”

The co-host addressed Trump on Monday in her “Eboni’s Docket” segment, which she writes herself, berating him for failing to specify white nationalist groups in his condemnation of the violence that occurred at Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend. She told Variety in an interview on Wednesday that her personal website, which usually receives an average of 10-15 emails after each segment, was inundated with over 150 emails, only three of which were anything other than “seething, scathing” takedowns.

“I should meet my maker soon, I shouldn’t be allowed to walk the streets of New York,” she cited as some examples of the type of comments she received. “They heard that I live in Harlem — Harlem needs to watch out.” Her book publisher became so concerned that he asked her »


- Erin Nyren

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Supernatural Crime Thriller Project Wins HBO Europe Award at Midpoint TV Launch Program

17 hours ago

The Sarajevo Film Festival is proving fertile ground for TV projects thanks to the Midpoint TV Launch international script and development program, which on Wednesday culminated with the HBO Europe Award for “The Midnight Shift,” a supernatural crime thriller project.

The Midpoint TV Launch program began in November with seven projects in development, mostly from Central, Eastern, and Southern Europe. After three workshops over the past nine months, the initiative concluded in Sarajevo.

The Midnight Shift,” a Cyprian-Greek-Maltese project, follows a small-time criminal cursed to be a modern version of the ancient mythical ferryman Charon, who transports the dead from this world to the next. In this incarnation, however, he is a taxi driver on the midnight shift rather than a boatman on the River Styx.

The first residential workshop took place in Slovakia, focusing on series concepts and pilot scripts. The second workshop, dedicated to the creation of the projects’ pitch books, took »


- Ed Meza

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TV News Roundup: Joy Nash to Star in AMC Series ‘Dietland’

18 hours ago

In today’s roundup, Joy Nash joins the cast of AMC’s “Dietland,” and Masterpiece announced the air date of “Victoria’s” second season.

Casting

AMC has announced that Joy Nash has been cast in the lead role for the network’s upcoming project “Dietland.” The original 10-episode drama series is based on Sarai Walker’s 2015 novel of the same name, and explores society’s obsession with weight loss and beauty. Nash plays Plum Kettle, obese all her life and preparing for lap band surgery when her world is upturned by two rival feminist factions. Caught between old ideas and radical new extremes, Plum must decide for herself what it means to be a revolutionary as the ‘war of the sexes’ becomes literal. Marti Noxon serves as writer, showrunner, and exec producer in addition to directing several episodes. “Dietland” is a co-production between AMC Studios and Skydance Television. Skydance’s David Ellison, Dana Goldberg »


- Erin Nyren

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Nicole Kidman, Ava DuVernay and Reese Witherspoon to Host Variety’s Television Nominees Celebration

20 hours ago

Variety has announced the host committee for the annual Variety & Women in Film Television Nominees Celebration, which will take place Friday, Sept. 15 at Gracias Madre in West Hollywood.

The cast of “Big Little Lies” will make a big showing at the event, with Laura Dern, Reese Witherspoon, and Nicole Kidman all part of the committee. Emmy-nominated actresses Thandie Newton of “Westworld” and Claire Foy of “The Crown” will also make appearances, as well as Ava DuVernay, who received three Emmy nominations this year, and network and streaming executives like Mike Hopkins, CEO of Hulu and Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer at Netflix. Lena Waithe, who became the first black woman to be nominated for outstanding writing for a comedy series this year for “Master of None,” will also attend.

“We are excited to be partnering once again with Women In Film on our annual party that celebrates all the inspiring work female actors, executives »


- Variety Staff

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‘Bachelor’ Host Chris Harrison on ‘Paradise’ Scandal, What Happens Next, and Why ‘Journalism Is Dead’

21 hours ago

After two months of speculation, statements from lawyers, and tight-lipped teasing, Monday and Tuesday’s episodes of “Bachelor in Paradise” finally addressed the scandal involving DeMario Jackson and Corinne Olympios that shut down production.

On Tuesday’s episode, the show’s host, Chris Harrison, had a conversation with the cast after an internal investigation found “allegations of misconduct” to be invalid. Full recap here.

The next day, Variety caught up with Harrison — who had not seen Tuesday’s final cut — to debrief his thoughts on the franchise’s ability to take on complex social issues, how the scandal was handled in the media (his thoughts skew Trumpian), and how the show handled and will continue to address the scandal. For one, sit-down interviews with Jackson and Olympios are expected to air during the next two weeks.

On Tuesday night’s episode, you sat down with the cast. What were your goals for that segment?

First »


- Seth Kelley

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‘How to Get Away With Murder’ Boss on Season 4: Annalise Has to Get Her Fight Back

22 hours ago

How to Get Away With Murder’s” third season finale may have answered the question of who killed Wes (Alfred Enoch), but there’s still much more to the story — namely, why was he killed? And how will Annalise (Viola Davis) pick up the pieces after being accused of his murder? That’s what the fourth season will set out to explore, executive producer Pete Nowalk tells Variety.

“We’re jumping a little bit in time, a month or two, which is actually a lot of time in our show, so we’ll see how things have settled a little bit for everyone,” Nowalk says. “Annalise will have had some time to figure out what she wants to do with her life now, and really the first episode is very heavy on Annalise putting her life back together and seeing what step one is for her to redeem herself.”

Here, Nowalk »


- Danielle Turchiano

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‘Agent Carter’ Alum Andi Bushell Developing Gender Discrimination Drama at CW (Exclusive)

22 hours ago

Former “Agent Carter” writer and co-executive producer Andi Bushell is developing a new workplace drama at The CW, Variety has learned exclusively.

Currently titled “The She Word,” the series would follow four driven female assistants who discover they have been victims of gender discrimination at their boys’ club of a company. They vow to work together to take over by whatever means necessary.

Bushell will write and executive produce, with Deborah Spera also executive producing. The two previously worked together on “Criminal Minds,” where Spera was an executive producer and Bushell was a supervising producer and writer. CBS Television Studios will produce.

In addition to her work on “Agent Carter,” Bushell wrote for and produced series like “Chicago Fire,” “The Mentalist,” “Alias,” and “Crossing Jordan.” Spera has served as an executive producer on series including “Criminal Minds,” “Reaper,” and “Army Wives.” Bushell is repped by Paradigm and Ron Levin of Levin Law Corp. Spera »


- Joe Otterson

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OWN Orders Drama Series From ‘Moonlight’ Co-Writer, Michael B. Jordan

22 hours ago

The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) has given a straight-to-series order to a new drama from “Moonlight” co-writer and executive producer Tarell Alvin McCraney with Michael B. Jordan also executive producing, Variety has learned.

Marking his first television series, McCraney will create, write, and executive produce the new coming-of-age drama, with Mike Kelley and Melissa Loy also serving as executive producers under their Page Fright production banner. Jordan will executive produce through his Outlier Productions. The series, which is yet to be titled, will be produced for OWN by Page Fright and Outlier Productions in association with Warner Horizon Scripted Television. It follows a 14-year-old prodigy from the projects haunted by the death of his closest friend who must choose between the streets that raised him or the higher education that may offer him a way out. Set in South Florida at the end of the Obama era, the series was inspired by events in McCraney’s own life. »


- Joe Otterson

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Gaumont Signs First-Look Deal with ‘Mission: Impossible 6’ Director/Co-Writer Christopher McQuarrie

23 hours ago

Gaumont (“Narcos”) has signed a first-look deal with Christopher McQuarrie, the director, co-writer and co-producer of “Mission: Impossible 6,” and his producing partner and wife, Heather McQuarrie, to write, direct and produce multiple scripted drama projects.

Under the agreement, McQuarrie will first direct “Stl” (working title), a TV drama series based on Gaumont’s “36 Quai des Orfèvres,” the gritty French crime drama depicting the ruthless competition between cops at the Criminal Investigations Division. McQuarrie will be executive producing, along with Heather McQuarrie and Ben Ripley (“Source Code”), who will also write the series.

“Chris is an industry icon – he is a master storyteller, world-class director, and hugely talented producer, and he and Heather are a pivotal partnership for Gaumont as we increase our investment into new productions for the global market,” said Gaumont’s president of television in the U.S., Gene Stein.

“We’re thrilled to be adapting ’36 Quai des Orfèvres’ from our French library, and »


- Elsa Keslassy

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FCC Censorship Rules Vary for Broadcast, Cable, and Streaming

16 August 2017 10:10 AM, PDT

It’s about halfway through the fifth season of “Orange Is the New Black” when Elizabeth Rodriguez’s recently un-incarcerated, always opinionated Aleida sums up the plight of female-forward broadcast television writers everywhere with one simple, well-crafted exchange.

“Can I say ‘bitches?’” she asks a local newscaster and then, when she gets the green light, immediately and involuntarily exclaims, “s—.” The journalist, played by Thea McCartan, responds she can’t say that, to which Aleida replies, “What kind of f—ing bulls— rule is that?”

Although the writers may have simply been trying to show that Aleida was not as media savvy as she was street smart in this episode, which was written by co-exec producer Lauren Morelli, “in a lot of ways, we’re all like Aleida,” says writer-producer Carolina Paiz.

After years of working on broadcast TV, Paiz understands Aleida’s frustrations. On network shows, she notes, “We’re constantly censoring or told to self-censor »


- Whitney Friedlander

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Emmys 2017: Will ‘Atlanta’ or ‘Veep’ Take the Top Comedy Trophy?

16 August 2017 9:55 AM, PDT

The seven contenders for the comedy series trophy are a perfect illustration of how the peak TV phenomenon has transformed the business. The humor mined in the observational time-and-place storytelling of “Atlanta” and “Master of None” is quite different from the situational hijinks that drive “Modern Family” and “Silicon Valley.” “Black-ish” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” come with big dollops of heart, and in the case of “Black-ish,” occasionally a social message that is deftly communicated. And those pottymouths on “Veep” make us howl even as we struggle to keep up with the fusillade of filth.

The Odds

The frontrunners are FX’s “Atlanta,” the only new series to land in the category this year, and the reigning champ, HBO’s “Veep.” Emmy voters have clearly become more attuned in recent years to recognizing breakthrough shows early, and by any measure “Atlanta” was heralded as a singular achievement in its debut last fall. Donald Glover »


- Cynthia Littleton

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Media Titans Look to Engage Consumers Directly With Bold New Strategies

16 August 2017 9:55 AM, PDT

More than any other media giant, the Walt Disney Co. is endowed with a corporate brand name that means something to consumers. The goodwill that the Disney moniker brings is the foundation of the Mouse’s bold attempt to challenge Netflix at its own game with the launch in 2019 of a stand-alone streaming service featuring Disney- and Pixar-branded theatrical releases, as well as other film and TV productions.

But as much as Disney sees a chance to capitalize on its unique position, the company has also been under more pressure than any of its media peers to make a big move to combat the steady drumbeat of negative news surrounding its single biggest driver of earnings, Espn.

Disney’s market-shaking Aug. 8 announcement of the Disney-Pixar service and an enhanced Espn streaming offering came on the same day the Mouse reported fiscal third-

quarter earnings. The numbers for Disney’s cable group again demonstrated the erosion of Espn »


- Cynthia Littleton

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