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14 items from 2007

'Raymond' cast shows love for WGA

9 November 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

There was a mini Everybody Loves Raymond reunion outside the Paramount lot Thursday morning as Phil Rosenthal, Ray Romano and Patricia Heaton walked the picket line in support of the WGA strike.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson also caused a commotion with his appearance at the studio, where he walked the picket line arm in arm with WGA West president Patric Verrone.

After bringing the picketers bagels and orange juice, the Raymond crew joined their march outside the Melrose gate of the L.A. studio. Romano noted that he's a member of the writers guild.

"I won't cross the picket line", he said, adding that "I was in the writers room every day for nine years (on 'Raymond'). ... Without the writers, (co-star) Brad (Garrett) and I would have been sitting on the couch looking at our feet for 22 minutes."

Raymond creator Rosenthal added that if the strike goes on long enough to force scripted TV shows into reruns, he hopes viewers "understand that it will be 'temporary'."

"And if people are upset, they should write to the studios and networks and ask them to do the right thing," he said. "It's all about fairness, not greed. Ray and I don't need the money, but we want (a contract that is) fair for everybody else."

Rosenthal also expressed disdain for reality shows. Asked his thoughts about the reality "trend," Rosenthal said: "The trend of reality might signal more than a trend of the moment -- that is, the end of civilization."

For her part, Heaton said that it's important for the actors to show their support to the writers during the strike since SAG's contract with the studios expires June 30, and it's expected that negotiations on a new pact will hinge on issues similar to those at the center of the writers guild talks. »

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Fox backs 'Back to You' for full-season pickup

25 October 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

It's "back 11" for Fox's freshman comedy Back to You.

The multi-camera comedy starring Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton received a full-season pickup Wednesday, when the network ordered 11 additional episodes, bringing the total to 24 half-hours, two more than a regular 22-episode order.

Back, from comedy veterans Steve Levitan and Christopher Lloyd, stars Grammer and Heaton as co-anchors at a local TV station reunited after an acrimonious breakup years ago.

While short of the blockbuster status of Grammer and Heaton's former series Frasier and Everybody Loves Raymond, Back has been a solid performer for Fox in the Wednesday 8 p.m. time slot, opening a night that has been traditionally challenging for the network.

Last week, the series drew 7.0 million viewers and a 2.4 rating/7 share among adults 18-49.

The 20th TV-produced Back is the first new Fox scripted series to receive a full-season order. The network also picked up another cycle of another new Wednesday show, the unscripted Kitchen Nightmares, and ordered additional scripts from rookie drama K-Ville. »

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'Kid Nation' bow wins slot but disappoints

21 September 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

'Kid Nation' review

NEW YORK -- CBS' controversial "Kid Nation" debuted to less than overwhelming ratings Wednesday while airing with fewer commercials than normal.

Whether it was the negative publicity surrounding alleged child labor law violations in New Mexico or strong competition from NBC's "Deal or No Deal" and Fox's premiere of "Back to You", "Kid Nation" bowed with 9.4 million viewers and a 3.1 rating/9 share in the adults 18-49 demographic, Nielsen Media Research said Thursday. It was enough to win its time period in adults 18-49 but was below expectations of 10 million-12 million viewers for the premiere.

"Kid Nation" was beaten in the first half-hour by the decidedly grayer "Back to You" (9.4 million, 3.1/9) starring Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton, and was surpassed in viewership in the second half because of a surge by "Deal" (9.7 million, 2.5/8). "Back to You" beat "Kid Nation" by 15% in the demo by 8 p.m.-8:30 p.m.

The show hasn't yet caught fire among advertisers, either. The Eye has acknowledged that some advertisers were taking a wait-and-see approach. »

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Fox bumps up fall premieres

11 July 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

With much shorter postseason baseball coverage this year, Fox is returning to a more traditional rollout of its fall schedule with most series premiering during and just before premiere week.

Since 2003, when The O.C. made waves with its Aug. 5 debut, Fox had been launching scripted series in August and even July.

While an early start worked for O.C. and Prison Break in 2005, it didn't for scores of others, which were hurt by the low-summer viewership levels.

This year, Fox is opting to hold its scripted fare back until after its Sept. 16 broadcast of the 59th annual Primetime Emmy Awards, which will be used extensively to promote the network's new shows.

First out of the gate the following night is the new cop drama K-Ville. Two days later, Fox will introduce its new Wednesday lineup, anchored at 8 p.m. by the debut of the new comedy Back to You, starring Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton.

The network's Tuesday pairing of newcomer New Amsterdam and mega-hit House will be unveiled the following week. »

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Channel 4 snags Grammer return

28 June 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

LONDON -- Channel 4 has picked up exclusive U.K. rights to the upcoming Kelsey Grammer vehicle "Back to You", it announced Wednesday. The deal was brokered by Channel 4 director of acquisitions Jeff Ford and Steve Cornish, senior vp and managing director at Twentieth Century Fox Television Distribution.

In "Back to You", one of the most anticipated shows to emerge from this year's Los Angeles Screenings, Grammer and Patricia Heaton ("Everybody Loves Raymond") star as news anchors at a Pittsburgh television station.

"We are thrilled to continue our commitment to the best of U.S. comedy with this much sought after series," Ford said.

"We have high expectations for 'Back to You, ' and we are very pleased to be working with Channel 4 to create a success story," Cornish added. »

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Burrows anchors Fox's 'Back' staff

13 June 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Veteran comedy director James Burrows, who helmed the pilot for Fox's upcoming comedy series Back to You, has come aboard the show as an executive producer and house director.

Back to You, from 20th Century Fox Television and Levitan/Lloyd Prods., stars Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton as co-anchors who reunite at a Buffalo, N.Y., television station. Fred Willard and Aimee Garcia co-star.

Burrows joins Steven Levitan and Christopher Lloyd as executive producers on the series. He will direct most of this season's episodes.

Burrows is an Emmy- and DGA-winning director-producer whose numerous credits include Will & Grace, Frasier, Cheers, Laverne & Shirley and Mary Tyler Moore.

More recently, he was director and executive producer on CBS' The Class. He also directed the comedy pilots Traveling in Packs for ABC and The Mastersons of Manhattan for NBC, both of which were in contention for the 2007-08 season.

He is repped by ICM. »

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Fox reality show roils East Texas town

11 June 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

NEW YORK -- An upcoming Fox reality series about a model-turned-TV journalist is causing a stir in the East Texas city where "Anchorwoman" is being produced.

Model Lauren Jones arrived last week in Tyler, Texas, for a 30-day stint at KYTX-TV, a CBS affiliate, that will include co-anchoring the 5 p.m. newscast today. Jones, who was cast for the show by Fox 21 and the G Group, has been undergoing behind-the-scenes preparation as a reporter and anchor, her every move taped by a 40-member crew. "Anchorwoman" will run on Fox beginning in late August.

Jones is a swimsuit model and actress whose credits include WWE's "SmackDown!" and "The Guiding Light". She has no journalism experience; the show will be about whether Jones can hack it in TV news. She arrived in Tyler a week ago and has been put through what a station official calls intensive training in how to read a TelePrompTer and report stories on her own.

TV newsrooms have been a staple of TV shows for years, perhaps most successfully with "The Mary Tyler Moore Show". Upcoming Fox sitcom "Back to You", starring Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton, will keep the genre alive. But this is the first time that a reality series will feature someone with no journalism experience who will be thrust into a job surrounded by real journalists. It has raised concerns inside and outside KYTX.

"One of the last sacred grounds of integrity in local television is the local newsroom, so I guess I would say I'm disappointed to see a station, much less one in our own community, that has evidently sold its integrity," said Brad Streit, vp and GM for KLTV-TV, the ABC affiliate in Tyler.

Adds KETK-TV GM Mike DeLier of the NBC affiliate: "I see this as a stunt, and it's a self-admitted stunt and not a journalistic endeavor."

Al Tompkins, broadcast group leader for the Poynter Institute in St. »

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Gad lands 'Rocker' gig at Fox unit

8 June 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Josh Gad will star opposite Rainn Wilson in The Rocker, a music-themed comedy Peter Cattaneo is directing for Fox Atomic. Shawn Levy and Tom McNulty are producing via their 21 Laps Entertainment banner.

The film tells the story of a failed, over-the-hill drummer (Wilson) who, 20 years after getting booted out of his now uber-famous former band, gets a second chance at fame with a new band.

Gad plays Wilson's nephew and head of a high school rock band that Wilson ends up joining.

Ryan Jaffe wrote the original screenplay, while Wallace Wolodarsky and Maya Forbes are penning the most recent draft.

Principal photography is set to start June 18 in Toronto.

President of production Debbie Liebling is overseeing the project for Atomic.

Gad took over Dan Fogler's Tony Award-winning role as William Barfee in "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" on Broadway in 2006. This fall, he stars alongside Kelsey Grammer, Patricia Heaton and Fred Willard in Fox's Back to You, scheduled to air Wednesdays. »

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CanWest unveils fall lineup, takes on CTV

7 June 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

TORONTO -- Canadian broadcaster CanWest MediaWorks on Wednesday unveiled a fall lineup filled with new U.S. programming as well as the launch of the U.S.-based E! network in Canada in September.

This coming TV season, CanWest MediaWorks -- which runs two parallel networks in Canada, Global Television and CH -- will challenge rival CTV for dominance of Canadian primetime after buying rookie U.S. series and renewing return series at the recent Los Angeles Screenings.

CanWest MediaWorks pitched domestic advertisers on a host of fresh blood Wednesday in Toronto, including the simulcast of NBC's "Journeyman" on Global Television on Monday nights, going up against "CSI: Miami" simulcast on CTV, and the Jimmy Smits-starring CBS drama "Cane" on Tuesday nights at 10 p.m. opposite "Law and Order: SVU" on CTV.

Barbara Williams, senior vp programming and production at CanWest MediaWorks, said the strategy of simulcasts of Fox's "Prison Break" on Monday nights at 8 p.m. and NBC "Heroes" at 9 p.m. provide ballast for "Journeyman" at 10 p.m., while Fox's "House" at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, another hit series north of the border, is meant to help "Cane" at 10 p.m.

CanWest MediaWorks also retooled Wednesday nights on Global Television, beginning with the simulcast of the Fox sitcom "Back to You", starring Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton at 8 p.m., with NBC's "Life" airing at 10 p.m. »

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Fox ready to 'come out swinging' in the fall

18 May 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

NEW YORK -- Fox Broadcasting Co. will try to reverse its fall misfortunes with a fleet of new series introduced Thursday.

The network is launching three new reality series in the fourth quarter along with three new scripted series. Four more scripted series will roll out in the midseason, when they should get a lift from the presence of American Idol, which has nearly single-handedly given Fox the ratings crown in recent years.

Peter Liguori, president of entertainment at Fox, believes that the stability of 17 returning series also will help give Fox the momentum that has eluded it in early fall.

"I think we're better prepared to come out swinging," Liguori said during the upfront to explain how the network will find its stride in the fourth quarter, which he said has been challenged in the past.

Liguori also noted that Fox's fall chances will be helped by less of an interruption from postseason baseball, which takes over primetime for just 14 nights this year, down from 26 in 2006.

"Our break will be considerably shorter, allowing us to build a more consistent schedule," he said during a news conference earlier in the day.

An abridged postseason also will allow Fox to launch programs later if it wants, though no decision has been made as to whether new series will launch in late August or early September.

A trio of new reality series will fill out Fox's Thursday and Friday lineups, including Kitchen Nightmares and the tentatively titled pair of Nashville and The Search for the Next Great American Band. Nightmares will be joined by the return of Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?

Fox will open a new comedy block on Wednesday, moving returning comedy 'Til Death from Thursday to join new half-hour Back to You. With such stars Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton, Liguori has high hopes for Back. "We're in the hands of seasoned pros both in front of and behind the camera," he said at the news conference. »

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Grammnet takes action with move to 20th TV

28 February 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

After almost 15 years at Paramount, Kelsey Grammer's Grammnet Prods. is moving to 20th Century Fox Television with a one-year pod deal.

Under the pact, which has an option for a second year, Grammer and his development team, led by president Steve Stark, will develop new series projects for 20th TV. The deal begins in June, when Grammnet's current pact with CBS Paramount Network TV is up.

Grammer already is in business with 20th TV, starring opposite Patricia Heaton in the studio's comedy "Action News". The multicamera project from Steve Levitan and Christopher Lloyd recently landed at Fox with a series commitment (HR 2/9).

Grammer worked with 20th last year as the director of a comedy pilot the studio produced for CBS with writer Rich Appel. 20th president Dana Walden said studio execs were impressed by his "strong instincts for casting, performances and material." After "Action News" came together with Grammer this year, Walden said it "made all the sense in the world for us to be in business with Grammnet."

Walden said she was impressed at the eclectic range of projects that Grammnet has in development. »

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Amazing Grace

23 February 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

This review was written for the festival screening of "Amazing Grace".TORONTO -- The dullness of virtue infuses this historical story of the British MP who spent his life fighting the appalling institution of slavery in the British Empire. This is about as safe a historical/political topic as a filmmaker can tackle, where right and wrong are as clear as day. The only cause for wonder for a modern-day viewer is the speciousness and cynicism of the arguments made in favor of the institution in those days.

One does enjoy watching British actors waltz gracefully through such period pieces. So many previous stage and screen roles have prepared them for such projects that wigs, costumes and attitudes fit like well-worn gloves. So such veterans as Albert Finney, Michael Gambon and Ciaran Hinds can be wonderfully hammy yet still not overshadow young actors in the duller, more earnest roles, such as Welshman Ioan Gruffudd as the hero, William Wilberforce and Benedict Cumberbatch as William Pitt, the youngest British prime minister ever. Nevertheless, boxoffice appeal in North America is limited for such a museum-piece offering. This film will do better on cable and DVD.

Screenwriter Steven Knight chooses a strange attack on his subject. In 1797, William, bitter and quite ill, retreats to the country home of dear friends to recuperate his health after many failed abolitionist campaigns in Parliament. His hosts believe love will cure his illness, so they fix him up with a local, marriageable lass named Barbara Spooner (Romola Garai).

Although reluctant to woo, Barbara is such as an ardent follower of William, she begs him to recount every moment of his campaigns up to present day, even though she must know the stories as well as he does. So in flashback, the movie bears witness to his years of struggle to outlaw the slave trade, largely resisted because British colonial sugar cane interests were totally dependent on slave labor.

We meet the various characters in William's running battle: his youthful friend and now prime minister, William Pitt the Younger; the former slave-ship captain John Newton (Finney), so haunted by his "20,000 ghosts" to compose the song "Amazing Grace" and seek forgiveness in church service; revolutionary Thomas Clarkson (Rufus Sewell), who must lay low when war with France makes his views seditious; crafty Lord Fox (Gambon), a relatively early convert among the MPs; and Olaudah Equiano (Youssou N'Dour), a former slave who devotes his life to writing against the virulent evil of slavery.

At the end of these tales of frustration, the love cure works. The couple swiftly marries then rushes to London, where the slave trade is largely undone through a clever parliamentary maneuver. It is officially banned for good several sessions later. And that, the movie concludes, ends slavery. Which is complete nonsense because it continues unabated in the New World until the Civil War ends it and, tragically, slavery still exists all over the world today.

The movie contains lengthy parliamentary debates over slavery, though you wonder to what purpose because that argument was settled long ago. The political maneuverings are of some historical interest, but modern relevancy is hard to find.

Gruffudd is vigorous and impassioned -- especially for a sick man -- but Wilberforce never comes to life. Why he made the abolitionist movement his life's calling is only vaguely hinted at given that these were "unsound" ideals for an MP in that era.

So, too, with Garai's infatuated Barbara: Her fate is so determined the moment she appears onscreen, that there is little life or mystery to her character. The good people in this movie are just too good, without flaws or misgivings.

Apted's crew does a decent job establishing period details, but this also never comes to life. These are sets and costumes to be struck at the end of the workday.


Samuel Goldwyn/Roadside Attractions

Bristol Bay Prods. presents a Sunflower production


Director: Michael Apted

Screenwriter: Steven Knight

Producers: Edward Pressman, Terrence Malick, Patricia Heaton, David Hunt

Executive producers: Jeanney Kim, James Clayton, Duncan Reid

Director of photography: Remi Adefarasin

Production designer: Charles Wood

Costumes: Jenny Beavan

Music: David Arnold

Editor: Rick Shaine


William Wilberforce: Ioan Gruffudd

Barbara Spooner: Romola Garai

William Pitt: Benedict Cumberbatch

John Newton: Albert Finney

Lord Fox: Michael Gambon

Thomas Clarkson: Rufus Sewell

Olaudah Equiano: Youssou N'Dour

Lord Tarleton: Ciaran Hinds

Duke of Clarence: Toby Jones

Running time -- 118 minutes

No MPAA rating »

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Fox is the home of 'Action News'

9 February 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Action News, Steven Levitan and Christopher Lloyd's comedy project starring Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton, has landed at Fox with a 13-episode commitment.

The multicamera comedy, from 20th Century Fox TV, is set at a local TV station and revolves around the reuniting of a male and female anchor team (Grammer, Heaton).

Levitan and Lloyd penned Action News on spec. Despite a steep license fee commanded by the project's marquee stars, ABC, CBS and Fox bid on it.

Fox entertainment president Peter Liguori called Action News "a triple threat." "We have a good script, two terrific, proven writers and two leads with proven, outstanding comedy chops," he said.

Action News, which is targeted for fall, is the first project to come out of the rich three-year deal "Just Shoot Me!" creator Levitan and Frasier showrunner Lloyd inked with 20th TV in July.

"Bringing Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton back to television together is a remarkable opportunity," 20th TV president Gary Newman said. "It also makes us feel very good about making the deal with Steve Levitan and Christopher Lloyd, who have done so much great television over the years." »

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Grammer, Heaton may take 'Action'

23 January 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

In what would be a blockbuster pairing of sitcom stars, Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton are in discussions to co-star in a comedy series, "Action News", created by writer-producers Steven Levitan and Christopher Lloyd for 20th Century Fox TV.

As of Monday night, there was no deal in place for Grammer or Heaton, and the talks were ongoing, sources said. The project is said to be set at a local TV station and revolve around the reuniting of a male and female anchor team (Grammer, Heaton).

Top showrunners Levitan and Lloyd planted their flag at 20th as writing and producing partners in July (HR 7/13). Sources said the studio intends to nail down deals with Grammer and Heaton before shopping the script to prospective buyers. The onscreen star power of Grammer and Heaton combined with Levitan and Lloyd virtually ensures a bidding skirmish among networks for the project.

Representatives for 20th and the CAA-repped Grammer and Heaton declined comment on the project. »

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14 items from 2007

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