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‘Frontline’s’ Michael Kirk on Breaking Down 8 Years of Politics in ‘Divided States of America’

46 minutes ago

Award-winning documentary filmmaker Michael Kirk has been with “Frontline” since the PBS series’ inception in 1983. In addition to covering the 2008 financial crisis and numerous other major news events, he is a producer on the “Frontline” documentary “The Choice,” which profiles each candidate before every presidential election.

This month, in addition to a profile called “Trump’s Road to the White House,” “Frontline” will premiere Kirk’s “Divided States of America,” a brilliant and destabilizing four-hour miniseries about the deep ideological rifts that currently define American politics. “Divided States” may well be the most important piece of journalism about this tumultuous era of identity politics and populist backlash; with close detail, the docuseries uncovers the anger and institutions that underpinned the ultimate failure of President Barack Obama’s grand dreams and set the stage for Donald Trump’s surprising and unprecedented victory.

Variety spoke with the veteran journalist about the difficulties of creating cogent narratives in an era »

- Sonia Saraiya

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‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Delayed Again, Casts James Frain

58 minutes ago

Star Trek: Discovery” will likely miss its previously announced May premiere target, Variety has learned. The series has also cast James Frain as Spock’s father.

CBS released a statement regarding the possible delay:

“Production on ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ begins next week. We love the cast, the scripts and are excited about the world the producers have created.  This is an ambitious project; we will be flexible on a launch date if it’s best for the show.  We’ve said from the beginning it’s more important to do this right than to do it fast. There is also added flexibility presenting on CBS All Access, which isn’t beholden to seasonal premieres or launch windows.”

More to come…


- Oriana Schwindt

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Talk of Trump Dominates TCA Press Tour

1 hour ago

Shonda Rhimes has a history of brushing off questions at Television Critics Assn. press tour panels. Last week, she was able to apply her well-honed skills to multiple questions about President-elect Donald Trump.

Asked during a panel for her ABC show “Scandal” how the new season — which premieres Jan. 26 — reflects post-election reality, executive producer Rhimes shut the question down.

“There aren’t any similarities,” she said.

Scandal” ended last season with an election cliffhanger involving a female candidate, so the idea of a parallel is not far off base. But throughout the first week of TCA, questions about Trump and national politics dominated — sometimes to the consternation of producers and executives fielding those questions, but sometimes not.

At the panel for CBS All Access’ “The Good Fight,” co-creator Robert King spoke about how the election had affected the show. King and his wife, co-creator Michelle, rewrote scenes from the series premiere after Trump’s victory, and »

- Daniel Holloway

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TV Ratings: ‘This Is Us’ Still Strong, ‘No Tomorrow’ Finishes With a Whimper

1 hour ago

NBC’s “This Is Us” slipped a couple tenths from last week — though not if you don’t count the encore airing on the West Coast that NBC included in its final ratings — but still remains the best bang for one’s buck on the broadcast schedule. In the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demographic, “This Is Us” pulled in a 2.6 rating and 9.53 million viewers overall in Nielsen’s preliminary ratings. Lead-in “The Wall,” just given another 20-episode order, drew an impressive 1.7 in the demo and 6.65 million viewers. “Chicago Fire” capped off the night with a 1.6 and 7.04 million viewers.

CBS’ usual Tuesday lineup performed within its range. “NCIS” came in with a 1.9 in the demo and 15.42 million viewers. “Bull” drew a 1.5 and 10.97 million viewers. “NCIS: New Orleans” brought in a 1.2 and 9.16 million viewers.

On ABC, “The Middle” brought in a 1.7 and 6.6 million viewers. “American Housewife” drew a 1.5 and 5.43 million viewers. “Fresh Off the Boat” dipped to a 1.1 and 3.85 million viewers »

- Oriana Schwindt

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‘Will & Grace’ Revival Given 10-Episode Order by NBC

1 hour ago

NBC has given a 10-episode order to a revival of comedy “Will & Grace,” the broadcaster announced Tuesday.

The limited series will reunite Emmy winners Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Sean Hayes, and Megan Mullally with series creators Max Mutchnick and David Kohan, who will serve as showrunners and executive producers. James Burrows, who directed the entire eight-season run of the original series, will serve as director and executive producer on the revival.

“We’re thrilled that one of the smartest, funniest, and most defining comedies in NBC history is coming back,” said NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt. “This groundbreaking series for everything from gay rights to social and political commentary — all disguised as a high-speed train of witty pop culture — is coming back where it belongs.”

NBC had been in discussions with the cast and creators since September, when they reunited to shoot a surprise 10-minute episode related to the presidential election.

Airing »

- Daniel Holloway

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‘The Walking Dead’ Producers Toned Down Violence After Season Premiere Backlash

1 hour ago

Miami — “The Walking Dead” producers toned down some of the violence in the first half of Season 7 after strong viewer backlash to a gruesome killing scene in the season opener.

Walking Dead” exec producer Gale Anne Hurd acknowledged Wednesday that the negative response to the bludgeon slayings of two key characters in the premiere prompted producers to make adjustments in episodes that were still in production at the time of the Oct. 23 season premiere.

“We were able to look at the feedback on the level of violence,” Hurd said during a panel session at the Natpe conference. “We did tone it down for episodes we were still filming for later on in the season.”

Hurd spoke on a panel with AMC Networks president-ceo Josh Sapan and “Fear the Walking Dead” star Colman Domingo, moderated by Michael Schneider, executive editor of Indiewire and editor at large for Variety.

The season premiere closed with a lengthy scene that featured »

- Cynthia Littleton

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Im Global TV to Sell Groundbreaking Arabic Legal Drama ‘Justice’

2 hours ago

Rome – Groundbreaking Abu Dhabi-set legal drama “Justice,” inspired by “L.A. Law” and written by Emmy Award-winning U.S. producer and writer William Finkelstein in collaboration with a local team, is set for a shot at global exposure.

Im Global Television has taken worldwide distribution rights to the Arabic TV series which is the first legal procedural out of the Middle East and the biggest TV show out of the United Arab Emirates.

“Justice” is financed by Image Nation Abu Dhabi, which is run by U.S. exec Michael Garin. It’s produced in tandem with Walter Parkes, whose L.A.-based Parkes/MacDonald Productions has a partnership with Image Nation. Another American, former HBO Europe drama chief Marc Lorber, served as showrunner. Dubai-based Beeline Media was the on-the-ground producer.

The show revolves around a strong female character named Farah, a Western-educated lawyer, played by Emirati actress Fatima Al Taei (pictured). Upon returning home to Abu Dhabi, Farah »

- Nick Vivarelli

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BBC Ranked as the World’s Most Prolific Producer of Content in 2016

2 hours ago

Paris – The BBC was the world’s leading producer of content in 2016, with more than 340 new programs produced, including “The Night Manager” and “The Hunt,” according to a survey unveiled by Eurodata TV Worldwide.

The BBC was followed by Endemol Shine, which produced, among other shows, “SuperKids” and the British adaptation of the Israeli series “The A Word,” while Zodiak/Banijay and Warner came third. ITV ranked fifth, according to Eurodata.

While the U.K. remained the second biggest (behind the U.S.) distributor of content worldwide last year, France ranked third thanks to popular shows like “Le bureau des legendes” and “Versailles.” Germany ranked fourth with formats such as “The Brain” or “Nation’s Brightest.” Germany is also producing more and more quality fiction drama such as Zdf’s “Rebel with a cause.”

Looking at trends in format sales, Eurodata identified North America, Scandinavia, the Middle East and Western Europe as hot spots accounting for 42% to »

- Elsa Keslassy

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‘Deadpool,’ ‘Jungle Book,’ ‘Fantastic Beasts’ Nominated for Publicists Award

2 hours ago

“Deadpool,” “Sausage Party,” “The Secret Life of Pets,” “The Jungle Book” and “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” have been nominated for the Maxwell Weinberg publicist showmanship motion picture award.

The Late Late Show with James Corden,” “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story,” “Speechless” and “This Is Us” received nominations for the TV award. Debra Birnbaum, Variety‘s executive editor of television, was nominated for the press award.

The International Cinematographers Guild will announce the winners at the 54th Annual Icg publicists awards luncheon to be held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Feb. 24. Honorees previously announced include Denzel Washington, Ryan Murphy, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Bwr founding partner Nanci Ryder.

View the full list of nominees below:

Les Mason award nominees:

– .Barbara Hannegan: senior publicist, Warner Bros. Pictures International

– .William Hendley: senior publicist of global publicity, Walt Disney Studios

– .Ernie Malik: unit publicist

– .Maureen O.Malley: senior publicist and project supervisor, Warner »

- Dave McNary

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LeBron James-Produced Game Show ‘The Wall’ Scores 20 More Episodes on NBC

3 hours ago

When LeBron James takes a shot, he generally doesn’t miss.

That’s the case this time, anyway, for the NBA superstar’s “The Wall” which earned 20 more episodes from NBC, the network announced on Wednesday. James exec produces the show with Maverick Carter, Andrew Glassman and host Chris Hardwick.

The game show centers around the titular wall — a four-story-tall pegboard. A team of two contestants must answer questions, and watch balls fall down and land in slots designated with different dollar amounts. The potential top prize is over $12 million.

“When we started ‘The Wall’ we wanted to create something that would get families excited and change peoples’ lives. Maverick and I couldn’t be more proud of the show’s early success and we want to keep building on that,” James said.

The Wall” is a collaboration between SpringHill Entertainment and Glassman Media. It was developed by Glassman Media in conjunction with Core Media and produced »

- Seth Kelley

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Deidre Brennan Will Take Reins at NBCUniversal’s Sprout

3 hours ago

NBCUniversal named Deirdre Brennan, a longtime producer of kids’ content for a variety of networks around the world, as the new general manger of Sprout, a cable network that has been trying to ramp up its own pipeline of original series.

Brennan will report to Frances Berwick, president of lifestyle networks at NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment.  She will oversee all aspects of Sprout’s programming, marketing, business strategy and performance. Sprout competes with other kids’ outlets, but aims predominantly for preschoolers – and the parents who watch TV with them.

“Sprout is evolving and growing rapidly as we reinvent our business model to an originals-driven brand, and I’m thrilled to have a leader with Deirdre’s unparalleled experience drive this growth phase,” said Berwick in a statement.

Brennan joins Sprout from Corus Entertainment, where she was vice president of content, overseeing the development, management and execution of the Corus Kids slate of programming, including »

- Brian Steinberg

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Watch Members of Seal Team Six in Action in History’s New Series ‘Six’ (Exclusive)

3 hours ago

History’s new drama “Six” doesn’t premiere until later tonight, but Variety has an exclusive clip of Walton Goggins and his band of Navy SEALs in action.

In the clip from tonight’s premiere, which you can watch above, troop commander Rip (Goggins) and the other SEALs in his unit attempt to figure out how to treat an injured woman who could also be a suicide bomber. Rip and his troops — Bear (Barry Sloane), Caulder (Kyle Schmid), Buddha (Juan-Pablo Raba), Chase (Edwin Hodge), Buck (Donny Boaz), and Fishbait (Jaylen Moore) — are tasked with some of the most dangerous missions in the military.

The “Muttaqi” that Rip refers to in the clip is the Osama bin Laden-esque mastermind whose actions have so unnerved Rip that he commits an act even his own men think is over the line, setting off a chain of events that will eventually lead to Rip’s kidnapping by Boko Haram. It »

- Oriana Schwindt

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New Station Group Giant Emerges as Nexstar, Media General Finalize $4.6 Billion Merger

4 hours ago

A station group colossus was born this week at a time when the most prominent local broadcasters are increasingly focused on using their scale to craft a new breed of regional networks.

The union of Irving, Texas-based Nexstar Broadcasting Group and Richmond, Va.-based Media General will bring together 171 stations that reach nearly 39% of U.S. TV households across 100 markets. Most of the stations are in markets below the top 25, giving renamed Nexstar Media Group heft in the heartland regions that have taken on new importance in the media world following the election of Donald Trump as president.

Nexstar and Media General had both been voracious buyers of TV stations during the past decade. Media General had been set to merge in 2015 with another company, TV station and magazine owner Meredith Corp., when Nexstar swooped in with a rival offer.

The addition of Media General’s 71 stations puts Nexstar in a league, in »

- Cynthia Littleton

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Natpe: Keshet Int’l Amps Up Latin American Biz

4 hours ago

Keshet International (Ki), the global distribution and production arm of Keshet Media Group, continues to ramp up its presence in Latin America with the sale of various properties to the region and the launch of Keshet Mx, its production office in Mexico City.

On the eve of Natpe, Ki has licensed its new social experiment format “Boxed” to Globo Brazil, the country’s leading television network, and kid’s music talent show “Master Class” to Teledoce (La Tele), Uruguay’s top free-to-air channel, making this the first original Ki format to be adapted for Uruguay audiences and the first ever Spanish-language version of the show. Produced in-house at Teledoce, the 26 x 90’ Uruguayan version will launch in late Spring; casting for the show is underway.

Underscoring its commitment to the region, Ki recently set up a production office in Mexico. “A lot of pan-regional programming throughout the Caribbean is produced in Mexico because it acts as a hub »

- Anna Marie de la Fuente

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Paramount Channel Latin America Gets Rights to Netflix’s ‘House of Cards,’ ‘Orange Is the New Black’ (Exclusive)

5 hours ago

Signalling a shift in programming strategy, Viacom’s Paramount Channel Latin America has snapped up exclusive pay TV rights to Netflix’s iconic award-winning shows “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black.”

“The idea is to start including TV series this year to what has been 100% movie programming since the channel’s launch two years ago,” said Federico Cuervo, Svp of Vimn Americas and Paramount Channel Brand Manager.

“The appetite for TV series in this ‘golden age’ of TV has grown,” he noted, adding: “They will greatly complement our movie programming.”

Aside from tapping Paramount Pictures’ 100+ year-old library and current crop of movies, Paramount Channel Latin America, a unit of Viacom International Media Networks, has featured films from other studios and indies. Starting in 2017, the channel will be offering up to 1,200 hours of content.

Paramount Channel is betting that not all its 25 million basic pay TV subscribers in the region have seen the game-changing series »

- Anna Marie de la Fuente

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In Super Bowl, First Ad May Not Be the Best

6 hours ago

One of the nation’s biggest Super Bowl advertisers is pulling its commercials away from the front of the line.

Anheuser-Busch InBev will for the second time in three years relinquish its hold on the first commercial slot in the Super Bowl, citing research showing that ads appearing later in the game fare better in the quest to command consumer attention. “We found that spot does not get the attention of other points in the game,” said Lisa Weser, a spokeswoman for the massive brewer, during a presentation to media on Tuesday.

In doing so, Anheuser is casting doubt on the importance of having pole position – a 30-second ad berth typically known as “1A” in Madison Avenue lingo – in one of the biggest annual media events in the United States. The company has long kicked off the marketing hoopla that surrounds the gridiron classic, which in recent years has typically commanded more than 110 million viewers.

A »

- Brian Steinberg

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Anheuser-Busch Says Super Bowl Beer Ads Will Get Back to Basics

6 hours ago

Anheuser-Busch will get rid of the slapstick antics and celebrity endorsements that have long been the hallmarks of its Super Bowl commercials in favor of a back-to-basics approach for some of its best known beer brands.

“Do not expect celebrities. Do not expect epic things,” said Marcel Marcondes, vice president of marketing at Anheuser-Busch, in remarks delivered at a media briefing Tuesday. The company is expected to use at least three minutes of commercial time during Fox’s February 5th broadcast of Super Bowl Li. Instead, Marcondes, said, consumers want “no bullshit” and “brands that stand for something strong.”

The brewer has been one of the Super Bowl’s most durable sponsors, having spent more than $520 million on the event over the past 35 years, according to Kantar, a tracker of ad spending. And the company serves as a sort of bellwether for the game: the tone it establishes tends to be the one that others follow. Fox »

- Brian Steinberg

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Natpe: DirecTV Closes Latin America on Studiocanal’s Harlan Coben Series ‘The Five’

6 hours ago

At&T’s DirecTV has secured Latin American distribution to Harlan Coben’s “The Five,” sold by top Euro TV-film group Studiocanal.

Created exclusively for TV by Coben, a nine-time No. 1 New York Times bestselling author,“The Five” will debut on OnDirecTV on March 27.

Produced for the U.K.’s Sky 1 by Nicola Shindler’s Manchester-based Red Production Company (“Happy Valley”), “The Five” follows on two other DirecTV acquisitions from Studiocanal – Europe-spanning crime-thriller “The Last Panthers,” and dramedy “Spotless” – as OnDirecTV, a Latin American premium pay TV entertainment channel, seeks to build audiences for an upscale mix of international series and movies, concerts and documentaries.

OnDirecTV has also essayed localisation in Latin America via its first Latin American original series, Argentine noir thriller “La Casa del Mar,” which was nominated for an International Emmy in 2016.

The DirecTV deal adds to sales pacts with Japan’s Wowow, where “The Five” will bow in February. It »

- John Hopewell

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Japan’s Nhk Picks Up Netflix’s ‘Hibana: Spark’

10 hours ago

In a first of its kind deal, Japanese public broadcaster Nhk will broadcast the Netflix original drama series “Hibana: Spark” starting in February. The 10 episodes about the struggles of a comedy duo, of 45 to 50 minutes each, will air on Sunday evenings.

A Netflix original series produced in collaboration with the Yoshimoto Kogyo talent agency and Dentsu Digital Holdings, “Hibana: Spark” debuted in June last year. Based on a prize-winning bestseller by comedian Matayoshi Naoki and made under the supervision of veteran director Ryuichi Hiroki (“Kabukicho Love Hotel”,) the series was simultaneously streamed in 190 countries and territories.

Netflix has made the Japanese market a priority, offering a range of programming targeted at local viewers, though millions of overseas fans also stream the more popular Japanese shows. Among Netflix’s Japan-produced titles are: “Terrace House: Boys & Girls in the City” and its follow-up “Terrace House: Aloha State,” and drama series “Atelier,” “Good Morning Call »

- Mark Schilling

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TV Review: ‘Six’ on History

13 hours ago

Six,” History’s scripted drama about special-forces soldiers, has a lot in common with its characters, who often have a clarity of purpose in the field that they struggle to find in other arenas. The show’s directors are adept at shooting action, and when the men of Seal Team Six are on missions and in other high-risk situations, their motivations and actions are usually rendered with taut energy and fluid economy.

It’s when the narrative returns to the home front, or laboriously stitches together its overarching terrorism plot, that the show feels most predictable. Just as several of the soldiers excel in the field even as they flounder in their personal lives, “Six” works best as a portrait of military camaraderie and the cohesiveness of a unit under pressure. When it’s observing the rituals and training processes that turn these men into the warrior elite, or depicting the fraying of the tight-knit team’s »

- Maureen Ryan

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