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Darrell Hammond Rejoins ‘Saturday Night Live’ As Announcer

1 hour ago

The new “voice” of “Saturday Night Live” is going to have a familiar tone.

Darrell Hammond, the versatile impressionist who held forth on the program between 1995 and 2009 – the longest tenure of any cast member on the show – will return to the venerable program as its announcer, Hammond and show executive producer Lorne Michaels said in interviews with USA Today and The New York Times. He will replace Don Pardo, the program’s longtime announcer who passed away in August.

Hammond has some familiarity with his new duties. He has at times quietly substituted for Pardo when he had voice problems, according to the reports.

Michaels told USA Today that Hammond would not replicate Pardo’s voice, but would come up with his own take on the role. “”I just knew it wouldn’t be anybody who sounded like Don or replicated him,” Michaels told the media outlet. “It can’t be what it was, »


- Brian Steinberg

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MTV and Logo TV to Air ‘Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word’

1 hour ago

Orange is the New Black’s” Laverne Cox is getting the word out about transgender youth.

Working with MTV and Logo TV, which will simultaneously premiere the special, the actress and transgender advocate will host and produce “Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word” at 7 p.m. on Oct. 17, coinciding with Lgbt Spirit Day on Oct. 16.

The hour-long documentary will look at seven transgender youth from across the country and their determination to lead their lives as the people they are meant to be. The film examines the struggles of coming out, bullying, and anti-transgender violence for the youth as well as the intersection of transgender identities and race in their lives.

“For many of us, the ‘T’ in Lgbt means more than transgender, it also means truth,” said Cox. “The cast members in this documentary are fearlessly living their truths and in sharing their stories will send the message to »


- Kevin Noonan

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Warner Bros. Expected to Cut as Many as 1,000 Jobs (Exclusive)

11 hours ago

Warner Bros. Entertainment is expected to cut as many as 900 to 1,000 jobs worldwide as part of a studio-wide cost-cutting move, according to people familiar with the company’s plans. The estimated reductions would amount to more than 10% of the studio’s 9,000-person workforce.

The cuts will be made in late October or early November.

Senior managers are currently assessing their businesses to come up with ways to trim overhead. Only at the end of that process will an exact reduction figure be known. It could be somewhat lower than the current numbers being speculated, but cuts are expected to be substantial.

“There is no head count target or percentage reduction target,” said Dee Dee Myers, Warner Bros.’ new executive vice president of corporate communications. “This is a budget issue, not a head count issue,” she added.

In a Sept. 4 memo to staff, Warner CEO Kevin Tsujihara warned that layoffs were »


- Claudia Eller and Stuart Oldham

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Below the Line Bookings

12 hours ago

Sandra Marsh & Assoc. has booked d.p. Sean Bobbit (“12 Years a Slave”) (pictured middle) on Steve McQueen’s untitled HBO pilot; costume designer Sharen Davis (”Get On Up”) on J Blakeson’s “The Fifth Wave”; production designers William O. Hunter (art director on “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”) on Michael Carney’s “Same Kind of Different as Me” and Charles Wood (“Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Avengers: Age of Ultron”) on Scott Derrickson’s “Dr. Strange” for Marvel Studios; special effects supervisor Chris Reynolds (“The World’s End”) on Burr Steers’ “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”; and assistant director Steve Andrews (“The Bourne Legacy) on James Vanderbilt’s “Truth.”

Dattner Dispoto has booked d.p.’s Robert Gantz (“White Collar”) on Jean-Francois Richet’s “Un moment d’egarement,” David Moxness (“Graceland”) on ABC’s “Forever,” Jim Hawkinson (“Hannibal”) on SyFy’s “The Man in the High Castle” pilot and »


- Peter Caranicas

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David G.B. Brown, ‘Scarecrow and Mrs. King’ Writer, Dies at 67

13 hours ago

David G.B. Brown, a TV writer who wrote episodes of “Scarecrow and Mrs. King,” as well as “Hunter,” “Max Headroom” and “Lovejoy,” died September 6. He was 67.

Brown penned seven episodes of the CBS spy dramedy “Scarecrow and Mrs. King,” which starred Kate Jackson and Bruce Boxleitner.

His first screen credit was for writing an episode of “Alice” spinoff “Flo” in 1981.

He was also story editor and wrote seven of the 11 episodes of “Code Red,” a fire department-themed show that starred Lorne Greene and Andrew Stevens and ran briefly in 1981-82.

Brown also penned an episode of “Tales of the Golden Monkey” in 1983.

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- Carmel Dagan

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Lee Madddux, Writer on ‘Night Court,’ Dies at 68

13 hours ago

Lee Maddux, a television writer who did stints as executive story consultant for the NBC sitcom “Night Court” and the CBS spy dramedy “Scarecrow and Mrs. King,” died on September 9. He was 68.

Maddux served as executive story consultant on “Scarecrow” for 31 episodes from 1985-87 (also writing seven episodes) and for “Night Court” for 22 episodes in 1991-92.

He was credited as co-producer on 13 episodes of “In the Heat of the Night” and penned three episodes.

Maddux also wrote episodes of “Benson,” “Simon & Simon,” “Crime Story,” “Hunter” and “MacGyver.”

In 1999 he penned “The Coronation,” a German-language short that spoofed film noir. In 2002, still working in German, he penned a series, the animated Western spoof “WinneToons”; it was followed by (still German) the short “Fuck Me? Fuck You!,” and then a feature version of “WinneToons,” “WinneToons – Die Legende vom Schatz im Silbersee,” which he co-wrote.

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- Carmel Dagan

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Zach Gilford Joins Jennifer Carpenter in USA’s ‘Stanistan’ Pilot

13 hours ago

Zach Gilford (“Friday Night Lights”) and Jonathan Cake (“Desperate Housewives”) have joined the cast of the USA pilot “Stanistan.”

Starring Jennifer Carpenter (“Dexter”), the drama follows the staff of an American compound in the fictional country of Stanistan — including State Department workers, covert CIA operatives and journalists.

Gilford will play Phillip Guthrey, an infrastructure manager for Usaid who secretly pines for his best friend: Carpenter’s character, Marcie. Cake will play Greg Weir, a suave and fearless on-air foreign correspondent. He is having a complicated affair with Marcie and his quest to uncover the real story in war-torn Stanistan will put him and his relationship in danger.

“Stanistan” is produced by Universal Cable Productions, and is one of three upcoming pilots announced by USA, including “Colony” from Carlton Cuse and “Mr. Robot” from Anonymous Content.

Gilford is repped by William Morris Endeavor. Cake is repped by Larry Taube at Principal and Brad Schenck at Paradigm. »


- Kevin Noonan

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Buster Jones, Voice Actor on ‘Super Friends,’ Dies at 71

14 hours ago

Buster Jones, an actor on Hanna-Barbera’s “Super Friends” cartoon, which ran on ABC on Saturday mornings fr0m 1973-76, died on Sept. 16 in North Hollywood, Calif. He was 71.

He is probably best known from his role as Black Vulcan in “Super Friends” (the 1980-2 version, which was the fifth incarnation of the series).

The actor also played Blaster in “The Transformers,” Doc in “G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero” and Winston Zeddemore in “The Real Ghostbusters” (subbing in for Arsenio Hall) and later in “Extreme Ghostbusters.”

While “Super Friends” featured the superheroes of the DC comicbook world, Jones’ character Black Vulcan was a creation of Hanna-Barbera.

Edward L. “Buster” Jones was born in Paris, Tennessee. “I got out of Paris by playing music,” he told Marc Tyler Nobleman in a 2011 interview.

Jones went to Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee, then played in a series of bands, including in London. »


- Carmel Dagan

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‘Marry Me,’ A to Z’ Promise Heartfelt Laughs and Romance at NBC Premiere Party

14 hours ago

NBC’s rom-coms ruled the carpet at the network’s Tuesday premiere party, sponsored by Vanity Fair, at Hollywood’s Hyde as the casts of “Marry Me” and “A to Z” buzzed with excitement for the premieres of their shows.

“It’s been so great,” exclaimed “Marry Me’s” Casey Wilson of working on the laffer. The Tuesday night comedy stars Wilson and Ken Marino as they navigate the process of getting engaged and making it to the altar. But the show is not just about getting married, said Wilson.

“I think we’re also just taking relationship stories and blowing them out and making them really funny,” she told Variety, teasing that upcoming stories include a “Bride Wars”-esque encounter with Dan Bucatinsky, who plays one of Wilson’s fathers, and the couple attempting an open-eyed cuddle – an exercise that Wilson learned in acting school.

“I did it with »


- Shelli Weinstein

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Discovery To Take Control Of Kiddie-Focused Hub Cable Outlet: Report

16 hours ago

Discovery Communications and toymaker Hasbro will rework their ownership of cable’s kid-focused Hub outlet so that Discovery will take more control of the property and rework it into a broader outlet focused on family entertainment, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

The report said Discovery would take a controlling interest in the property, which had been a joint venture, leaving Hasbro with a smaller stake and the ability to control six hours of programming during the day, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The news outlet cited “people close to the talks” as the source of the information.

The two companies are in negotiations, according to a person familiar with the situation, but have yet to finalize a deal.

“We don’t comment on speculation,” said Julie Duffy, a Hasbro spokeswoman, via email.  ” Discovery and Hasbro have enjoyed a successful relationship over the past four years »


- Brian Steinberg

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‘Red Band Society': Octavia Spencer and Dave Annable Preview Fox’s Teen Dramedy

17 hours ago

Fox’s “Red Band Society” has already drawn comparisons to “Glee,” “The Breakfast Club” and “My So-Called Life,” but the show’s stars believe this is a story unlike anything viewers have seen before. The series, created by Margaret Nagle and produced by Steven Spielberg, focuses on the young inhabitants of a hospital’s pediatric ward and the staff members who often serve as their teachers, mentors and surrogate parents, in addition to overseeing their medical care.

Variety sat down with “Red Band” stars Octavia Spencer and Dave Annable at the Television Critics Assn. summer press tour to learn more about their characters (Spencer plays the no-nonsense Nurse Jackson, and Annable plays Dr. Jack McAndrew, the country’s top pediatric surgeon) as well as their experiences working on the dramedy, which premieres tonight at 9 p.m. on Fox.

What primarily attracted you to the project?

Octavia Spencer: I know »


- Laura Prudom

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Gov. Jerry Brown Sets Ceremony to Sign Movie, TV Tax Credit Bill

17 hours ago

Gov. Jerry Brown will sign the legislation to extend and expand California’s movie and TV tax credit, more than tripling its size to $330 million annually.

Ceremonies have been set for Thursday morning at Tcl Chinese Theater. Mayor Eric Garcetti and the bill’s principal co-authors, Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra and Assemblyman Mike Gatto, are set to attend.

Brown reached a deal with legislative leaders on Aug. 27, setting a $330 million annual outlay that’s less than the $400 million-per-year sought by Bocanegra and Gatto. But it’s a massive improvement from the $100 million per year currently awarded in California tax credits.

The deal reached between Brown and Senate and Assembly leaders also extends the program through 2019-20, an additional year beyond the latest version of the legislation. The new program would start in fiscal year 2015-16.

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- Dave McNary

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Survey: 81% of TV Directors Are White, Only 14% Are Female

18 hours ago

Minorities and women haven’t achieved significant progress in directing series TV, according to a survey from the Directors Guild of America, with Caucasian directors accounting for 81% of all primetime episodes while female directors were hired on only 14% during the past season.

The DGA survey covers more than 3,500 episodes and includes broadcast, basic cable, premium cable, and high budget original content series made for the Internet.

The report also showed that Caucasian males directed 69% of all episodes; minority males directed 17%; Caucasian females directed 12% and minority females directed 2% of all episodes.

The 14% figure for female directors matches the number for the 2012-13 season.

“Unfortunately, it can be shockingly difficult to convince the people who control hiring to make even small improvements to their hiring practices,” said DGA president Paris Barclay. “But the end result is something worth fighting for. This should matter to all of us, as a culture, as an industry, »


- Dave McNary

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CBS Shifts Ratings Focus to Live Plus 7, Adding Projections to Daily Reports

18 hours ago

CBS aims to accelerate the industry’s shift to Live Plus 7 as the standard metric for evaluating the performance of primetime series. The Eye said Wednesday it will add projected Live Plus 7 numbers to its daily overnight ratings reports as of next week, which marks the official start of the 2014-15 season and the rollout of the bulk of CBS’ fall slate.

The move is meant to be a statement to the TV biz and to advertisers that L7 ratings (and their C7 commercial ratings counterpart) should be seen as the new normal, given the vast growth of time-shifted viewing. Live Plus 7 ratings reflect viewing done via DVR and VOD within seven days of a telecast’s linear premiere. For a host of complicated reasons, L7 numbers do not include most streaming activity other than live streaming of network programming done on a smartphone or tablet within the confines of the viewer’s home. »


- Cynthia Littleton

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Ratings: ‘Talent’ Tops Tuesday; ‘New Girl’ Down From Last Year, Up Vs. Finale

18 hours ago

On paper, Fox’s “New Girl” got off to a rocky start in its fourth season premiere, down 45% from last season’s opener — but when compared to where the show left off (1.2 in adults 18-49 and 2.4 million in total viewers for its third season finale), the Zooey Deschanel comedy posted gains, scoring a 1.6 rating and 3.1 million total viewers. Whether it can improve those numbers once DVR viewing is factored in remains to be seen, but given the show’s audience erosion last season, it’s likely heartening for execs that fans were curious enough to give the laffer a second chance after a creatively uneven year.

Lead-out “The Mindy Project” told a similar story, posting a 1.3 in 18-49 (down from last year’s 1.9 premiere, but even with its season three finale). In total viewers, the Mindy Kaling series was up a tick from its most recent finale, with 2.8 million vs. »


- Laura Prudom

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TNT Locks Down Next Five Marvel Movies Starting With ‘The Avengers: Age of Ultron’

19 hours ago

TNT has locked down the commercial TV rights to Marvel Studios’ next five movies, beginning with “The Avengers: Age of Ultron.” Marvel’s movies had previously aired on cabler FX since 2008.

The new slate of Marvel films, which also include the third “Captain America,” will become available on TNT two years after their theatrical release.

“Marvel’s brand of entertainment is a thrill ride for audiences, and we’re excited to be adding their next five blockbusters to TNT’s arsenal of high-quality genre fare,” said Deborah Bradley, senior VP, head of program acquisitions, content strategy and licensing for Turner Broadcasting System. “These movies will play a key role in TNT’s long-term success, especially among key adult demos.”

See Also: How Marvel’s Success Will Help ‘Star Wars

Disney releases “Age of Ultron” on May 1, 2015, with the film reuniting Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Black Widow, »


- Marc Graser

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Beyond ‘The Walking Dead': Mining Darker Comics to Find a Hit

19 hours ago

Contrary to what broadcast television’s fall schedules might suggest, the revamped trend of using comicbooks as source material for TV shows has been hot for a while — even if the brains behind the networks’ programming slates have a hard time remembering that.

“It’s funny — if you talk to the people at the networks, they constantly forget that ‘The Walking Dead’ is based on a comicbook,” David Goyer, exec producer of NBC’s upcoming “Constantine” says of the hit AMC series. “I mean, constantly. ‘The Walking Dead’ is the most successful show on television, bar network, bar anything. That’s a massive statement.”

That’s because the highly rated zombie apocalypse drama, which is an adaptation of scribe Robert Kirkman’s Image Comics series, doesn’t feel like it came from a one-dimensional medium, argues comicbook author and “Batman: The Animated Series” alum Joe Lansdale — at least not in the stereotypical sense. »


- Whitney Friedlander

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Why Martial Arts Might Be the Next Big TV Trend

19 hours ago

Forget kryptonite. The real killer for the superhero TV genre might be oversaturation.

Geoff Johns, Cco of DC Entertainment, is aware of this risk and is battling it through a diversification plan. This fall, the Warner Bros.-backed company will have four shows on three networks. It also has a fifth, the quirky, femme-skewing “iZombie,” in the warmer for the midseason on the CW.

“We’re creating this DC Universe world and introducing these DC heroes that we haven’t even gotten to talk about yet,” Johns says. “If you look at the shows we’re developing this season with Warner Brothers and all the networks, you can see they are all very different… Diversity in the properties and the tones and the shows is really important because there’s a huge audience out there and we want to have stuff for everybody. That goes from film to comics to games to TV shows. »


- Whitney Friedlander

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Meet the Comicbook Heroes Battling for Control of Fall TV

19 hours ago

Every summer tells the same story: superheroes reign supreme at the global box office, with studios churning out sequel after reboot after prequel to capitalize on pop culture’s hottest trend. This year’s undisputed champion is Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy,” which has raked in over $300 million domestically to date.

But while Marvel continues to dominate the big screen, rival publisher DC Comics is poised for a small screen coup. This fall, DC and Warner Bros. Television have three hotly anticipated comicbook properties slated to hit the air: the CW’s “Arrow” spinoff “The Flash”; NBC’s darker “Constantine” and Fox’s Batman prequel series “Gotham,” with CW procedural “iZombie” on deck for midseason. Looking ahead to next season, TNT is also nearing a pilot production order for “Titans,” a one-hour drama that will focus on DC’s younger heroes, while Fox just gave a put pilot production »


- Laura Prudom and Whitney Friedlander

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MSNBC’s Program Lineup Needs a Liberal Makeover

19 hours ago

Memo To Phil Griffin:

For several years now your liberal bastion, MSNBC, has been assuring us that it’s resolutely “leaning forward,” but slogans can be dangerous — especially for a news operation that appears to be listing backward.

These are exciting times in the news business, with headlines popping around the world, elections looming in the U.S. and most news organizations shuffling staffs and schedules. Yet NBC News president Deborah Turness, fresh from the U.K.’s ITV, suggested the other day that some segments of the news business had “gone to sleep.”

I don’t know which operation she was referring to, but here’s some wake-up news, Phil. Your ratings are lousy, and your pundits seem bored by their own pontification. Two of your most dynamic newsies, Chuck Todd and Joe Scarborough, apparently are taking refuge at your parent network.

The bottom line, Phil, is that »


- Peter Bart

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