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11 items from 2007

'Savages,' 'Wild,' 'Blood' make AFI top 10

17 December 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Lending its imprimatur to the tradition of the year-end 10-best list on Sunday, the American Film Institute announced its eighth annual list of the 10 most outstanding motion pictures and TV programs of 2007.

The films earning the AFI's seal of approval are Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Into the Wild, Juno, Knocked Up, Michael Clayton, No Country for Old Men, Ratatouille, The Savages and There Will Be Blood.

The awards are reserved for narrative features with significant creative and/or production elements from the United States, although the films need not be presented in English as was the case with the French-language Diving Bell.

The designated TV programs are Dexter, Everybody Hates Chris, Friday Night Lights, Longford, Mad Men, Pushing Daisies, The Sopranos, Tell Me You Love Me, 30 Rock and Ugly Betty. Dexter and Friday Night Lights also earned a spot on the AFI's 2006 list.

The awards, which will be officially presented at a luncheon on Jan. 11 at The Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles, recognize the entire creative ensemble behind each film or TV show.

For the second consecutive year, Hewlett-Packard, which sponsors the awards, has created 20 scholarships, one for each honoree, to the AFI Conservatory. »

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Fox group adds 'Chris' for syndication

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

The Fox-owned station group picked up syndication rights to The CW comedy series Everybody Hates Chris in several markets, including New York and Los Angeles, sources said.

The stations group is expected to slot the show on its MyNetworkTV affiliates in the markets for which it secured the rights. The repeats run is slated to begin with the 2009-10 television season. The deals are the first to close among a handful in the first round of sales for the show, which is narrated by Chris Rock. Representatives from CBS TV Distribution, which distributes Chris, and Fox stations both declined to comment Tuesday. »

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Cedric pilot inserts Hall in the family

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

Regina Hall has been tapped to star opposite Cedric the Entertainer in the comedian's family pilot for ABC. Ken Whittingham has come aboard to direct the pilot, which is produced by ABC Studios.

The multicamera project centers on a family man (Cedric) who has always been the proud breadwinner and has difficulty adjusting when his wife's (Hall) hobby turns into a multimillion-dollar enterprise.

Hall, who co-starred on Fox's Ally McBeal, has appeared in such features as The Honeymooners and the Scary Movie franchise.

The Cedric comedy marks Whittingham's first pilot. The helmer, who has directed episodes of Entourage, The Office and Everybody Hates Chris, is repped by CAA. »

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'Family-friendly' TV milestones

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

NBC dramas Chuck and The Bionic Woman and the CW drama Life Is Wild are the upcoming primetime series that have earned the seal of approval from the Family Friendly Programming Forum, which is marking two milestones in the fall.

The 2007-08 season will mark the first time ever that the FFPF -- a coalition of blue-chip advertisers that helps fund the development of family-oriented programming for the broadcast networks -- has secured at least one family-friendly programming option in primetime each night of the week (with the exclusion of the low-rated Saturday night, where the networks generally tend to air newsmagazines and repeats).

In addition, the upcoming season will feature more shows funded through the FFPF's Script Development Fund than in any season since the coalition was founded in 1998. The eight FFPF-supported series that will be on the broadcast networks' schedules next season is three more than the previous high of five. They include five returning shows: ABC's Ugly Betty, Brothers & Sisters and Notes From the Underbelly; NBC's Friday Night Lights; and CW's Everybody Hates Chris.

"We're pretty proud (of having a show on Sunday-Friday nights)," said Pat Gentile, national TV programming manager at the Procter & Gamble Co., which is part of the FFPF. »

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CW slates heavy dose of reality

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

The CW is loading its schedule with unscripted fare for next season.

Hits America's Next Top Model and Beauty and the Geek will both be on in the fall, along with new entries CW Now and Online Nation.

Three more reality series are on deck for midseason: a second season of The Pussycat Dolls Present as well as the mother-daughter beauty contest Crowned and the dating show Farmer Wants a Wife. Also waiting in the wings for midseason is the veteran teen drama One Tree Hill.

Along with CW Now and Online Nation (previously User-Generated Show), the CW will introduce four new scripted series next season: the dramas Gossip Girl, Reaper and a South Africa-set project and the comedy Aliens in America.

Model and Beauty will be used as launching pads for new scripted series.

The Tyra Banks-hosted Model is expected to stay put at 8 p.m. Wednesday, followed by hot scripted newcomer Gossip, a new teen drama from The O.C. creator Josh Schwartz.

Beauty, which alternated with Model in the 8 p.m. Wednesday hour this season, will now get its own time slot. It will anchor Tuesday night at 8 p.m., succeeding Gilmore Girls and leading into quirky new dramedy Reaper.

With the pickup of the single-camera comedy Aliens, the CW's Monday comedy block would feature Everybody Hates Chris, followed by Aliens, Girlfriends and The Game.

Thursdays and Fridays are expected to stay status quo with the sci-fi combo of Smallville/Supernatural and Friday Night SmackDown! respectively. »

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BET series slate stays close to script

19 April 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

BET is set to launch its first original scripted series, a comedy from The Bernie Mac Show executive producers Pete Aronson and Warren Hutcherson that is based on writer-director Hadjii's indie film Somebodies.

The network also has greenlighted an animated sketch comedy series titled Bufu from Orlando Jones (MadTV) and Ali LeRoi (Everybody Hates Chris) and another animated series from Will Smith and James Lassiter's Overbrook Entertainment. All three shows are part of a slate of primetime originals announced Wednesday by BET chairman and CEO Debra Lee and president of entertainment Reginald Hudlin at the network's upfront presentation to advertisers at New York's Manhattan Center Studios.

Lee noted that BET is making its "biggest investment ever in original programming and digital entertainment," while Hudlin pointed to the diversity of the slate, which also includes reality and biography, sports and inspirational-themed series.

"We've never had as diverse an array of original programming all dedicated to black culture," he said in an interview. "Almost every category of television show is represented on our slate this year."

Somebodies, which is premiering in the fall, is set in Athens, Ga., and focuses on a group of black slackers as they transition from college to career. »

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Bridges: "I'm Alive"

29 March 2007 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Actor Todd Bridges was shocked to discover he had "died" - and spent Tuesday reassuring friends and family he was alive. The 41-year-old Everybody Hates Chris star found himself the subject of a death scare when his name was confused with Shawn Bridges, a former drug-addicted truck driver who recently died after a long illness. But the star insists he is alive and well - despite making "breaking news" on a gossip website after "dying" of a drug-related ailment. He tells US magazine People, "There were all these calls about it, and for a half an hour no one could reach me. I was in (electronics store) Fry's shopping and I had my cell phone on silent. I am just glad that my kid never heard it." »

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CBS pickup leaves Biggs stuck in 'Hell'

15 March 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

CBS has given a late pilot pickup to I'm in Hell, a single-camera comedy starring Jason Biggs.

The project, from CBS Paramount Network TV, centers on a high-flying Wall Street Guy Biggs) who dies in a BlackBerry-related car crash. Because hell is at full capacity, he is reassigned to "hell on Earth." He is stripped of his career, his fancy apartment and the fabulous trappings of his former existence and must figure out a way to get by.

Aron Abrams and Greg Thompson (Everybody Hates Chris) penned the script and are executive producing. Biggs and his manager Peter Kiernan are producing.

Biggs, whose starmaking turn in the American Pie movies made him a household name, had been actively pursued to do pilots in the past few years. If Hell goes to series, Biggs will be on the same network as his "Pie" co-star Alyson Hannigan, who is on CBS' How I Met Your Mother.

CBS has been high on resurrection concepts this pilot season. The network's one-hour pilot Babylon Fields is a comedic drama about a town where the dead come back to resume their lives. »

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Comedian Richard Jeni Dies in Apparent Suicide

12 March 2007 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Comedian Richard Jeni, who appeared frequently on the Tonight show and headlined a number of HBO comedy specials, died Saturday in Los Angeles in what appeared to be a suicide; he was 49. Jeni died of a gunshot wound to the head, an hour after police responded to a 911 call from the comedian's girlfriend and he was rushed to Cedars-Sinai Hospital. A final confirmation of suicide was still pending Monday morning, after further investigation of the incident and an autopsy. Born Richard John Colangelo in Brooklyn, Jeni found national fame in 1990 with his first Showtime cable TV special, The Boy From New York City, which won three Cable ACE awards. He followed up two years later with Crazy From the Heat, which became Showtime's highest-rated comedy stand-up show at the time. In 1992, Jeni moved from Showtime to HBO, starring in Platypus Man, a special which won another Cable ACE award and nabbed him a sitcom deal with the fledgling UPN network. In the early 90s Jeni also began making numerous appearances on the Tonight show, first with Johnny Carson and then with Jay Leno hosting, and toured nationally with his stand-up act. In addition to his stand-up comedy work, Jeni appeared in a number of films, including The Mask alongside Jim Carrey and the recent documentary The Aristocrats. A friend of comedian Chris Rock, Jeni also appeared on Rock's UPN sitcom Everyone Hates Chris and wrote material for Rock's hosting job for the 2005 Academy Awards; his most recent TV special was A Big Steaming Pile of Me, which aired in 2005 on HBO. --Mark Englehart, IMDb staff »

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VH1, BET to share 'Wifey' series

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

VH1 and BET have found a show they want to split in hopes of a hit.

In an unprecedented collaboration between a pair of TV networks, the Viacom-owned duo are jointly developing a scripted-series pilot that, if picked up, would air in the same time slot on both channels throughout its first season. VH1 and BET are evenly dividing production costs.

The cable networks have ordered a one-hour pilot that will count Queen Latifah as one of its executive producers under auspices of her production company, Flavor Unit. Production will begin in March on Wifey, a drama set inside the hip-hop music business.

The first-of-its-kind arrangement reflects a newfound flexibility in the TV industry to bend existing business models, particularly in cable, where the pressure is acute to add viewers without breaking the bank.

With a budget sources peg at less than $2 million per episode, Wifey carries obvious risks, not the least of which is that one network will become a much bigger draw and weaken its partner. But if the series makes it to air and finds an audience on two fronts, it could call into question the conventional wisdom on programming strategy and branding.

"This is absolutely an experiment, a gamble," said Michael Hirschorn, executive vp original programing and production at VH1. "These kind of seemingly counterintuitive leaps are the kind of leaps linear networks need to make these days."

In another unusual twist, the pilot will be directed by the president of entertainment at BET, Reginald Hudlin, who was known primarily as a helmer for both film (House Party) and TV (Everybody Hates Chris) before joining the channel more than two years ago.

"It was a hugely important priority for us because I like scripted shows and there was a huge audience demand for scripted programming on the network," Hudlin said.

The rationale for putting one show on two networks is to maximize its exposure in an increasingly cluttered media landscape while minimizing the financial blow should it fail to catch on.

While the channels would synchronize premiere airdates of Wifey, they still would be free to repeat episodes independent of each other's schedules.

Both channels have dabbled in shared programming ventures with other partners before but never to the point of simultaneous airings. In 2003, BET and Oxygen co-financed production on an animated series, Hey Monie, but its runs were separated by several months. Last year, VH1 and Sundance Channel shared a four-part documentary, The Drug Years, but the latter channel aired the program four days after VH1's premiere.

The BET-VH1 collaboration also marks the first between an MTV Networks asset and BET, which largely has operated as a separate fiefdom despite their common corporate parentage. »

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CW picks up 'Chris' for fall

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

The CW has made its first series pickup for fall, giving an early full-season order to the sophomore comedy Everybody Hates Chris.

The announcement is set to be made today at CW's portion of the Television Critics Assn. winter press tour in Pasadena.

"Under the creative guidance of Chris Rock and Ali LeRoi and performances from an incredibly talented cast, 'Everybody Hates Chris' has consistently proven itself to be one of the best comedies on television," CW entertainment president Dawn Ostroff said. "Producing one great episode after another, this is a show that we want viewers to associate with the CW."

Created by Rock and LeRoi and narrated by Rock, Chris is inspired by the comedian's childhood experiences growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y., during the early 1980s. Tyler James Williams stars as Rock.

Chris is a production of CBS Paramount Network Television Inc. in association with Chris Rock Enterprises Inc. and 3 Arts Entertainment.

Chris launched on UPN as one of the most buzzworthy new series of the 2005-06 season. »

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11 items from 2007

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