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History Orders Scripted UFO Drama From Ep Robert Zemeckis Straight to Series

22 minutes ago

History has ordered a 10-episode scripted drama from executive producer Robert Zemeckis straight to series, Variety has learned.

Currently titled “Blue Book,” the series chronicles the real top secret United States Air Force-sponsored investigations into UFO-related phenomena in the 1950s and ’60s known as Project Blue Book. It will focus on college professor Dr. J. Allen Hynek, who is recruited by the military to spearhead the project.

“Rarely have I been associated with a project that is a perfect fusion of historical fact and extraordinary entertainment,” said Zemeckis. “We are grateful for A+E Studios and History’s support for what I know will be a fabulous series.”

“Blue Book” is an A+E Studios production in association with Compari Entertainment, a division of ImageMovers. David O’Leary serves as creator and writer. Arturo Interian is the executive in charge of production for History. Zemeckis, Jack Rapke, and Jackie Levine are executive producers for Compari Entertainment. Rapke »


- Joe Otterson

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NBC Pushes ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ Live Musical to 2018

53 minutes ago

NBC has delayed its plan produce “Bye Bye Birdie” toplined by Jennifer Lopez as live musical until next year.

The tuner had been set to air as NBC’s holiday musical event this year. The decision to push it a year was driven by Lopez’s overflowing schedule, which includes two series for NBC, “World of Dance” and the drama “Shades of Blue.”

The postponement of “Birdie” means NBC will not stage a musical event this holiday season. Earlier this month, NBC unveiled plans for a “Jesus Christ Superstar Live” event to air on Easter Sunday next year. That project will be shepherded by Craig Zedon and Neil Meron, the pair behind all of NBC’s live musical events to date. Given the high cost of the one-night-only live events, it was unlikely that NBC could field “Superstar” just a few months after staging “Birdie,” had the show stayed on its original date, and »


- Cynthia Littleton

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‘Veep,’ ‘Silicon Valley’ Renewed by HBO

1 hour ago

HBO has renewed comedy series “Veep” and “Silicon Valley.” The new seasons for both shows will premiere in 2018.

Currently in its fourth season, “Silicon Valley” has been nominated for 21 Primetime Emmy Awards and won two. The series, about a startup set in the cradle of the tech industry, stars Thomas MiddleditchT.J. Miller, Zach Woods, Kumail Nanjiani, Martin Starr, Josh Brener, Amanda Crew, Matt Ross, Jimmy O. Yang and Suzanne Cryer. Created by Mike Judge, John Altschuler, and Dave Krinsky, the series is executive produced by Judge, Alec Berg, Michael Rotenberg, and Tom Lassally.

In its sixth season, “Veep” is the winner of 12 Primetime Emmy Awards. The series stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the former vice president and president of the United States. Tony Hale, Anna Chlumsky, Matt Walsh, Reid Scott, Timothy Simons, Kevin Dunn, Gary Cole, and Sam Richardson also star. Created by Armando Iannucci, the series is executive produced  by David Mandel, Frank Rich »


- Daniel Holloway

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‘Speechless’ Actor Micah Fowler Wants to Play a ‘Star Wars’ Villain

1 hour ago

Micah Fowler, who first appeared in the 2013 movie “Labor Day,” stars in ABC’s “Speechless,” a dramedy about a young man with special needs and the way his family members relate to one another and the outside world. Fowler, who has cerebral palsy, was cast in the series based on his audition tape.

You’ve given voice to a huge demographic. Was that a factor in pursuing acting?

I pursued acting because I really enjoy it. I never imagined the response the role would generate and how my portrayal could impact lives. But wow, has it ever been amazing, both from the able-bodied community and from the special needs community. The hundreds of messages I’ve gotten on social media mentioning how this show has changed lives has been astonishing. It’s renewed dreams and given hope to people navigating life with a disability and given new perspective to those not directly affected with a disability. I »


- Dani Levy

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Playback: Geoffrey Rush on 14 Years of ‘Pirates’ and Tackling Einstein in ‘Genius’

1 hour ago

Welcome to “Playback,” a Variety podcast bringing you exclusive conversations with the talents behind many of today’s hottest films.

The summer movie season is in full swing and next on the list of massive Hollywood extravaganzas is Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.” The franchise, which debuted to considerable skepticism in the summer of 2003 as there was no successful pirate genre to speak of, has gone on to become one of the biggest successes for the studio. Five movies deep and it’s still raking in billions of dollars.

Actor Geoffrey Rush has been along for the ride every step of the way as Captain Hector Barbossa, and without giving much away, he’s able to put something of a period on his work in the series with the new film. There’s obviously something big and robust and Baroque about playing a pirate, and »


- Kristopher Tapley

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‘Nashville’ Midseason Trailer Previews Life After Rayna (Watch)

2 hours ago

In anticipation of the return of “Nashville,” Cmt released an all-new trailer for the second half of Season 5, which gives viewers a taste of what life will look like after Rayna — spoiler alert: there’s still a lot of drama.

Following Rayna’s death, the show will be back without Connie Britton, who exited in a sad turn of events in February’s midseason finale.

The trailer picks up with Rayna’s oldest daughter Maddie’s (Lennon Stella) career on the rise, while Hayden Panettiere’s Juliette Barnes is struggling to bounce back. Meanwhile, Scarlett (Clare Bowen) is wavering on the father’s identity of her unborn child.

In the new episodes, Deacon (Charles Esten) is fighting to keep record label Highway 65 in business, just as Nashville outsider Alyssa — portrayed by new cast member Rachel Bilson — brings her musical talents to town. Kaitlin Doubleday from “Empire” also joins the cast for the back-half of the season.

The »


- Rebecca Rubin

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‘The Keepers’ Is the Best True-Crime Docuseries Yet

2 hours ago

One of the most distinctive characteristics of Netflix’s “The Keepers,” a seven-part docuseries that premiered May 19, is that nearly every speaking character is a middle-aged woman. This is rare enough that it begins to be surprising, and soon after that, it becomes one of the defining elements of the show — following an interviewee into her living room as she is accompanied by her five small dogs, or reminiscing with another about her loving husband, now deceased. The B-roll notices things like the decorations on the walls, the family photos on the mantle, and the niceties of small talk. These are no Hollywood-friendly million-dollar kitchens, or carefully composed sitcom living rooms. The subjects of “The Keepers” keep cozy homes, in an unassuming, uncontrived way that indicates much about them. In this largely Catholic, working-to-middle class community of Baltimore, “The Keepers” manages to convey a mindset and shared, accepted values by just following the interviewees home.

The Keepers »


- Sonia Saraiya

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TV Ratings: ABC’s ‘Dirty Dancing’ Remake Flounders Against ‘Survivor’ Season Finale

2 hours ago

ABC’s remake of the classic film “Dirty Dancing” failed to make a significant impact in the Wednesday ratings, coming in well below the season finale of “Survivor” in both key ratings measures.

According to Nielsen data, “Dirty Dancing” averaged a 1.3 rating in adults 18-49 and 6.6 million viewers, airing from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. “Survivor,” on from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., averaged a 1.9 and 8.6 million viewers on CBS, with the after-show at 10 p.m. pulling a 1.4 and 6.2 million viewers. Nevertheless, the remake drove ABC to its most-watched Wednesday in nearly seven months, with the Cma Awards.

On Fox, the season finale of “Shots Fired” (0.9, 3.4 million) rose in both measures, as did the season closer of “Empire” (2.4, 6.9 million), which was also the highest-rated show of the night in the demo.

On NBC, the two-hour season finale of “Law & Order: Svu” (1.3, 6 million viewers) ticked up in both measures and delivered the series’ most-watched episode since February.

For »


- Joe Otterson

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Hulu Nabs Rerun Rights to Starz Drama ‘Power’

3 hours ago

Hulu has picked up off-network streaming rights to the Starz drama “Power.”

Hulu has the show’s first two seasons available immediately, with season three coming later this year. The fourth season of the Lionsgate TV crime drama, toplined by Omari Hardwick, is set to bow June 25 on Starz.

Power” ranks among the most-watched shows on the major pay TV outlets — HBO, Showtime, Starz and Epix — with an average of 8 million viewers per episodes across all platforms, per Starz.

“As one of the biggest shows on television today, ‘Power’ undoubtedly appeals to the Hulu audience and we cannot wait to bring the series to our viewers,” said Lisa Holme, Hulu’s Head of Content Acquisition. “Lionsgate has been a longtime partner and this new agreement continues to drive forward our efforts to build one of the most robust libraries of content in the market.”

The deal marks a rare example of older episodes of a premium TV »


- Cynthia Littleton

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‘Andi Mack’ Renewed for Season 2 at Disney Channel

3 hours ago

Freshman comedy series “Andi Mack” has been renewed for a second season at the Disney Channel, Variety has learned.

The series follows the titular character, a 13 year old girl who discovers that the girl she always thought was her older sister is in fact her mother. The revelation sends her down a new path of self discovery.

It stars Peyton Elizabeth Lee as Andi Mack, Lilan Bowden as Bex Mack, Lauren Tom as Celia Mack, Joshua Rush as Cyrus Goodman, Sofia Wylie as Buffy Driscoll and Asher Angel as Jonah Beck. Recurring cast members are Stoney Westmoreland as Henry “Ham” Mack, Emily Skinner as Amber, and Trent Garrett as Bowie Quinn.

The series ranks as the number one show of 2017 to-date among girls 6-11, girls 9-14 and girls 6-14. Nearing 40 million views on seven digital platforms, linear TV and social media,it recently hit a ratings high on May 19 in total viewers, marking »


- Joe Otterson

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Epix’s ‘Get Shorty’ TV Series First Trailer Proves Show Business Is a Killer (Watch)

4 hours ago

Epix dropped the first trailer for their upcoming “Get Shorty” TV series on Thursday.

Based in part on the 1990 Elmore Leonard novel of the same name, which was later adapted into the 1995 film, the 10-episode series follows Miles Daly (Chris O’Dowd), a hitman from Nevada who tries to become a movie producer in Hollywood as a means to leave his criminal past behind and win back his recently-estranged family. He meets Rick Moreweather (Ray Romano), a washed up producer of low quality films.

In the trailer, we see Miles get sent on an assignment to Hollywood, where he inadvertently happens upon a movie script. He then decides to approach Moreweather, with the intent of funding the movie with cash from his other line of work. The series also stars Sean Bridgers, Lidia Porto, Megan Stevenson, Carolyn Dodd, Goya Robles and Lucy Walters.

Davey Holmes created the series, who executive produces alongside Allen Coulter, who »


- Joe Otterson

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Fox News Says Sean Hannity Will Return to Show

4 hours ago

Fox News Channel lent support to its best-known anchor Sean Hannity, saying Thursday that the popular host would return to its air next week following a Memorial Day holiday vacation – an effort to tamp down speculation that a controversy currently enveloping Hannity could escalate further.

“Like the rest of the country, Sean Hannity is taking a vacation for Memorial Day weekend and will be back on Tuesday,” the 21st Century Fox-owned network said in a statement. “Those who suggest otherwise are going to look foolish.”

Hannity has become embroiled in a furor over his recent promotion of a discredited story about the death last summer of Seth Rich, a DNC staffer who was murdered in Washington, D.C. last July in what local police have stated they believe is a botched robbery. Hannity has in recent days promoted an unproven theory that Rich was killed in exchange for providing internal documents to Wikileaks, prompting »


- Brian Steinberg

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Variety Introduces ‘Synch This!’ — New Music Column Spotlighting Songs Ripe for Licensing

5 hours ago

“Synch This” is a new Variety column written by Mac Presents VP and former Billboard branding reporter Andrew Hampp, highlighting new songs that we deem ripe for synch use. Insiders can skip over the “Synch 101” in the introduction, which will be linked to in future columns, to get straight to this week’s pick.

The term “synch” is a funny one – even if you’ve never heard it used before, it’s a convenient catch-all for something you hear every single day.

Short for “music synchronization license,” synchs have long been a prime method for music, new and old, to get discovered in TV commercials, box-office hits and the latest buzzy TV hit. So much so that synch revenue accounted for 2% of the recorded music industry’s global revenue in 2016, or roughly $314 million, an all-time high.

The first time I heard the term “synch” used it was in reference to “Unwritten” singer Natasha Bedingfield’s latest album »


- Andrew Hampp

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‘Empire’ Showrunner on Finale Cliffhanger, Season 4 ‘Trumpian’ Theme (Spoilers)

16 hours ago

Spoiler Alert: Do not read ahead if you have not watched the “Empire” Season 3 finale, which aired on Wednesday, May 24.

Following the first part of “Empire’s” Season 3 finale last week, which killed off Tariq (Morocco Omari) at the hands of Lucious’ mother (Leslie Uggams), the grand finale nearly saw the death of another main character — none other than Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard).

Through the entire season, Andre (Trai Byers) has been plotting to kill his father. Well, Wednesday’s season finale saw that plan come to fruition, but Andre had a last-minute change of heart and ended up saving Lucious’ life within a second. That being said, Lucious knocked on death’s door.

Andre and Shyne’s (Xzibit) plan was to blow up the car that Lucious would be getting into, and though Andre urged him to stop the explosion, Shyne wanted to go through with the plan. Just as Lucious and Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) were »


- Elizabeth Wagmeister

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Meryl Streep, Judith Light, Lena Dunham, More Tell Sheila Nevins’ Stories in New Audiobook

16 hours ago

“It was easier to hear myself through someone else’s voice,” says Sheila Nevins, president of HBO Documentary Films and first-time author of the well-received collection of short stories, “You Don’t Look Your Age… and Other Fairy Tales.” A New York Times bestseller released earlier this month, the audiobook features such boldfaced names as Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Gloria Vanderbilt, Lena DunhamKathy Bates, Rosie O’Donnell, Katie Couric, and RuPaul, to name a few.

Each chapter, its own contained story about topics both amusing and heart-wrenching — the loss of a loved one or animal, learning your child has Tourette’s, deciding to get a facelift — is paired with a performer, as it were. Nevins, who recruited and paid for the recordings herself, describes how things came together naturally, sometimes surprisingly.

Gloria Vanderbilt asked to read the story about adultery, which I didn’t think anyone would want to take, but »


- Shirley Halperin

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‘The Get Down’ Canceled by Netflix

17 hours ago

Netflix has canceled Baz Luhrmann’s “The Get Down” after one season.

The cancellation brings an official end to a series that was plagued by behind-the-scenes troubles and failed to connect with viewers in the ways that buzzy Netflix hits such as “Stranger Things” and “Orange is the New Black” have. Season one premiered in two parts, with the second part debuting on the streaming service in April to little fanfare. The first part of season one, which premiered last year, drew 3.2 million total U.S. adults 18-49 in its first 31 days, according to Symphony Advanced Media — roughly one fifth the audience that viewed “Orange is the New Black” season four in its first 31 days.

Produced by Sony Pictures Television, “The Get Down” was the most expensive original series in Netflix’s history, costing at least $120 million to produce. The series was one of the most costly in Hollywood history. As »


- Daniel Holloway

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Jerry Perenchio, Billionaire Media Mogul Behind Univision, Dies at 86

19 hours ago

Media mogul A. Jerrold “Jerry” Perenchio, who amassed a fortune by building a powerhouse TV production company and later the Spanish-language network Univision, and was among California’s most prolific philanthropists and political donors, has died. He was 86.

Perenchio died of lung cancer at his Bel Air home on Monday, a family spokesperson told the Los Angeles Times.

His personal wealth, along with an early career managing high-profile stars and promoting major sporting events, belied a fierce determination to stay out of the limelight, in which he granted few interviews and rarely allowed his associates to do the same.

A partner with Norman Lear in the production of such shows as “The Jeffersons” and “One Day at a Time,” Perenchio made a fortune on megahits of the 1970s, particularly from the sale of the shows into syndication.

No media investment, however, was as lucrative for Perenchio as the one in Univision, which »


- Ted Johnson

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TV News Roundup: Kevin Hart, Will Ferrell to Appear on ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’ NBA Finals Special

20 hours ago

In today’s roundup, “Jimmy Kimmel Live: Game Night” returns to ABC, “Queen Sugar” announces new additions for Season 2, and Leslie Jones gets her first major award show gig. 

Specials

For its tenth consecutive year, ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live: Game Night” will return in conjunction with the 2017 NBA Finals. Kevin Hart, Robert Downey, Jr., Tom Holland, Will Ferrell, Owen Wilson, Jamie Foxx and Billy Crystal are set to appear as guests. The special edition episodes will air during primetime each night of the NBA Finals, beginning on June 1.  “Jimmy Kimmel Live: Game Night” specials will air at 8 p.m. Et, and following the NBA game on the West Coast on ABC.

Casting

Sharon Lawrence (“Grey’s Anatomy,” “Shameless”), Alimi Ballard (“The Catch”), and Margot Bingham (“Boardwalk Empire”) will join the cast of Ava DuVernay and Oprah Winfrey’s critically-acclaimed series “Queen Sugar” for the show’s second season. Julie Dash (“Daughters of the Dust,” “The Rosa Parks Story »


- Emily Mae Czachor

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Writers Guild of America Members Ratify New Three-Year Contract

21 hours ago

Members of the Writers Guild of America have ratified nearly unanimously their new three-year successor deal on the guild’s master contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

Only 30 members voted “no.” Of the 3,647 valid votes cast, there were 3,617 “yes” votes (99.2%) and 30 “no” votes (0.8%). There were 9,441 eligible voters. The term of the agreement is retroactive to May 2 through May 1, 2020.

The WGA reached the deal on May 1 about an hour before the previous contact expired in down-to-the-wire negotiations.

“Our success in these negotiations was due to a highly engaged and dedicated membership, working in tandem with a tireless and informed Negotiating Committee and an extraordinary Guild staff. We achieved new and significant gains that will help today’s writers even as they benefit the next generation,” said WGA West president Howard A. Rodman and WGA East president Michael Winship. “Our thanks go out to all of those who contributed to the process and to the »


- Dave McNary

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CBS’ ‘Seal Team,’ Fox’s ‘The Gifted’ Top List of Most Anticipated New 2017-18 TV Shows

21 hours ago

CBS’ “Seal Team” and Fox’s “The Gifted” are the two most anticipated new broadcast shows of the 2017-18 season, according to an analysis by Civic Science. The study, presented in a webinar with Cox Reps Wednesday to an audience of network and advertising executives, is the result of a psychographic-based web and mobile survey measuring audience interest in 14 new broadcast shows across five networks.

Survey participants were each asked how likely he or she was to watch a particular show based on early buzz from broadcast upfront presentations and related announcements this month. Using those responses, Civic Science found “Seal Team” to have the highest audience-intent score of any of the 14 shows considered. The military drama was followed by “The Gifted,” “The Orville” (Fox), “The Brave” (NBC), “The Gospel of Kevin” (ABC), “Valor” (CW), “Champions” (NBC), “Wisdom of the Crowd” (CBS), “The Good Doctor” (ABC), “Me, Myself & I” (CBS), “The Resident” (Fox), “Dynasty” (CW), “Reverie” (NBC »


- Daniel Holloway

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