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JFK’s ‘Lost Inaugural Gala’: How Sinatra Created Showbiz’s Biggest Political Night (Listen)

27 May 2017 12:50 PM, PDT

The centennial of John F. Kennedy’s birth is on Monday, and to mark the occasion, PBS stations are presenting “JFK: The Lost Inaugural Gala.” The program is a one-hour documentary about the parade of showbiz A-listers who threw a big bash for the then-incoming President on Jan. 19, 1961.

There had been previous star-filled inaugural galas, but nothing quite like this one. Led by Frank Sinatra, the evening featured Nat King Cole, Laurence Olivier, Harry Belafonte, Ethel Merman, Jimmy Durante, Gene Kelly, Milton Berle, Janet Leigh, Tony Curtis, and Bette Davis.

NBC aired the telecast the following week, but the production ran into problems. The venue, the National Armory, was dark and cavernous, with so-so acoustics. That day, Washington was hit by a snowstorm, delaying the start of the ceremony by two hours. Merman showed up at rehearsal and couldn’t get back to her hotel to retrieve her evening gown. Instead »

- Ted Johnson

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‘Morning Joe’ Host Mika Brzezinski Pays Tribute to Late Father

27 May 2017 9:07 AM, PDT

Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski has paid tribute to her father, former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, who died Friday night at a hospital in Virginia. He was 89.

Mika Brzezinski hailed the man known as Chief to his family as “the most inspiring, loving and devoted father any girl could ever have.” She shared family pictures of her father and made mention of his love of sailing his boat to Baker Island in Maine.

“Chief loved making his family laugh. He loved Maine more than anything — where we hiked as a family, swam, played tennis and rode in his broken-down boat to the beautiful islands just off Northeast Harbor,” Brzezinski wrote on Instagram.

Zbigniew Brzezinski was a top advisor to President Jimmy Carter during the tumultuous late 1970s, when the administration was tested by the Iranian hostage crisis, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and other global crises.

A native of Poland, Brzezinski »

- Variety Staff

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MSNBC President Phil Griffin Signs Deal to Stay at Top of Surging Cable-News Outlet

26 May 2017 4:56 PM, PDT

Phil Griffin, who has led MSNBC from its previous Keith Olbermann heyday to a new surge led by Rachel Maddow, has extended his time at the head of the cable-news outlet in a new deal, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Griffin’s deal will keep him at the helm of the NBCUniversal-owned network as it is enjoying new strength.  For the week of May 15, the network snared the most viewers between 25 and 54 – the demographic most coveted by advertisers – and the largest audience overall in weekday primetime – the first time in MSNBC’s history that it has beaten both Fox News Channel and CNN in those categories. The ratings momentum comes after NBCUniversal has spent months moving much of MSNBC away from the progressive programming lens upon which it has depended for years, and focused instead on breaking-news – even during the primetime shows led by left-leaning hosts Chris Hayes, Maddow »

- Brian Steinberg

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La Screenings: Procedural Dramas, ‘Young Sheldon’ Draw Interest From International Buyers

26 May 2017 4:50 PM, PDT

International TV buyers who gathered on studio lots this week for the annual La Screenings market were glad to see the broadcast networks embracing procedural dramas for the coming season.

New dramas such as CBS’ “Swat” and “Seal Team,” ABC’s “Deception” and “For the People,” Fox’s “The Resident” and NBC “The Brave” and “Reverie” were generating some heat among the roughly 1,500 international TV buyers who took part in the weeklong marathon of screenings of new series for the 2017-18 season.

Buyers and sellers alike agreed that this year’s crop didn’t have a clear breakout hit among the international buyers but the number of procedural dramas on the slate was a welcome change from the recent past.

“The more things change the more they stay the same,” said Armando Nunez, president of CBS Studios International. The largest broadcast networks in major TV markets in European, Latin America and Asia tend to gravitate to the »

- Cynthia Littleton

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‘Wonder Woman’ Gal Gadot on Playing Lead Female Superhero: ‘Growing Up, I Had Superman and Batman’

26 May 2017 4:48 PM, PDT

Wonder Woman has been around for nearly eight decades, but the superhero has never flown into theaters for her own title movie — until now, with Gal Gadot’s “Wonder Woman,” the final film of DC Comics’ trinity, which will be released on Jun. 2.

Wonder Woman” being showcased on the big screen as a big-budget summer blockbuster has never been more meaningful than in 2017, when the conversation of women in the workplace, gender equality, and the pay gap has been at the forefront of Hollywood. And the significant moment has not gone unnoticed by its star.

“Growing up, I had Superman and Batman to look up to,” Gadot told Variety Thursday night on the blue carpet at the world premiere of the film held in Hollywood. “All the boys and all the girls, that’s what we had,” she said, reflecting on the male superheroes.

“I think that it’s so important that we have also strong female »

- Elizabeth Wagmeister

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How ‘The Get Down’ Compared to ‘Stranger Things,’ ‘The Crown,’ ‘Vinyl’ in Viewer Demand

26 May 2017 3:36 PM, PDT

Netflix had never canceled an original scripted drama series — until this week.

On Wednesday, the streaming service pulled the plug on “The Get Down,” one of the most expensive series in television history, with a first season that cost at least $120 million for 10 episodes. Despite recent assurances that creator Baz Luhrmann that a second season was in the offing, Netflix decided not to move forward with the Sony Pictures Television show.

According to data from research firm Parrot Analytics, U.S. viewer demand for “The Get Down” never matched that of buzzier Netflix shows such as “Stranger Things” and “The Crown.” It also failed to outshine comparable linear series, including HBO’s canceled “Vinyl.”

Parrot uses a proprietary demand-expression metric incorporating desire, engagement, and consumption measurements to gauge audience activity around a show. A report prepared for Variety found activity around “The Get Down” to be minimal in the weeks following its release.

From »

- Daniel Holloway

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Mitt Romney Helped ‘Veep’ Showrunner Convey Selina Meyer’s Presidential Loss

26 May 2017 11:33 AM, PDT

The band may have been broken up in Season 6 of HBO’s “Veep,” but the actors chatted and laughed as though nothing was different at the Saban Media Center in North Hollywood Thursday evening.

The Fyc event took place on the heels of the news that the political satire had been renewed for a Season 7, and featured a screening of the seventh episode of the current season. Afterwards, People magazine editor-in-chief Jess Cagle hosted a panel of the ensemble cast, including Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tony Hale, Anna Chlumsky, Reid Scott, Matt Walsh, Kevin Dunn, Gary Cole, and Sam Richardson, and showrunner Dave Mandel.

Mandel took over writing for “Veep” after the end of Season 4, and is responsible for both the storyline of Season 5, which saw President Selina Meyer lose her presidency and the Season 6 plotline in which many of the main cast — no longer employed by Selina — have gone their separate ways.

Mandel »

- Erin Nyren

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‘Twin Peaks’: David Lynch Talks About Reviving the Iconic Series

26 May 2017 11:23 AM, PDT

He dressed like a G-man.

When he arrived for his interview with Variety, David Lynch wore a black suit, a white shirt, a black tie, and wingtips. His hair was styled the same way as always, but what had once been jet black was now mostly white. The only pop of color on Lynch was incongruous; it emerged when he sat down for the interview. As he gestured while talking, a yellow plastic watch peeked out from the sleeve of his white shirt. It was the only item that didn’t make him look like his “Twin Peaks” character, FBI official Gordon Cole.

Lynch was as affable an interviewee as I’ve ever come across, but his answers were concise: His art may rely on the creation of a mysterious atmosphere, but in talking about his return to the world of “Twin Peaks,” he couldn’t have been more unequivocal and direct. When »

- Maureen Ryan

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2016-17 TV Season: NBC Leads Demo, CBS Takes Viewers, ‘This Is Us’ No. 1 New Show

26 May 2017 11:08 AM, PDT

The 2016-17 TV season has officially concluded, with NBC claiming the overall top spot in adults 18-49 and CBS winning the season in total viewers, according to Nielsen’s current numbers (live-plus-seven for all but the last two weeks of the season ending May 24).

CBS’ win marks the ninth consecutive season the network has topped the total viewers measurement, and their 14th win in the past 15 years, according to Nielsen’s ratings through May 21. CBS averaged 9.6 million viewers, approximately 1.5 million more than second place NBC.

NBC averaged a 2.1 rating in adults 18-49, versus a 1.9 for Super Bowl-boosted Fox, 1.8 for CBS, and 1.6 for ABC. Compared to last year, only Fox stayed even in the key demo. CBS suffered the biggest drop, shedding 22% of its audience in the demo year-over-year. ABC dropped 16%, with the CW next at a drop of 12%, while NBC slipped just 5%. In total viewers, it was much the same story. Fox »

- Joe Otterson

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‘The Price Is Right’ Contestant Breaks Plinko Record, Loses Mind

26 May 2017 10:03 AM, PDT

On Thursday’s episode of CBS’s hit game show “The Price Is Right,” contestant Ryan Belz broke Plinko records by landing his chips in the $10,000 slot three times.

For those who aren’t rabid “Price” followers, Plinko involves a contestant standing at the top of a large vertical gameboard who then drops chips down into a series of channels. At the bottom of the gameboard are a series of slots, each worth a certain amount of money ranging from zero to $10,000. The contestant is given five chips and attempts to rack up as much money as possible.

Belz started off his run on top, with his first chip landing in the $10,000 slot. He immediately flipped out and began yelling and clutching his chest in shock and joy. His second scored him an additional $1,000. After his third chip once again landed in the $10,000 slot, the audience began to chant “Ryan, Ryan »

- Erin Nyren

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Remote Controlled: Joseph Fiennes, Yvonne Strahovski on Parallels Between ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ and Trump’s America

26 May 2017 9:58 AM, PDT

Welcome to “Remote Controlled,” a podcast from Variety featuring the best and brightest in television, both in front of and behind the camera.

In today’s episode, Variety’s executive editor of TV Debra Birnbaum talks with the stars of Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Joseph Fiennes and Yvonne Strahovski.

Fiennes and Strahovski play husband and wife in the totalitarian government of Gilead, a near-future of the former United States. Fiennes’ character, Commander Fred Waterford, and his wife, Serena Joy, are assigned a Handmaid — portrayed by Elisabeth Moss — who must oblige to ritualized sex to bear children for the commander and his wife.

The two leads couldn’t help but draw parallels between the adaption of the 1985 dystopian novel and present day.

“You’re seeing images that you see in the news, marches, women’s marches,” Strahovski said. “It all feels like it’s very much of today. It really shows how easy that road would »

- Rebecca Rubin

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TV Ratings: ‘Love Connection,’ ‘Beat Shazam’ Hand Fox First Thursday Win in a Year

26 May 2017 8:40 AM, PDT

The debuts of “Love Connection” and “Beat Shazam” claimed the top spots in the Thursday overnight ratings on Fox, according to Nielsen data.

Airing at 8 p.m., “Beat Shazam” with host Jamie Foxx opened to a 1.2 rating in adults 18-49 and 3.6 million viewers, beating its nearest timeslot competition–NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior Celebrity Special”–in the demo. “Love Connection” with host Andy Cohen aired at 9 with a 1.1 and 3.4 million, outdrawing NBC’s “Running Wild with Bear Grylls” in the demo. Although neither show could be said to have broken out in the ratings, they were still the top-rated shows of the night, airing against mostly repeats on the other broadcast networks.

The shows helped Fox claim its first Thursday night win since April 7 of last year, which was the series finale of “American Idol.”

On NBC, the “American Ninja Warrior Celebrity Special” drew a 1.1 and 4.2 million viewers. “Running Wild with Bear Grylls” (0.9, 4 million) followed. The »

- Joe Otterson

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Kiss, WWE Cancel Manchester Arena Events

26 May 2017 8:15 AM, PDT

Legendary rock band Kiss and sports entertainment organisation World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) have both canceled planned events at Manchester Arena following the suicide bombing which took place outside the venue Monday night.

A statement for Kiss said the band would be unable to play a planned concert of its “Kissworld” tour on May 30 due to the temporary closure of Manchester Arena, following the tragedy. The band said they were “heartbroken by the atrocity committed against the innocent victims.”

The statement suggested the band was disappointed not to be able to play the show for its local fans but said that “in light of recent events a canceled rock show seems of such little consequence.” The landing page of the official Kiss website currently reads: “Manchester: We stand with you in this time of unspeakable tragedy” in front of the Union Jack flag of the U.K.

WWE has also canceled its live Nxt event, which »

- Robert Mitchell

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PromaxBDA Conference Adds Brett Ratner Keynote Q&A (Exclusive)

26 May 2017 8:00 AM, PDT

Director and producer Brett Ratner will deliver a keynote Q&A at the 2017 PromaxBDA Conference, Variety has learned exclusively.

In his session, which will take place June 6, Ratner will discuss the future of television. He joins previously announced speakers that include: Justin Simien, creator of Netflix’s “Dear White People;” The Black List’s Franklin Leonard; Adam Stotsky, president of E! and Esquire; “SNL” writer Megan Callahan; Alan Beard, Cmo of Fullscreen Media; and many more. The Conference will take place June 5-8 in La at the Jw Marriott Hotel at La Live.

Ratner is a celebrated producer and director in both film and television. He is known for his directing work on the “Rush Hour” film franchise, as well as “X-Men: The Last Stand” and Dwayne Johnson’s “Hercules.” As a producer, he helped launch the Fox series “Prison Break,” and has produced films such as “The Revenant,” “Black Mass,” and »

- Joe Otterson

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Made in NY Writers Room Program Unveils Fellows, Showrunner Mentors

25 May 2017 5:53 PM, PDT

The WGA East and several New York City agencies have set the inaugural group of fellows for its Made in NY Writers Room initiative designed to help open doors for aspiring writers from diverse backgrounds.

After the program was unveiled last fall, the guild and the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (Mome) and other agencies were flooded with nearly 500 script submissions. All of those submissions received feedback notes from the WGA East member. Another 170 received a second round of notes. A total of 30 finalists were selected, and the 12 fellows were chosen from that pool.

The fellows comprise 11 individuals and one writing team. They will earn a $15,000 stipend for taking part in the six-month fellowship that will include mentoring sessions, networking and professional development opportunities. The program is part of a broader push by Mome to create more talent-nurturing activities to capitalize in the spike in production in the state.

“They »

- Cynthia Littleton

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‘America’s Got Talent’ Won’t Air Segment With Couple Who Filed Suit

25 May 2017 5:40 PM, PDT

“America’s Got Talent” will not air a segment featuring a couple who filed suit on Tuesday, alleging that host Tyra Banks had humiliated their daughter.

The lawsuit claimed that Banks had made fun of the couple’s song, which expressed their love for their daughter, and insinuated that the girl was conceived by accident. The couple sought damages and demanded that Marathon Productions not air the segment.

FremantleMedia — the parent of Marathon — issued a statement on Thursday saying the suit “is being dismissed.” A spokesman for the plaintiff’s law firm declined to comment, except to say that settlement talks are underway and the dispute “will be amicably resolved.”

“We take great care of all acts that cross the ‘Agt’ stage and their families,” FremantleMedia said in the statement. “Tyra has been an incredible addition to ‘Agt’ with her vibrant energy and maternal nurturing spirit, and we look forward to continuing to watch her positive influence »

- Gene Maddaus

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Netflix Cancels London Premieres of ‘Orange Is the New Black,’ ‘Glow’ in Wake of Manchester Attack

25 May 2017 5:38 PM, PDT

Netflix is the latest entertainment company to cancel events in London in the wake of Monday’s terrorist attack in Manchester.

The streaming service will no longer hold premieres for “Orange Is the New Black” Season 5 and “Glow,” its new original series from “Orange” creator Jenji Kohan based on the 1980s female wrestling league of the same name. The event was scheduled for May 30 at England’s Curzon Mayfair Cinema.

“​Following the terrible events in Manchester on Monday night, we have decided to cancel our special screening of Orange is the New Black and Glow on Tuesday 30th May,” a Netflix spokesperson said on Thursday. “Our thoughts are with all of those affected by this tragedy.​”​

Warner Bros. axed its screening of “Wonder Woman” on Wednesday and Universal scrapped its debut of “The Mummy” earlier on Thursday. Ariana Grande, whose concert at England’s Manchester Arena was the target of the bombing, canceled »

- Maane Khatchatourian

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Fox News’ Dueling Narratives: Journalism That Clashes With Fury Over ‘Liberal Media’

25 May 2017 5:28 PM, PDT

A little more than 24 hours before Guardian U.S. reporter Ben Jacobs was knocked to the ground, choked, and punched by Gop congressional candidate Greg Gianforte, Fox News host Sean Hannity tweeted that “Liberal Fascism” and the “corrupt media” were trying to silence him from reporting a debunked story about murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich. Hannity has been doggedly pursuing the non-story for days now with increasingly irresponsible methods, even though his own employer Fox News has retracted the story about Rich’s death that fueled the speculation. Indeed, by his own admission, on May 23’s “Hannity,” the host is avoiding the story “out of respect for the family’s wishes.” But since Tuesday, the conservative talking head has been methodically attacking the “liberal media,” “corrupt media,” and/or the “Destroy Trump media” for quashing his narrative, with well-trod detours that invoke the specters of liberals such as billionaire George Soros and Media Matters for »

- Sonia Saraiya

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‘Baywatch’ Producer Shares Plans for Film Sequel With Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron (Exclusive)

25 May 2017 4:28 PM, PDT

Baywatch” has yet to open wide in theaters, but ahead of this weekend’s debut, the team behind the film adaptation is already planning a movie franchise.

Speaking to Variety at a New York City screening of “Baywatch” earlier this week, producer Beau Flynn shared plans for a sequel, which would bring back the cast, including Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron, plus writers Damian Shannon and Mark Swift, who co-wrote the screenplay for the first flick.

“We have an amazing story already,” Flynn told Variety on the red carpet, ahead of the screening on Monday. “We’re bringing back Shannon and Swift who wrote on the first one, and I know Dwayne would be in, I know Zac and all the girls would be. We just have this really cool idea to put them in this whole new world. We would take it overseas.”

Along with Johnson and Efron, “Baywatch,” which »

- Elizabeth Wagmeister

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‘Law and Order: Svu’ Taps ‘Chicago Justice’ Ep Michael Chernuchin as New Showrunner

25 May 2017 4:15 PM, PDT

Michael Chernuchin has been selected as the new showrunner for Season 19 of NBC’s “Law & Order: Svu,” Variety has learned.

Most recently, Chernuchin was the showrunner and executive producer on fellow Dick Wolf series “Chicago Justice,” which was canceled after one season. He has a long history with Wolf, having previously served as an executive producer and writer on “Law & Order” and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” in addition to serving as a writer on “Law & Order: UK” and “Law & Order: La.”

He is repped by Paradigm, Brillstein Entertainment Partners and attorney Robert S. Getman.

Chernuchin takes over showrunning duties from Rick Eid, who left “Svu” to take over as showrunner on “Chicago Pd.” Eid joined “Svu” as a writer and producer at the beginning of Season 18. He had previously worked on “Law & Order” and “Law & Order: Trial by Jury.” Back in March, “P.D.” showrunner and co-creator Matt Olmstead stepped down for an overall deal with ABC Studios »

- Joe Otterson

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