Wednesday June 13, 2018

"A federal judge said Tuesday that AT&T's $85.4 billion purchase of Time Warner is legal, clearing the path for a deal that gives the pay-TV provider ownership of cable channels such as HBO and CNN as well as film studio Warner Bros. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon did not impose conditions on the merger's approval. He also urged the government not to seek a stay when issuing his decision in a closed-door room with reporters. AT&T General Counsel David McAtee said the company was happy with the result. 'We are pleased that, after conducting a full and fair trial on the merits, the Court has categorically rejected the government's lawsuit to block our merger with Time Warner,' McAtee said in a statement. 'We look forward to closing the merger on or before June 20 so we can begin to give consumers video entertainment that is more affordable, mobile, and innovative.' Shares of Time Warner jumped roughly 5 percent in extended trading. Shares of AT&T dropped as much as 2 percent."

VH1 has ordered an 11th season of RuPaul's Drag Race.

Comedy Central has picked up a 3rd season of Jeff Ross' Comedy Battle.

Starz renewed Vida for a 2nd season.

The series premiere of Gordon Ramsay's 24 Hours to Hell and Back premieres tonight.  Just what we need!

Big plans ahead for Amazon as new studio head Jennifer Salke sets forth a strategy to court A-list talent.

"Talent manager and producer Scooter Braun and his SB Projects, who have guided the careers of some of the top music artists, has teamed with veteran reality producer JD Roth, co-founder and former CEO of 3 Ball Entertainment, to form GoodStory Entertainment, a new unscripted content studio. It will focus on developing and producing character-driven stories in the unscripted, live event, and feature documentary spaces. Backed by Braun’s Ithaca investment fund, which has assets reportedly valued at $500 million, GoodStory will target accelerated growth via strategic acquisitions of unscripted production companies. Roth will be handling business development, acquisitions, and CEO duties for GoodStory. He will be joined by another 3 Ball alum, Adam Greener, former COO of 3 Ball and president of Maverick Television. Greener, who was behind USA’s hit reality series Chrisley Knows Best, will serve as GoodStory co-CEO, handling development, sales, and execution."  Congratulations gentlemen.

Good for you Kent Weed.  Run as far away from that douchebag as you can! I'm just wondering what took you so damn long.

"Comedy Central is looking to the creators of women's satire website Reductress for its next late-night talk show. The Viacom-owned cable network has handed out a pilot order for The Reductress Hour, teaming with Reductress co-creators Beth Newell and Sarah Pappalardo. Abby Elliott (Saturday Night Live) will star as the show's in-character host. The potential series will take on the absurdities of women's news, trends, broader national subjects and entertainment television while tackling various issues of the week, original segments and field interviews. Elliott's in-character host will embody the tone of women's media and the Webby Award-winning site."

"Producers are moving toward an agreement that would allow them to go ahead with a Roseanne spinoff, Page Six has learned, because Roseanne Barr is 'seriously considering' forgoing any profits from the new show. It was a huge blow to the cast, crew and fans of the blockbuster revival — not to mention the network — when ABC canceled it because of creator Barr’s racist tweets. The idea of creating a spinoff — possibly focusing on another family member — that would allow the team to carry on without Barr quickly surfaced. But many, including one of its showrunners, Whitney Cummings, balked at the idea that Barr would profit from the new version. We’re told Barr is now open to cutting herself out of a spinoff entirely. A source close to the disgraced comic — who says she is 'hunkered down' with her parents in Utah — tells us, 'Roseanne feels so bad about her antics she is trying to figure out a way to help people harmed by the cancellation. She’s considering giving up financial and creative participation in a spinoff so the people she loves can have jobs. Barr holding on is a stumbling block.'”

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Per TheWrap, "[a] woman who acted as a surrogated mother for Flipping Out star Jeff Lewis and his partner Gage Edward has filed a lawsuit against the couple and the show’s network, Bravo

"Alexandra Trent says that she gave birth to Lewis and Edward’s daughter, Monroe, in 2016 and that the reality show’s producers filmed the birth without her permission.

“'Defendants filmed Trent’s genitalia without her knowledge — and against her express prohibition — while she gave birth, then made crude and disgusting jokes about her genitalia and grooming in the pursuit of ratings,' the lawsuit filed at the Los Angeles Superior Court on Tuesday states.

“'The highest levels of privacy are medical and sexual and the Defendants managed to violate both levels,' it continues.

"During the episode that aired in last August, Lewis says in a clip of the show: 'If I was a surrogate, and I had known there was going to be an audience, I probably would have waxed … And that was the shocking part for Gage. I don’t think Gage had ever seen a vagina, let alone one that big,' he added.

"Trent signed a five-page release from production company AE when she first met with Lewis and Edward at a restaurant to discuss becoming their surrogate, but was told it only covered that initial meeting, she claims in the suit. She said she was later told that anything after the initial ultrasounds would require her to sign an additional release for them to be allowed to film.

“'At the time of birth, there was no agreement to film the birth in any capacity,' her lawsuit states. It claims that AE surreptitiously filmed her from behind a curtain with Lewis and Edward’s approval.

“'Trent and her doctor were not aware the birth was being filmed,' the suit says.

"The suit seeks damages for unlawful recording, invasion of privacy and fraud.

"Representatives for Bravo did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.

Flipping Out follows the flip projects of L.A.-based designer Lewis as he renovates homes and sells them for a profit.

Flipping Out is now in its 10th season. Lewis acts as star and executive producer."

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Per Deadline, "Netflix is expanding its unscripted slate with three new series — comedy show The Fix with UK comedian Jimmy Carr, Katherine Ryan and D.L. Hughley. music performance series Westside and baking competition series Sugar Rush.

"The Fix is described as the first comedy show in the world with the stated ambition to solve the world’s biggest problems. Through comedy. And experts. But mainly through comedy. In each episode Jimmy Carr, along with two permanent team captains – Katherine Ryan and D.L. Hughley – host guest comics and experts in taking one massive issue facing the world and attempting to solve it. The 10-episode series is produced by Embassy Row. Michael Davies and Andrew Westwell executive produce.

"Westside follows a group of ambitious and talented young musicians spanning multiple genres, coming together to create an original performance series at a Los Angeles nightclub. Following the artists in their complicated lives as they pursue their dreams to make it in the music business, the format weaves gritty and cinematic docu-series scenes with artistic music videos featuring original songs that underscore the storylines of the series. The eight-episode series is produced by Love Productions and Madwood Studios. James Carroll directs and Kevin Bartel, Richard McKerrow, Michael Flutie, Sun DeGraff, Lara Spotts executive produce.

"Sugar Rush, from Magical Elves is an eight-episode fast-paced baking competition series that challenges brilliant bakers to create sweet treats that look beautiful and taste amazing – all against the clock. The competition is judged by two world class pastry chefs: Candace Nelson (co-founder and executive pastry chef behind Sprinkles cupcakes and Pizzana in Los Angeles) and Adriano Zumbo, with Hunter March hosting. Dan Cutforth, Jane Lipsitz, Doneen Arquines, Casey Kriley, Candace Nelson, Andrew Wallace executive produce.

"The three new series join Chef’s Table, Ultimate Beastmaster, Making a Murderer, Queer Eye, Dope, Drug Lords, Nailed It! and The Toys That Made Us on Netflix’s unscripted slate."

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From Uproxx: "A couple of moments stand out from the first night of Dave Chappelle and Jon Stewart’s joint stand-up comedy shows, which started its limited three-city run in Boston on Monday. The first concerns just how, in the words of the former The Daily Show host, “lucky” everyone in attendance at the Wang Theatre was. He wasn’t wrong, for not only was the process organized by Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan program deceptively simple, but patrons able to successfully purchase tickets were treated to a unique, three-hour riff session between the co-headliners, special guest Michael Che and opener Wil Sylvince.

"Another moment that stands out from the otherwise lengthy night of comedy is Chappelle, Stewart, Che and Sylvince’s time onstage together for the final hour of the evening. When the Chappelle’s Show co-creator concluded his set, Stewart joined him on stage for what many in the crowd thought was a joint goodbye. (Some were already heading down the aisles toward the exits.) But as anyone familiar with the Netflix comedian’s Radio City shows can tell you, finishing a planned routine isn’t enough for Chappelle. Most road comics are more than happy to grace their fans with an encore, and he didn’t disappoint.

"After Stewart again highlighted how unique the group’s onstage banter was, Chappelle reminded the crowd that the cell phone ban was his idea. 'I did the phone thing,' he quipped, 'because this is going to be a special thing. This night, there won’t be any other night like it. I want everyone here to know this, and enjoy it for what it is.' By the end of the extra hour, the truth of Chappelle and Stewart’s sentiment rang true with most of the show’s attendees, as well as the four comics onstage. They joked about news items Sylvince read aloud from his phone, teased one another constantly and generally had a good time.

"Yet there was also a thick layer of seriousness to the affair. When Chappelle and Stewart did their respective sets, the tension was palpable at times. This makes perfect sense, considering the latter used to host a pre-fake news 'fake news' program and the former’s most recent special earned him plenty of scrutiny over its decidedly problematic #MeToo and Time’s Up comments. It also makes sense because of their mutual friend, Louis C.K.

"In July, HBO announced that Stewart would be making his triumphant return to stand-up with a brand new special 21 years after 1996’s Unleavened. He kick-started things with Night of Too Many Stars in November, then promptly launched into a smattering of stand-up gigs here and there to prepare. The most recent before this tour was an appearance at Comedy Central’s Clusterfest in San Francisco, where he joked about his intent to 'finish' Donald Trump. Sure enough, Stewart opened the show with a play-by-play of the infamous 2013 Twitter feud with the reality TV host. He also had no problem condemning Trump’s blatant sexism.

"Gun ownership (via a wonderfully clever setup) and parenting were also choice topics of his, thereby providing a road map to what Stewart’s HBO special will look like. Even so, C.K. hung like a shadow over the set. Before the New York Times expose, the comedian had been a part of Stewart’s Night of Too Many Stars, but he was quickly removed from the roster thereafter. When asked about it at the time, the host said he was 'stunned' and admitted 'comedy on its best day is not a great environment for women.' During the show, the subject came up very little — again, unless Trump was the target.

"Then Chappelle directly addressed his controversial comments from The Bird Revelation, the last of his four Netflix specials in 2017. 'I said some things about one of the victims that a lot of people didn’t like,' he said. In the special, he acknowledges the accusers were 'right' while noting the response — C.K. losing massive deals and projects — was 'disproportionate.' He then targeted Abby Schachner, who said the comic’s misconduct left her 'dispirited' and 'discouraged her from pursuing comedy.' Chappelle’s response? 'That is a brittle-ass spirit!'

"He said he was 'probably making this worse' by bringing it up again, but Chappelle stood by his comments. The moment drew an unsurprising mix of scattered cheers and quiet consternation, and it wasn’t the last time it would come up. During the concluding riff session, Stewart tried to reassess the matter with his co-headliner, albeit in a roundabout way. 'The point is, we’re not really in a position to have a significant say in this,' the ex-Daily Show host said. 'I don’t know, man,' Chappelle responded. Nothing constructive really came about from the discussion, but then again, this was a comedy show, so it wasn’t expected.

"Yet it was also a weird example of what, while discussing the 2016 shooting death of Alton Sterling and the subsequent attack against Dallas police officers, Chappelle called a lost opportunity for shared empathy. 'When Dallas happened just after Sterling, there were camera crews interviewing black people on the street who were saying, "Now you know how it feels!”' he said. 'Instead of responding with shock and offense, they should have said, "You’re right, now we know.”' When it came to Schachner and C.K.’s accusers, however, it seems that Chappelle and other powerful men in the comedy world still aren’t willing to empathize."

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From The Ringer: "In less than half a decade, Seth Meyers has gone from being the new kid in late night to one of the genre’s most assured voices. This is partly due to the field’s astonishing turnover; the same wave that brought Meyers to Late Night on NBC has also seen the installation of Stephen Colbert at The Late Show on CBSthe introduction of new franchises like Samantha Bee’s Full Frontal on TBS, and even the ascendancy of Meyers’s former writer Michelle Wolf on Netflix. But it’s also due to Meyers himself, who’s risen to one of the toughest jobs in entertainment—during one of the toughest times to be an entertainer—with deceptive ease.

"After converting a classic stand-up-style monologue into a desk piece reminiscent of his old Weekend Update anchor gig, Meyers has gradually shaped Late Night to reflect his interests. Three times a week, the show includes a Daily Show–like segment called A Closer Look, which zooms in on the daily churn of the Trump administration. Alongside celebrities and commentators, Late Night regularly books writers and journalists, like The New York Times’ Rukmini Callimachi, for its interview segments. And Meyers has also cultivated successful mini-franchises like the popular Jokes Seth Can’t Tell, where writers Jenny Hagel and Amber Ruffin deliver punch lines Meyers 'can’t' as a straight white guy in a suit. At a time when entertainment and the real world alike are filled with upheaval, Meyers has managed to deliver an untraditional version of late night’s traditional appeal: stability.

"During a brief stint in Los Angeles while the show was on hiatus, Meyers sat down with The Ringer to discuss hitting his stride, fostering talent, and what it’s like knowing comedians can easily become a part of the news cycle they’re commenting on:

You’ve been doing Late Night for four years now. Do you feel settled?

We don’t come out to L.A. much, and we were saying today it’s nice to come out—we came out for things, obviously, when we were first launching, for press things. And that was the definition of unsettled. The biggest difference now is, we used to go to work and not only say, “We have to do today’s show.” We’d also be asking, “And what is our show?” Now, we still have the task at hand, which is doing the show every day, but at least we know what it is we’re trying to do. And that just takes away so much stress, because it’s not macro.

From an outsider’s perspective, in 2014, you’re starting a show, and in 2016, the world explodes. In 2018, the world is still mid-explosion, but …

It is nice to just have process in place. Everybody knows their role, so you just walk into the office. You used to feel like, people were always walking around and asking, “How do you get to graphics? The edit bay?” Whereas now we just kind of know, and that makes it a lot better.

So a lot of micro, how-do-we-run-an-office things.

And, I’ve talked about it more than I’ve ever thought I would, but sitting down at a desk became this sort of catalyst for what our show was. It was this very simple move, but as the world gets crazier, I do feel like the show became a little bit more grounded. Like, starting seated instead of conventionally doing a monologue was a nice shift for us that I felt made the show—we didn’t know it at the time, but made it better suited for this moment.

We’re in this moment of incredible change in the world at large, but also in late night. What part of the job do you feel has changed the most?

I mean, when we started, we always said, “Well, the thing about The Daily Show is, we could never do that.” We could never turn over a news story every day; we’re not built for that. Then, there were more things that were happening that we wanted to talk about every day. That was the first shift that happened. Then we managed to figure out how many different people had to do different things to make A Closer Look every day. I don’t think that was what we thought we would be doing; that’s not how we staffed when we started. But we got there, and the people on the staff who weren’t good at that got better at it, and we found people who were really good at it who were at different jobs and moved them over. But that’s really the biggest shift, what the first act of our show is.

One of the newest presences in late night is Michelle Wolf, who wrote on Late Night. You come out of SNL, which has its own reputation as a talent farm. How does it feel to have people come up through your show?

Oh, it feels great! It’s so satisfying. Michelle we knew as this really hard-working stand-up. She works so hard that, had she not worked for us, I think she would still have a show at Netflix right now. She was gonna get there anyway, so it’s great that she came through and we got to spend time with her. When Michelle left to be on camera more at The Daily Show, we were so happy for her. Ultimately, that’s how I want everybody to leave our show. I want their next chapter to be more responsibility, and more of whatever it is they want. If they want to write a show for themselves, I hope they pick up enough skills in their time with us to make that easier.

She did mention, when I talked to her, that she’d always pitch the joke that was too mean or too gross.

Definitely too mean, but also probably too gross. She’s so much meaner than I am, and I’ve said that. She, I think, would embrace that, but it is true. Also, she had this thing—when we do monologues, I mark the jokes. I read through, like, 200 jokes, and I’m reading through the jokes very fast, and I’m marking the ones I like. And every now and then, you’d get this real groaner from Michelle, and she’d just go [Michelle Wolf imitation] “MARK IT!” Now, we’re over a year after her departure, probably two, and people, in Michelle Wolf voice, will scream “Mark it!” if they feel like their joke is not being paid attention to.

Your approach to guest-booking includes a lot more authors and journalists than average, plus some younger performers like Joe Pera.

Oh, my God. Have you watched his Adult Swim show yet?

I just watched the church announcements episode.

He gave the best man speech at Conner [O’Malley] and Aidy [Bryant]’s wedding, and it was unbelievable. I wish I had it recorded, because I laughed so hard. Not to give you homework, but have you ever seen his Buffalo Bills stand-up? That’s the first thing I saw. Conner, I was like, “Have you seen this?” And he was like [deadpan] “Yeah, he’s my friend.” Conner thinks I’m such a square that I think it hurt his feelings that I also liked Joe. [Laughs]

I wanted to ask about your overall approach to booking guests.

We always liked the idea of authors, especially fiction authors, and especially fiction authors who haven’t been on television before. Like, don’t get me wrong: it’s the best when Stephen King comes on, or Jonathan Franzen comes on. It’s so awesome to talk to people you’ve read for years. But we realized it’s really fun when you have people who are up-and-coming authors, especially because—I don’t think we would have kept returning to the well as often [otherwise]—they’re really good! They’re by nature storytellers, fiction writers. No part of it makes them blink. They get less nervous than actors. Don’t get me wrong, some actors have done it a lot, but for a first-time actor being on a talk show …

I also think people, and obviously I would say this, “People are fascinated by writers.” [Laughs] I can just tell in our audience. Because there’s that problem you have with authors: I can’t talk about the book too much, because no one in the audience has read it. So you have to talk about, ultimately, things like process, or why’d you pick this. I think especially process, there’s something about writers that feels like a magic trick. People always have an attention span to listen to them.

Is it that actors tend to have that insecurity and anxiety?

Yeah, and I will say this: the first time I did Conan, you’re realizing, “No one’s writing this but me.” Some actors are great because they don’t have any sense that they’re boring, so they don’t know it’s going badly, and that’s fine too. Then the audience buys in and is like, “Maybe it’s just supposed to be like this?”

You did the White House Correspondents’ Dinner—obviously in a very different era than we are in right now, but you have a unique perspective on it. What did you think of this year’s controversy?

If you know Michelle, if you did any little bit of research, then you know that’s what she was gonna do. That’s why it was such an exciting, inspired choice, and that’s why we said to her, “You have to do it. It’ll be great.” And it’ll be unlike anything that has happened before. I thought Hasan [Minhaj] was great last year, too, at a time where it had to become a different thing on the fly. The selling point was always that the president was there, and now it’s not. With that said, what Michelle did—it’s great to know that she didn’t care how it would play in the room. That’s not her. The head writer for her show, Christine Nangle, was a colleague of mine at SNL. I just know them. They have a wonderful righteousness to their choices, which all comedy writers have to have.

What disappointed me was the reaction of the Correspondents’ Association. Michelle was doing them a favor. Without Michelle, and without the president, it’s just two awards and a dinner. That bummed me out. Because again, the outrage was gonna happen no matter what. It’s impossible to do a comedy routine and not have, you know, the Schlapps leave. With that said, the good news is it was kind of perfect timing for Michelle Wolf to be authentically Michelle Wolf. That was not a stunt.

My coworker said that the only way it could have gone better for her was if the show premiered the next day.

I still argue it was better for Michelle, because she still needed to take a breath and prepare for the first episode. It was perfect.

I think I found it interesting because it’s an example of how entertainment and politics are no longer separate spheres. You could end up on the front page because Trump is tweeting about you.

It’s both terrifying, and you remember how quickly it will move on to the next. I can’t imagine it’s still a thing that he’s thinking about. He’ll be outraged by something else. Since that happened, the Eagles didn’t go to the White House. There’s personal affronts he’s gotta handle every single day.

Does being on a daily schedule and having that much space to discuss things help?

I think there is a level of difficulty for people like John [Oliver] and people like Sam [Bee], who do it once a week, to figure out what, exactly, to take from any given week, whereas we just kind of churn through it. The weird thing has been, being off the last two weeks, really how little that happened in these last two weeks will matter coming back on Monday. It’s just already not a thing."

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Per EW, "ABC has a new dating show that is tailor-made for our nation’s infinitesimal attention span. Each week on The Proposal (premiering June 18 at 10 p.m. ET), a group of singles will compete for a mystery man or woman, who will then have the option of proposing marriage at the end of the episode.

"Why would anyone want to get engaged to a total stranger? There is no logical answer to that question, so don’t even bother asking! Instead, get an exclusive look at the first two minutes of ABC’s The Proposal, in which host (and former Bachelor) Jesse Palmer introduces the “mystery gentleman” who will offer the titular proposal by the end of the hour.

"And just in case you were worried that the secret suitor would have to cough up cash for a ring, fear not: The Proposal is produced by Bachelor creator Mike Fleiss, so of course the official Bachelor Nation diamond dealer Neil Lane is waiting backstage with a box o’ rocks, ready to go!

"As for the potential groom, he’s a police officer from Bakersfield, California — though ABC’s attempts to mask his identity in the intro package makes him look more like a drone host from Westworld."

Atrocious.