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Legal Jousting Keeps Gurney Productions Founders From Returning to Company

1 hour ago

The founders of Gurney Productions are still not able to return to the company following the latest decision from the judge overseeing the bitter legal battle between Scott and Deirdre Gurney and ITV America.

The judge on Tuesday declined a request by the Gurneys’ legal team that could have paved the way for the couple’s return to the production banner behind “Duck Dynasty” and other unscripted shows. The pair were removed in December after ITV filed a lawsuit accusing the couple of fraud and deceit in the management of the company, which ITV America bought in 2012.

Last week, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Susan Bryant-Deason granted the Gurneys’ request for a preliminary injunction that restored the Gurneys as the controlling managers of the company. ITV filed a notice of appeal on the decision, which put a stay on the injunction. However, the Gurneys’ legal team questioned whether ITV’s notice of appeal was sufficient to »

- Cynthia Littleton

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NBC Orders Amy Poehler-Nick Offerman Unscripted Series ‘The Handmade Project’

2 hours ago

NBC is reuniting “Parks and Recreation” alums Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman. The network Tuesday ordered “The Handmade Project,” a new unscripted series from Poehler’s Paper Kite Productions. Poehler and Offerman are set to co-host the competition series, which will feature artisans competing to impress judges with their hand-made crafts. NBC has given the series a six-episode season-one order.

In each episode, contestants will tackle projects based on a new theme, with the level of difficulty steadily increasing. At the end of the season, one contestant will be crowned champion.

“I’m thrilled to be celebrating artists who make things by hand, and I’m looking forward to finally conquering my fear of paper mache,” Poehler said.

Said Offerman: “People who make things are my favorite kind of folk. Practical, clever and terrific in a pinch. That makes me tickled pink to have a front row seat at this prodigious display of talent, and »

- Daniel Holloway

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TV News Roundup: Harry Styles to Make Solo Debut on ‘SNL’

2 hours ago

In today’s TV news roundup, Harry Styles will play musical guest to Jimmy Fallon’s host on an April “Saturday Night Live,” E! serves up a trailer for new series “What Happens at the Abbey,” and more.


When Jimmy Fallon hosts “Saturday Night Live” for the third time on April 15, he’ll be joined by former One Direction-er Harry Styles as musical guest. The “SNL” gig will mark Styles’ solo performance debut after leaving the boy band in early 2016.

So excited!!! A young heartthrob and Harry Styles will be on SNL together April 15th! #WhenHarryMetJimmy #FallonStylesSNL

— jimmy fallon (@jimmyfallon) March 28, 2017

Wgn America‘s pilot “Scalped” has added “Big Love” actor Atticus Todd to its cast in the role of Skunka. “Scalped” will be the first American TV project to have a primarily Native American cast. Todd is represented by Chi Lo of Allen Edelman Management.

First Look

E! has »

- Oriana Schwindt

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NBC to Broadcast Winter Olympics Live Across All Time Zones

3 hours ago

NBC will broadcast all of its 2018 Winter Olympics coverage live across all time zones, the network announced Tuesday.

“Nothing brings America together for two weeks like the Olympics, and that communal experience will now be shared across the country at the same time, both on television and streaming online,” said Jim Bell, president of NBC Olympics production and programming. “That means social media won’t be ahead of the action in any time zone, and as a result, none of our viewers will have to wait for anything. This is exciting news for the audience, the advertisers, and our affiliates alike.”

On most nights of the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, the primetime broadcast will begin at 8 p.m./7c. It will be followed in all time zones by local news, and then a “Primetime Plus” program, consisting of live continuing coverage from PyeongChang, South Korea. A replay of the primetime program will follow “Primetime Plus.” NBC »

- Joe Otterson

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TV Review: ‘Harlots’ on Hulu

3 hours ago

The climax of the first episode of “Harlots” — the narrative climax, mind you — is less sexy than tragic: Madam and mother Margaret Wells (Samantha Morton), in order to raise money for her brothel’s move to Greek Street in SoHo, conducts a silent auction during an opera for her daughter’s virginity. The daughter in question, in this case, at least knows what she is getting into: Lucy Wells (Eloise Smyth), raised in her mother’s “boarding house,” has an older sister who was auctioned off in the same way. Margaret, sitting with Lucy as she gets ready for her big night, tries to explain to her — with self-loathing tenderness — that she’s trying to give Lucy a better life than what her own mother gave her: At the age of 12, Margaret was sold to a madam by her alcoholic mother, for the price of a pair of shoes. Prostitution isn’t decent nor exactly legal, but »

- Sonia Saraiya

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Discovery Puts Digital Content, Ad Pacts Center Stage at Upfront

3 hours ago

The emphasis on digital content was hard to miss at Discovery Communications’ upfront presentation on Tuesday. Executives talked up plans for new Snapchat programs, a third Amazon-distributed app, Vr and the first wave of exclusive shows for Discovery’s authenticated streaming platforms.

Discovery CEO David Zaslav said the company’s $100 million investment last year in digital studio Group Nine reflected a shift in thinking about the fundamentals of the business.

“We’re changing the culture of our company,” Zaslav said. “We’re making the pivot from being a company about channels to a company about IP.”

Discovery’s investment in the Eurosport sports programming business overseas has also helped solidify the thinking about the importance of having capitalizing on linear programming assets with digital extensions. The company’s new mantra, Zaslav stated, is to “own all of our IP everywhere in the world on every device.”


Zaslav talked up Discovery’s Snapchat Discover programming partnership, which »

- Cynthia Littleton

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Cable News Ratings: Fox News Breaks Records, MSNBC Posts Significant Growth

4 hours ago

Fox News finished far and above its competition in the ratings for the first quarter of 2017, with the network putting up the highest-rated quarter ever in cable news history in the total day viewership measure, according to Nielsen data released Tuesday. This marks 61 consecutive quarters that Fox News has finished number one among cable news networks in total day and primetime viewership.

Fox News averaged 1.72 million total day viewers, with 359,000 of those falling in the key adults 25-54 demo. CNN finished second with 826,000 total day viewers and 266,000 viewers in the demo. MSNBC came in third with 781,000 total day viewers and 185,000 viewers in the demo. Yet despite finishing third, MSNBC definitely has reason to celebrate. The network grew its viewership by 55 percent in total day viewers and 40 percent in the key demo compared to quarter one of 2016, no doubt boosted in part thanks to a surge in the ratings of “The Rachel Maddow Show.”

Fox News »

- Joe Otterson

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‘The Flash’: David Dastmalchian Teases Abra Kadabra’s Plans to ‘Wreak Havoc’

4 hours ago

After last week’s brief, and delightful, sidestep into a musical episode, this week’s episode of “The Flash” is back to the task — stopping Savitar and saving Iris (Candice Patton).

The latest installment introduces the classic Flash villain Abra Kadabra (David Dastmalchian), a character who shares similarities with the Reverse Flash in that he is also from the future — the 64th century to be exact — and is familiar with the hero that Barry (Grant Gustin) will become. The time-traveling magician heads back to 2017 this week with some information the team is desperate to have — the identity of Savitar.

Variety spoke with Dastmalchian about his take on Abra Kadabra, whether the villain is here to help or harm, and more.

You’ve been in a bunch of other comic book-related films and shows before, but never really played a character with abilities. How did it feel to have powers this time around?

It »

- Jacob Bryant

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‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ Cast Reunites — See What the Stars Look Like Now

5 hours ago

The cast of “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” reunited recently, nearly 21 years after the sitcom aired its final episode.

Tatyana Ali (Ashley), Karyn Parsons (Hilary), Alfonso Ribeiro (Carlton), Will Smith (Will), Daphne Maxwell Reid (Aunt Vivian no. 2), and Joseph Marcell (Geoffrey) posed for a group photo at an unknown event.

Ribeiro posted the shot on his Instagram account with the caption, “Always amazing to spend an afternoon with my Fresh Prince family. Wishing that James Avery was still with us to make this complete.”

Sadly, James Avery, the actor who played Uncle Phil, passed away in 2013 after complications from heart surgery. He was 68.

At the time, Smith paid tribute to his late on-screen mentor, writing, “Some of my greatest lessons in acting, living and being a respectable human being came through James Avery.”

Smith became a breakout star after the show, most recently appearing in “Suicide Squad.” His next project, “Bright »

- Lawrence Yee

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Jasika Nicole on ‘Underground,’ Representation and Rewriting History

6 hours ago

A good character introduction is one of the greatest joys television can offer, and in the March 8 “Underground” season premiere, viewers were treated to two of them.

Harriet Tubman (Aisha Hinds) made her debut in a crackling action scene set to Beyonce’s “Freedom”: A confrontation with men hunting for fugitive slaves depicted a confident Tubman holding an ax in one hand and a shotgun in the other. Suffice to say that Tubman and her compatriot Rosalee (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) came out ahead in that encounter on “Underground,” a saga that interweaves the stories of a number of slaves, all of whom are linked to each other through the common goal of freedom.

A few scenes later, the escaped-slave narrative introduced the fictional Georgia (Jasika Nicole), a quieter but no less driven woman who runs a boarding house. Georgia is a resourceful and welcoming woman who hosts a sewing circle at her home — but don’t expect »

- Maureen Ryan

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Chuck Barris Appreciation: Remembering the Goofy Producer With a Big Heart

6 hours ago

Chuck Barris, the prolific producer who died March 21 at age 87, was a natural-born showman and entrepreneur. He had an irrepressibly raunchy and goofy sense of humor that was on display in his many successful TV series, from “The Dating Game” and “The Newlywed Game” to “The Gong Show” and “The $1.98 Beauty Show.”

Who else but Barris would take out an ad in Variety highlighting the fact that he’d had three shows canceled in six months? Who else would brag about his success with an ad headlined “We’re No. 1 Because We Work Harder” with a photo of the boss and his top execs at the beach?

Barris started Chuck Barris Prods. in 1965 with a $20,000 loan from his stepfather. By the end of the year, he’d launched “The Dating Game” as a daytime series on ABC.

He drew a fair amount of ridicule from industry colleagues later in life when he asserted in his 1984 memoir “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind »

- Cynthia Littleton

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TLC to Revive ‘Trading Spaces,’ Animal Planet Takes Aim at ‘My Fat Pet’

6 hours ago

TLC is bringing back “Trading Spaces,” the home renovation series that was the cabler’s signature series for more than a decade.

TLC unveiled its plan to revive the show at the Discovery Communications upfront presentation Tuesday in New York, where the company unveiled a slew of new programs for core channels Discovery, Investigation Discovery, TLC, Animal Planet, Science and Own. Among the new offerings that got a rise out of the upfront crowd was “My Fat Pet,” an Animal Planet series that vows to tackle obesity among cats and dogs.

Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav gave a shout-out in his opening remarks to TLC for its growth spurt during the past year. He credited TLC president Nancy Daniels with understanding the mood of the cabler’s largely female audience and the desire for a respite from the topsy-turvy world of politics and the edgier aspects of pop culture.

TLC is Middle America,” Zaslav »

- Cynthia Littleton

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Investigation Discovery Orders ‘The Von Bulow Affair’ Scripted True Crime Series From Ucp

6 hours ago

Investigation Discovery is headed deep into scripted territory. The Discovery-owned network has ordered six-part true crime drama “The Von Bulow Affair” from Universal Cable Productions for a 2018 run on ID.

“Von Bulow” is among a whopping 660 hours of original programming that ID has on tap for the 2017-18 frame. The channel that has been the biggest success story in the Discovery family of the past seven years will also offer up its first scripted telepics and a range of docu series.

The channel that thrives on a diet of murder and mayhem has partnered with mystery writer James Patterson on an unusual initiative that will see Patterson write non-fiction books about murder cases covered in ID programming. ID will then turn those books into scripted productions. Patterson’s partnership with ID also includes the “Murder is Forever” true-crime series that debuts later this year.

The movies on deck are “Dating Game Killer,” the »

- Oriana Schwindt

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Billy Eichner Cast in ‘American Horror Story’ Season 7

6 hours ago

Billy Eichner has been cast in Season 7 of FX’s “American Horror Story,” Variety has confirmed.

The comedian is the newest star to come aboard Ryan Murphy’s anthology series, which switches up the cast each season, but also brings back returning players in new roles for each installment.

Details on Eichner’s character or storyline are being kept under wraps, staying true to “American Horror Story’s” secretive nature. The theme of Season 7 is also unknown at this point.

While Eichner is the first fresh cast member to join Season 7, he joins “Ahs” vets Evan Peters and Sarah Paulson who are returning for the upcoming season.

The funny-man has been cast in a heavily recurring role, and will appear in more than half of the episodes for Season 7, according to Deadline, who reports Eichner will play a close confidante of Paulson’s character and will mostly be wearing “mysterious tank tops.”

The »

- Elizabeth Wagmeister

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Former Fox News CFO Offered Immunity to Testify in Payments Inquiry (Report)

6 hours ago

The former chief financial officer of Fox News Channel, Mark Kranz, is said to have been offered immunity from prosecution by U.S. government attorneys looking into payments by the network and its parent, 21st Century Fox, to women who claimed to be harassed by Roger Ailes, the cable-news outlet’s former chief and leader, according to a report in The Financial Times.

Citing people briefed on the case, the Ft said Kranz and at least one other former executive have been offered immunity from prosecution by federal prosecutors looking into whether the media giant properly disclosed or accounted for financial settlements made to former Fox News employees who made claims of harassment.  The Ft reported Kranz is among “multiple” people who have been subpoenaed in the matter, which first came to light in February at a New York State Supreme Court hearing involving Andrea Tantaros, who has sued Fox News over what she alleged was retaliation »

- Brian Steinberg

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‘Planet Earth II’: An Exclusive Look at This Season’s Filming Firsts

7 hours ago

Hailed by Variety‘s Sonia Saraiya as “the most important program of our generation,” “Planet Earth II” took over three years to make, 40 countries to film in and 2,089 days to shoot. The final product features epic shots and never-before-seen animal behavior.

In advance of the March 28 release of its DVD and Blu-ray, the first natural history history TV series to do so in 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, BBC Worldwide North America has shared an exclusive clip with Variety of some of the series’ “Filming Firsts.”

For instance, beetles make their way towards glowing mushrooms on screen thanks to new low light cameras. Railroad worms are revealed to be bioluminescent beetles with red and green lights on their bodies to help either hunt at night or deter predators.

In addition, the team visited the extraordinarily remote and uninhabited volcanic Zavodovski Island in the southern Atlantic Ocean, debuting footage of one of the largest penguin populations in the world »

- Dani Levy

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Angela Courtin to Exit Post as Fox Broadcasting Marketing Chief

7 hours ago

Angela Courtin is exiting her post as exec VP and chief marketing officer of Fox Broadcasting after less than two years with the network.

Sources say the departure was amicable, and that Courtin is leaving to pursue other opportunities. She will remain on for a couple weeks to ensure a smooth transition; the search is currently on for a replacement. At Fox, Courtin was responsible for the net’s overall brand strategy and oversaw on-air and off-air promotion and advertising, national media, multiplatform and affiliate marketing, design and social media.

Courtin joined Fox in July 2015 from Relativity Media, where she spent about a year as chief marketing officer. There, she was responsible for all film, television and sports marketing initiations, plus all branding and advertising campaigns at the digital-age entertainment company. She also launched a new digital division and oversaw Relativity Digital and Madvine, the company’s branded entertainment and consumer products arm.

She »

- Variety Staff

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Bill O’Reilly Apologizes for Calling Maxine Waters’ Hair a ‘James Brown Wig’

7 hours ago

Updated 3/28 2:19 p.m. Et: Bill O’Reilly apologized on Tuesday after he sparked backlash for calling Maxine Waters’ hair a “James Brown wig.”

“As I have said many times, I respect Congresswoman Maxine Waters for being sincere in her beliefs,” O’Reilly said. “I said that again today on Fox & Friends calling her ‘old school.’ Unfortunately, I also made a jest about her hair which was dumb. I apologize.”

Original: “The O’Reilly Factor” host Bill O’Reilly said in response to a clip of Maxine Waters that he “didn’t hear a word” she said because he was “looking at the James Brown wig,” referring to her hair. O’Reilly made the comments on Tuesday’s “Fox & Friends.”

The footage of Waters, who represents California’s 43rd district, showed her railing against President Donald Trump and the patriotism of the Republican party.

“We’re fighting for the democracy,” Waters »

- Seth Kelley

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TV Ratings: ‘The Voice,’ ‘Dancing With the Stars’ Split Win

7 hours ago

No big sporting events and a mixed bag of repeats and new episodes made for a quiet Monday in the Nielsen ratings. In Nielsen’s preliminary fast national results, “The Voice” took the crown in the 18-49 demographic with a 2.3 rating — and an average audience of 10.33 million — while “Dancing With the Stars” drew the larger total audience with 10.98 million viewers and a 1.6 rating in the demo.

After “The Voice” on NBC, “Taken” improved marginally from the week before, to a 1.1 demo rating and 5.25 million viewers. “Quantico” followed “DWTS” with a 0.8 in the demo and 3.45 million viewers.

CBS led off with “Big Bang Theory” and “Kevin Can Wait” repeats and ended with a “Scorpion” encore. A fresh “Superior Donuts” drew a slightly up 1.1 in the demo and 5.28 million viewers. A special Monday installment of “The Great Indoors” notched a 0.9 in the demo and 4.08 million viewers.

On Fox, “24: Legacy” improved slightly to a 0.9 in the demo and 3.19 million »

- Oriana Schwindt

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Barclays Sets Up $125 Million Fund for Shows on Streaming Platforms

9 hours ago

British bank Barclays has launched a £100 million ($125 million) fund to help TV production companies compete for orders from video-streaming platforms, such as Netflix and Amazon.

The rise in popularity of subscription video-on-demand services prompted Barclays to consider “how it could improve the types of funding provided to better support its TV clients,” according to a statement. “Conventional TV production loans are repaid as the content is delivered with the broadcaster paying the production company and funder simultaneously. With Svod, revenues are often spread over a much longer term, which can present funding challenges.”

Barclays has adapted its loan structures to “more closely match the funding requirements of companies working with Svod distributors,” the company said. “The product allows these companies to borrow money over a longer period, enabling them to use the funds to develop more ideas and programs, which in turn supports more sustained employment and helps them to grow more quickly.”

Lorraine »

- Leo Barraclough

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