YouTube Expands Originals Team With Jon Wax, Angela Courtin

The company is filling out its development team as it gets serious about original content.

YouTube is bolstering its originals team as it pushes further into scripted programming.

The company has hired WGN America’s programming executive Jon Wax and Fox Broadcasting’s former marketing head Angela Courtin. The pair will serve as development and marketing executives, respectively, in newly created positions at YouTube Red. Wax will oversee drama, scripted and current programming, while Courtin will serve as the global head of YouTube TV and originals marketing.

YouTube has been ramping up its investment in original programming recently, unveiling at the Television Critics Association press tour earlier in Aug. a handful of new original series and films that will debut exclusively on YouTube and YouTube Red this fall. The programming slate includes inventive comedies, unique dramas, action-thrillers and competition series.

In his new role, Wax will be responsible for building YouTube’s drama development slate, including drama-themed movie acquisitions in the U.S., and will report to Susanne Daniels, YouTube’s global head of original content. He was previously executive vice president of scripted programming at WGN America and Tribune Studios, where’d he’d worked since 2013. During his time there, he built up WGN’s scripted programming slate with his former mentors at Fox, Peter Liguori and Matt Cherniss.

The YouTube originals development team will also include Dustin Davis, who is expanding his duties at the company as head of comedy development and current programming. Davis joined YouTube Red as head of current series a year ago from ABC Network, where he oversaw shows such as Black-ish, Happy Endings and Last Man Standing. As YouTube broadens its content slate, Davis is working to bring more traditional talent to the service. He is overseeing Rawson Thurber’s Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television, Rob Huebel’s Do You Want to See A Dead Body? and the recently announced Cobra Kai starring Ralph Macchio and William Zabka.

Courtin was hired to oversee the marketing strategy for YouTube Red Originals and YouTube TV by the company’s CMO Danielle Tiedt. She will report to Jodi Ropert, who leads subscription marketing for YouTube. At Fox, Courtin was responsible for developing and guiding overall brand strategy and audience development, overseeing on-air and off-air promotion and advertising campaigns.

Previously announced members of Daniels’ lead executives include Ben Relles as the head of unscripted programming and Alex Carloss as the head of international originals, both of whom report to Daniels.

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OWN Orders Tarell Alvin McCraney Coming-of-Age Drama

Mike Kelley and Melissa Loy (‘Revenge’) will also exec produce the drama, created by Oscar winner Tarell Alvin McCraney.

OWN is teaming with an Oscar winner for its next drama series.

The Oprah Winfrey cable network has given a straight-to-series order to a new project from Moonlight co-writer Tarell Alvin McCraney, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

Also exec produced by Michael B. Jordan, the untitled coming-of-age series centers on a 14-year-old prodigy form the projects. Haunted by the death of his closest friend, and relying on by his hardworking mother to find a way out of poverty, he must choose between the streets that raised him or the higher education that may offer him a way out. Set in South Florida at the end of the Obama administration, the lyrical drama is inspired by events in McCraney’s own life and explores the precarious balance needed for the making of a man.

“When Tarell shared his powerful story with us there wasn’t a dry eye in the room,” said Winfrey. “I knew this was something special that our viewers will without a doubt connect to and feel compelled to explore with us. I am honored to be working with Tarell and the rest of the producers on this project.”

This will mark McCraney’s first foray into television following his Academy Award win — along with Barry Jenkins — for best adapted screenplay for Moonlight. “I wanted to explore the pivotal steps towards adulthood and identity, the ones we take when we think or feel we have no other choice,” McCraney said.

In addition to creating and writing the project, he will exec produce with Jordan and Revenge duo Mike Kelley and Melissa Loy. Warner Horizon Scripted Television will produce in association with Jordan’s Outlier Productions and Kelley and Loy’s Page Fright banner. 

“Being young, gifted and black in America today and anywhere for that matter makes it extremely hard and challenging to follow your dreams and achieve success,” said Jordan. “Tarell’s adaptation of this reality was so honest and true and it’s the exact message our youth needs today.”

Added Kelley and Loy: “From the moment Tarell began discussing his profoundly moving story with us, we knew we needed to find a courageous home to nurture his extraordinary vision. No one is better equipped to do that than Oprah Winfrey and her talented team.”

The untitled project joins OWN’s growing original drama slate as the Discovery-owned cabler prepares to part ways with prolific producer Tyler Perry in 2019 when he moves to Viacom for his rich overall deal. As part of that deal, Perry will produce 90 episodes of scripted television for BET and other Viacom networks.

OWN began expanding beyond Perry’s rich portfolio of originals (which include The Haves and Have Nots and If Loving You Is Wrong), with the successful launches of Greenleaf and Queen Sugar in 2016. Both have recently been renewed for their third seasons, the latter renewal which came hand-in-hand with a new development deal for creator Ava DuVernay at Winfrey’s Harpo Films.

In recent weeks, OWN has also teamed with Will Packer to develop scripted and unscripted series for the network. In July, the channel also ordered a light hourlong drama titled Love Is __ from Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil. Love Is __, Queen Sugar and the McCraney project all hail from Warner Horizon.

McCraney is repped by CAA, MANAGE-MENT, and Gang, Tyre. Jordan, whose screen credits include Fruitvale Station, Creed, Friday Night Lights and The Wire, is repped by WME and Bloom Hergott. Kelley and Loy, whose other series include critical darling Swingtown, are both repped by CAA and Sloane, Offer. 






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‘Game of Thrones’ “Death Is the Enemy” Photos

[Warning: This story contains spoilers for the fifth episode of Game of Thrones‘ seventh season, “Eastwatch.”]

Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and his companions are facing severe odds as they travel beyond the Wall to capture a member of the Night King’s army, but it looks like the scales could very well tip in their favor.

New photos for the next episode of Game of Thrones, called “Death Is the Enemy,” feature the Eastwatch elite trekking through the winter wasteland on what’s almost certainly a suicide mission for one or more of these warriors. Surprisingly enough, however, the most exciting image of the bunch doesn’t even take place in the North. It’s right at Dragonstone, where so much of the action of season seven has already taken place, and it centers on four very exciting figures: Daenerys Stormborn (Emilia Clarke) of House Targaryen, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), and two of the Mother of Dragons’ fire-breathing children.

Take a look at the image below:

It’s a significant costume change for Daenerys, wearing all white instead of the obsidian hues she’s adopted in season seven. Is she marching out to her dragons so she can throw her support behind Jon and the others beyond Eastwatch? In episode five, Dany was clearly upset at the notion of Jon heading off on this mission to secure a wight. “I’ve grown used to him,” she said of the King of the North, her heart all but literally on her sleeve. Based on this photo, it sure looks like Dany is ready to travel to Jon’s realm and let him know just how much she’s grown used to his company, by providing some fire power in the form of dragon ex machina.

Sure, it’s also possible she’s heading up to Winterfell to seize the castle and get the Northerners to bend the knee while Jon’s gone — but man, that would be an ice-cold move for the Dragon Queen. Then again, Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Arya (Maisie Williams) are both featured in these photos, which means we’re spending time at House Stark’s house in this coming episode. Let’s not rule out the possibility of a first meeting between the Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea and the ladies of Winterfell.

With or without Daenerys, Jon Snow has firepower on his side. The new “Death is the Enemy” photos feature the money shot of Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer) wielding his flaming blade, previously featured in one of the action-packed trailers for season seven. Finally, we’re going to see the Lightning Lord put his blazing sword to good use in this coming episode. Sadly, we also expect it’s going to be the last time we see Beric in battle, so savor the flavor while you can.

Check out the rest of the photos below:

Follow all season long for news, interviews, theories and more.

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‘Game of Thrones’ Early Outline Finale Predictions

[Warning: This article contains potential spoilers for the outcome of Game of Thrones.]

Who’s going to survive Game of Thrones when all is said and done — assuming anyone survives at all? We won’t have to wait long for the answer. There are only eight episodes left in the HBO fantasy series, expected to resolve within the next year or two, though there’s still no word on when exactly the final season will air. 

But if that feels like too long to wait, you could always give an early outline from author George R.R. Martin a gander for an answer.

A 1993 pitch from the A Song of Ice and Fire architect, previously seen online in 2015 and suddenly resurfacing this week on Business Insider UK (with a hat tip to Mashable), seemingly spells out the outcome for “five central characters,” as Martin describes them: Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), Arya Stark (Maisie Williams), Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) and Jon Snow (Kit Harington), destined to “[grow] from children to adults and [change] the world and themselves in the process.”

Of course, all five of those characters are alive and well — well, alive, at least. One could argue that Bran isn’t even Bran anymore, and certainly Arya seems unwell, having trouble readjusting to life back home in Winterfell. For his part, Jon Snow has been through death’s door once before, and could pass through again as soon as this week’s coming episode, “Death Is the Enemy.” Tyrion and Daenerys are the safest of the five at the moment, despite the Hand of the Queen striking out strategically on several recent occasions, not to mention the Dragon Queen being all too eager to charge into battle on her own. Still, all five of these characters Martin identifies as “[making] it through all three volumes” are still within the realm of the living, if only for now.

That’s not to say they will be alive for long, or that Martin’s story should be held accountable to an initial pitch written almost 25 years ago. By his own admission within the pitch: “I don’t outline my novels. I find that if I know exactly where a book is going, I lose all interest in writing it.” As a writer, Martin has long described himself as a gardener rather than an architect, planting seeds of stories and seeing where they take him, instead of building rigid blueprints. Even if he knows what he’s planted beneath the soil (one assumes Jon Snow’s Targaryen lineage is an ironclad fact, as an example), Martin leaves himself open to surprises in the growing process. 

In that regard, look no further than the fact that he initially pitched A Song of Ice and Fire as a trilogy, which has since become five published novels in the proper series, with two still unreleased installments for seven planned books in total. That’s not even mentioning how far the details of what Martin proposes in this pitch veer away from what he’s actually written — unless we’re heading for some surprise left turn where Jon Snow and Arya confess their love for each other, of course, which is about as unlikely a scenario as it gets. In other words, just because he listed Jon, Bran, Arya, Tyrion and Daenerys as safe “through all three volumes,” doesn’t mean the man hasn’t changed his mind, and certainly doesn’t mean Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss don’t have their own ideas in mind.

With all of that said, this sentence from Martin’s outline is interesting under closer scrutiny: “In a sense, my trilogy is almost a generational saga.” Now that’s an idea that might be instructive for how this story is coming in for a landing. Looking through the thousands of years of Westeros history (much of which is described within the pages of The World of Ice and Fire by Martin and co-founders Elio Garcia and Linda Antonsson), one common thread becomes clear: Starks, Lannisters, Targaryens and other recognizable names run rampant throughout the centuries, somehow surviving no matter how many deadly obstacles are thrown their way. Ancient wars against unholy monsters, countless rebellions, petty in-fighting… throughout it all, many of the major houses have endured, in the face of overwhelming odds.

It’s easy to see how the end of Game of Thrones might keep that tradition alive, allowing at least one or more representatives from great houses to survive through the end. Bran doesn’t identify as Bran anymore, and there’s an argument that there’s no place like home for Arya anymore either, but Sansa (Sophie Turner) is certainly being positioned to keep House Stark alive moving forward. Cersei (Lena Headey) and Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) feel like they are on a collision course with disaster, but Tyrion could keep House Lannister in the mix. There are two Targaryen options in Jon Snow and Daenerys, too; only one needs to survive in order to keep the family alive. 

There are other houses and regions of Westeros primed for the next generation, too. For instance, Gendry (Joe Dempsie) returned this week, the last Baratheon, albeit an illegitimate one. But House Baratheon was originally founded by a bastard, which puts Gendry in an interesting place to echo some ancient history. Likewise, Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) is positioned to fulfill a similarly circular destiny. Long ago, in the days of Aegon’s Conquest, House Gardener was in charge of the Reach, their line completely extinguished in the Targaryen invasion. Sound familiar? Following House Tyrell’s collapse across seasons six and seven, Sam’s father was in line to take over Highgarden, before meeting the business end of Dany’s dragonfire. As Jon’s best friend and Jorah Mormont’s (Iain Glen) savior, Sam should have an easy time getting along with Daenerys, assuming he doesn’t hold a grudge over what she did to his father (a man Sam feared and loathed by all accounts). His ascension to Lord of the Reach would be yet another fulfillment of the idea of A Song of Ice and Fire as “a generational saga.”

After five books and almost seven full seasons, Thrones viewers should know that nobody’s safety is guaranteed within this story, certainly not as promised more than two decades ago. But if Martin’s a gardener, and if he planted the seeds of “a generational saga,” then it’s worth chewing on the strong possibility that some version of Westeros and its historical families will still be standing when all is said and done — even if the specific representatives of those families remain very much in flux.

Follow all season long for news, interviews, theories and more.

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Take Me to the Pilots Ten Days in the Valley

Kyra Sedgwick and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje are decent leads in a kidnapping thriller that feels a lot like stuff ABC has done before.

[I’ll remind you at the top of every single one of these: These entries are not reviews. They’re gut reactions to not-for-air pilots that could change in big and small ways between now and September or October or midseason. Full reviews will come then. They’ll be longer. And more carefully considered. The opinions may even change. Who knows?]

Show: Ten Days in the Valley (ABC)
The Pitch: “Remember Red Widow and Missing?” “Only a little.” “How about Somewhere Between?” “No.” “Good God, it’s on TV now!” “Sorry.” “No worries. Then this’ll feel new.”
Quick Response: [ABC made multiple Ten Days in the Valley episodes available to critics pre-press tour, but this reaction is only based on the pilot, because that’s what Take Me To The Pilots is.] The ABC assembly line has, intentionally or otherwise, imparted a certain sameness to a string of dramas about driven women [generally single parents] who have to restore order when their attempts to balance professional and personal space go wildly astray. The Hollywood twist in this story of a showrunner whose daughter goes missing at least means that the backdrop of Ten Days in the Valley has some recognizable grounding, but from the musical choices to the cinematography to the interior design and lighting of the main character’s house, this feels right on familiar brand for ABC. Kyra Sedgwick is a worthy occupier of the Ashley Judd/Radha Mitchell/Paula Patton role, making her character flawed in some unapologetic ways, but also familiar ways. I was much more interested by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje bringing likable swagger and confidence to his role as initially skeptical cop who will eventually surely get his flirt on with Sedgwick’s Jane, but that part is familiar too. The pilot’s string of “Well that’s a bit dumb, but at least I didn’t expect it” twists? You guessed it! Familiar! Of the various supporting players, I liked Malcolm-Jamal Warner, as a professionally threatening writer on Jane’s show, and Emily Kinney, as Jane’s chipper and off-kilter assistant, the most and Kick Gurry, as Jane’s basically-only-there-to-be-a-suspect ex-husband, least.
Desire To Watch Again: Moderate. It doesn’t matter that I feel like I’ve seen ABC make this same show a dozen times, just so long as at the end of the pilot I’m curious about the mystery of who kidnapped Jane’s daughter. For now, I am. So I’ll watch more. Be warned, though: This is not five-times better than Two Days in the Valley.

Take Me to the Pilots ’17: CBS’ ‘S.W.A.T.’
Take Me to the Pilots ’17: Fox’s ‘LA to Vegas’
Take Me to the Pilots ’17: CBS’ ‘SEAL Team’
Take Me to the Pilots ’17: The CW’s ‘Dynasty’
Take Me to the Pilots ’17: ABC’s ‘The Good Doctor’
Take Me to the Pilots ’17: CBS’ ‘Wisdom of the Crowd’
Take Me to the Pilots ’17: The CW’s ‘Valor’
Take Me to the Pilots ’17: ABC’s ‘The Mayor’
Take Me to the Pilots ’17: Fox’s ‘Ghosted’
Take Me to the Pilots ’17: NBC’s ‘The Brave’
Take Me to the Pilots ’17: CBS’ ‘Young Sheldon’
All of my 2016 Take Me to the Pilots Entries

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Leslie Jones and Keegan-Michael Key Play “True Confessions” on ‘The Tonight Show’

Key revealed that he ad-libbed his work on the recent Camp Winnipesaukee sketch with Justin Timberlake and Billy Crystal.

Jokes and gut feelings were on hand when Keegan-Michael Key and Leslie Jones joined Jimmy Fallon for a game of “True Confessions” on Tuesday’s Tonight Show. The contestants read a statement about themselves that is either true or a lie.

Key went first, getting distracted by the fact that the coffee on the table wasn’t really coffee and was just a prop. He spoke about dressing as a caveman for a singing telegram company and “Detective Jones,” as Key called Jones, said she believed him.

When it was Fallon’s turn, his truth or lie was that he rode on the back of a Jet Ski with Madonna. Jones asked what year it was and when Fallon said 2011, she said she knew he was lying because “Madonna’s like 75.” (Madonna is 59.)

Fallon also said that the two didn’t speak the entire trip.

“That might be the truth then because Madonna don’t like white people,” said Jones. “I mean, she won’t even talk to half of me,” laughed Key.

They both accused Fallon of lying, rightfully so, as he confessed it was made up. Then it was Jones’ turn to convince the two men that she accepted a ride home from a man on a horse while at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Earlier in the show Key sat down with Fallon and laughed about their experience filming the latest Camp Winnipesaukee sketch with Justin Timberlake and Billy Crystal.

Fallon said Key never did the same take twice, constantly ad-libbing lines. Key replied that he’s learned that beyond learning lines the important thing is to just “try and make everyone else laugh.”

“It keeps everyone feeling free and everybody on their toes and it makes everything feel alive,” said Key.

Key also thanked Fallon for his heartfelt words about Charlottesville, Va., from his monologue Monday.

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‘Suits’ Spinoff With Gina Torres Set for Season 7 Finale

The potential offshoot will air in the first quarter of 2018.

It’s official: USA Network is moving ahead with a potential Suits spinoff starring Gina Torres.

The NBCUniversal-owned cable network Wednesday confirmed that the backdoor pilot will air as the Aaron Korsh-created procedural’s season seven finale and is slated to air in the first quarter of 2018.

The episode will reunite Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht), Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams), Louis Litt (Rick Hoffman), Donna Paulsen (Sarah Rafferty) and Rachel Zane (Meghan Markle) with their old friend Jessica Pearson (Torres) as she adjusts to her new life in the Windy City. When she is forced to enter the dirty world of Chicago politics, Pearson must rely on her legal wits and valiant relationships from Pearson Specter Litt to navigate this unknown territory.

Suits creator Korsh will pen the script alongside longtime exec producer Daniel Arkin. Anton Cropper (Suits, House of Lies, Black-ish) will direct the pilot, which like the flagship is exec produced by Universal Cable Productions and Hypnotic’s Doug Liman, David Bartis and Gene Klein.

“The powerhouse character of Jessica Pearson, expertly brought to life by the incomparable Gina Torres, has won the hearts of television fans everywhere,” said Chris McCumber, president of entertainment networks at NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment. “USA Network is beyond thrilled to work with Gina, Aaron Korsh, the entire Suits producing team and our partners at UCP to explore the exciting next phase of Jessica’s story.”

Torres, who left Suits in season six, returned in the season six finale. In the time since she was a regular on USA Network’s longest-running original, she booked a recurring role on ABC’s since-canceled Shondaland drama The Catch and she was set to star in The Death of Eva Sofia Valdez, an ABC drama pilot that did not move forward. 

“Gina Torres is a terrific actress and a valued member of our family,” said Jeff Wachtel, chief content officer at NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment and UCP president. “Gina and Aaron have created a truly memorable character in Jessica Pearson, and we felt we owed it to the audience — and ourselves! — to follow her journey beyond the original show.”

The official confirmation of the untitled spinoff pilot pickup comes six months after news first leaked that UCP was exploring a potential spinoff with Torres, though at the time USA Network had not yet heard the pitch despite being the natural home for the drama.

Torres is repped by Domain, Framework Entertainment and Shreck Rose.

“[Torres] had an idea and went to the studio and sort of discussed with them … It wasn’t a vague idea but it was a broader idea. They came to me, asked me what I thought. Obviously I love Jessica, I’m interested in seeing what’s happening with her in the future, and we decided to pursue it,” Korsh told THR in March after the season six finale.

The Suits spinoff joins a pilot slate at USA Network that also includes comedic crime drama Olive Forever. Suits, meanwhile, awaits word on a potential eighth season at USA.

Should the spinoff move forward, it would join a robust slate at USA that also includes Colony, Falling Water, Mr. Robot, Queen of the South, The Sinner, Damnation and Unsolved. Sophomore drama Shooter is, like Suits, awaiting word on its future.

Spinoffs continue to remain in high demand as broadcast, cable and streaming platforms look for proved IP in a bid to break through a cluttered landscape that features more than 455 scripted originals. CBS in the fall will launch a Big Bang Theory spinoff (Young Sheldon) and has found success with The Good Wife (The Good Fight) spinoff on its digital platform. AMC has hits in Better Call Saul and Fear the Walking Dead, both spinoffs of Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead, respectively. HBO is also looking to continue mega-hit Game of Thrones and is developing four prequel shows.

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Al Franken Books ‘Real Time’ Return After N-Word Boycott

The Democratic senator was not appeared since Bill Maher’s highly criticized use of the n-word in early June.

Al Franken is returning to Real Time.

More than a month after bowing out of his appearance on Bill Maher’s show over the host’s highly criticized use of the n-word, the Democratic senator is set as Bill Maher’s top-of-the-show guest on Friday’s episode.

Franken was last set to appear on the June 9th edition of the long-running HBO series. However, after Maher used the n-word in what many deemed to be an inappropriate way on his June 2nd episode, Franken pulled out of his planned appearance and has not appeared on Real Time since.

“Senator Franken believes that what Bill Maher said was inappropriate and offensive, which is why he made the decision not to appear on the next episode of Real Time,”  the Senator’s spokesperson said at the time. “The statement continues, “He was glad to see Bill, who the Senator considers to be a good friend, apologize and express sincere regret for his comment.”

At the time, HBO also issued a strongly worded statement criticizing Maher’s language: “Bill Maher’s comment last night was completely inexcusable and tasteless. We are removing his deeply offensive comment from any subsequent airings of the show.”

In the June 9th episode, Maher issued a lengthy apology for his comment. “I did a bad thing,” he said at the time. “For black folks, that word — I don’t care who you are — it’s caused pain. It doesn’t matter that it was not said in malice, it caused pain, and that’s why I apologized. I’m not that big of an asshole.”

“We’re all evolving,” continued Maher. “Yes, it was wrong, and I own up to that. It happened, and it was wrong. People make mistakes, we’re all sinners.”

Other guests for Friday’s show include Penn Jillette, Gavin Newsom and Amy Holmes.

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TV Ratings: ‘Talent’ Hits a High, ‘Paradise’ Slips in Night 2

‘America’s Got Talent’ ties its highest-rated episode in three years.

NBC helped compensate for the absence of World of Dance on Tuesday night with a three-year ratings high for America’s Got Talent.

The dominant summer series moved up to a 2.8 rating among adults 18-49, its best showing this season in the key demo and tie for a three-year high. Among total viewers, it also topped the night with 13.2 million viewers. New neighbor Hollywood Game Night scored its best demo showing since early 2016, a 1.3 rating, and ranked as one of its most-watched telecast ever (5.4 million viewers.)

The second consecutive night of Bachelor in Paradise was no match for America’s Got Talent. It dipped from Monday’s premiere high, slipping four-tenths of a point in the key demo to a 1.1 rating. Among total viewers, it was down to 3.8 million. At 10 p.m., Somewhere Between fetched a 0.4 rating among adults 18-49.

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