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TV Bulletin Board (Mon., June 25) -- As the Crowe flies in Showtime's new 8-part Roger Ailes biopic

Crowe-Auction-header Roger-Ailes-

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Russell Crowe has put on a few since his Gladiator days. Even so, Showtime’s announcement Monday that he’ll playing Roger Ailes in a limited series came as a distinct but nonetheless intriguing surprise.

Crowe, no doubt with the aid of some prosthetics, will be the principal star of an eight-part limited series based on the bestselling book The Loudest Voice in the Room by Gabriel Sherman. Ailes, the founder of Fox News Channel, died in May of last year at age 77 after resigning from FNC in the midst of multiple allegations of sexual misconduct.

Ailes’ “Fair and Balanced” mantra for FNC became both mocked and embraced during the network’s steady climb to the top of the cable news ratings heap. The network in fact is a conservative force and latter day fervent supporter of President Trump, for whom Ailes briefly became an advisor before his death.

“In many ways, the collision between the media and politics has come to define the world we live in today,” Showtime president and CEO David Nevins said in a statement accompanying the announcement of the series and Crowe’s casting. “We’ve seen this phenomenon depicted on screen as far back as the story of Charles Foster Kane, and it finds contemporary embodiment in the rise and fall of Roger Ailes. With Russell Crowe in the lead role, this limited series promises to be a defining story for this era.”

The principal executive producers are Jason Blum (Whiplash, Get Out) and Tom McCarthy, who won a Best Original Screenplay Oscar for 2015’s Best Picture winner, Spotlight.

Crowe, 54, has three Oscar nominations for his acting, including a win for Gladiator, which made him an international star and occasionally tabloid fodder for a series of off-screen escapades tied to a volatile temper that seemingly has since been tamed.

Casting the New Zealand-born actor as Ailes seems to be a rather odd fit on the face of it. But Tom Selleck once credibly played Dwight D. Eisenhower in an A&E network film while Bill Murray and Woody Harrelson respectively have been cast as Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lyndon Baines Johnson in recent feature films that did little business at the box office. And way back in 1986, Richard Crenna played Dallas billionaire and former two-time presidential candidate H. Ross Perot in the 1986 NBC miniseries On Wings of Eagles. The makeup department didn’t even try to make him look like Perot

This will be Crowe’s first role in a U.S. television series. Showtime does not have a firm title yet, or an air date.

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TV Bulletin Board (Thurs., April 3) -- Conan O'Brien expands, contracts, adapts


Conan O’Brien has hosted Conan since Nov. 8, 2010. TBS photo

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Let’s get to the conventional bottom line first: Conan, a staple of TBS’ late night lineup since Nov. 8, 2010, will be shrinking from an hour to half an hour at the start of next year.

Otherwise you’ll see more of Conan O’Brien, if you’d like, on other digital age “platforms.” It’s a move that O’Brien has been considering for the last few years, and now TBS is finally playing along with him.

In its announcement Thursday, TBS said the “expanded partnership” will be “spanning television, digital, social and live events that will enable the late night icon to capitalize and interact with his multi-generational fan base across platforms.”

One of the main new ventures, launching in late 2018, TBS says, is a multi-city tour with a “curated team of comics” that will be “hosted by O’Brien himself.”

O’Brien, who first entered the after-hours arena in 1993 as host of NBC’s Late Night program, notes that “TV has changed exponentially” in the quarter-century since. “Now it’s time for me to take the next leap. A half-hour show will give me the time to do a higher percentage of the comedy in, and out, of the studio that I love and that seems to resonate in this new digital world. It’s still going to be me hosting a very silly show, but I want segments on my half-hour program to link to digital content, deepening the experience for my younger fans, and confusing my older ones.”

Having recently turned 55, he’s not a kid anymore and is now well outside the 18-to-49-year-old audience demographic craved by most advertisers.

TBS said O’Brien will be continuing his hour-long Conan Without Borders specials, which last took him to Cuba. Also, O’Brien’s “entire catalogue” of Late Night and Conan shows will be digitally available on TBS. Not surprisingly, this doesn’t include his short tenure as NBC’s Tonight Show host before the network gave the program back to Jay Leno. While trying to recover from the bitterness he felt, O’Brien went on a nationwide tour that preceded his hiring by TBS.

In decisions that were no-brainers since the recent starts of their second seasons, HBO has renewed Westworld for a third season while Hulu has green lit a Season 3 of The Handmaid’s Tale.

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TV Bulletin Board (Thurs., Jan. 25) -- Giving the reboot to Murphy Brown


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Resurrecting onetime hit TV series -- either with the old cast or a brand new one -- may have gone from a fever pitch to a fanatical one with CBS’ announcement that Murphy Brown is coming back.

So is Candice Bergen, who played the title character for Murphy’s entire run (1988-’98) and won five Emmy awards for her acting. Bergen, now 71, then declined future nominations in order to give someone else a chance to win.

Slated to return for 13 episodes sometime during the 2018-’19 TV season, Murphy will find itself in a “new world of cable news, social media, fake news and a very different political and cultural climate,” CBS noted in a publicity release.

Set within the fictional world of the television news magazine FYI, the comedy aggressively tackled real world issues and famously drew the ire of Vice President Dan Quayle when a pregnant Murphy decided to have the child (a son) and raise little Avery on her own after the father objected to compromising his lifestyle in order to be a parent. Quayle accused the show of “mocking the importance of fathers by bearing a child alone and calling it just another lifestyle choice.”

Murphy eventually wrote his remarks into an episode and Quayle was widely mocked and criticized, most visibly during the 1992 Emmy Awards ceremony in which Bergen won her third trophy and the show its second. The show’s creator, Diane English, led the charge that night and will return as the show runner of CBS’ new version.

Other than Bergen, no other cast members were announced by CBS. Two members of the show’s charter ensemble, Robert Pastorelli and Pat Corley, are deceased while other such as Faith Ford, Grant Shaud and Joe Regalbuto have had little visibility in the past decade or so. It’s possible that none of them will be asked to return. Lily Tomlin, who became a regular in Murphy’s last two seasons, is currently co-starring with Jane Fonda in Netflix’s Grace and Frankie comedy series. But if asked, she presumably could find time to at least occasionally reprise her character of Kay Carter-Shepley, who replaced Shaud’s Miles Silverberg as FYI’s producer.

Reprises have been all the rage in recent years. The current landscape includes do-overs of Will & Grace, S.W.A.T., The X-Files, Dynasty, Full House, One Day At A Time, Hawaii Five-0, Macgyver, Fear Factor and a raft of ABC game shows. Roseanne and American Idol will be coming to ABC after NBC concludes its telecasts of the Winter Olympics. And the Peacock network is developing new versions of The Munsters, Miami Vice and The Office after earlier false-starting a Coach do-over that would have put Craig T. Nelson back in play.

Given how things are going, that may only be the half of it.


A reader sent along the below graphic of a vivid and now very dated cigarette ad. The three stars are all long gone, with Arthur Godfrey dying of eventual ramifications from lung cancer treatments. After being diagnosed, he became an anti-smoking spokesman.


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TV Bulletin Board (Fri., Oct. 27) -- Jeff Glor is CBS News' new standardbearer


New kid on the block: Jeff Glor gets CBS News’ top job. CBS photo

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Elevating Jeff Glor to anchor the CBS Evening News represents both a youth movement and a wise decision to go in-house rather than throw a lot of money at a “big name” from a rival network.

Glor, a relative kid at the age of 42, has been with CBS News for a decade and brings ample experience as a field reporter. On a yet to be announced date, he’ll succeed Anthony Mason, 61, who had been an interim replacement for the deposed Scott Pelley, 60.

Glor’s boyish good looks and thick head of hair are almost a match for ABC World News Tonight anchor David Muir, who will turn 44 on Nov. 8th. NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt is now the runaway oldster of this trio at age 58.

“Jeff is a thoughtful, probing journalist with the versatility to anchor in any circumstances -- from daily reporting to the most significant events of our time,” CBS News president David Rhodes said in a statement.

Big, showy investments in outside “talent” traditionally have not gone well for CBS, which has tried and failed over the years with the likes of Connie Chung, Bryant Gumbel and most notably, Katie Couric. Glor will be comparatively cost-efficient while also coming up through the ranks rather than blowing in and raising resentments. News networks historically have been far better off grooming their own stars from within.

The three broadcast network evening newscasts have been scoffed at as “dinosaurs” by some. But they individually still draw larger audiences than the great majority of prime-time entertainment shows on either broadcast or cable outlets. In the most recent week, ABC led the way with 8.254 million total viewers for World News Tonight, followed by NBC’s Nightly News (7.778 million) and the CBS Evening News (6.086 million).

For the prime-time ratings week of Oct. 16-22, only CBS averaged more viewers per show than its flagship newscast.


HBO continues to amass an imposing list of comedic talent for its live Nov. 18th Night of Too Many Stars: America Unites For Autism Programs. The latest additions include Chris Rock, Ben Stiller and Howie Mandel. They join the previously announced Adam Sandler, John Oliver, Louis C.K., Stephen Colbert and others. Jon Stewart again hosts.

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TV Bulletin Board (Wed., Jan. 18) -- Netflix poaches Comedians In Cars


Laughing it up with the Prez on Comedians In Cars. Crackle photo

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And the rich get richer. In this case it’s both Netflix and Jerry Seinfeld.

The king of all streaming networks and the swimming-in-money comedian have signed a deal that will take Seinfeld’s Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee away from Crackle, where it originated in July 2012.

Seinfeld also will star in two new standup specials for Netflix, which says that new episodes of Comedians In Cars -- 24 in all -- will debut in late 2017 in addition to earlier editions of the java-fueled get-togethers.

When he began developing Comedians In Cars, “the entire Netflix business model consisted of mailing out DVDs in envelopes,” Seinfeld says in a publicity release. “I love that we are now joining together, both at very different points . . . I am really quite charged up to be moving there.”

***The official Mad Men archives are being donated to the University of Texas at Austin’s Harry Ransom Center. The donor is series creator Matthew Weiner, who says, “It’s our hope that the Mad Men archive can satisfy academic curiosity and also provide creative inspiration.”

In a companion interview released with the announcement, Weiner says he first visited the Ransom Center during the Austin Film Festival and was impressed with its Gone With The Wind exhibit. The Mad Men archive will be exhaustive, he adds, with “every draft of every script and all the dailies of every episode” in addition to “a wealth of props, costumes and communication that represent not only the process but the key moments in the conception and execution of the show.”

But no, Jon Hamm will not be the official tour guide.

***On the Everything Old is New Again front, NBC says that Will & Grace will return for a limited 10-episode run sometime during the 2017-18 TV season. The four principal cast members -- Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Megan Mullally and Sean Hayes -- all will reprise their original roles.

NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt, in a publicity release, describes Will & Grace as a “groundbreaking series for everything from gay rights to social and political commentary -- all disguised as a high-speed train of witty pop culture.”

It originally aired from 1998 to 2006 on NBC and won 16 Emmy awards during that time.

NBC also has announced a two-season pickup of its breakout hit, This Is Us, with a minimum of 18 episodes per season. And the Peacock has ordered 20 additional episodes of The Wall, a big-money game show produced by big-moneyed LeBron James.

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net