REALITY SHOW WRITERS WRITE A SECOND LAWSUIT
A second round of lawsuits was filed on Wednesday by reality show staff members who are being backed by the Writers Guild of America, which is seeking to organize such workers. The lawsuit charges Fox Broadcasting and Rocket Science Laboratories with violating California labor laws, maintaining that the workers were required to sign phony time cards and work long hours without being paid overtime. At a news conference, one of the ten plaintiffs in the suit charged that he had been required to fill out three weeks of time cards in advance when he reported for work as a story assistant on Renovate My Family. Zachary Isenberg told reporters that he was nervous that his involvement in the lawsuit could end his career. "But there comes a point where you have to stand up for yourself," he said. The WGA, which claims that the positions of story assistant, story editor, and field producer on reality shows are essentially writers' jobs, is also aiding six other writers who recently sued four networks and four reality-show production companies run by Mike Fleiss.
PAT ROBERTSON SAYS HE WAS "MISINTERPRETED" BY THE PRESS
Televangelist Pat Robertson on Wednesday charged that the media had "misinterpreted" his televised remarks about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Appearing on his 700 Club show, which airs on Disney's ABC Family channel, Robertson denied that he had called for Chavez's assassination. "I said our special forces could take him out," Robertson said. "'Take him out' could be a number of things including kidnapping. There are a number of ways of taking out a dictator from power besides killing him. I was misinterpreted." However, a transcript of Robertson's earlier remarks indicates that he had used no such language. "If he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war," he had declared. On his Fox News television show Wednesday, anchor Brit Hume took rival news channel CNN to task for prominently featuring Robertson's remarks, insisting that Robertson's influence had dwindled and that "he may have no clout with the Bush administration." However, at least one blog listed 10 live guest appearances by Robertson on Fox News programs during the past 10 months, a figure that was also mentioned by MSNBC personality Keith Olbermann Wednesday night when he featured Hume as his daily "worst person in the world."
VAN SUSTEREN SAYS ARUBA CASE CALLS ATTENTION TO ALL MISSING PEOPLE
Fox News anchor Greta Van Susteren responded Wednesday to criticism of her sustained coverage of the Natalee Holloway missing-person case in Aruba, insisting that it is symptomatic of a larger "epidemic" of missing persons. (She cited no studies to substantiate her claim that the number of missing persons has grown.) Referring to the decision by Bob Costas to refuse to preside over a Larry King Live show on CNN about the Holloway case, Van Susteren remarked: "I am certain he does realize how important it is to investigate missing persons and that he knows of the power of the media in keeping up the search. I bet his decision not to guest host was not meant to insult the many suffering families or law enforcement agencies working around the clock to find them. I will continue to watch Bob Costas... he seems like a nice guy." She also remarked that she realizes "that our competition has slipped considerably, and I also know that the 'oldest trick in the book' is to get ratings or readers by saying 'I would never do that story' since by making that statement or writing an editorial about it, you look 'clean' in your mind."
INTEL TO BRING COMPUTER CAPABILITIES TO TV SETS
Microchip maker Intel presumably wants to put its "Intel Inside" logo on a new generation of TV sets that will allow consumers to download and play music, video and games via the Internet. (Writers could not agree on whether the chip would create TV sets with computer capabilities or add TV functions to computers.) The "brains" of such sets will be the VIIV (rhymes with "dive") chip, a so-called dual-core processor that requires virtually no boot-up time. Intel did not disclose what the letters are intended to signify. An early logo posted on some websites substitutes two forward slashes for the middle letters ("V//V"). Meanwhile digital recording pioneer TiVo, whose settop boxes offer similar functions, posted its first profitable quarter on Wednesday, reporting net income of $240,000 versus a loss of $10.8 million during the comparable quarter a year a go.
U.K. CHANNEL 4 ACCUSED OF BREAKING AD RULES
Britain's Channel 4 has insisted that it has broken no regulations by airing numerous commercial breaks during its telecasts of the hit ABC drama Lost. Rules by British regulator OFCOM require that there should be at least 20 minutes of uninterrupted content before a broadcaster may cut in with ads. But a spokeswoman for the channel pointed out Wednesday that another rule requires that the natural flow of a scene not be interrupted. "We would have received far more complaints if we had cut it half way through a scene full of action," she said.
UNIVERSAL, FOX TO PLAY HALO WITH MICROSOFT
Halo, which became a huge video-game hit for Microsoft and helped it successfully launch its Xbox game console, will be transformed into a movie in 2007 as the result of a deal signed Wednesday between the software company and two studios, Universal and 20th Century Fox. The studios reportedly agreed to pay Microsoft $5 million, plus a percentage of the box-office gross for the rights. In addition, Microsoft reportedly plans to coordinate the opening of the film with its release of the Halo 3 videogame. (Halo 2 took in over $125 million in sales on the first day of its release last November.) As part of the deal, Universal will oversee production of the movie and distribute it domestically, while Fox will distribute it overseas.
SID GANIS TO HEAD OSCAR GROUP
Sid Ganis has been named president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, the organization that presents the annual Oscar awards. He succeeds writer-director Frank Pierson, who had served four consecutive one-year terms, the maximum allowed under Academy rules. Ganis is a former studio chief of Paramount Pictures and vice chairman of Columbia Pictures. In 1996, he founded Out of the Blue Entertainment, which is currently wrapping up production of Akeelah and the Bee, starring Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne, and is working on a movie version of I Dream of Jeannie. With several studio executives in recent days blaming the overall poor quality of Hollywood's output this year for the summer slump at the box office, Ganis sounded positively upbeat when interviewed by today's (Thursday) Los Angeles Times following his election: "I think the motion picture business is safe and sound," he told the newspaper. "Through it all, good films are there and will always have a presence."
COMING SOON: BATTLE OF THE NETWORK STARS: THE MOVIE
In what may seem like the unlikeliest transition from TV to feature films, Paramount is planning to produce a movie version of Battle of the Network Stars, which ran on ABC from 1978 to 1984. The show, in which TV stars competed in "athletic" events (tug-of-war was one of them; Bob Newhart participated in a memorable event spinning plates atop poles), will be exec produced by Barry Frank who created the original show. It is being written by Etan Cohen, a former writer on King of the Hill and Beavis and Butt-head. The TV show was hosted by the late TV sports personality Howard Cosell (Daily Variety commented today that he "presided over the proceedings as soberly as if he were hosting the Olympics"); it was revived on the Bravo channel last week with Mike Adamle, the former football star and sportscaster, doing the play-by-play.
VIDEO DISTRIBUTORS CALL FOR SINGLE HIGH-DEFINITION STANDARD
The National Association of Video Distributors (NAVD) has joined the Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA) in calling for a single high-definition DVD standard to be agreed upon before any product is released in the high-definition format. The NAVD board on Wednesday endorsed the VSDA's "Baseline Criteria for High Definition DVD Format," which, while taking no position on which of the two competing formats should be adopted, concluded that distributing product in "more than one format is likely unsustainable" and that a format war would "confuse the public and lead to reluctance to embrace either format."
THE TRUTH IS THAT EGOYAN'S TRUTH IS RATED NC-17
The Motion Picture Association of America ratings board confirmed Wednesday that it had bestowed an NC-17 rating on director Atom Egoyan's Where the Truth Lies because of "explicit sexuality." The film includes a ménage à trois scene that those who have seen it have described as graphic. In an interview with today's (Thursday) Toronto Star, Joan Graves, Chairman of the MPAA Rating Council, commented: "What we're supposed to do is rate the film the way we think most American parents would rate it. ... We're supposed to reflect standards, not set them. Our board believes that most parents would think it's in the adult category." Earlier this week, Egoyan told the Hollywood Reporter that he had "no idea" that the ménage scene would be a problem. "I guess I'm naïve," he said. But Canadian Press reporter Kathleen O'Hara, who saw the film at the Cannes Film Festival in May, told the Star that Egoyan "would have to be living in a cave if he thought his film would be rated otherwise in today's America." The film's distributor, Toronto-based ThinkFilm, said that it plans to appeal the rating.