A LAST-MINUTE REPRIEVE FOR DEADWOOD
There's life in Deadwood after all, it turns out. After all sides had indicated that the critically acclaimed HBO series would not be returning after this season concludes, HBO, in an unusual Sunday announcement, said that it has decided to produce two two-hour specials that will "bring closure" to the series for its fans. It had been announced last month that HBO would not renew the contracts with the cast of the show and that the sets were being torn down. (The DarkHorizons website said today (Monday) that members of the crew of the show had already taken jobs elsewhere and those working on tearing down the sets had been issued a "halt" order on Sunday.) Daily Variety quoted an HBO representatives as saying that the network was confident about reaching deals with the show's performers for the specials, even though, as previously noted, creator-producer David Milch had assembled one of the largest regular casts for the drama in TV history.
MORE MORNING STRAIN HITS GOOD MORNING AMERICA
The morning TV upheaval has become more turbulent with the announcement that Good Morning America executive producer Ben Sherwood is quitting effective Oct. 1. In a message to the show's staff on Friday, Sherwood said that he plans to return to Los Angeles for family reasons. (Daily Variety reported that his mother is ailing; other reports noted that Sherwood's wife Karen is co-chairman of Imagine Films.) His exit will follow that of Charles Gibson, who is leaving the show at the end of this month to devote full time to his new duties as anchor of ABC's World News Tonight. Meanwhile, analyst Andrew Tyndall has told USA Today that the loss of Gibson could leave GMA vulnerable to audience erosion. "There are a whole lot of viewers who needed Gibson as the ballast of the show," Tyndall told the newspaper. "Without him, GMA literally loses its anchor."
YOU CAN BE YOUR OWN TV CHANNEL
The popular video website YouTube.com, which launched in February 2005 and already shows 50 million videos a day to six million users, has added an upgrade that, in effect, allows users to create their own "channels." The channels would display links to favorite videos and/or include the user's own videos. Each channel would include a log of the last 100 videos the user has watched. Similar channels would be invited to link to each other, thereby creating groups of related content. TV producers have yet to come to grips with the popularity of YouTube, with some regarding it as a means to promote their programs while others regarding it as a stomping ground of video pirates.
BANKRUPTCY JUDGE BARS ANY OTHER LAWSUIT AGAINST ADELPHIA SALE
A federal bankruptcy judge has blocked an antitrust lawsuit filed by The America Channel seeking to halt Time Warner Cable and Comcast's joint purchase of Adelphia Communications. In a court order granting Adelphia an injunction against TAC, Judge Robert Gerber barred the channel from taking any further court action that would interfere with the sale. An attorney for the channel vowed to challenge the order. The fledgling America Channel, which was unable to negotiate a carriage deal with either Time Warner or Comcast, claims that the two acted in cahoots to drive down the price of Adelphia and that the sale would increase their monopoly power in deciding which channels get carried and which do not.
BONDS UN-BONDED FROM ESPN
Add another asterisk to the name of Barry Bonds -- one indicating that he is now a former television star. ESPN said Friday that it had yanked the television show Bonds on Bonds after Bonds's representatives had demanded creative control of the final episode. Presumably the agents had wanted the right to eliminate from the program any reference to the controversy surrounding allegations that Bonds had used steroids in his quest to challenge Babe Ruth's home-run record.
DIRECTV DISCLOSES WHAT VIEWERS ARE WATCHING
Certain to set off alarms among privacy activists, DirecTV has launched a "What's Hot!" channel that lists the 10 most popular shows currently being watched by its subscribers. In an announcement, the News Corp-controlled home satellite service said that the instant results "are aggregated from a universe" of DirecTV subscribers, but it was not clear whether viewers' homes were being sampled or whether the top-ten list represented data from all 15.4 million subscribers. The statement quoted Eric Shanks, executive VP of DirecTV Entertainment as saying, "Never again will DirecTV viewers miss the most-talked-about shows, because they will always know what they are thanks to 'What's Hot!'"
X-MEN: THE ONE-WEEK STAND
Box-office analysts were left with a sizable serving of crow on their plates after their predictions that X-Men: The Last Stand was certain to remain the top ticket seller over the weekend were broken up by The Break Up. According to studio estimates, the Jennifer Aniston-Vince Vaughn romantic comedy opened with $38.1 million, well above the $25-30 million that was predicted, while the X-Men movie tumbled 67 percent to $34.35 million, the biggest second-weekend decline ever for a Memorial Day tentpole film. Meanwhile, DreamWorks Animation's Over the Hedge dropped just 24 percent in its third week as it grossed $20.6 million to come in third. The Da Vinci Code continued its swift decline, falling 43 percent to $19.3 million, landing in fourth place. Perhaps the most surprising performance of all was that for the Al Gore global-warming documentary An Inconvenient Truth, which grossed $1.3 million in just 77 theaters, or an average of $17,292 per theater. By contrast, The Break-Up, which opened on 3,070 screens, averaged $12,395 per theater. The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:
1. The Break-Up, $38.1 million; 2. X-Men: The Last Stand, $34.35 million; 3. Over the Hedge, $20.6 million; 4. The Da Vinci Code, $19.3 million; 5. Mission: Impossible III, $4.67 million; 6. Poseidon, $3.4 million; 7. RV, $3.3 million; 8. See No Evil, $2 million; 9. An Inconvenient Truth, $1.33 million; 10. Just My Luck, $825,000.
A NEW SPORT: BOX-OFFICE BETTING
With numerous online entertainment betting sites cropping up, the weekend box-office derby has become virtually "a participatory sport," the Los Angeles Times observed today (Monday). The newspaper took particular note of BetUs.com which, prior to each weekend, sets an estimated target for a new movie's earnings to bet against. (When it set $81.5 million for X-Men everyone who bet over that amount was a winner when sales reached $102.8 million.) One sports betting site, World Sports Exchange, reported that its movie wagering jumped 26 percent last year. "Nobody seems to care about the old questions anymore: Is a film any good? Does it have cultural meaning?" Robert Sklar, a cinema professor at New York University, told the Times. "Now people ask: 'Will it come in above or below the predictions?'"
WEDDING CRASHERS WINS MTV AWARD FOR BEST FILM
The Break-Up costar Vince Vaughn got more good news over the weekend. His previous movie, Wedding Crashers, was voted the Golden Popcorn for best film at the 2006 MTV Movie Awards. He and his Wedding Crashers costar, Owen Wilson, also received the Best On-Screen Team Award. Jake Gyllenhaal won the Best Performance award for Brokeback Mountain and also collected an award presented to him and Heath Ledger for Best Kiss.
PROTESTS IN SWEDEN OVER SHUT-DOWN OF PIRATE WEBSITE
In perhaps the largest -- and certainly the most dramatic -- protest against the crackdown by the Motion Picture Association of America and international law-enforcement authorities against online pirates, protesters took to the streets of Stockholm over the weekend to demonstrate against the shutting down on Wednesday of Pirate Bay, a Swedish-based website that did not host any copyrighted material itself but maintained an index allowing users to locate and download both copyrighted and non-copyrighted video. The MPAA had claimed that the index contained links to 157,000 illegal files and said in a statement last week: "The actions today taken in Sweden serve as a reminder to pirates all over the world that there are no safe harbors for Internet copyright thieves." Today's (Monday) London Financial Times reported that protesters over the weekend "deliberately overloaded the websites of the government and the police, forcing them to shut down temporarily." Meantime, Pirate Bay was again operating Sunday, running on servers at an undisclosed location in the Netherlands. One of the operators of the site said that the raids had resulted in enormous free publicity for Pirate Bay. Fredrik Neij told the International Herald Tribune: "Today, millions of additional people have heard about The Pirate Bay. ... We will have huge numbers of new users."