TV Surf Report: Actors Who Produce … (Reese, Jordan, Elizabeth!) Taking Their Careers To That Next Level

{Updated Sept. 17, 2019}

Santa Monica, CA — More and more actors are producing their own starring vehicles, setting up their own production companies, and developing material to produce but not star in, or some combo of directing/producing, etc.

Studios and Networks and Streamers value Star Power. Their thinking is that Audiences will tune in to a series brought to them by an actor they already admire. They’re right.

Most, if not all of these actors, are highly visible on Social Media platforms like Instagram and Twitter where they are paid handsomely to promote their projects: A good place to start and check out what they are producing, promoting, reading, etc.

Here’s a current sampling of Who’s Who including What and Where:

  • Reese Witherspoon knows how to seriously multi-task. She has got a gajillion projects going, so where does one begin? Her production company, Hello Sunshine, is backed by AT&T and has series deals with HBO (Big Little Lies), Apple TV ( The Morning Show starring Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carrell has a 10-episode order for S1; click link for trailer); plus, there’s  Are You Sleeping starring Octavia Spencer in a true crime murder mystery, also 10 eps. for Apple TV); and Hulu with an 8-episode limited series adaptation of Celeste Ng’s novel, Little Fires Everywhere, also starring Kerry Washington.  Witherspoon’s also got a successful Book Club and promotes her picks and their respective authors which is a style of personal marketing every major publishing house desires. She’s also a true Influencer (looking at you, Olivia Jade) with rich endorsement deals (Crate & Barrel, Elizabeth Arden). Importantly, Everything gets promoted via her personal Social Media:  @ReeseW on Twitter has 2.5m followers; and over on Instagram, @reesewitherspoon has 18.8m followers. Those are big big numbers. Witherspoon loves adaptations (she also produced Gone Girl) and has just signed on to star in and produce Pyros, an adaptation of a science fiction short story by Thomas Pierce for Netflix with Simon Kinberg (Dark Phoenix). In 2020, she’s starring in Legally Blonde 3, her very own super-shero franchise (Elle Woods!). Wow. Oh, and then there’s Draper James, her Nashville-based clothing store/line/brand, which she unabashedly promotes via her Instagram. These are rich, rich deals. Every actor in Hollywood (and beyond) aspires to this level of productivity. Note her strategic partnerships (Kidman, Aniston, Spencer, Washington). Witherspoon doesn’t have to carry every TV show on her own shoulders which is both admirable and smart. She’s also getting into the Reality genre with Home Edit, a new home organizing series she’s producing for Netflix. How Celebrity Book Clubs Fuel Sales, via Variety.
  • Nicole Kidman has a lot on her plate following the success of Big Little Lies 2, Aquaman, and Big Little Lies for which she won an Emmy. Her production company, Blossom Films, just inked a first-look deal with Amazon. She’s developing The Undoing with David E. Kelley at HBO, a story about a woman who learns her husband is not who she thought he was. She also has Crime Farm, a psychosexual drama about a married couple who investigate gruesome crimes, at HBO Max. Additionally, she and Witherspoon are developing Liane Moriarty’s next book.
  • Laura Dern is developing The Dolls, a limited series she’ll star in alongside Issa Rae, at HBO. She’s probably going to score an Oscar nomination for her supporting role in Greta Gerwig’s version of Little Women. Her star continues to rise following another stellar run on S2 of Big Little Lies that included lots of Emmy-worthy screaming. Expect big things.
  • James Franco has Masters of Doom at USA (along with brother Dave). He’s also starring in The Deuce on HBO which will end after S3. Franco’s not going anywhere.

  • Elizabeth Banks (along with partner Max Handelman) via their Brownstone Productions, has an overall deal with Warner Bros. TV. Their projects include the delightful Hulu comedy, Shrill, starring SNL’s Aidy Bryant in a breakout role; Love Me, a pilot for ABC that is a US re-make of the format from Welcome to Sweden, centering on a multi-generational Chicago family looking for love in the Age of Social Media and Internet Dating. Banks also has sold Over My Dead Body, an adaptation of a podcast about the trials and tribulations of a married couple, to HBO Max. And let’s not forget about Charlie’s Angels, Banks’ biggest directing gig yet which hits theatres in November. She also co-stars as Bosley. Hope it’s as good as the trailer suggests. Banks also hosts game show Press Your Luck on ABC. Ca-ching! Check out this podcast interview with Banks’ take on Hollywood via  KCRW’s The Business with Kim Masters
  • Kaley Cuoco may have ended her long and lucrative run on The Big Bang Theory, but she’s the voice of DC Universe‘s animated Harley Quinn and has several projects in development via her production company at Warner Bros. TV, including The Flight Attendant, a thriller, at HBO Max with uber-producer Greg Berlanti. WBTV sees potential here.
  • Oprah has her own monthly magazine, cable television network, and yet, she’s seriously considering re-booting her uber-successful daytime talk show. She’s pretty busy hosting Super Soul Sunday and avoiding wildfires in Montecito. She has a big reach on social media, including a staggering 42m followers on Twitter (@oprah) and 16.8m followers @oprah on Instagram. The network is OWN. Her production company is Harpo Productions. The Evolution of OWN, via Variety.
  • Tyler Perry may have retired from playing Madea, but he’s still got his own studio in Atlanta where he’s producing series for OWN, BET and BET’s streaming service, BET+. I have yet to watch any of his series which is probably my loss. Clearly, he’s a talented guy. His new company, Peachtree & Vine, reunites him with Tim Palen, who launched the Madea franchise for Lionsgate.
  • Mindy Kaling has a lot going on following successful runs on The Mindy Project for Fox and The Office for NBC:  There’s her re-make of Four Weddings And A Funeral at Hulu. She wrote and produced Late Night, starring Emma Thompson, for Amazon. She ‘s also got Never Have I Ever, a coming-of-age drama at Netflix. She’s also quite active on Social Media with nearly 12m Twitter followers (@mindykaling). Kaling Has That Maternal Instinct, per USA Today.
  • Tina Fey just sold a comedy to NBC with Ted Danson attached to star. With Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt coming to an end, and 30 Rock racking up those syndication dollars, Fey shows no signs of sitting around in her Mom Jeans. I love her.
  • Mark Ruffalo isn’t just waiting for his next gig as Bruce Banner/The Hulk in the Avengers. Ruffalo is exec producing and starring in HBO’s adaptation of Wally Lamb’s wonderful novel, I Know This Much Is True. Can’t wait. Great book. Ruffalo has an impressive 6m followers on Twitter @MarkRuffalo
  • Cate Blanchett is starring in and exec producing Mrs. America, a limited series for FX. She is known for producing quality theatre with her husband in Australia. I expect Blanchett to become more active in the producing arena in the next few years.

  • Jordan Peele, formally of Comedy Central’s Key & Peele, has really made a name for himself with features Get Out and Us as well as his re-boot of The Twilight Zone for CBS All Access. Dude is busy. He’s also got Lovecraft Country at HBO with J.J. Abrams. His company, Monkeypaw Productions, also accepts open submissions. I loved Get Out and look forward to seeing where Peele takes us, story-wise.
  • Julia Roberts exec produced Homecoming for Amazon in addition to starring in S1. She will not appear on-screen in S2, though. Julia’s also got several projects in development with HBO. She’s no longer a workaholic, but Julia’s still a Player with 6.6m followers @juliaroberts on Instagram.
  • Amy Poehler just directed her first feature for Netflix, Wine Country, has created Making It, a reality competition series with former Parks & Rec co-star Nick Offerman, and is exec producing Russian Doll starring Natasha Lyonne for Netflix. She also produced the recently concluded Broad City for Comedy Central as well as Difficult People. Girl is busy with Smart Girls, her advocacy web company which has a deal with Legendary at Universal not to mention 1m followers @amypoehlersmartgirls on Instagram. Her production company is Paper Kite Productions.
  • Phoebe Waller-Bridge is probably one of the hottest actor/writer/producers out there right now thanks to her two hit Emmy-nominated series Fleabag on Amazon and Killing Eve on AMC/BBC One. She also re-wrote Bond 25 at star Daniel Craig’s request. Check out this profile via The Hollywood Reporter.
  • Seth Rogen has been steadily producing quality series like Preacher for AMC (ending with S4), Future Man for Hulu, Black Monday for Showtime, and The Boys for Amazon. His production company, Point Grey Pictures, just signed a multi-platform deal with Lionsgate. Seth is cooking on all burners. He’s even got 7m followers @sethrogen on Instagram.
  • Dwayne Johnson, aka, The Rock has 153m followers @TheRock on Instagram and is currently riding high at the box office with Hobbs & Shaw, the Fast & Furious spinoff.  He also stars in and EPs Ballers on HBO (S5 will be its last); EPs Titan Games, an athletic competition series on NBC which just got renewed for S2; and is going to be a major presence in the DC Universe with Black Adam, a character associated with Shazam! The film is set to go into production very soon (2020, we hope). Don’t mess with this man. He can and will do everything.  Oh, and Johnson is Hollywood’s highest paid actor, per Men’s Journal (and Forbes). His company is Seven Bucks Productions
  • Jason Momoa hit the big time with Game of Thrones and then knocked it out of the park with his star turn in Aquaman (okay, and in Justice League). When he’s not protesting government telescope construction on ancient lands in his native Hawaii, he’s also producing television including Frontier on Netflix (likely cancelled after S3), and the upcoming Apple TV limited series, SEE. Momoa promotes his various lifestyle and clothing brands (and those of his friends) to his 13m followers @prideofgypsies on Instagram

N E X T   U P :

Summer Is Nearly Over, But The Surf Is Still Too Good!

Dawn Patrol in Venice Beach. Photo of Yours Truly by Luke Sandberg of Surreal Surf. Best Morning Ever!

 

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TV Surf Report: HBO Max And What To Expect From Yet Another Blue Chip Streaming Service (Hint: Going After Women)

[Updated, Oct. 23, 2019}

Santa Monica, CA — Warner Media has announced its impending launch of its own streaming service, HBO Max, for sometime in early 2020. Heads up Disney+, Apple TV, NBC Universal Comcast, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and the rest….

So what can we expect to find there (Hint: Adaptations and Branded Titles), and just as importantly, how much are we going to have pay to see it? Audience-wise, HBO Max appears to really be targeting Women with their original programming.  Greg Berlanti and Reese Witherspoon both have deals to produce original films, which I expect to be geared toward a female audience.  CNN’s Lisa Ling (This Is Life) just signed an overall deal to produce docuseries.

Am interested to see what happens with the DC Universe and whether or not it’s folded into HBO Max.  We shall see what chairman Bob Greenblatt has in store. The executive team hails mostly from sister programming outlet TNT.

HBO Max is spending a lot of money on its development slate. Here’s some of what’s on tap, most of which are straight-to-series orders (smart!):

FRIENDS, Matthew Perry, Courteney Cox Arquette, Matt LeBlanc, Lisa Kudrow, David Schwimmer, Jennifer Aniston, (Season 5), 1994-2004, © Warner Bros. / Courtesy: Everett Collection

  • FriendsCome for the reruns. Stay for the original programming! Warner Bros. paid a lot of pesos to pull this lucrative piece of library content (200+ episodes) from rival Netflix and air it exclusively on HBO Max, its sister company. That’s great news for Kauffman & Crane, the cast, and probably, an agency package (CAA). Let’s meet up at Central Perk soon, okay?  Ditto recent acquisition of Warner Bros. TV superhits The Big Bang Theory and Two And A Half Men.
  • Gossip Girl: The Revival Series creator Josh Schwartz is re-imagining the original for a new audience with new Upper East Side high school kids under surveillance of Gossip Girl on social media. Sounds like it could work.
  • Delilah, a comedy pilot from Sharon Horgan (Divorce) starring Jessica Rothe (La La Land) about a woman rebuilding her life and finding the man who may or may not be her father. This is a US re-make of a British pilot script.
  • Dune: The Sisterhood is a spinoff of the forthcoming remake of Frank Herbert’s Dune which Denis Villenueve (Blade Runner 2049, Arrival) is directing.  This series is a companion story of sorts, focusing on the Bene Gesserit Order of Witches.  Villeneuve EPs and will direct the pilot episode.

  • Made For Love is an adaptation of the tragic-comic novel about divorce and revenge by Alissa Nutting. SJ Clarkson (Game of Thrones prequel) EPs and directs. Cristin Milioti (Black Mirror, Fargo) set to star.
  • Station Eleven is an adaptation of Emily St. John Mandel’s post-apocalyptic novel about survivors of a global flu epidemic who struggle to re-make their world. Patrick Somerville writes and EPs.
  • Tokyo Vice stars Ansel Elgort (The Fault in Our Stars) and Ken Watanabe and is adapted from a non-fiction account about life with the Tokyo Metropolitan Police. Interesting. Michael Mann (Miami Vice) set to direct.
  • The Flight Attendant is a one-hour thriller series EPd by Greg Berlanti with Kaley Cuoco (The Big Bang Theory, Harley Quinn) set to star. Project is an adaptation of the novel by Chris Bohjalian.
  • Love Life is an original half-hour romantic anthology produced by Paul Feig (Bridesmaids) with Anna Kendrick set to star in S1.
  • Circe is an adaptation of the truly wonderful Madeline Miller novel which centers on the Greek goddess, but it’s a modern take on the Greek Gods and their machinations in the lives of mortals from a decidedly feminist POV. Cool. This book has caught fire. I am 19th in line on the waiting list at my local library. Will report back. (I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH THAT I READ IT TWICE.)  Amanda Silver and Rick Jaffa (Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Mulan) script and EP.  Eight episodes ordered.

  • Doctor Who is one of several well-known British series acquired from the BBC.  All 11 seasons will be available including the latest starring Jodie Whitaker. The deal also includes all episodes of the original The Office (starring Ricky Gervais) and Luther (starring Idris Elba).
  • Gremlins is an animated re-make of the Amblin film. Am thinking this is aimed at Kids.
  • Anna K A YA version of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, how uplifting! I can hear the pitch now: It’s Anna Karenina meets Euphoria. Everyone’s a depressed teenager. (In actuality, book is described as Gossip Girl meets 13 Reasons Why meets Crazy Rich Asians.) Put Pilot commitment is an adaptation of Jenny Lee’s upcoming YA novel. Scooter Braun (Justin Bieber’s manager) and EOne exec produce.
  • Over My Dead Body is an Elizabeth Banks-produced adaptation of a podcast that chronicles a couple’s courtship from NY Times engagement announcement through murder trial. Sounds great.
  • Crime Farm is a Nicole Kidman-produced psychosexual drama about a married couple whose lives are upended by their mutual career as investigators.
  • Practical Magic is a Warner Bros. film (synergy alert!) that has been eyed for TV for many many years without success. This go around, Melissa Rosenberg (Jessica Jones) gets a pilot order for her adaptation of Alice Hoffman’s novel, The Rules of Magic, which will be set in the ’60s in New York and center on a youthful family descended from witches.
  • Generation is EPd by Lena Dunham who oversees a 17-year-old writer telling stories about teenagers and the real stuff they endure. (My So-Called Life called and wants its logline back, Lena. Also, Euphoria on Line 2). Pilot order.
  • Red Bird Lane is a YA horror drama about people living in a haunted house. Pilot order.
  • Let Them All Talk is a Steven Soderbergh-directed film starring Meryl Streep and takes place aboard a cruise ship with Streep and friends. How did Diane Keaton miss this role? It’s a comedy. Not sure why HBO Max is in this business. Thoughts?
  • Ellen DeGeneres Projects are a slew of reality shows EPd by the daytime talk show host which include a home design show, a dating show, and an animated children’s show each garnering a straight-to-series order. Variety Has The Details.
  • The Ho’s is a warm-hearted, comedic docuseries inspired by the film Crazy Rich Asians chronicling the life of a prosperous Vietnamese family in Houston. Eight episodes ordered.
  • Untitled Monica Lewinsky Documentary explores public shaming via social media, and no one knows that better than America’s most infamous former White House intern.
  • The Shelley Society explores the life of author Mary Shelley, best known for Frankenstein, as she battles demons and monsters in this period horror drama that is described as a Victorian X-Files. Hmmm. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Riverdale) EPs.
  • The Brides is another sexy horror soap from Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa exploring those beautiful yet treacherous brides of Dracula. This idea has been developed a lot over the years, so it will be interesting to see if it gets off the ground (or has teeth). Greg Bertlanti also EPs which should help tremendously.
  • Birth Wedding Funeral is a travel documentary series hosted by Lisa Ling that explores each milestone in different cultures. Sounds cool. I’m in.

 

N E X T    U P:

The Future Success of Presidential Debates Just Might Be Reality TV (Dancing With The Candidates, A Presidential Real World, Anyone? Not So Far-Fetched…)

 

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TV Surf Report: Hollywood Continues To Adapt (For All Platforms)

the-lost-symbol-nbc.jpg

{Updated Sept. 26, 2019}

Santa Monica, CA — Thanks to HBO and to the uber-successful Game of Thrones, the Adaptation Trend has been in full-swing for several years now as Hollywood seeks to break through all the clutter with Intellectual Property Titles that audiences are already predisposed to like (and will thereby, tune in).

My favorite new series of 2019 is AMC’s acquisition of SKY TV’s brilliant adaptation of Deborah Harkness’ A Discovery of Witches (renewed through S3).

It’s not just popular best-selling books that are being adapted as series, either:

  • Video Games (World-building is a new buzzword!)
  • Podcasts (Did you go to the App Store and Vote for your Favorite?)
  • Magazine & Newspaper Articles (An Evergreen resource!)
  • Songs (Dolly Parton, You Are Talented!)
  • Foreign Series (adapted for the US market)
  • Graphic Novels (about Super Heroes, natch)

  • Ripley (Showtime) Andrew Scott, the Hot Priest from Fleabag (and more importantly, Moriarty from Sherlock) toplines this straight-to-series adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novels. Steve Zallian writes and directs S1’s 8 episodes. Looking forward.
  • The Testaments (Hulu) Margaret Atwood’s hotly anticipated sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale has been snapped up by Hulu and MGM. Story picks up 15 years later. Meanwhile, Handmaid’s Tale was renewed for S4.
  • Love Me (ABC) Elizabeth Banks produces this drama pilot based on the format of Welcome to Sweden, whereby for the US markets, story centers on a multi-generational Chicago family searching for love in the Age of Social Media.
  • Circe (HBO Max) The book by Madeline Miller about the Greek mythological witch gets an 8-episode series order. Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver script for Chernin Entertainment. Feminist Greek mythology? I’m in!
  • Dangerous Liaisons (STARZ) Harriet Warner (Call the Midwife, Tell Me Your Secrets) adapts this well known novel, a tale of sex, seduction and intrigue that has already been made into several films (Cruel Intentions, Valmont, anyone?). Colin Callender and Tony Krantz produce for Lionsgate. This 8-episode series seems right in Starz’ wheelhouse. Expect a well-made hit.
  • The Old Man (FX) Jeff Bridges stars and EPs this adaptation of the novel by Thomas Perry which tells the story of a CIA operative living of the grid but forced to reconcile his past after an assassin is sent to kill him. Sounds cool. Jason Bourne AARP.
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Hulu) Carlton Cuse (Jack Ryan, Lost) adapts Douglas Adams’ novels which began as a BBC radio play. Jason Fuchs (Wonder Woman) scripts.
  • 100 Days to Fall in Love (Showtime) Paramount TV adapts this Argentinean comedy for the US market. I don’t recall seeing a show from Argentina before getting the re-make treatment. Someone’s paying attention to the global marketplace at Paramount and Viacom International which produces.
  • Magic: The Gathering (Netflix) Those darn Russo Bros. are adapting a card game for TV. Yes, an animated series based on a card game about superheroes with magic.
  • Jack Reacher (Amazon) Lee Child’s action thriller spy novels get adapted for TV following two features starring Tom Cruise.  Nick Santora (Scorpion) scripts.
  • The Lincoln Lawyer (CBS) Okay, here is a successful match of book and writer:  David E. Kelley (Big Little Lies, LA Law, The Practice, Harry’s Law, Goliath) adapts Michael Connelly’s best-selling novel about a lawyer who operates out of his Lincoln Continental automobile. CBS is absolutely the right network, too. Expect a big star to attach soon. Series order.
  • The Stand (CBS All Access) James Marsden set to star in this 10-episode adaptation of Stephen King’s novel. Josh Boone (The Fault In Our Stars) EPs with Ben Cavell (Justified, Homeland).
  • Langdon (NBC) Best-selling author Dan Brown’s symbologist sleuth Robert Langdon gets a younger version adaptation for broadcast TV. Sorry, Tom Hanks, but you are too damn old for the 18-49 crowd. We’ll always have The Da Vinci Code.  Imagine TV produces. Series will be a prequel of sorts and is based on the story in Brown’s The Lost Symbol, which is a fun DC caper that follows Brown’s successful formula of having Langdon on the run with a beautiful woman. Expect lots of Masons! Production commitment. Daniel Cerrone (Constantine) EPs.
  • Over My Dead Body (Warner Media Streaming) Elizabeth Banks produces and directs this series adaptation of a podcast about the trials and tribulations of a married couple whose relationship is chronicled from the NY Times engagement announcement through their marriage, divorce, and murder trial. Sounds cool.
  • Pachinko (Apple TV) Min Jin Lee’s novel chronicles four generations of Korean immigrants and will be told in three different languages:  Korean, Japanese, and English. Interesting! Soo Hugh (The Terror) scripts and EPs.
  • Time Bandits (Apple TV) Terry Gilliam’s film gets adapted for TV by none other than Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnorak) who will write and direct the pilot.  Looking forward!
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude (Netflix) Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ novel about seven generations of the Buendia Family and the utopian town they inhabit finally gets adapted. This is a big get!
  • Heart of Life (ABC) is inspired by the John Mayer song and centers on two sets of adult siblings who discover they share the same father. I think we’re very much in This Is Us territory here. Pilot order. Harry Shum Jr. (Crazy Rich Asians) set to star. Ben Queen (Powerless) scripts.
  • Lincoln (NBC) Jeffrey Deaver’s book which was adapted for film and became The Bone Collector starring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie, now becomes a TV series about an injured forensic criminologist called back into service to catch the serial killer responsible for injuring him. Of course, he’s paired with a young female beat cop.  Yawn. Bored now.
  • Four Weddings And A Funeral (Hulu) Mindy Kaling  adapts Mike Newell’s popular British film for the streaming audience.
  • My Glory Was I Had Such Friends at Apple. J.J. Abrams and Jennifer Garner produce/star in this 13-episode adaptation of Amy Silverstein’s memoir about her circle of women friends who helped her as she waited for a life-saving transplant. Premieres in late 2019.
  • The Watch at BBC America. Based on the Discworld novels by Sir Terry Prachett (Good Omens), eight episodes of the punk rock thriller with misfit cops have been ordered.
  • Joyland at Freeform. Stephen King’s novel about a college student working a summer job at an amusement park gets adapted for a pilot. Chris Pena (Jane the Virgin) scripts.
  • It Takes Two at FOX. The memoir of Property Brothers, the home improvement reality series with the photogenic twin brother contractors is being adapted as a half-hour comedy. Cue obnoxious laugh track! Daily Variety Has The Scoop.
  • Ranger at CBS. The novel by James Patterson gets adapted for pilot development.
  • Dracula at BBC One and Netflix. The Sherlock maestros, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, adapt Bram Stoker’s classic novel into three 90-minute episodes (or movies). I’m in!
  • Whites at NBC. Matt Tarses adapts the British restaurant workplace comedy for Will Arnett and the US audience.
  • Limetown at Facebook Watch. Based on a podcast about a Pulic Radio reporter who investigates the disappearances of hundreds of people in Tennessee, Jessica Biel (The Sinner) stars. Ten episodes ordered. Deadline Has The Details.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia at Netflix. This seems like a big deal to me as these books are evergreen stories that can be re-made for each generation. Seems like Netflix aims to create a Narnia Universe and create series from there while making features from the main titles. Am a bit surprised Disney/Fox allowed the option on these books to lapse. Smart buy, Netflix.
  • Wheel of Time at Amazon.  Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) set to topline this series order for this action fantasy drama adaptation of Robert Jordan’s best-selling books, wherein, Magic exists, but only women can wield it. Rafe Judkins (Agents of Shield) writes and EPs for Amazon Studios and Sony Pics TV.
  • His Dark Materials at BBC One and HBO. HBO Acquires Broadcast Rights Outside The UK, per Deadline.  Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) directs this massive TV adapation of Philip Pullman’s fantasy novels with a cast that includes James McAvoy, Ruth Wilson, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Dafne Keen (Logan). Production is underway in Wales on S1. Meanwhile, the BBC Orders 2nd Season of 8 Episodes.
  • Foundation at Apple TV.  David S. Goyer (DaVinci’s Demons, Krypton) and Josh Friedman (Snowpiercer, Sarah Conner Chronicles) get 10 episodes to adapt Isaac Asimov’s SF trilogy about the 1000-year saga of people defying the Galactic Empire. Hmm. I wonder if George Lucas read these books prior to Star Wars. Just a thought!
  • Run Away at Netflix. Adaptation of Harlan Coben’s novel and part of an overdeal that encompasses 14 of Coben’s books.  He has two other series on Netflix:  Safe starring Michael C. Hall (Dexter) and No Second Chance.
  • Shogun at FX. A new adaptation of James Clavell’s novel gets a 10-episode order.
  • Hey There Delilah at TBD.  The Plain White Ts’ hit tune is headed to TV. I love this song and am not discounting this effort. Oh, what you do to me!  Songs That Should Be Adapted For TV, via EW
  • The Vampire Chronicles at Hulu. Anne Rice, Christopher Rice and Anonymous Content exec produce this series based on 11 of Rice’s Vampire Chronicles books which center on Lestat who becomes a vampire in medieval Paris and continues a long journey of immortality with stops along the way as a rock star, an otherworldly adventure with The Devil, and a body snatching. Looking forward! Shoots in September.

HALO

  • Halo at Showtime. 10-episode series order for this popular video game from Microsoft with Amblin producing this futuristic conflict. Kyle Killen scripts and EPs with Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) set to direct. Pablo Schreiber (American Gods) set to star.
  • Watchmen at HBO. Damon Lindelof (The Leftovers, Lost) delves back into the Alan Moore graphic novel source material and assembles a stellar cast of Super Heroes that includes Jeremy Irons, Regina King, Tim Blake Nelson, Don Johnson, and Louis Gossett, Jr. Nicole Kassell (The Leftovers) directed the pilot. Series order. Interestingly, Lindelof says his take is more “remix” than adaptation of the graphic novel with some new characters to explore.  More world-building! Damon Lindelof Loves A Sad Ending – New York Public Library Interview
  • The Lord of the Rings at Amazon. Warner Bros. TV is producing a prequel series adaptation of the J.R.R. Tolkien classic novels set in Middle Earth.  Per Rotten Tomatoes, the series timeline take place in The Second Age of Middle Earth.  Am thinking we will see lots of Sauron, the Three Rings of the Elves, and those darn Ring Wraiths and the Nine Kings who were betrayed! Sounds good to me. Writers J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay (Star Trek 4, Jungle Cruise) are developing the story. J.A. Bayona (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) is set to direct the first two episodes of this multiple-season series commitment. Not Ready Until 2021!
  • I Know This Much Is True at HBO.  Mark Ruffalo stars in and EPs this 8-hour miniseries adaptation of the Wally Lamb best-selling novel, playing dual roles (Loved It!).  Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine) writes and directs. High hopes for this one.

N E X T   U P:

Planting A Garden And Watching It Grow Is Better Than Anything On TV

BUCKETS OF ZINNIAS FOR GH COLUMN JUNE 30

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TV Surf Report: When Is Too Much TV … Just Too Much?

NEO AS THE ARCHITECT

{Updated Aug. 25, 2019}

Santa Monica, CA — My list of TV series to watch/binge just keeps longer and longer. Not good.  There’s just too much good TV to watch! Damn the British and their well-made sex comedies!

I love TV, but I feel overwhelmed by the amount of it. Don’t you? Watercooler Television is a thing of the past because who has got an hour just to hang out and talk about what they’re watching?!

I sense we have reached peak Peak TV. As a result, I am watching less and less TV, and I don’t appreciate the pressure of trying to keep up!

Plus, the cost factor: You’ve got your $100/month cable bill (well you do if you are over 40 years of age, I am a cord cutter of many years past), plus your Netflix account (too many shows to watch at $12.99/mo.!), and your Amazon Prime account ($59/yr.), and your CBS All Access pass ($5.99/mo.), your impending Disney+ account (priced to sell like hotcakes at $6.99/mo.), and your recent subscription to DC Universe ($7.99/mo.) and to Shudder ($4.99/mo.), and on and on… oh, and don’t forget your new Apple TV account ($9.99/mo.) because your phone is about to be bombarded with Ads for those wonderful new series that Reese Witherspoon demands we watch. Wait, there’s more!  Comcast/NBC/Universal is launching a streaming service as is Warner Bros., so that’s two more subscriptions to factor. Jeez!

That’s $150.00+/month, $1,800.00/year! And counting…..

It’s just too much.

Here’s what’s waiting in my queue:

  • Gentleman Jack (HBO) This BBC series starring Suranne Jones has been on my radar for quite a while. Lotsa folks talking about it following a stellar S1. The scripts by Sally Wainwright are available to read Here via BBC Writers Room. Quite cool.
  • Sex Education (Netflix) Gillian Anderson is the sex therapist and mother to a teenage son going through puberty in this 8-episode British comedy. Here’s the very engaging and funny T R A I L E R for S1.
  • After Life (Netflix) A friend from Cornwall recommended this series to me and now I know why: Ricky Gervais creates and stars as a widower trying to get his life back on track. Here’s the delightfully melancholy T R A I L E R for S1.
  • Yellowstone (Paramount Network) Kevin Costner stars in cable’s #1 drama which is about to premiere S2. I need to catch up.  Here’s the very tension-filled  T R A I L E R for S2.
  • Schitt’s Creek (Pop) An actor friend raves about Eugene Levy’s series on Pop which is about to conclude its run with one more season. Bravo, Catherine O’Hara!
  • Riviera (Sundance) S2 premieres soon of this guilty pleasure from writer/director Neil Jordan who takes the family soap opera to new highs (and lows).  Julia Stiles stars.  Fun Fact: I discovered this series while on a Delta flight.  The first two episodes had me hooked. This is the Riviera, darling. People get away with everything. Here’s the fantastic T R A I L E R for S2.
  • Supernatural (The CW) 15S to watch! Not gonna happen anytime soon.
  • Good Omens (Amazon) premieres May 31st and I am really looking forward to this 6-episode limited series adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s book about an angel and a demon who try to thwart the Apocalypse when the Anti-Christ goes missing. It’s a comedy. I need a good laugh. Great cast, too:  David Tenant, Michael Sheen, Jon Hamm, and Frances McDormand.
  • What We Do In The Shadows (FX) This show makes me laugh. Or, at least the promos do.  I haven’t had the time to check it out yet.  I love Taika Waititi and Jermaine Clement so much. Here’s the stupidly funny T R A I L E R for S1.
  • American Gods (Starz) S2 I have been reluctant to check out the second season after showrunners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green were fired following an outstanding S1. Plus, Gillian Anderson and Kristin Chenoweth did not return as well. I love love the book and will catch up eventually.  Reviews for S2 were decidedly mixed.
  • A Discovery Of Witches (AMC) Okay, this is the must-see TV series for me right now. I have read each novel in Deborah Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy as well as the most recent entry, Time’s Convert.  I love this world and think this 8-episode series is impeccably cast: There’s someone from Sherlock, from Doctor Who, from Da Vinci’s Demons, and Downton Abbey. It’s a good sign that this series which premiered to big numbers in the UK has already been renewed for S2 and S3. Here’s the moody, romantic and action-packed T R A I L E R for S1.
  • Knightfall (History Channel) S2 Mark Hamill joins the cast of the Templar Knight drama which is EPd by Jeremy Renner. I’m in!
  • Berlin Station (just cancelled after S3) on EPIX  I loved S1 of this political thriller set in Berlin as it was so reminiscent of one of my favorite films, Three Days of Condor. Richard Armitage and Richard Jenkins are terrific.

  • Fleabag (Amazon) S2 of the sexy comedy series starring Phoebe Waller-Bridge just premiered, and Anthony Stewart Head (Buffy) is raving about it on Twitter, so I’m in.  Here’s the T R A I L E R for S2.
  • Law & Order: SVU (20 seasons!) on NBC. Dear, God, really?! Perhaps, if I find myself holed up in a cabin one winter, I’ll do a deep dive. Until then, Mariska Hargitay, you’re just gonna have to wait for me to catch up.
  • Killing Eve (BBC America) Just renewed for S3, this drama starring Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer is the closest thing to watercooler talk I’ve experienced lately as it seems everyone is talking about this show.
  • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (The CW) This much beloved, niche series suffered from a terrible title that just kept me away for most if not all of its run. Now concluded, I will one day have the time and the inclination to check it out. All those musical numbers!
  • Russian Doll (Netflix) Amy Poehler EPs this Groundhog Day-esque drama noir starring Natasha Lyonne. People love it.  I watched the first episode and not the rest of S1.

 

What’s on your list of TV Series To Binge?  Lemme know in the Comments section, please.  I don’t want to miss out.  The pressure to keep up is tremendous. Aaarrrrgh!

N E X T   U P:

Spring Is Here. And So Are My Seasonal Allergies. Let’s Road Trip!

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TV Surf Report: Take A Bite Out Of Apple TV’s Upcoming Development Slate Of Original Programming…

   

{Updated Sept. 24, 2019}

Santa Monica, CAApple TV  launches November 1 and will cost $4.99/mo. The newest addition to our Streaming World has a lot of exciting programming in development that we can watch soon on our phones*, watches, tablets and various other Apple devices.

The type of programming Apple is developing tells us about their Strategy (and Audience):

Firstly, they ordered projects Straight to Series with 10 episodes, no effing Pilot bullshit! Secondly, they like Big Names: Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, Chris Evans, Brie Larson, Jennifer Garner, and Octavia Spencer.

Thirdly, like every other programmer out there, Apple is relying heavily on Adaptations (books, films, series).  Original Concepts comprise a low percentile of Apple’s development slate (see the cool list I made for you below!). Apple is going for shows that already have a built-in audience waiting to see them (and talk about them on Social Media).

Apple is a Blue Chip Brand, and I would not bet against them, especially since the company is devoting $1 Billion in producing original content in the next year. Variety Projects Apple to Spend 4.2 Billion by 2022

It’s looking like Apple will launch it streaming service with content from partners like HBO, Showtime and Starz before premiering its original series later this year, so enjoy all the Carpool Karaoke you can handle, per Bloomberg News.

   

The Sony Connection.

Apple’s gain is Sony’s loss as its executives all come from that studio: Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg are running the show. Kim Rozenfeld oversees current programming. Max Aronson and Ali Woodruff are the development execs. One of their high profile producers is Ronald D. Moore (Outlander), who has a deal with Sony.

Meanwhile, the Competition for Streaming looks fierce as Apple, DC Universe (featuring all those DC super heroes), Disney+ (featuring all those Marvel super heroes), Warner Bros. (Friends reruns!) , and NBC/Universal/Comcast all will be vying for our attention and dollars.

Let’s take a look at what $1 Billion gets ya: No Super Heroes. True Crime, Family Drama and Science Fiction, though!  Again, most of these series are Adaptations:

                    

  • Pachinko is an adaptation of Min Jin Lee’s novel which tells the story of four generations of a Korean immigrant family. Drama will be told in three languages:  Korean, Japanese and English. Interesting! Soo Hugh (The Terror) scripts and EPs. Michael Ellenberg’s company, Media Res, produces.  Ellenberg is a former HBO exec.
  • Life Undercover: Coming of Age in the CIA is another adaptation of a memoir which is to star Brie Larson (Captain Marvel). Ellenberg and Media Res produce.
  • The Morning Show with Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston starring in this drama about Morning TV inspired by Brian Stelter’s book Top of the Morning: Inside The Cutthroat World of Morning TV . Steve Carell also stars. Jay Carson (House of Cards) scripts this 10-episode series which has a guaranteed two-season order. Michael Ellenberg also EPs alongside Witherspoon and Aniston, who will be making $1.25m per episode!
  • SEE stars Jason Momoa in an 8-ep. limited science fiction series which is set 600 years in the future where everyone is blind following a catastrophic event. Alfre Woodard co-stars. Here’s the Trailer.
  • Time Bandits is an adaptation of Terry Gilliam’s film by Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnorak) who will write and direct the first episode. A time travel comedy.  I’m in!
  • My Glory Was I Had Such Friends  J.J. Abrams and Jennifer Garner produce/star in this 13-episode adaptation of Amy Silverstein’s memoir about her circle of women friends who helped her as she waited for a live-saving transplant. Premieres in late 2019.
  • Shantaram Paramount TV and Anonymous Content produce this adaptation of Gregory David Roberts’ novel. Eric Warren Singer (American Hustle) scripts and EPs this epic story set in Australia and India. Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy) set to star.
  • Dickinson is a half-hour comedy starring Hailee Steinfeld (Pitch Perfect). Anonymous Content produces.
  • Foundation David S. Goyer (DaVinci’s Demons, Krypton) and Josh Friedman (Snowpiercer, Sarah Conner Chronicles) get 10 episodes to adapt Isaac Asimov’s SF trilogy about the 1000-year saga of people defying the Galactic Empire. Hmm. I wonder if George Lucas read these books prior to Star Wars. Just a thought!
  • Defending Jacob Chris Evans (Captain America, Snowpiercer) stars in this straight-to-series order about a man whose 14-year-old son is accused of murder. Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey) co-stars. True Crime story is based on William Landhay’s 2012 novelVariety’s Got The Deets….  
  • Amazing Stories Steven Spielberg’s anthology series gets a re-boot here.  Bryan Fuller (American Gods) was attached initially to EP but has since left the project. Ten episodes ordered.
  • For All Mankind Ron Moore (Outlander, BSG) has a cool SciFi drama that ponders the question, what if the Space Race never ended? Sony TV produces. Lone Original Concept in the inaugural development slate. Interesting to note that the ex-Sony execs programming Apple TV go with someone like Moore whom they know and trust to deliver. Joel Kinnaman, Sarah Jones, Michael Dorman, and Jodi Balfour lead the cast.
  • Are You Sleeping stars Octavia Spencer (The Shape of Water, The Help) in a drama about this country’s obsession with true crime stories and podcasts and how crime solving plays out in public. Series is adapted from Kathleen Barber’s novel.  Reese Witherspoon and Peter Chernin EP. Nichelle Tramble Spellman (The Good Wife) scripts and EPs. Ten episodes ordered. This series has a great cast that includes Elizabeth Perkins, Lizzy Caplan, Aaron Paul, and Tracie Toms.

(*) I did not realize my phone already has an Apple TV icon, but it does! Yours does, too.

U P    N E X T:

When Is Too Much TV … Just Too Much?!?

 

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TV Surf Report: It’s Not TV, But Are We Still Into HBO? (Yes, But We Are Seeing Other People!)

JON SNOW

{Updated Sept. 28, 2019}

Santa Monica, CAHBO, aka, Home Box Office, is being challenged right and left for its blue chip real estate in TV by rival companies such as Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Hulu and the forthcoming Disney+.  The days are long since past when its primary competition was lowly Showtime.

It’s Not TV. It’s HBO was the company’s hit slogan in the ’90s and ’00s, but are we still that into HBO?  The Sopranos, Sex And The City, Six Feet Under, The Wire were all cultural influencers.

Now under the auspices of AT&T, not known for its television programming, it’s a new era for the premium cable channel which has new marching orders, as well:  More content. (Also, employees 55+ please take a hike!) Ousted Chief Richard Plepler is replaced by Bob Greenblatt, who will oversee the new Warner Media which will include TNT and TBS. GQ Explores Why HBO Can’t Stay The Same.

Let’s take a look at what’s working, what doesn’t, and what HBO is developing for the future replacing monster hit series, Game of Thrones, which concluded its run with an Emmy Award for Best Drama.

BIG LITTLE LIES JOGGING

What’s Working.

  • Big Little Lies really got everyone talking about Moms in Monterey thanks to Jean-Marc Vallee and David E. Kelley’s adaptation of Liane Moriarty’s novel that caught the eye of Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon, who starred and EPd.  Kidman and Laura Dern won all the awards for their roles, but will they be able to live up to S1? S2 has arrived to great acclaim, and Meryl Streep joins the Monterey 5 as Nicole Kidman’s mother-in-law. Witherspoon does not rule out a S3.
  • Euphoria — Zendaya stars in this ensemble YA series which is a US adaptation of an Israeli series.  Executive produced by Drake and Sam Levinson, who also scripts. Premiered June 16th and has become a bit of watercooler series with concerned parents and melodramatic teens talking. So much so, that HBO has renewed it for S2. Trailer looks great. Check it out H E R E.
  • Game of Thrones is that rare monster hit that has outlasted the source material, George R.R. Martin’s best-selling book series (seemingly stuck with Book 6) set in Westeros, a mythical realm with rival kingdoms fighting for dominance. The final season airs April 14th. Team Lannister or Team Stark? I’m Team Direwolf.
  • Westworld is that rare adaptation of a film by Michael Crichton that has breathed new life in the Artificial Intelligence Sci Fi genre and has given star-making roles for Evan Rachel Wood and Thandie Newton. S3 premieres in late 2019 or early 2020. It’s not quite as good as BSG, but it’s still compelling storytelling.
  • Sharp Objects continues the cable giant’s penchant for brilliant limited series adaptations of best-selling novels.  Amy Adams and Patricia Clarkson received rave reviews and multiple accolades for their work. Marti Noxon Hints At A S2, per Deadline.
  • Veep is HBO’s best comedy since Sex And The City. Julia Louis-Dreyfus & Co. have bid their White House farewell after a successful final season.
  • Ballers proves that Dwayne Johnson can do anything. That sports-minded half hour comedy is now in its 5th season and final season.
  • Barry seems to be the successor to Veep as the network’s best comedy. Now in its 2nd season (premiered March 31st), the Bill Hader series is racking up awards as well as fans. More Henry Winkler! Renewed for S3. A second Emmy for Hader.
  • The New Pope is the follow up to The Young Pope, one of my favorite series of 2017.  Jude Law returns with much of the original cast. No Diane Keaton, but John Malkovich joins S2. This is an international hit brilliantly written and directed Paolo Sorrentino, someone to closely follow.
  • The Righteous Gemstones — Danny McBride stars in this comedy as world-famous televangelist with a crazy family that includes John Goodman and Adam Devine. Series renewed for S2.
  • Deadwood — David Milch’s period Western returns for a 2-hour movie follow-up with Ian MacShane ready to cuss up a storm. Premiered May 31st. This is HBO’s rare re-boot. Here’s the Trailer.

DEADWOOD

What’s Not Really Working.

  • Silicon Valley has been on for five seasons, which seems hard to believe as the quirky comedy has flown under the radar despite T.J. Miller’s best efforts to disrupt it. S6 is its last, however. Thankful to Mike Judge for breakout star Kumail Nanjani.
  • True Detective has never really recovered from a disastrous S2, and even the formidable Mahershala Ali’s presence in S3 seems unlikely to recapture the glory from S1.
  • Camping was supposed to be Lena Dunham’s follow up to her hit series, Girls.  Jennifer Garner led a very talented cast that included Juliette Lewis, David Tennant, and Chris Sullivan, but the result was a very mixed bag. Judd Apatow EPd but to no avail as the series came and went with a decided thud.
  • Divorce with Sarah Jessica Parker is supposedly a comedy, but even the title suggests otherwise. I love Talia Balsam and Molly Shannon, but I don’t love this show. Amazed it got picked up for S3. The power of Sex And The City endures, however, S3 will be its last.
  • Insecure is a mid-level performer in the half-hour comedy genre that hasn’t quite crossed over into the mainstream. Still, HBO likes star Issa Rae enough to develop a miniseries about the Cabbage Patch Kids dolls set in the ’90s with Laura Dern attached as well.  Both Rae and Dern play disparate Oklahoma mothers who want those dolls.
  • Room 104, Crashing (recently cancelled), High Maintenance (renewed for S4)seem very niche to me. Not much interest in any of them.

GOLDEN COMPASS

What’s in Development.

The premium cable channel loves to develop vehicles with A-list talent, so it’s no surprise that it has multiple projects in development with Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts, Amy Adams, Mark Ruffalo, Sarah Jessica Parker, Dwayne Johnson, Laura Dern, Issa Rae, Meryl Streep, and Judd Apatow.

HBO also loves a good book as demonstrated by its development slate that includes several Adaptations:

  • His Dark Materials — This BBC One adaptation of Philip Pullman’s novels looks fantastic. I’m so in. James McAvoy, Ruth Wilson, Dafne Keene, and Lin-Manuel Miranda star. HBO knows a terrific co-production when it sees one. Already renewed for S2. Check out the Trailer, which just premiered at San Diego Comic Con His Dark Materials Trailer
  • Watchmen — the graphic novel by Alan Moore gets adapted by Damon Lindelöf with a series order and a very cool cast that includes Jeremy Irons and Regina King among others. Premieres in October. Here’s the trailer.

REGINA KING ON WATCHMEN

  • Game of Thrones — A prequel series starring Naomi Watts and Miranda Richardson (!!) is heading your way following the conclusion of the series this Spring. It won’t air until 2020, but Martin and Jane Goldman wrote the pilot script which is supposedly set a thousand years prior to the current series. SJ Clarkson directs and production has wrapped in Ireland this summer.  Four other concepts were also developed and are still in consideration, but the cable network is resisting going to this rich well too often. Smart.
  • The Gilded Age — Julian Fellowes (Downton Abbey) gets a limited series order for his period soap set in 1800s New York that he developed for NBC. Christine Baranski, Cynthia Nixon and Amanda Peet set to star.
  • Mare of Easttown — Kate Winslet stars in and EPs this limited series directed by Gavin O’Connor (The Americans), wherein, she plays a detective solving a crime in a small town. Jean Smart, Evan Peters and Julianne Nicholson also star.
  • Industry — Lena Dunham (Girls, Camping) returns with an 8-episode drama series set in the world of international finance in London. Twentysomethings are involved. Okay. Excitement level is minimal. Dunham will direct the pilot.
  • The Third Day — Jude Law stars in the 6-part limited series set on a mysterious island off the coast of England.  From the producers of Chernobyl, which was a big hit for SKY and HBO. Brad Pitt’s Plan B gets an EP credit.
  • Showtime — Adam McKay (Vice, Anchorman) EPs this drama adaptation of a non-fiction book about the ’80s stars of the LA Lakers basketball team. Max Borenstein (Kong: Skull Island) scripts. Sounds like a companion series or a replacement for Ballers. Pilot order.
  • Avenue 5 — Hugh Laurie toplines this new comedy from Armando Iannucci (Veep) about space tourism. Sounds fun. Josh Gad (Beauty & the Beast) co-stars.
  • Lake Success — Jake Gyllenhaal EPs and stars in this limited series adaptation of Gary Shteyngart novel as a hedge fund manager who faces a life crisis of sorts.
  • Plot Against America — Winona Ryder stars in this 6-episode drama adaptation of Philip Roth’s alternate-history novel. David Simon and Ed Burns EP.
  • The Undoing — Nicole Kidman stars and EPs this limited series created by David E. Kelley (Big Little Lies) about a woman who’s life unravels overnight when her husband disappears. Hugh Grant, Lily Rabe, Edgar Ramirez, and Donald Sutherland also star. Sounds good.
  • The Poisonwood Bible — Barbara Kingsolver’s gripping novel is the first project in development with Amy Adams’ production company. Great get!
  • Asunda — Sebastian A. Jones’ fantasy comics get adapted as a YA drama series with an orphan girl as the protagonist who must unite two nations against an ancient enemy.
  • Loner — Novelist Teddy Wayne adapts his own story which centers on a Harvard freshman who sets out to win a girl and gets more than he bargains.
  • I Know This Much Is True — Mark Ruffalo stars and EPs this adaptation of Wally Lamb’s charming novel about a set of twins.
  • The Nix — Meryl Streep is set to star in this adaptation of Nathan Hill’s fun novel as a trouble-making mother.
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife — Audrey Niffenegger’s terrific novel gets a second chance following the poorly received feature version starring Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams. Series order.
  • The Nevers — Joss Whedon’s return to series television is not an adaptation, but it sure sounds like a Victorian Era-set Buffy the Vampire Slayer as it’s about women who secretly battle demons. Doesn’t matter. I’m in. Hope it’s good. Series order. Laura Donnelly (Outlander) set to star.
  • Perry Mason — Another re-boot here. Matthew Rhys (The Americans) replaces Robert Downey Jr. who was set to star in the role made famous by Raymond Burr. Tatiana Maslany also stars, but will she be playing Stella Street?! Series order. Tim Van Patten directs the period piece which is set in 1932 Los Angeles.
  • Run — Merritt Weaver (Birdman) stars alongside Domhnall Gleeson (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) as a woman who reunites with her old flame.  Series order for Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Killing Eve) who EPs. Vicky Jones scripts. EOne is the production co.
  • Mrs. Fletcher — Kathryn Hahn stars in the comedy adaptation of Tom Perrotta’s book which is a dual coming-of-age story about a mother and her college-age son.

Here’s a First Look At HBO’s New & Returning Series

N E X T    U P:

When Is Too Much TV … Just Too Much?

NEO AS THE ARCHITECT

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Surf Report: Santa Monica Remains The Home of the Homeless, But The City Is Determined to Solve This Crisis

op blvd east     op blvd signage

5:45 AM – Santa Monica, CA – My bed is warm and cozy this morning, and I feel extra grateful for this seemingly ordinary comfort as it’s a cold 53 degrees outside where nearly a thousand people are sleeping. I know because, hours ago, I was among 375 volunteers who counted them.

This is my story of the Homeless Count 2019.

The City of Santa Monica  is nothing if not organized. Last night, a Wednesday, I arrived at St. Monica’s Catholic Church around 10:30 PM and checked-in for my team assignment:  20A.

I had no inkling where in Santa Monica my team would be sent to count the homeless, so I dressed really warmly as recommended in the advance emails sent to volunteers:  Thermal underwear beneath jeans and a turtleneck and my ski jacket, gloves and hat.  I brought my own flashlight, as well.

I see a couple of people whom I personally know:  The first is Jeremy, the librarian at Santa Monica’s Ocean Park branch . He’s young and exuberant. A Millennial. I think, Wow! Jeremy’s here after a full day of work where he interacts with homeless people all day. Impressive.

The second person I recognize is City Manager Rick Cole who stands apart surveying the room which is quickly filling up with volunteers, a capacity turnout of local residents, law enforcement and firefighters. They actually had to turn people away … to volunteer.  Rick and I follow each other on Twitter so we have an immediate rapport and a fun chat. He’s soon engaged with other people waiting to say Hello so I beg off to meet my Team.

Two blonde women sit in the assigned seats for 20A:  Linda, a resident on nearby 19th Street and her friend Margery, who actually lives in Pacific Palisades, but who is joining Linda as a friend helping out a friend. Both are first-time volunteer counters (as am I). The fourth member of our 4-man team arrives:  Steve, a really tall, really big, really handsome African American man in his 60s.  He is a case worker at Step Up on Second , an organization dedicated to helping the poor and disenfranchised in Santa Monica. 

My team seems great.

homeless count row selfie     homeless count designated zone

We watch a a very moving, very inspiring video of a recovering alcoholic who talks about his life on the street. A Police Officer discusses safety. Then Richard Bloom , former mayor and current Member of the State Assembly, speaks. He quotes Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. since we just celebrated MLK day, and I’ll paraphrase his moving sentiment: 

What’s the point of building skyscrapers or going to the Moon if we can’t take care of our Poor, our most needy among us? What’s the point of our great technological advancements if we don’t look to our own neighborhood and city and see those struggling to live and to not help them?

Like everyone else in the room, I feel immediately sobered up and reminded of the job ahead which now feels like a Divine Call to Serve.

Soon, all 375 now-sobered volunteers, nicely divided into teams of 4, some of whom are accompanied by an SMPD officer depending on the area they are counting (Palisades Park, the beach), and we are off to our team vehicle to drive to our designated zone: My neighborhood in Ocean Park.

Wow. I am quietly stunned. This count just got personal.

Linda has graciously supplied her large SUV as our team vehicle, so we all clamber inside where she has bottles of water for us. Linda is a good host.  Big Steve and I (now dubbed Smaller Steve) sit in the back while Margery rides shotgun.  Roles are assigned:  Linda drives and keeps us safe. Margery is a Spotter as is Big Steve, and I have the clipboard and write down the address and area of anyone we see in the area we are to cover.  Big Steve has the map and directs Linda’s driving.

Note: It’s now just after Midnight.  The Count is conducted at this hour because the majority of the city’s homeless population have chosen a spot for the night and have made their camp and can be more easily identified. We are instructed not to engage anyone in conversation as this is a count, not an outreach program. We’ve got a job to do and two hours in which to do it.

Neither Linda or Margery are very familiar with Ocean Park, so I feel like the unofficial expert on the area, but what’s interesting is that the zone we cover is the other half of my neighborhood, the part that I rarely visit or drive through.  My polling place is there, though, so I know exactly where we are heading. As does Big Steve.

As Linda drives very slowly up and down each street, Margery and Big Steve scout on the right side of the car, and I take the left side, looking for homeless people.

This section of Ocean Park is a very residential neighborhood with lots of interesting homes and side streets and lots of discarded furniture which excites Linda and Margery.

We see one person sleeping on a sidewalk, some sleeping in their cars, and some in alleys near Lincoln Blvd, but we don’t see anyone sleeping in tents.  At Joslyn Park, which is my polling place, Big Steve and I get out of the car with our flashlights and check the park.  We are both surprised that no one has camped there.  (That’s where I’d go as there are lots of trees for concealment and it’s dark so you can sleep.)

Big Steve tutors us on the state of mind of the homeless as he deals with them on a daily basis at Step Up on 2nd.  His experience is both invaluable and enlightening.  He’s been doing the Homeless Count for 10+ years.

homeless count team 20a

I realize just how kind and warm-hearted these people are:  Team 20A.  Margery gets very excited when she spots someone sleeping in their car. Big Steve is not surprised that we don’t see very many people camped out in this area, five in total.  I write down the addresses on the clipboard, and Big Steve will later note the locations on his map, so the city will now know where the homeless are choosing to spend the night, and subsequently, where to provide outreach services.

Smart. Efficient.

As we wrap up driving our designated area, it’s now about 1:30 AM.  We are on Bay Street, and I note that we are in Dogtown, a famous surf and skateboard area from the ‘60s, info that is new to both Linda and Margery.  Big Steve knows all about Dogtown. I am amazed that everyone doesn’t which is a clue about how we each cloister in our own bubble to a degree. 

Back at St. Monica’s, we each check in so that the City knows we have returned safely. I snap a quick Selfie with Team 20A, and Big Steve bids us each farewell with a big hug, which is really sweet. Everyone hugs. It’s a nice moment.

Big smiles are all around as other teams make their triumphant return with information in hand.  We Are Santa Monica t-shirts are given out to the volunteers which is a very cool gesture.

Driving home through a very quiet and deserted-looking city, I spot a team still on the street, counting at 1:35 AM. Wow!  I am impressed and a little worried.  They should be done by now. They are on foot, though.

When I get home to my warm apartment, I am too energized to do anything but think about what I’ve just witnessed. The Homeless Count feels important, and I am glad I was a small part of it. I hope it helps.

When I do finally go to bed, I give a prayer of thanks for this comfort knowing there are five people outside who do not enjoy the same.

 Santa Monica Addresses Homelessness.

Post Script:  Results of the Homeless Count showed a 3% increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness. However, in the City of Los Angeles, that number increased by 12% with nearly 59,000 people suffering. Homelessness will continue to be a topic of conversation and a problem to address for years to come.

N E X T   U P:

When Is Too Much TV … Just Too Much?

NEO AS THE ARCHITECT

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TV Surf Report: Ten Original Ideas That Could Break Through The Cluster of Reboots In 2019 …

Santa Monica, CA — Chins up, Scribes! Some original ideas for Television do actually get developed. Huzzah, Creativity!

These are TV series, pilots and scripts that are not based on IP (Intellectual Property) which means the Buyers of these ideas will have to aggressively market them to the audience and spend lots of money to explain what these shows are about and why the audience will love them. Today’s television landscape is that crowded.

So, for the moment, let’s forget the Trends we’ve come to know as constants in TV for the last few years (and forseeable future):  Adaptations, Reboots (Beverly Hills 90210 anyone?), Spinoffs, and Super Heroes (or some combo of each!).

Here’s the inevitable list that you’ve come to expect, but the one common denominator shared by each is The Auspices: An Actor who’s signed to produce; A Producer who has a proven track record, etc., or a Genre missing from TV (or a combo of each!):

 

  • Space Force (Netflix) Steve Carrell is set to star and EP in a half-hour comedy ensemble centering on the group of people who must create Donald Trump’s Space Force. Greg Daniels (The Office, King of the Hill) scripts and EPs. Sounds like a lot of fun.
  • Mrs. America  (FX) Cate Blanchett EPs and stars as ’70s anti-feminist/conservative activist Phyllis Schafly in this 9-episode limited series that explores the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment and the Women’s Movement and the central figures like Schafly and Gloria Steinem. Love that Blanchett will play the possibly villainous role! Dahvi Waller (Mad Men) scripts. THR Has The Scoop.
  • Secret Society (NBC) Kay Cannon (Girl Boss, Pitch Perfect) EPs along with Laverne McKinnon, former head of Drama at CBS, this female reporter comedy set within the world of a dying all-male secret society.  Emily Heller (Barry) scripts. Sounds fun!
  • What/If (Netflix) Renee Zellweger toplines this anthology series EPd by Robert Zemeckis which focuses on moral questions and the fallout when people start pushing the boundaries of acceptability. Huh? I have no idea where this series is gonna go, but I’m intrigued by the auspices, which is why Netflix bought it, I imagine. Mike Kelley (Revenge, Swingtown) writes and EPs. I’m a fan.
  • Filthy Rich (FOX) A Southern Gothic ensemble family drama that sounds more like dark comedy to me (which is why I am drawn to it, natch). Tate Taylor (The Help) helms this series that kicks off when the president of a religious TV network dies and his illegitimate family is discovered, so mayhem ensues between two matriarchs and a lot of adult children. Pilot order. Kim Cattrall set to star.
  • Scare Club (Freeform) Imagine reading Interview with The Vampire then traveling to New Orleans with your three best twentysomething pals to discuss the book only to get swept up in gothic vampire intrigue! Well, that’s the promising premise here (but without the Anne Rice analogy). Matt Hastings (Shadowhunters) scripts and EPs.
  • Lyle & Caroline (FOX) This animated comedy pilot from Eric and Justin Stangel (The Tick) focuses on an unusual grandparent/grandchild relationship. That sounds new and different, yes? Lisa Kudrow voices Caroline, the high school-aged grandchild.
  • Reef Break (ABC) A summer crime drama set in a seductive Pacific island paradise that stars Ray Stevenson (Rome, Black Sails). I’m in. Poppy Montgomery also stars as a Thief/Fixer and EPs (show was her idea!). Ken Sanzel scripts and EPs. This series was pitched to ABC International, picked up by French TV and then ABC got on board, which makes for an interesting Origin Story should it become a hit.
  • Spinning Out (Netflix) An ice skating drama that centers on two disparate sisters (one is played by Willow Shields from The Hunger Games) and one can only imagine the operatic highs and lows that can be enjoyed here. Samantha Stratton scripts and EPs (along with about five other peeps).
  • Gold Dust Nation (HBO) A period drama set in the ’90s at British Vogue as seen by former editors who look at the cultural and political life in Great Britain through the POV of the Fashion World.  Could be interesting and also stylish. Jane Trantner (His Dark Materials) EPs.
  • The Dolls (HBO) Okay, this limited series is inspired by a really wild true event from the 1980s. Set in Arkansas during the release of those infamous Cabbage Patch Kids dolls and the riots that ensued over trying to buy them. Issa Rae and Laura Dern EP (both already in business with HBO) and will portray two disparate mothers.  Rae scripts.

 

Speaking of IP, did you know that 50,000 Books, Films, Music, etc. just entered the Public Domain and are ripe for free adaptation/exploitation (i.e., Pride and Prejudice and Zombies!)

Here’s the list courtesy of the LA Times

2019 Additions to Public Domain.

N E X T   U P:

When Is Too Much TV Just Too Much? I’m Goin’ Surfin’!

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Travel Surf Report: 72 Hours In Park City

Park City, Utah — I have been skiing Park City for decades, and Reader, believe me when I tell you that I know how to do Park City.

First, ya gotta travel via Delta Airlines because Salt Lake City is its hub, and the flight schedules are more favorable for arrivals and more importantly, for departures. You don’t want to have to head to the airport at the crack of dawn when the temps are in the single digits.

Ski-wise, your first stop has got to be Deer Valley because frankly, this resort is the most beautiful of any in the area. Deer Valley is also the most expensive, so be sure to purchase your Lift Tickets online (and 7 days in advance) to get the best price.

This month, I spent the most beautiful Sunday relaxing on the beach at Silver Lake Lodge: Sunny skies and mild temperatures. The bluebird conditions were hard to beat.

Before leaving Deer Valley, I highly recommend you and your party trek up to the St. Regis Hotel and take the Funicular up to the Bar at the hotel’s outdoor patio which boasts a roaring firepit as well as spectacular views of Deer Valley. If you are lucky like I was, you may well see some actual deer while you are enjoying your apres-ski cocktail(s).

Dinner in Park City begins and ends for me at High West Saloon on Park Avenue. This distillery/restaurant feels like the spot favored by locals in all seasons. In Winter, High West has an outdoor firepit (detecting a theme?) where you can wait to be seated. The ambience inside is big and roomy and a little noisy, but settle in with an Old Fashioned, a bowl of yummy Onion Soup, and split the Chicken Schnitzel. Tell them I sent you.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and I highly recommend you begin your day by breaking your fast at the Eating Establishment on Main Street. The vibe is cozy, and the food is delicious and reasonably priced (for Park City). My brother and I sat by the window and watched a big snowstorm hit. So cool. We could have drank coffee and nibbled on toast (with raspberry jam) all morning, and the friendly staff would not have minded in the least.

If possible, reserve your lodging somewhere that has an outdoor hot tub, so you may enjoy a Hot Tub in the Snow (again, if you are lucky as I was on my most recent visit in December). I highly recommend the Lodge at the Mountain Village which has great rooms, condos, lofts right there at the base of Park City Mountain. The ski lifts are right there. Jackson’s Base Camp offers 30% off rentals for guests of the Lodge, so definitely take advantage of that deal.

No need to rent a car anymore, btw. The city’s transit system is fantastic, and shuttles run from Park City Mountain to anywhere you wish to go, including the airport.

If possible, take an afternoon off and go hang at the Park City Public Library. The building is glorious, and the reading/writing areas are spacious and welcoming.

Murphy’s Law: The Day You Leave Will Be The Best Powder Day! Enjoy Park City.

And, if you are headed there in January, be sure to check out the lineup for the Sundance Film Festival (along with a few other helpful links below):

https://www.sundance.org/blogs/news/2019-festival-jury-awards-night-host

http://www.sundance.org/festivals/sundance-film-festival/program

https://www.parkcity.org/

http://www.deervalley.com/

https://www.allseasonsresortlodging.com/park-city-lodging/the-lodge-at-the-mountain-village?_vsrefdom=adwords&gclid=CjwKCAiAu_LgBRBdEiwAkovNsBvYcJh6eGtSfCdYxbuYb50Sr_-j-Ydj1l81MQrj4MGUvZQuwoCCKhoCJ9MQAvD_BwE

N E X T U P:

19 Original Series In Development for 2019.

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Travel Surf Report: 72 Hours In La Rue County, My Old Kentucky Home … The Garden Spot of the Universe

72 Non-Consecutive Hours in La Rue County, Kentucky.

Louisville, Kentucky — Arriving near midnight from Los Angeles on American Airlines, I walk through the deserted Standiford Field Airport which clearly is uninhabited and not open for business late at night. Thankfully, I do not have checked baggage and can just text my brother to pick me up out front on the top level. No muss. No fuss.  No waiting around for luggage to slowly traverse the airport’s baggage carousel at such a late hour when employees appear to be few and far between. Where is everyone????

My brother drinks at a downtown bar when he receives my I’ve Just Landed text and appears curbside within minutes. Moments later, we drive the Interstate 65 South to my homeland of La Rue County, which is about 50 miles away. Predictably, the highway is under construction near our exit so traffic is tricky. Once off the freeway, we turn on the country road toward Hodgenville, my hometown.  I am struck by the silence, the complete darkness, the remote feeling of rural America. How wonderful. It’s a far cry from the constant hustle and bustle of overcrowded Los Angeles.

Day One:

Any trip home begins with a home-cooked country breakfast at my sister’s successful café near the town square: Paula’s Hot Biscuit. Before I can eat my breakfast, I greet and hug the girls, Paula’s terrific wait staff, and meet the newest employees, learn their families, and introduce myself as Paula’s favorite brother in case Paula had failed to mention that fact as she regularly does.

The Number Two: Biscuits & Gravy with Bacon & Eggs.

One thing you should know about Kentuckians is that before they have finished eating their breakfast, they have already begun thinking/planning/strategizing what’s for lunch. As I eat my plate of delicious and heart-clogging Biscuits & Gravy, Paula gets a text message from our brother Ben inviting us to lunch in nearby Bardstown at Bottle & Bond, the restaurant at Bardstown Bourbon Company , the newest distillery and tourist destination in Nelson County, a few miles away.

But first, a hike through Pearman Forest because those Biscuits & Gravy aren’t going to work off themselves! Pearman Forest is a series of nature trails created as part of the La Rue County Environmental Experiment where native trees and plants grow.  It’s quite beautiful, always uninhabited by humans, and a wonderful place to walk in the woods and feel, sense, and smell the forest.

Pearman Forest

The drive to Bardstown is one of the loveliest in La Rue County passing not only our family farm, Gypsy Acres, but also my former garden at Groundhog Hill, then moving past the Abraham Lincoln Boyhood Home on Knob Creek (yes, the very creek that inspired a tasty bourbon).  Rolling hills, the landscape is still green and verdant.

 BARDSTOWN LUNCH

Bottle & Bond will fast become the Jewel of Nelson County and historic Bardstown.  It’s that grand, that cool, that well-designed. Lots of stone, wood, and glass make for a spacious dining experience that begins with the classic bourbon cocktail, The Old Fashioned. You will definitely want to have two! Lunch consists of Brisket Sandwiches & Fries, Fish Tacos, Caesar Salads, and a side of crispy Brussel Sprouts. Save room for dessert and split a Boozy Milkshake. Quite tasty. I can’t wait to go back with friends, enjoy the outdoor firepit and more Old Fashioneds.

Once home, it’s time to split some firewood and get the firepit ready for a late afternoon firepit (and a bourbon!) where we can sit around talk about what’s for supper!  Supper is usually potluck among the La Rue siblings in attendance, and most importantly, a card game (or three) will likely precede and follow the meal. Of course before the night ends, we will discuss what’s for breakfast (hint: poached eggs). Priorities, People!

About La Rue County, Kentucky

Paula’s Hot Biscuit

https://www.bardstownbourbon.com/

N E X T   U P:

Day Two. Malibu Catches Fire. Kentucky Catches Cold. A Story of Fire & Ice.

 

Pearman Forest
The Number Two: Biscuits & Gravy with Bacon & Eggs.
72 Non-Consecutive Hours in La Rue County, Kentucky.
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