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Nielsen Overnights (Broadcast)
Friday Ratings: ‘Shark Tank’ And ‘WWE Friday Night SmackDown’ Win The Demo Battle
By Bruce Haring, Deadline.com - Aug. 2, 2020

On yet another mid-summer night filled with reruns, it’s fitting that an original program and a rerun tie for top honors.

ABC’s Shark Tank scored an 0.5 with its encore presentation. In the episode, entrepreneurs from Malibu, Calif. offer knife sharpening by mail, while a Florida mother-daughter team had a solution for bug bites.

The WWE Friday Night SmackDown also came in at an 0.5. The night saw Bayley beat Nikki Cross in the main event to retain the WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship. That resulted in an after-match brawl featuring Cross, Alexa Bliss and The Fiend.

The only other original programming on the night was at CBS, where The Greatest #AtHome Videos with Cedric the Entertainer hosting came in at an 0.4, copping the night’s biggest overall P2+ audience at 3276.

The rest of the night’s fare consisted of reruns, repeats and encores.

Source: Friday Ratings: ‘Shark Tank’ And ‘WWE Friday Night SmackDown’ Win The Demo Battle
 

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TV/Production Notes (International)
Wong Kar-wai Sets ‘Blossoms Shanghai’ as His First TV Series
By Patrick Frater, Variety.com - Aug. 2, 2020

Iconic auteur director, Wong Kar-wai has finally confirmed “Blossoms Shanghai” will be his first dive into dramatic TV series production.

An adaptation of Jin Yucheng’s multi-award-winning Shanghai-set novel, “Blossoms,” the series also marks a return for Wong to his birthplace. Although he is associated with the free-wheeling Hong Kong film industry, Wong was born in Shanghai and studied in the Chinese commercial capital.

Wong is set as series producer and director of the pilot episode. Jet Tone (Xiangshan), a branch of Wong’s Jet Tone Films, will produce the series, with his related company Block 2 Distribution handling international sales. Tencent Penguin Pictures has acquired the rights for China, making it likely that the show will be released through the Tencent Video streaming platform.

The adaptation is written by award-winning Shanghainese screenwriter, Qin Wen. Production, entirely in Shanghai, will involve Wong partnering with Academy Award-winning cinematographer, Peter Pau (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “Forbidden Kingdom”). The cast will be headed by major Chinese star and Shanghai native, Hu Ge “The Wild Goose Lake,” “The Climbers”).

In a tale of journey and reinvention, Hu portrays a young opportunist with a troubled past, as he ventures within the gilded city of Shanghai. “Set against the backdrop of massive economic growth in 1990s Shanghai, the series unveils the glamour that follows his dazzling wealth and his entanglement with four fabulous women that represent the pursuits of his life: adventure, honor, love and innocence,” said Jet Tone.

“Jin Yucheng’s landmark novel ‘Blossoms’ has been the perfect backdrop to visualize and share my love for my birth city,” said Wong in a prepared statement. “With the series, I would like to invite the audience to immerse in the intrigues of Shanghai and its inhabitants in the early 1990s, an exciting time that paved the way for the prosperity of modern Shanghai.”

Source: Wong Kar-wai Sets ‘Blossoms Shanghai’ as His First TV Series
 

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Obituary
Tom Pollock, Risk-Taking Ex-Universal Chairman, Dies at 77
By Anne Thompson, IndieWire.com - Aug. 2, 2020

Tom Pollock was not your ordinary studio chief. Trained as a lawyer, Pollock chaired Universal Pictures for nine years (1986 to 1996) and went on to partner with Ivan Reitman’s Montecito Picture Company, chair the Board of Trustees at the American Film Institute, and teach at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Pollock steered Universal through a rich and storied period, and took risks that many studio chiefs would not. He died of a heart attack on August 1.

At the studio, Pollock worked with many of the top directors in Hollywood: Steven Spielberg (“Jurassic Park”), Robert Zemeckis (the “Back to the Future” trilogy), Ron Howard (“Backdraft,” “Parenthood”), Ivan Reitman (“Twins,” “Kindergarten Cop”), Martin Scorsese (“Cape Fear,” “Casino”), and George Miller (“Lorenzo’s Oil”).

During Pollock’s Universal tenure, the studio garnered seven Academy Award Best Picture nominations, including winner Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List,” Miller’s “Babe,” Howard’s “Apollo 13,” Phil Alden Robinson’s “Field of Dreams,” Oliver Stone’s “Born on the Fourth of July,” Martin Brest’s “Scent of a Woman,” and Jim Sheridan’s “In the Name of the Father.”

Pollock brought in emerging talent too, including Jon Avnet (“Fried Green Tomatoes”), Richard Linklater (“Dazed and Confused”), and Sam Raimi (“Darkman,” “Army of Darkness”), and made four films with Spike Lee (“Do the Right Thing,” “Mo’ Better Blues,” “Jungle Fever,” and “Crooklyn”).

Several films under Pollock’s watch faced controversy. He had to white-knuckle through the trouble-plagued production of Kevin Reynold’s dystopian $175-million “Waterworld,” starring Kevin Costner, which went notoriously over-budget, but eventually eked out $264 million worldwide in 1988, if not a profit. In 1988, Pollock received death threats and hired bodyguards after Scorsese’s adaptation of the Nikos Kazantzakis novel “The Last Temptation of Christ” sparked protests and the bombing of a French cinema that injured 13 people. Even after that nerve-wracking experience, Pollock stood up for Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” when exhibitors were fearful that the film would spark riots. The film opened without incident.

“They don’t make guys like that anymore,” Lee once told me. “Tom Pollock had my back. There was pressure on Tom Pollock not to release ‘Do the Right Thing,’ to at least wait until the summer was over, when black folks were going to run amuck. I always tip my hat to Tom Pollock. I have nothing for love for Tom Pollock.”

In 1993, Pollock joined 20 other Hollywood executives on a Colorado River rafting expedition organized by Jeffrey Katzenberg, and emerged unscathed, even though he was in less-than-perfect physical shape, and lost his glasses when he was knocked out of the raft. Nonetheless he came up smiling.

Before he joined Universal, Pollock made a name for himself as the attorney who brokered the influential billion-dollar “Star Wars” deal for George Lucas, who retained rights to the franchise. Throughout his career, Pollock was a teacher and mentor to all, always happy to share his knowledge of the business.

“We are incredibly saddened by the loss of Tom Pollock,” stated Ron Meyer, Vice Chairman of NBCUniversal. “He played a critical role in securing our studio’s legacy, and was an extraordinary executive, influential attorney, and a dear friend to so many of us…We will forever feel his impact on our company and within our industry. On behalf of everyone at Universal, we send our deepest condolences to his family and honor his extraordinary accomplishments.”

Source: Tom Pollock, Risk-Taking Ex-Universal Chairman, Dies at 77
 

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Technology/Critic's Notes (Mobile)
After years of hype, 5G making progress in the US
By Bob O'Donnell, USA Today - Jul. 31, 2020

FOSTER CITY, Calif. — Given all the time that most of us have spent at home recently, it’s easy to lose sight of advances in technologies like 5G that are generally more useful when we’re out and about.

However, just as municipalities around the country have used reductions in traffic to speed up road improvement projects and other infrastructure enhancements, so too have several of the U.S.-based telco carriers been working to bring 5G to life sooner than originally anticipated.

Just last week, AT&T announced that it had achieved nationwide coverage for its 5G network, joining T-Mobile, who reached that important goal last December. In both cases, the companies are using what’s called “low-band” frequencies to achieve these nationwide networks. The reason this matters is that cellular signals which are transmitted at these lower frequencies (600 MHz for T-Mobile and 850 MHz for AT&T) are able to travel long distances. This means you can create a bigger network with fewer cell towers.

The problem is that the width of the “lanes” used to transmit data at those frequencies are very narrow, which means that the speeds you can get while using them are not much different from 4G. Needless to say, that’s certainly not what we were led to believe 5G was going to be able to do.

You can get significantly faster 5G download speeds using a technology called millimeter wave (mmWave), which transmits data at much higher frequencies (such as 39 GHz) and, most importantly, offers significantly wider “lanes” for data traffic. The problem with mmWave is that the signals don’t travel far (think, roughly a city block), and they’re highly susceptible to interference, including things like windows, walls, and even other people.

If you can get mmWave 5G service (which all three major US carriers have enabled, but only in a few cities around the country), it can deliver download speeds that are 50x faster than 4G. The huge caveat, however, is that you have to be outside, not moving, with few people around and located in the right section of the cities where the service is turned on.

In real-world tests of Verizon’s 5G network, which only uses mmWave, a measurement company called Open Signal found that people were actually only getting 5G service 0.4% of the time. If you’ve spent a lot of money on a 5G phone, that’s probably not going to make you very happy.

The most interesting near-term options for 5G are around what’s called “mid-band” spectrum, which means radio frequencies in the roughly 2.5-3.5 GHz range. Thanks to its acquisition of Sprint, right now T-Mobile is the only U.S. carrier that is using these frequencies, although both AT&T and Verizon have talked about using them at some point in the future.

The quality of 5G service when using these mid-band frequencies turns out to be a very solid compromise of good coverage (although not quite as wide as the low-band frequencies) with traffic lane sizes that should accommodate a very respectable 10x speed increase over 4G.

In addition to basic frequency developments, the carriers have also been working on other enhancements to their 5G networks. AT&T, for example, announced about a month ago that they have turned on a technology called DSS (Dynamic Spectrum Sharing), which allows 4G and 5G phones to use the same frequencies. Practically speaking, that means AT&T can use some of its huge range of 4G coverage to also carry 5G signals, which can lead to both better coverage and faster download speeds.

T-Mobile, for its part, is moving aggressively towards deploying what’s called 5G SA (Standalone) Mode. Basically, this means all aspects of the network—both the wireless connection to the cell tower and the internal “core” network that carries the data to and from various websites – are optimized for 5G. Practically speaking, this will translate into another feature that’s been long-promised for 5G – reductions in what’s called latency, or lag time. Up until now, all 5G networks have been in NSA (Non-Standalone) Mode, which mixes together 5G radio connections with 4G core networks.

Practically speaking, this means that response times for 5G phones haven’t been any better than 4G phones. 5G SA-based networks, however, can offer a 40% improvement in latency, which, for an application like mobile gaming, could mean the difference between being able to shoot a monster or getting eaten by one.

In addition to network improvements, there have been a number of new 5G phones brought to market recently across a much wider range of price points, from $500 to well over $1,500. In addition to current offerings from Samsung, LG, and OnePlus, next week Samsung is widely anticipated to introduce several more 5G-capable phones. Apple will also be bringing the first 5G-capable iPhones to market in October based on hints from its recent earnings call.

From a pricing plan perspective, the good news is that most carriers are not charging any kind of premium for 5G, although their range of plan options for 5G phones are typically limited to somewhat pricier unlimited plans.

The bottom line is that we are much closer to a good quality 5G experience in the US than we’ve ever been. After years of hype around the subject, it’s nice to see some of the early promises start to come to life. Plus, the good news about wireless network enhancements is that many of them will quietly improve over time, which will bring better performance to the 5G phones you can buy today or in the near future without you having to do anything.

That’s a concept I think we can all get behind.

USA TODAY columnist Bob O'Donnell is the president and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research, a market research and consulting firm that provides strategic consulting and market research services to the technology industry and professional financial community. His clients are major technology firms including Microsoft, HP, Dell, Samsung and Intel.

Source: After years of hype, 5G making progress in the US
 

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TV Sports/Health Notes (College Football)
Pac-12 player group threatens to opt out, makes list of demands on injustice, safety
By Adam Rittenberg and Mark Schlabach, ESPN.com - Aug. 1, 2020

A group of Pac-12 football players from multiple schools is threatening to opt out of both preseason camps and games until its negotiations with the league regarding concerns about racial injustice, their safety during the coronavirus pandemic and other demands are completed.

A text message obtained by ESPN says the group's goal is to "obtain a written contract with the Pac- 12 that legally ensures we are offered the following protections and benefits."

The group's list of demands, according to the text message, includes safe play amid the pandemic, fighting racial injustice, securing economic rights and fair compensation, protecting all sports and obtaining long-term health insurance.

People familiar with the group's mission told ESPN that the central issue it wants to address with the league and its schools is racial injustice.

On Sunday, the players issued their concerns and demands through The Players' Tribune, including the hashtag #WeAreUnited.

Among the demands are protections for eligibility and better health and safety standards amid the pandemic, keeping existing sports by cutting pay to coaches and administrators, a plan to fight racial injustice in college sports and society, and plans for revenue sharing and six-year athletic scholarships, among other economic issues.

The Pac-12 said in a statement Saturday that it had yet to hear from the group.

"Neither the Conference nor our university athletics departments have been contacted by this group regarding these topics," a Pac-12 statement said. "We support our student-athletes using their voice and have regular communications with our student-athletes at many different levels on a range of topics. As we have clearly stated with respect to our fall competition plans, we are, and always will be, directed by medical experts, with the health, safety and well being of our student athletes, coaches and staff always the first priority. We have made it clear that any student athlete who chooses not to return to competition for health or safety reasons will have their scholarship protected."

Ramogi Huma, the founder and president of the National College Players Association, is assisting the players in organizing the potential boycott, sources told ESPN. Huma, a former linebacker at UCLA, has been an advocate for college athletes' rights.

A staff member at a Pac-12 football program told ESPN that the movement is "real" and involves potentially hundreds of players.

A UCLA player contacted by ESPN said Bruins team leaders planned to meet and discuss the potential boycott Saturday.

A person familiar with the Pac-12 campaign said players from Cal, Oregon, Stanford and UCLA and other schools are involved. The person said at least a few of the league's head coaches were aware of the potential boycott and have independently gauged their teams' involvement, which has varied from campus to campus.

Among the players' concerns are that they are being brought back to campus for practices and games when a handful of Pac-12 schools, including Cal, UCLA and USC, have told most, if not all, of the student body to stay home and take classes online this fall because of the coronavirus pandemic. Stanford is bringing only half of its undergraduates back to campus for the fall quarter (the Stanford undergraduate program is divided into 10-week quarters).

On Friday, the Pac-12 approved a 10-game, conference-only fall schedule for football that is scheduled to begin on Sept. 26. Each team will play five home and five road games, and the Pac-12 championship is scheduled for no earlier than Dec. 18 or 19. The conference title game will be held on campus and not at the NFL's new stadium in Las Vegas, as previously planned.

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott conceded it "may not be possible" to play even a 10-game schedule by Dec. 19 -- or that the spring might be needed to finish it.

"The same thing may happen in other markets," Scott said. "... We recognize that the best-laid plans may not come to fruition, whether being able to start on [Sept.] 26, play a complement of a minimum number of games we feel would be required for a College Football Playoff, and we may start but not be able to finish, and then we will have to adjust."

Half of the league's schools -- Arizona, Arizona State, California, Stanford, UCLA and USC -- are located in states with surging coronavirus cases.

"We realize at the moment, those are real hot spots, and the requisite authorities and approvals are not there yet," Scott said.

With its delayed start to the season, the Pac-12 plans to enter the "enhanced summer access" period as early as Aug. 3, followed by the start of its official training camp as early as Aug. 17.

ESPN's Tom VanHaaren contributed to this report.

Source: Pac-12 players threaten to opt out, list demands
 

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TV/Critic's Notes
Bianculli's Best Bets
By David Bianculli, TVWorthWatching.com - Aug. 3, 2020

SUMMER UNDER THE STARS: RITA HAYWORTH
TCM, 6:00 a.m. ET
Rita Hayworth is the focus of today’s “Summer Under the Stars” salute on TCM, and the salute begins at 6 a.m. ET with Renegade Ranger, a 1938 film that is her earliest one in this retrospective. But not the earliest: she already had appeared in more than two dozen movies by then. Today’s “Summer Under the Stars” Hayworth tribute continues through 4 a.m. Tuesday, when TCM shows 1972’s The Wrath of God, which was Hayworth’s last film. (It was not, however, the same film as that same year’s similarly titled Aguirre, The Wrath of God, a 16th-century adventure story directed by Werner Herzog. Hayworth’s Wrath of God was a Western.) In between those two Hayworth offerings, on TCM, are some of her most famous screen appearances. Watch, in particular, for her in 1948’s The Lady from Shanghai (8 p.m. ET) and, of course, 1946’s Gilda (at 10 p.m. ET).

BOYZ IN THE HOOD
Sundance, 8:00 p.m. ET

John Singleton wrote and directed this 1991 movie, a dazzling directorial debut that got powerful performances from the cast – and had powerful things to say about race. Those statements and observations are just as relevant today as they were almost 30 years ago, and that’s awful. The movie, however, is excellent. Laurence Fishburne is unforgettable as one of the most outspoken and observant residents of his ghetto Crenshaw neighborhood of Los Angeles. And really good, too, are Ice Cube, Angela Bassett, and Cuba Gooding, Jr.

ALMOST FAMOUS
AXS-TV, 9:00 p.m. ET

Cameron Crowe stuck the landing, and everything else, as the writer and director of this 2000 movie, which stars Patrick Fugit as William Miller, a laughably young and unsophisticated rock journalist for Rolling Stone – an alter ego stand-in for Crowe himself. Billy Crudup and Jason Lee are delightful as two members of the rock band William is chronicling, as are the young women playing the band’s groupies: Anna Paquin, Fairuza Balk, and, in a star-making turn as Penny Lane, Kate Hudson. And there are other scene-stealers, too, with the grandest thefts pulled off by Philip Seymour Hoffman as rock critic Lester Bangs, Zooey Deschanel as William’s supportive and rebellious older sister, and, most of all, Frances McDormand as William’s understandably concerned mother.

AXIOS
HBO, 11:06 p.m. ET

This week’s Axios installment is the full-length conversation, recorded last week and shown in pieces on MSNBC and elsewhere, in which Axios reporter Jonathan Swan asked some very good questions, in a one-on-one interview, of President Donald Trump.

Source: TV Show Reviews, Recommendations... TV Worth Watching!

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TV/Critic's Notes
Fake News and Real Truths (About Women) on 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show'
By Ed Martin, TVWorthWatching.com's 'TV Mix' - Jul. 31, 2020

Gender equality in the workplace is a hot-button topic today. So is the concept of "fake news." Interestingly, they were co-mingled five decades ago in an episode of a beloved sitcom from the '70s that holds up to this day. I'm referring to the third season premiere of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which threw these issues and others into the air with all the gusto of Mary tossing her tam on that busy Minneapolis street corner.

The episode, titled "The Good-Time News," was written by James L. Brooks and Allan Burns. But it was the star of the show, Mary Tyler Moore, who brought it home. Her performance was easily one of her best in the seven-year stretch of the show's original run. (Hulu offers MTM on its burgeoning roster of classic and modern series.)

Viewed almost 50 years after its September 16, 1972 debut telecast, "The Good-Time News" recalls a time when the broadcast networks and their affiliates – then the only game in television – were looking for ways to make their nightly news programs lighter and more enjoyable. If that meant compromising their journalistic standards, so be it.

MTM picked right up on that when the station manager of WJM-TV, where Mary Richards (Tyler Moore) and her colleagues toiled on a low-rated nightly news telecast that served the Twin Cities, told newsroom boss Lou Grant (Ed Asner) that he wanted to make their nightly news program "more entertaining." Lou, a former newspaper guy, bristled at the thought. His exchange with his boss, Jack Stonem (Robert Hogan), sounds like something we might hear in a White House press briefing today.

Lou: "News is truth, Jack, and I'm not going to make it into something fake!"

Jack: "Why not? After all, Lou, there's fake, and then there's fake."

When Jack asks Mary for her opinion, noting that she is always so "quiet" in meetings, Lou interrupts and nonchalantly asserts that her opinion will be the same as his. But it isn't. She agrees with Jack. Lou is stunned, because Mary, being a woman, always defers to him.

Not this time. Mary speaks up! The scenes before this one set the stage for this memorable moment.

The episode opens in Mary's apartment, where Mary is busy preparing for the annual meeting with Stonem. Since she had been at WJM for a couple of years at that point, she was expected to contribute more than usual. "Why do I feel I'm representing women everywhere?" she laments to best friend, Rhoda. When Rhoda says she doesn't understand why Mary feels that way, Mary replies, "What would you say if the station manager kept trotting in groups of people and saying, 'This is our woman executive.'" (Remember, this was during the early '70s when female executives were not common and certainly not considered equal to their male counterparts. That was the dawn of the women's liberation movement, as perfectly depicted in the FX on Hulu masterpiece Mrs. America, still my choice for the best American program of 2020.)

The way men regarded women in the workplace at that time was at the heart of the episode, and it's what makes "The Good-Time News" an essential classic.

Shortly before the meeting, Mary learns that the man who had her job before her was paid $50 more per week. She is, in a word, pissed, revealing a side to her character that we hadn't seen before.

Mary charges into Lou Grant's office and tremulously demands to be treated as an equal (something viewers had never seen a woman do in a workplace-based sitcom). Visibly shaken, she has trouble initiating a confrontation. At first, words fail her, so Lou ignores her obvious distress and blithely begins talking about other things.

This further infuriates her, and when she explains this, Lou simply states, "I figured it was one of those woman things."

Those words push Mary into action. "I would like to know why the last associate producer before me made $50 more a week than I do," she declares.

"Because he was a man," Lou matter-of-factly replies.

Mary is stunned and instantly empowered in a way she had never been. "Let me get this straight," she shoots back. "The only reason he was paid $50 more a week than I am is because he was a man?"

"Sure," Lou says with a smile. "It has nothing to do with your work."

"I want to get this straight," Mary continues. "I'm doing as good a job as he did…"

Lou interrupts. "Better," he says.

"Better!" Mary exclaims. "And I'm being paid less than he was because…"

"You're a woman," Lou explains.

Mary is, indeed, now "representing women everywhere," as she said earlier to Rhoda. "There is no good reason why two people doing the same job at the same place shouldn't be making…"

Lou interrupts again. "He had a family to support," he says. "You don't. Now, why don't you come back when you have an answer?"

Mary is speechless, but I am certain that the millions of women watching that night had a lot to say.

Later in the episode, during the first telecast of The Six O'Clock News in its new "entertaining" format, Mary delivers the editorial commentary because, as she tells Rhoda, "The station manager is under pressure to use more women on the air." (Again, consider the era.)

But when the focus turns from the witty banter between newly paired Ted Baxter, the unctuous anchorman, and Gordy Howard, the weatherman-turned-co-anchor for the new format, to Mary's serious presentation (on population control), Ted continually interrupts with stupid jokes. Mary grows increasingly irritated until she loses her cool and snaps, "Will you shut up, Ted?"

In one of the funniest final sequences of this or any other sitcom, Lou tells Mary that he has thought about her salary request and has decided to raise her $25 per week. Mary, to her credit, isn't having it.

"Mr. Grant," she says, "I'm not sure you understand the principle here."

Her point has been made. "The whole $50, huh?" Lou asks.

"Right," she says.

"Ok," Lou responds, "I'll try to get you $50 a week more."

Ted overhears this exchange and turns to Lou, seething with indignation. "Why are you giving a $50-a-week raise to someone who told me to shut up on the air?" he barks.

"It's all I can afford, Ted," Lou replies.

The line is as priceless as the episode is timeless. Indeed, everything about this show remains relevant today or is, at the very least, worth thinking about. Also, it is as funny now as it was then. These are hallmarks of a groundbreaking sitcom. The Mary Tyler Moore Show broke more ground than most.

This column was first published at MediaVillage.

Source: Fake News and Real Truths (About Women) on 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show'
 

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TV Review (Streaming)
Beyoncé’s ‘Black Is King’ on Disney Plus is an opulent celebration of the Black experience
By Aidin Vaziri, San Francisco Chronicle - Aug. 2, 2020

In an era when most people are communicating with Instagram-size PowerPoint presentations, Beyoncé still talks in grand gestures.

Early on Friday, July 31, the 24-time Grammy winner released her latest visual album, “Black Is King,” a companion piece to the 2019 album “The Lion King: The Gift,” on Disney Plus. Written, directed and executive-produced by Beyoncé, the extended music video follows the lead of its dazzling predecessors — 2013’s “Beyoncé” and 2016’s “Lemonade” — and is a celebration of the Black experience.

As the pop star described it, it’s “a story of how the people left most broken have an extraordinary gift and a purposeful future.”

As with “Lemonade,” there is no clear narrative. Instead, Beyoncé serves up a series of visually stunning interludes that vaguely suggest a coming-of-age story accompanied by the songs from “The Gift,” a collection of songs inspired by the 2019 live-action remake of Disney’s “The Lion King.” The scenes are tied together by dramatic spoken-word interludes from the film by James Earl Jones, who voiced Mufasa in both Disney versions.

Shot primarily in Africa over the past year (primarily before the coronavirus pandemic swept the world), the big-budget film plays out like a collection of opulent music videos. It’s not a live concert film, but it does take cues from the theatrical pacing of Beyoncé’s tour performances.

We see Beyoncé on the beach holding a newborn while wearing a designer gown singing “Bigger” in the opening scene of the film: “If you feel insignificant/ You better think again.”

We see her dancing in the desert amid dancers and fireworks, flanked in a series of Swarovski crystal-embellished outfits.

We see the beauty of the land in ominous close-ups of people’s faces and sweeping scenes of everyday life.

In an era of so much real grief, the over-the-top opulence of “Black Is King” may feel like pure escapism. But Beyoncé has other intentions.

“We are all in search of safety and light. Many of us want change,” she wrote in a post on Instagram in June. “I believe that when Black people tell our own stories, we can shift the axis of the world and tell our real history of generational wealth and richness of soul that are not told in our history books.”

Fueled by high-profile collaborations with superstars like Childish Gambino, Lupita Nyong’o, Naomi Campbell, former Destiny’s Child member Kelly Rowland, her husband Jay-Z and their children, Blue Ivy and Sir Carter, “Black Is King” also puts the spotlight on a long list of fresh African artists.

The film finds its grounding in the closing scene when it strips away its grandiloquence and Beyoncé sings an a cappella version of “Spirit” backed by a gospel choir before being transported across deserts, waterfalls and other lush landscapes as the song hits its climax against the setting sun.

The visual album arrives with a deluxe edition of “The Lion King: The Gift,” which can be streamed on various streaming services and includes three new tracks.

“Black Is King”: Musical. Starring Beyoncé. Directed by Beyoncé. (Not rated. 85 minutes.) Available to stream through Disney Plus starting Friday, July 31.

Source: Review: Beyoncé’s ‘Black Is King’ on Disney Plus is an opulent celebration of the Black experience
 

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TV Notes
On The Air

MONDAY AUG. 3, 2020 Network Primetime/Late Night Options
(All shows are in HD unless noted; start times are ET. Network late night shows are preceded by late local news)
From Zap2it.com's TV Grid

ABC:
8PM - The Bachelor: The Greatest Seasons -- Ever! Ali Fedotowsky (3 hrs.)
* * * *
11:35PM - Jimmy Kimmel Live! (Nikki Glaser guest hosts; media personality Paris Hilton; comic Phoebe Robinson)
(R)
12:06AM - Nightline
12:36AM - Jimmy Kimmel Live!
(R)

CBS:
8PM - The Neighborhood
(R)
8:30PM - Bob Hearts Abishola (R)
9PM - All Rise (R)
10PM - Bull (R)
* * *
11:35PM - The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (Comic W. Kamau Bell; The Chicks talk and perform)
(R)
12:37AM - The Late Late Show With James Corden (Will Ferrell; Billy Porter; Phoebe Bridgers performs) (R)

NBC:
8PM - The Titan Games
9PM - American Ninja Warrior: USA vs. the World (120 min.)
(R)
* * * *
11:34PM - The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (Rapper Common; NBA player Matisse Thybulle; Rufus Wainwright performs)
12:37AM - Late Night With Seth Meyers (CORE founder Sean Penn; Jane Curtin; Thaddeus Dixon sits in with the 8G Band)
1:38AM - A Little Late With Lilly Singh (Beth Behrs; Tichina Arnold)
(R)

FOX:
8PM - 9-1-1
(R)
9PM - 9-1-1: Lone Star (R)

THE CW:
8PM - Whose Line Is It Anyway? (Guest comic Gary Anthony Williams; guest appearance by Jeanine Mason)
(R)
8:30PM - Whose Line Is It Anyway? (Guest comic Greg Proops ) (R)
9PM - Penn & Teller: Fool Us

PBS:
8PM - Antiques Roadshow: Vintage Boston
(R)
9PM - Antiques Roadshow: Tucson (R)
10PM - POV: Chez Jolie Coiffure (60 min.)

UNIVISION:
8PM - Te Doy La Vida
9PM - Médicos, Línea de Vida
10PM - Como Tú No Hay Dos

TELEMUNDO:
7PM - Exatlón Estados Unidos (120 min.)
9PM - Cennet
10PM - Enemigo Intimo


ESPN:
6:30PM - NBA Basketball: Memphis Grizzlies vs. New Orleans Pelicans (LIVE)
9PM - NBA Basketball: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Utah Jazz (LIVE

A&E:
8PM - Hoarders (120 min.)
10PM - Intervention (60 min.)

DISNEY XD:
8PM - Player Select (30 min.)

NAT GEO:
8PM - When Sharks Attack: Extra Bite - Tropical Terror
9PM - When Sharks Attack: Extra Bite - Red Terror (63 min.)
10:03PM - World's Biggest Tiger Shark? Extra Bite

NBCSN:
8PM - NHL Hockey: Montreal Canadiens vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (LIVE)
10:30PM - NHL Hockey: Chicago Blackhawks vs. Edmonton Oilers (LIVE)

TLC:
8PM - 90 Day Fiancé: Before the 90 Days
9PM - 90 Day Fiancé: The Other Way (120 min.)
* * * *
11PM - Find Love LIVE (60 min.)

USA:
8PM - WWE Monday Night RAW (3 hrs., LIVE)

BRAVO:
9PM - Below Deck Mediterranean (90 min.)

E!:
9PM - Botched
10PM - Celebrity Call Center: The Shift With the Cheater
10:30PM - Botched
(R)
* * * *
11:30PM - Nightly Pop (30 min.)

HBO:
9PM - I May Destroy You: Episode 9 (32 min.)

ID:
9PM - Hometown Homicide
9:30PM - Hometown Homicide
10PM - Your Worst Nightmare


VH1:
9PM - Love & Listings
10PM - To Catch a Beautician (30 min.)

TBS:
11PM - Conan (Martin Short)
(R)


Source: https://tvlistings.zap2it.com/?aid=gapzap
 

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Sports.. sort of
Dwayne Johnson, RedBird Capital buy XFL for $15 million
Can you smell what the Rock is buyin’?
Posted by Mike Florio on August 3, 2020, 9:52 AM EDT- NBCSports.com

Dwayne Johnson, a former pro wrestler who has become a major film and TV star, is buying the XFL, according to Scott Soshnick of Sportico.com.

Per the report, Johnson teamed up with RedBird Capital and pressed the “buy it now” button, making the purchase only hours before an auction was due to begin. They’ll pay a total of $15 million, splitting the price equally.

It’s unclear when the XFL will return to action, how it will be televised, and where the games will be played. Still, Johnson’s presence gives the league cachet — frankly, even more than it had when owned by Vince McMahon.

For now, we wait for more details about the plans for the reconstituted, for the second time, XFL. But there will surely be more interest in the league with Dwayne Johnson as the owner than there would have been if some faceless venture-capital fund had made the purchase.



Dwayne Johnson, RedBird Capital buy XFL for $15 million - ProFootballTalk
 

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TV Sports/Health Notes (Football)
NFL owners, NFLPA reach agreement on Thursday for COVID-19 opt-out deadline
By Mike Jones, USA Today - Aug. 3, 2020

NFL players must make their decisions on whether to opt out of the 2020 season because of concerns over the coronavirus by 4 p.m. ET on Thursday.

The NFL owners and the NFL Players Association agreed to the terms Monday night, and the player body was notified of the arrangement shortly after, two people with knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY Sports.

They spoke on condition of anonymity because the league and union had yet to announce the pact. The agreement letter was finalized Monday night.

Originally, the NFLPA and owners had agreed to set the opt out deadline for seven days after the finalization of the modified Collective Bargaining Agreement.

But with final details of the economic aspects of the deal still unresolved, and as more than 40 players have opted out already, NFL owners wanted to nail down the opt out deadline. Teams worried that players who were unlikely to make rosters would simply use the opt out clause to ensure themselves a stipend of $150,000 to $350,000 rather than making the move with the health and safety of themselves and their families in mind.

Some players, dismissing such a notion, were upset over the owners’ push for a bumped up deadline, believing that this decision shouldn’t be rushed.

However, the owners ultimately got their way on the opt-out deadline. It’s expected that provisions will be made for players to opt out after the deadline in the event that they or a family member encounter extenuating circumstances related to the coronavirus.

Source: NFL owners, NFLPA reach agreement on Thursday for COVID-19 opt-out deadline
 

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Nielsen Overnights (Broadcast)
ABC Tops Sunday Ratings With Milwaukee-Houston NBA Game; ‘Fridge Wars’ & ‘Taskmaster’ Debut Cool On CW
By Dino-Ray Ramos, Deadline - Aug. 3, 2020

It was another quiet Sunday of repeats in primetime with the exception of ABC’s coverage of the Houston Rockets and Milwaukee Bucks from the NBA’s Orlando bubble, along with the CW’s debut of two new series.

ABC top the night with the Rockets-Bucks game, which followed an encore of America’s Funniest Home Videos and delivered a 0.7 in the adults 18-49 demographic and slam-dunked 2.13 million viewers. As with most live sports, those metrics will likely be adjusted in the final numbers.

The CW premiered two series, both making quiet debuts: the family-centric cooking competition Fridge Wars (0.1, 432,000) followed the British comedy panel import Taskmaster (0.1, 224K).

Elsewhere, the networks were wading in reruns. NBC aired repeats of Cannonball, Titan Games and America’s Got Talent, while Fox served second helpings of Last Man Standing, Duncanville, The Simpsons, Bless the Harts, Bob’s Burgers and Family Guy. CBS had encores of Tough As Nails, NCIS: Los Angeles, NCIS: New Orleans along with a repeat 60 Minutes, the latter of which clocked the highest viewership of the evening.

Source: ABC Tops Sunday Ratings With Milwaukee-Houston NBA Game; ‘Fridge Wars’ & ‘Taskmaster’ Debut Cool On CW

* * * *

Nielsen Overnights (Broadcast)
Univision’s ‘¿Quién Es La Máscara?’ Draws 1.4 Million Viewers In Premiere
By Alexandra del Rosario, Deadline - Aug. 3, 2020

The premiere of Univision’s ¿Quién Es la Máscara? (The Masked Singer) raked in an average of 1.4 million viewers in its 2 1/2-hour debut Sunday. The premiere tied for second overall for the night among the Big 4 networks and the CW in the adults 18-49 demographic, which peaked in the 9 p.m. hour with a 0.4 rating.

The show, which ran from 8-10:30 p.m., is hosted by Omar Chaparro, with Yuri, Carlos Rivera, Consuelo Duval and Adrián Uribe serving as panelists. The singing competition debuted as part of the Spanish-language network’s Domingos en Familia (Family Sundays) block and helped the network beat Fox and the CW overall in viewers for the night.

Univision also finished as Sunday’s top Spanish-language network in all metrics.

Fox’s English-language version of The Masked Singer, is plotting a September bow despite the fact that the show, which scored an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Competition Program last week, has not yet begun production. Fox handed the upcoming Season 4 an 8 p.m. Wednesday slot for its f

Source: Univision’s ‘¿Quién Es La Máscara?’ Draws 1.4 Million Viewers In Premiere
 

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TV Notes (Streaming)
Hunters Renewed for Season 2 at Amazon
By Kimberly Ross, TVLine - Aug. 3, 2020

The hunt continues: Amazon Prime’s Hunters will return for Season 2, TVLine has learned.


Created by David Weil and executive-produced by Get Out‘s Jordan Peele, the drama’s freshman run starred Al Pacino as Meyer Offerman, co-founder of a diverse band of Nazi hunters living in New York City in 1977. Meyer recruits Jonah Heidelbaum (played by Jack & Bobby‘s Logan Lerman) after the teen’s grandmother is murdered, initiating Jonah into a world in which hundreds of Nazi officials are living in the United States and conspiring to create a Fourth Reich.

The series also stars Jerrika Hinton (Grey’s Anatomy), Tiffany Boone (Little Fires Everywhere), Josh Radnor (How I Met Your Mother), Dylan Baker (The Americans), Kate Mulvany (Australia’s Secret City), Greg Austin (Mr Selfridge), Louis Ozawa (Bosch), Carol Kane (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) and Saul Rubinek (Warehouse 13). Season 1 began streaming on Feb. 21.

“With Hunters, David Weil’s bold vision and fearless imagination powered a thrilling, twisty, action-packed first season that engaged Prime Video customers around the world,” Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Salke said in a statement. “We are thrilled that David, Jordan and the Hunters will be back with us for more.”

“I am beyond grateful to Jen and the Amazon family for their continued extraordinary support of Hunters,” said Weil. “Alongside our magnificent cast, incredible crew, and brilliant writers and producers, I am more eager than ever to share the next chapter of the Hunters saga with the world.”

Source: Hunters Renewed for Season 2 at Amazon
 

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TV Notes (Analysis)
Nets Strutting Out Stunts This Summer
By R. Thomas Umstead, Multichannel News - Aug. 3, 2020

From killer sharks to serial killers, cable networks are looking to slay viewers with highly promotable, multi-day programming stunts that they hope will both draw viewers and bring awareness and attention to the brand, especially as people continue to spend more time at home during the pandemic.

Usually relegated to major holidays and the doldrums of the summer when network shows are typically on hiatus, industry executives said stunts like this month’s SharkFest on National Geographic, Shark Week on Discovery Channel and Serial Killer Week on Investigative Discovery will become more prevalent on cable network lineups in the foreseeable future, given pandemic-related delays in the production of new and returning series.

“These [stunts] provide an opportunity for networks to focus audience attention on content that fits the brand and audience wants to see,” media consultant Bill Carroll said. “During this pandemic, it’s important to have viewers check out your brand, and any type of promotion that attracts viewers works to your advantage.”

Indeed, a number of cable networks are scheduling themed programming blocks around both original shows and popular acquired content in an effort to reach viewers looking for programming alternatives in a television environment void of original programming and limited sports programming due to the effects of the pandemic.

• Smithsonian Channel will devote its Wednesday-night schedule throughout August to its “Wild Wednesdays” lineup of animal-themed documentary programming, including Cave Crocs of Gabon (Aug. 5) and Hunt for Escobar’s Hippos (Aug. 26). The network will also feature an Aug. 23 daylong natural disaster-themed programming stunt leading into the primetime premiere of its V-Day: Volcanic Planet special.

• Investigation Discovery will roll out its week-long “Serial Killer Week” stunt Aug. 31, featuring such provocatively titled documentary specials as The Butcher Baker: Mind of a Monster, The Serial Killer Among Us: Phillip Jablonski and BTK: Chasing a Serial Killer.

• Lifetime will offer its annual “Ripped from the Headlines” two-week programming event beginning Aug. 1. The lineup will include such shows as the Aug. 9 premiere of the Surviving Jeffrey Epstein special and the Aug. 2 premiere of the Ann Rule-themed Murder to Remember movie, which marks the directorial debut of actress Robin Givens.

Lifetime and LMN executive VP and head of programming Amy Winter said the network has expanded its programming slate from years past as it looks to draw in viewers with escapist programming during an unusually busy and unique period in the country.

“Lifetime’s brand-defining ripped from the headlines movies deliver a much needed escape to our audience who crave compelling and contemporary story-telling based on real life events with all the twists and turns that prove that truth is stranger than fiction,” Winter said. “This summer, we expanded the slate to also include the real people that inspired these movies and extended the experience with a new show with Elizabeth Smart, digging deeper into Jodi Arias’s story with her prison cellmates and spotlighting the survivors in Surviving Jeffrey Epstein.”

AMC and other networks will offer a mix of original and acquired film stunts to help build brand awareness and appeal with viewers. AMC has slated an Aug. 30 marathon of The Walking Dead’s first season including bonus content, plus two daylong film fests with the Jurassic Park (Aug.1- 2) and The Fast and the Furious (Aug. 8-9) franchises.

Carroll said networks will continue to lean on such programming stunts going forward as long as traditional programming schedules remain uncertain.

“Unless circumstances dramatically change in the next month or so we are looking at a substantial amount of new programming not coming back until late 2020 or early next year,” he said. “Anyone looking to entice viewers to watch their network now will look to add more of these offerings to their schedule.”

Source: Nets Strutting Out Stunts This Summer
 

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No political comments, please.

Technology/Washington Notes
President Trump withdraws FCC renomination after 5G controversy
By Russell Brandom, TheVerge.com - Aug. 3, 2020

President Trump has withdrawn the nomination of FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, a six-year FCC veteran who was expected by many to be renewed for a third term, as first reported by Reuters. The withdrawal comes less than a week after Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) placed a hold on the nomination over concerns about O’Rielly’s position on a recently approved terrestrial 5G network.

The conflict centers over a controversial 5G network recently approved by the commission. The proposed network would operate on the L-band spectrum traditionally utilized by radar and GPS, operated by Ligado Networks as a low-power terrestrial system. In its proposal, Ligado pledged to report its base stations and operating parameters to avoid any interference with existing L-band users, but critics of the order have remained concerned that the network may interfere with GPS systems.

Sen. Inhofe is one of those critics, saying, “This isn’t just about our military, but all users of GPS are united in opposition.” As a result, Inhofe sought to block O’Rielly’s nomination “until he publically states that he will vote to overturn the current Ligado Order.”

O’Rielly had also expressed public skepticism over President Trump’s recent executive order, which would task the FCC with oversight over Section 230 and social media moderation more broadly. “As a conservative, I’m troubled voices are stifled by liberal tech leaders,” he wrote on Twitter. “At same time, I’m extremely dedicated to First Amendment which governs much here.”

More recently, he expressed doubts over the FCC’s authority to execute the order as Trump intended. “I have deep reservations they provided any intentional authority for this matter,” he said in a C-SPAN interview in June. The order has moved forward regardless, with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) petitioning for rule-making last week and the FCC opening for public comment on the order earlier today.

O’Rielly’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Source: President Trump withdraws FCC renomination after 5G controversy
 

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TV Notes (Cable)
Married at First Sight will outlive us all: Lifetime orders 6 more seasons
By James Hibberd, EW.com - Aug. 3, 2020

The year is 2023.

Who knows what the world will look like? Will President Trump be preparing for a state-mandated third term? Will we have discovered Covid-19's long-term side effects include telepathy with alpacas?

Here is something we know for sure: Lifetime will still be airing episodes of Married at First Sight. The cable network just ordered six more seasons, extending its top-rated series through season 17. The show features singles paired up by a relationship expert who get married the first time they meet, then go on a honeymoon, and then live together for eight weeks before deciding whether or not to stay hitched. The network typically airs two seasons a year.

Lifetime also announced a spin-off: Married at First Sight: Unmatchables. The new show will tackle tough-to-help singles, giving less-desirable Married at First Sight applicants a physical and personality crash course makeover courtesy of Pastor Calvin Robertson and Dr. Viviana Coles before they embark on their reality TV shotgun marriages.

"Each season we see so many amazing, complex and charming people that apply for the main show, but we simply can’t match everyone," said Gena McCarthy, executive VP of programming, Lifetime Unscripted. "Unmatchables allows these people a shot at love following our expert-led interventions and transformations."

Season 11 of Married at First Sight is currently airing Wednesdays on Lifetime and averaging 1.7 million viewers.

Source: 'Married at First Sight' will outlive us all: Lifetime orders 6 more seasons
 

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Obituary
Reni Santoni, Poppie in ‘Seinfeld’ and ‘Dirty Harry’ Actor, Dies at 81
By Janet W. Lee, Variety.com - Aug. 3, 2020

Reni Santoni, who played Poppie in “Seinfeld” and appeared in “Dirty Harry” and other films, died on Aug. 1. He was 81.

According to a Facebook post written by his friend and TV writer-producer Tracy Newman, Santoni died on Saturday morning. He had been “sick for quite a while.”

“Those of you who knew him know how funny he was, what a terrific actor, improviser, performer, etc.,” the post read. “So brilliant. I loved him very much and will miss him terribly. Another great one is gone. I have a lot of wonderful pictures of him, and will post them over the next week. My heart goes out to his son, Nick, who has been such a comfort to Reni over that past five years or more.”

Born in New York City, Santoni built his acting career from off-Broadway theatre, starring in “The Umbrella” and “The Mad Show.” His first significant film role was an uncredited appearance in the 1964 film “The Pawnbroker,” in which he played a junkie trying to sell a radio.

His first leading role was in “Enter Laughing” (1967), in which he played a delivery boy in New York City. Other film credits include inspector Chico González in “Dirty Harry” (1971), prison official Ramon Herrera in “Bad Boys” (1983) and detective Tony Gonzales in “Cobra” (1986).

One of Santoni’s most notable roles was on “Seinfeld” as Poppie, an unhygienic restaurateur. He had a recurring role as one of Arthur Hill’s assistants on the final season of ABC’s “Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law” (1973) and played Daniel in “28 Days” (2000), starring Sandra Bullock.

Santoni is survived by his wife and stage director, Lisa James, and son, Nick.

Source: Reni Santoni, Poppie in ‘Seinfeld’ and ‘Dirty Harry’ Actor, Dies at 81
 

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TV/Production Notes (Streaming)
Lena Waithe Developing Open-Marriage Drama at Amazon
By Michael O'Connell, The Hollywood Reporter - Aug. 3, 2020

EXCLUSIVE: Lena Waithe is prepping another project at Amazon Studios. The prolific writer-producer, who signed a deal with the streamer in 2019, just finished a draft of a pilot script on open relationships — which is now being developed for series.

"I’ve never been in an open marriage, but it’s fascinating to me," Waithe tells THR. "We live in a world where, if I told you I cheated on my wife, you would be like, “Yeah, that’s the way it goes.” But if I told you that I’m in an open marriage, it would be as if I told you I’m joining the Church of Scientology."

Should it go forward, Open (working title) would be something of a first. The subject of nontraditional marriages has somehow yet to find its way into mainstream TV — though Ryan Murphy attempted a project on the subject at HBO in 2014.

Waithe and her Hillman Grad Productions shingle are working on several projects under her Amazon pact. First up will be horror anthology series Them: Covenant. The first season of the series, written by Little Marvin, follows a Black couple (Deborah Ayorinde and Ashley Thomas) and their move to an all-white Los Angeles neighborhood — where the picturesque street masks malevolent forces both real and supernatural.

Waithe, THR's TV Producer of the Year, adds her Amazon slate to an already substantial TV portfolio that includes Showtime's The Chi and BET's Boomerang and Twenties. Her growing empire also means producing more beyond just projects of her own creation. (See: Radha Blank's Sundance breakout The 40-Year-Old Version, which Waithe executive produced.) "My mission is to provide a space for people to grow," says Waithe. "While making work that people can look at and say, 'That broke a barrier.'"

Should it go, Open would be her first new series since Twenties with Waithe as a credited writer.

"Society has such a conservative way of looking at marriage," Waithe says of Open. "I do think that we as a nation need to reevaluate what marriage looks like for us as a country — because whatever we have right now, it ain’t working."

Waithe is repped by WME, Blue Marble Management and Del Shaw.

Source: Lena Waithe Developing Open-Marriage Drama at Amazon (Exclusive)
 

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TV/Business Notes
As productions restart, California tax credits lure HBO’s ‘In Treatment,’ TBS’ ‘Miracle Workers’
By Ryan Faughnder, Los Angeles Times - Aug. 3, 2020

Film and TV shoots have been slow to resume in the Los Angeles area. But California’s recently relaunched tax incentive program continues to lure productions from other states even amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

HBO’s planned reboot of its critically acclaimed drama “In Treatment” and TBS’ comedy “Miracle Workers” are moving to California to take advantage of the film and television tax credit program, the California Film Commission said Monday. The shows will each receive about $5 million in tax credits for their first seasons filming in the Golden State, representing 25% of their qualified production spending.

The two shows are the first to be approved under the state incentive program’s latest incarnation, which launched July 1. The program, which is set to run through 2025, allocates $330 million in annual tax credits meant to curb the flight of Los Angeles’ signature industry to other states that have their own lucrative benefits, including Georgia, New York and Louisiana.

The latest application period for TV shows, which ran June 22-24, was open only to series relocating to California and productions already participating in the program. The commission said this was because of the high number of recurring shows receiving the tax breaks. There are 25 returning shows participating, including Netflix’s serial killer drama “You,” HBO’s “Westworld” and FX Networks’ “American Horror Story.”

“In Treatment,” in which Gabriel Byrne played a 50-something psychotherapist, premiered in 2008 on HBO and ran for three seasons. The show is relocating from its earlier filming location of New York, according to the film commission. “Miracle Workers,” an anthology series that is going into its third season, is moving from the Czech Republic. The first season was a workplace comedy set in Heaven, while the second moved its setting to the Dark Ages.

It remains unclear when major Hollywood productions will be able to fully resume in the so-called 30-mile zone surrounding the Los Angeles area. The business was effectively wiped out for months because of restrictions meant to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom gave the green light for music, film and TV productions to restart on June 12, clearing the way for local governments to make their own decisions. Labor unions and studios collaborated on detailed guidelines for how to return to work safely. But a recent surge in outbreaks has renewed concerns about onset health dangers.

The restart has been “slow but steady,” starting with game shows, documentaries and indie movies and other smaller-scale projects said Colleen Bell, the commission’s executive director. Many larger shows and films are hoping to resume in late fall or by year’s end, she said, though some have been pushed back into 2021.

Bell said she is encouraged by the “robust” number of independent films and studio movies that applied for incentives in the latest round, which closed July 15 and is being reviewed by the commission. Local film offices, meanwhile, are seeing upticks in permit applications.

“Production is definitely picking up in the state,” Bell said. “There is definitely a collective will and desire to get productions up and running.”

Officials are hopeful that productions such as “In Treatment,” which employ relatively small numbers of cast and crew, will have an easier time getting back in business. The new season of “In Treatment” is expected to have a hired cast of eight and a crew of 125, according to the commission.

Projects included in the tax credit program are required to begin shooting within a specified period after the tax credits are reserved. However, because of the pandemic, the participating films and TV series have requested extensions, citing force majeure.

“We’ve really tried to work with our productions to the best of our ability, because we know these are extraordinary circumstances,” Bell said.

Source: As productions restart, California tax credits lure HBO's 'In Treatment,' TBS' 'Miracle Workers'
 

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TV Notes (Broadcast)
Strahan, Sara & Keke a Casualty of Pandemic? 'The Conversation Has Changed, So I Expected It,' Says Palmer
By Andy Swift, TVLine.com - Aug. 3, 2020

ABC has said “good day” to GMA3: Strahan, Sara & Keke. The talk show, hosted by Michael Strahan, Sara Haines and Keke Palmer, will not return to the network’s daytime schedule.

Palmer confirmed the news in an appearance on Sunday’s Watch What Happens Live, admitting to host Andy Cohen that she found the cancellation “expected,” given the urgency of the pandemic.

“I knew if our show did come back, it would have to be much, much, much later, because our show is really about an audience,” Palmer added. “That’s what we do. We do a little bit of news, but it’s entertainment news. It’s fun conversations and lightheartedness, and we’re in a different time now. Some of the conversation has changed, and that pushed SSK out. So I expected it.”

A GMA rep did not immediately respond to TVLine’s latest request for comment.

Strahan, Sara & Keke aired its last new episode in March, before being replaced by Pandemic: What You Need to Know, a daily update on developments related to the coronavirus. According to Page Six, it tested so well that ABC rebranded the hour as GMA3: What You Need to Know, adding other news elements into the mix.

An extension of Good Morning America, GMA3 originally premiered as GMA Day in September 2018, then transitioned to Strahan & Sara in January 2019. Palmer filled in as a co-host during Haines’ pregnancy, eventually joining the show full-time in August 2019.

Prior to GMA3, former NFL star Strahan co-hosted Live! With Kelly and Michael (2012–2016) before sliding over to the Good Morning America desk (2016–2018). He also hosts ABC’s $100,000 Pyramid reboot, which has been renewed for a fifth season. Haines previously worked as a correspondent for Today (2009–2013), a weekend anchor for GMA (2013–2016) and a co-host of The View (2016–2018). And Palmer, in addition to her many acting credits, also boasts quite a bit of hosting experience; not only was she a frequent guest co-host on The View before joining GMA3, but she’s also the co-host of Quibi’s Singled Out reboot, which was recently renewed for a second season.

Source: Strahan, Sara & Keke a Casualty of Pandemic? 'The Conversation Has Changed, So I Expected It,' Says Palmer
 

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TV/Critic's Notes
Bianculli's Best Bets
By David Bianculli, TVWorthWatching.com - Aug. 4, 2020

THE FUGITIVE
Quibi, 3:00 a.m. ET
SERIES PREMIERE: This is not a recommendation. Remember Quibi? The streaming world’s equivalent of New Coke? (For that matter: Remember New Coke?) Well, today it launches, in regular bite-sized bits, an extremely loose remake of the classic Sixties TV series starring David Janssen as unjustly accused murderer Richard Kimble, with Barry Morse as the dogged lawman on his trail. This Quibi Fugitive is completely modernized and overhauled: Boyd Holbrook of Narcos plays Mike Ferro, an innocent bystander at a terrorist bombing, picked up by surveillance cameras and accused by police and press alike. One detective, Clay Bryce, is particularly worked up, instructing his entire investigative unit to find and apprehend Ferro – while Ferro, in turn, is on the run and in search of the actual terrorists. That detective is played by Kiefer Sutherland, which gives this Quibi version of The Fugitive an unavoidable flavor of an unofficial 24 narrative. It’s troubling enough that this serialized version of The Fugitive takes that classic show’s title, but doesn’t even retain the equally iconic character names of Richard Kimble and Lieutenant Gerard. What’s worse is that, while money clearly was spent here, the writing doesn’t reflect it.

TELL ME A STORY
CW, 9:00 p.m. ET
SERIES PREMIERE:
Recycled from CBS All Access, Tell Me a Story – a “mature” interweaving of several fairy tales, told in modern day settings and with very dark variations – began showing on the CW last week. It offered very, very loose variations on The Three Little Pigs, Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel – and in two of those three storylines, there were dead bodies in the first installment alone. Tonight, Episode 2…. In which this little piggy goes to another bank robbery.

THE SWAMP (2020)
HBO, 9:00 p.m. ET

Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz is one of three lawmakers followed in this new documentary (fellow congressional members Thomas Massie and Ken Buck are the others), which looks at what it’s like to run for office before and during a pandemic – and what these Republicans are saying, and claiming, about their party’s concerns and promises regarding the draining of the so-called Washington “swamp.”

Source: TV Show Reviews, Recommendations... TV Worth Watching!

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TV/Critic's Notes (Streaming)
How Netflix's 'Athlete A' Led to Athlete B, C, and D, and Ushered In a New Wave of Proactive Documentaries
By Alex Strachan, TVWorthWatching.com's 'TV That Matters' - Aug. 3, 2020

Netflix has done it again.

There are those documentaries that enlighten and inform, but only for a moment. We feel sadness and then outrage; our buttons are pushed. But then, inevitably, we move on. Everyone has lives to lead.

Then there are those documentaries that have a lasting effect, programs that not only enlighten and inform but galvanize people to action, that convince someone somewhere to do something.

Netflix is in a somewhat unique position in this regard, because the streaming service is global, in a way not seen before. Netflix's reach extends beyond the domestic US market, and when a documentary such as Athlete A comes along, that can have a profound effect beyond that of one program on any given night in any given week.

Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich
, set the marker.

Epstein, coincidentally or not, premiered mere days before the arrest and charging of one-time Epstein confidante Ghislaine Maxwell on charges of aiding and abetting the trafficking of underage girls for sex. No one will argue Maxwell's very public arrest, after more than a year of living in self-imposed hiding, was the result of a Netflix docuseries, but the timing spoke volumes. Netflix's exposé reminded us that there were — and still are — many unanswered questions about the entire Epstein affair. At the very least, Filthy Richgave the victims of Epstein's predations a voice that otherwise might have gone unheard.

And now it's happened again. Athlete A, filmmakers Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk's searing exposé of Larry Nasser, team doctor for the USA Gymnastics program for many years, forces viewers to confront the sordid, squalid affair of an authority figure who violated a sacred trust — again with underage girls — and does it, once again, by telling its story from the point-of-view of the victims, teenage girls at the time who are now grown women, with the life experience and worldliness that adulthood entails.

Athlete A, named for the then-anonymous gymnast who stepped forward to level accusations against a doctor who was both respected and admired as a seemingly kindly father figure in a sport notorious for its behind-the-scenes brutality and ruthlessness, is more than just another dry recitation of facts, and that's what gives it its undeniable power. Athlete A is a savage indictment of not only USA Gymnastics but an entire system based on winning at all costs, no matter the cost to personal lives.

Cohen and Shenk do a remarkable job of laying bare the recent history of women's gymnastics, going back to the 1976 Montreal Olympics when a then-unknown young ingénue from Romania, Nadia Comaneci, scored the first perfect 10s in Olympic history — not once but several times — and caused the public profile of a previously niche sport to explode.

Gymnastics, as vaulted into the public eye by Comaneci, convinced blue-chip, deep-pocketed corporate sponsors like McDonald's and Coca-Cola to invest in a wholesome, family sport that appealed to a wide, previously untapped audience, especially women and families with young children who don't typically follow sports.

There's a reason NBC has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into securing broadcast rights for successive Olympic Games, and it isn't anything to do with the javelin or pole vault. Women's gymnastics became the anchor for NBC's prime time US Olympic coverage. After all, one can't argue with those ratings, and the ratings consistently top the charts, even in the age of streaming and personal screens. The moment wholesome household names like McDonald's and Coca-Cola became associated with the Olympics, USA Gymnastics became about protecting the brand, not the girls.

In one of many telling moments in Athlete A, Cohen and Shenk show an interview from 1976 of the then 14-year-old Comaneci being asked why she never smiles. She's focused purely on nailing her routines, she explains to the camera, expressionless. The signs were there, but no one thought to follow up or wonder whether it's normal for a 14-year-old never to smile; it was just assumed to be "a Romanian, Eastern European thing."

The ensuing rush of Olympic gold medals for successive US girl gymnasts never caused anyone to question the bruises, injuries, and obvious hidden pain of bone-crunching routines. Athlete A shows there's a thin line between sucking it up and taking one for the team and outright abuse.

So far, you can be forgiven for thinking, Athlete A has all the hallmarks of one of those documentaries that push our buttons as viewers, but is easily forgotten as we collectively move on to the next horror.

But then, in an investigative report, the UK Guardian exposed a new horror — Olympic-level figure skating this time— and a young skater in Singapore, Jessica Shuran Yu, who condemned training abuse in her native China, which she described as dehumanizing.

Yu has urged the International Olympic Committee to do more to protect vulnerable young girls. She and others suffered systemic abuse inside the Chinese system.

Asked why she chose to step forward now, Yu, now 19, replied that she had seen Athlete A. Athlete A shook her to the core, and convinced her to step forward. This is the Netflix effect: A one-off documentary from US filmmakers for a US-based streaming service, about a US Olympics program, is picked up on by a Chinese born-and-raised figure skater in Singapore, who tells her story to a UK newspaper, and sees that story go global.

It hasn't stopped there, either.

Just last week, Human Rights Watch reported that hundreds of children in Japan — the host country of the seemingly ill-fated 2020-'21 Summer Games — have said they suffered abuse in Olympic training. This is on the back of claims of widespread abuse in British gymnastics.

Watching Athlete A is not an easy task, even as one can't help but respect the women who are now stepping forward. However, Athlete A is important because it has already helped change the world in ways that not even filmmakers Cohen and Shenk could have foreseen when they first set out on a project that was about giving silent witnesses a voice.

That's remarkable when one thinks about it. Like Filthy Rich before it, Athlete A is a living, breathing testament to the human spirit, and not letting a childhood trauma change who you are as a person. It's the latest, most recent example of the new wave of proactive documentaries.

Source: How Netflix's 'Athlete A' Led to Athlete B, C, and D, and Ushered In a New Wave of Proactive Documentaries
 
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