Televisa’s “Sincronía,” HBO Latin America’s “PSI,” Telefe’s “The Cockfighter” and Telemundo’s “Guerra de Idolos” feature at The Wit’s first MipDrama Latam Screenings, a 90-minute showcase focus that parts the veil on the new face of Latin American fiction.

“The aim of these Screenings is to show the new or next face or phase of the Latin productions coming onto the international market,” said The Wit’s Bertrand Villegas.

At least judged by the poor-girl-gets-rich telenovelas of old, Latin America’s new fiction face shown at the Latam Screenings is pretty well unrecognizable. It is also a revolution in which the region’s biggest broadcasters – Televisa, Telemundo, Globo – Hollywood’s studios and pay-TV icons, Latino indies and emerging auteurs all play their part.

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Representing Televisa, crime thriller “Sincronia,” the eighth original series from Blim, its 14-month-old SVOD service, runs just 12  episodes. Formally inventive, these 12 parts can be seen in any order, said director Gustavo Loza, as it tells three stories from their four characters’ POV. One central figure is a pedophile and priest, another a  corrupt politician; a third story turns on human trafficking. Most characters end up badly.

“The so-called narco novelas are digging deeper, getting to the political systems, corruption behind the cartels,” Villegas commented.

One of NBC Universal Telemundo’s flagship shows at this year’s MipTV, the upcoming 75-seg “Guerra de Idolos” marks Telemundo’s first original music drama series as a successful  composer-producer, after tragedy, unleashes a war against mafias linked to the music business sparking on and off-stage conflict. Film director Max Zunino (“Open Cage,” “Mist”) co-directs in a migration of young movie talent into TV which is seen all over Latin America.

From HBO Latin America, the first TV operator to introduce into Latin America original limited series with above-average budgets, beginning with crime fiction “Epitafios” in 2003, “PSI” is a comedy drama series based on books by psychoanalyst Contardo Calligaris, and featuring a shrink who investigates Sao Paulo crime cases. It is is not new. But scenes to be screened are from its third season, which bows April 17, have more of a movie style and focus on the psycho-analyst’s patients, Villegas said.

“If you want to compete with big platforms, you need the same quality as HBO, Amazon, etc,. so you need to find partners,” said Geraldine Gonard, director of Spain’s upcoming first Conecta Ficcion, a European-Latin American TV co-pro forum.

That it immediately apparent in Argentina where TNT is teaming with production house Underground, TV network Telefe and cable operator Cablevision to produce “The Cockfighter,” a 10-episode adventure thriller marking the comeback of Bruno Stagnaro (“Pizza, Birra, Faso”) and  produced by Sebastian Ortega, the showrunner on Netflix pickup “El Marginal” and an example of Latin American Tv auteur now garnering international recognition.

Adding an aspirational and inspirational edge to local references, often of global re-known, and in a surge which may spread to the rest of the world, said Villegas, many series are now bio-series. Two feature at the Latam Screenings: the Caracol-aired “Surviving Pablo Escobar, Alias J.J,” also a Netflix pick-up, and Sony Pictures Television’s “El Comandante,” sold by Telemundo.

Based on a same-titled book by Pablo Escobar’s former henchman John Jairo Velazquez, aka “Popeye,” “Surviving Pablo Escobar” turns on how, when Escobar dies, Velazquez has to fight for his life in prison, forcing him to forge alliances with former drug cartel enemies and politicians.

“Bio series’ subjects are brands, they’re easy to create and have basic values, such as that they are reality-based and can present interesting stories,” Villegas said.

Inspired by the life of Hugo Chavez, played by award-winning Colombian actor Andrés Parra (“Escobar, el patron del mal”), “El Comandante” has aired on Colombia’s RCN TV and on TNT Latin American since January. Telefe, Telemundo and Blim will also broadcast the series, according to Villegas.

Broadcasters aren’t always showing their biggest local hits at the Screenings. “El Comandante” plays late night in Colombia where it is bested in ratings by “El señor de los cielos” and RCN’s own primetime hit, “La Ley del Corazon,” which is set at a legal practice.

At least some series in Latin America are being made very clearly with at least one eye on international sales, said Villegas. Beyond “El Comandante,” one possible case in point is Globo’s “The Days Were Like That.” Scheduled to bow on Globo from April 17, the period romance is set during Brazil’s military dictatorship of 1964 to 1985, narrating how a young couple meets at the 1970 soccer World Cup final and falls in love. But their families’ political values ultimately tear them apart.

Delivering sometimes 180-plus episodes, telenovelas cann0t be written off just yet. Just as you think they are dying, one punches huge ratings, said Manuel Marti, director of international production, at Pol-ka, one of Latin America’s biggest production houses.

Bowing Feb. 8 in Colombia on Caracol, “Surviving Pablo Escobar, Alias J.J” has duked it out every week day primetime with two more traditional telenovelas, “La Ley del Corazon” and Caracol’s own, earlier Caribbean coast set culture clash romcom, “A Carnival Affair.”

In Brazil, Globo and TV Record, who still boast vast audiences for hit telenovelas, are simply raising the ante.

Wrapping its first season on Brazil’s TV Record on March 17, “The Promised Land” is a sequel to the phenomenally successful TV Record biblical telenovela “The 10 Commandments,” whose major achievement was to meld the two major narratives for many Latin Americans, the Bible and telenovelas, in one bold whole. Inspired by the Book of Joshua, “The Promised Land” featured 43 sets, 7000 extras, VFX (of course) for the parting of the waves, and a reported budget of $26 million.

Latin American telenovelas were and are far more diverse than they are often given credit. RCN TV’s “Francisco the Mathematician,” a retread of a 1999-2004 novela, tracks a former pupil who returns in 2017 as a maths teacher to his tough Bogota ‘burb high-school, confronting bullying, DMA drug abuse and addiction to social media.

Bowing Jan. 12 on Mexico’s TV Azteca, drama-action telenovela “Iron Lady” features a female judge, aka the ‘Iron Prosecutor,’ who battles a heinous drug-lord who has destroyed her family, killing her father and confining her husbands to a wheelchair.

Rapidly, Latin American fiction is also letting in the contemporary world. “Latin American TV narration is a reflection where people want to see what’s around them,” says Daniel Burman, at Burman Office, which is set to produce Argentina’s first Netflix series, “Edha.”

The large question is how far younger audiences will warm to such dramas from brands they have traditionally cold-shouldered and how Latin American fiction can face off for their attention with YouTube and multiple other leisure pursuits and the best of world TV.


“The Cockfighter,” (Telefe, Argentina)

“El Comandante,” (Sony Pictures Television, Telemundo, Colombia)

“The Days Were Like That,” (Globo, Brazil)

“Francisco the Mathematician,” (RCN TV, Colombia)

“Guerra de Idolos,” (Telemundo, U.S.)

“Iron Lady,” (TV Azteca, Mexico)

“The Promised Land,” (TV Record, Brazil)

“PSI,” (HBO Latin America, Brazil)

“Sincronía,” (Televisa, Mexico)

“Surviving Pablo Escobar, Alias J.J,” (Caracol, Colombia)


Paramount Television and Anonymous Content’s contemporary spy drama “Berlin Station” has been sold to several additional European countries, Paramount Worldwide Television Licensing and Distribution revealed Tuesday.

The show has been picked up by on-demand platform TIM for Italy; HBO Nordic for Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland; and HBO Espana in Spain.

The series has been chosen to participate in the upcoming 8th edition of Series Mania Festival’s U.S. selection, which is taking place in Paris April 12-23.

As previously announced, “Berlin Station” was recently renewed for a 10-episode second season, which begins production in Berlin on Friday. Ashley Judd (“Divergent,” “Missing”) and Keke Palmer (“Grease: Live,” “Scream Queens”) have joined the cast as series regulars. Judd will play B.B. Yates, Berlin’s disarming new chief of station, nicknamed “The Station Whisperer” for her itinerant work in the field shoring up CIA stations in moral or corporate disrepair, and Palmer will play April Lewis, the newest and youngest case officer assigned to Berlin Station, who is on her first field assignment after making her mark as an analyst at Langley.

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The series airs on EPIX in the U.S. and is also available in Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, the Middle East, Israel, Central Eastern Europe, Africa, Greece, Iceland and Turkey.

“Berlin Station” takes a look at the activity of a CIA office on a global stage in the midst of an investigation into a now-famous whistleblower.

The series follows Daniel Miller (Richard Armitage, “Hannibal”), a new arrival at Berlin’s CIA station who is on a clandestine mission to uncover the source of the Thomas Shaw leaks. Richard Jenkins (“Olive Kitteridge”) stars as Steven Frost, the head of the station, who carries the burden of his own secrets; Michelle Forbes (“The Killing”) stars as Valerie Edwards, the no-nonsense internal branch chief; Rhys Ifans (“Snowden”) stars as Hector DeJean, a case officer and old friend of Daniel; and Leland Orser (“Ray Donovan”) stars as Robert Kirsch, a deputy chief.

Produced by Paramount Television and Anonymous Content, “Berlin Station” is created by New York Times best-selling author Olen Steinhauer (“The Tourist,” “All the Old Knives,” “The Cairo Affair”), who also serves as executive producer. Bradford Winters (“The Americans,” “Boss,” “Oz”) is the showrunner and an executive producer. Eric Roth and Steve Golin, Kerry Kohansky-Roberts, Keith Redmon and Luke Rivett from Anonymous Content serve as executive producers.


Hulu has ordered 10 half-hour episodes of topical show “I Love You, America,” starring Sarah Silverman.

The series, from Funny or Die, will have Silverman discuss the current political and emotional landscape of the country. The episodes will be doled out on a weekly basis.


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Though an avowed liberal, Silverman with this show is looking to connect with people who may not agree with her personal opinions through honesty, humor, genuine interest in others, and not taking herself too seriously. Keenly aware of the pitfalls of staying within one’s own political bubble, Silverman feels it’s crucial, now more than ever, to connect with un-like-minded people. She is teaming up with producers Adam McKay, Will Ferrell, and Funny or Die in creating a show setting out to expose the fact that we are all the same.

Silverman is also one of a plethora of comedians who’ve signed deals with Netflix to release their comedy specials. She filmed one in February that is set to debut later in May.

Hulu has been building up its comedy offerings of late, with politics-heavy outings from Triumph the Insult Comic Dog and series like the forthcoming Josh Hutcherson-starring “Future Man,” from Seth Rogen and Evan Katz via Sony Pictures TV.


Rebecca “Rebel” Knight (Danielle Moné Truitt), in the grand tradition of hardboiled private investigators, is an ex-cop with a past — a pro who got jaded because of one bad case, one tough story, one loss that was too much to handle. She can take on a room of guys twice her size armed with just her nightstick; she can sling innuendo-laced insults in the face of sexist, racist boors. But she can’t protect her brother from being killed by the same cops she works with — including her former partner and onetime lover, who fires the first shot.

“Rebel” is a pulp detective story set in modern-day Oakland that hands the role of brooding private eye to a black woman. In its premise, it is brilliant; the random and awful violence that characterizes the genre is not out of place in Rebel Knight’s own life — and of course her life is punctuated by the lover who got away, the trusty sidekick who tags along on stakeouts, and the police chief with a soft spot for Rebel that he tries to hide.

In execution, unfortunately, “Rebel” is less brilliant. The 120-minute pilot released to critics is bloated and sometimes melodramatic; most of it is spent waiting for the inevitable to happen — for the good stuff to start. In most television dramas about a fascinating central character, the painful backstory would be doled out in fits and starts throughout the first season (consider the reveal that Don Draper is really Dick Whitman). But “Rebel” — which was originally conceived of as a movie before being quickly upgraded to series status by BET — opts to tell the origin story first. This wouldn’t be so bad if that origin story weren’t so poorly rendered.

In the show’s defense, this is weighty material that is hard to do right. The pilot tells the harrowing tale of how Rebel’s younger brother Malik (Mikelen Walker) was shot to death in front of her, by her colleagues on the police force. One of the shooters — the one who shoots first, actually — was her former partner and sometime lover, Mack (Brandon Quinn). This leads Rebel to quit the force, avoiding both the internal affairs investigation that tries to pin blame on her and the amassing Black Lives Matter protestors that camp out at her house. She leans into her grief, producing poetry and tweaking the police whenever she can; because it comes easy, she starts taking cases from wealthy connections she made while working as a cop.

But “Rebel” struggles to portray its protagonist as a woman that evolves, mostly because it is more interested in who Rebel Knight becomes, not who she is at the beginning. From the first frame, Rebel is hardboiled and bada–; at her brother’s funeral, which is the scene directly following his death, she is oddly poised in killer shades and a maxi dress. She steps out of the service only to trade flirtatious barbs with old flame TJ (Clifford “Method Man” Smith). For all that this is obviously a tragedy, “Rebel” doesn’t make it feel like a tragedy.

Even where the show disappoints, it’s hard to deny the skill of director John Singleton, who was the first black director nominated for an Oscar back in 1991. Last year, he directed “The Race Card,” the Johnnie Cochran-centric episode of FX”s “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”; he’s skilled at bringing an intimacy to narratives about weighty ideological issues. “Rebel,” all else aside, is a kinetic, practiced story to watch, with a loving touch for its action sequences and heart-eyes for its steamy sex scenes. (Method Man uses a lot of tongue, apparently.) The characters are all real people, and Oakland feels like a real place they live in; these are not small accomplishments.

But the 120-minute pilot just focuses on the wrong things. “Rebel” could be snappy and fun, playing Singleton’s kineticism and Moné Truitt’s easy bravado off of the slightly melodramatic backstory. Detective procedurals are made for the serialized form; with tighter storytelling, Rebel could be one of the most enjoyable P.I.s to watch, one that combines an appealing and beautiful vulnerability with a hard-as-nails approach to love and life that leaves the audience breathless. The costars are great, too — specifically the always wonderful Giancarlo Esposito, as Rebel’s long-suffering police chief, and Angela Ko, who plays her best friend. But right now, the show is lost somewhere between filmic narrative and television serial.


Hulu has released its summer slate, which includes three original documentaries and two original series.

“Difficult People” Season 3 will premiere Tuesday, Aug. 8, and will find Julie (Julie Klausner) and Billy (Billy Eichner) remaining each other’s best friends while still their own worst enemies. John Cho will have a guest arc as Billy’s boyfriend.

The third season of “Casual” will premiere on Tuesday, May 23, and will follow the surprising consequences following Charles’ death and Valerie’s decision to move out, propelling the trio to rebel, explore different jobs, partners, and unfulfilled passions.

“Batman & Bill” premieres Saturday, May 6. The documentary follows Bill Finger, the uncredited co-creator of the iconic superhero Batman. The film is directed and executive produced by Don Argott and Sheena M. Joyce, and features principal subjects Marc Tyler Nobleman and Michael Uslan.

“Becoming Bond” is a documentary-narrative hybrid that tells the true story of George Lazenby, a poor Australian car mechanic who landed the role of James Bond in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969), despite having never acted a day in his life. Then after being offered the next six Bond films and a $1 million signing bonus, he turned it all down. Directed and produced by Josh Greenbaum, the documentary premieres Saturday, May 20.

“Dumb: The Story of Big Brother Magazine” will debut on Saturday, June 3, and will chronicle the rise and fall of the boundary-pushing Big Brother Magazine, whose taboo-breaking stunts and unapologetic crass humor spawned MTV’s Jackass and a generation of skaters. The documentary will feature a variety of original footage and interviews with the magazine’s major players, including Spike Jonze, Johnny Knoxville, Tony Hawk, and more. The film is directed by Patrick O’Dell.


Miles Teller is hitting the world of streaming TV. Amazon Studios has cast Teller in drama series “Too Old to Die Young,” from “Drive” director Nicolas Winding Refn and scribe Ed Brubaker.

Teller will play Martin, a police officer entangled in the world of assassins. The series explores the criminal underbelly of Los Angeles by following killers’ existential journeys in becoming samurai. Refn will direct all 10 episodes, co-writing with Brubaker, who will exec produce. “Too Old to Die Young” is Refn’s first American TV project; Brubaker, a celebrated writer in the comics world, most recently was a supervising producer and writer on HBO’s “Westworld.”


Amazon Boards TV Crime Series From Nicolas Winding Refn (EXCLUSIVE)


This will be Teller’s first series regular role after starring in films like 2014’s “Whiplash” and last summer’s “War Dogs.” He has two features coming out in the latter half of 2017 — Lionsgate’s “Granite Mountain” and Universal’s Steven Spielberg-produced “Thank You for Your Service.” “I’m a huge fan of Nic’s work so the opportunity to work with him, and for a company like Amazon, with this type of material is very exciting,” Teller said.

Teller is repped by by CAA and Stone, Genow, Smelkinson, Binder & Christopher.



Science Channel has ordered eight 30-minute episodes of prank series “SciJinks” from “The Big Bang Theory” star Johnny Galecki. He will appear in and executive produce the series, which is scheduled to premiere in fourth quarter 2017. The series will use cutting-edge science as the foundation for outrageous stunts and practical jokes. Along with Galecki, each of the episodes will be guided by scientists, physicists, and STEM students. Galecki’s Alcide Bava Productions and A. Smith & Co. Productions will produce the series.

OWN has ordered two new docuseries that will join its Saturday night programming line-up later this year. “Released,” produced by Lucky 8, features intimate, first-person narratives of formerly incarcerated men and women as they walk out of the prison doors for the first time to restart their lives. “Checking Inn” (working title) from Trooper Entertainment in association with Lionsgate Television follows former Essence Magazine editor-in-chief Monique Greenwood as she pursues her lifelong dream of running her own bed and breakfast.


“RuPaul’s Drag Race” sashayed to a hot start on VH1 on Friday night. The Season 9 premiere garnered an average audience of 987,000 — more than double its previous performance on Logo — and a healthy 0.7 rating in the 18-49 demographic.

The midseason premiere of Fox’s “Empire” was up from its previous episode by 8% in Nielsen’s Live+3 ratings. It notched a 4.0 in the 18-49 demographic and an average audience of 10.7 million.


John Leguizamo has joined the cast of “Waco,” a six-part event series based on the true story of the 51-day standoff that began with an ATF raid of a religious sect in Waco, Texas, and resulted in a deadly fire. Leguizamo will play the role of ATF agent Robert Rodriguez, who was sent into Koresh’s Mount Carmel to gather evidence and build a federal case against the Branch Davidians, but forged a bond with the people inside. The series is set to air on the Paramount Network in 2018.


IFC made the premiere of new series “Brockmire” available on a variety of platforms for commercial-free viewing ahead of its linear TV debut. Viewers can watch the premiere via VOD, TV Everywhere, social, and digital, including and, 10 days in advance of its linear premiere. The eight-episode first season of the series, created with Funny or Die, will have its linear premiere on IFC on Wednesday, April 5 at 10/9c with two back-to-back episodes.


ION Television has inked a deal with global independent studio Entertainment One (eOne) for original series “Private Eyes,” starring Jason Priestley, making ION the exclusive U.S. television home for current and future seasons of the drama series. “Private Eyes” follows ex-pro hockey player Matt Shade (Priestley), who permanently changes his life when he decides to team up with cutthroat P.I. Angie Everett (Cindy Sampson) to form an unlikely investigative powerhouse.

AMC has partnered with Citizens Parking to bring the Los Pollos Hermanos pop-up restaurant to Los Angeles and New York City. Fans on both coasts will have the chance to enjoy Gus Fring’s famous curly fries in Los Angeles on March 29 and 30, and in New York City on April 9 and 10. Citizens Parking, one of the largest parking companies in the United States, will host the pop ups at popular outdoor parking lot locations in both cities. Season 3 of “Better Call Saul” premieres on AMC on Monday, April 10, at 1o/9c.


Former co-hosts of ABC‘s “Good Morning AmericaDavid Hartman and Joan Lunden will be honored with the NAB Distinguished Service Award (DSA) during the 2017 NAB Show in Las Vegas. The two will accept their awards at the NAB Show Opening on Monday, April 24. The award is given annually to members of the broadcast community who have made significant and lasting contributions to the industry.


CBS has announced season finale airdates for its primetime comedies, dramas, and unscripted series. Most fall into the traditional May finale mold, like “The Big Bang Theory” (recently renewed for two more seasons) and various “NCIS” franchises. But there are a few early birds, like “Macgyver” (April 14) and “2 Broke Girls” (April 17).

The Eye’s finale schedule runs thusly:


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Friday, April 14

8:00-9:00 p.m.          “Macgyver” (Season 1 Finale)

Saturday, April 15

8:00-9:00 p.m.          “Ransom” (Season 1 Finale)

Monday, April 17

9:30-10:00 p.m.        “2 Broke Girls” (Season 6 Finale)

Friday, May 5

10:00-11:00 p.m.      “Blue Bloods” (Season 7 Finale)

Monday, May 8

8:00-8:30 p.m.          “Kevin Can Wait” (Season 1 Finale)

9:00-9:30 p.m.          “Superior Donuts” (Season 1 Finale)

Wednesday, May 10

9:00-10:00 p.m.        “Criminal Minds” (Season 12 Finale)

Thursday, May 11

8:00-8:30 p.m.          “The Big Bang Theory” (Season 10 Finale)

8:30-9:00 p.m.          “The Great Indoors” (Season 1 Finale)

9:00-9:30 p.m.          “Mom” (Season 4 Finale)

9:30-10:00 p.m.        “Life In Pieces” (Season 2 Finale)

Friday, May 12

9:00-10:00 p.m.      “Hawaii Five-0” (Season 7 Finale)

Sunday, May 14

8:00-9:00 p.m.          “NCIS: Los Angeles” (Season 8 Finale)

Monday, May 15

8:30-9:00 p.m.          “Man With A Plan” (Season 1 Finale)

10:00-11:00 p.m.      “Scorpion” (Season 1 Finale)

Tuesday, May 16

8:00-9:00 p.m.          “NCIS” (Season 14 Finale)

10:00-11:00 p.m.      “NCIS: New Orleans” (Season 3 Finale)

Wednesday, May 17

9:00-11:00 p.m.      “Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders” (Season 2 Finale)

Friday, May 19

8:00-9:00 p.m.          “Undercover Boss” (Season 8 Finale)

Saturday, May 20

9:00-10:00 p.m.        “Training Day” (Season 1 Finale)

Sunday, May 21

9:00-10:00 p.m.        “Madam Secretary” (Season 3 Finale)

10:00-11:00 p.m.      “Elementary” (Season 5 Finale)

Tuesday, May 23

9:00-10:00 p.m.        “Bull” (Season 1 Finale)

Wednesday, May 24

8:00-10:00 p.m.        “Survivor” (Season 34 Finale)

10:00-11:00 p.m.      “Survivor Live Reunion Show”

Thursday, June 1

10:00-11:00 p.m.      “The Amazing Race” (Season 29 Finale)


Hollywood’s blood pressure is rising. The decision unveiled Friday night by the Writers Guild of America to seek a strike authorization vote, following two weeks of contract talks with the major studios and networks, has the industry on edge about the prospect of a work stoppage.

The WGA West’s board of directors is expected to vote Monday night on the negotiating committee’s request for a strike authorization vote. The WGA East’s governing council is expected to consider the matter on Tuesday. If approved, which seems likely lest the guilds’ leaders appear divided, the ballots could be out by next week. As of Monday, there was no date on the calendar for the sides to resume talks.

A strike authorization vote doesn’t mean the writers will immediately walk, but it does enable the boards of West and East to call for a strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers companies after the current Minimum Basic Agreement covering film and TV work expires May 1. Friday’s announcement marks the first time the WGA has sought a strike authorization against the AMPTP since 2007, the last time scribes hit the picket lines.


WGA Negotiators Call for Strike Authorization


There’s been a short runway for strike talk this time around compared to the environment a decade ago, when the guild spent more than a year organizing and educating members on the issues at hand. This time around, the studios have had far less notice to stockpile scripts, which means the pipeline of product would shut off that much faster in many cases. Even TV shows with a season’s worth of finished scripts would be hard-pressed to complete production without showrunners on the job.

The finger-pointing on Friday night between the guild in its message to members and the AMPTP in its statement was a disconcerting echo of the 100-day battle that raged from Nov. 5, 2007 to Feb. 12, 2008.

The guild asserted that the studios have largely refused to respond to their efforts to address the financial strains that many TV writers in particular are facing amid broad changes in the industry. And the WGA health plan is in need of a capital influx to avoid a big shortfall in the future. The wrangling over this issue led the WGA to describe the AMPTP’s proposals on benefit cuts to shore up health care as “rollbacks.” The AMPTP, meanwhile, chided the guild for ending the negotiations on Friday “in order to secure a strike vote rather than directing its efforts at reaching an agreement at the bargaining table.”

One industry observer with experience in Hollywood labor negotiations opined Monday that there still does not appear to be a clear-cut “strike issue” on the table that would energize film and TV writers to take to the streets. Work is plentiful in the Peak TV era, although the need for writers to balance multiple jobs in a year to maintain the income levels once provided by a traditional gig on a 22-episode-per-season drama is one of the big pain points.

In 2007, the guild was focused on getting a foot in the door of the digital content arena that has since exploded on the foundation of high-end TV series productions that all start with WGA members. The rallying cry then was simple. The WGA pointed to the guild’s failure to push hard for a stake of the profits from the home video revolution and urged members not to make the same mistake again with digital.

This time around, the observer said, the issues of compensation and the structure of employment terms that are becoming onerous to mid- and lower-level writers “could be dealt with easily if people are willing to sit at the table and be reasonable.”

Still, the mood among many writers is volatile — even more so at a time when a spirit of activism and “resistance” has been spurred by the widespread opposition to the Trump administration. An exchange of heated rhetoric from both camps in the coming days could inflame the situation.

By many accounts, leadership of the AMPTP is mindful of the need for delicate handling of the talks. The hardball stance taken at the start of the negotiations in 2007 gave the WGA plenty of ammo to convince writers of the need for a strike. At the same time, the onset of a strike authorization vote could stir up a more militant stance among WGA members, adding pressure for negotiators to deliver meaningful gains in the new contract.

A key indicator to watch, according to industry veterans, is how long it takes for the sides to agree to go back to the table. With the contract expiring on May 1, the clock is already ticking.

Dave McNary contributed to this report. 


Noreen Fraser, a producer of television shows including “Entertainment Tonight,” ABC’s “Home Show,” and “The Richard Simmons Show” who devoted her life to raising money for cancer research, died on Monday in her Brentwood, California, home, surrounded by family, after a 16-year battle with stage IV metastatic breast cancer. She was 63.

Fraser founded the Noreen Fraser Foundation in 2006 — its goal is to raise funds for translational research into women’s cancers, bringing treatments to patients more quickly — and was co-creator and co-producer of the “Stand Up to Cancer” telethon that aired in 2008. The telethons became an annual affair.

Fraser was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001. She volunteered her time producing and directing short films focusing on cancer issues. As president and CEO of the Fraser Foundation, she summed up her commitment in a message on the NFF website in which she declared, “I have made cancer my business.”

The first “Stand Up to Cancer” program aired on ABC, NBC, and CBS and in more than 170 countries on Sept. 5, 2008. The second aired on Sept. 10, 2010, not only on the three major broadcast networks but on a number of cable networks as well.

In addition to Stand Up to Cancer, a program established by the Entertainment Industry Foundation and led by showbiz figures, including Fraser, affected by cancer, the Fraser Foundation’s fund-raising campaigns include Men for Women Now, which urges men to encourage the women in their lives to schedule appointments for a mammogram and a Pap smear.

Fraser knew she wanted to use comedy to help increase cancer awareness — and to distinguish her foundation from other organizations — and in 2009, she convinced comedian Jack Black to record a humorous video as part of the Men for Women Now effort. Zach Galifianakis, Jason Segel, Neil Patrick Harris, Ryan Seacrest, the Dan Band, and Arnold Schwarzenegger were among other celebrities who joined the cause.

In 2016, in order to accelerate her commitment to advancing research, Fraser directed all of the foundation’s assets to UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center establishing the Noreen Fraser Fund for Women’s Cancer Research.

Variety learned about the Noreen Fraser Foundation from an article on Segel in which he “talked about about what an incredible organization she led in the fight against women’s cancer and how the organization used comedy to bring attention to a very serious matter,” Variety publisher Michelle Sobrino-Stearns said.

When Variety threw its inaugural Power of Comedy event, honoring Russell Brand for his efforts in favor of the NFF, in November 2010, the funds raised benefited Fraser’s foundation. The second Power of Comedy event, held Nov. 19, 2011, and honoring comedian Amy Poehler, also benefited the NFF, as did 2014’s event honoring Aziz Ansari and attended by Fraser.

“The foundation has always been about using laughter to boost the immune system,” she said at the 2014 event. “It’s about different people doing funny things. And at the end, the payoff is always the same: please go make an appointment for your mammogram and pap smear.”

Fraser is survived by her children Madeline and Mack; husband Woody Fraser; her mother and father, Jackie and Fred Friend; and siblings Colleen, Buzz, Cooper, Laura, Lucy, Billy, Bridget and Patrick.


Spoiler alert: Do not read until you’ve watched episode 6 of season 5 of “Bates Motel,” titled “Marion.”

That famous shower. The soaring music. The water swirling down the drain.

And then…. “Screw this s–t.”

With those three words, Rihanna’s Marion Crane upended the storied “Psycho” mythology — and got out of that famous “Bates Motel” shower with nary a scratch. “It always made me laugh in editing every single time,” says executive producer Kerry Ehrin.

Instead, the victim at the other end of Norman Bates’ (Freddie Highmore) bloody knife turned out to be Sam Loomis (Austin Nichols) — unrepentant philanderer and psychological substitute for Norman’s father, who we learned that yes, Norman did in fact kill.

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When Marion finally finds out from Norman that the man she thought was her boyfriend actually has a wife, she escapes from him — and the murderous motel-owner — with her suitcase full of cash, leaving Sam to face the ultimate punishment in her place.

“Oh, Mother,” cries out Norman. “What have I done?”

Here, Ehrin and executive producer Carlton Cuse answer that question — and preview what’s ahead for the rest of the A&E drama’s final season.

Was it always your intention not to have Marion die?

Ehrin: No, we worked a long time on those two episodes and breaking that story. We tried out every possible scenario. We landed on the one that got us the most excited in the room and had the most impact, and both honored “Psycho” and pushed the story we were telling in “Bates Motel.” It’s telling the story of Norman and what’s going on inside of him and pushed it to a great place by having him kill Sam, who in many ways is a psychological stand-in for his own father.

Cuse: There was no way to redefine Marion Crane as a modern empowered woman if we killed her in the shower.

So has Marion escaped safely? Have we seen the last of her?

Ehrin: Yes, we have.


‘Bates Motel’: Rihanna Makes Her Debut as Marion Crane


How much did you want to pay homage to the original, and how much did you want the scene to stand on its own? What instructions did you give to the director? 

Cuse: Phil Abraham made his own decisions. He’s a brilliant visualist. He’s not a only a superb director but he was also the DP for “The Sopranos.” Here’s a guy who really understood camerawork. We gave him latitude to decide to what degree he wanted to imitate the original sequence and to what degree he wanted to embellish and modify. I think he came up with a great balance.

The most striking difference is that it’s in color — which makes the murder really much more graphic and horrific.

Ehrin: That’s absolutely true. In certain respects, it has a reality to it.

It’s certainly real for Norman, who’s the most self-aware he’s ever been about his own state of mind.

Ehrin: Completely more aware. It’s an evolution in the story and in his relationship with Mother. While she’s a person created inside his own brain, it’s a very real relationship. It’s become more of a new deal at the end of (episode) six, a new deal where he’s going to be treated as an adult in the relationship and how that’s going to work out. Can they really trust each other? Is there a still a huge pull of control underneath? That’s part of the story.

Will he be getting more violent now?

Cuse: Yes. I think that the thing about this episode is that it’s very intentional that Norman kills Sam as Norman and not in drag (as Mother). He’s conscious of his action. That represents a real evolution for the character. The character is caught between his increasingly violent tendencies and desires and his own perception of the world spinning out of control. That’s clearly advancing toward a culminating act in the finale. I’m speaking vaguely to not spoil anything, but Norman is definitely progressing towards the end of the season.

Ehrin: He’s running out of places to hide psychologically. He understands now. He gets it. That’s a whole new ball game for him — what that looks like, how he’s going to handle that. what he’s going to want to do with that, good or bad.

And Dylan (Max Theriot) finally now knows that Norma is dead. Will he be coming to town?

Cuse: Dylan definitely is going to be more involved in the story as we go forward for sure.

Will we see more elements of “Psycho” in future episodes?

Cuse: I would say that there’s more of an intentional homage in this storyline than there is anywhere else this season. I’m sure people will read other stuff into it going forward. But we want to tell our story. We don’t want the viewer to be thinking that they’re watching a remake. We want the viewer to be engaged in our story and not be viewing it through the prism of “is this in or out of the movie?” We tried to be pretty discreet about what we borrowed from the original.

And Carlton, how did you enjoy your Hitchcock moment in last week’s episode?

Cuse: It was pretty fun, although slightly complicated by the fact that I wasn’t thinking the situation through. I was going to have to be wearing these trooper sunglasses which meant I had to ditch my prescription glasses. So I was driving that cop car with myopia, trying to hit the mark and not crash into Rihanna and give her whiplash. That’s what was basically going through my mind — and trying to remember my lines. It was a great jolt of terror and adrenaline. It was fun but nerve-wracking.

Any chance we’ll see you again?

Cuse: Finito. No mas. (Laughs.) It was fun to do but it was a little bit like if someone says, “Hey, do you want to shoot around with the Lakers?” It seems really thrilling. but then you get there and it’s massively intimidating. Because the actors are on our show are so good, I don’t want to be responsible for dragging down the median average.


“Humans” has been renewed for Season 3 at AMC and Channel 4, Variety has learned. The series will return with eight new episodes in 2018. Production will begin in this fall with key cast members set to return.

Set in a parallel present, the series explores what happens when the line between human and machine becomes blurred as robotic servants called Synths become more and more a part of human life. Gemma Chan, Katherine Parkinson, and Lucy Carless are among the stars of the series.

“‘Humans’ provides a thrilling look at the evolution of technology and its effect on society,” said Joel Stillerman, president of original programming and development for AMC and Sundance TV. “The critical response to season two celebrates the creative vision, dynamic story-telling and compelling portrayals shared by the writers, producers and actors. We are pleased to continue our collaboration with Channel 4 and Kudos and look forward to season three.”

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Sam Vincent and Jonathan Brackley write the series, which is based on the award-winning Swedish sci-fi drama “Real Humans” created by Lars Lundstrom and produced by SVT and Matador Film. The new season is executive produced by Derek Wax, Emma Kingsman-Lloyd, Vincent, and Brackley for Kudos in association with Wild Mercury Productions, Lars Lundstrom and Henrik Widman for Matador Films, and is produced by Vicki Delow for Kudos. International distribution will be handled by Endemol Shine International.

“I can’t wait to see what the extraordinarily talented Sam and Jon do next with this show — no doubt it will be as insightful, surprising and addictive as ever,”  said Beth Willis, head of drama at Channel 4. “It’s a privilege to work with them, Kudos, AMC and our superb cast once again.”


Spider-Man has become the Hamlet for comic book movie stars. Every actor under the age of 30 wants to put their stamp on the role.

Now it’s Tom Holland’s turn to pull on Spider-Man’s tight-fitting trunks, following in the footsteps of Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield. After a showy supporting turn in last year’s “Captain America: Civil War,” Holland swings onto center stage with this summer’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”

This time Spider-Man is going back to class. “Homecoming” will focus on the complexity of balancing completing algebra assignments in between saving the world. Holland, a 20-year-old English actor, brought a wide-eyed energy to the part in his earlier appearance in “Captain America: Civil War,” and in a backstage interview shortly before footage of “Homecoming” screened at CinemaCon, a theater owner trade show unfolding this week in Las Vegas, Holland had the same youthful enthusiasm that radiates on screen. He spoke at a dizzying pace, recounting his childhood love for the comics and the character. He told Variety about the unusual steps he took to play the teen hero, the future of the wall-crawling character, and the need to plan ahead for bathroom breaks when wearing Spidey’s signature spandex.


‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’: Three New Posters Revealed


Were you a fan of Spider-Man before you got the role?

Fan is an understatement. I had the Spider-Man costume, I had bed sheets, toys, you name it. I’ve always had an argument with my best friend that Spider-Man was way better than Batman. I was a massive fan growing up.

What did you like about the character?

Peter Parker is probably the most relatable superhero maybe ever, because he goes through something that basically everyone has to go through. Whether it’s puberty or talking to girls or doing homework, he does it in such a human way. That’s why he’s such a beloved character, because so many people can relate to him. If you ask any kid under the age of 10 what their favorite colors are, it’s probably red and blue, so he’s got both of those checked off.

Did you reach out to Andrew Garfield or Tobey Maguire when you got the part to pick their brain about playing Spider-Man?

No. I wasn’t in touch with them. They both said some really lovely things about me online. I met Andrew at the BAFTAs the other day. It was cool. He’s such a nice guy and we had a great chat and went our separate ways.

What did you talk about?

We just talked about how fantastic he’s been doing and all the brilliant movies he’s been in lately. He talked to me about how excited I must be and how happy he was for me. It was all great.

What was it like to put on the suit for the first time?

The first time I put on the suit was, I’m not going to lie, a little bit of a disappointment. I was cast as Spider-Man very late into the process of shooting “Civil War.” They’d already been shooting on my stunt double before I had the chance to come to set, so they didn’t have time to make me a suit because these suits take weeks and weeks to make, so they just decided to tailor my stunt double’s suit to me. Now my stunt double was a good two or three inches taller than me and stockier than me, so the first time I ever tried it on it was kind of like a saggy, sad Spider-Man.

But the time I tried it on for real and it fit perfectly was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. It’s been my dream since I was a kid, and the fact that it was coming true before my own eyes was such a crazy feeling. I was just so proud of myself and delighted with how my career had gone and where I was standing.

How long does it take to get into the Spider-Man costume?

It depends. There’s different versions of the suit that we have for different means. Sometimes I have to wear a harness underneath the suit, which takes probably close to 45 minutes to put on all together. If I’m wearing no harness, it probably takes 25 minutes to put on. The tricky part is going to the bathroom. You have to sort of plan in advance. You have to be like, “Look, I think I might need the toilet in 45 minutes, so we have to take this off.” Obviously it’s a very expensive suit, so you don’t want it just swinging down around your ankles.

With “Civil War,” “Homecoming,” and now “Infinity War,” you’ve been playing Spider-Man for years. Do the films blur into one another?

They all feel like very different movies to me. “Civil War” was such a whirlwind, and I didn’t really know what was going on. I was thrown into the deep end. “Spider-Man” was the best time of my life. I was there with my best friend. We shot in Atlanta. We shot every day and just had an absolute blast. “Avengers” was crazy, because you’re on set every day with actors I never dreamed I would work with. I’m as much a fan as anyone else.

Sony has plans to expand the Spider-Man universe with several spinoff films. Will you appear in “Venom” or “Black Cat”?

I have no idea. I haven’t read a script. I haven’t seen any sort of concept art, so that would be something I would decide on when I see material.

Did you do your own stunts?

I did as much as I was allowed.

You attended Bronx High School of Science in New York City to prepare for the part. Was that your idea?

It was a joke I made to Marvel that I wanted to go to a high school undercover to experience what New York high school is really like. They took it very seriously. I went to school for three days and went undercover. I put on an American accent. My name was Ben Perkins. The problem is that Bronx School of Science is for geniuses. You can’t just join halfway through. You have to go through an extensive exam process. A lot of the students were very confused about why I was there, and I think a lot of the teachers were too. So the teachers kept testing me and asking me questions, and believe me, I am by no means a scientist. It was fun and I learned a lot about schools. One of the key characters in the movie, Flash Thompson, was largely informed by my trip. Bullies now aren’t just jocks. They’re rich kids in the nice cars with the fancy clothes. We have a snobby bully rather than a jock bully.

Why did you pick the name Ben Perkins?

That’s my acting coach. He was with me at the time in New York while we were there. I went in with another name, but somebody asked me my name, and I panicked and said Ben Perkins. So I went with it.

Did you ever tell people at the school that you were Spider-Man?

I told one person on the last day and it spread like wildfire. This girl was like, “what’s your deal?” And I said, “I’m Spider-Man.” She didn’t believe me. She just thought I was a nutter.

There’s so much secrecy surrounding the Marvel movies. Were you able to share anything with your family or friends?

You are supposed to be incredibly secretive. I’m maybe not as secretive as they would like. I recently came home from “Avengers” and you’re supposed to hand your script in once you’re finished. They only really give you the pages for that day, and I accidentally took them home and apparently there’s a big old panic at the studio, because no one could find my script and was worried that it would get out. So I put a video on Instagram burning them in my dad’s wood burner just to prove that they weren’t going anywhere.

How is this Spider-Man movie different from previous Spider-Man movies?

We definitely focus on a younger superhero. From the vast amount of superhero movies that we’ve seen, we’ve seen the soldier, the scientist, the billionaire, and now it’s time to see the kid. There’s something interesting in giving a 15-year-old incredible powers and seeing what he would do with it.

I strongly believe a 15-year-old would have the time of his life. It was important that we see Peter Parker enjoying his powers, but also using them to do good.


Sony and Marvel didn’t hold back at Monday’s CinemaCon presentation of footage for “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” particularly in offering a far deeper look at Michael Keaton’s villainous Vulture.

Sony showed footage from the second trailer, scheduled to be released Tuesday. The footage emphasized Tom Holland’s experiences as a high schooler as he discovers the power he possesses, along with giving insight into the motivations of Vulture, who appears to be engaged in some kind of class warfare due to his hatred of Iron Man/Tony Stark.

“The rich and powerful like Stark — they don’t care about us,” Vulture says.

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‘Blade Runner 2049’: Sony Debuts New Footage at CinemaCon


Sony Pictures Motion Group chairman Tom Rothman was fullsome in his praise for the new Peter Parker — Tom Holland — and recalled that he had introduced Holland at last year’s CinemaCon.

He then turned his attention to Marvel’s Kevin Feige, noting that he had given him his first job on “X-Men.” If I knew a big shot he was going to be, I would have kissed his ass a little more,” he added.

Rothman also brought out director Jon Watts and former Sony chief Amy Pascal, a producer on the movie, and noted that she pushed hard for it to be a part of the Marvel universe. Feige then introduced Holland as having stolen “Captain America: Civil War” from the other Marvel superheros and called Holland  “the greatest superhero there is.”

Holland responded by saying, “This really feels like a homecoming for me.”

The trailer also featured Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark reacting to a particularly destructive scene by upbraiding the youngster for the lack of control.

“Can’t you just be a friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man?” says Stark to Parker.

“I was just trying to be like you” he tells Iron Man in a plaintive way.

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” opens July 7 — or as Sony’s marketing material identifies it, “7.7.17.”


“The Dark Tower” is widely considered to be Stephen King’s masterpiece, but its mind-bending plot and intricate special effects have delayed its transition to the big screen.

Sony is banking that fans of the series of adventure novels will turn out in force this summer, helping the dark fantasy break through at the crowded summer box office. “The Dark Tower” stars Idris Elba as Roland Deschain, a gunslinger on a mission, and Matthew McConaughey as the Man in Black, a mysterious sorcerer. Newcomer Tom Taylor plays an 11-year-old named Jake who dreams about an alternate universe, and discovers a portal to another world.

On Monday, the studio gave theater owners at CinemaCon a sneak peek at the epic battles and elaborate standoffs in store when the film opens on July 28. It was the first time audiences have gotten a look at a project that’s been shrouded in secrecy.

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‘Spider-Man’ Footage at CinemaCon Features Deeper Look at Michael Keaton’s Vulture


There were plenty of slo-motion shootouts, including one in which McConaughey’s character catches a bullet in his fingers while his back is turned to Elba.

“You’re trying to save the world, but you can’t even save yourself,” McConaughey taunts Elba, promising that the titular tower will crumble.

“They say what happens in one world echoes in others,” Elba’s character mutters.

One particularly crowd-pleasing moment saw Elba’s character use his augmented sense of hearing to identify where a creepy-looking assailant is and to save Taylor’s character with a well-placed shot that ricochets off of a house and takes down the bad guy from several yards away.

There have been previous efforts to bring “The Dark Tower” to the big screen, with filmmakers such as J.J. Abrams and Ron Howard circling the project at various points. However, they have been canceled over budget concerns or for artistic reasons. This time, the producers think they’ve cracked the code.

In interviews that accompanied the preview, the filmmakers enthused about bringing King’s world to life, with producer Akiva Goldsman calling it the writer’s “magnum opus.” Sony distribution chief Rory Bruer said that “The Dark Tower” has links to the rest of King’s oeuvre, a group of best-sellers that includes “It” and “Salem’s Lot.”

There may have been a nod to those connections in the footage that screened at CinemaCon. Jake is telling his psychiatrist about his visions and there’s a quick shot of a photograph that appears to show an elaborate mountain resort. It’s a dead ringer for the Overlook Hotel, the creepy retreat where Jack Torrance slowly went insane in King’s classic novel “The Shining.”

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