The Power & Money & Glitter

Get ready, Hollywood, for more than just snarled traffic. Because once again  Washington DC pols are coming here with their hands permanently outstretched for your coin. On Wednesday, President Obama is obama hollywood star_thumb[1]making his 16th SoCal money plea and attends a Democratic National Committee fundraiser at the Hancock Park home of TV producer Shonda Rhimes. Tickets begin at $1,000,  with the price rising to $10,000 to attend the reception and to have a photo taken with Obama. It climbs to $32,400 — the maximum allowable contribution to a national party committee in a calendar year — to co-host the event and to attend a dinner with Obama as well. On Thursday, Obama is scheduled to attend a roundtable discussion with about 30 people at the Los Angeles home of Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino with tickets reportedly costing $32,400 each. The money raised at both events will help U.S. House and Senate Democratic candidates in the midterm elections this November. The big bucks also pay off.  Jeffrey Katzenberg, who bundled at least $10M for Obama’s election and reelection during the 2008 and 2012 campaigns, is receiving the National Medal Of Arts in the East Room of the White House on July 28th. He’s the first Hollywood non-filmmaker executive to receive the honor.

WGA’s “Call To Arms” Against Murdoch-Time Warner Merger

The leadership of the Writers Guild West just sent this email to members about the Rupert Murdoch bid for Time Warner. For background, read my Here We Go Again: How Rupert Murdoch/Time Warner Merger Would Fuck You In Hollywood):

From The New York Times: $80B Offer From Rupert Murdoch Puts Time-Warner In Play

WGAW-LogoIf this headline scares you – and it should – then consider this a call to arms.

As writers, we face a landscape today that the founders of our Guild would hardly recognize. For decades, there were dozens of significant buyers in television and movies.

Then Federal limits on mergers disappeared. FCC regulations requiring independent production in television were repealed. And the result was industry-wide consolidation, networks and studios combining, and independent production disappearing.

Fewer movies being made. Fewer development deals. Smaller TV staffs. And lower quotes… because the industry was suddenly in the hands of only six – six! – conglomerates.

And the Writers Guild, without a voice in Washington to protest, was unable to save the business from strangling itself.

Now, those six conglomerates are threatening to swallow one another. Think of that. Between them, Fox and Time-Warner would control 40% of the industry’s writing jobs. What happens if more consolidation follows? What happens if one mega-company ends up devouring them all? The idea is almost too frightening to contemplate. But it’s also too possible to ignore.

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Advisory: Thank You, Readers

NikkiFinke.com has been live for more than one month, and I want to thank all the multi-millions of readers who have dropped by to check it out so far. Please keep Thank You1sending me tips and signing up for my email alerts. The site also has incorporated the improvements which you’ve suggested. My goal is to provide Hollywood news, analysis and commentary not done by the trades, and stimulate honest discussions in the comments section. I’m still spending a lot of my time on the continuing arbitration case with Jay Penske. Hopefully, you can cut me slack in the meantime knowing that, come September, I’ll post more content more regularly. The best is yet to come.

CBS Films’ Shake-Up At Top

UPDATED… EXCLUSIVE: I just found out that Terry Press has taken over as President of CBS Films solo. Sources tell me that Wolfgang Hammer was quietly moved out of his co-president’s job with her a few weeks ago with no announcement. But tonight, after I cbs films newstarted asking questions about him, Hammer’s name disappeared from the CBS Films website and now only Press’ name is listed as President. I’m told that Hammer three weeks ago "transitioned into a CBS Executivecounsulting role at CBS corporation working on some digital content ideas for other parts of the company. So Terry is going to assume the sole presidency of the division and actually has." For days now Hammer’s email had a cryptic message following a tragedy in his family. I’ve been aware of friction between Press and Hammer over their differing ideas on how to run the company ever since Press and Hammer were named co-presidents in April 2012 to fill the vacancy left by former president Amy Baer who left the post in September 2011. From that moment on, I knew it was just a matter of time and experience before Press would be running the studio alone.

I also learned that last week 5 staffers were laid off as a "regrouping" by Press, including the SVP of Distribution Bob Kaplowitz. "He was planning to retire and this way he got a big chunk of stock and money," a source tells me. Insiders deny employee fears that more layoffs are to come and will be staggered ("so as not to cause a story because they’re opening a movie in August," as a source told me). That Michael Dowse-directed film stars Daniel Radcliffe in the romantic comedy What If set for an August 1st release. "I don’t think 5 people constitutes a large wave," an insider insists. Then again CBS Films, started in 2007, is small to begin with. Meanwhile CBS Inc turned in record 2014 Q1 profits.

Having two executives serve as co-presidents was unusual for such a small film studio. wolfgang hammerHammer previously held the COO title and focused on acquisitions. Press, formerly the head of marketing for DreamWorks, had been consulting for CBS Films since 2010 while running her own firm 7570 Marketing. She impressed CBS Inc chief Les Moonves so that he had her overseeing creative, distribution, marketing and physical production for CBS Films until the latest promotion.

2ND UPDATE: The Hollywood Reporter was 1 1/2 hours later posting 2 sentences about my CBS Films shake-up scoop – with no credit to me.

Time-Warner Plays Defense

According to SEC filings, Time Warner today amended its corporate bylaws effective immediately to remove a provision that allowed shareholders to call a special board meeting. The defensive and murdoch3 bewkes time warnertemporary and also unusual move is against its own shareholders who might be supportive of Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox $80B bid for Time Warner. It’s not a poison pill defense. Specifically, the measure prevents a fraction of TW shareholders, 15%, from forcing a vote on 21st Century Fox’s offer. Time Warner’s management believes the move will prevent a hostile takeover, while allowing it more time to make its case that it has a plan to unlock shareholder value and grow as an independent company, according to an insider quoted by The New York Times. Time Warner sees Murdoch’s first bid as too low amid reports he may go as high as $100/share to win it. (PREVIOUS: Here We Go Again: How Rupert Murdoch/Time Warner Merger Would Fuck You In Hollywood.)

Comic-Con’s Most Buzzed TV?

300.comic.con.logo.052708MA18849441-0001Studio System News just listed its 9 most buzzed about TV panels at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con: Showtime’s Penny Dreadful, AMC’s The Walking Dead, HBO’s Game Of Thrones,  Adult Swim’s Mike Tyson’s Mysteries, Fox’s Bob’s Burgers, CW’s Arrow, Fox’s Family Guy (talking about the impending Simpsons crossover episode), Warner Bros Television & DC Entertainment (discussing CW’s The Flash, NBC’s Constantine, CW’s Arrow, Fox’s Gotham), FX’s The Strain (featuring producer Guillermo del Toro). Yes or no?

Woody Allen Does First Podcast

Magic In Moonlight2MTV’s Josh Horowitz just gave me exclusively his sit-down with Woody Allen for what is touted as the filmmaker’s first podcast interview* - and at the end Woody confesses he doesn’t know what a podcast is. Allen’s latest movie Magic In The Moonlight from Sony Pictures Classics opens this Friday. (*Andy Marx tells me he did the first podcast interview with Woody in 2005 for Match Point.)

Wkd Box Office: #1 ‘Apes’ Holds, #2 ‘Purge’ Surges, #3 ‘Planes’ So-So , #4 ‘Sex Tape’ Tanks

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MONDAY 9 AM, 7TH UPDATE: This is getting serious: overall moviegoing is down -23% this weekend BOupdated200compared to last year. That’s more than the average -19% for Summer 2014′s first half. Final film order this weekend depended on how much audiences have missed a high-profile miscreant horror movie in the marketplace despite meh reviews, or wanted a great kiddie toon appealing to younger children, or yet another original R-rated pic billed as a sex comedy which critics wished for blindness before calling its not-funny-enough smutty premise "flaccid".

1. Pushed down to #2 on Friday, holdover Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes from 20th Century Fox and Chernin Entertainment bounced back to #1 on Saturday and for the weekend. Sequel made $10.4 Friday and $14.8M Saturday. With $11.1M Sunday, it should add $36.2M this weekend – an excellent hold of -51% – from 3,969 theaters for a new cume of $139.2M.

2. Universal/Blumhouse Production’s sequel The Purge: Anarchy , releasing into 2,806 theaters, took a big late night Friday jump to put it up to $13.0M Friday for #1. But that wasn’t enough to stay #1 this weekend with $9.5M Saturday and $7.3M Sunday for an expected $29.8M. Audiences gave pic a ‘B’ Cinemascore which didn’t help or hurt word of mouth. But it couldn’t close in on the $34M opening weekend which the micro-budgeted ($3M) sleeper original hauled in last summer. So-so reviews hurt this new one’s grosses, and exit polling showed audiences were 52% female/48% male, 61% under 25/39% age 25 and older, and 36% Hispanic, 29% Caucasian, 21% African American, 6% Asian, and 8% other. Sequel was made for only $9M and started with $2.6M in late shows on Thursday from 2,194 theaters which is included in Friday’s total. These genre movies tend to be frontloaded: Fandango reported that Purge 2‘s pre-sales made it 2014′s #1 horror film so far helped by African American and Hispanic ticket-buyers. James DeMonaco returns as writer-director-producer as does the premise: what happens in a dystopian future on the one night of the year when crime is legal. This time the audience is outside on the streets during the annual Purge. The original was the first movie in Universal’s overall deal with Paranormal Activity franchise producer Jason Blum. One reason for the rush to see the sequel was the huge social media response to the first’s creative and digital marketing campaign. Frank Grillo, Zach Gilford, Kiele Sanchez, Michael K. Williams, Carmen Ejogo and Zoe Soul star. Blumhouse’s Jason Blum, Sébastien Lemercie, and Platinum Dunes’ Michael Bay produce. Pic was originally slated for release June 20 but studio was smart to delay. Purge 2 opens day-and-date in 14 territories.

3. Audiences gave Disney’s adventure-comedy sequel Planes: Fire & Rescue a rare ‘A’ Cinemascore. Toon opened #3 with less than the original ($22.2M) for $6.3M Friday and $6.5M Saturday and an estimated $4.5M Sunday. So that’s a projected $17.4M weekend at 3,826 theaters (with more than half in 3D). Budget was $50M. Besides the usual Disney synergy, trailers appeared on The Lego Movie, Mr. Peabody & Sherman, Muppets Most Wanted, Rio 2, Disneynature’s Bears, and How To Train Your Dragon 2, Earth To Echo and more. Planes 2 was the centerpiece of an Ad Council and National Forest Service campaign to prevent wildfires and celebrate the 70th anniversary of Smokey the Bear. Toon opens day and date in 23 total markets for 40% of international footprint. Voice cast included Dane Cook, Ed Harris, Julie Bowen, Hal Holbrook, Brad Garrett, Teri Hatcher, Stacy Keach, and Cedric The Entertainer. Director was Bobs Gannaway and producer Ferrell Barron.

4. Sony/Columbia Pictures was hoping that its non-sequel Sex Tape could be another R-rated comedic hit from Bad Teacher director Jake Kasdan reteamed with Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel. But the new pic’s ‘C+’ Cinemascore and horrible reviews (only 19% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) ensured it would tank from the get-go. It placed only #4 with $5.6M Friday and $5.2M Saturday and an estimated $3.6M Sunday for just $14.5M this weekend from 3,060 theaters. So that’s less than half Bad Teacher‘s $31.6M FSS start. Sad when these stars, who both promo-ed the hell out of the movie, can’t move the needle past $20M. Exit polling showed audiences were 47% male/53% female with 48% under age 30. Studio was hoping for a bigger adult Saturday night bump to get the domestic total higher. "We need a great multiple and great international performance, both of which are possible," a Sony exec told me. I think technology-obsessed laughers aren’t funny. (The Internship at Google flopped. And this new one has an annoying overload of Apple products.) Premise wasn’t a good date movie: a couple make a video of themselves trying out every position in The Joy Of Sex in one marathon three-hour session only to lose it in the Cloud. But the script forgot the raunch. One critic compared its "naughty factor to an old Disney movie", while another complained, "Sex is treated first as brainless imperative, then as acrobatic duty, then as desperate consequence. It’s never sexy in any way." (And to think Segel needlessly trimmed down for fear audiences would laugh at his "fat ass".) Sex Tape made $1.1M in 2,457 theaters opening at 7PM Thursday and included in Friday’s dismal total. Produced by Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal, and Steve Tisch. Screenplay by Kate Angelo and Jason Segel & Nicholas Stoller.

The weekend’s film order:

1. Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (Fox) Week 2 [Runs 3969] PG13
Friday $10.3M, Saturday $14.8M, Sunday $11.1M, Weekend $36.2M (-50%), Cume $139.2M

2. The Purge: Anarchy (Universal) NEW [Runs 2806] R
Friday $13.0M, Saturday $9.5M, Sunday $7.3M, Weekend $29.8M

3. Planes: Fire And Rescue (Disney) NEW [Runs 3826] PG
Friday $6.3M, Saturday $6.5M, Sunday $4.5M, Weekend $17.4M

4. Sex Tape (Columbia/Sony) NEW [Runs 3062] R
Friday $5.6M, Saturday $5.2M, Sunday $3.6M, Weekend $14.5M

5. Transformers: Age Of Extinction (Paramount) Week 4 [Runs 3224] PG13
Friday $2.7M, Saturday $4.0M, Sunday $2.9M, Weekend $9.8M, Cume $227.0M

Showtime’s ‘Homeland’ Teaser

Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) returns for Season 4 on October 5th. According to details released by the producers today, the series intros a half dozen new characters including Life Of Pi’s Suraj Sharma whom Carrie is recruiting. Back are Peter Quinn (played by Rupert Friend) and Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) but not Carrie’s father, played by James Rebhorn who passed away in March:

Auteur Filmmakers’ Loss Is Wes Anderson-Jason Reitman’s Gain

UPDATED: I hear there won’t be any formal announcement. And details are still sketchy. But sources tell me that established financier and producer of auteur-driven films Indian Paintbrush Productions is informing the agencies that it’s changing focus: it will only make Wes Anderson and Jason Reitman movies from now on and is stopping all other cinema development for now. Multi-billionaire businessman indianpaintbrushSteven Rales, who is one of the America’s richest men, started the Santa Monica-based Indian Paintbrush in 2006 with a mandate to aggressively acquire filmmaker-driven properties on the ground floor and either fully finance or co-finance them with studios who want  Oscar-bait elite pics. Indian Paintbrush already has funded Anderson’s 2007 The Darjeeling Limited, 2009 Fantastic Mr. Fox, 2012 Moonrise Kingdom and most recently this year’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, all of which Anderson co-wrote, directed and produced. "It’s not like the other movies it’s been producing have made any money," a source just told me by way of explanation. Budapest in particular has been very profitable with $168M worldwide gross. As for Reitman, the company co-financed 2011′s Jeff, Who Lives At Home, which Reitman produced, and 2013′s Labor Day which Reitman wrote, directed and produced and grossed only $19.2M worldwide. Whereas Reitman’s 2007 Juno has taken in $231.4M globally and 2009 Up In The Air $168.8M. The company already had an overhead deal with Reitman’s Right of Way banner and was footing Anderson’s expenses, too. Indian Paintbrush’s change in direction follows Mark Roybal’s departure as president last year to become 20th Century Fox’s EVP of production. Apparently losing out will be auteurs previously financed by the company like Drake Doremus (2011 Like Crazy) and Lorene Scafaria (2012 Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World). 

AMPAS Governors Vote Results

The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences announced today that 5 first-time governors have been elected, 8 incumbents have been reelected, and 4 previous governors are returning to the Board. The first-time governors are Kate Amend, academy logosmallDocumentary Branch; Daniel R. Fellman, Executives Branch; Albert Berger, Producers Branch; Bob Rogers, Short Films and Feature Animation Branch; and Mark Mangini, Sound Branch. The reelected governors are Annette Bening, Actors Branch; Lora Kennedy, Casting Directors Branch; Jeffrey Kurland, Costume Designers Branch; Rick Carter, Designers Branch; Michael Tronick, Film Editors Branch; Kathryn Blondell, Makeup Artists and Hairstylists Branch; Cheryl Boone Isaacs, Public Relations Branch; and Phil Robinson, Writers Branch. Returning to the Board after a hiatus are governors Caleb Deschanel, Cinematographers Branch; Edward Zwick, Directors Branch; Charles Bernstein, Music Branch; and Bill Taylor, Visual Effects Branch. The Academy’s 17 branches are each represented by 3 governors, who can serve up to 3 consecutive three-year terms. (Previous: Running For AMPAS Governors.)

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Here We Go Again: How Rupert Murdoch/Time Warner Merger Would Fuck You In Hollywood

"Rupert Murdoch moves more swiftly than most rivals, takes bigger risks, and never gives up." The same year that was written about him, in 1995, he ordered his bankers and lawyers to examine a takeover attempt of Time Warner, then valued at $40 billion pre-AOL fiasco. Murdoch didn’t like that Time Warner was joining with Turner Broadcasting because it blocked some of his expansionist plans. Now it’s deja vu all over again. media sharkHollywood woke up today to big news about the first-in-a-while possible Big Media mega-merger. The New York Times first reported, subsequently confirmed by both sides, that Murdoch offered $80 billion to purchase Time Warner for his 21st Century Fox. The price, $85/share in a combination of non-voting stock and cash, was too low for Time Warner’s Jeff Bewkes and his board to accept on the spot so they politely declined. That’s now prompted speculation that Murdoch can and might pay over $100/share and won’t stop until Time Warner is his.

Such media consolidations shocked us in the nineties and the naughts but now they elicit little more than a shrug. The only surprise is that this deal didn’t involve Google or Apple or Amazon but instead two large cap content conglomerates. Already talking heads on Wall Street are nodding approvingly of Murdoch’s offer for Time Warner while they discussed when Time Warner would be bought, not if, and what other content companies might be in play. That list now includes Discovery, AMC, Scripps Network, even the studios Viacom/Paramount/CBS and Sony and Lionsgate and Starz. Almost every media company’s stock price except Murdoch’s jumped on the news.

What wasn’t discussed is how media consolidations like this hurt Hollywood and its content providers. Because it stinks. In sum, the Street sees scale as only helping the ‘Content Is King’ theory. But the people who actually provide that content are peons who become prisoners of these deals.

For the past 25 years I’ve written story after story warning about the downsides of Big Media mergers. But it’s been like pissing in the wind. Neither the FCC nor the FTC nor the DOJ no matter who’s been in the White House have stopped them because of anti-trust or anti-access concerns. Big media mergersPut 21st Century Fox and Time Warner together, and they make up 25%-to-30% of the market share for movies being made. The Fox and Warner Brothers TV studios are the #1 and #2 film and TV studios in the entire industry. Merging their significant distribution infrastructures — for international box office, home video distribution, and/or digital distribution — would create both revenue and cost synergies for their outsized businesses. That’s good for the companies. Merge their movie and TV production studios who are now bitter rivals looking to sign the best talent, and suddenly directors and writers and actors and showrunners can’t play off the two companies against each other for bigger deals. That’s bad for you.

Combine their international cable footprints and its uber-huge with Fox revenue 44% of total and strong in Europe while TW 36% and well penetrated in Latin America. Murdoch’s resultant international cable scale would create synergies on ad sales, affiliate fees, and pay-TV penetration, according to the analysts. That’s good for the companies.

What this also means is that, just as a time when a wealth of new buyers like Goggle, Hulu, Amazon, YouTube, Yahoo and Netflix for scripted professional TV programming have appeared, it’s entirely possibly that 2 of the biggest traditional buyers will become one combined entity to better control over how content is sold to these new online players. That’s bad for you. A merged Fox/Time Warner company would negotiate digital rights more effectively and create an even more formidable rival to these still fledgling programmers and distributors. That’s good for the companies.

Today media analysts couldn’t wait to explain that Murdoch needs the more clout that Time Warner could provide to press for more favorable terms from the cable and telecommunications industries. media-consolidation2True, those octopus arms are only getting longer with their own pending mergers of Comcast/Time Warner Cable and AT&T/DirecTV. So having more cable networks would give traditional Big Media more negotiating leverage with these mega-distributors so they can receive dual revenue streams from advertising as well as retransmission fees, not to mention take "billions of dollars of synergies". Investment bankers are putting pressure on media companies to consider mergers and partnerships to gain scale to push back. Of course, Wall Street wants more Big Media consolidation in order to pocket big bucks fees from the deals.

Take Goldman Sachs, which is handling Murdoch’s takeover offer. It just beat profit expectations last quarter because revenues from investment banking were up 15% (outweighing a 10% drop in its traditional powerhouse of trading bonds, currencies and commodities). And Goldman already has set aside nearly $4B out of the quarter’ revenues to pay annual bonuses for its top executives at the end of 2014.

The rich get richer. Goldman Sachs doesn’t care what happens to 21st Century Fox or Time Warner employees when the redundancy studies are made and the job layoffs are started. Goldman Sachs also won’t be around when the next billions of dollars of a goodwill writedown takes place after another recession hits and neither corporation will be worth what it is now at the top of the stock market. (Only Time, spun off by Time Warner, noted that Murdoch has a track record of making bids that all coincide with market peaks. Shortly after he makes these deals, stocks go splat.)

For Time Warner, the price may simply still be too low, even with a 20% control premium, and the non-voting stock offer unacceptable. (The separate voting stock is how Murdoch and his family keep control.) That prompted analysts today to speculate that Time Warner may require a much higher percentage of cash, if not all cash, from Murdoch. Meanwhile, sounding quite arrogant, Time Warner is saying in response that its existing business plan is superior to any proposal no matter how “determined” Murdoch is to buy TWX. Chairman Jeff Bewkes even sent a short recorded video of himself to his employees today explaining why Murdoch’s offer was rebuffed.

But could this offer, or any offer, have been avoided by Time Warner? Of course. By stripping away asset after asset – first AOL, then Time Warner Cable, finally Time Inc, the once biggest global media conglomerate is now just Warner Bros, HBO and the Turner Networks. That, in turn, made Time Warner more attractive but also more vulnerable as a takeover target.

And why wasn’t chairman Jeff Bewkes using the resulting cash from the cable sale to acquire what even Gordy Crawford had said were rare buying opportunities in its core entertainment arena? So while Disney’s Bob Iger was buying Pixar and Marvel and LucasFilm to build Mouse House value, Bewkes was sitting on his hands during the recent recession. There were repeated stock buybacks, a move which I consider to be the corporate equivalent of burning dollar bills.

Bewkes also has resisted repeated calls to spin off extremely lucrative HBO. "The inherent value of HBO’s business probably exceeds the 8x-10x EV/ EBITDA multiples ascribed to HBO by the Street in TWX’s sum-of-the-parts models (especially if you index HBO to Netflix valuations)," wrote Nomura media analysts Anthony DiClemente and Benjamin Black about the proposed merger today. "And even on a standalone basis, HBO is a desirable asset that is well positioned for a digital media future."

Oh, and let’s not forget the platinum parachute which Bewkes’ compensation contract will call for if Time Warner gets bought and/or he gets canned.

Murdoch has always had an unquenchable appetite for acquiring companies and growing bigger. It led his News Corp to the precipice of bankruptcy in 1990. But that was then and this is now. So he’ll be seen as an acquirer in one way or another even if Time Warner becomes out of reach. But Murdoch knows this offer gives him scale in sports and cable networks to bolster the negotiating power of a content provider like his vis a vis Fox News, F/X, and the Fox regional sports networks alongside TNT, TBS, and others. (One analyst sees 10+% affiliate rate increases assured for the next 5 years.) Sports rights ownership of Time Warner would help with launches of Fox Sports cable networks along with Turner’s rights to NBA, NCAA basketball, and the PGA on Fox Sports 1 (FS1), which itself has strengths in other sports including MLB, NASCAR, and USGA. A combined portfolio of sports could better challenge ESPN and keep NBC’s growing sports coverage at bay.

Back in 1983, some 90% of the U.S. media was controlled by 50 companies. I thought Hollywood had it bad enough when studios started gobbling up networks, and cable companies started taking over studios and networks. Now 90% of media is controlled by 5 companies – Comcast, Viacom, CBS, Walt Disney, Time Warner and 21st Century Fox. The Nation used to complain about "The National Entertainment State" and the journalistic, political and cultural questions raised by the ongoing concentration of media power in so few hands. Nowadays, journalism doesn’t matter because it’s barely in existence. Note how quickly Murdoch said he would toss aside CNN. (No journalism on that so-called cable news channel anymore: just watered-down partisan political polemics, reruns of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknowns, and endless searches for that missing Malaysian plane.) I now see where Big Media will soon consist of Disney and Comcast and 21st Century Fox. Analysts today called Murdoch’s Time Warner offer "basically the first salvo in a wave of media consolidation." You’re fucked.

Sarah Palin Helps Cast The View – Tammy Bruce As ‘Anti-Rosie’?

The best way on TV to shut up a loudmouth is with another loudmouth.  I’ve learned that Tea Party advocate Tammy Bruce – the outspoken nationally syndicated radio show host, author, and Fox News talking head – is being considered for a hosting slot on The View as the so-called "anti-Rosie". What makes this especially interesting is that Bruce reportedly BrucePalinwas suggested to the show by Sarah Palin. "I don’t think Sarah Palin is being considered to be a panelist on the show. I think she’s working behind the scenes to help them cast the conservative," an insider tells me. "Tammy and Palin are close friends, and I think they are hot on Tammy because of Palin. They want the show to be politically combative, and Tammy would certainly be the anti-Rosie in every possible way."

Bruce’s website describes her as a "gay, pro-choice, gun-owning, pro-death penalty Tea Party Independent conservative". I’m told Bruce just had a meeting with ABC about potentially joining the show. She has been a talking head at Fox News for over a decade now "but she was surprised that ABC had interest in her for The View, considering she’s only been booked on the show as a guest once. And she doesn’t have an agent that was pushing her. They literally just called out of the blue. She says the meeting went well."

Right before last week’s announcement that liberal Rosie O’Donnell was re-joining The View, media outlets reported that Palin was "dropping hints" that she might want to be a panelist. Asked by The Hollywood Reporter if she had any interest in doing a political talk show, Palin replied, "I hear everyone recently got canned from The View [so] maybe a show like that needs a punch of reality and a voice of reason from America’s heartland to knock some humble sense into their scripts. You know, someone willing to go rogue." But Palin did not go so far as to suggest herself.

From 1990 for 7 years, Bruce served as president of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Organization for Women and two years on NOW’s board of directors, but later criticized the group in her book. She resigned in 1996 after the NOW Executive Board voted nearly unanimously to censure Bruce for what it claimed were racially insensitive comments during the OJ Simpson murder trial. In 2003, Bruce was appointed to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s California gubernatorial transition team.

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Marvel: Thor Becomes A Woman (…Or The Ultimate Omnisexual)

marvel disney smallMarvel is constantly surprising its fans in keeping its storylines fresh. Well, today the comics giant didn’t wait for Comic-Con later this month to make a major "thunderous" announcement about Thor, Norse God Of Thunder. Employing its Disney-owned synergy with The View, Marvel used that show to announce that the next person to wield Mjölnir, the mighty hammer of Thor, is going to be a woman. Thor as woman3“It’s a huge day in the Marvel Universe,” the show’s Whoopi Goldberg said. “Thor he messed up, and he’s no longer worthy to hold that damn hammer of his. For the first time in history, that hammer is being held by a woman. That’s right. Thor is a woman!”

Marvel editor Wil Ross said later on the company’s website that Thor as a woman will debut in October: “The inscription on Thor’s hammer reads ‘Whosoever holds this hammer, if HE be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.’ Well it’s time to update that inscription. And this new Thor isn’t a temporary female substitute – she’s now the one and only Thor, and she is worthy!”

So why is Marvel creating this new female hero? I think several factors are at work. First, rival Warner Bros/DC Comics plans to include Wonder Woman in its upcoming Justice League movie and then spin her off into her own franchise. Second, so-called women’s movies and women action heroes have taken off at the box office. Third, the first two Thor films starring Chris Hemsworth were always marketed to women. Fourth, I heard Hemsworth wasn’t anxious to go back into that arduous diet and training regimen and subsist primarily on egg whites for Thor 3 or The Avengers 3. Fifth, it’s doubtful that Marvel wanted to cough up the big bucks necessary to keep Hemsworth starring as the franchise title character so here’s a cheap way to reboot the series by changing the leading man into a leading woman. Sixth, Thor has become the ultimate omnisexual (cooler than heterosexual, homosexual or metrosexual). Finally, Marvel has simply gone off its rocker.

Marvel called it "an all-new era" for the God of Thunder – "one of the most shocking and exciting changes ever to shake one of the Big Three" characters – in the brand new series written by Jason Aaron with art from Russell Dauterman whose cover #1 is above right.

The new Thor "is the latest in the ever-growing and long list of female-centric titles that continues to invite new readers into the Marvel Universe," Thoraswoman2the company said. "Thor will be the 8th title to feature a lead female protagonist and aims to speak directly to an audience that long was not the target for super hero comic books in America: women and girls."

In the past a few other people have taken Thor’s mantle when he wasn’t able, but only those deemed worthy by the divine hammer. (No one else can even lift it.) But this is the first time in Marvel history that a woman has both the divine hammer and the title. Marvel did release an illustration but didn’t reveal the woman’s identity, presumably keeping that for Comic-Con. Series writer Jason Aaron wanted to be clear that “This is not She-Thor. This is not Lady Thor. This is not Thorita. This is THOR. This is the THOR of the Marvel Universe. But it’s unlike any Thor we’ve ever seen before.” [FYI, there is a "Thor Girl", created by writer Dan Jurgens and artist John Romita Jr, who first appeared in Thor Tears of the Gods Vol. 2 #22 (April 2000) and in the 2011 six-issue limited series Fear Itself: Youth In Revolt.]

Dinesh D’Souza’s ‘America’ Now #7 Political Docu Of All Time

America: Imagine The World Without Her from conservative author Dinesh D’Souza, Academy-award winning producer Gerald R. Molen (Schindler’s List) and director John america-imagine-a-world-without-her-lionsgate Sullivan continues its strong showing in its second week in release. It had the 5th highest per screen average of any film this weekend. Released by Lionsgate in just over 1,100 theaters, America earned an estimated $2.4 million for the weekend for a total $8.2M to pass liberal Michael Moore’s genre-defining Roger & Me and become the 7th highest grossing partisan political documentary of all time. D’Souza has used the controversy around the film as a marketing tool, obtaining headlines when the retail giant Costco briefly pulled all copies of his new book around which the film is based. D’Souza, who in May pleaded guilty to a federal charge of making illegal political campaign donations, also appeared on ABC’s This Week With George Stephanopoulos and MSNBC’s The Ed Show to promote the pic. America has received far worse reviews than his previous 2016: Obama’s America which in 2012 went on to gross $33.4M as the #2 partisan political documentary, behind Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 with $119.1M .

Box Office: ‘Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes’ Opens To Bigger-Than-Expected $104.1M Wkd

Dawn-of-the-Planet-of-the-Apes-posters

SUNDAY AM, 6TH UPDATE: Overall weekend moviegoing was down again (-20%) as Hollywood worries over grosses plunging -19% from last mid-summer’s. Which is why it took on more importance that media are praising an apes movie as classic Western, Godfather-esque, even Shakespearean. Or that this valuable motion-capture 3D franchise was entrusted to a TV co-creator (Felicity) and small horror films director (Cloverfield and Let Me In). That, boys and girls, is how you circumvent sequel mistrust and open a summer tentpole bigger than expected.

1. Twentieth Century Fox-financed and Chernin Entertainment-produced Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes earned an A- Cinemascore from audiences, stellar reviews from critics, and now is overperforming. Friday’s domestic box office targeted $27.7M and Saturday’s $25.5M for what may be a $73M first opening weekend from 3,967 U.S./Canadian theaters. The only question unanswered is how much Sunday’s World Cup soccer final will hurt grosses. Friday’s figure included Thursday’s $4.1M from 10 PM late shows BOupdated200and midnights at 2,750 runs. The Matt Reeves-helmed sci-fi heavy special effects-laden actioner cost a whopping $170M  (almost twice as much as the first) which Fox solely financed, according to the studio. "Great number, great start," a Fox exec says confidently. Opening weekend gross domestic wound up +33% more than the previous Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes which had a $54.8M opening. Exit polling showed the Dawn audience was 58% male/42% female, with 55% aged 25 and up/45% older than 25, including 47% Caucasian, 23% African American, 16% Hispanic, and 14% Asian.

Until Friday afternoon the studio was still trying to lower expectations to $55M-$60M for the first FSS after last weekend’s lousy Independence Holiday results for overall moviegoing and the -19% downturn at midpoint in 2014 summer grosses. Big ticket-seller Fandango reported that Apes was scooping up 70% of all pre-sales, exceeding where the first pic was at this period. Reviews have been stellar with an astonishing (and rare) 91% positive on Rotten Tomatoes. Internationally, pic opens day and date in 28 markets, including Australia, South Korea, Southeast Asia. Like the first film, sequel should make 50% of its global grosses overseas. Opening weekend gross internationally was $31.1M (26 markets but only two majors – Australia and South Korea) for an opening global cume of $104.1M.

So how do you market with any freshness an apes vs humans movie that’s been reimagined 8 times between 1968 and 2014, rebooted 3 times, and this latest franchise installment is a sequel? Hell if I know – except to incorporate Andy Serkis (reprising Caesar) nonstop. (Though I did burst into laughter the first time I saw the long Dawn trailer for no other reason that there were apes, apes, APES everywhere!) Dawn100But Fox had to do it because all these apes are responsible for half a billion dollars in domestic theatrical gross alone. "It’s an Ape World and we are all living in it, that’s for sure," a Fox exec told me tonight. So the studio kicked off the Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes campaign a year ago with a Simian Flu infection of the 2013 San Diego Comic-Con via PSA-type social posts, a virus-awareness micro-site, and sanitary masks + hand sanitizer gel for fans to take home. Other highlights included Fox delivering a sneak preview during the season finale of AMC’s hit show The Walking Dead. And Andy Serkis taking over the @ApesMovies Instagram account for the day during WonderCon. And the film doing a live Google+ Hangout at YouTube Headquarters, a cast Twitter Chat at Twitter Headquarters which ended with the Red Carpet global premiere. Fourth of July social blitz garnered 5x average engagement from millions of fans. Finally, Fox employed Vice Media’s Science and Tech arm to create 3 original short films detailing the 10 years between the two films and the effects of the Simian Flu on society. Plague Inc introduced the Simian Flu into the popular game. Screenplay was by Mark Bomback and Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver, based on characters created by Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver. Producers were Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver. And the cast besides Serkis included Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, and Keri Russell.

2. Transformers: Age Of Extinction (Paramount) Week 3 [3912 runs] PG13
Friday $4.8M, Saturday $6.6M, Weekend $16.5M, Cume $209.0M
International Cume $543.5M, Worldwide Total $752.5M
3. Tammy (Warner Bros) Week 2 [3465 runs] R
Friday $4.0M, Saturday $5.0M, Weekend $12.5M (-42%), Cume $56.9M
4. 22 Jump Street (Columbia/Sony) Week 5 [2811 runs] R
Friday $2.0M, Saturday $2.6M, Weekend $6.7M, Cume $171.9M
5. How To Train Your Dragon 2 (DreamWorks Anim/Fox) Week 5 [2885 runs] PG
Friday $1.7M, Saturday $2.3M, Weekend $5.8M, Cume $152.0M
6. Earth To Echo (Relativity) Week 2 [3230 runs] PG
Friday $1.7M, Saturday $2.1M, Weekend $5.5M (-34%), Cume $24.5M

IFC FILMs’ much ballyhooed Boyhood from Richard Linklater started its run today in 5 NY and LA theaters with a very respectable per screen average of $71,800 for what Boyhoodsmshould be a $359K weekend. The R-rated indie film scored 100% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, which is almost unheard-of, and already is Oscar-buzzed. I’m a sucker for sassy marketing, and pic’s dealmaker/producer John Sloss emailed to influencers a "Time Back Guarantee: That if you are not absolutely thrilled by Boyhood and/or consider it not to be a good use of your time, I will give you that time back by performing any of your customary chores for up to 2 hours and 43 minutes." Pic 12 years in the making already has an awards consultant. And IFC President Jonathan Sehring, who greenlit and supported it, is telling media this is his favorite project of his entire professional career.

SAG-AFTRA Pact Goes To Vote

As expected, the SAG-AFTRA National Board approved 90%-to-10% Saturday the tentative agreement reached with the studios/networks and recommended  it for new-SAG-AFTRAratification. Now the 3-year contract covering motion pictures, scripted prime-time dramatic television and new media production goes to the union’s eligible 165,000 members for a pro forma online vote by August 22nd. The tentative deal finally unifies SAG and AFTRA television contracts. Like the DGA and WGA, SAG-AFTRA is getting the same annual minimum increases: 2.5% the first year, and 3% in years two and three, plus an 0.5% increase in the AMPTP’s’ contribution to the Pension Fund right away. But primetime minimums in the new agreement will be based on the legacy lower SAG wage rates, not the higher legacy AFTRA rates, which was not supposed to happen. See my most recent guild analysis: SAG-AFTRA, WGA, DGA & AMPTP Deals: Even In Better Economy, The Hollywood Poor Get Poorer

Pixar Tried Pressuring Sony To Join Alleged Wage-Fixing Cartel

A combination of court testimony, documents and emails show that Pixar and Disney targeted Sony Pictures Animation starting in 2004 for refusing to become Pixar vs Sonypart of an alleged wage-fixing/no poaching cartel which the pair already had in place with both LucasFilm’s Industrial Light and Magic and Jeffrey Katzenberg’s DreamWorks Animation. Pixar internally branded Sony as "ruthless" for daring to offer higher salaries and better career opporunities to workers. Then Pixar President Ed Catmull threatened to "aggressively go after" hiring Sony’s people as revenge for not joining the cartel. All because Sony Animation was recruiting as it saw fit and pushing up wages and promoting job mobility for workers across the computer animation movie studios.

Uncovered by the independent tech reporting Pando and its writer Mark Ames, this is the second in a series of reports on this subject. (Pixar, LucasFilm, DreamWorks Animation In Alleged Wage-Fixing Cartel To Boost Profit.) As Pando previously reported, the 3 big CGI animation studios had a longstanding and secret agreement to not poach each other’s employees and not ‘bid up’ salary offers. This pact was revealed in Silicon Valley’s ongoing "Techtopus" class action lawsuit.

Pixar tried to compel other computer animation studios to abide by this agreement as well. In terms of Hollywood, there’s no doubt that talented movie workers could have named their own salaries and employers if permitted at a time when CGI animation was supposed to be hotly competitive.

In May 2002, Sony Pictures launched a new CGI animated movie division because the profits of these successful films were skyrocketing. Heading it up were co-executive vice presidents Sandra Rabins and Penny Finkelman Cox, both having been hired from Jeffrey Katzenberg’s Dreamworks Animation.

By 2003, Sony Animation was upsetting the wage-fixing cartel. It poached Jill Culton from ILM. She was well known to Pixar already, having written the original story for the studio’s hit Monsters Inc.

A year later, on February 18th 2004, Pixar’s Ed Catmull emailed his boss Steve Jobs with the subject line “Sony” and complained:

Sony has approached all of our producers trying to hire them. They all just ignored Sony, although [REDACTED] forwarded on the email from the recruiter. Today, [REDACTED] one of our department managers told me that she was offered a position as producer for Sony’s first CG film and is likely to accept. We don’t have a no raid arrangement with Sony. We have set up one with ILM and Dreamworks which has worked quite well. I probably should go down and meet with Sandy and Penney and Sony to reach some agreement. Our people are become [sic] really desirable and we need to nip this in the bud."

Catmull, now president of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, confirmed in 2013 Techtopus testimony that he flew down for the meeting with “Sandy and Penney” to talk them into stop calling Pixar employees. Pando claims his goal was to rope Sony into the non-recuitment cartel.

Sources told Pando that Sony Animation’s understanding of the Catmull meeting was that Catmull had only informally asked Sony to let him know in future if they were hiring any Pixar employees.

But Sony wasn’t playing ball. Pando reports that in 2005 Pixar executives began frantically emailing each other about their growing concern that Sony Animation was once again recruiting their talent. In one email, a Pixar senior recruiter, Dawn Haagstad, writes to Pixar’s HR department an internal email subject headed “Studio Relationships” that describes Sony thusly:

They’re ruthless! They’ve called employees directly about applying for positions even though they know we don’t engage in poaching.

Another internal Pixar email from a senior producer said:

Continue reading

‘Boyhood’ Dealmaker Making An Offer No One Can Refuse

BoyhoodsmI just now received this emailed offer from veteran indie film dealmaker John Sloss, and it’s a first for me and I’m a sucker for smart marketing and publicity. Naturally it’s timed to today’s box office opening in 5 theaters of the very well reviewed Boyhood (100% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, which is almost unheard-of) from Richard Linklater:

As you may be aware, Richard Linklater’s L-O-N-G awaited ‘Boyhood’ hits theatres in NY and LA today, and nationwide soon. In recognition of this auspicious event, I am offering any recipient of the email (strictly non-transferable) my patented "Time Back Guarantee," last offered, I believe, in connection with the theatrical release of ‘Exit Through The Gift Shop’.

That’s right, if you are not absolutely thrilled by ‘Boyhood’ and/or consider it not to be a good use of your time, I will give you that time back by performing any of your customary chores for up to 2 hours and 43 minutes.

Act Today! Only good while supply lasts!

Note: there are scientific methods to determine if you are feigning lack of appreciation for ‘Boyhood’.

Kill Me Bow Wow Now, TheWrap

We know TheWrap will do anything to generate online traffic, including email alerts about 200-pound scrotums. (Sharon Waxman cravenly calls such stories ‘clickbait’ and ignores the fact she’s murdering real journalism.) Now comes its newest feature: ‘In the Doghouse,’ TheWrap’s new video series where dogs review movies.DogReviewers "Did you know that dogs are the fastest growing demographic for television and film viewing? (Not a real statistic.)" TheWrap wrote today by way of introduction. "To keep up with this fast-reproducing audience, TheWrap proudly introduces its brand-new critical roundup where dogs finally get to weigh in on their favorite movies and shows."

The first installment features film criticism from a miniature schnauzer and a pug who express "unnerving enthusiasm" for Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes.

I suggest TheWrap’s next step should be to replace Waxman with a Weimaraner.

Kill Me Now, CNBC Anchorman

CNBCKillMeNowBad enough that CNBC recently outed Apple CEO Tim Cook. Now a CNBC anchor had this exchange with Rentrak box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian today. Dergarabedian mentioned that this summer’s box office is down -19% at midpoint partly because Universal pushed back Fast & Furious 7 to 2015. Dergarabedian predicted next summer’s numbers will probably be up +20% with that movie opening as well as Disney/Marvel’s The Avengers 2.

"I cant wait for The Avengers movie because I’ve missed John Steed and Emma Peel," responded CNBC anchor Bill Griffeth making like Ron Burgundy.

Dergarabedian, somewhat stunned by the anchor’s stupidity, politely corrected, "That was a different Avengers. But I like your thinking."

"We have to go see the movie," CNBC co-anchor Sue Herera then said to her colleague.

"You go see the movie," Griffeth barked back.

More Details Emerge About Jeff Robinov’s Studio 8 Deal At Sony

I have more details about that distribution deal about to close between Jeff Robinov’s production company Studio 8 and Sony Pictures. It will be great to have another buyer. Robinov China Hollywood2Variety just now speculated that an official announcement could be made as soon as next week on his move from Burbank to Culver City which I was first to report back on October 25th. On his way to raising $1 billion in financing and debt after receiving a sizeable financial commitment from Shanghai-based Fosun International, Robinov has been quite open about wanting to base Studio 8 at Sony Pictures. Sony will distribute the 4 to 6 pictures a year from the former Warner Bros Pictures czar’s Studio 8. But I’ve learned that Robinov also is arranging to have Sony post the P&A for his movie releases. That’s a big savings for him, especially considering that marketing movies these days can range anywhere from $30M to $70M for domestic releases and $150M-$200M including  international for global tentpoles of the kind Robinov used to make at WB.

I also have learned that Sony will distribute Studio 8 films worldwide but not in China and maybe not in the United Kingdom. I also hear that the partnership is not necessarily limited just to distribution. While there is no obligation on Studio 8′s part or Sony’s part to co-finance films, the terms of their deal don’t rule out the possibility. Robinov has been working out the details now with Sony USA chief Michael Lynton and SPE chair Amy Pascal ever since their talks started.

Variety learned that, while Fosun has agreed to invest $200M in Robinov’s new venture, Sony is ponying up $50M for a 20% stake in the company. And the trade said Sony’s ownership percentage could decrease if another financier comes into the fold, like Entertainment Film Distributors which is in talks with Studio 8 to become an investor as well as its UK distributor. Robinov is finding what so many others in the movie biz find: once you get the first chunk of change, more big bucks from others start to flow. So discussions are also underway with big banks to provide senior debt to Studio 8, Variety says.

Back on October 25th, I reported that Robinov was talking with Dune Capital Management Chairman/CEO Steve Mnuchin and GK Films honcho Graham King and Sony’s Lynton/Pascal about a Thomas Tull/Legendary type deal. He would bring to Sony already financed pictures like Tull did to Warner Bros. However, Robinov was, and still is, uninterested in helping financing Sony’s slate like Tull did at WB. King began to have financing woes so Robinov next looked to the Huayi Brothers Media Corp until those negotiations ended. Then Fosun stepped up.

Sons Of Anarchy

Emmy Snubs ‘Sons Of Anarchy’s Kurt Sutter Again: "How I Feel"

I asked Sons Of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter to write about how he’s feeling after the Emmy nominations came out today:

There’s a certain cachet that comes with being snubbed in all major categories*. Repeatedly.

It’s the “Lucci Factor”. You gain more fame, kurtsutter200respect and admiration the more your efforts are ignored. If you win gracefully, you’re famous. If you lose loudly, you’re infamous. I, unfortunately, fall into the later category. Not to say that I haven’t mellowed, I have. I’m halfway through my second paragraph and I haven’t called anyone at AMC a money-whoring, talentless cunt yet. So, that’s progress, right?  Honestly – and I actually believe this – I think we’d drop viewers if ‘Sons of Anarchy‘ were ever nominated for an Emmy. KurtSutterMy bombastic outlaw-asshole reputation would be tarnished. Or rather, untarnished. I’d be just another smiling douchebag in a new suit, pretending to give a shit on the red carpet. Actually… taking a shit on the red carpet, that’s something that might drop as a “real and honest moment”. Although that’s pretty much what Joan and Melissa have been doing for 10 years and I don’t think either one of them have anything real left on their bodies…

Now, let me be clear… That’s not to say that I don’t want to win an Emmy. I absolutely do. More than anything. Any artist who tells you they don’t want to be acknowledged and awarded by their peers is a fat fucking liar. I’m not sure why they have to be fat, but you get the point.

But here’s the rub — I know on an intellectual level that the Emmys are not and have never been a valid qualifier of talent. I know the people who vote are busy industry people with limited time and departmental biases (Costumers, Production Designers, Makeup, etc.). Throw in the fact that studios and networks spend millions on Emmy campaigns to influence votes, and you end up with a very flawed system where most folks rush to fill in circles for friends and shows they’ve seen once or twice or “heard” were really good.

And yet knowing all of that, I still suffer the emotional and spiritual depletion every July when ‘Sons of Anarchy’ gets zero nominations in all major categories. While other fucking shows that ran out of story three seasons ago, still get tagged to step up to the show. To explain the feeling, I use an analogy from a part of our lives that probably best describes our industry – high school. Remember when that kid you hated from second period French had that big end of year party? You knew he was a lazy, self-important, pompous douchebag, and yet when you didn’t get the invitation, you sobbed into your Members Only jacket and a piece of youthful hope cracked off your soul and fell in dogshit.

Fuck you, Kevin Doyle…

But I digress. So… another season, another bevy of glorious nods for the very talented and the very familiar. “God bless them all. I wish them abundance and success. They deserve all the love and praise the universe gives them.” I’ll be saying that affirmation a lot today. It’ll keep me from killing puppies with a tack hammer.

Hooray for Hollywood.

* I know we received a nom today (and in the past) for Original Song. I honor, love and appreciated the efforts of Bob Thiele Jr. and Noah Gundersen, but music is a creative layer that lives above, beyond and in spite of this show. So the rant above still applies.

2014 Emmy Snubs

Why They Were Emmy Snubs: ‘Homeland’, ‘Girls’, ‘Survivor’

UPDATING THROUGHOUT THE MORNING: Showtime’s Homeland And HBO’s Girls were among the shows snubbed for series’ Emmy nominations this morning. Homeland‘s Lead Drama nod from last year was taken by HBO’s True Detective this year, and Girls‘ Lead Comedy slot last year was occupied by Netflix’ Orange Is The New Black and HBO’s Silicon ValleyNFAwardsBadgeOtherwise the Lead Drama and Lead Comedy shows nominated remained so pathetically the same old-same old (with the exception of NBC’s 30 Rock which went off the air). Also snubbed were network series that garnered a lot of attention for excellent reasons this past TV season, like CBS’ The Good Wife, which killed off one of its main characters, and NBC’s The Blacklist, which killed off at least one criminal per episode, and ABC’s Scandal, which should have killed off the philandering president and didn’t. (Epic fail.)

(For the complete list of nominees, click here.)

From my POV, this past 3rd season of Homeland may have disappointed Emmy voters by ending its Nicholas Brody storyline in a controversial way by simply putting Nicholas Brody to death by hanging in Tehran instead of concocting a more thrilling escape. That prompted backhanded praise like this in The New York Times: "It is almost admirable that the writers of this moody conflicted spy series on Showtime are so determined to upend expectations — even at the cost of action, suspense and drama."

The result was that the series, which won Outstanding Lead Drama in 2012 and was nominated again last year, didn’t even get recognition this year. Still, I’d have to say that Homeland‘s snub, while surprising, was not unexpected: such was the level of competition in this year’s uber-crowded category – to the point that FX’s Jon Landgraf was reduced to whining about the unfairness of HBO’s entry of True Detective.

And while Claire Danes was nominated again for Lead Actress In A Drama, her co-star Damien Lewis wasn’t. To repeat, I think it was because of disappointment over the way he exited the series because his performance was stellar yet again.

And after 2 successive Lead Comedy series’ nominations in 2012 and 2013, Girls was blanked in that category this year. I analyze the omission this way: that after succeeding in  shocking Emmy voters with its sharp and smart women characters in its first season, the series just became more of the same. Yawn.

And I think that the dramedy that is Girls may have worn thin in this category which usually tries to produce at least more than just the occasional laugh. Add to that creator Lena Dunham’s need to slobber over Hollywood A-listers in the most undignified way possible, and you’d think Emmy voters would have snubbed her for a Lead Actress In A Comedy nod. But you’d be wrong. So I’ve got to ask: didn’t these Emmy voters see her horrible SNL hosting gig this past March? Apparently not.

And for crissakes how many times are Emmy voters going to nominate the same shows over and over again ad nauseam? At the expense of those series trying to do something more interestingly out of the box like FX’s Sons Of Anarchy, BBC’s Orphan Black (as well as star Tatiana Maslany), AMC’s The Walking Dead, and even BET’s Being Mary Jane?

C’mon, rewarding PBS’ Downtown Abbey this lame season just didn’t make sense when it was not only the weakest but also the treacliest, rape subplot or not.

Plus, to overlook The Good Wife is a gobsmack. Not only were Emmy voters arrogant enough not to applaud a single broadcast series in the Drama category, but they punished this better-than-it-has-to-be show for the very fact it doesn’t air on a cooler place like a cabler or Netflix. Not to mention this is a rare CBS non-procedural that has become more innovative year after year when so many other hour-longs head into a downward spiral by the 5th season.

As for the snub of FX’s The Americans, its second season felt phoned-in. And, as a one-time Moscow foreign correspondent during the Reagan Era, trust me: the Russians were never this sly or savvy. Though I do think Matthew Rhys was robbed.

Little wonder The Blacklist‘s James Spader also was left off the Lead Actor In A Drama list. Surely even the most clueless  Emmy voter knew he just took the role for a fat paycheck.

Among Reality series, I was shocked that CBS’ Survivor was snubbed this year. The sheer fact of its longevity – on the air since 2000 for 28 seasons- should have made it a contender, as well as its ability to pull ratings just when it looked finally to be DOA. The fanbase’s never-flagging loyalty, and the show’s consistently fresh twists and turns, and the producers’ blatant manipulation of contestants never gets old.

Whereas both Lifetime’s Project Runway and Bravo’s Top Chefs were train wrecks this season, with Alyssa Milano installed in the Hall Of Shame as one of the most annoying reality hosts, and the wrong chef winning just to sucker-punch viewers.

Among networks, cabler USA again was snubbed despite its series like Covert Affairs and Suits and Graceland going edgier.  (Though I thought the riveting final season of Burn Notice deserved at least a little recognition…) But the channel will never get Emmy respect as long as the putrid Royal Pains persists in tying up loose ends by the close of every episode.

Also omitted from any recognition was The Food Channel, and rightly so. I’ve lost count of how many of its shows steal proprietary ideas from more notable cable and broadcast series. Plus, every program on it these days stars the unwatchable egotist Bobby Flay or the insufferable clown Guy Fieri.

And the CW continues as the only broadcaster ignored because, well, it consistently programming crap. Or, to put it another way: when you crave the TV series’ equivalent of high-fructose corn syrup, then this is the place to find it.