Category: Matea Gold

CNN says reports that Larry King is close to being replaced are untrue

Despite several reports that CNN is poised to sign a deal with “America’s Got Talent” judge Piers Morgan to replace Larry King, people inside the network said there is no rush to pick a successor to King, who has another year left on his contract.

Rather, executives remain intently focused on developing a new show for the 8 p.m. ET time slot now that anchor Campbell Brown has decided to leave the network. CNN/U.S. President Jon Klein is strongly considering a political point-counterpoint show in the vein of “Crossfire,” which he canceled shortly after joining the network. Among those being evaluated as possible panelists are former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

“Not surprisingly, there is no shortage of people who would love to succeed Larry King if and when he moves on, but rumors that we are close to signing a deal for a Larry King replacement are untrue,” said a CNN spokeswoman. “We are currently looking at replacing our 8 p.m. program and that is our priority. Larry is a beloved member of the team, and he will continue to be part of the CNN family into the future.”

The New York Post first reported last week that Morgan, a onetime British tabloid newspaper editor who serves as a judge on “Britain’s Got Talent,” as well as the American version of that show, was in talks with CNN. Britain’s Daily Telegraph reported that Morgan was close to signing a four-year deal with the network.

If CNN does tap Morgan to come aboard in some role, he would bring a background in entertainment programming and an interest in the power of celebrity. Aside from his work as a reality-competition judge, he was also the winning contestant on “The Celebrity Apprentice” in 2008. He hosted a British show called “The Dark Side of Fame” and currently has a talk show in Britain called “Piers Morgan’s Life Stories.” In 2004, he was fired from his post as editor of the Daily Mirror after running fake photos of British soldiers abusing Iraqi detainees.

-- Matea Gold

Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images


This isn't CNN's prime time

More changes at Fox Business Network as Eric Bolling replaces Dave Ramsey at 8 p.m.

Eric_Bolling-007 Two and a half years into its run, Fox Business Network is looking to bolster its schedule with the launch of several new shows in key time slots. The latest move came Tuesday, when FBN announced that former CNBC contributor Eric Bolling will be taking over the 8 p.m. hour now anchored by syndicated radio host Dave Ramsey.

“Money Rocks with Eric Bolling,” which premieres June 21, is being billed by FBN as an “upbeat and irreverent take on stories that intersect among business, politics, sports and celebrity.” Bolling, a former Wall Street trader who was a panelist on CNBC’s “Fast Money” until joining FBN in 2008, last cohosted the network's 5 p.m. show “Happy Hour." It was bumped for “The Willis Report,” a consumer-oriented program anchored by former CNN personal-finance editor Gerri Willis that debuted Monday.

“Eric’s ability to boil down complex financial issues to expose their real-world implications makes him the ideal choice to strengthen FBN’s prime-time lineup,” Fox Business Chief Executive Roger Ailes said in a statement.

Ramsey may continue to make occasional appearances on FBN through the duration of his contract, which expires this year.

The network also confirmed reports that it is launching a new weekend show hosted by Andrew Napolitano, a former New Jersey Superior Court judge. “Freedom Watch,” which will premiere Saturday at 10 a.m., appears crafted to appeal to adherents of the "tea party" movement with its focus on “economic liberties and consumer rights as outlined by the United States Constitution.” Among the scheduled guests Saturday: Sarah Palin and Rand Paul, a U.S. Senate candidate in Kentucky.

-- Matea Gold

Photo: Eric Bolling Credit: Fox Business

Conservative leaders say Comedy Central allows mockery of Christians because they don't threaten violence

Conservative and Christian leaders on Thursday accused Comedy Central of having a double standard in its depiction of religious satire as they launched an effort to dissuade advertisers from sponsoring a potential new animated series about Jesus.

The project, “JC,” which would feature Jesus living in modern-day New York and coping with an indifferent God, is one of many ideas the network has in script development, and it may never get picked up as a series. But that hasn’t stopped a new coalition of media watchdog groups, calling itself Citizens Against Religious Bigotry, from lambasting the cable channel for its programming.  The group released a three-minute mash-up of scenes from Comedy Central shows such as “South Park” and “The Sarah Silverman Program” that send up figures such as Jesus, God and the pope.

“We know that they’re jumping up and down with glee feeling that they’re getting all sorts of publicity because of our efforts,” said Brent Bozell, president of the Media Research Center. “On the other hand, we’re not going to remain silent on this anymore.”

Bozell said the coalition sent letters to 250 major television advertisers asking them not to run commercials on the show, should it ever air.

In a conference call with reporters, the coalition’s leaders noted that Comedy Central censored references to the Prophet Muhammad in a recent episode of “South Park” after a radical Muslim website suggested the show’s creators could be killed because of the depiction.

“You could say, ‘Well yes, they pulled back because of threats of violence,’” said syndicated radio host Michael Medved. “Does that indicate that Christians then get punished because they’re not crazy? They get punished because their religion doesn’t encourage people to commit acts of violence, that we’re only going to respond affirmatively to the concerns of religious groups that threaten the most appalling kinds of reactions?”

In a statement released in response, Comedy Central did not specifically address its decision-making regarding "South Park." 

" 'JC’ at this point is an idea and an idea only," said spokesman Tony Fox. "Perhaps the Citizens Against Religious Bigotry should save their energy for the moment if and when this series ever makes it to air.”

On the conference call, Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, said an advertising boycott of the show was necessary to get through to the network.

“I don’t want to ever see the Christian population get to the point where they have to mimic some segments in the radical Muslim community,” he said. “And if they do, then I guess we’ll have to wonder, what is the root cause of that? I think we can do this through a peaceful nonviolent approach.”

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, warned that Comedy Central shouldn’t “confuse the civility of Christianity with weakness."

“And I think if that’s the case, they may be shocked, because I do believe they’ve gone too far in this,” he added.

-- Matea Gold


TV watchdog coalition preemptively protests Comedy Central development of Jesus cartoon

Censoring of 'South Park' episode underscores struggle to balance free speech and religious sensitivities

TV watchdog coalition preemptively protests Comedy Central development of Jesus cartoon

Conservative and religious groups that have long complained about the irreverent treatment of Christianity on Comedy Central have a new target: an animated series about Jesus Christ living in modern-day New York.

It’s unclear whether the show — one of 28 projects the network listed last month on its slate of potential programs for the coming season — will ever make it out of script development. But that hasn’t stopped a coalition of media watchdog groups from launching an effort to persuade advertisers to boycott the project, if it ever comes to fruition.

Here’s a description of the show from Comedy Central:

“A half-hour animated show about JC (Jesus Christ) wanting to escape his father's enormous shadow and to live life in NYC as a regular guy. A lot has changed in 2000 years and he is the ultimate fish out of water. Meanwhile his all-powerful yet apathetic father would rather be playing video games than listening to JC recount his life in the city. JC is a playful take on religion and society with a sprinkle of dumb.” 

Citizens Against Religious Bigotry (CARB) plans to hold a conference call Thursday with reporters to denounce the show, which it decried as “an abomination purported to be entertainment.” The coalition includes the Media Research Center, the Family Research Council, the Catholic League, the Parents Television Council and the American Alliance of Jews and Christians, as well as radio talk show host Michael Medved.

The group says that the series would continue the network’s track record of mocking and disparaging Christianity, and argues that Comedy Central has a double standard when it comes to portrayals of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad. In April, the network edited out references to Muhammad from an episode of “South Park” after a radical Muslim group warned that the show’s creators could end up killed for the portrayal.

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Coverage of oil spill intensifies as NBC plans hour-long 'Dateline' special

More than a month after an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig sent oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico, media coverage of the disaster is only intensifying. The latest evidence of that came Tuesday, when NBC announced that "Dateline" will devote an hour Friday to the spill. The special report -- anchored by Ann Curry with reporting from Anne Thompson, Chris Hansen, Hoda Kotb, Josh Mankiewicz, Dennis Murphy and Kate Snow -- will reconstruct the handling of the disaster and examine the environmental effect of the spill.

Meanwhile, "NBC Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams is reporting live from the Louisiana Gulf Coast Tuesday and Wednesday.

-- Matea Gold


Obama moves forward with oil spill probe

Full coverage of the spill from the Los Angeles Times

Fox Business replaces 'Happy Hour' with new show hosted by former CNNer Gerri Willis

Gerri Willis Official Headshot Fox Business Network confirmed Wednesday that the network is cancelling its afternoon show “Happy Hour” and replacing it with “The Willis Report,” a consumer-oriented program hosted by former CNN personal finance editor Gerri Willis.

Willis’ show, which will premiere June 7 at 5 p.m. ET, will mark a change in tone from “Happy Hour,” which was produced live out of the bar of the Bull & Bear restaurant of the Waldorf-Astoria hotel.

“Gerri brings a fresh, no-nonsense approach to complicated financial issues and her new program will be a clear reflection of that,” Roger Ailes, chairman of Fox News and Fox Business, said in a statement. The network has not yet announced how “Happy Hour” hosts Eric Bolling, Rebecca Diamond and Cody Willard will be reassigned.

The move comes as Fox Business has been quietly tinkering with its lineup. Earlier this month, executives canceled “Fox Business Morning,” the 5 a.m. ET lead-in to “Imus in the Morning,” replacing it with “Best of Imus,” a taped show. “Your Questions, Your Money,” a four-hour call-in show on Saturdays aimed at small business owners, is scheduled to end its run at the end of the month.

— Matea Gold (Follow me on Twitter:

'Lost' superfan Jimmy Kimmel offers up alternate endings to the series

If you gorged on "Lost" last night but still don't feel sated, ABC late-night host Jimmy Kimmel offers a palate cleanser: alternate closing scenes that play off famous finales of "Survivor," "The Sopranos" and "Newhart." The tongue-in-cheek sketches were done with the participation of the cast and executive produces Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse.

Still want more? Here's Mary McNamara's review of the finale and Show Tracker's write-up. And don't forget our live video chat at 11 a.m. Pacific time with Nestor Carbonell.

Happy post-"Lost" Monday musings.

-- Matea Gold

Pre-order “Lost: The Complete Collection” on DVD

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Vogue Italia deal gives 'America's Next Top Model' new cred in fashion industry

Top model
By television standards, “America’s Next Top Model” is getting a bit long in the tooth, having just concluded its 14th cycle on the air. But Tyra Banks’ supermodel competition got a rejuvenating jolt with the news this week that the stakes will be upped dramatically next season. Instead of competing for a cover and spread in Seventeen magazine, the next batch of contestants will be vying for the cover of Vogue Italia, considered the most prestigious magazine in the fashion industry.

“Tyra really wanted to take the series to sort of another level,” explained Dawn Ostroff, the CW’s president of entertainment, after announcing the change Thursday at the network’s upfront presentation at Madison Square Garden. “When Andre Leon Talley, who is editor at large at Vogue, came on board, she wanted to really make these models high-fashion models. And high fashion, if you are in the fashion business, is Italian Vogue. Anybody who is in Italian Vogue literally makes it in the fashion business, so this is a really big step for the show.”

Producers of the series weren’t available Friday to explain how the deal was brokered, but it’s a safe bet that Talley, who joined the show this season as a new judge, played a role.

“We’ve got the full support of the fashion industry, so we’re really legitimizing this competition,” “Top Model” photo director Jay Manuel told WPIX Friday. “This is huge.”

The change is a blow to Seventeen, but editor in chief Ann Shoket described it as a mutual breakup. “For the last 4 years and 7 cycles, 'ANTM' has been a fantastic friend (with benefits!) but we both thought it was time we started seeing other people,” Shoket said in a statement, adding: “Seventeen magazine and 'ANTM' had a very strong partnership for so long because our 13 million readers are their core audience. But like in any relationship both partners need to evolve and keep growing to keep your brand vital.”

Fashion-industry watchers immediately cast the switch as a boost in credibility for the show, whose past winners have not exactly gone on to be supermodels.

“All we can say is: Wowwowweewa!?*@&#$*@#,” exclaimed the Fashionista blog. “It indicates that the contestants will prove a bit more ‘polished’ next year.”

“Vogue Italia is known in the industry for their racy photo shoots and high fashion edginess — this could very well be the shot of cred ANTM needs to be taken seriously,” noted Styleite. “Let’s just hope that next season’s models are up to the task.”

Of course, it remains to be seen whether the change will matter to the show’s young female viewers, who are more likely to subscribe to Seventeen than Vogue Italia.

-- Matea Gold (Follow me on Twitter:


The CW declares itself 'the cool place to be'

Photo: Andre Leon Talley and Tyra Banks. Credit: The CW

MTV picks up new series based on 'Teen Wolf' and U.K.'s 'Skins'

MTV is bringing back “Teen Wolf.” But forget the 1985 Michael J. Fox movie. The network is recasting the story as a dark and sexy thriller starring Tyler Posey (“Maid in Manhattan”) as Scott McCall, an outsider at his high school until he is transformed by a bite from a creature in the woods.

“We are always up for creative challenges at MTV,” Liz Gateley, MTV’s senior vice president of series development, said in a statement. “We loved the conceit of the original film and knew the title had a great hook. The creative challenge was to take that title and reinvent it as a horror series for the MTV audience. It combines romance and high school to make ‘Teen Wolf’ the perfect thriller for MTV.”

The 12-episode series will go into production this summer. 

The cable network has also picked up an adaptation of the popular and controversial British teenage series “Skins.” Bryan Elsley, who created the drama with his son Jamie Brittain, will be writing and executive producing the series for MTV.

-- Matea Gold (Follow me on Twitter: 

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Upfronts: The CW declares itself 'the cool place to be'

Maggie Q, the star of the new CW series “Nikita,” had a slightly dazed smile when she came out on stage Thursday at the network’s upfront presentation at Madison Square Garden.

“I don’t think any of you understand how good-looking it is backstage,” said the action star of films such as “Live Free or Die Hard” and “Mission: Impossible III.” “It’s really intimidating. I had to push the A cups up a little bit.”

She was one of a dozen twentysomething actors the CW trotted out Thursday to underscore its role as the purveyor of sleek, sexy programming for the young set. To drive home the point, singer Katy Perry -- whose hit song “California Gurls” is going to be the network’s summer marketing anthem -- opened the show in a rainbow-striped sequin mini splashed with silhouettes of palm trees.

“The CW is the cool place to be,” declared Dawn Ostroff, the network’s president of entertainment.

The network is entering its fifth season with a dose of confidence after the success of “The Vampire Diaries,” a new drama that it launched this year on Thursdays at 8 p.m. that became its most-watched show. With a stable of solid returning series, executives opted to add just two new programs in the fall: “Nikita,” a remake of 1990s action-thriller "La Femme Nikita", and “Hellcats,” a college cheerleading drama with Ashley Tisdale (“High School Musical”) and Aly Michalka (“Bandslam”).

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Upfronts: CBS Entertainment chief Nina Tassler defends Charlie Sheen's lucrative new deal for 'Two and a Half Men' [Updated]

Charlie sheen

CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler on Wednesday defended “Two and a Half Men” star Charlie Sheen's lucrative new contract, saying the network was thrilled he was coming back to the show, despite the actor’s well-publicized personal travails.

In February, Sheen voluntarily checked into a rehabilitation facility, temporarily halting production of the sitcom. In July, Sheen is scheduled to go on trial in Colorado on domestic violence charges. The actor, who has pleaded not guilty, was charged with menacing, criminal mischief and assault after his wife told police he put a knife to her throat and threatened to kill her.

Nevertheless, earlier this week, Warner Bros. Television, which owns "Two and Half Men," extended Sheen’s contract for two more seasons at an estimated rate of $1.2 million per episode, making him one of the highest-paid actors in television.

At an annual media breakfast held to discuss the network’s new schedule, Tassler was pressed why CBS felt it was worth it to bring Sheen back.

“Because the show is called ‘Two. And. A. Half. Men,’” she replied, enunciating each word. “It’s not called ‘One and a Half.’ Because it is the show, his point of view. He’s a big star. We’re so thrilled to have him back. I think we value our stars and our actors. They brand the show. And he’s a huge part of it.” 

“Two and a Half Men" is the network’s highest-rated sitcom, and CBS plans to use it this fall to launch the new Chuck Lorre comedy, “Mike & Molly,” about a couple who meet at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting.

[For the record at 11:45 a.m.: An earlier version of this post stated that Sheen had extended his deal with CBS; his contract is with Warner Bros. Television, which produces his show. It also stated an imprecise early report about Sheen's new salary.]

-- Matea Gold (Follow me on Twitter: 

Photo: A scene from "Two and a Half Men." Credit: CBS 


Charlie Sheen will stay on 'Two and a Half Men' for two more years

Charlie Sheen's felony charge puts a dark cloud over 'Two and a Half Men'

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Campbell Brown leaving CNN after asking to be released from her contract [Updated]

CNN’s Campbell Brown, whose 8 p.m. EDT news program was never able to muster a strong challenge to personality-driven shows hosted by Bill O’Reilly and Keith Olbermann, is leaving the network after she asked to be released from her contract.

Brown’s departure, first reported by the blog Mediaite, comes as the network has suffered deep losses in its prime-time viewership since its 2008 political ratings surge. A source familiar with the situation confirmed that Brown has been in talks for some time with the network about making a change. She sought to have her program moved an hour earlier, to the time slot anchored by Lou Dobbs, until he abruptly left the network, but that hour went to John King.

Brown made a big splash when she joined CNN from NBC, but was not able to draw ratings on a par with the opinion-oriented shows hosted by her rivals. So far this year, her viewership is down 38% compared with the same period last year.

It was no secret Brown was unhappy, but her decision to leave was tightly held, and the news caught many inside the network by surprise, including some top CNN executives. As of late Tuesday afternoon, members of her staff had not been told.

Brown has agreed to stay on until a replacement can be found for her hour. It remains to be seen how CNN will fill the key time slot, which kicks off the network’s prime-time lineup on the East Coast. A CNN spokeswoman did not immediately return a call for comment.

[Updated at 4:06 p.m.: In a statement, Brown laid out in personal and candid terms why she has decided to leave the network. The full text follows:

I knew on the day that I accepted my job at CNN that a ratings victory at 8pm was going to be a formidable challenge. As I have been told over and over, this is the toughest timeslot in cable news. That is obviously due to the incredible talents of my 8pm competitors. I have also always marveled whenever a television anchor says that he or she pays no attention to ratings. I'm pretty sure the last time any anchor could honestly ignore ratings was well before I was born. Of course I pay attention to ratings. And simply put, the ratings for my program are not where I would like them to be. It is largely for this reason that I am stepping down as anchor of CNN's "Campbell Brown".

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