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The Morning Fix: 'General Hospital' shakeup. Talent manager arrested

December 1, 2011 |  7:57 am

After the coffee. Before maneuvering around the fallen tree on my street.

The Skinny. That was some fierce wind last night! Thursday's headlines include the arrest of a talent manager on suspicion of molesting a child, a look at the marketing strategy behind "Hugo" and a big shakeup at ABC's "General Hospital."

Sweet the press.
NBC isn’t just spending heavily on programming these days. They’re also not afraid to drop a dollar or two on wooing the press. While previous owner General Electric was pretty tight around holiday time, particularly in recent years, new boss Comcast is not only renting a Hancock Park mansion for its Christmas media party Tuesday, but this week fancy boxes of candy from 5th Avenue Chocolatiere hit the mailboxes of critics and reporters. The elaborate box -– it even has hinges -– includes a parchment touting the network’s midseason shows and a picture of the network’s stars.

Talent manager arrested. Martin Weiss, a manager of young actors, was arrested on suspicion of molesting one of his clients. Weiss' website boasts of putting clients on shows for both Disney and Nickelodeon as well as in movies including "Jack and Jill." In the affidavit, Weiss acknowledged sexual contact with the youth but said the alleged victim was a willing participant and his situation was different from Penn State because "those kids don't want it." Is it editorializing if I say ick? The story from the Los Angeles Times.

Bad medicine. ABC is forcing out Jill Farren Phelps, the longtime Emmy Award-winning "General Hospital" executive producer in favor of Frank Valentini, who ran the canceled "One Life to Live." "General Hospital" is not expected to be around much longer either. ABC has made it clear that it is getting out of the soap business. Still, the abrupt departure of the well-regarded Phelps, who most recently lured movie star James Franco to the soap as a recurring character, caught many in the industry off guard. However, insiders note Phelps had been clashing with ABC brass lately over both the extreme budget cuts forced on the already strapped show and its creative direction. Details on the latest daytime drama from Vulture.

Hiding "Hugo." Director Martin Scorsese's "Hugo," a family movie based on the children's book, "The Invention of Hugo Cabret," is going with a less-is-more approach to distribution. Rather than go big, the movie premiered in just under 1,300 screens. So far it is paying off and now Paramount Pictures hopes buzz is building as the movie starts to go wide. More on the strategy behind "Hugo" from the Los Angeles Times.

Turn off that darn Internet and do your homework! That may be the new cry of mothers in the 21st century. According to Nielsen, purchases of new television sets will decline in 2011, compared to 2010. This marks the first time that's happened in the 40 years that Nielsen has been tracking TV sales. More on the stats from Entertainment Weekly. While many would attribute the decline to a bad economy, Yidio took it a bit further saying "college mass communications courses may one day look back on this year as the first verifiable proof that broadcast and cable television was entering obsolescence."

Sponge Bob squeezed. A ratings shortfall at Viacom's Nickelodeon means the kids cable network will have to give free advertisements to sponsors, a practice known in the industry as providing make-goods. Viacom and Nickelodeon have been grumbling that Nielsen's numbers must be off. Meanwhile, Disney Channel has seen its kids ratings jump. Coverage from the New York Post.

Welcome to Potterville. NBCUniversal is adding a Harry Potter attraction to its Universal Studios theme park in Los Angeles. The move follows the launching of a similar attraction at its Florida park, which The Wall Street Journal said cost more than $200 million to build. 

Sundance slate. The Sundance Film Festival unveiled its lineup for next month's festival. Lots of dramas and documentaries, according to Variety.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: John Horn on the challenges Fox Searchlight will face in marketing "Shame," its dark movie about a sex addict. Looks as if Kanye West may be cutting off Adele at the next Grammy Awards.

-- Joe Flint

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Photo: James Franco on the set of "General Hospital." Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times.