Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Saturday Night (Truly) Live

After a successful experiment late last season, airing Saturday Night Live truly live in all U.S. time zones for the first time ever, NBC has announced that the adjusted time slots are here to stay.

Starting with the season 43 opener on September 30 -- with host Ryan Gosling and musical guest Jay-Z -- each episode will air as always on the East Coast (live at 11:30 PM), and simultaneously in each of the other time zones -- meaning at 10:30 PM Central, 9:30 PM Mountain and 8:30 PM Pacific.  Then, to fill up the remainder of the Mountain and Pacific markets' Saturday nights, SNL will be repeated at 11:30.

For us on the West Coast, it means the chance to see the live version, warts and all.  So if something slips getting bleeped, now we'll all get to see, rather than just the lucky folks back East!

Below, the NBC press release from earlier today:


‘SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE’ IS STAYING LIVE FROM COAST TO COAST

NEW YORK — Sept. 19, 2017 — NBC’s Emmy Award-winning “Saturday Night Live” will once again air live simultaneously around the country beginning with the highly anticipated season 43 premiere on Sept. 30 with host Ryan Gosling and musical guest Jay-Z.

Each episode will air live at:
11:30 p.m. Eastern
10:30 p.m. Central
9:30 p.m. Mountain
8:30 p.m. Pacific

For the Mountain and Pacific time zones, “SNL” will be repeated at 11:30 p.m.

The live coast-to-coast airings that began in April grew 11% in “live plus same day” viewership versus what “SNL” was averaging earlier in the season (8.3 million vs. 7.5 million, according to Nielsen Media Research), indicating strong interest in the formerly tape-delayed markets to see the show live.

“Saturday Night Live” is produced in association with Broadway Video. The creator and executive producer is Lorne Michaels.

Need a Refresher Before Will & Grace next Thursday?

For those of us dying to see the return, after 11 years off the air, of Will & Grace on Thursday, Sept. 28, here's a little taste to keep us going, and to remind us of the eight great seasons we had.

This afternoon, the Human Rights Campaign, an organization the W&G creators and cast have long supported, circulated the video below, featuring interview snippets about how the show came to be.




And for even more behind-the-scenes stories and clips, check out tonight's Paley Center for Media-produced tribute to Will & Grace, airing at 10PM Eastern/Pacific on NBC.

Monday, September 11, 2017

I'm So Glad We'll Have More Time Together

When The Carol Burnett Show first aired on CBS fifty years ago today, on September 11, 1967, few of us probably could imagine a date in 2017, way into the 21st Century, or the show's long-lasting impact.

Even Carol herself was just initially thinking of the show on a short-term basis -- because the show was actually an unintended result of a little-noticed clause in Burnett’s contract for The Garry Moore Show wherein CBS promised the musical comedy actress her own program.  But from such inauspicious beginnings, Burnett and her talented ensemble cast of Harvey Korman, Tim Conway, Vicki Lawrence and Lyle Waggoner soon became a hit, averaging 30 million viewers per week and ultimately winning 25 Emmy Awards.

And now, even though The Carol Burnett Show has been off the air for several generations, Burnett told me in a 2012 interview that she still gets mail "from teenagers -- even 11-year-olds -- who write me because they've seen individual sketches on YouTube.  They're the sweetest letters, saying 'We heard about this show from our parents' or 'our grandparents. We wish we could have been there at the beginning.'"

The timing of the 50th Anniversary celebration is part of a perfect Carol Burnett storm happening in 2017, reminiscent of the big year another then-octogenarian icon, Betty White, experienced in 2010.  In July, Netflix announced a new unscripted series, A Little Help with Carol Burnett, in which the comedy legend joins a panel of 4- to 8-year old kids to give life advice.  And this past spring, Carol shot the pilot for Household Name, a multi-camera sitcom in which she plays a deliciously haughty 92-year-old movie queen living with a non-showbiz family in her Los Angeles manse; having attended the May pilot taping, I can attest that the show was hilarious, which is why it was surprising when ABC did not pick it up to series at the time of its May upfront presentation.  Still, the show is currently being redeveloped by its creator, Michael Saltzman, and the network, which was thrilled with Carol's work, hopes to pick it up in the future. 

There have been studies in the past showing that in bad economic times, comedy flourishes; and someday, I'm sure, sociologists will study 2017, and see how the anxiety of the Trump era drove us all towards the comfort of safe, nostalgic programming.  Netflix already has had several seasons of success with its Fuller House, and now this season on the broadcast networks we have upcoming reboots of '90s sitcoms Roseanne and Will & Grace.  Just the other day, ABC picked up a pilot for a new version of its 1981 show Greatest American Hero -- which wasn't even a hit in its day, but remains beloved by its fans nonetheless -- this time with a female, Indian-American lead.  Suddenly, everything old is new again.

And so this December 3, CBS is celebrating the Golden Anniversary of The Carol Burnett Show -- a little late, but perfectly timed to catch us in a nostalgic, holiday mood.  The star-studded tribute will tape next month in Los Angeles.  Below, CBS' press announcement about the special honoring their comedy icon.


Sept. 7, 2017

CBS CELEBRATES THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE CLASSIC, AWARD-WINNING COMEDY PROGRAM “THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW”
WITH A NEW STAR-STUDDED TWO-HOUR SPECIAL

“The Carol Burnett 50th Anniversary Special” to Air Sunday, Dec. 3

CBforRelease5

Carol Burnett, Original Cast Members Vicki Lawrence and Lyle Waggoner, Costume Designer Bob Mackie, along with Celebrities Jim Carrey, Kristin Chenoweth, Stephen Colbert, Harry Connick Jr., Bill Hader, Jay Leno, Jane Lynch, Bernadette Peters, Maya Rudolph, Martin Short and More Will Commemorate the Groundbreaking Show

CBS will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Carol Burnett’s classic, award-winning comedy series with THE CAROL BURNETT 50TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL, a new two-hour star-studded event featuring Burnett, original cast members and special guests, on Sunday, Dec. 3 (8:00-10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

Filming on Stage 33 at CBS Television City in Los Angeles, the show’s original soundstage, Burnett will reminisce about her favorite sketches, Q&As with the studio audience, guest stars, her memorable wardrobe and bloopers, as well as the tremendous effect the show continues to have on television today as a true pioneer of sketch comedy.

“I can’t believe how fast the time went, and what makes me the happiest is that so much of the funny stuff we did still holds up today, and we can share it with generations to come,” said Carol Burnett. “What a great ride!”

“‘The Carol Burnett Show’ was a comedy showcase that was years ahead of its time. If social media existed then, clips from the broadcast would have quickly gone viral,” said Leslie Moonves, Chairman and CEO, CBS Corporation. “We are very proud of the show’s significant place in CBS’ legacy, as well as in television history, and we look forward to this primetime celebration of incredible talent, led by the incomparable Carol Burnett.”

The special will also feature original cast members Vicki Lawrence and Lyle Waggoner, costume designer Bob Mackie, as well as other comedians, comic actors and friends, including Jim Carrey, Kristin Chenoweth, Stephen Colbert, Harry Connick Jr., Bill Hader, Jay Leno, Jane Lynch, Bernadette Peters, Maya Rudolph and Martin Short, among others, who will join Burnett to discuss how the revolutionary series paved the way for them and impacted their careers.

“The Carol Burnett Show” premiered on Sept. 11, 1967 and starred Carol Burnett, Harvey Korman, Vicki Lawrence, Lyle Waggoner and Tim Conway. Airing for 11 seasons and a total of 276 episodes, the show earned a total of 25 Primetime Emmy Awards, including three for Outstanding Variety-Music/Comedy Series. In addition, the show earned eight Golden Globe Awards, including one for Best Television Show – Comedy or Musical, and Burnett received four for Best Actress – Comedy or Musical.

THE CAROL BURNETT 50TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL will be produced for television by dick clark productions. Carol Burnett, Steve Sauer, Allen Shapiro, Mike Mahan, Mark Bracco, Paul Miller and Leslie Kolins Small are executive producers. Paul Miller directs.

CHEAT TWEET: Celebrate the 50th anniversary of #TheCarolBurnettShow! 2-hour star studded special event on Dec. 3! #CarolBurnett50

Friday, August 18, 2017

Final Episodes of Episodes

Matt LeBlanc at Episodes season 5
premiere screening, Paley Center for Media
Beverly Hills, CA, August 16, 2017
Photo by Imeh Bryant /
 The Paley Center for Media
This Sunday, August 20, Showtime's brilliant comedy Episodes returns for its fifth and final season, of seven...well, episodes.  And having seen the screening of the first two installments of the season at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills the other night, I can tell you the show is back in fine form.  (In fact, while episode 1 was very, very funny, episode 2 is one of the series' best, right on par with the revelation of the "artwork" in Merc's blind ex-wife's living room.  Episode 2 was so screamingly funny that I actually missed some lines, drowned out by audience laughter, and will have to watch again.)

We pick up season 5 right where the season 4 left off:  Sean (Stephen Mangan) and Beverly (Tamsin Greig) are stuck working for their odious former assistant Tim (Bruce Mackinnon), who is now the showrunner on the new series he and Sean once came up with together.  Matt LeBlanc is hosting a cheesy game show for his old network, uneasily working with its producer, his nemesis Merc (John Pankow).  Having been fired after her affair with her boss Helen (Andrea Savage), Carol (Kathleen Rose Perkins) is wallowing in seclusion at home.  And Morning?  (Mircea Monroe)  We don't know where she is yet -- but as Episodes' creator/writer/producers David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik revealed that night, she returns in episode 3.

Episodes creators/writers/producers
Jeffrey Klarik (l) and David Crane
Paley Center for Media, Beverly Hills
August 16, 2017
Photo by Imeh Bryant /
 The Paley Center for Media
As Crane and Klarik long ago revealed, they had the idea for their show years ago, after a bad experience working with CBS on their underappreciated sitcom The Class.  While they were pitching their show to the BBC, they deliberately set it in Hollywood, thinking -- wrongly, it turns out -- that they'd have to shoot it in L.A.  But ironically, the budget said otherwise.  And even with the injection of funds from partnering with Showtime, the producers found themselves recreating the look of L.A. in London, and living in the U.K. for up to six months to produce each season.  (Limited exterior shooting, plus post-production, is then done in real-life Los Angeles.)

For Sean and Beverly's show-within-the-show, Klarik and Crane -- partners in both writing and life -- wanted to take a smart, prototypical British setting, and dumb it down the way an American network might.  So they started with History Boys -- and then Klarik had an epiphany:  "Hockey!"  Having co-created and -produced all those seasons of Friends, Crane knew just who to approach to play a teacher as far as one can get from British propriety:  Matt LeBlanc.  (When that was revealed on the panel following Wednesday night's screening, LeBlanc feigned insult.  But both writers also revealed that had LeBlanc said no, they would have opted not to proceed with Episodes.  Well, Klarik joked, "maybe with David Schwimmer.")
Episodes panel at The Paley Center for Media, August 16, 2017:
l-r, creators David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik, stars Mircea Monroe,
Kathleen Rose Perkins and Matt LeBlanc,
 moderator Jarett Wieselman of Buzzfeed News
Episodes cast and creators
The Paley Center for Media, Beverly Hills
August 16, 2017
Photo by Imeh Bryant /
 The Paley Center for Media

Other burning questions arose on the panel, such as Morning's real age (even Klarik and Crane don't know, and we love it that way); Myra's constipated noises (which actress Daisy Haggard performs brilliantly, and which Klarik sweetens even more with his own whines in post-production); and Carol's attraction to authority figures, whether they be male or female (a plot point which Perkins says she was told as far back as season 1, and couldn't wait to play.)  And while fans have speculated for seasons now whether the characters of Merc, Carol, Myra, Andy (Joseph May) and others might correlate to any real-life network execs, Crane and Klarik do admit that two characters, Sean and Beverly, are directly modeled on real people -- namely, them.


"I'm like Sean, thinking the glass is half-full," Crane says.  Then, pointing to Klarik, he adds, "And he thinks the glass is an idiot."

David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik on Episodes panel
The Paley Center for Media, Beverly Hills
August 16, 2017


Episodes returns to Showtime Sunday, August 20 at 10 PM Eastern/Pacific

Friday, August 11, 2017

Dear Will and Grace

The cast of Will & Grace with its
episode 2 guest star, l-r:
Eric McCormack, Megan Mullally,
Ben Platt, Debra Messing, Sean Hayes
Photo by Chris Haston, NBC
Amid the excitement about not just the reboot of Will & Grace, but the announcement -- before an episode had even been shot -- that the show has been picked up for a 13-episode second season, now comes word that the show has booked the star of Broadway's Dear Evan Hansen, Ben Platt, fresh off his Tony win for Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical.

Will & Grace taped its first episode this past Wednesday night, and on Thursday morning, the cast convened for a "table read" of episode two.  That's when the cast took a beaming photo with guest star Platt, and tweeted out the news to fans.

NBC sent out the following press release as well, with news about the show and episode, which will air Thursday, October 5 at 9PM Eastern/Pacific.:

The cast of “Will & Grace” announced Ben Platt’s guest starring appearance below:
Will & Grace: https://instagram.com/p/BXoF_cKldtb/Eric McCormack: https://twitter.com/ericmccormack/status/895742083704561664Sean Hayes: https://instagram.com/p/BXoGNE8Au3e/ 
ABOUT BEN PLATTPlatt won a Tony Award earlier this year for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical for his role in “Dear Evan Hansen,” which captured the Tony for Best Musical.  “Dear Evan Hansen” was a huge winner at the Tonys and won six awards in all.  In addition to taking home the Tony, Ben also won the Drama League Award for distinguished Performance making him the youngest actor to have won the coveted award.  Ben was awarded an Obie and Lucille Lortel Award as well as  nominations for Outer Critics Circle and Drama League awards for his performance in the Off Broadway run.  Prior to his award winning turn as Evan Hansen, Platt made his Broadway debut in  the musical, “The Book of Mormon.” On the big screen, Platt has co-starred in both “Pitch Perfect” and “Pitch Perfect 2” as well as “Ricki and the Flash”, “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” and the soon to be released “Drunk Parents.”
ABOUT “WILL & GRACE”A decade after their unforgettable eight-season run, Debra Messing, Eric McCormack, Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally reprise their infamous roles in “Will & Grace” in a 16-episode event. In addition, at NBC’s recent Television Critics Assn. day, the network also ordered a 13-episode second season.  The legendary James Burrows, director of every original “Will & Grace” episode, returns along with a slew of razor-sharp jabs and dirty martinis. Behold once again, from the minds of Max Mutchnick and David Kohan, TV’s wittiest ensemble ever.  Max Mutchnick and David Kohan will write and executive produce. Tim Kaiser, Alex Herschlag, Tracy Poust & Jon Kinnally also executive produce. James Burrows will direct and executive produce. “Will & Grace” is produced by Universal Television.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Andy Cohen's Love Connection renewed for season 2 on Fox

It had been decades since the original Love Connection had aired in original syndication, and I admit that when I first heard that Fox would be reviving the series for a run this summer, I was skeptical it would work.

For one thing, ever since the show's original host, Chuck Woolery, took to twitter and other social media, his horrible, right-wing politics have come to the fore.  And so my memories of Love Connection had become tainted.

But then Fox announced that the show's new host and executive producer would be Andy Cohen, whose charm and style have launched not only his talk show Watch What Happens Live! on Bravo but now a burgeoning empire that includes Sirius XM's Radio Andy and his several hit volumes of published memoirs.  And in just the show's short first-season run, some other welcomed changes have become apparent; for the first time this summer, Love Connection featured a same-sex couple.

This morning, Fox announced its pickup of Love Connection for a second season, with no timeframe or air dates yet revealed.  Details below:


“LOVE CONNECTION” RENEWED FOR SECOND SEASON ON FOX

Andy Cohen Returns as Host and Co-Executive Producer

An All-New Episode Airs Tonight at 9/8c on FOX

LOVE CONNECTION has been renewed for a second season, it was announced today by Rob Wade, President, Alternative Entertainment and Specials, Fox Broadcasting Company. Andy Cohen will return as host and co-executive producer for Season Two, along with executive producer Mike Fleiss (“The Bachelor”).

“Andy Cohen is a phenomenal host, not only because he has brought so much fun to the show but also because he truly wants these participants to find love, and that genuine level of interest enables him to elicit both touching and hilariously awkward dating moments from them,” said Wade. “I’d also like to thank Mike Darnell and Mike Fleiss, who, along with Andy, have helped redefine this show.”

"This show fits like a glove and I can't wait to make more love connections," said Cohen.

“We are excited for a second season of LOVE CONNECTION,” said Mike Darnell President, Warner Bros. Unscripted & Alternative Television. “Andy Cohen is a natural provocateur and is beloved by so many for his uncanny ability to bring out the most revealing details about the couples and their dates.” 

In tonight’s all-new episode of LOVE CONNECTION, “Devilish in a Blue Dress,” airing at 9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT, singles Adam Menchaca and Casey Tatum dish the dirt on some of the best, worst and awkward moments of their dates in front of host Andy Cohen and the live studio audience. Alex recounts a match who led him on a cemetery outing, while Casey reveals what happened when her date got a little too drunk.

The revival of the dating show sends hopeful singles on three dates in order to ditch the apps and find true love. Each hour of LOVE CONNECTION features single men and/or women in search of romance. They tell Cohen exactly what they're looking for in a partner and why they've found it so hard to meet Mr. or Mrs. Right.

LOVE CONNECTION is produced by Warner Horizon Unscripted & Alternative Television and NEXT Entertainment in association with Telepictures Productions. Mike Fleiss, Martin Hilton, James Breen and Jason Ehrlich serve as executive producers. Andy Cohen serves as a co-executive producer. “Like” LOVE CONNECTION on Facebook at facebook.com/loveconnectionfox/. Follow the series on Twitter @loveconnection and join the discussion using #LoveConnection.


Thursday, August 3, 2017

Will & Grace already renewed -- but minus one key character

Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti proclaims
August 2, 2017 "Will & Grace Day"
at Universal Studios Hollywood.
l-r, NBC president Bob Greenblatt,
L.A. mayor Garcetti, W&G creators
Max Mutchnick and David Kohan,
stars Eric McCormack, Debra Messing,
Megan Mullally and Sean Hayes, and
director Jimmy Burrows.
Photo by Chris Haston/NBC
At today's panel for the revival of Will & Grace at the Television Critics of America (TCA) convention in Beverly Hills, things started with a bang -- the announcement that not only has the episode order for season 1 been increased to 16 (from the original 10, then 12), but the show has already been renewed for a second season.

Ever since the announcement of the revival -- and even before, with the debut of the #VoteHoney video that the cast members and producers made to get out the vote last fall -- Will & Grace has been drawing major buzz.  Yesterday, Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti attended the inauguration of the show's new stage 22 at Universal Studios, accompanied by the cast, fanfare and confetti.

The show's producers have stated that they intend to work around the original W&G series finale -- by pretending it didn't ever happen.  Other than that, they were mum on most details, including the returns of recurring characters, guest stars, etc.  Could Cher appear?  Maybe, but it's not set up yet.  Harry Connick, Jr.'s Leo, they confirmed, will be back. Leslie Jordan's Beverley Leslie?  Others?  Talks are ongoing.

But the one piece of bad news I received personally after the panel:  despite appearing in the VoteHoney video, Shelley Morrison has decided to retire, and will not be reprising her character of Rosario at all on the series.  "It's a Larry Bird type of retirement, not a Michael Jordan retirement," David said -- completely confusing fans like me, but I'm sure that analogy makes sense to straight fans out there.  :)  (I'm told it means that Shelley's retirement is complete, and she really can't be persuaded to return.)

Will & Grace's now 16-episode 1st season debuts on NBC on Thursday, September 28.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Outlander season 3 -- FIRST LOOK

This afternoon at the Television Critics (TCA) convention in Beverly Hills, Starz released new information and a first-look video at season 3 of its smash series Outlander.  The video, titled "Parallel Lives," features new footage and cast interviews.




Outlander season 3 debuts on Starz on Sunday, September 10 at 8 PM ET/PT.


About “Outlander” Season Three
The third season of “Outlander” picks up right after Claire (Caitriona Balfe) travels through the stones to return to her life in 1948. Now pregnant with Jamie’s (Sam Heughan) child, she struggles with the fallout of her sudden reappearance and its effect on her marriage to her first husband, Frank (Tobias Menzies). Meanwhile, in the 18th century, Jamie suffers from the aftermath of his doomed last stand at the historic battle of Culloden, as well as the loss of Claire. As the years pass, Jamie and Claire attempt to make a life apart from one another, each haunted by the memory of their lost love. The budding possibility that Claire can return to Jamie in the past breathes new hope into Claire’s heart… as well as new doubt. Separated by continents and centuries, Claire and Jamie must find their way back to each other. As always, adversity, mystery, and adventure await them on the path to reunion. And the question remains: When they find each other, will they be the same people who parted at the standing stones, all those years ago?

Diana Gabaldon’s eight-book Outlander series has sold more than 28 million copies worldwide and all the books have graced the New York Times best-sellers list. The “Outlander” series spans the genres of history, science fiction, romance and adventure in one amazing tale. The second season of “Outlander” won the Critics’ Choice Award for 
Most Bingeworthy Show, and four People’s Choice Awards, including Favorite TV Show.

Ronald D. Moore, Maril Davis, Matthew B. Roberts, Toni Graphia, Anne Kenney and Andy Harries serve as executive producers of “Outlander,” which is produced by Tall Ship Productions, Story Mining & Supply Company and Left Bank Pictures in association with Sony Pictures Television.

“Outlander” Online
For more information, go to the official Outlander Facebook Page and follow @Outlander_Starz on Twitter and Instagram. Join the conversation with #Outlander and #STARZ.


Starz Announces Stephenie Meyer's The Rook

Breaking news from the Television Critics (TCA) Convention in Beverly Hills:  Starz has announced the pickup of a series based on Twilight author Stephenie Meyers' supernatural spy thriller, The Rook, to be distributed internationally.  Press release below.
      

EMBARGOED UNTIL 2:30 PM PT/5:30 PM ET, JULY 28TH 2017

Lionsgate and Liberty Global Partner on Supernatural Spy Thriller The Rook for Premium Pay Platform STARZ
Twilight Creator Stephenie Meyer and Television Icon Stephen Garrett to Executive Produce New Premium Series
Series Will Debut on STARZ Platform in the U.S. and Across Liberty Global’s International Platforms in Europe, Latin America & the Caribbean
Santa Monica and Beverly Hills, CA, and London, UK – July 28, 2017 – Starz President and Chief Executive Officer Chris Albrecht announced today that STARZ has picked up the supernatural spy thriller The Rook, produced by a ground-breaking partnership between global content leader Lionsgate (NYSE: LGF.A, LGF.B) and Liberty Global (NASDAQ: LBTYA, LBTYB, LBTYK, LILA and LILAK), the world’s largest international TV and broadband company.  The Rook is a premium series executive produced byTwilight Saga creator Stephenie Meyer, with industry icon Stephen Garrett serving as showrunning Executive Producer.  The announcement was part of Starz’s presentation to the Television Critics Association (TCA).  
The series will air on the STARZ platform in the U.S. beginning next year.  At the same time, Liberty Global will feature the series exclusively on demand across its footprint in Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean.  Lionsgate will distribute the series worldwide.
A riveting supernatural thriller about a young woman pursued by shadowy paranormal adversaries while grappling with extraordinary abilities of her own, The Rook is executive produced by Ms. Meyer (The Twilight Saga, Lionsgate’s upcoming Down A Dark HallAustenland and The Host) and producing partner Meghan Hibbett under their Fickle Fish production banner.
An accomplished producer in both television and film, Stephen Garrett will serve as showrunning Executive Producer under his Character 7 banner.  Garrett most recently served as Executive Producer on the award-winning and ratings hit, The Night ManagerThe Rook is adapted and co-produced by award-winning playwrights and screenwriters Sam Holcroft (Rules for Living) and Al Muriel (Precious & Rich) based on the novel by Daniel O’Malley.
“A high-end series aimed right at the sweet spot of our audience, The Rook is a great addition to a STARZ slate loaded with the most exciting new and returning series offered by any platform anywhere,” said Albrecht. “We are thrilled to add the talents of Stephen Garrett and Stephenie Meyer to our creative family and forge our partnership with the Lionsgate Television Group and Liberty Global. The Rook is instantly addictive from the very first scene and introduces what we believe will be one of the most fascinating and thrilling female protagonists on television.”
“Stephenie is one of the world’s great creative talents, and Stephen has an incredible track record in bringing remarkable stories to the screen,” said Lionsgate Television Group Chairman Kevin Beggs and President of Worldwide Television & Digital Distribution Jim Packer.  The Rook is a major premium property driven by an amazing creative team, and it’s not only a terrific addition to the STARZ platform but the perfect series to launch a content alliance with our friends at Liberty Global.”
The Rook is another important step in Liberty Global’s premium scripted content strategy. Shot in the UK, this project is a perfect fit for Virgin Media as well as our other European markets,” said Liberty Global chief programming officer Bruce Mann. “The series, which we look forward to making available exclusively to millions of Liberty Global subscribers worldwide, is an amazing supernatural thriller which we are excited to have in the hands of an elite creative showrunner like Stephen Garrett.  We’re also delighted to be partnering with our good friends at Lionsgate and Starz.”
“Everything starts with great writing,” said Character 7’s Executive Chairman Stephen Garrett.  “To be conspiring on The Rook in partnership with Stephenie based on a book that is as dazzling as it is surprising and working with the talented team of Sam and Al, is the perfect springboard for thrilling television. The teams at Lionsgate, Starz and Liberty Global are great champions of creativity, and we’re looking forward to partnering with them.”
The Rook tells the story of a young woman who wakes up in a London park suffering total amnesia – surrounded by dead bodies, all wearing latex gloves. Pursued by shadowy paranormal adversaries, grappling with peculiar ‘abilities’ of her own, she must fight to uncover her past, and resume her position at the head of Britain’s most secret (supernatural) service… before the traitors who stole her memory can finish what they started.
About Stephenie Meyer
Ms. Meyer has gained worldwide recognition for her original and captivating stories that have paved the way for a new generation of women heroes, and her blockbuster Twilight Saga film franchise, which she created and produced, grossed $3.5 billion at the worldwide box office.  The Twilight films were based on her acclaimed book series which has sold over 100 million copies in more than 50 countries and been translated into 37 languages.  She also co-produced The Host, based on her #1 New York Times best-seller, andAustenland with Hibbett.  They are producing an adaptation of Lois Duncan’s teen classic Down A Dark Hall, starring Uma Thurman and AnneSophie Robb, with Temple Hill’s Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey, for Lionsgate.
Ms. Meyer was the best-selling author of 2008 and 2009 in the U.S., selling over 29 million books in 2008 and another 26.5 million in 2009.  USA Today named Ms. Meyer “Author of the Year” in 2008, noting that she swept the top four slots on the USA Today best-seller book list, something that no one else had done in 15 years.  Ms. Meyer accomplished this feat again in 2009.
About Character 7
As an accomplished producer with an eye for pedigree material, Stephen Garrett most recently served as Executive Producer of “The Night Manager.”  The series marked the first under his Character 7 production company, which is based in Los Angeles and London for high-end television and film projects.  A ratings and critical success, “The Night Manager” was done in collaboration with The Ink Factory, and garnered multiple Emmy and Golden Globe Awards.  The Character 7 team also includes Head of Development Michele Wolkoff, who works closely with Garrett on the company’s expanding slate of projects.  Wolkoff joined the company last year having most recently led development for The Mark Gordon Company as Head of Film where she oversaw a robust slate as well.

Prior to Character 7, Garrett was Founder and Executive Chairman of Kudos, the UK’s leading independent producer of TV drama.   While running the company, he and his team galvanized British television with popular and acclaimed shows including the BAFTA-winning “Spooks” (based on Garrett’s original idea), “Hustle,” “Life on Mars,” Frank Spotnitz’s “Hunted,” and ITV’s hit “Broadchurch.” 

About Lionsgate
The first major new studio in decades, Lionsgate is a global content platform whose films, television series, digital products and linear and over-the-top platforms reach next generation audiences around the world.  In addition to its filmed entertainment leadership, Lionsgate content drives a growing presence in interactive and location-based entertainment, gaming, virtual reality and other new entertainment technologies.  Lionsgate’s content initiatives are backed by a 16,000-title film and television library and delivered through a global licensing infrastructure.  The Lionsgate brand is synonymous with original, daring and ground-breaking content created with special emphasis on the evolving patterns and diverse composition of the Company’s worldwide consumer base.  
About Starz
Starz (www.starz.com), a Lionsgate company (NYSE: LGF.A, LGF.B), is a leading global media and entertainment company that provides premium subscription video programming on domestic U.S. pay television networks and produces and distributes content for worldwide audiences, including its investment in the STARZ PLAY Arabia OTT service. Starz is home to the flagship STARZ® brand and STARZ ENCORE channels and provides high-quality, entertaining premium subscription video programming with 17 premium pay TV channels and associated on-demand and online services, including the STARZ app. Sold through U.S. multichannel video distributors, including cable operators, satellite television providers, telecommunications companies, and other online and digital platforms, Starz offers subscribers more than 5,000 distinct premium television episodes and feature films every year and up to 1,500 every month, including STARZ Original series, first-run movies and other popular movie and television programming.
About Liberty Global

Liberty Global is the world’s largest international TV and broadband company, with operations in more than 30 countries across Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean. We invest in the infrastructure that empowers our customers to make the most of the digital revolution. Our scale and commitment to innovation enable us to develop market-leading products delivered through next-generation networks that connect our 25 million customers who subscribe to over 50 million television, broadband internet and telephony services. We also serve over 10 million mobile subscribers and offer WiFi service across 6 million access points.

Liberty Global’s businesses are comprised of two stocks: the Liberty Global Group (NASDAQ: LBTYA, LBTYB and LBTYK) for our European operations, and the LiLAC Group (NASDAQ: LILA and LILAK, OTC Link: LILAB), which consists of our operations in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Liberty Global Group operates in 11 European countries under the consumer brands Virgin Media, Unitymedia, Telenet and UPC. The Liberty Global Group also owns 50% of VodafoneZiggo, a Dutch joint venture, which has 4 million customers, 10 million fixed-line subscribers and 5 million mobile subscribers. The LiLAC Group operates in over 20 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean under the consumer brands VTR, Flow, Liberty, Más Móvil and BTC. In addition, the LiLAC Group operates a sub-sea fiber network throughout the region in over 30 markets.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

June Foray, 1917-2017

with my husband Frank DeCaro and
voiceover legend June Foray at a party
in Beverly Hills for the Archive of
American Television.
June 4, 2007.
It was in 2001, when I was assigned to write a TV Guide tribute to the then-recently departed animation giant William Hanna, when I first got to meet June Foray, herself perhaps the giant in the field of voiceover acting.

During our phone interview, June delighted me with snippets from her amazing career -- lines from the Warner Brothers cartoons' Witch Hazel and Granny, from Rocky of Rocky & Bullwinkle, from Cindy Lou Who in How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  A Massachusetts native, Foray ended up with a
Hollywood career that spanned seven decades, working well into her late nineties.

Foray died yesterday in Los Angeles, just two months short of her 100th birthday.  In celebration of her long and storied career -- she even once provided barks for little Ricky's dog Fred on I Love Lucy! -- below is a chunk of our interview from 16 years ago.  At the time, June was 83, and still in huge demand as an actor.  She talks lovingly and at length about Bill Hanna -- because that was the purpose for our interview.  But along the way, June provided a glimpse into her own amazing life.


I started my career in radio, and was put under contract at Capitol Records, and that’s how Disney heard about me.  I did a cat in Cinderella.  I had also done a witch character for Disney, in a short called “Trick or Treat.”  Chuck Jones loved the witch I did, and the next thing I knew I was called over to MGM where Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera were working under producer Fred Quimby.  So I did a Tom and Jerry called “The Flying Sorceress.”
 They were two charming young men, creative, really symbolic of everything that animation stands for.  The writing was good – Bill Hanna did a lot of it, and he was most empathetic to all creatures, whether they were human or anthropomorphic.  So I did several works for them, and that was before they of course had their own company.
 Then I think they opened Hanna Barbera in about 1958.  They of course had the first nighttime series, and that was The Flintstones.  And Jay Ward was very upset about that, because we had started recording Rocky and His Friends in 1959 and Jay had hoped that his would be the first nighttime series, but Hanna Barbera beat them.  Joe and Bill were so original in their thinking, as you can see – their characters are lasting creatures and their series just keep going ona nd on and on – on Cartoon Network, on Nickelodeon.

Bill was a very thoughtful man with a wonderful personality.  Just a couple of years before he died, he wrote another thing as a witch for me – he never forgot.  He was most kind to everybody who worked with him, I understand – the animators, the writers.  He was certainly an ideologically correct man.  Everything was for the good, and there was nothing evil in his characters.

He had suffered so many ailments physically – at first it didn’t impair him at all, and he would travel, go to Australia.  I think they had a studio there.  He was very valiant in his progression of what he wanted to do, and what he felt that he had to do for animation.  And of course Joe was quite a promoter.  I think Joe did most of the PR, and Bill did most of the writing.  Joe occasionally in the beginning would direct the actors.  Bill was always behind the scenes.  It was Joe who was more forthcoming as far as his appearances were concerned.  Bill was sort of in the background, but he was phenomenal, really, in his thinking.  He was gentle and kind – I know everybody I talk to who has worked with him, writers and animators, feel that there was just this synthesis of a producer.  Here was a man who was creative in his writing and his animating, and yet he was business wise, which has really paid off, because of course Ted Turner bought Hanna Barbera and then of course AOL bought Warner’s.

Over the years, I did Jokey Smurf for about eight years, with Gordon Hunt as the voice director.  Bill never showed up at any of the recordings, but you knew his presence was there.  I was in A Man Called Flintstone.  I did Cindy Lou Who in How The Grinch Stole Christmas, which I can still do, and it’s altogether different from the low voices I usually do, so you might not know it was the same person.  I do Granny in the “Tweety and Sylvester” cartoons, and we recently recorded some fun parodies:  3 with me as “Judge Granny,” a parody of Judge Judy, and two takeoffs of Survivor, where they finally kicked Granny off the island.
In designing their characters, I’m sure many writers for animation do take on the proportions and the look of the actors who play them.  I’m not sure if Bill Hanna did that or not, but I know that Disney did, and I know that Chuck Jones did, in a lot of the things that I did for them.  In fact, I have a marvelous drawing that Chuck Jones did of me once, because I started when I was very young.  Chuck drew a picture of me, he’s at the drawing board, and it’s a pic of me naked, looking like Witch Hazel looked in the end of the short, when she became beautiful after drinking the wrong cup of tea.
At home, I have a rubber doormat of Witch Hazel with Bugs Bunny..  But I have it framed – I would never use it as a doormat!  I have all kinds of Granny items with Tweety and Sylvester, and of Witch Hazel.  I don’t know where they are, though, at the moment – which is a shame!
I’ve been on Entertainment Tonight and Showbiz Today and a lot of shows, but it’s amazing to me how many people ask for my autograph.  They recognize me, and not just from my voice – it just astounds me.  In fact, yesterday I went to the Motion Picture Hospital for a mammogram, and was sitting in the waiting room and chatting with a lady I’d never met before.  She asked me what I do, and a man next to me said, “Oh my God, you’re June Foray – you made my week!”  I ended up entertaining the whole waiting room with the he different voices I knew.  Even the nurse asked for my autograph.

-- June Foray, December 6, 2001