Temporarily forgetting about falling ratings and challenged business models, TV’s five major networks last week unveiled dozens of new shows at the so-called upfronts — a series of presentations designed to kickstart advertising sales for the fall. But while broadcasters generally throw the splashiest events and generate the biggest headlines, their cable rivals also play the upfront game. Networks such as MTV, TNT, Adult Swim, and ABC Family have spent the last few months briefing potential ad buyers on their future programming plans. And unlike broadcasters, cable networks don’t just focus on stuff guaranteed to get on the air: They also offer glimpses at projects in early stages of development (some of which will never get off the ground). Here’s a look at some of the most notable scripted-series announcements from 12 major and medium-size cable networks that held upfront events this spring. (If you don’t see your favorite cable channel, it either didn’t have a formal presentation or didn’t unveil anything new.)
Reese Witherspoon is attached to tell a live-action version of Tinker Bell's story, The Hollywood Reporter writes. The project is in development, but, yes, in one of the more solid cartoon-to-live-action casting moves in recent memory, Witherspoon would play the titular fairy. Like the Peter Pan movie hitting theaters soon, this one also has a fun, one-word name: Tink. Finding Dory screenwriter Victoria Strouse is penning the screenplay, which will reportedly tell us the story we don't know (think Angelina Jolie's Maleficent). Drama. Most other details are under wraps for now, but Witherspoon is set to produce the film with Bruna Papandrea.
Paramount and the powers behind the Transformers films have finalized the writers' room for the franchise's forthcoming slew of sequels and spinoffs, Deadline reports. Michael Bay, Steven Spielberg, and Lorenzo di Bonaventura selected Akiva Goldsman roughly two months ago to ramp up more robots-in-disguise-fighting-robots-in-disguise movie ideas and to attract personnel. Here's the projected team thus far (and movies that they definitely aren't making): Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman (robots vs. zombies, please); Iron Man writers Art Marcum and Matt Holloway (robots vs. robots, maybe); Pacific Rim 2's Zak Penn (robots vs. kaiju, please); and Amazing Spider-Man 2's Jeff Pinkner (robots vs. spiders, please). More scribes will reportedly be added, so get ready to spend all of your future paychecks on endless movies about robots and things they may or may not want to blow up.
Oscar Isaac stars in the upcoming HBO miniseries Show Me a Hero as Nicholas Wasicsko, the young mayor of Yonkers, New York. The six-part series is created by David Simon of The Wire and, less thrillingly, Paul Haggis of Crash, and is based on a nonfiction book of the same title by Lisa Belkin, which explored the racial strife that emerged in the late '80s when citizens protested a federally mandated public housing project in the predominantly white part of town. The cast also includes Catherine Keener, Alfred Molina, Winona Ryder, LaTanya Richardson-Jackson, Bob Balaban, and Jim Belushi. Lots of angry white people will start yelling on August 16.
With all due respect to Mad Men and the marketing mavens at AMC, tonight’s departure of David Letterman from late night actually is the end of an era in television. No other host — not even Johnny Carson — has hosted a late-night show as long as he will have when he ends his 33-year career tonight. His creative impact on the medium is undeniable (as has been documented by several recent stories here on Vulture). But Letterman was hugely influential on the business side of television as well. Sure, peer and often nemesis Jay Leno generally drew bigger ratings and probably made more money for his bosses. Leno, however, was a caretaker figure: After Carson reluctantly passed him the torch, his job was to keep NBC’s late-night flame burning, to preserve the status quo. Save for a few bumpy years, Leno did exactly that, and exceedingly well. By contrast, Letterman was a disruptive force. Here’s why:
The new guy who will show the country embarrassing and hilarious clips as host of America's Funniest Home Videos will be none other than Alfonso Ribeiro, a.k.a. Carlton Banks, a.k.a. last season's king of Dancing With the Stars. Fittingly enough, the news was announced by the show's current host, Tom Bergeron, on tonight's finale of DWTS. Ribeiro will usher in the 26th season of the show, ABC's longest-running prime-time entertainment franchise, this fall. "After receiving hundreds of inquiries, stacks of video submissions, and a very close audition race, one smile, one funny and sincere delivery became our standout favorite — Alfonso Riberio," executive producer Vin Di Bona said in a statement. Amen. Long live Carlton and the Carlton. May they both enjoy a successful decade (at least!) of showing this nation how funny and clumsy it is.
The teasers for Fear of the Walking Dead haven't revealed much: We know we're in Los Angeles in the same universe as The Walking Dead, around when people think this might still be a "flu" outbreak. After a conference call with executive producer Robert Kirkman, we have a better sense of the rest of the log line: The main protagonists are Madison (Kim Dickens) and Travis (Cliff Curtis), two recently divorced L.A. schoolteachers who move in together and are "very much in love." They have kids from previous marriages: Madison has Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey), the golden child, and Nick (Frank Dillane), the college dropout. Cliff's son Chris will be played by Lorenzo James Henrie. While he didn’t drop any bombshells, Kirkman revealed more about Madison and Travis, explained how the walkers would look, and was clear that there was one mystery the show wouldn't dive into.
The Mindy Project is headed to Hulu. The streaming giant announced Friday what we first reported earlier this month, confirming it has ordered 26 episodes of Mindy Kaling’s former Fox comedy. Hulu and producer Universal Television say those episodes will comprise the fourth season of Mindy and that Hulu has an option to order more seasons. What they’re not yet saying is when the new episodes will debut and whether those 26 episodes will air as one long season or two shorter, 13-episode seasons (as industry insiders continue to believe will be the case). There’s also no word yet on whether Hulu will drop all episodes at once (as Netflix did when it picked up NBC’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) or roll them out on a weekly basis (as Yahoo! is doing with Community). Not surprisingly, Kaling issued a statement saying she was “thrilled” her show had been picked up by Hulu, where, as she noted, “so many of our fans are already watching the show.” Indeed, reruns of Mindy are already housed on Hulu, making the decision to order more originals pretty logical. Let’s just hope there’ll be at least some new episodes of the show to watch by the holidays, if only so we can break out our Wreath Witherspoon.
The Lonely Island's forthcoming movie — a musical parody with Judd Apatow producing that might have piqued your curiosity last year — has begun production in L.A. and found a story line worth sharing. THR writes that the film will feature the usual suspects (Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Schaffer) and parody boy bands and "fluffy music documentaries of recent years" — Justin Bieber and Katy Perry, they're looking at you. Their mockumentary-esque take will follow a rapper who reunites with his former boy band to administer damage control to a dud of an album. Do your worst, guys. (Also, give us a title when you have a sec.)
We know, you've watched a lot of trailers this week — but don't stop now! The CW had its upfront today, and while it's still the kid sibling to the big four, the glorious success of Jane the Virgin should at least make you curious. The CW only green-lit three new shows for its fall slate, but we have to say: They're a good-looking bunch. There's the one you might expect: DC's Legends of Tomorrow, as part of its ever-expanding superhero universe; a Contagion-like thriller called Containment; and an hour-long musical Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, directed by Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer). On to our snappy judgments:
Natalie Portman wants all your Oscars. Only days after it was announced that Portman would play Ruth Bader Ginsburg, she landed a starring role as another political icon: According to Variety, Portman will follow in the illustrious footsteps of Katie Holmes and Minka Kelly to play Jackie Kennedy in Pablo Larraín's Jackie. The film follows the former first lady in the four days following John F. Kennedy's assassination, a time period in which she "lost the love of her life but won the love of a nation." Better start practicing your "Did they just say my name?" face now, Natalie.
Harry Shearer, the voice of many characters on The Simpsons — including Mr. Burns, Ned Flanders, and Principal Seymour Skinner, among others — has indicated via Twitter that he won't be lending his prolific voice-acting talents to the seemingly immortal show any longer. In a pair of late-night tweets, Shearer quoted executive producer James L. Brooks's lawyer, saying, essentially, that he's leaving Springfield. The reason? Apparently Shearer wanted to balance some work elsewhere; his second tweet hints that such a notion wasn't taken very well.
CBS was the last of the major networks to show off their fall schedule for the 2015–16 season. As you might expect, the Big Eye is sticking with the tried and true: There are only four new shows debuting in the fall, including Limitless, getting a boost from Bradley Cooper, Jane Lynch in Angel From Hell, the family single-cam comedy Life in Pieces, and Supergirl. Here are the things we learned during their big presentation at Carnegie Hall:
The fun thing about American Crime Story casting season is remembering the rogues gallery of micro-celebrities who popped up during the O.J. Simpson trial. Up today: Simpson's football teammate and close friend A.C. Cowlings, whom Variety reports will be played by Malcolm-Jamal Warner in the upcoming miniseries. Cowlings is most famous for being behind the wheel of the white Ford Bronco that took police on that low-speed freeway chase on June 17, 1994. (O.J. had allegedly put a gun to his own head and demanded Cowlings help him flee police.) Unlike many figures from the trial, Cowlings has avoided the spotlight since then, which means Ryan Murphy is free to do basically anything with his character. A musical number set to Lana Del Rey's "Ride," perhaps?
Unveiling their new lineup to reporters Wednesday morning, CBS executives were their usual on-message selves: The Eye network is “strong,” “dominant,” “consistent,” and, dammit, not “old.” On that last point, company CEO Leslie Moonves bordered on indignant: “The idea of the old fogey network really should be put away forever,” he said, the mild frustration in his voice understandable, considering he’s been hammering away with this same message since at least 2003. But as much as Moonves and his top lieutenants stressed stability, the network’s fall schedule isn’t more of the same-old, same-old. In fact, it actually represents one of the more radical CBS lineups in years.
You may have noticed that the Avengers, DC Comics, and Star Wars all have cinematic universes that tie films together in increasingly complex and lucrative ways — why hasn't Fox done that for the X-Men? Fox apparently had the same thought: Deadline reports that the studio has hired Fault in Our Stars director Josh Boone to make a stand-alone film about the New Mutants, an X-Men spinoff group of international students from Charles Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters. The New Mutants are both more diverse and more "teen" than the regular X-Men, which producer Simon Kinberg said makes Boone "uniquely suited" to direct. He's already got The Vampire Chronicles and The Stand on his docket, though, so this New Mutants film is probably years away — anybody know any talented Vietnamese 10-year-olds who can play Karma?
According to Variety, Diego Luna has been cast in a lead role in the upcoming Star Wars spinoff, Rogue One. He'll reportedly play a Rebel soldier alongside the previously cast Felicity Jones and Riz Ahmed. (Bloodline's Ben Mendelsohn is rumored to be playing the villain.) The film takes place between Star Wars episodes III and IV, and tells the story of a Rebel mission to steal the plans for the Death Star — which, like Diego Luna's dreamy eyes, has often been confused with a moon.
Javier Bardem is a real-life Vincent Chase, and has been trying to play Pablo Escobar for years now. He's been forced to pull out every time, after, we assume, his childhood friend turned manager inevitably clashed with each film's talented-but-mercurial director. But likely thanks to a chance meeting with a Hollywood big shot, Bardem is now attached to star in Fernando León de Aranoa's upcoming biopic Escobar, based on Virginia Vallejo's memoir, Loving Pablo, Hating Escobar. That's right: Javier got the movie! Even better: Since Bardem's wife Penélope Cruz is also attached, there's a good chance his brother and driver get to come along as well. Oh yeah!
Tucked inside CBS's fall schedule announcement this morning was another surprise: Bradley Cooper will appear in the network's Limitless series, in a recurring role. As with his part in the Wet Hot American Summer prequel, it was generally assumed that Cooper was too famous to stop by the TV version of his moderately well-received 2011 film, but he apparently enjoyed playing mind-boosting drug addict Edward Mora enough to reprise his role for the series. (The fact that he's an executive producer on the show probably helped.) In the show, Cooper's character is now a senator who aims to use star Jake McDornan — who is also on mind-boosting drugs, natch — as his "protégé"; since this show is basically a serious Chuck, does that make him the new Scott Bakula?
Marvel has begun courting Ava DuVernay to direct one of its forthcoming "diverse movies," the Wrap reports. The comic-book studio apparently has her in mind for either Black Panther (their first movie with a lead superhero who isn't white) or Captain Marvel (their first movie with a lead superhero who isn't a man) — the former of which is supposed to be the more likely option, according to the Wrap's sources. If such a deal were to go through, DuVernay would not only be Marvel's first female director (after Patty Jenkins was taken off Thor: The Dark World), she'd also be the studio's first African-American helmer. Black Panther is set for 2018, and Captain Marvel is slated for 2019. In our ideal world, she'd obviously do both. But we realize that's crazy. Also, after what happened with Jenkins — and considering the amount of shade Joss Whedon has thrown at Marvel over the second Avengers — it'll be great if creative differences don't become an issue here and ruin even just one dose of potential awesomeness.