As the midnight deadline passed in East Coast time zones, Fox and Time Warner Cable execs are still negotiating and Fox has yet to pull its stations and cable nets from Time Warner systems. Time Warner said it had received a "brief extension" for the channels in question, but it was unclear how long it that respite would last.
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By CYNTHIA LITTLETON
FCC chairman Julius Genachowski has weighed in on the Fox-Time Warner Cable retransmission consent drama, urging the sides to agree to a temporary extension to prevent Fox channels from going dark on Time Warner systems on Friday.
"Companies shouldn't force cable-watching football fans to scramble for other means of TV delivery on New Year's weekend," Genachowski said in a statement issued Thursday.
Fox and Time Warner are facing a deadline of midnight tonight for reaching a new carriage agreement covering 14 Fox-owned stations in nine markets, as well as FX and other cablers. The sides are continuing to negotiate today but they remain far apart on price for a new deal, with Fox seeking a monthly fee of $1 per subscriber for its broadcast retrans rights, while Time Warner's offer was about 30 cents.
Genachowski in his statement praised Sinclair Broadcast Group and cable operator Mediacom for agreeing to an eight-day extension on a deal that was to expire at midnight tonight.
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) has said he'll ask the FCC to mandate continued carriage if Fox stations go dark on Time Warner. A rep for Genachowski would not comment specifically on whether he would take those steps in the Fox-Time Warner case. But in regards to Sinclair-Mediacom, Genachowski's statement emphasized that "companies have to accept shared responsibility for protecting their audience's interests." He said that so long as Sinclair and Mediacom continue to negotiate "in good faith" he would not seek "a further continuation of carriage absent a new agreement between the parties."
Still, Genachowski's statement ratchets the pressure on Fox and TW to come to terms lest they face a political firestorm if the channels go dark. Time Warner went on the offensive on Wednesday, saying it would accept Kerry's suggestion that the sides submit to binding arbitration to settle the fee dispute.
Fox had no comment on Genachowski's statement. Time Warner said it agreed with the FCC chief. "We've done everything we can to reach a fair agreement, and now it's really up to Fox," TW said in a statement.
I'm getting freakishly excited about the return of "Lost" for its sixth and final season in a little more than a month. ABC has been stoking the fever nicely with its trailers and teasers for a few weeks now -- kudos to whoever chose Willie Nelson's beautifully spare rendition of "Amazing Grace" to accompany one of those blurbs.
Now ABC is mounting a "Lost" sweepstakes that promises to give 815 lucky winners a sneak peek at footage from the sixth-season opener and unseen footage from last season's finale. (Juliet, are you safe? Or blown to smithereens?)
To enter the contest, go to http://lostthefinalseasonsweepstakes.com.
As ABC's press release explains: "Upon registration, each contestant must answer six questions about the show, and are then automatically entered to win one of 815 “messages in a bottle.” The 815 winners will receive a “Lost” bottle containing a USB port that resembles character Desmond Hume’s fail-safe key. The key contains a video with a sneak peek at this season’s premiere – which will be the first time anyone will have seen this footage – along with scenes of last season’s finale. All prizes will be delivered on Friday, January 29."
The real prize comes Tuesday, Feb. 2, when we all get two hours of fresh "Lost," plus a recap spesh, for the first time since May. May! I've missed those guys...
TO: Glenn Britt, Time Warner Cable
Chase Carey, News Corp.
CC: All other execs involved
FROM: Cynthia Littleton, Variety
RE: New Year's Eve
Please allow me to make an eleventh-hour appeal on humanitarian grounds in the matter of the Fox Television Stations' retransmission consent negotiations.
I appreciate the complexity of the issues at stake for both companies, and I recognize that the best minds in both companies have been tackling the problem for some time. But I appeal to you in the spirit of fair play and revelry. The contract deadline of midnight Thursday, while understandable as being the close of the calendar year, puts us on a collision course with the hallowed tradition of ringing out the old and bringing in the new with a bang. I firmly believe it will cast a bad vibe on 2010 if the year starts with us engulfed in work rather than celebrating with family, friends and a glass (or three) of bubbly.
Let's face it -- the issues aren't going to change between 8 p.m. ET Thursday and 8 a.m. ET Friday. So if you can't come to terms before then, how about both sides agree to one of the following options: A) Call a 12-hour truce; B) Do what you gotta do well before midnight; C) Wait until dawn.
What I most want to avoid -- and I think I speak for many of my journalist colleagues -- is having to spend all night checking the Blackberry every few minutes and fielding dueling press releases.
I'm not taking sides in this fight, but I am compelled to note that I spent New Year's Eve '08 following the Time Warner Cable-Viacom carriage tussle. The post-midnight ET settlement agreement in that situation came just in time to blow my whole night. And this time around, my family has really cool plans for kicking up our heels at a certain theme park in Anaheim, Calif.
Thank you for your consideration. Believe me when I say I wish both sides the best of luck in the search for a mutually agreeable solution during the next two days.
Happy New Year,
"Ronna and Beverly," a project developed a comedy series for Showtime earlier this year by multihyphenates Jessica Chaffin and Jamie Denbo, will get a spin on Showtime on Monday at 9:05 p.m. ET/12:05 a.m. PT (Tuesday), and again on Showtime 2 at the same time on Dec. 29. Project is based on characters that Chaffin and Denbo have honed for years on stage.
Ronna, played by Chaffin (pictured right), and Beverly, played by Denbo (pictured left), are many-times-divorced, longtime friends who write a dating guide for Jewish singles, "You'll Do a Little Better Next Time," and are relentless about finding ways to promote their tome. (Think a Jewish "Ab Fab," set in Boston.) "Weeds" maven Jenji Kohan worked with Chaffin and Denbo on the half-hour pilot produced by Lionsgate TV.
Based on the strong buzz the "Ronna and Beverly" pilot generated (it made me laugh out loud more than once), it was something of a surprise that Showtime passed on ordering it to series. The upcoming airings are strictly an amortization move by Showtime, but Chaffin and Denbo are marshalling the power of Facebook et al and their friends in the comedy community to spread the word about "Ronna and Beverly's" TV bow.
Chaffin of late been working as a writer and thesp on CW's "90210," and she's a recurring character on the upcoming season of Showtime's "United States of Tara." Denbo will be seen regular on FX's upcoming gumshoe dramedy "Terriers," starring Donal Logue. But Chaffin and Denbo are going to take a page from Ronna and Beverly and work every angle to bring attention to their beloved characters.
Click here for a look at Denbo and Chaffin in action in earlier "Ronna and Beverly" vids (not the pilot) from FunnyorDie.com.
This vid holiday card has to be seen to be believed. Kudos to 20th chiefs Gary Newman and Dana Walden for having a serious sense of ho-ho humor.
Click here for a real treat, written by "Modern Family" papa Steve Levitan.
POSTED BY STUART LEVINE
Since the decade is about to end in a mere few days, I figured this was a good time to document my favorite shows of the 2000's.
As you can see, I skew more toward drama than comedy, but that doesn't mean I didn't have a good laugh in the 2000's. Shows that often had me on the floor include "Arrested Development," "30 Rock" and "Everybody Loves Raymond," just to name a few. With only 10 slots, however, they barely missed the cut.
Anyway, enjoy my list and let me know what you think. What did I miss? What do you agree wth?
10. Mad Men
Matt Weiner’s sometimes slow but always engrossing take on the politically incorrect 1960s workplace also acts as a history lesson, but minus the chalkboard and musty textbooks. Has there ever been a character as tortured as Jon Hamm’s Don Draper, who hid his troubled past as long as he could until wife January Jones finally learned the truth. Kudos to all the cast, but especially Elisabeth Moss, a woman wanting to move up in the working world and not waiting for a man’s approval to do it.
9. Curb Your Enthusiasm
Only the mind of Larry David could concoct such zany episodes, with the disparate stories all somehow reconnecting 30 minutes later. This last season especially, where he gathered the "Seinfeld" team in a pseudo-reunion, makes one realize how fortunate viewers are to have Larry continually find something that aggravates him. His brilliance is in separating “real” Larry vs. "Curb" Larry,
and making audiences believe they‘re both the same person.
8. The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
Ever since Jon Stewart took over Comedy Central’s nightly "news" show, there’s no way to watch the events of the day and not think about how Stewart and his remarkable team of writers and "reporters" will offer their unique spin. Sure, it leans to the political left — and you’ll enjoy it more if you do too — but that’s only because Stewart and his team find it nearly impossible to pass on such comic giants as George Bush and Sarah Palin.
The shipwrecked island thing has been done before, but nothing like this. Smoke monsters. Ben. The Others. Flash forwards. Hurley never losing weight. Exec producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse have created a pseudo-reality where nothing is ever as it seems and manipulations, treachery and backstabbing between friends is as common as a morning shower. And don’t dare miss an episode — what you missed in season 2 could have major implications in a plot development four years later. Can’t wait to see how it all wraps up in starting in February.
6. The Sopranos
For all the mafia rough-housing of the fellas on "The Sopranos," my favorite moments always involved Carmela — the show’s tour de force, Edie Falco. While some were afraid of Tony’s venom, and rightly so, it was Carmela who held the power in the Soprano family. One particular scene stays with me, where she and Tony have a balls-to-the-wall argument and she tells him their marriage is over. There were lots of great characters who hung out in front of Satriale’s pork store — particularly Christofuh, Paulie and Silvio — but it was the Carmela and Dr. Melfi who told the boys when to play nice, or not.
5. The West Wing
I’m still not sure Martin Sheen wasn’t actually the president. Aaron Sorkin’s presentation of the political process was done in such an entertaining style, that it almost made you made wish you had a career in Washington, D.C. Meticulously offering the inner workings of the White House and how those in the Administration sacrificed much of themselves for the benefit of the American people, “The West Wing” was all about public service, and how there are still some politicians who actually care.
4. The Shield
Whether Vic Mackey was a good cop or not all depends on your point of view. He did whatever it took to take criminals off the street, and if that meant killing one of his own or pocketing a few hundred grand along the way, so be it. The series that put FX on the map was superlative in its grittiness in depicting the mean streets of L.A. Michael Chiklis won an Emmy for his work on the first year of the show, and with the addition of such stellar work from little-known actors such as Jay Karnes and Walton Goggins, “The Shield” has set the bar for future cop shows awfully high.
3. Friday Night Lights
Sometimes television gems come along when you least expect them. NBC might have fumbled the marketing opportunities when “Friday Night Lights” first came on the air a few years bck, but the few fans who watched realized they were witnessing greatness. And they still are. Thanks to DirecTV and the fans at NBC who keep the show on the air , audiences have come to love everything about the citizens of Dillon, Texas — its students, coaches, administrators and, most of all, the families that make is home. How Kyle Chandler has not won an Emmy, much not even nominated, is a primetime disgrace.
The term genius shouldn’t be thrown around loosely, especially when it comes to television. Yet, David Milch’s vision of those ebullient gold rushers settling into camp in the Black Hills of South Dakota, circa 1890, was mesmerizing at every turn. While Milch’s dialogue was Shakespearean in its verse, the actors who delivered it captured the spirit of the words brilliantly. Kim Dickens, W. Earl Brown, Timothy Olyphant, Paula Malcomson and, especially, Ian McShane as Al Swearengen brought so much life to their characters, it was as if viewers were allowed to go back in time and see how this country was shaped … one whiskey shot at a time.
1. The Wire
Simply put, there has never been, nor will there ever be, a series as good as David Simon’s “The Wire.” The way Simon and his fellow creatives were able to capture the ills of a metropolitan city on the decline — Baltimore, in this case — through its drug pushers, police, mayoral office, school system and newspaper was to watch Picasso and Michelangelo paint. Impossible to pick a high point from five seasons, many will offer the tragic destiny of the corner boys in season four, yet how does not one single out Bunk, Avon, Prop Joe and, of course, Omar. When asking folks about “The Wire,” the response was often, “Yeah, I’ve never watched, but I hear it’s great. I need to get that on DVD.” Yes, you do. Now.
The tributes were for Steven Spielberg but Kirk Douglas was just as inspirational in his appearance at the Anti-Defamation League's gala Wednesday honoring Spielberg with its America's Democratic Legacy kudo.
He moves slower and his voice doesn't have the command it once did, but through his will and his good humor Douglas had the crowd in his palm as he spoke of visiting Oskar Schindler's grave in Israel and his fears for the generations who will follow him once he inevitably moves into "the void." And just as it got really serious and somber, he hammed it up over a challah loaf and made off with a carafe of wine. Then, in a moment I'll never forget, the entire International Ballroom sang "Happy Birthday," because today in fact marks the start of Douglas' 93rd year. Yes, 93.
As various speakers read off the list of Spielberg's personal, professional and philanthropic accomplishments, it was impossible not to be in awe of the man. As always he comes across as humble and down-to-Earth.
He called Drew Barrymore, who was among the evening's presenters, his "training wheels" for fatherhood during the making of "ET: The Extra-Terrestrial." He spoke of how he marvels at his children's ability to multi-task while doing homework and how he'd "put a stop to it" if only their grades weren't so good. And he made the larger point that in a world that moves ever-faster, with advances in communication and media coming at lightning speed, it's important not to lose sight of history, not to think that we're so enlightened, because "all the old evils still exist," and racism and intolerance "have found a new frightening home in cyberspace."
"We have to fight against the centrifugal forces of technology to slow the world down." This battle makes the ADL's central mission all the more important: "Defense of human dignity, and all human life," Spielberg said. Coming from the man who made "Schindler's List," "Munich," "Amistad," "Saving Private Ryan" and "Band of Brothers," who launched the Shoah Foundation, who lends his money and his name to innumerable worthy causes, it's not just talk.