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It’s About Time: Joy as ‘Doctor Who’ Casts a Woman as Lead (Column)

16 July 2017 11:25 AM, PDT

Oh, thank goodness: Hooray for the casting of Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor on “Doctor Who.”

The last thing I wanted to write today was an angry screed about “Doctor Who.” I’ve been watching the show loyally for four decades; I’ve been through every up and down and alien invasion. No matter how much it may frustrate me in a given episode or a season, I love it so much. It’s about people without guns who roam around trying to do good and save people. With a screwdriver. At its best, “Doctor Who” irreverent, whip-smart and deeply humane.

So I was going to be disappointed and not a little furious if the Thirteenth Doctor was yet another white man.

For more than 50 years, every Doctor has been from that demographic, and of course, some versatile actors have done wonderful work in the role. I’d have a tough time picking my favorite: Is »

- Maureen Ryan

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First Look: Al Pacino as Joe Paterno in Barry Levinson’s HBO Film

16 July 2017 11:15 AM, PDT

Introducing Al Pacino as Joe Paterno.

HBO has unveiled a first look photo of the actor in character as the football coach for the cabler’s upcoming project directed by Barry Levinson.

The as-yet-untitled film centers on Joe Paterno, who, after becoming the winningest coach in college football history, is embroiled in Penn State’s Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal, challenging his legacy and forcing him to face questions of institutional failure regarding the victims.

The film also stars Riley Keough as Sara Ganim, the 23-year-old journalist who first reported on the scandal, bringing it to the attention of the national media — and ultimately winning a Pulitzer Prize for her work. Annie Parisse will play Mary Kay Paterno, Joe Paterno’s daughter.

Levinson is directing and executive producing through his Levinson/Fontana banner, with Jason Sosnoff and Tom Fontana also executive producing. Edward Pressman and Linday Sloane also executive produce, along »

- Debra Birnbaum

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‘Transparent’ Cast on How Jill Soloway Changed Their Lives, Season 4 Details

16 July 2017 9:50 AM, PDT

Transparent” creator Jill Soloway is a constant at Outfest Los Angeles. This year, she brought two new episodes of the Emmy-winning show to the festival to give fans an early preview of Season 4. The post-screening panel included Soloway, writers Our Lady J and Ali Liebegott, director Marta Cunningham, and cast members Amy Landecker, Jay Duplass, Trace Lysette, Judith Light, Alexandra Billings, and Jeffrey Tambor.

A running theme of the discussion was how Soloway helped transform all the artist’s careers and lives. Light recalled her pivotal phone call with Soloway, “I was happily living in New York. Jill and I talked about advocacy for the Lgbt community. I prayed this show would bring me back to California. This show changed my career and life: it combined my advocacy and my work.”

Duplass recounted how resistant he was to accepting the role of Josh Pfefferman, which was his first acting job, “I »

- Diane Gordon

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BBC Names Jodie Whittaker the Next ‘Doctor Who’ Lead, the First Woman in the Role

16 July 2017 8:29 AM, PDT

Jodie Whittaker will be the 13th Doctor in “Doctor Who” and the first woman in the role after the BBC named her Sunday as the new time lord, one of the world’s most iconic sci-fi characters on television.

Attack the Block” and “Broadchurch” star Whittaker will be seen on BBC One in the U.K. and on BBC America in the U.S., as well as globally, with the long-running sci-fi series still one of BBC Worldwide’s biggest-selling shows internationally.

“I’m beyond excited to begin this epic journey, with Chris and with every Whovian on this planet,” Whittaker said. “It’s more than an honor to play the Doctor. It means remembering everyone I used to be, while stepping forward to embrace everything the Doctor stands for: hope. I can’t wait.”

The new Doctor was revealed in an interstitial after the climax of the Wimbledon men’s tennis finals on BBC One and »

- Stewart Clarke

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‘Mystery Road’ Becomes TV Series With Aaron Pedersen, Judy Davis

16 July 2017 12:10 AM, PDT

Veteran actress Judy Davis will join Aaron Pederson in “Mystery Road – The Series,” a TV spin-off from feature movies “Mystery Road” and “Goldstone,” starring Pedersen as an indigenous detective in Australia’s outback.

The six-part series will be directed by Rachel Perkins. Pedersen will reprieve his role as Jay Swan as he sets out to investigate the disappearance of two farm hands. Filming in West Australia begins next month.

The features were hits for director Ivan Sen and producer David Jowsey. The series will be produced by Jowsey and Greer Simpkin. The screenplay is produced by Michaeley O’Brien, who writing with Steven McGregor, Kodie Bedford, Jon Bell and Tim Lee. Sen and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Sally Riley and Kym Goldsworthy are executive producers.

The series is produced by Bunya Productions for the ABC, with funding support from Screenwest, Screen Australia, the Western Australian Regional Film Fund supported by Royalties for Regions and Create Nsw »

- Patrick Frater

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‘Marvel’s Spider-Man’ Disney XD Series Rounds Out Cast, Gets Premiere Date

14 July 2017 6:30 PM, PDT

Marvel announced the cast and premiere date for its new animated series “Marvel’s Spider-Man” during the the comic giant’s panel at D23 Expo in Anaheim, Calif., on Friday.

The show, premiering Aug. 19 on Disney XD, takes a fresh look at Peter Parker as the superhero gets accepted into Horizon High, a high school for brilliant young scientific minds. He struggles to balance his social life while hiding his secret identity from his classmates while using his alter ego to take on supervillains.

“Marvel’s Spider-Man” voice cast includes Robbie Daymond (“Bread Winners”) as Spider-Man, Patton Oswalt as Uncle Ben, Max Mittelman (“Transformers: Robots in Disguise”) as Harry Osborn, Nadji Jeter (“Jessie”) as Miles Morales, and Alastair Duncan (“The Batman”) as Vulture.

A scene that screened during the D23 panel on Friday showed Spidey fighting with his Venom suit. “This is like some invasion of the body-grabbers. Get off me, you »

- Rebecca Rubin

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‘Game of Thrones’: 25 Most Devastating/Satisfying Deaths (Spoilers)

14 July 2017 5:39 PM, PDT

Of all the deaths in “Game of Thrones,” we cut it down to what we think are the 25 most devastating/satisfying ones from the series. »

- Jacob Bryant and Joe Otterson

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TV News Roundup: ‘Jersey Shore’ Cast to Appear on Reunion Docuseries for E!

14 July 2017 3:57 PM, PDT

In today’s roundup, the cast of “Jersey Shore” is back for a TV reunion series, and We tv announced a reboot of “Bridezillas.”


The cast of the MTV reality show “Jersey Shore” are coming together again for a new reunion docuseries at E! “Jersey Shore” stars will be in the pilot episode of “Reunion Road Trip,” an unscripted development project that will reunite a variety of casts each week, a source confirmed with Variety. Producers are considering both unscripted and scripted series casts for possible future episodes, with “Jersey Shore” as the only group currently lined up. Greg Lipstone, Simon Knight, Adam Greener, Emily Mayer and Lauren Stevens will executive produce the series.


We tv announced a reboot of its wedding reality series “Bridezillas.” Casting is currently underway across the country, and the franchise will premiere in 2018 with 10 hour-long episodes. The series spotlights women who have turned into “Bridezillas” preparing for their wedding, taking »

- Rebecca Rubin

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Syfy to Develop Supernatural Drama From ‘Go the F— to Sleep’ Author (Exclusive)

14 July 2017 3:30 PM, PDT

Syfy is developing an hour-long supernatural drama series based on the Adam Mansbach novel “Rage Is Back,” Variety has learned from sources.

The series is set in 1987 during New York’s “War on Graffiti.” In this world, a young graffiti crew copes with the murder of one of their members, investigating a connection to shamans of the past and making them masters of the urban underground who use coded language and symbols in spiritual warfare.

Syfy had no comment.

In addition to writing “Rage Is Back,” Mansbach is the New York Times bestselling author of “Go the F— to Sleep,” which has sold more than two million copies worldwide. He also wrote the screenplay for the 2016 film “Barry,” which chronicled the life of Barack Obama during his early years at Columbia University.

Mansbach will co-executive produce the project with Danny Hoch, the actor known for his work in films such as “Whiteboyz,” “Blackhawk »

- Joe Otterson

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‘True Blood’ Star Nelsan Ellis’s Funeral Will Be Open to the Public

14 July 2017 3:02 PM, PDT

A public funeral for “True Blood” star Nelsan Ellis will be held on Saturday, July 22 at Holy Temple Cathedral in Harvey, Ill., a suburb south of Chicago.

Prior to the funeral, there will be a public viewing on Friday, July 21 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Leak & Sons Funeral Home in Country Club Hills, Ill. Pastor Tyrone Gaston will officiate Saturday’s service, starting at 11 a.m.

Ellis died July 8 from heart failure complications at age 39. His family issued a statement attributing the heart failure to longtime alcohol and drug abuse.

The actor was born in Harvey, Ill., and lived in Alabama with his aunt and siblings before moving back to Chicago at age 15. After joining the Marines for a short period of time, he studied at Illinois State University and went on to get a degree from Juilliard School. In addition to his fan-favorite role as Lafayette Reynolds on HBO’s “True Blood,” he »

- Rebecca Rubin

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TV Review: AMC’s ‘Loaded’

14 July 2017 1:37 PM, PDT

Loaded” tells the story of what happens after a small London gaming startup is bought out by a huge American corporation, making the four co-founders — who, are at the age of about 30, more or less manchildren — into multimillionaires. As you can imagine from four men who still regularly play their Nintendo 64, million-pound nerdy hijinks ensue. The first episode opens with the co-founders touring the London suburbs with a barbershop quartet singing a quaintly harmonized air comprised entirely of the lyrics “Suck My Balls.” Dapper Leon (Samuel Anderson) explains that they are visiting everyone who ever denied them funding with this very special message. Then he ushers the team back into his new candy-apple red sports car, sternly telling Watto (Nick Helm), “No, you cannot vape in the Ferrari.”

The show begins with a lot of silly reckless spending, but although there is no point where the foursome seems to understand the limitations of their wealth, “Loaded »

- Sonia Saraiya

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Lester Holt’s ‘NBC Nightly News’ Gets Studio Update – and a Glass Peacock

14 July 2017 1:37 PM, PDT

Most people who watch “NBC Nightly News” expect to see Lester Holt holding forth on his own. Starting tonight, he has a silent guest: a glass peacock sculpture that will be suspended from the studio ceiling above him.

The transparent avian is one facet of a new setting for the NBC newscast, which has been locked in a months-long ratings battle with ABC’s “World News Tonight.”

The updated Studio 3A, which is housed in NBCUniversal’s New York corporate headquarters at 30 Rockefeller Center, will feature 632 square feet of Led video tiles as well as set-ups for different anchor, correspondent and guest positions. The studio will be a shared, working space with MSNBC – in keeping with its past function. The open studio also provides a look into the active NBC News and MSNBC newsroom.

CBS’ “CBS Evening News” got a similar tweaking at the end of 2016. That program was moved to the same space as the network »

- Brian Steinberg

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With Even Popcorn Scarce, Venezuela Works to Keep Entertainment Business Running

14 July 2017 1:23 PM, PDT

Venezuela is reeling from economic turmoil, more than three months of anti-government street protests, and years of political instability. But its beleaguered residents need distraction and entertainment more than ever, so the country’s entertainment industry is trying to weather the chaos under difficult conditions.

Take popcorn, for example. Movie theaters count on concession sales, but popcorn kernels and even the bread buns for hot dogs are not always available. Bread is among the scarcest commodities these days.

Cinemas have been hard hit, with admissions down 35% between 2015 and 2016, a loss of some 10 million admissions. “It’s plunged 41% if we compare the first five months of this year to 2015,” said Abdel Guerere, head of Venezuela’s Association of Exhibitors, who also cites rampant unemployment among the factors impacting the biz.

With food and medicine supplies low, people are not surprisingly prioritizing basic needs, even though movie tickets average just 50 cents, and only 25 cents for children, seniors »

- Anna Marie de la Fuente

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‘Walking Dead’ Cast Members, Other Stars React to Death of Stuntman John Bernecker

14 July 2017 12:50 PM, PDT

Hollywood mourned the loss of “The Walking Dead” stuntman John Bernecker following his death from injuries sustained on set.

AMC halted production of the show’s eighth season in wake of the tragedy. Bernecker was shooting a scene in which he was supposed to fall off a 20-foot balcony onto a safety cushion below. He missed the cushion and hit the concrete instead.

Celebrities, including his “Walking Dead” castmates, offered condolences on Twitter to the veteran stunt performer and fight choreographer.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who plays Negan on the series, penned, “Deep sorrow today, and for every tomorrow. Love, respect, and condolences to John’s family and friends. He will be forever missed.”

Deep sorrow today, and for every tomorrow. Love, respect, and condolences to johns family, and friends. He will be forever missed.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan (@JDMorgan) July 14, 2017

“Keeping John Bernecker and his family in my thoughts,” wrote Peter Zimmerman, who »

- Rebecca Rubin

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Seven Bucks Prods. Boosts TV Development Team With New Executive Hire (Exclusive)

14 July 2017 12:15 PM, PDT

Seven Bucks Productions, co-founded by Dwayne Johnson and Dany Garcia, is amping up their team, bringing on a new VP of development, Variety has learned exclusively.

Former MTV and Bravo exec Chelsea Friedland has been tapped for the position of vice president of development, in which she will oversee the development of new scripted and unscripted television projects. She will also work closely with the company’s digital arm, Seven Bucks Digital Studios, to identify long form opportunities in the digital space.

“Our Seven Bucks TV slate is growing at a rapid pace and we’re thrilled to have someone like Chelsea, who understands both our vision and body of work, join as we continue to expand,” said Johnson and Garcia in a joint statement. “We have some exciting projects on the horizon our global audience will love, and look forward to having Chelsea help bring those projects to life.”

Friedland »

- Elizabeth Wagmeister

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Noah Hawley, Russo Brothers Team for FX Crime Drama

14 July 2017 12:15 PM, PDT

FX is developing a crime drama that boasts Noah Hawley and Joe and Anthony Russo as executive producers, Variety has confirmed.

The series, currently titled “The Mastermind,” is based on the investigative stories of Atavist Magazine co-founder and CEO Evan Ratliff. It will center on the true story of Paul Le Roux, a computer programmer and criminal cartel boss who became a DEA informant.

The Russo brothers are set to direct the series in addition to executive producing. The brothers are key players in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, having directed both “Captain America: Winter Solider” and “Captain America: Civil War.” They are currently working on the highly-anticipated “Avengers: Infinity War.” Hawley is the showrunner on the critically-acclaimed FX series “Legion” and “Fargo,” with the latter series being nominated for 16 Emmy Awards for its third season. He will executive produce through his 26 Keys banner, which is based at FX Productions. In »

- Joe Otterson

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‘Doctor Who’: BBC America To Announce 13th Doctor This Weekend

14 July 2017 12:00 PM, PDT

Doctor Who” fans will finally find out who their 13th Doctor will be Sunday after the Wimbledon Men’s Final on BBC America.

BBC announced the news in a video posted to the official BBC America Twitter account Friday morning. Peter Capaldi will officially be departing the cult-favorite series after three seasons as the 12th Doctor.

Exclusive News: It’s Almost Time. #DoctorWho pic.twitter.com/XyF6KPaf0b

BBC America (@Bbcamerica) July 14, 2017

Capaldi is the fourth actor to play the hero since the 2005 reboot of the ’80s science fiction show: Christoper Eccleston played the Doctor for the first season, with David Tennant (arguably the most well-received actor) taking on the role for the second, third, and fourth seasons. Matt Smith stepped into the Doctor’s shoes for the following three seasons leading up to Capaldi’s tenure. The ability to cast different actors in the role hinges on the fact that the alien Doctor, when »

- Erin Nyren

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Remote Controlled: ‘Game of Thrones’ Star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau Shares Theories on His Character’s Possible Death

14 July 2017 11:52 AM, PDT

Welcome to “Remote Controlled,” a podcast from Variety featuring the best and brightest in television, both in front of and behind the camera.

In today’s episode, Variety’s executive editor of TV Debra Birnbaum talks with “Game of Thrones” star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, ahead of the premiere of the show’s highly anticipated seventh season.

Last season ended with a massive explosion at the Sept, planned by Cersei to defeat her enemies — and Jaime looked none too thrilled when he saw his sister settling into the Iron Throne. So going into the season, one of the big questions is the state of their relationship. “I think you can forgive her. You can understand why she’s acted the way she has, because of the love she has for her children, her need to protect them,” says Coster-Waldau.

But of course her actions led to Tommen’s suicide — the last of their three children. So »

- Debra Birnbaum

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ICM’s Longtime Head of Corporate Communications Michelle Suess Departing Agency

14 July 2017 10:55 AM, PDT

Michelle Suess, ICM’s head of corporations communications, is departing the agency after 11 years, Variety has learned. 

Suess is leaving ICM in order to spend more time with her family. Her replacement is expected to be announced soon, and she will remain in an advisory role with the agency to ensure a smooth transition during the process.

The longtime ICM executive has overseen external and internal communications, advertising, special events and corporate philanthropy, during her tenure. She serves as president of the ICM Community Partners Foundation.

“We deeply appreciate the strategic guidance that Michelle has offered as we’ve transformed our agency over the past several years, as well as the level of integrity and commitment that she has given her role,” the board said in a statement.

Suess commented, “I’m grateful to have had this opportunity during a period of such growth and change at the agency, and I’m particularly proud of the work »

- Elizabeth Wagmeister

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‘Preacher’ Actor Graham McTavish Recalls His First Professional Job on the London Stage

14 July 2017 10:15 AM, PDT

AMC’s “Preacher” is beginning its second season, with Graham McTavish returning as the godlike bounty hunter known as the Saint of Killers. The Scottish actor was a fan of the cult comic books on which the show is based long before he signed on for the series, and the Saint of Killers was his favorite character. Similarly, McTavish was a “Lord of the Rings” aficionado for a decade prior to playing Dwalin in Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit” trilogy. McTavish is also heading into his third season portraying Dougal MacKenzie in the British-American television drama “Outlander” and has guested on “Prison Break,” “Empire” and “24,” among other series, while also voicing video games such as “Call of Duty” and “Assassin’s Creed III.” Variety first mentioned McTavish on Aug. 8, 1984, touting his upcoming solo performance of Samuel Beckett’s “Krapp’s Last Tape” in various London theaters. He worked extensively on the U.K »

- Rebecca Rubin

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