Posted by Danielle Berrin
America loves a juicy Hollywood conflict.
This might explain the media’s outsize reaction to NBC’s late night programming drama involving a time switch between “The Jay Leno Show” and “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien” – a controversy generating far more attention than either show garners in ratings. So why is everyone in a tizzy?
“Jay and Conan are the new Gosselins,” said a source who works for “The Tonight Show.” “There’s constantly new drama, with jokes mixed in, plus a show that’s on every night so there’s immediate turn around and reaction.”
And in Hollywood, everyone loves to see a titan fall.
Leno used to be the King of late night; now he’s looking more like the court jester. After only a few months in a primetime 10 o’clock slot, NBC has been forced – by network affiliates in revolt over poor ratings—to cancel Leno’s show. But don’t feel sad for poor ole’ Jay: his contract promises a $100 million payout, according to a source, if NBC doesn’t find him a replacement slot.
So the nice guy has to take the fall. Conan, who has been waiting in the wings for his triumphal moment on the “Tonight Show,” is getting short shrift, as the network tries to squeeze him into the second fiddle slot.
And Conan has plainly said, “No.” He doesn’t want to be “warmed up leftovers” to the network rhythm that crests with the “Tonight Show’s” comedic and topical monologue—late night’s main event. Reverting Leno to his old timeslot at 11:35 p.m. means he gets to one-up Conan with the nightcap on the evening’s run of comedies, dramas and the news broadcast.
For Conan, the demotion – and humiliation—comes after only seven months in which he was allowed to build his audience. When Leno began, it took him 18 to build a following. And now, in order to preserve their pocket change, the network is siding with the biggest loser.
A source close to Conan would not comment on whether there are visible strains between the late night rivals, but did say that Conan is “surprisingly resilient and trying to encourage people to have fun with this crazy confluence of showbiz history.” Still, the mood on the set is frighteningly tense. “We’re pretty much living in a state of uncertainly right now, but that’s the nature of TV. It’s inherently unstable.”
The question is who’s to blame for the late night gaffe? Is it Jeff Gaspin, chairman of NBC entertainment, who took over after his predecessor Ben Silverman’s colossal failure? Or is it Jeff Zucker, NBC’s top dog who desperately tried to lift the network from the bottom of the barrel by putting Leno in primetime. He had hoped the move would be a game changer.
Instead, NBC is messier than ever. And many in the industry are counting down until Zucker—one of Hollywood’s most powerful Jews – hits the pavement and shatters his hubris.
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January 12, 2010 | 7:53 pm
Posted by Jay Firestone
As Conan O’Brien, Jay Leno, David Letterman and Jimmy Fallon fight over the late night airwaves, the question arises: Why aren’t Jewish comedians hosting these shows?
Here are our top ten reasons why.
10. Who would run the networks?
9. Garry Shandling already did it better.
8. It’s too difficult to find a family to sponsor the green room every day.
7. Manischewitz can’t afford a 30-second TV spot.
6. High Def cameras weren’t designed for curly hair schmendricks with glasses.
5. What are we complaining about? We should be thankful we have The Daily Show.
4. Most late night shows film during peak mincha hours.
3. A Jew can’t have a different guest each night without first cooking a meal.
2. It’s a Zionist plot.
1. Let’s be honest, the world would rather watch a bunch of Conans and Lenos than Cohens and Levis.
January 11, 2010 | 2:17 am
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Nikki Finke, the founding editor of “Deadline Hollywood” whom many consider the industry’s reigning queen of Hollywood journalism is rolling out plans for a major expansion.
First came the announcement that Tim Adler, a veteran UK entertainment business journalist, would help launch Deadline|London which will go live later this month at Deadline.com.
But even bigger news came a few moments later when Finke announced through her listserv that Mike Fleming, Variety’s “superstar” film reporter will leave his 20 year post at the trade to edit Deadline New York.
Finke said she was “thrilled and honored” that Fleming agreed to come on board and even admitted the two had been “fierce competitors.” In a statement generated by Mail.com Media Corporation, the company that purchased Deadline Hollywood for an undisclosed sum last July, Finke said she and Fleming have (secretly?) been friends for close to 20 years.
“I was a devoted reader of his old ‘Buzz’ column for Weekly Variety, and then addicted to his former ‘Dish’ column for Daily Variety,” Finke said.
It can’t be easy for Fleming to leave the Variety throne he’s been sitting on for two decades, but he seems to be doing so in good spirit.
“I treasure my 20 years with Variety and my mentor Peter Bart and my editor Tim Gray. It changed my life. But the time has come for this new challenge. I thank my Variety readers for staying with me all this time, and I hope they follow me to Deadline|NewYork.”
The unfortunate thing, of course, is that we may never discover what went on when Variety found out their arch rival would steal their “crown jewel” because the person who would report that news is undoubtedly Nikki Finke.
More on Fleming’s move:
With the hiring of top journalism talents Mike Fleming to run Deadline|NewYork, and Tim Adler to run Deadline|London (announced this morning), Deadline.com now enters its next phase of editorial and geographic expansion. Finke will remain Deadline.com’s general manager and editor in chief, and editor and founder of Deadline|Hollywood. But Fleming’s ability to consistently deliver high-profile scoops and provide on-the-spot analysis will help make Deadline.com a “must-read” for influencers and leaders in the global business of entertainment and media.
Variety’s preeminent reporter also fits perfectly with the Deadline.com tradition of shattering the mold of traditional reporting and creating a new paradigm for delivering news, analysis, and opinion with New Media immediacy. Hiring Variety’s “crown jewel” of original content demonstrates MMC’s commitment to rapid growth as one of the most dynamic companies to watch in the digital media arena.
This month marks Mike Fleming’s 20th year as a Variety reporter and writer. A native of New York City and now resident of Long Island, he started in journalism as editor of the well-known Media Industry Newsletter (MIN), then joined New York Newsday as a columnist and reviewer and entertainment writer in 1986. He joined Weekly Variety in 2000 to write the “Buzz” column about all things infotainment. Later, he took over Daily Variety’s “Dish” column where he regularly broke news and provided analysis about all things Hollywood. After the column was discontinued, Fleming became even more recognized as the trade’s No. 1 film reporter whose major talents include working sources and writing with flair and accuracy. That’s why his original content receives international attention and acclaim. In summer 2009, he began the “BFD” blog with his longtime mentor Peter Bart.
January 8, 2010 | 7:15 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Yiddish has a brand new bag—- of cash—thanks to the late comedy writer Mickey Ross who surprised The National Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, MA with a $3 million donation from his estate.
And that’s not all: the writer/producer of hit sitcoms “All in the Family,” “The Jeffersons” and “Three’s Company” also bequeathed 25-percent of his residual rights to “All in the Family” and other shows to the Yiddish Center, amounting to the largest gift the center had ever received.
The center’s founder and president, Aaron J. Lansky said he never knew Ross and doesn’t believe he ever visited the center, though Ross had a history of supporting Yiddish causes.
Lansky first learned of the gift last summer, though he didn’t know of the amount until he received the check.
“The donation couldn’t possibly be more timely,” he said, noting that the center has spent 30 years rescuing and cataloging Yiddish literature from around the world. “Now we can move to the next step in our work of opening up these treasures and shifting to education and young people.”
The donation will go directly to the center’s endowment, bringing the total to $11 million. It will help subsidize a broad range of programs, including a year-round school of Jewish culture and activism, summer institutes for college students and recent graduates, and a major oral history project that aims to chronicle the contemporary Jewish experience. Lanksy said he is also searching for a full time Yiddish professor.
While Ross’s gift is the largest the center has received, it is not the first to come from Hollywood. Steven Spielberg has been a major source of support to the center for more than fifteen years. His Righteous Persons Foundation provided the first gift to build the building they inhabit, and also created The Steven Spielberg Digital Yiddish Library, which enabled the center to make 11,000 Yiddish volumes available online.
Several years ago, the center partnered with KCRW to produce “Jewish Short Stories from Eastern Europe and Beyond” featuring the works of Sholom Aleichem, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Cynthia Ozick and S.Y. Agnon read by Hollywood actors Leonard Nimoy, Lauren Bacall, Walter Mathau, Jerry Stiller and others.
Ross, who died last May at age 89 of complications from a stroke and heart attack left no survivors. His wife, Irene died in 2000. The couple had no children.
Ross’s legacy will continue through his philanthropic commitments. In 2008, he donated $4 million to endow an academic chair in Yiddish language and culture at UCLA, his alma mater. After his death, he also left money to The Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles.
January 7, 2010 | 7:01 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Oh, the horror! People magazine is reporting “True Blood” star Evan Rachel Wood is engaged to shock-rocker Marilyn Manson, best known for his frightening face paint and outlandish gothic style.
Manson, 41, reportedly proposed to the 22-year-old actress on stage during a performance in Paris last Monday. But the match doesn’t hold much promise for longevity, let alone Jewish offspring. According to reports, Manson and Wood began dating in 2006, but the couple has been on again/off again throughout the duration of their relationship. According to Wikipedia, the off-the-cuff proposal came only a month after they’d gotten back together from a split.
Wood, who currently stars on “True Blood” was born in Raleigh, North Carolina to a Jewish theatrical family. Her father, Ira David Wood III runs a community theater group and her mother, Sara Lynn Moore is an actress, director and acting coach. Wood is best known for her breakthrough role in “Thirteen” in which she played a precocious teenager tormented by the pressure to belong.
More Evan Rachel Wood on Hollywood Jew:
Evan Rachel Wood heads to HBO’s ‘True Blood’
January 6, 2010 | 6:10 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
In an interview in February’s Elle magazine, actress Natalie Portman admits she avoids playing Jewish characters.
“I’ve always tried to stay away from playing Jews,” she told the mag. “I get like 20 Holocaust scripts a month, but I hate the genre.” As far as her role as a Hasidic bride in the recent “New York I Love You,” Portman says it was the first Jewish character that “intrigued” her.
She isn’t terribly fond of romantic comedies either, telling the magazine, “It wasn’t that I didn’t want to do comedy. It’s just that I would only get offered girlfriend parts in guy comedies, which aren’t exciting to me, or those offensive roles in romantic comedies where the woman has to have a job in fashion so that she can have nice clothes, and her goal is always marriage.”
Apparently she prefers to play Indian princesses as she did in her ex-boyfriend’s wacky Bollywood video (see below). And speaking of boyfriends, I hear she has a new one: rumors have her dating up-and-coming ballet choreographer Benjamin Millepied who trained her for her role in Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan.” Millepied trained in France and is currently a principal dancer at the New York City Ballet, though that seems to be the least of his accomplishments.
According to Vogue:
Even while continuing to dance, Millepied, 32, has choreographed works for ABT, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and his own touring ensemble, Danses Concertantes. Deeply committed to new music, he has commissioned scores from composers like Nico Muhly and Thierry Escaich, the celebrated French organist with whom he will premiere a work at NYCB this spring. “I enjoy making large-group works a lot now,” he says. “That’s what a real choreographer is supposed to be able to do. It takes a lot more—it’s composing a ballet like composing a score.” He’s also branching into film, as the choreographer for Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, a psychological thriller about ballerinas starring Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis. “The interesting thing is to be working with someone who knows how to tell a story,” he says.
Portman as Princess Carmensita:
January 5, 2010 | 6:54 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
In an article for The Daily Beast, Rebecca Dana weaves a darling web of family fortune that likens the Emanuels—parents Ben and Marsha, children Zeke, Rahm and Ari and their offspring—to the Kennedys. They are the “Jewish Kennedys” whom she triumphantly crowns the “next great American dynasty.”
It’s not a bad wager: Zeke, the eldest, is a senior adviser for health policy to the Obama Administration; middle-brother Rahm is the President’s Chief of Staff; and Ari, as Angelenos know, is one of Hollywood’s most powerful players as the head of William Morris Endeavor Entertainment agency.
But what’s a dynasty without a matriarch?
The Kennedys had several: from Rose to Jackie to Caroline to Carolyn to Maria. Of course Jackie stood out and became a shining emblem of all that the Kennedys represented—elegance, wealth, sophistication, power and beauty—and seemed to retain her status long after her husband died and she was no longer a “Kennedy.”
Who among the Emanuels—a family built on aggressive brotherhood—could emerge to pattern the centripetal force that was Jackie O? I dare anyone to imagine what a Kennedy looks like and not see dark black sunglasses and multi-strand pearls. So far, the women in the Emanuel family exist only among their inner circle and are rarely seen, heard from or even mentioned (Dana’s story does not name any of the Emanuel wives, except for Marsha, their mother).
At the moment, the closest thing the Emanuels have to a burgeoning female star is Zeke’s eldest Rebekah, who graduated from Yale at the “tippy top” of her class, has won nearly every major humanities prize and “spent her post-collegiate years working with the Ugandan parliament to deal with gender-based crimes, studying how conflict-related bereavement impacts family members’ political activism in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and investigating ways to improve care for the terminally ill in New Delhi.” It’s an impressive mouthful, and sounds like the caliber of activity a certain Clinton daughter embraced once she realized her family’s dynastic (at least politically) power.
The only trouble is, Rebekah wants no share of the spotlight: “The thing is, as I’m sure you’ll understand,” she wrote by email to the author, “I am in this funny spot of really being a private person and, recently, there has been plenty of media all of a sudden. I like to lead my life in the day-to-day happenings, joys, and challenges. It is important to me to remain simply a private person.”
Rebekah has two younger sisters of college age, but the rest of the Emanuel offspring are under 13. (And 13 being of age in Judaism brings news that Ari and Rahm will take their eldest sons, Noah and Zach to Israel this Spring for their Bar Mitzvahs.) There is one mysterious woman, however, that we know little about but who is closely tied to the family line—the Emanuels’ adopted sister, Shoshana—with whom the family has a “complex” relationship, according to the author and as it sounds, will probably not become a figurehead.
Other than that, Dana drives her point on the Kennedy comparison by matching up Ben and Marsha Emanuel with Joe and Rose Kennedy, who she says (with great seriousness) are alike in indulging their children’s “creative whims.”
When Ari—the youngest, future founder of the Endeavor talent agency, and model for Ari Gold on HBO’s Entourage—wanted to build an igloo with his brothers, Marsha gave over all her pots and pans for freezing blocks of ice. When Rahm—the middle child, future engineer of the Democrats’ 2006 takeover of Congress and President Obama’s chief of staff—wanted to get serious about ballet, Marsha drove him to class. When Zeke—the eldest, future bioethicist at the National Institutes of Health and leading voice for health-care reform—wanted to dissect cow parts, he got cow parts.
Now that’s a dynasty we should all want to be part of.
Read more at The Daily Beast here.
More Emanuels on Hollywood Jew:
Ari Emanuel: The Superagent
Ari Emanuel, A Mogul on the Rise
“West Wing” creator Aaron Sorkin on his agent Ari Emanuel
January 5, 2010 | 12:41 am
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Illustrious film critic Roger Ebert has weighed in with his top ten films of the decade and an unlikely contender has made his list: Werner Herzog’s “The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans,” the first produced feature from newcomer brothers Alan and Gabe Polsky, who just so happen to hail from Ebert’s hometown of Chicago.
While the film received a healthy mix of criticism when released (David Denby of The New Yorker wrote, “The film is a mess, but it’s certainly not dull”), Ebert was unsparing in his praise and awarded the film four stars. Not a bad commendation for Hollywood’s hottest amateurs—who also graced our cover last December as “The Next Moguls”—question mark.
Last week, Ebert named ‘Bad Lieutenant’ one of the best films of the decade, among an eminent list of films that includes, Jason Reitman’s “Juno,” Charlize Theron’s Oscar-turn in “Monster,” Spike Lee’s post 9/11 pic “The 25th Hour” and one of this year’s top Oscar contenders, “The Hurt Locker.”
The Polskys ‘Bad Lieutenant’ is a wild, chaotic adventure that features the best Nicolas Cage performance since “Leaving Las Vegas” (and we all know how badly he needed a hit). But is it tops of the decade? We may have to chalk that one up to a bit of fatherly pride.
Read my profile of Alan and Gabe Polsky:
Two weeks before the theatrical release last month of their first feature film, “The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans,” producers Alan and Gabe Polsky threw themselves a coming-out ball.
As newcomers in Hollywood, the Polsky brothers sought a venue that would send all the right messages to all the right people: Bungalow One at the storied Chateau Marmont, the legendary hotel steeped in Hollywood history and glamour, where they could earn cachet simply by being seen there.