Posted by Danielle Berrin
Sarah Silverman and her show’s co-creators were threatening to end the series over Comedy Central’s insistent budget cuts for the third season. But the four-day standoff ended when Comedy Central’s sister cable channel, “Logo,” which specializes in gay and lesbian programming, stepped in to split costs. It might have been the first major series to crash as a result of the economic crisis, but as movie ticket sales are proving, America needs their escapist entertainment now more than ever.
“The Sarah Silverman Program” will be back for a third season on Comedy Central, following the resolution of four-day day standoff over planned budget cuts.
The cable channel has ordered a 10-episode season of its signature live-action series, which will now be co-financed with gay-oriented sister cable network Logo.
“We’re happy,” Silverman said. “All we ever wanted was just to make our show. Nothing fancy—just our show.”
It’s a happy ending to a drama that threatened to make “Sarah Silverman” the first major primetime casualty of the economic crisis after the cable network was forced to slash the budget of the series by more that 20% and its executive producers refused to continue at those terms.
“Things were tough on Friday and over the weekend,” said Comedy Central’s president of original programing Lauren Corrao, who headed the network’s efforts to keep “Sarah Silverman” on the air. “We very much wanted the show, we just couldn’t come to an agreement for a budget that was acceptable and uncompromising to the producers and that we could afford.”
In a surprising twist, Corrao came up with the idea early on Monday to share “Sarah Silverman” with another Logo, which caters to gay, lesbian and transgender viewers.
She called former Comedy Central executive Marc Leonard, now a senior exec at Logo.
After discussing the idea for several hours, Logo’s brass called up their Comedy Central counterparts to tell them they wanted to be part of the show.
Details on how the financial responsibility and the window sharing will be divided between the two partners are still being worked out, but sources said with the combined financing, “Sarah Silverman” will have a budget a tad higher than last season’s $1.1 million per episode.
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March 3, 2009 | 2:04 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
I scrambled for weeks trying to get an interview with Bruce Vilanch for our Oscar issue, when all the while, our good friend Joel Stein got the gig straight through Hugh Jackman.
Stein chronicles his experience writing “a little bit” of the Oscars from a swanky hotel room in New York, why most comedy sucks, and his gay love for Hugh Jackman in a column for Time:
For reasons I accept but will never fully understand, hundreds of millions of people would rather be entertained by the Oscars than by this column. So I felt vindicated when I got an e-mail three weeks ago from John Palermo, the producing partner of this year’s host, Hugh Jackman, saying he liked my work and wanted me to write for the Academy Awards. I wasn’t exactly sure how the Academy expected me to craft an opening in which Jackman quickly segued into talking about me and my sophomoric sexual obsessions, but I was up for the challenge.
Since this was clearly the biggest, most important comedy job I’d ever get, I expected the Academy to send an official package of Oscar history, tips from past writers and a truckload of money. Instead, I got just some grainy DVDs of Jackman hosting the Tony Awards. I was starting to wonder if I was really hired by the Oscars when I found out I wasn’t. It turns out the Academy hires pros like Bruce Vilanch for the presenter banter but lets the host pick his own team. This makes sense when the host is a comedian with a staff of writers. It makes less sense when the host is known for being PEOPLE’s Sexiest Man Alive. What I’ve learned from late-night Cinemax is that sexy people don’t place a high value on writing. (See the top 10 movie performances of 2008.)
Because Jackman lives in New York City, the writers flew from Los Angeles to work out of a room at the Mandarin Oriental hotel. I was expecting to join an enormous gathering of the greatest comedy writers in the world, who would mock me with cutting barbs about my relative youth and handsomeness. Instead, there were three dudes eating Gummi Bears from the minibar. Two of them weren’t even Jewish. The third was a 27-year-old who makes Web videos and got the job when he was pitching a movie idea to Jackman’s company—an idea it turned down. The Emmys, I’m guessing, is written by two interns in Bangalore.
Luckily, all four of us had a few things in common. We hated The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and had no idea that The Reader wasn’t a children’s magazine. We also thought Jackman shouldn’t tell any jokes and should instead open with a big musical number that references the recession. But every good concept we had we immediately killed because it reminded us of Billy Crystal. You would think that would be a good thing, since Crystal was the most beloved Oscar host ever and got the job eight times. But comedy writers are far more interested in impressing other comedy writers than in pleasing an audience. This is why most comedy sucks. If we thought we could have gotten away with an opening number that made fun of genocide, we would have. Instead, we just wasted hours making those jokes anyway. We also spent a lot of time trying to figure out if we’d get in trouble for ordering room service. The answer, so far, is no.
The only proof that we really were writing for the Oscars is that Jackman would visit our room for a couple of hours each day. To my surprise, the best kind of boss is a sexy boss. Jackman greeted each of us with a giant hug, which would have been a perfect test of how gay I am, except I was totally focused on making sure I wasn’t crushed to death by his giant lats. So ... pretty gay. Jackman would laugh uproariously at everything we suggested, which is one of the huge advantages of writing for a noncomedian. He acted out all our stuff, belted out our songs while standing on furniture and even watched most of Be Kind Rewind with us for no good reason. He was so omniscient in his niceness that not only did he look sad when we played him the Christian Bale freak-out tape, but he also, after agreeing to record a parody of it, called Bale to make sure it was cool if we put it online. He even let me try on the real, $18,000 plastic Wolverine claws, which made me want to do a bit about the moon and body hair; the reaction made me realize I probably should have seen an X-Men movie before writing for Jackman.
It soon became clear that not only was writing for the Oscars not the hardest job of my life, it wasn’t even the hardest job of my week. We brought in a guy who wrote music, and six days later, the opening number was complete. It’s not bad, and when Jackman sings it, it’s great. Because while we weren’t smart enough to write great jokes, we were smart enough to figure out that Oscar audiences don’t remember jokes. They remember whether the host set the celebratory mood, as Crystal did. Our job was to get out of the way of Jackman’s charm, and if that meant ordering room service and letting the other writers do all the actual lyric-writing, then I was a fine hire. All the good jokes, by the way, were mine.
March 2, 2009 | 8:20 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
While ex-boyfriend Jimmy Kimmel is gallivanting with Tom Cruise and poking light fun at Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic DUI arrest in 2004, Sarah Silverman is fighting for the life of her self-titled series on Comedy Central.
The Hollywood Reporter reports:
The economic downturn is jeopardizing “The Sarah Silverman Program,” one of Comedy Central’s signature series.
The show’s executive producers—Silverman, Dan Sterling and Rob Schrab—have threatened to quit after the cable network told them the budget for their series would be slashed by more than 20%.
More than two months after “Sarah Silverman” ended its second season, the show has yet to be renewed for Season 3. (In 2007, the second-season pickup came 11 days after the series’ premiere.)
At the center of the holdup is the proposed budget for Season 3. Citing cuts imposed on the network by parent company MTV Networks, Comedy Central had proposed that the trio bring back the WGA Award-nominated show at about $850,000 an episode, sources said, down from the $1.1 million an episode for the show’s second season.
In broadcast, single-camera comedies are produced for about $1.5 million-$2 million an episode, and the budget for any series normally climbs from year to year.
Of course, what studios refuse to celebrate is that even in the midst of recession, the entertainment industry is doing quite well. Box office and attendance are up, ostensibly because a nation full of economic depressives is flocking to escape inside dark theaters. At the moment, cutbacks in Hollywood are the result of media conglomerate ownership that are suffering in other divisions and using the downturn as an excuse to clean house. The article eschews the real reason for cutbacks but references the bigger picture.
The contracting ad market during the recession is hitting networks hard. MTV Networks’ parent Viacom in December laid off 7% of its work force, though Comedy Central largely was spared because it had been through the ringer following the 2003 acquisition of Time Warner’s 50% ownership in the network and had little left to cut.
Amid the economic woes, ABC Studios and 20th TV asked all of their showrunners to cut 2% of their series budgets. The proposed budget cut on “Sarah Silverman” is more than 10 times that.
Silverman insists the integrity of her show (which has special effects and musical numbers) would be compromised at a reduced budget and threatened to pull its third season. While the imminent threat of losing one of the network’s staple shows is rattling executives, a weekend of back-and-forth negotiating (read: screaming, cursing, hysteria) did not beget a decision regarding the show’s future.
March 2, 2009 | 7:49 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
The drug-riddled, alcoholic and exceptionally talented singer Amy Winehouse entertained a flight full of London-bound passengers with her characteristic craziness.
Poor Ms. Winehouse can’t seem to get herself together.
According to her New Year’s resolution, she was supposed to use her vacation time in St. Lucia to sober up and get healthy. (Rehab, as we’ve come to realize, is a no, no, no.) Yet, instead of having some Madonna-esque, Kabbalistic revelation that might reorder her life, she seems destined to inhabit the modern-day, female equivalent of the destructive rock band-syndrome that reigned in the 60s and 70s. At least then, it was completely normal to obliterate your brains, trash hotel rooms and still, preserve your fandom by giving your all on stage. Today, Winehouse just looks like what she is—another mind-blowing talent who blows her own mind; sadly, literally.
From the Huff Post:
After spending months in St. Lucia, Amy Winehouse has decided to return home, and those lucky enough to be on her flight back to London were treated to vintage, crazy Winehouse antics. According to The Daily Mail, the ‘Back to Black’ singer used the airplane’s first class cabin as her own personal party space.
“I was pretty shocked to look up and see Amy Winehouse hurtling through the plane and shouting. It’s just not what you expect,” a source reveals.
“She had clearly been drinking and kept running between the different classes, which just isn’t what people do on planes,” the same source adds.
February 27, 2009 | 4:49 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Lindsay Lohan and unofficial girlfriend Samantha Ronson are unofficially looking for a synagogue who will officially sanction their unofficial romance.
According to IMDB.com, this much is true:
Lindsay Lohan and her girlfriend Samantha Ronson have fuelled rumours they are set to wed - by visiting a London synagogue famous for its liberal views on marriage.
The Mean Girls star, who was raised a Catholic, and Ronson, who is from a Jewish family, have been dating since 2008.
They were rumoured to have become engaged last year, after Ronson reportedly told a crowd in a Los Angeles nightclub about their wedding plans.
And now the couple, currently visiting London, has been photographed entering a Jewish church in the British capital together.
The pair visited the Westminster Synagogue, in the city’s exclusive Knightsbridge area, on Friday afternoon.
Faith officials at the religious building is known for providing marriage blessings to couples of mixed faiths, providing the couple has already enjoyed a civil wedding ceremony.
Although the synagogue’s stance on same-sex unions is not known, gay marriages have been legal in the U.K. since the introduction of civil partnerships in 2004.
February 27, 2009 | 4:12 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
In direct to defiance to new power in Washington that insists on the development of “clean coal,” The Coen brothers directed a 30 second ad-spot that denies that possibility.
The commercial is sponsored by The Reality Coalition, a group of five environmental organizations that say, “There is no such thing as clean coal.”
Now, Hollywood and Washington have always had a unique relationship (sometimes harmonious, sometimes volatile), and therefore political activism and commentary is very much in character for industry leaders. But with Obama representing “liberal,” “democratic” and “just” vales—the putative values of Hollywood—it’s a surprise his good intentions are being called out. And that’s the point the Coens are trying to make (sardonically, of course): good intentions are just not good enough. Realism must take precedent over idealism.
February 26, 2009 | 8:11 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Jerry Seinfeld and jokes about marriage is a near perfect amalgam of Jewish comedy. He broadcasted such humor for nine years on his hit TV series “Seinfeld,” though, I’m willing to bet that his humor has sharpened a bit in the 11 years since he quit television, got married and has spent more time with his wife. He’s clearly learned a thing or two, evinced by his return to the airwaves with a marriage-themed reality show.
The comedian tells Variety:
“This is not a therapy show, it’s a comedy show,” said Seinfeld, who will, guest appearances aside, be involved in his first TV series since “Seinfeld” left the air in 1998. “After nine years of marriage, I have discovered that the comedic potential of this subject is quite rich.”
So what’s the big idea?
“The Marriage Ref,” a nonfiction series that will feature opinionated celebrities, comedians and sports stars offering commentary and advice to real-life couples enduring “classic marital disputes.”
“Picture well-known people weighing in on a couple’s relationship issues and deciding who is right and who is wrong right on the spot, like a referee,” [co-producer Ellen Rakieten] said.
Jerry pitched the idea to NBC Chairman Ben Silverman (who I’m told is quite desperate for a hit) along with Rakieten, an executive producer of the “Oprah Winfrey Show.”
Though there is no premiere date yet, we’ll wait with bated breath.
February 25, 2009 | 5:30 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
I’ve wondered here if Kate Winslet was nominated for “The Reader” (a film, I admit, I found drab) over her superior performance in “Revolutionary Road” because Academy voters have some strange, ancestral penchant for Holocaust drama. But alas, I failed to consider the alternative: dirty, sneaky, Hollywood politics. Thank goodness for Tom O’Neil then, who is wonderfully illuminating in today’s LA Times, for suggesting that Harvey Weinstein perpetrated a full-throttle Oscar push for his “Reader,” leaving “Revolutionary Road” at a dead end. It seems the dead giveaway was when Winslet omitted Weinstein from her acceptance speech. Was that an innocent mistake? Or was Winslet’s collaboration with hubby Sam Mendes snubbed because Harvey is hot for little gold statuettes?
Of all people Kate Winslet should’ve thanked from the Oscars podium as she finally — after five previous losses — clutched that elusive statuette, Harvey Weinstein should’ve been first. That Happy Oscar Warrior took enormous abuse for daring to cram “The Reader” into this year’s derby while Winslet also competed with “Revolutionary Road,” directed by her hubby, Sam Mendes. A producer of both films, Scott Rudin (“The New Harvey,” some wags call him after he won best picture last year for “No Country for Old Men”) was so irked that he took his name off the credits of “The Reader.”
Does that mean she intentionally snubbed Harvey at the Oscars? Rumor has it that she was furious with him for challenging her bid for “Revolutionary Road.” Trying to negotiate the clash, the Weinstein Co. campaigned her “Reader” role in supporting, where she won at the Golden Globes and SAG, but Oscar voters weren’t fooled into buying that second-tier status. They promoted her “Reader” performance to lead and — oops — thereby snubbed that other role entirely. After all, they had to choose between one or the other. Actors are only permitted to be nominated once per category..