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Jesus coming to CNN (plus Mike Rowe, Lisa Ling)

CNN announced a new prime-time lineup Thursday that includes Jesus, reality stars, and maybe even a little news.

Most provocatively, the network announced at its upfront presentation to advertisers in New York City, The Jesus Code, a series which promises to take viewers on a “forensic and archaeological journey through the Bible” (cue jokes about CNN looking for a ratings miracle). Religious-themed programming has been considered hot since History stunned the industry with its ratings-shattering The Bible miniseries last year. The Jesus Code “will take viewers on a thrilling high-stakes journey through forensics, biblical archeology and forgery in history, exploring the evidence of Jesus’ existence by questioning the authenticity of sacred relics.”

CNN is also bringing Dirty Jobs host Mike Rowe back to cable TV with Somebody’s Gotta Do It, profiling “innovators, do-gooders, entrepreneurs, collectors and fanatics.” Another cross-country docu-series, not yet named, has Lisa Ling “immersing herself in sub-cultures that are unusual, bizarre and sometimes dangerous.” The network has also ordered The Hunt with John Walsh, which promises to “tell stories of ongoing international criminal investigations in which the suspect is a fugitive at large.” READ FULL STORY

CNN bringing back Anthony Bourdain's hot series

Anthony Bourdain has traveled to all sorts of exotic places over the past couple of years, with none as important as where he’s taken CNN itself.

Bourdain’s Parts Unknown series, a culinary travelogue, swiftly became the network’s top-rated series since debuting last April, a bright spot at a place that was in a severe dry spell before the missing Malaysian plane kicked up ratings. A new eight-episode season begins Sunday at 9 p.m. EDT.

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Piers Morgan ends CNN show with gun-control plea

CNN host Piers Morgan issued one last plea for U.S. gun control as he wrapped up his show’s three-year run.

Morgan devoted the prime-time show’s final minutes Friday night to the issue that he said has been a “consistent and often very controversial” part of Piers Morgan Live.

The British-born host cited gun violence statistics and expressed dismay that mass shootings including those in Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo., haven’t led to stricter laws.

Morgan blamed politicians that he said had been bullied into “cowardly” silence by a gun lobby led by the National Rifle Association.

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CNN's 'Piers Morgan Live' ending

CNN’s prime-time talk show Piers Morgan Live is coming to an end, the news channel said Sunday.

Morgan, who succeeded Larry King in the 9 p.m. EST time slot three years ago, was drawing lackluster ratings. In contrast, King had a 25-year run on CNN.

The airdate for Morgan’s last show has yet to be determined, CNN said in a statement.

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Why CNN is a good fit for Jay Leno

Not surprisingly, a flurry of reports have surfaced that Jay Leno, the reigning King of Late Night, is already fielding inquiries from other networks about doing a new show once Jimmy Fallon succeeds him on The Tonight Show in April. With NBC unlikely to find him another spot — we all remember how that Leno-in-primetime experiment turned out — moving to another network makes sense for the host, and one option in particular could make for an attractive third chapter in his career: CNN.

You haven’t heard? Despite denials from CNN reps, insiders insist that CNN President Jeff Zucker — Leno’s old boss at NBC — met with the 63-year-old comedian about hosting a late-night show for the cable news network. Apparently, this is something that Zucker’s wanted for some time: he’s reportedly been on the lookout for a Daily Show-like program to help shore up their late evening ratings. And the cable network could certainly use a positive headline or two; Zucker and the net have been dogged with poor ratings and lackluster reviews since he took over the news network last year.

Leno would make an ideal addition to CNN, if only because he offers what even Piers Morgan sometimes struggles to achieve: a good interview. Guests have long singled out Leno’s desk to tell all, primarily because the senior comedian queries them in a friendly, non-threatening manner. Who knows what newsmakers he could attract if he were to headline a show on CNN?

Even more important, Leno could come with a strong and dedicated fan base. Season to date, Tonight is off to its biggest start 12 weeks into a new TV season in three years and continues to beat Jimmy Kimmel and David Letterman. He’s up 11 percent in 18-49 viewers (with 1.133 million vs. 1.025 million last season) and up 10 percent in total viewers (3.821 million vs. 3.465 million). Tonight has attracted bigger 18-49 audiences than Late Show for the last 56 weeks in a row and topped Kimmel for 45 of their 49 head-to-head weeks. In total viewers, Jay has out-delivered Late Show for 60 weeks in a row and Kimmel for 49 of 49 weeks.

Naturally, NBC has tried to head off any talk that Leno won’t have a home once Fallon succeeds him. “Nothing would make me happier than to find ways to keep him involved with this network. That’s really up to him,” NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt told The Hollywood Reporter.

This could get interesting again — or not. Thoughts?

Anderson Cooper renews CNN contract through 2016

CNN’s chief silver fox is staying put, at least through the next presidential election.

EW can confirm that Anderson Cooper has renewed his CNN contract, inking a deal to stay with the cable news network through 2016′s presidential race. (The Hollywood Reporter first broke the news.)

The intrepid newsman came to CNN in 2001, after a stint at ABC News (and host of The Mole); he’s hosted his signature show, Anderson Cooper 360°, since 2003. From September 2011 through May of this year, Cooper also hosted a syndicated talk show called Anderson.

CNN Films cancels planned Hillary Clinton doc

CNN’s feature-length Hillary Clinton documentary — a project that was to focus on the former Secretary of State’s professional and personal life, helmed by Academy Award winner Charles Ferguson — is no more.

This morning, Ferguson published a lengthy Huffington Post article in which he reveals that he has canceled the project — and explains why he’s pulling out.

The reason, in a nutshell: “When I approached people for interviews, I discovered that nobody, and I mean nobody, was interested in helping me make this film,” Ferguson writes. “Not Democrats, not Republicans — and certainly nobody who works with the Clintons, wants access to the Clintons, or dreams of a position in a Hillary Clinton administration. Not even journalists who want access, which can easily be taken away.”

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CNN moves up return of 'Crossfire,' citing Syria vote

With a congressional vote on Syria looming, CNN can’t wait to get Crossfire started again.

The network says the daily debate program will begin Monday, Sept. 9. CNN had originally planned for the show to debut the following Monday, but it moved up the premiere because of President Barack Obama’s request that Congress vote on a military response against Syria over its alleged use of chemical weapons.

Newt Gingrich, S.E. Cupp, Stephanie Cutter, and Van Jones are the new combatants on Crossfire. The 30-minute show will air weekdays at 6:30 p.m. ET.

The show aired for many years on CNN before being stopped in 2005 after it was criticized by The Daily Show host Jon Stewart. But new CNN boss Jeff Zucker has advocated bringing it back.

CNN, NBC won't be hosting GOP presidential debates

The Republican National Committee, responding to plans by two television networks for programs about Hillary Rodham Clinton, approved a resolution Friday to block CNN and NBC from hosting GOP presidential primary debates.

The unanimous vote affirmed RNC Chairman Reince Priebus’s threat against the networks if they went ahead with programs about Clinton, a possible Democratic presidential contender. Priebus said CNN has “an obvious bias.”

“That’s a network that won’t be hosting a single Republican primary debate,” Priebus declared, receiving a standing ovation from Republican activists from across the country gathered for the committee’s summer meeting in Boston. READ FULL STORY

Republicans let Fox Television off the hook for Hillary Clinton miniseries

NBC is running the risk of losing out on one of TV’s best reality shows: the Republican presidential primary debates. The GOP’s debates of 2011-12 featured some of television’s most-talked-about moments, from Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 chorus to Rick Perry’s “Oops” moment to Mitt Romney’s $10,000 bet — and in 2015, there’s always the chance that Donald Trump could join the cast.

When NBC Entertainment announced in July that it was planning a 2014 miniseries about presumed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, with Diane Lane playing the former first lady, there was an inevitable reaction from the Right. Republicans accused NBC — which also runs the liberal-leaning MSNBC — of promoting its favored candidate, journalism watch-dog groups agreed that the miniseries was a serious conflict of interest, and even high-ranking NBC News personnel, like Chuck Todd, expressed their unease. (Republicans were equally cross about CNN’s plans for its own Hillary Clinton documentary.)

Republicans, who view Clinton as the most formidable 2016 Democratic candidate — though she hasn’t declared her intentions yet — aren’t willing to stand silently while she enjoys a bounty of free publicity. Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, called on CNN and NBC to cancel their Clinton TV projects — “political ad[s] masquerading as an unbiased production” — and threatened to keep the Republican debates away from those networks if they refuse to comply. In the 2012 election debates, CNN and NBC (and its cable subsidiaries) sponsored 11 of the 20 Republican debates.

The politics and motivations seemed simple enough, but NBC, it turns out, is in talks to farm out the production of its Clinton miniseries to another company… Fox Television Studios. That’s the same Fox that also runs Fox News, the conservative cable news channel that is perceived as a friendlier room for Republican candidates. Would the RNC hold Fox News accountable with the same threat it levied at CNN and NBC? Well, no.
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Republicans want NBC, CNN to pull Hillary Clinton programs

The Republican National Committee charged Monday that NBC and CNN are promoting a potential presidential candidacy by Hillary Rodham Clinton, threatening to blackball them from future GOP primary debates if they air planned programs on the former secretary of state.

RNC chairman Reince Priebus called a planned NBC miniseries on Clinton and a CNN documentary on the first lady an “extended commercial” for a future Clinton presidential campaign. In separate letters to the networks, he urged them to cancel “this political ad masquerading as an unbiased production.”

Clinton has not yet said whether she’ll run for president again in 2016 but her future remains the subject of wide speculation in political circles and beyond. The primary debates typically provide a ratings boost for the networks and are highly-coveted as the presidential campaign unfolds.

In making the charge, the RNC was raising a common complaint among Republican activists that news and entertainment industries favor Democratic candidates. Republicans have also used a potential Clinton campaign as a fundraising tool in recent months as both parties begin to assess the crop of candidates to succeed President Barack Obama.
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Jake Tapper to guest on 'All My Children'

CNN anchor and prolific tweeter Jake Tapper is ready for his close-up.

In 10 days, the newsman will make his acting debut on the revived online-only version of All My Children, which airs both on Hulu’s “The Online Network” imprint and Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network.

Naturally, he’ll be playing a reporter — specifically, one named Spencer Phillips who works for the generic-sounding Business News Update. (Then again, AMC‘s hometown is called Pine Valley…)

Apparently, Tapper’s casting wasn’t premeditated — as The Wrap writes, the Washington correspondent was “discovered” by AMC‘s producers while filming a segment for The Lead about the soap’s revival. Only in (Internet) Hollywood!

Soledad O'Brien on her move to Al Jazeera network, other upcoming projects

Since leaving her gig as anchor of CNN’s Starting Point in February, news veteran Soledad O’Brien has been on quest to redefine what it means to be a high-quality journalist in the modern age of media. In addition to her recently announced role as a Special Correspondent on Al Jazeera America’s America Tonight, 2013 has O’Brien working on documentaries with CNN, producing content for National Geographic, continuing work on her groundbreaking Black in America series and finding a home for Latinos in America. This is all while appearing on Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, looking into developing scripted projects, and working with HBO. READ FULL STORY

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