Four million viewers got a taste of BET’s first hour-long drama series Being Mary Jane, from Girlfriends creators Salim and Mara Brock Akil, last summer with a TV movie. Now Gabrielle Union returns on Tuesday night at 10 p.m. for Jane‘s first full season as the titular Atlanta news anchor who struggles with her loved ones (including a friend who tries to kill herself), romance (she’s torn between a married suitor and a playboy), and career (contending with journalistic ethics in the face of a Katrina-like disaster). Not exactly lightweight fare.
“I’ve shot a lot of stinkers, and you’re just like, ‘Eh,’” admits the star. “But this one, every day I was like, ‘This is so good.’” She adds, “It’s authentic and it’s brutally honest. You’ll see characters that within an episode you may love, you may hate, you may cry with.”
It was the mother of all years when it came to major TV stories, which made it difficult to whittle them down for a Top 10. So we went with 15, instead!
In no apparent order (though honestly, does any story top the Duck Dynasty one?) here are the year’s 15 biggest newsmakers.
Phil Robertson on Duck Dynasty. Journalists loved the scandal; it gave us something to write about during the dog days of winter. Conservatives (and A&E) hated it because of claims that Duck Dynasty’s home network was squashing Robertson’s right to speak his mind. Ultimately, the Bible-thumping patriarch prevailed, order was restored, and the DD news cycle became the gift that kept giving long after Christmas Day.
Time Warner Cable and Viacom announced the multi-year renewal of their distribution agreement Tuesday afternoon in a deal that will for the first time make entertainment network EPIX available to subscribers.
Per the agreement, the addition of EPIX, a hybrid premium cable/satellite TV network and subscription video on demand service, will put over 3,000 titles — like The Hunger Games, Skyfall and World War Z – at the fingertips of TWC customers.
Moreover, the deal extension means Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks will continue to offer Viacom staples — Nickelodeon, MTV, VH1, CMT and Comedy Central among them — across all platforms, including the TWC TV app.
“We’re pleased to have reached agreement in advance of our deadline,” TWC executive vice president Melinda Witmer said in a release. “We’re working hard to provide our customers with easier access to the content they love; this agreement will provide a more expansive offering to a wide array of our customers, from parents of young children to comedy and movie lovers and more.”
Additional terms of the agreement — such as the length of the renewal and dollar figures — were not disclosed.
Crisis experts say A&E should come forward and better address the future of Duck Dynasty, its multi-million franchise that has been in the crosshairs of advocacy groups over anti-gay and racist comments made by family patriarch Phil Robertson.
“A&E did react quickly with the suspension, but it leaves you hanging a bit with what’s next,” says James Bates of Sitrick and Co., a Los Angeles-based crisis firm. “Then the family stood its ground. It looks like they are at an impasse now.”
After Robertson’s quotes about gays and African-Americans went viral, A&E announced that the 67-year-old old star of the net’s most-watched reality show was placed on indefinite hiatus. The statement made no mention of how it will impact the show’s season four return on Jan. 15, though a spokesman has told reporters that Duck Dynasty will return – it just won’t shoot more episodes with Phil Robertson. Nine of the planned 10 episodes have already been filmed and will feature the patriarch.
Katie Couric’s talk show won’t go beyond this season, Disney-ABC announced today.
“While production will continue on Katie through June 2014, we’ve mutually agreed that there will not be a third season of the show,” according to a joint statement. “We’re very proud of everyone’s contributions to making Katie the #1 new syndicated talk show of 2012-2013, and we look forward to the rest of the season.”
The show will end its second season in May.
In 2012, Katie took over the General Hospital time slot on the ABC stations. Though its household numbers are decent, the show has become cost-prohibitive. Deadline reports the budget exceeds $30 million a year. The show also suffered when it lost Executive Producer Jeff Zucker to CNN.
Last month, Yahoo announced that Couric will join Yahoo News as a Global Anchor beginning in 2014.
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.
Larry Kramer’s Tony award-winning 1985 play The Normal Heart—which details the ominous spread of HIV/AIDS among a group of gay men in 1980s New York City—is finally getting a movie adaptation on the small screen. Directed by American Horror Story and Glee co-creator Ryan Murphy, Heart will premiere this spring on HBO and features a star-studded cast including Mark Ruffalo, Julia Roberts, Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons, and Taylor Kitsch (below, in a photo Ruffalo tweeted out this summer). “It’s a movie about AIDS, but it’s also really a civil rights movie,” says Murphy, who worked with Kramer on the script for three years. “I think it’s more timely than ever before. It’s really about the quest to be seen, not as a gay person or a straight person but just a person…. It’s an activist movie that also has a really great love story in it.” Adds the director, “Of everything I’ve done in my career, I think it is the biggest labor of love.” READ FULL STORY
Early next year, Saturday Night Live will add someone new to its ranks — specifically, its first black female cast member since Maya Rudolph vacated in 2007. (SNL has only featured four African-American women in its entire 39-year history: Yvonne Hudson (1980-81), Danitra Vance (1985-86), Ellen Cleghorne (1991-95) and Rudolph (2000-2007).)
The news comes from straight from executive producer/SNL Czar for Life Lorne Michaels, who told the New York Times that his team has been holding special casting sessions for weeks. The search culminated in an under-the-radar audition for black female comedians held at Los Angeles’s Groundlings Theater last week, at which about a dozen performers were present. READ FULL STORY
Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter has a new drama in the works at FX.
The pilot, titled The Bastard Executioner, was announced today by the network and described as a period drama about a warrior knight in the age of King Edward III. He’s described as a man “who is broken by the ravages of war” and despite a vow to lay down his sword soon finds himself picking up “the bloodiest sword of all.”
Production is scheduled to start in 2014. Sutter created the project and will serve as executive producer. Brian Grazer and Francie Calfo will also serve as EPs. READ FULL STORY
This holiday season, The CW is tweaking its schedule a bit. By the time your favorite shows return, some of them will find themselves in a new time slot.
When Star-Crossed, The CW’s new drama about a love story between a human an alien, premieres Feb. 17, it will fill Hart of Dixie‘s current time slot on Mondays at 8 p.m. Dixie will then be shuffled to Fridays at 9 p.m. beginning March 21.
Next up, The CW will premiere The 100, a post-apocalyptic drama, on March 19 when it takes over The Tomorrow People‘s current spot on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. As of March 17, viewers can catch The Tomorrow People on Mondays at 9 p.m.
So what happens to Beauty and the Beast? Well, after the show’s March 10 airing, it will go on hiatus. A return date for the show is yet to be announced.
Finally, Whose Line Is It Anyway? will return March 21, airing Fridays at 8 p.m. After its return, encore episodes will also air at 8:30 p.m. following original episodes at 8 p.m. Encore episodes of the first season will also air Fridays at 8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. from Feb. 14 to March 14.
[SPOILER ALERT IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED THE LATEST AMERICAN HORROR STORY: COVEN!!!!]
Last night’s American Horror Story: Coven was a pivotal episode for Gabourey Sidibe’s Queenie. Not only did she get to school Madame LaLaurie’s decapitated head in black history via a screening of Roots (and Halle Berry’s B*A*P*S) but she also (seemingly) killed herself in order to protect Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett) from witch hunter Hank (Josh Hamilton). EW talked to Sidibe about whether or not Queenie is really dead and her dream sitcom with co-star Kathy Bates (they even have a theme song). READ FULL STORY
[SPOILER ALERT IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE LATEST AMERICAN HORROR STORY: COVEN!!!!!!]
The dead bodies are starting to pile up on American Horror Story: Coven. As is typical for this franchise, characters begin to get the ax as the season winds down and last night was no exception. READ FULL STORY