TV Talk

Avatar: The Last Airbender Creators Exit Netflix’s Live-Action Series Adaptation

"Things did not go as we had hoped," animated series co-creator said of the Netflix partnership. Plus, Will Smith explores a darker Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reboot and more top TV and streaming news.

by | August 14, 2020 | Comments

This week’s TV Talk roundup looks at some bad news about one reboot (The Last Airbender creators are no longer involved with Netflix’s live-action adaptation) and some good news about another (Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith are attempting to get a series made out of Morgan Cooper’s viral video that reimagines The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as a drama). There’s also new late-night shows coming to Peacock courtesy of some familiar faces, a Netflix comedy special starring Trump impersonator Sarah Cooper, and a TV titan dies at 97.


TOP STORY

Avatar: The Last Airbender Animated Series Creators Drop Out of Live-Action Adaptation

Avatar: The Last Airbender (Nickelodeon)
(Photo by Nickelodeon)

Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, the creators of the much-loved Nickelodeon animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender, have announced that they have severed involvement with Netflix in regards to a live-action adaptation of the show. Konietzko shared the news in an Instagram post while DiMartino offered more details on his website by saying that “in a joint announcement for the series [in 2018], Netflix said that it was committed to honoring our vision for this retelling and to supporting us on creating the series. And we expressed how excited we were for the opportunity to be at the helm. Unfortunately, things did not go as we had hoped.”

A live-action film adaptation of The Last Airbender was written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. It was released in 2010 and was savaged by critics. It has a 5% Tomatometer score.

More from Netflix this week:

Sarah Cooper
(Photo by Mindy Tucker)

Trump-skewering TikTok star Sarah Cooper will have her own Netflix special this fall. It’s directed by Natasha Lyonne, who executive produces along with Maya Rudolph.


Will and Jada Pinkett Smith Pitch a Darker, More Realistic Fresh Prince


Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith’s Westbrook Studios and Universal Television are currently pitching a series entitled Bel Air that is based on Morgan Cooper’s viral fan film that re-envisions Smith’s popular 1990s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as a drama. According to Deadline, the series “will dive deeper into the inherent conflicts, emotions and biases of what it means to be a Black man in America today, while still delivering the swagger and fun nods to the original show” about a West Philadelphia teen whose mom sends him to live with relatives in Los Angeles after he gets into a fight.


Martin Scorsese Signs Apple TV+ Deal

Director Martin Scorsese
(Photo by Michael Tullberg/Getty Images)

Get ready for some more tracking shots on streamers. Martin Scorsese’s Sikelia Productions has signed a multi-year first-look deal with Apple TV+, which will include film and television productions. The channel is currently working with the acclaimed director on Killers of the Flower Moon, a film starring Scorsese regulars Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro. (DiCaprio’s Appian Way, which is co-run by Jennifer Davisson, also has a deal with Apple TV+).

More from Apple TV+ this week:

  • Beanie Feldstein and Jane Lynch are going to voice characters in a new animated series adaptation of the Harriet the Spy books.
  • The streaming service will debut Tehran, an espionage thriller from Fauda’s Moshe Zonder, on September 25.

Amber Ruffin, Larry Wilmore To Launch Peacock Shows

Amber Ruffin
(Photo by NBC)

NBCUniversal’s new streaming service Peacock is getting into the topical late-night show game with two upcoming shows.

The first, which stars Late Night with Seth Meyers breakout Amber Ruffin and is called The Amber Ruffin Show, will launch in September and currently has a nine-episode order. Ruffin is executive producing the series along with Meyers, Mike Shoemaker, and fellow Late Night writer and frequent on-screen commentator, Jenny Hagel.

Ruffin told journalists attending the show’s all-virtual Television Critics Association summer press tour that “the show will be a half-hour, late-night show and it’ll mostly feel like a late-night show except there will never be a guest. Well, as of now, we will not have guests. You never know who’s gonna stop by. New York’s a big city. But I guess we will write as much as we can all week and then the four things we like the most, that’s what we’ll do.”

But fans of Late Night who have come to enjoy Ruffin (and Hagel’s) commentary in segments like “Jokes Seth Can’t Tell” should not worry, as she will still be involved with that show.

Peacock’s other new after-hours series involves bringing back a late-night veteran: Larry Wilmore. The Daily Show and Nightly Show alum will host a still-untitled weekly series that the press release promises will see him having “real discussions with high profile people from all different backgrounds including sports, politics and entertainment.”

“The show is basically about where we’re going to have that kind of ‘conversation’ that we’ve been saying that we want to have,” Wilmore told journalists attending his virtual panel. “So we’re going to have some interesting people in the show, and we’re also going to cover the election. I felt like I got cheated the last time during the last election [because The Nightly Show’s last episode aired August 18, 2016]. So it’ll be fun to cover that, and just weigh-in on the important issues in the culture right now.”

He also said that the show isn’t going to steer away from topical, yet sensitive, issues like race, explains that “we’re definitely going to cover race, but we’re not going to be … obsessed with it.”

The series has an 11-episode order so far and also launches in September.

More from Peacock this week:

Will Forte in MacGruberGreg Peters/©Universal courtesy Everett Collection

  • The streaming channel has given a series order to MacGruber, the Will Forte comedy based on his popular Saturday Night Live character and subsequent feature movie. The logline reads that “after rotting in prison for over a decade, America’s ultimate hero and uber patriot, MacGruber, is finally released. His mission: to take down a mysterious villain from his past Brigadier Commander Enos Queeth. With the entire world in the crosshairs, MacGruber must race against time to defeat the forces of evil – only to find that evil… may be lurking within.”
  • Sara Bareilles will star Girls5eva, a new comedy from 30 Rock’s Tina Fey and Robert Carlock. She plays Dawn, a former member of a ’90s girl group who is now managing her family’s small Italian restaurant in Queens. She’s grown a bit listless and jumps at the chance to get the band back together.
  • New cast members joining Rutherford Falls, the small-town comedy starring Ed Helms and co-created by him, Mike Schur and Sierra Teller Ornelas, include Jana Schmieding, Michael Greyeyes, Jesse Leigh, and Dustin Milligan.
  • Peacock has also given a series order to One of Us Is Lying. It’s based on the Karen M. McManus novel and follows “what happens when five high schoolers walk into detention and only four make it out alive.”

Between the World and Me First Cast Announced

Between the World and Me first cast announced
(Photo by Clockwise from top left: Angela Bassett Courtesy / D'Andre Michael; Joe Morton Courtesy / Benjo Arwas; Oprah Winfrey Courtesy / Harpo Inc., Ruven Afanador; Courtney B. Vance Courtesy / Matthew Jordan Smith; Susan Kelechi Watson Courtesy / Kate Szatmari; Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter Courtesy / Dario Calmese)

Angela Bassett, Joe Morton, Phylicia Rashad, Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, Courtney B. Vance, Pauletta Washington, Susan Kelechi Watson, and Alicia Garza, Oprah Winfrey will star in the HBO special event Between the World and Me, based on the New York Times bestseller of the same name by author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates.

The special will combine elements of the novel’s original 2018 Apollo Theater stage adaptation, will again be directed by award-winning director and Apollo Theater Executive Producer Kamilah Forbes, and will include readings from Coates’ book. The HBO production will also incorporate documentary footage from the actors’ home lives, archival footage, and animation. Currently in production under COVID-19 guidelines, the special debuts this fall on HBO and will also be available to stream on HBO Max.


Sumner Redstone Dies at 97

Media tycoon Sumner Redstone, who, with his family, was the majority voting shareholder of ViacomCBS — and, before that, the executive chairman of both CBS and Viacom — has died at age 97. In his obituary on the mogul, CNN media critic Brian Lowry writes about Redstone’s infamous cantankerous personality — “I have no intention of ever retiring, or of dying,” Redstone once said in an interview — as well as his long, public battle to control his legacy and his feuds with members of his family.

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