Obi-Wan Kenobi’s in trouble at Disney+, Netflix gets crafty with its viewership stats, Quibi lands more big talent for its short series, Ray Donovan needs your help, a bevy of new trailers, and more of the week’s top news.
The bad news: Disney+ and Lucasfilm executives have halted pre-production on the Obi-Wan Kenobi series that will – eventually – find Ewan McGregor reprising his Jedi role.
The good news: the costly delay is a sign that the studio is making it a priority to attempt to make the series, which was originally planned as a movie, a quality entry in the Star Wars franchise.
Variety reports recent rumors hinted the series would be canceled. Instead, Disney+ and Lucasfilm executives have decided to gather a new staff of writers and overhaul the scripts.
When McGregor signed on to the series last August, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy said all scripts for the series were written and that filming would begin in 2020. The story has changed, though, and now the only confirmed names still attached to the series are McGregor and director Deborah Chow, who also directed part of The Mandalorian series on Disney+.
Meanwhile, Collider.com, which first reported trouble was brewing behind-the-scenes, shares that the crew that gathered to work on the series at Pinewood Studios in London has been sent home. The site’s sources say there’s hope that work on the show could resume in the summer, but the crew was told the work stoppage would last “indefinitely.”
Highly anticipated fantasy series The Witcher, starring Henry Cavill, was renewed for a second season before its first premiered. And Netflix has also already ordered an animated movie – The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf – that will debut before season 2. So what’s left to say about the series about monster hunter Geralt of Rivia and its performance on Netflix? How about the fact that the first season has been viewed by 76 million subscriber households, making it the most successful first season series launch in Netflix history?
That’s a fact, though it comes with an asterisk: Netflix has changed its definition of what constitutes a view. Until recently, a view meant a Netflix member had watched at least 70 percent of a movie or 70 percent of one episode of a series. Now, if a viewer watches at least two minutes of a show, Netflix counts that as a view, reasoning that two minutes is enough time to prove the viewer was making an “intentional” choice to watch that program.
And it is by that new measure that Netflix has declared The Witcher, based on Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski’s book series that spawned a huge video game franchise, its most successful launch ever.
The info, revealed in a shareholder letter in the company’s fourth quarter earnings report this week, also includes viewership numbers for the second season of You, the adaptation of Caroline Kepnes’ stalker thriller novel Hidden Bodies, which was seen by 54 million Netflix households in its first month of release at the end of 2019, and 21 million household views for the third season of royal drama The Crown.
Overall, the new method of counting views boosts Netflix’s viewership numbers by 35 percent.
“Our new methodology is similar to the BBC iPlayer in their rankings based on ‘requests’ for the title, ‘most popular’ articles on The New York Times, which include those who opened the articles, and YouTube view counts,” the company shares in the earnings report. “This way, short and long titles are treated equally, leveling the playing field for all types of our content including interactive content, which has no fixed length. The new metric is about 35% higher on average than the prior metric. For example, 45m member households chose to watch Our Planet under the new metric vs. 33m under the prior metric.”
For a service whose programming won’t clock in at longer than 10 minutes per episode, Quibi continues to round up a list of talent that will rival any of the stars at its streaming competitors. The latest: current awards season favorite Laura Dern, who has signed on to star in Just One Drink, an anthology series in which her bartender character serves up libations to customers in “various states of emotional disrepair.” The series will be penned by author and screenwriter Nick Hornsby, who, along with Dern, will also serve as a producer on the show. (EW)
Meanwhile, Quibi also announced the official title for its action-thriller that will star Liam Hemsworth and Christoph Waltz: Most Dangerous Game. Hemsworth will star as Dodge Maynard, a man with a terminal illness who’s desperate to score cash for his pregnant wife. But when he accepts an offer to take part in a deadly game, he soon learns he is not the hunter, but the prey.
Quibi, which is short for “quick bites,” launches on April 6.
Even before the recent and very public squabbling among England’s royal family, Family Guy writer and New York Times bestselling author Gary Janetti was wringing humor from his popular (with more than 900,000 followers) Instagram account that spoofs the royals. Told from the fictional perspective of Prince George (William and Kate’s oldest kiddo), the account has now inspired an HBO Max animated series called The Prince.
Janetti will provide the voice of the Prince George character, while Tom Hollander will voice Princes Philip and Charles, with Orlando Bloom as Prince Harry, Condola Rashad as Meghan Markle, Lucy Punch as Kate Middleton, Alan Cumming as Prince George’s butler, Owen, Frances De La Tour as Queen Elizabeth, and Iwan Rheon as Prince William. Each episode will find young George trying to maneuver royal life, from going to school with commoners to playing with those ubiquitous corgis.
The Prince is Janetti’s second HBO Max series. He and his celebrity stylist husband, Brad Goreski, will star in the travel documentary series Brad and Gary Go To … on the upcoming streaming service.
The seventh season of Showtime’s stellar and intense drama Ray Donovan just ended, which means a long wait for season 8. Unless there is no season 8 …
That is a real possibility, as the network has yet to renew the show. Also, Showtime co-president of entertainment Gary Levine said during this month’s Television Critics Association gathering that he thinks the series will end soon. On those notes, star of the Emmy-winning series, Liev Schreiber, took to Instagram this week to tell fans they should write letters to the network and let execs know if they think Ray and the Donovan fam should live for at least one more season (well, those who are still alive, anyway, which, no spoiler here, but as of the season 7 finale, is one less Donovan family member).
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What an amazing journey it’s been. I’ve been reading your comments, and the outpouring of love and support for our cast and crew has been truly overwhelming. I know the big question on everyone’s mind is whether there will be a season 8. Truth is it’s in the networks hands. So if you want more, reach out to them at @showtime, @raydonovan, and @cbstv and let them know how you feel. Either way it’s been an amazing ride and we have all of you to thank for it. xo Liev
“What an amazing journey it’s been. I’ve been reading your comments, and the outpouring of love and support for our cast and crew has been truly overwhelming,” Schreiber wrote. “I know the big question on everyone’s mind is whether there will be a season 8. Truth is it’s in the networks hands. So if you want more, reach out to them at @showtime, @raydonovan, and @cbstv and let them know how you feel. Either way it’s been an amazing ride and we have all of you to thank for it. Xo Liev.”
Patton Oswalt will voice the titular megalomaniacal supervillain M.O.D.O.K. in the upcoming animated Hulu series Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. Marvel’s first animated comedy for adults finds M.O.D.O.K. (Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing) in the thick of a midlife crisis: just as his marriage is crumbling, he has been ousted as the leader of his evildoing organization, A.I.M. (Advanced Idea Mechanics). Other cast members voicing M.O.D.O.K.’s family and foes: Aimee Garcia (Lucifer) as M.O.D.O.K.’s wife, Jodie, a mommy blogger; Ben Schwartz (Parks and Recreation) as M.O.D.O.K.’s son, Lou; Melissa Fumero (Brooklyn Nine-Nine) as Melissa. M.O.D.O.K.’s teen daughter; Wendi McLendon-Covey (The Goldbergs) as Monica, M.O.D.O.K.’s work rival; Saturday Night Live’s Beck Bennett as Austin Van Der Sleet, M.O.D.O.K.’s new twentysomething boss; Jon Daly (Curb Your Enthusiasm) as Super Adaptoid, the snarky machine that wants to overwrite his programming and possibly turn on M.O.D.O.K.; and Sam Richardson (Veep) as Gary, M.O.D.O.K.’s loyal minion.
Katey Sagal has been cast as the lead in Rebel, ABC’s drama pilot about a legal advocate without a law degree, based on Erin Brockovich. The series is from Grey’s Anatomy showrunner Krista Vernoff. Sagal is currently guest starring as Dan Connor’s girlfriend on The Conners.
GLOW star Betty Gilpin will play Ann Coulter in FX’s upcoming Impeachment: American Crime Story season, about the Bill Clinton–Monica Lewinsky scandal. Comedian Billy Eichner will portray Matt Drudge in the series. (DEADLINE)
Dean Norris, the Claws star and Breaking Bad alum who will make a guest appearance in the upcoming fifth season of Better Call Saul, has signed on to star in Chuck Lorre’s CBS comedy pilot The United States of Al. The series stars Parker Young as Riley, a Marine combat veteran who struggles to readjust to life at home in Ohio. He bonds with Awalmir/Al, the interpreter who served with his unit in Afghanistan, and who has just moved to America. Norris will play Riley’s dad, also a Marine, who Riley lives with upon his return to Ohio. (DEADLINE)
Rosario Dawson will star in DMZ, the HBO Max series from Ava DuVernay. The series, based on the comic book of the same name, set in a futuristic Manhattan that is the site of a brutal civil war. Dawson will play Alma, a medic who is trying to find her missing son. (DEADLINE)
Parasite, the Korean-language thriller that racked up six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, will live on as an HBO limited series. Best Director Oscar nominee Bong Joon-ho told The Hollywood Reporter the series will feature stories “that happen in between the sequences in the film.”
Seth Rogen will co-produce an adaptation of the comic book Fear Agent for Amazon. THR reports Amazon won a fierce bidding war for the project, which tells the story of Heath Huston: “Interstellar invaders. Time travel. Clones of clones of clones, and lots of whiskey. Whether he’s battling the scourge of space, going back in time to stop the alien invasion that changed Earth forever, or winning his ex-wife back, there’s nothing that Heath Huston won’t do to try to right the wrongs and gets his family back. He is, after all, the last Fear Agent.”
Justin Long will host and executive produce a new Disney+ competition series called Shop Class. Premiering on the streaming service on Feb. 28, the show will feature groups of young people challenged to design and build unique projects in each episode, while a panel of experts will evaluate and test the structures to determine a winning team. (THR)
Facebook Watch has greenlit Red Table Talk, the Jada Pinkett Smith–hosted talk show, for three seasons, through 2022. In addition, Facebook Watch and producer Pinkett Smith will launch a new talk show in the franchise: Red Table Talk: The Estefans, featuring Gloria Estefan, her daughter Emily and her niece Lili.
Bill Simmons is doing for music what his award-winning, consistently great 30 for 30 series has done for sports. The Ringer creator is teaming with HBO for a six-part docuseries that will explore larger issues and acts in the music industry. HBO was an investor in The Ringer and Ringer Films, which produced the Andre the Giant documentary, about the legendary wrestler and actor, for the cable network.
Comedian Bert Kreischer will star in the Netflix improv comedy Cabin, in which he and celebrity friends like Anthony Anderson, Joel McHale, and Caitlyn Jenner will attempt to cleanse their “mind, body, and soul” at a remote cabin via “bizarre therapy techniques, intense physical challenges, and ridiculously improvised encounters with nature,” often with “disastrous” results, according to Netflix.
Drew Barrymore’s fall 2020 daytime talk show, The Drew Barrymore Show, has cleared 85 percent of the country. Barrymore is also an executive producer on the series, which will be distributed by CBS Television Distribution.
NBA legend, author, and activist Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will executive produce and be featured in the History Channel documentary Black Patriots, a “comprehensive picture of the African-American experience during the Revolutionary War,” with focus on Crispus Attucks, Peter Salem, Phillis Wheatley and James Armistead Lafayette. The special airs on Feb. 19.
Lorena Bobbitt, the subject of an Amazon docuseries last year, will produce a fully authorized Lifetime movie about her life. Bobbitt, who became a household name in 1993 after she cut off her abusive husband’s penis, will be the subject of I Was Lorena Bobbitt, which will air during the second half of 2020 and document her tabloid fame in the ’90s and her work as an advocacy work on behalf of abused women.