TV Talk

Obi-Wan Kenobi Series Back on With John Wick Producer Writing

Plus, Christopher Meloni returns to Detective Stabler role, HBO offers nearly 500 hours of free programming, and more in the biggest TV and streaming stories of the week.

by | April 2, 2020 | Comments

Disney+ series about beloved Jedi master gets back on track, Det. Elliot Stabler returns (but not to SVU), HBO gives non-subscribers a free taste of what they’ve been missing, and — surprise! — streaming viewership is way up in the week’s top TV and streaming news.


TOP STORY

John Wick Writer Will Take Over Charting the Story for the Obi-Wan Series Starring Ewan McGregor

STAR WARS: EPISODE III-REVENGE OF THE SITH, Ewan McGregor
(Photo by Ralph Nelson Jr./TM and ©copyright Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved/Courtesy Everett Collection)

At last, a little good news in TV land: Disney+’s Obi-Wan Kenobi series may be back on track, with a new writer hired to lead the drama. Joby Harold, an executive producer on John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, has been hired as a writer on the untitled Obi-Wan series that stars Ewan McGregorVariety reports.

The Star Wars series was put on hold back in January, because of fears that the storyline – which would have revolved around Obi-Wan looking after young Luke Skywalker – was going to be too similar to the storyline of another Disney+ Star Wars series, The Mandalorian, in which the titular character is looking after the very popular character known as Baby Yoda.

Writer Hossein Amini left the project in January, and Harold will make his TV writing debut with the Obi-Wan series. He was previously an EP on the WGN America drama Underground, and the Netflix series Spinning Out. He’s also developing a new spin on Transformers at Paramount.


HBO Contributes Nearly 500 Hours of Free Programming to the National Binge

Succession season 2 key art (HBO)
(Photo by HBO)

#StayHomeBoxOffice premium cable network HBO urges in dropping the news that nearly 500 hours of programming will be available to stream for free for a limited time, starting Friday, April 3.

All of the programming will be available to stream without a subscription by downloading the HBO NOW or HBO GO apps or by visiting HBONOW.com or HBOGO.com. The content will also be made available for free via participating distribution partners’ platforms in the coming days, the network announced in a release.

If you’re not a subscriber, now’s a great time to finally find out what the buzz about Barry and Succession is all about.

 


Chris Meloni Will Play Elliot Stabler on a New Dick Wolf Series on NBC

LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT: Christopher Meloni, (Season 8)
(Photo by Virginia Sherwood © NBC / Courtesy Everett Collection)

Chris Meloni is back on NBC in a Dick Wolf series, playing the beloved Elliot Stabler. The catch: He won’t be bringing Stabler back to Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, the long-running NBC drama where viewers got to know the detective.
Instead, Meloni will be at the center of a new series, an NBC drama in which Stabler leads a special NYPD organized crime unit. Do we smell crossovers?

The Wolf-produced SVU spin-off has been given a 13-episode order by the network, as the first project of Wolf’s recently-signed nine-figure, five-year, multi-platform deal with Universal Television.

Deadline reports that former Chicago P.D. showrunner Matt Olmstead “is being eyed” as the showrunner for the still-untitled Stabler drama.

There’s also no confirmation yet on how much of Stabler’s SVU background and storyline will be brought into the new series. Meloni starred on SVU for its first 12 seasons, where Stabler was married with five children, and retired from the police force when the actor left the series.


COVID-19: Emmy-Winning Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Songwriter and Fountains of Wayne Singer Adam Schlesinger Dies 

Adam Schlesinger, Rachel Bloom and Jack Dolgen pose with Emmys
(Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

Fountains of Wayne co-founder Adam Schlesinger, who died on Wednesday after contracting coronavirus, was a prolific and multi-talented performer. You may know Schlesinger from FoW’s “Stacy’s Mom,” the Oscar-nominated theme song from That Thing You Do!, or the Emmy-winning original music from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend; he is pictured above (left) with 2019 co-winners Rachel Bloom and Jack Dolgen.

Schlesinger – who also won two Emmys for original music he co-wrote for the Tony Awards, a Grammy Award for his work on A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All, and a Writers Guild of America Award for writing on the Tony Awards – was executive music producer on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and also composed music for Sesame Street, Crank Yankers, and Saturday Night Live. His earworm pop songs were used on shows like Gilmore Girls, Gossip Girl, One Tree Hill, and a particularly memorable episode of Scrubs with Mandy Moore.

Schlesinger is survived by two children.

Other celebrities who have died from coronavirus include actor Mark Blum, who starred in Desperately Seeking Susan and Crocodile Dundee, as well as guest appearances on The Sopranos, The Blacklist, Succession, The Good Fight, and Billions; Top Chef Masters winner Floyd Cardoz; jazz pianist and Marsalis music family patriarch Ellis Marsalis Jr.; Star Wars actor and dialect coach Andrew Jack; Tony-winning playwright Terrence McNally; country singer Joe Diffie; singer Alan Merrill; jazz trumpeter Wallace Roney; jazz singer and saxophone player Many Dibango; and comedian Ken Shimura.

THR checked in with St. Elsewhere star Norman Lloyd, who, at 105, talks about living through this pandemic, and the last one, the Spanish flu, in 1918. (THR)

TV pilot season, so heavily impacted this year by the coronavirus, could be a permanent victim of the current health crisis, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Also, Curb Your Enthusiasm star Larry David really wants us all to stay at home, but no one more than himself.


New Trailers: ESPN’s The Last Dance Michael Jordan Docuseries Moves From Summer to an April 19 Premiere

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Streaming Services See Major Uptick in Viewing Minutes

Mark Wahlberg and Winston Duke in keyart for Netflix film Spenser Confidential
(Photo by Netflix)

No big surprise here: as the shelter-in-place orders continued to stack up across the country, the amount of time viewers have spent watching streaming services has continued to grow. For the week of March 16, the number of minutes spent viewing streaming platforms increased by 34 percent from the week of March 2, from 116.4 billion minutes to 156.1 billion, as per Nielsen data. Netflix had 29 percent of the total, followed by YouTube with 20 percent, Hulu with 10, Amazon with 9, and the other major streamers, including Disney+ and CBS All Access, sharing the remaining 31 percent. Netflix’s top program for the week of March 16: the Mark Wahlberg movie Spenser Confidential, claiming 1.25 billion minutes. (THR)

Speaking of CBS All Access, the streaming service has extended its previously announced 30-day free trial offer to 60 days, with the codes GIFT and ENJOY.


Casting News: Lost Star Josh Holloway Joins Yellowstone

COLONY - Josh Holloway (Isabella Vosmikova/USA Network)
(Photo by Isabella Vosmikova/USA Network)

Lost and Colony alum Josh Holloway joins the cast of Paramount Network’s Yellowstone for its third season, which premieres in June. He’ll play Roarke Morris, a hedge fund manager who becomes involved with the Dutton family. (EW)


Development News: Empire Final Season Shortened by COVID-19 Shutdown

EMPIRE season 6: Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard
(Photo by Michael Lavine/FOX)

Fox’s Empire will end its sixth and final season two episodes sooner than it had planned, as the network will not finish its planned 20-episode production. Instead, episode 18, which airs on April 21, will serve as the series finale. Deadline reports the last episode may include footage from episode 19, which was being filmed when production was halted. The series had already had to edit its original series finale plans when Jussie Smollet was fired from the show in 2019. There has been talk of an Empire spin-off series revolving around Taraji P. Henson’s Cookie, which would allow the story to continue.

Will this be the first big televised sports comeback? CNBC reports golf stars Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are negotiating to battle each other in a two-on-two event that would pair them with pro football stars Tom Brady and Peyton Manning in a charity game. The game, which would pair Mickelson with Brady and Woods with Manning, would likely take place in May and air on TNT.

Cinemablend reports a fan survey suggests Disney+ may be readying to add a batch of new shows to the streaming service that includes Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Modern Family, Malcolm in the Middle, Firefly, How I Met Your Mother, and black-ish.

Rapper, and Degrassi: The Next Generation star, Drake is going to produce an adaptation of the nonfiction motivational book The 48 Laws of Power as a Quibi series. He will also direct an episode of the series, which will unfold one of the titular 48 tips from author Robert Greene’s book in each ep. (THR)

Michael Bay has signed a first-look deal with Sony that will include movies and TV series. Bay is currently an executive producer on Amazon’s Jack Ryan series and USA’s The Purge. (THR)

Scrubs stars, and real-life pals, Zach Braff and Donald Faison have joined in on the trend of classic TV stars – like casts of The Sopranos and The Office – launching rewatch podcasts of their series. The duo are co-hosting Fake Doctors, Real Friends With Zach + Donald, a podcast that will include their own recollections of Scrubs episodes, as well as interviews with their fellow cast members and fans of the series. (EW)

Issa Rae’s HBO comedy Insecure is becoming a mobile videogame, where fans will get to play as a version of her character in the show. Insecure: The Come Up Game is scheduled to be released in June.

Amazing wildlife + beautiful cinematography = “Wonderstruck,” BBC America’s newly-expanded lineup of nature programming, designed to help us all relax just a little during this extra stressful time. The network’s Wonderstruck shows will now air Thursday and Saturday nights on TV, and every day at the Wonderstruck TV website.

The cast of the 1993-99 Fran Drescher CBS comedy The Nanny will reunite, via Zoom, for a table read of the series’ pilot episode. On Monday, April 6, the reunion will be posted on the Sony Pictures YouTube page. (Variety)

Reese Witherspoon has launched a new Netflix series, Shine On at Home, in which she will chat with guests about various coronavirus-related topics, including health, marriage counseling, homeschooling children, divvying up household chores, and meal prep. The series, which she announced on Instagram, is a follow-up to her 2018 Netflix talk show Shine On with Reese.

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