Hart Quits Oscars; Grammy Noms: 'Black Panther' Shines; Snubs, Scorecard; Leaked '60 Minutes' Report; 'Avengers' Trailer; Producer's Silent Cancer Battle

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What's news: Kevin Hart steps down as the host of the Oscars after facing criticism for past anti-gay jokes. Plus: Portions of CBS' Jeff Fager investigation have been leaked, Luc Besson's EuropaCorp is crumbling and late night's top women writers discuss the challenges of the medium in today's comedy atmosphere and news cycle. — Will Robinson

December 07, 2018
What's news: Kevin Hart steps down as the host of the Oscars after facing criticism for past anti-gay jokes. Plus: Portions of CBS' Jeff Fager investigation have been leaked, Luc Besson's EuropaCorp is crumbling and late night's top women writers discuss the challenges of the medium in today's comedy atmosphere and news cycle. — Will Robinson
^Your 2019 Grammy nominees: Kendrick Lamar earned a total of eight Grammy nominations, including album of the year for the Black Panther soundtrack, while Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper earned four nods for their A Star Is Born track, "Shallow," Kimberly Nordyke and Annie Howard report:
+ Other Black Panther ties: That album's song "All the Stars," written by Lamar and SZA, also is up for record of the year, song of the year, best rap/sung performance and best song written for visual media. 
+ The A Star Is Born situation: While the movie's soundtrack as a whole wasn't eligible for any Grammy nominations, the song "Shallow" was nominated for record of the year, song of the year, best pop duo/group performance and best song written for visual media. Gaga earned an additional nom, for best pop solo performance, for "Joanne (Where Do You Think You're Goin'?)."
+ Top nominees: Drake has seven nods... Boi-1Da and Brandi Carlile have six apiece... Mike Bozzi, Cardi B, Childish Gambino, H.E.R., Maren Morris and Sounwave all boast five each. Nominees | Billboard's snubs
+ Interscope leads label in top four categories: The Universal Music Group-owned label racked up eight noms on Friday when the Grammy nominations were unveiled for the 2019 awards show, fueled by the Black Panther soundtrack and the A Star Is Born nods. RCA Records received the second most nominations of any single label with four overall.
Hart Withdraws
Backlash: Kevin Hart stepped down as Oscars host just two days after the Academy announced he would take on the high-profile gig after controversy fueled by old anti-gay tweets, Gregg Kilday and Seth Abramovitch report:
+ Hart's announcement & apology: "I have made the choice to step down from hosting this year's Oscar's....this is because I do not want to be a distraction on a night that should be celebrated by so many amazing talented artists. I sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from my past," Hart wrote.
"I'm sorry that I hurt people. I am evolving and want to continue to do so. My goal is to bring people together not tear us apart. Much love & appreciation to the Academy. I hope we can meet again."
* Initial reluctance: Earlier in the evening, Hart had posted an Instagram video saying that he had refused a demand from the Academy to apologize. He said the Academy gave him an ultimatum: Apologize for his old tweets or step down as Oscars host. "I passed. The reason I passed is because I've addressed this several times. This is not the first time this has come up."
+ Pressure amps up: Losing Hart as host will put even more pressure on Donna Gigliotti, who is producing the 91st Oscars, set to be broadcast by ABC on Feb. 24. This week's announcement that Hart would host came relatively late in the process. Now, finding a new host to take on emcee duties could be even more difficult. Full story.
Elsewhere in film...
► In appeal of AT&T-Time Warner merger, DOJ confronts skeptical judges. The government's economic theories against the merger sound nice, but a panel of D.C. Circuit judges questions the proof. Showcasing the reason why AT&T should be assumed to be a favorite on appeal, the judges pushed government attorney Michael Murray to identify the "clear error" in U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon's opinion.
► Luc Besson's film empire crumbles amid sexual misconduct claims. Multiple allegations put the release of his Lionsgate spy thriller Anna in doubt as the French mogul sells assets to keep EuropaCorp afloat, Rhonda Richford reports.
* In dire straits: The company has already held a fire sale of several of its assets as it looks to slim down and repay debts of some $260 million. It has sold off its French TV division for $13 million and is in talks with French studio Gaumont for the Roissy Films library, which comprises some 500 titles. Full story.
* EuropaCorp exploring cost-cutting, possible closure of distribution arm. The embattled French company is scrambling to secure new financial backing as its stock plunges amid allegations against Besson.
► Aquaman makes huge splash on China' opening day. As of 5 p.m. Beijing time on Friday, the Warner Bros. film had earned RMB 89 million ($12.9 million), plus RMB 9 million ($1.3 million) in midnight previews, making for a powerful start of RMB 98 million ($14.2 million).
► Netflix hires Fox film exec Kira Goldberg. The Bohemian Rhapsody vet will report to Tendo Nagenda, the former Disney exec Netflix poached in August. Before landing at Fox, she spent six years at Dreamworks where she worked under Stacey Snider, now the outgoing 20th Century Fox chairman.
► Academy rules Green Book ineligible for best original score. The executive committee of the Academy's music branch concluded that the score, which was composed by Kris Bowers, does not meet the requirements, as most of the film has pre-existing songs, Scott Feinberg details.
► The Huntsman: Winter’s War director tackling assassin thriller for Netflix. Screen Arcade’s Bryan Unkeless (I, Tonya) is producing the feature project with Kelly McCormick of 87eleven, the action and stunt banner run filmmakers David Leitch (Deadpool 2) and Chad Stahelski (John Wick). Leitch is exec producing along with Scott Morgan.
► Sony Pictures signs deal to release 13 films in 4DX format in 2019. The studio's biggest titles, including Spider-Man: Far From Home, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle 2 and the upcoming Men in Black spinoff, will be released in the immersive theater format, which enhances the movie experience with moving seats, scents, wind, water and more.
► Doctor Sleep sets Newton brothers as composers. They will reteam with Gerald's Game director Mike Flanagan for the Shining sequel.
► Roma gets screenings at Mexico's presidential residence. The official residence has been converted into a cultural center after Mexico's new president said the complex had "bad vibes."
► Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood holds a possible clue for a secret TV Western. Not much is known about the film set in Charles Manson-era L.A., but Luke Perry's character, Scott Lancer, carries the same name as the rancher hero of the CBS Western Lancer, raising the question as to whether a revamp is in the works, Chris Gardner reports.
^Golden Globes nominees fallout: This coming week, Black Panther's momentum may well pick up even further and more meaningfully, after the Marvel film scored a Golden Globe nomination for best picture (drama) on Thursday, Scott Feinberg writes. The Race.
* Box office bump: "To have a best picture nomination prior to the release of specialized films like Beale Street and Vice afford their distributor a huge marketing hook and box-office tailwind," says analyst Paul Dergarabedian of Comscore. Vice and Beale Street will be released on Christmas and Dec. 14, respectively. Analysis.
* Kominsky Method over Atlanta leads TV oddities: The HFPA found plenty of new stuff to love on the drama side, the field most reflective of the group's annual pleasure in being the first opportunity to toast all of the fresh faces premiering after the Emmys, Daniel Fienberg writes.
► Directors Guild unveils special award winners. Kathleen McGill and Mimi (Marian) Deaton will receive special DGA Awards for their contributions to the guild.
Latest reviews...
► Netflix's Dumplin'. "The film is as old-fashioned as its cringe-worthy title," Caryn James writes. Review.
Musical notes...
► Ariana Grande accepts "Woman of the Year" at Billboard Women in Music 2018. "I find it interesting that this has been one of the best years of my career and the worst of my life," Grande said. "It's been a very conflicting one, and I just want to say if you're someone out there who has no idea what this next chapter for you brings, you’re not alone in that."
From the stage...
► Bryan Cranston in Network, reviewed. "As a real-world horror show about the profits to be reaped by accessing popular anger, Network remains gripping, largely because Cranston makes his character's tragic trajectory a white-knuckle ride, and Ivo van Hove infuses the drama with dizzying kinetic energy," David Rooney writes.
► Faye Dunaway to play Katharine Hepburn on Broadway. The Oscar winner will return to the Great White Way after an absence of more than 35 years to star in a new version of Matthew Lombardo's 2002 solo play, Tea at Five.
In memoriam...
► RIP John D.F. Black. The writer co-wrote the screenplay for Shaft and penned and produced for the original Star Trek series. He died Nov. 29 at 85. Obit.
Coming attractions...
► Trailer: Marvel unveils Avengers 4: Endgame. Infinity War directors Anthony and Joe Russo return for the next Avengers installment, as do screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. Watch.
L.A. power dining review: Simone. At moments, there will even be a measurable thrill. Still, it's too rare at this shrine to California cuisine, which, out of the gate, plays it far safer than its capacities merit, yielding solid but unmemorable dishes, Gary Baum writes. Review | L.A.'s hottest restaurants
The Fager Report
Problematic culture: The leaked CBS report, prepared by two outside law firms, finds the network was justified in firing former 60 Minutes executive producer Jeff Fager for reportedly threatening text messages but says his tenure was not nearly as toxic as his predecessor's, Don Hewitt, Katie Kilkenny writes:
+ Big conclusions: The New York Times published excerpts from a draft of a report for the CBS Corporation board of directors prepared by the law firms Debevoise & Plimpton and Covington & Burling. In the report, investigators wrote that “the physical, administrative and cultural separation between 60 Minutes and the rest of CBS News permitted misconduct by some 60 Minutes employees.”
+ Fager's alleged misconduct: Investigators wrote that Fager “engaged in some type of sexually inappropriate conduct” with the woman who accused him of groping her at a party. An additional accuser said that Fager attempted to kiss her at a corporate event around 2012. The report added that one female employee had been given the task of driving Fager and colleagues to a legal brothel in Nevada while they were in the state to report a story. [The New York Times]
Elsewhere in TV...
► CNN's NY office all clear after evacuating due to nearby bomb threat. Around 10:35 p.m. a telephone threat came in to the Time Warner Building, with the caller claiming there were five bombs in the building, a NYPD official said. The police were informed by security officers, who evacuated the building as a precaution.
► Amazon bid for Fox Networks may escalate sports rights arms race. Murdoch's 22 regional stations, valued at $25 billion, draw interest from Amazon, MLB, the Yankees and others as streaming deals heat up, Marisa Guthrie reports.
* New strategy: Amazon's bid for RSNs marks a first for exclusive linear sports content. (Like TNF, Premier League matches are shown on linear TV.) "There's more competition, but there's a limited amount of assets and content. You've seen it in everything from cricket to the Premier League to MMA," says Dan Ives, managing director and equity analyst at Wedbush. Full story.
► Nexstar's $6.4 billion Tribune buy spurs more dealmaking. Nexstar CEO Perry Sook is set to divest stations in 13 markets as the deal could end a $1 billion lawsuit between Tribune and Sinclair, Paul Bond reports.
► Grandson requests Sumner Redstone guardian. The 95-year-old media titan has a "severe speech impairment," so a court-appointed independent attorney would protect the integrity of the legal proceedings, Tyler Korff says.
► MSG CEO settles antitrust suit. Debevoise & Plimpton will pay James Dolan's $600,000 settlement with the FTC for failing to report voting securities he acquired in 2017 as part of his compensation package, according to MSG.
► CBS' acting CEO: Reports of Moonves' leaked misconduct report are "troubling." "I know we are all anxious to put this chapter behind us. In the meantime, thank you for your commitment to this outstanding company and know we’re all in this together," Joseph Ianniello wrote in part. 
► WGAs unveil nominations in TV, news and more categories. Topping in drama are The Americans, Better Call Saul, The Crown, The Handmaid’s Tale and newcomer Succession. Of those five, Handmaid’s Tale is the reigning winner and the only series to also get a nomination for episodic writing. Nominees.
Deals and greenlights...
► Netflix poaches Doc McStuffins creator from Disney for overall deal. Peabody-winning kids programming creator Chris Nee, who created two of the biggest preschool hits of late, wants to expand into adult programming for the streamer with the multiple-year pact.
► Carrie Ann Inaba replacing Julie Chen on The Talk. The Dancing With the Stars judge has been a guest host on the CBS daytime show since Chen's departure.
► Apple's Howard Gordon drama to star Richard Gere. Gordon and Law & Order: SVU alum Warren Leight are prepping a new take on Israeli drama Bastards.
► Facebook's Limetown adds Stanley Tucci, Marlee Matlin. Kelly Jenrette, who was nominated for an Emmy for her performance on The Handmaid's Tale, rounds out the cast.
► Syfy developing Night Gallery update with Teen Wolf, Midnight, Texas producers. The reboot of the 1960s-70s Rod Serling anthology follows the pickup of a new Twilight Zone at CBS All Access.
► The Bachelor cast revealed. The Bachelorette and Bachelor in Paradise star is getting another chance at TV love in January. Contestants list.
^Female late-night writers dig to "find the funny": Amid a bleak news cycle Ashley Nicole Black, Kat Radley, Amber Ruffin, Hallie Haglund, Jen Spyra and Marina Cockenberg dissect tackling what's off-limits, gender parity in writers rooms and why "making the host laugh is the ultimate goal," Marisa Guthrie reports:
+ Faster news cycle: "On The Daily Show, in pre-Trump times, you used to be able to write the show the night before. By the time I left [in 2017], you couldn't write the show that morning," Haglund says. "By 3 p.m., you're like, 'OK, well, everything we did that morning we have to redo.' I don't know if it still feels like that?"
+ Writing for men: "All men have blind spots, just like all white people have blind spots and all straight people have blind spots," Ruffin says. "So you always need to have a woman or a person of color having heard what you said so that you don't go into the world sounding like you've never seen one of us before." Full interview.
California recovers...
► Post-fire floods and mudslides hit Malibu. At least one vehicle got stuck in a mudslide that shut down Pacific Coast Highway and surrounding roads in and around Malibu neighborhoods charred by last month's destructive fire.
► HAIM, Father John Misty set to perform at California wildfires benefit concert. The benefit concert on Dec. 18 will also feature Mac DeMarco and Rivers Cuomo, among others.
Digital digest...
► The 2018 Game Awards. Leading the field this year were Sony Santa Monica's God of War and Rockstar's Red Dead Redemption 2, which both earned eight nominations, including for game of the year. Sony ultimately won out for the big prize. Full winners list.
► VR vets launch AR startup backed by WndrCo, YouTube founder Chad Hurley. Artie is developing technology for entertainment companies, media brands and online influencers to create digital avatars that interact with consumers.
Coming attractions...
► Teaser: Game of Thrones final season promises a battle of ice and fire. George R.R. Martin's fantasy epic comes to elemental life in a new look at season eight. Watch.
New podcast: TV's Top 5. West Coast TV editor Lesley Goldberg and chief TV critic Daniel Fienberg host the weekly podcast, which breaks down the biggest headlines and offers a critical guide to what to watch (or skip). The first show focuses on the new Golden Globes hosts, Netflix's huge Friends deal and Amazon's The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Listen | Subscribe
Silent Fight
Fighting perception: When Hunger Games and Rogue One producer Alli Shearmur succumbed to cancer this year, colleagues were stunned. Like many in Hollywood battling the disease, she hid her illness from an industry where sickness is too often equated with weakness, Tatiana Siegel reports:
+ Powering through at work: Nearly everyone who knew Alli Shearmur was stunned by the news because she kept her struggle private, spending half of the final year of her life in London, producing Solo: A Star Wars Story. According to those close to her, she was in remission and was cleared by doctors to work. Then she returned home when the cancer came back, telling almost no one about her grave prognosis.
+ Battling stigma: Psychologist Larry Shaw, whose patient list includes many industry executives and producers, says Hollywood is not a welcoming place for illness, particularly for women. Even pregnancies are often hidden. One high-powered talent lawyer says she never let clients know that she was pregnant, while an A-list star is said to have fired her agent when the rep was pregnant. Full story.
What else we're reading...
— "If Beale Street Could Talk Is an Important Invitation to Feel Black Pain." Eisa Nefertari Ulen writes: "People wonder why the Black Church is so powerful, so necessary and so full of spiritual energy that congregants literally quake. The reason is this: Black folk have been through hell. But we have also been back." [THR]
— "A Brief History of the X Rating." Jason Bailey's history lesson: "The newfound freedom provided by the X allowed filmmakers to engage fully with the era’s shifting mores, to explore new perceptions of sex, violence, race, and authority, and to do so without the interference of the local censorship boards that had cut pictures to ribbons since the art’s introduction." [Vulture]
— "Must Everything Old Be Exhumed Again?" Joe Queenan writes: "Now, our cataleptic culture is divided into two broad areas: things that never really went away (the Beatles, Andy Warhol, Star Wars, Madonna) and things that keep coming back (Halloween, Madonna). Because so many things refuse to die or refuse to remain in the crypt, American culture now has a musty aroma." [The Wall Street Journal]
— "The New Age of Afro-Surrealism." Lanre Bakare explores and speaks with academics: “I think their work is very realistic in representing the absurdity of black life. [In America] the ideals are there and you’re aware of what should be going on … but that’s not the reality." [The Guardian]
— "The Beautiful, Inspirational Disaster of Cabin Boy, 25 Years Later." Michael Tedder reports: "It’s often said that Mick Jagger failed to become a soul singer, and in the process became one of the greatest voices of rock music. Adam Resnick and Chris Elliott failed to make a big-budget Hollywood comedy, and in the process made a surreal, anarchist experience." [The Ringer]
What else we're watching...
+ "Alec Baldwin was shot by two different men at same time in early career soap." [Late Night]
+ "Jason Momoa hurt Jimmy during a water war." [Tonight Show]
+ "Matthew McConaughey was on the fence about Magic Mike dance." [Graham Norton]
+ "Sen. Bernie Sanders touts Medicare for All as mainstream, not fringe." [Late Show]
From the archives...
+ On Dec. 7, 2001, Warner Bros. unleashed the George Clooney-Brad Pitt version of Ocean's Eleven, which would kick-start a franchise of star-studded heist films from Steven Soderbergh: "[The film] represents a mostly successful stylistic shift into sheer artifice, where the force of the personalities involved compels your interest. Each star gets his moment to shine, so fans will suffer no disappointment." Flashback review.
Today's birthdays: Nicholas Hoult, 29, Caleb Landry Jones, 29, Jack Huston, 36, Jennifer Carpenter, 39, Shiri Appleby, 40, Kristofer Hivju, 40, Mark Duplass, 42, Jeffrey Wright, 53, Tom Waits, 69, Ellen Burstyn, 86.
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December 7, 2018

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