Ron Howard: The Beauty of John Nash

The Academy Award-winning director of A Beautiful Mind reflects on genius, madness and profound courage

From the moment I heard about John and Alicia Nash’s tragic accident on the New Jersey Turnpike, I immediately flashed to that first remarkable day I met them. I had committed to directing A Beautiful Mind, which was based on Sylvia Nasar’s biography. My longtime partner at Imagine Entertainment, producer Brian Grazer, was already passionate about the project and screenwriter Akiva Goldsmith had written a remarkable adaptation of Nasar’s book. Now it was time for me to begin my own research, with a morning meeting at Professor Nash’s office on the Princeton campus and then a lunch with him and his wife nearby.
My purpose that day was to learn—and learn I did. In fact, my entire approach to the project shifted radically in those few hours, all based on first impressions that proved accurate and will echo with me forever.

First, I was surprised and fascinated by John Forbes Nash and his enduring passion for his subject, theoretical math. I’d been told that math geniuses were assumed to be beyond their prime in their late twenties, but the 70-something year-old I was encountering, while willing to patiently explain the concepts behind his Nobel Prize-winning work to this math simpleton, was thrilled when he saw I was also willing to hear about the new challenge he was currently tackling.

I couldn’t understand much about the Nash Equilibrium or anything else he was explaining that day, but I could recognize a spark of creative energy and vision that I could recognize and relate to. That day I began to see John as an artist.

A couple of weeks later, mathematician Sylvain Cappell of New York University explained John to me in a way I’d like to share. He posited that each generation offers a small group of true geniuses who commit their lives to pushing the boundaries of what is illuminated by knowledge into the darkness of what is yet-be-known—and there are three types of people doing the toiling on that boundary.

One is the scientist who mines the edges, finding nuggets, polishing them into proofs with little care as to their application. They toss them over their shoulders to the next group of innovators who immediately take the breakthroughs and find ingenious ways to use them.
Nash, Cappell said, belongs to a third group.

“Think of them as paratroopers,” he said, “dropped behind the lines, into the darkness with orders to fight their way back into the light and share what they had learned. Not all of them could survive intact. Nash was one of these courageous geniuses. 

Fearless and willing to risk everything to hurl himself into the unknown in search of elegant new discoveries.”

At my lunch with John and Alicia, I came to understand another very important component of our screenplay of this story: their story. It was a love story about two extraordinary individuals. It was unique, with a history both idealistically romantic and painfully harsh—a love tested and forged by the hellish adversity that is acute mental illness, and a love story to be therefore respected.

Our movie, of course, could convey but a fraction of the events of their entire lives as individuals and as a couple, but it was that truly remarkable relationship that I will always remember them by above all.


CBS' Bob Schieffer is ready for retirement

WASHINGTON (AP) -- At 78, Bob Schieffer is entitled to reminisce about the "good old days" of reporting. He believes young people coming into the business can also learn from them.

Schieffer will host CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday for the last time after 24 years. He's retiring from a journalism career that began at 20 at a Fort Worth, Texas, radio station and landed him at CBS News in Washington when he walked in on someone else's interview.

He's one of the last of a generation of reporters working at such a high level; he covered the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, a story that gave him one of the biggest scoops of his career.

"I suppose every generation thinks that the kids younger than them aren't as good as they were and screwed it up in some way," he said. "I try not to sound like an old goat, but the fact is there will always be a need for reporters, whether they are doing it on television or a website or for a newspaper that is not on paper anymore."

He learned the craft of reporting, and the importance of checking out facts, from hard-bitten newspaper editors. He's concerned that many young journalists now work in jobs without editors to guide them.

His Kennedy scoop was a spectacular example of the importance of simply answering the phone. As a newspaper reporter in Fort Worth in November 1963, he picked up a ringing phone to find Lee Harvey Oswald's mother on the line. She was looking for a ride to Dallas to see her son, the suspected gunman in the Kennedy assassination. Schieffer grabbed a notebook and drove right over to her.

Recently, an aspiring reporter in Texas sent Schieffer a note seeking advice on a school project. Schieffer sent his phone number and the student replied that he'd rather talk via email. Schieffer Rule No. 1: pick up the phone or drop by.

"How do you ask a follow-up question?" he said. "How do you listen to a person and the tone of his voice to know whether he's putting you on? The best way to interview someone is face-to-face and I think we ought to get to that whenever we can."

Schieffer went to Vietnam on assignment for his newspaper and after he appeared on a local talk show upon his return, a television station offered him a job. "It was $20 a week more than I made at the paper, and I needed that $20," he said.

He made his way to a local Washington station and, in April 1969, summoned the nerve to walk in on the CBS News bureau chief without an appointment. He was let into the executive's office by a secretary who mistook Schieffer for another Bob - longtime NBC News reporter Robert Hager - who actually had an interview scheduled that day. Schieffer talked his way into the job and never left.

Schieffer never lost his Texas twang. No need. It reinforces his signature of asking direct, to-the-point questions without getting lost in the weeds of political mumbo jumbo.

"You never felt like he went Washington, which I always felt was his best attribute," said Chuck Todd, Schieffer's competitor on NBC's "Meet the Press." "You never felt he got caught up in groupthink, or got caught up in Washington elitism."

Nothing annoys Schieffer more than when he doesn't ask a question because he fears it's too simple, or that he already knows the answer, only to find a rival generated headlines by asking the one he neglected.

Schieffer is disturbed by the changes he's seen in Washington. It's a meaner place, he said, partially fueled by Internet anonymity but also by a lack of collegiality. Lawmakers of all stripes and their families used to know each other better but now spend more time in their districts and less time in the capital. Some families never move.
It has led to an inability to get things done that Schieffer says is a greater danger to the country's future than terrorism.

"It has changed the people who run for office now," he said. "I don't mean they're bad people, but they're different. They have to raise so much money, they have to sign off with so many interest groups to get here that once they're here they can't compromise their positions. Their positions are set in stone."

Seeing the nation's leaders up close leads him to conclude, "Some of `em I like better than others, some of `em I respect and some of `em I don't. I still think most of the people in government are good people, but there are some exceptions."

Retirement or not, he's not willing to reveal those exceptions.

Soon Schieffer will pack up an office stuffed with memorabilia, much of it reflecting has passion for country music. One picture shows him standing by a bar with Walter Cronkite, Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather. After his last show, he'll walk a few blocks to a restaurant where old friends and colleagues will toast his tenure.

Chances are he won't completely disappear from CBS News, with some elder statesman role likely.
For now, he's looking forward to a summer off.
Follow David Bauder at His work can be found at

What to expect for Disneyland's 60th anniversary celebration

What do you give a 60-year-old theme park that has everything?

How about a nighttime parade transplanted from Hong Kong Disneyland and an anniversary-themed update to its long-running fireworks show?

Disneyland will add plenty of polish, sparkle and bombast starting May 22 as the Anaheim theme park celebrates its 60th anniversary with a nostalgia-soaked diamond jubilee.  

Across the esplanade at Disney California Adventure, the “World of Color” water show will get a new story overlay dedicated to the history of Walt Disney and his first theme park.

At first blush, Disneyland's diamond jubilee plans seem little more than an elaborate version of the park overlays we've come to expect at Halloween and Christmas. Take a holiday parade, toss in some seasonal fireworks, sprinkle in a few modest tweaks to a nighttime spectacular, add a bit of sparkle to the castle and, voila, you have a 60th anniversary celebration.

But the run-of-the-mill anniversary offerings could prove more spectacular than the business-as-usual lineup would suggest due to the involvement of one man: Steve Davison.

As Walt Disney Imagineering’s creative director in charge of parades and spectaculars, Davison was the driving force behind the wildly successful “World of Color” water show at Disney California Adventure and has been instrumental in making Disneyland’s parades more upbeat and the fireworks shows more immersive.

The new "Paint the Night" parade has been successfully operating at Hong Kong Disneyland since September and with 1.5 million LED lights is being billed at Disneyland as the successor to the beloved "Main Street Electrical Parade.”

Described as “overwhelmingly bright,” the new nighttime parade will feature 76 performers in lighted costumes that change color in time to the musical soundtrack, which will be recorded at London’s legendary Abbey Road Studios and pay tribute to the Electrical parade’s indelible “Baroque Hoedown.”

Using Hong Kong as a guide, the “Paint the Night” parade is expected to feature floats from "Cars," "Toy Story," "Monsters Inc.," "Beauty and the Beast" and "Little Mermaid." The procession will kick off with a Tinker Bell float and conclude with a Mickey Mouse float. The signature drum float from the Electrical parade will make a nostalgic appearance.

The “Disneyland Forever” fireworks show will feature a new soundtrack, projection mapping throughout the park and appearances by characters from “The Jungle Book” and “Peter Pan.”

Disneyland has used projection mapping on Sleeping Beauty castle and It’s a Small World in the past with tremendous success, marrying animated imagery to the architecture of the buildings to create a digital skin that morphs and moves.

In hopes of thinning the gridlock crowds on Main Street U.S.A. and spreading the teeming hordes throughout the park during the “Forever” fireworks show, Disneyland will introduce projection mapping on Matterhorn mountain and the Fantasmic stage area along the Rivers of America in addition to the castle and Small World locations.

Richard Sherman, who created music with his songwriting brother for the Enchanted Tiki Room and It’s a Small World attractions as well as scores of Disney movies, has written an original song for the new fireworks show: “Kiss Goodnight.”

Perhaps the most intriguing of the new diamond jubilee additions is the “Celebrate” overlay planned for DCA’s World of Color, which promises to tell the story of Walt Disney’s dream for Disneyland.
“Celebrate” will hopefully offer a much-needed break from the recent trend of turning shows, parades and nighttime spectaculars into little more than a cavalcade revue of popular Disney characters strung together with the loosest semblance of a story line. The compelling “Celebrate” story seems like a fresh departure from the recent broad stroke appeal-to-the-masses approach to entertainment at the parks.

It remains to be seen if Disneyland has any additional plans for the diamond jubilee. MiceChat reports that the Disneyland marketing department has proposed a 60-hour kickoff party for the 60th anniversary that would be similar to the 24-hour events held at the park over the past few years.

Not surprisingly, the recent announcement of anniversary plans for the Anaheim parks drew a collective yawn from the Disneyland faithful who have pretty much known what to expect for the 60th for the better part of a year.

Those holding out hope for a new attraction along the lines of an Iron Man e-ticket or a new themed land based on the "Star Wars" franchise will have to wait a little longer.

What visitors will get instead is a repeat of the surprisingly successful 50th anniversary Happiest Homecoming on Earth, which proved so lucrative that Disney brass extended the celebration over two summers to keep the cash registers ringing.

With ever-dwindling space and ever-growing crowds, the gracefully aging park will once again opt to trade on nostalgia, memories and emotions rather than try to expand or evolve.

Indeed, Disneyland has added no truly new attractions in two decades -- the last being the Indiana Jones Adventure in 1995.

Since then, Disneyland has seen a series of rehabs (Star Tours), refreshes (It's a Small World), re-themes (Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage) and clones (Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters). The star-crossed and short-lived Rocket Rods in 1998 was the park's last attempt at groundbreaking innovation.

For the past decade, Walt Disney Imagineering has spent most of its time, energy and budget opening and then fixing Disney California Adventure, to the neglect of its elder sibling across the promenade.

Not surprisingly, there was no mention in the 60th anniversary announcement of DCA's plans for the Soarin' flight simulator (which is currently undergoing a rehab and widely expected to reopen with a new international story line) or Luigi's Flying Tires floating bumper cars (which is expected to close in the coming weeks for a lengthy rehab that could see an entirely new ride system installed).

Cannes Crackdown: 465 Closed-Circuit Cameras, SWAT-Style Cops Part of Massively Beefed-Up Security

When Cannes rolls out the red carpet May 13, it also will be on red alert. The festival long has been a target for petty crooks and big-time criminals drawn in by the rich and famous that descend on the city each May, but security this year is taking a more serious turn. Following the gruesome Charlie Hebdo shootings in and around Paris that shocked the world in January — and a subsequent series of several smaller attacks against religious targets — the country is on edge.

"Since the January attacks, we are at the highest level of security at public events or in public spaces," says Jean-Charles Brisard, a security expert and the chairman of the Paris-based Center for the Analysis of Terrorism. Under the nationwide alert, bag searches are commonplace at venues as varied as movie theaters and public buildings, a relatively new development in France.

There are no specific known threats to the fest, but having the world's spotlight on Cannes' celebrities could be a liability. "These are very sensitive potential targets, so the security will be higher than at any other event during the year," says Brisard. That translates to up to 400 SWAT-style CRS officers descending on the city to beef up patrols of the municipal police, who will be on daily duty for the festival's 12 days — new police chief Philippe Jos has forbidden officers from taking time off. 

Plainclothes national police also will be on patrol, as will an additional 400 private security guards. 

They'll be licensed to carry — a rare arrangement in gun-shy France.

Mayor David Lisnard will meet with the various security personnel for a briefing every morning, his office tells THR, and representatives from the hotels will supply information about the stars and VIPs present on their property that day. "Safety is always a big stake for the festival, not only because of the famous people, but the number of visitors every year creates pressure on the police," says city communications director Audrey Bel. (The tiny seaside town's population triples for the fortnight around the fest.) "But security around the Palais is specifically increased."

The city also has beefed up its CCTV system with 465 cameras — that's one for every 156 residents, 
the highest ratio in the country. Many are pointed at the high-traffic Croisette to ensure that everyone is on camera, not just the stars.

by Todd McCarthy

The Bottom Line: After a long absence, Mad Max is back and in fine form

Opens: May 15 (Warner Bros.)

Cast: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult

Director George Miller


Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron headline George Miller's reboot of his cult postapocalyptic franchise.

Thirty years after surviving Thunderdome, the reluctant warrior of modern movies' first and most memorable postapocalyptic action-fantasy series is finally back and ready for more in Mad Max: Fury Road. George Miller has directed only five films in that time ― three of which starred pigs and penguins ― but it can safely be said that this madly entertaining new action extravaganza energetically kicks more ass, as well as all other parts of the anatomy, than any film ever made by a 70-year-old — and does so far more skillfully than those turned out by most young turks half his age.
Although the earlier entries were made before the target audience for this one was even born (its new leading man was just a baby when the first one was released), Mad Max has lingered in the zeitgeist through the years, and a fair portion of the international public that has just wound down from Furious 7 will be happy to suck in the fumes from this equally action-packed and infinitely superior film.
One could plausibly observe that Fury Road is basically The Road Warrior on a new generation of steroids, and no doubt some critics will leave it at that; like the second and best film in the series, this one is mostly devoted to maniacal anarchic goons chasing Max and his small group of rebels across a scenically parched desert and leaving some spectacularly destroyed vehicles in their dust. The new film certainly boasts a higher percentage of flat-out amazing action than any of its predecessors, and that's probably enough said for most of its potential audience.
Perhaps the long gestation period served it well. While very similar to its predecessors in almost every way, the film has devilishness in its details: the tribal-style makeup, the endlessly inventive vehicles and armaments, the wild costumes and facial adornments, radiantly scorched locations that resemble ― and yet go beyond ― the series' previous wasteland evocations, and a society equally lawless but more entrenched than those seen in earlier films (one that is, in fact, presided over by the same imposing actor who played the chief bad guy in the original Mad Max in 1979).
And then there's the new leading actor, Tom Hardy, who's so ideal a replacement for Mel Gibson that one wouldn't want to imagine anyone else having taken over the role. Rewatching the initial two installments today, it's striking to see how little Max Rockatansky (whose name is uttered just once, in the first film) actually does during long stretches of them, and so it is here; at the outset he's captured by soldiers of the Citadel and detained in a rocky hellhole where thousands of wailing captives perform slave labor while awaiting small rations of precious water dispensed by their tyrannical captor from his looming cliffside headquarters.
When the time comes to hit the road, Max, his face confined behind a trident-like mask, is strapped like a grille ornament on the front of a marauding car, a predicament he is not expected to survive. But emerge from it he does, of course, and slowly the man behind the victim emerges — first to exciting, then to ultimately touching effect in the final scene. It's as if Hardy was cast for his brawn, but ultimately used for his soul.
Except for its mechanized details, the heavy chains, pulleys and steam-punk/heavy metal aspects of which lend a certain 19th century feel, the world on display here is straight out of dire early biblical times. Presiding over the Citadel is the fearsome Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, the nasty Toecutter in Mad Max), who has grotesque offspring, sports flowing gray locks and wears a toothsome facemask fed by large oxygen tubes. The slaves are covered in ashen white powder and live in a state of starvation and terror enforced by violent punks known as War Boys.
The story cooked up by Miller and co-screenwriters Brendan McCarthy and Nico Lathouris is no more complex than this: Entrusted by Immortan Joe with driving the large War Rig truck across the desert to an oil-producing outpost, tough ruling-class babe Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron, with close-cropped hair and raccoon eyes) instead diverts it across the desert with an illicit cargo — Immortan's harem of breeding wives, who have memorable names such as Capable, Cheedo the Fragile and, best of all, Toast the Knowing. When first glimpsed, they look like a bunch of supermodels strewn across the desert for an exotic fashion shoot, although one of them, the Splendid Angharad (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, a real-life supermodel), is soon due to give birth.

The first two Max features ran barely 90 minutes, and it takes guts and real confidence to dare push a straight chase film with very little dialogue to two hours. But Miller has pulled it off by coming up with innumerable new elements to keep the action compelling: the pitiless mindset of a brutish society; bending poles sticking up from vehicles that allow marauders atop them to be lowered into enemy trucks for hand-to-hand combat; an insane heavy metal guitarist affixed to one of the Citadel's rigs, whose raucous wailing and flame-throwing ability perfectly express this world's extremity; and a central woman, missing one arm, who's as tough-minded as any man but also retains a special link to a remote society of women she intends to find.
During the first extended, high-speed, jaw-dropping chase of Furiosa by the goon squad, which only ends when it's engulfed by an enormous desert dust storm, Max remains frustrated by the chain linking him to his tormentors' rig. But developing any trust with Furiosa takes considerably longer; she wants to kill him immediately and be done with it. They are, it would seem, potential soul mates, but the world they inhabit is not exactly conducive to developing trust, much less anything of a more amorous nature. Life is, in this world, not only cheap but almost assuredly very short.
If one wanted to map out a chronology of Max's life and adventures, it would no longer make any sense in terms of the man's age, nor does it matter at all. Miller recently absolved himself of any need to somehow explain the character's newfound youthfulness by comparing him to James Bond; Max just goes on and on, with perennial access to rejuvenation via new actors.
The difference between this and Bond and many other such durable series is that it's so palpably the product of one man's imagination, a man who also possesses the skill, discipline and energy to put it all up on the screen so convincingly. Mad Max films are known for the moments when the cars' superchargers are engaged for surges of speed, and it's clear that Miller's personal superchargers are in excellent working order. The colors are bold, the Namibia locations look like Arizona on steroids, virtually all the action looks real (thoughts of CGI only intrude with the massive dust clouds and certain personal and vehicular wipeouts), cinematographer John Seale's cameras are everywhere they need to be to record the action maximally, and Junkie XL's score hammers and soars. Second unit director and stunt coordinator Guy Norris clearly deserves major credit for delivering much of what's most eye-popping onscreen, and the film never sits still for more than a moment or two.

Miller originally spoke of filming a sequel called Furiosa back-to-back with this one, so presumably he has material more or less ready to go, and Hardy has claimed he's signed for three more installments. In other words, the world may not have heard the last of Mad Max.
Production company: Kennedy Miller Mitchell Productions Cast: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Zoe Kravitz, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton, Josh Helman, Nathan Jones, John Howard, Richard Carter, iOTA, Angus Sampson, Jennifer Hagan, Megan Gale, Melissa Jaffer, Melita Jurisic, Gillian Jones, Joy Smithers Director: George Miller Screenwriters: George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, Nico Lathouris Producers: George Miller, Doug Mitchell, PJ Voeten Executive producers: Iain Smth, Chris deFaria, Courtenay Valenti, Graham Burke, Bruce Berman, Steve Mnuchin Director of photography: John Seale Production designer: Colin Gibson Costume designer: Jenny Beavan Editor: Margaret Sixel Music: Junkie XL Makeup/hair designer: Lesley Vanderwalt Second unit director/stunt coordinator: Guy Norris
Rated R, 120 minutes

ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt Scores New Show, ‘Mike & Mike’ Moves to Times Square and ‘SportsCenter’ Adds 2 Hours

ESPN is making moves, literally: morning radio/TV show “Mike & Mike” is packing up and heading to Times Square, an effort to borrow more guests and talent from sister network ABC’s “Good Morning America,” the massive cable channel announced during its Tuesday upfront event.

In other news, Scott Van Pelt (pictured above) has signed a multiyear extension with his employer, making him the solo anchor for “SportsCenter’s” weekday midnight ET show.

Speaking of “SportsCenter,” the so-called Worldwide Leader in Sports’ flagship news and highlights show, two more hours are being added from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. ET. The cable giant plans for the new version — which replaces reruns — to be “fast-paced, designed for viewers who are on the move and don’t have much time early in the morning.”

“The new live show will take the popular ‘SportsCenter Top 10’ franchise and turn it into a program with the previous night’s top plays, story lines, quotes, blunders and more,” ESPN explained.
Beginning Feb. 8, 2016, “Mike & Mike” will reside directly above the “GMA” studios. Bringing the Disney channels even closer together, the respective sales teams will sell packages across networks, “allowing advertisers to take advantage of the scale of The Walt Disney Company and reach valuable audiences across multiple demographics and platforms,” ESPN execs touted.

On the movie side, ESPN Films announced Volume 3 of its lauded “30 for 30” franchise, which will include 30 new docs covering stories such as Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield, football coach Pete Carroll and the Buffalo Bills’ four consecutive Super Bowl losses.

Sticking with football for a moment, ESPN will again televise an NFL Wild Card playoff game during the 2015 season. That said, it will be simulcast on ABC for the first time during Wild Card Weekend in January 2016 — another shred of evidence that the Disney companies are willing to use each other more than ever before.

On to America’s pastime, baseball. ESPN touted that it will “own” the final week of the 2015 Major League Baseball regular season by televising up to seven “Postseason Impact Games,” three of which are new this season. That fancy phrase basically means the channel will pull match-ups with direct postseason implications. ESPN has the exclusive rights to the American League Wild Card Game to follow.

ESPN also announced the following new research initiatives, in its own words:
Set Top Box Agreements with Cablevision and Rentrak
- Working with Cablevision, ESPN will be able to marry significant off channel video scale and first party data with Cablevision’s census-level audience tuning data and insights on channel, creating the first true multiscreen video offering to advertisers.
– With Rentrak, ESPN will be able to describe the TV audiences in ways beyond simple demos and can match with third party sources to provide even richer targeting capabilities.
– These new data sets will also serve to enrich existing cross platform effectiveness modeling (XPe), informing partners of the best way to utilize ESPN to drive their business.

Data Management Platforms
- Application that will allow ESPN a richer and more efficient means of creating and managing ad targeting segments in a central, integrated platform.
– Partnering with BlueKai, which has an extensive list of integration partners, including all major DMP, DSP, exchanges, and agency trading desks.

Fox Eyes Simon Cowell Project to Launch After ‘American Idol’ Ends Run

By and
TheWrap has learned that network is looking to reteam with former judge after year-long break following “Idol’s” 15th and final season
Fox may be looking to get back in bed with Simon Cowell after “American Idol” wraps its 15-season run.

An insider close to the network told TheWrap that top brass are considering a reteam with the mega-producer and outspoken former judge after Fox rests the talent competition format for a year. The project would be eyeing a 2017 TV Season launch, according to the insider.

A spokesperson for Fox declined to comment. A rep for Cowell’s SYCO Entertainment has not yet returned TheWrap’s request for comment.

“Word all over the lot is that they’re going to take a year after ‘Idol,’ let the time slot breathe, and then they’re going with another Cowell reality project,” the individual said.
“Idol” came to North America in 2001 via 19 Entertainment and FremantleMedia, who have replicated the successful format all over the world. Fox premiered “American Idol” in 2002, where it’s been a flagship series for the network in good times and bad.

Cowell became a household name in the States as the mouthy centerpiece of the original judges panel — which also included Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson  — quickly elevating the series in the zeitgeist thanks to his blunt critiques and cutting one-liners. Cowell left the show in 2010 to partner again with Fox on a sibling competition series, “The X Factor.”

Launching in 2011, “X Factor” was positioned as the heir apparent to “Idol,” which itself was grappling with waning audiences. It failed to meet expectations and was cancelled after three seasons. News of the “Idol” end made waves in the entertainment industry and pulled audience heartstrings on social media, instantly becoming a trending topic worldwide.

“We really wanted to do it in a way that felt special and celebratory,” said Fox TV Group co-chairman and CEO Gary Newman at the network’s upfront presentation on Monday.

Meanwhile, Cowell has set up an online competition show in “Ultimate DJ,” a global electronic music series set to air on Yahoo Live! The winner will be crowned the Ultimate DJ and be offered an opportunity to headline a major Electronic Music festival and a record contract with Ultra Records and Sony Music.

Steven Spielberg's Amblin, Syfy Adapting Classic Novel 'Brave New World'

by Lesley Goldberg
The Aldous Huxley novel was ranked fifth among the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th Century by Modern Library.

The Emmy-winning team behind Syfy's Taken is reuniting for another science fiction classic.

Steven Spielberg's Amblin Television is adapting Aldous Huxley's novel Brave New World as a scripted series for the NBCUniversal-owned cable network, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

Brave New World — ranked fifth among the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th Century by Modern Library — is set in a world without poverty, war or disease. Humans are given mind-altering drugs, free sex and rampant consumerism are the order of the day, and people no longer reproduce but are genetically engineered in "hatcheries." Those who won’t conform are forced onto "reservations," until one of the "savages" challenges the system, threatening the entire social order.

First published in 1932, Brave New World will be adapted by writer Les Bohem, who penned Taken, which won the 2003 Emmy for best miniseries and racked up six other nominations. Amblin TV co-presidents Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey will executive produce alongside Bohem. The drama hails from Universal Cable Productions.

Brave New World marks a reunion for Taken producers Frank and Falvey with Bohem, NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Group chairman Bonnie Hammer and Syfy president Dave Howe, as well as with Universal Cable Productions executive vp development Dawn Olmstead, with whom they produced ABC's summer drama The Whispers.

"Brave New World is one of the most influential genre classics of all time," Howe said. "Its provocative vision of a future gone awry remains as powerful and as timeless as ever. Promising to be a monumental television event, Brave New World is precisely the groundbreaking programming that is becoming the hallmark of Syfy."

For Syfy, Brave New World joins a rapidly growing roster of original scripted programming as the cabler renews its focus on science fiction. That lineup includes the newly ordered series adaptation of Lev Grossman's The Magicians as well as 12 Monkeys (already renewed for season two), big swings The Expanse and Childhood's End, Hunters (from The Walking Dead EP Gale Anne Hurd, due in 2016) as well as OlympusDefiance, Haven, Z Nation and Dark Matter, among others.

For Amblin, meanwhile, should Brave New World go to series, it would join a roster that includes the final season of TNT's Falling Skies and freshman Public Morals, ABC's The Whispers, CBS' Under the Dome and Extant as well as FX's The Americans. They'll likely add to that already impressive roster with Fox's Minority Report reboot, which is considered a lock to go to series.

Bohem is repped by UTA and Linda Lichter.

Jamie Foxx Gets Clobbered For Anthem At Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao Fight

By Michael Lewittes
Jamie Foxx didn’t fight Floyd Mayweather, but social media has clobbered him for his rendition of the National Anthem before Saturday’s fight between Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao in Las Vegas. The Grammy Award-winner got knocked out hard on Twitter for his lackluster performance of the Star-Spangled Banner.

In fact, Foxx trended on Twitter for hours, while Mayweather, who beat Pacquiao in a unanimous decision, did not. A Twitter user, who goes by Campbell, wrote, “The only fight that took place in that ring was between Jamie Foxx & the American national anthem.” “maypac should’ve been the undercard, the real fight was Jamie Foxx vs the National Anthem,” echoed another Twitter user by the name of Keith.

A woman by the name of Regine tweeted, “So can we talk about how horrible Jamie Foxx’s performance was?” Similarly, a Twitter user named Kathleen commented, “If there’s anything we all learned from this, it’s that Jamie Foxx can’t sing.” Taja felt, “Jamie Foxx, you tried but that anthem was dreadful to watch.” And a guy named Mitchell expressed, “Let’s all just erase Jamie Foxx’s appearance from our collective memory.”

And those were hardly the meanest tweets about Foxx’s singing on Saturday night. Check out the video below of Jamie Foxx singing the National Anthem before the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight, and tell us what you think.

What's Behind the Decline of the Celebrity Talk Show

Illustration by: John Ueland
by Alex Ben Block
The allure of the daytime talk show is undeniable: a daily platform, a set schedule and, in success, tens of millions of dollars. But since Oprah Winfrey ended her game-changing gabfest in 2011, the single-host talk show has fallen out of favor.

This coming fall, for the first time in years, no talk show fronted by a high-profile host is scheduled to launch. And the only such show from fall 2014 still on the air, NBCUniversal's The Meredith Vieira Show, is struggling.

On the flip side, consider the dozen or so contenders whose pricey shows haven't lasted more than two years: Katie Couric, Jeff Probst, Anderson Cooper, Bethenny Frankel, Bonnie Hunt, Nate Berkus, Ricki Lake and Queen Latifah.
In fact, only Steve Harvey and Wendy Williams have thrived in the space as daytime's landscape has become dominated by The Ellen DeGeneres Show (variety as much as talk), probing psychological analysis (Dr. Phil), medical mysteries (The Dr. Oz Show), food talk (Rachael Ray, The Chew), panels (The View, The Real, The Talk) and so-called conflict talkers (Maury, The Jerry Springer Show).

Why are so many star-driven talk shows failing? Many blame the cost of launching with an A-list personality and a chasm between modern celebrity and the appeal required to keep viewers day in, day out. "It's the chemistry between the host and the producers and with the audience," says CBS daytime head Angelica McDaniel. "Viewers pick up on that."

Latifah received a huge promotional launch from Sony TV and a strong station lineup but lasted only two seasons. "People liked the personality she demonstrated in movies," says a TV syndication distribution executive, "but that's not who she is. One thing about daytime: You can't fake it."

"These talk shows are with celebrities who have huge name value," says David Perler, executive producer of Wendy, "but the name value doesn't hold up. If you can't deliver and you don't have strong opinions and you just want to talk niceties with celebrities on the couch about their upcoming projects, I don't think people want that anymore."

"We have so much access to stars," says Sean Compton, Tribune Broadcasting Co.'s president of production. "You can watch TMZ or five other shows and see what they ate for dinner last night. So I don't think being a celebrity is enough. It's really in the subject they are talking about. It's how they deliver. Their personalities have to resonate with the audience."

We see actors and celebrities more in real life than in their work environment," adds Perler, "because of the exposure in social media, the tweeting, Facebook and all the shows that show them unmasked. 

So it's not fascinating to tune in just because Harrison Ford is on the couch."

Networks also are dealing with aging viewers. In 2011, 64 percent of the daytime audience was over 50, according to Nielsen. That number now is 71 percent. Advertisers in daytime covet viewers 25 to 54, especially women. That demo has fallen from 38 percent to 33 percent since 2011.

To woo younger viewers, distributors are turning to such gossip and panel shows as TMZ Live (Warner Bros.), The Real (Warner Bros.) and Dish Nation (Fox). Stephen Brown, Fox TV's executive vp programming and development, says his studio no longer seeks big stars. "The Fox philosophy is, we don't rely on big personalities to drive our shows," he says.

"It's hard for one personality to carry a talk show on their own," adds Brown. "We saw that with Anderson Cooper, with Latifah, with Katie and Ricki."

That's why, says Brown, the current trend is panels — or at least couples. Fox also has taken to doing limited-run summer tests for shows on a handful of stations before making a big commitment. That was how Wendy started and what propelled The Real to become one of the surprise hits of the past season.

This summer Fox is testing two talk shows with couples: the first stars little-known actors Boris Kodjoe and Nicole Ari Parker while the other features Ice-T and his wife, Coco.

"When you're matching people up you have to rely on chemistry," says Brown. "That's one of the bigger reasons we're going with a married couple — because they have instant chemistry."

Studios that have had success with stars are hesitant, too. "The ambition of an Ellen, Dr. Phil, Katie or Meredith is that they are very expensive, come with high expectations that they will be successful and involve an elevated level of risk," says Ken Werner, president of Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution.

Werner also warns that station groups have become more risk averse in the wake of the failure of many of these high-profile shows.

"If stations are reluctant to share in that risk in terms of cash license fees and time periods," says Werner, "that will undoubtedly affect the supply. On the other hand, once one has an established franchise like Ellen they pay elevated dividends for stations, distributors and talent for many, many years."

Disney's Katie was said to have cost $30 million to $40 million a year to produce (including $10 million for the host). "It's got to work really big, or you have a really big deficit," says Debmar-Mercury co-president Ira Bernstein.

Debmar-Mercury, a division of Lionsgate, has worked with Fox on a number of summer test runs. 

"We pound the table about testing," says Bernstein. "You go out with something for four or five weeks and at least you can make an objective judgment on ratings. Also creatively you can look at it and say, 'Does the person have it or not?'"

Wendy Williams wasn't a big national name when she did her test run on Fox, just a local radio personality. "We learned a lot through the test," says Williams. "It gave me a chance to sort of polish myself a little bit for middle America. Here comes the black girl with big boobs and wigs and she's laughing too loud. I'm a lot and I know it."

Couric, looking back, feels "the expectations might have been a little to high given the shifting landscape of television."

"Also for me, I wanted to do a show that had high production values, so we did many taped pieces," she adds. "I really wanted it to feel like a news magazine. … As a result I think the production costs were pretty high."

 Couric also feels she may have asked too much of the audience. "People like to have fun in daytime, and I think that's one of the reason Wendy and especially Ellen are so successful. 

They're really fun, a nice breather. I was asking a lot of viewers to say, 'Let's talk about sexual assault in the military' or interviewing someone who was wrongly convicted. I don't think there was enough of an appetite for that during the day."

Even star-driven shows are changing. The Wendy Williams Show, which lures more than 2.1 million viewers a week, took off when the host extended her "Hot Topics" chat segment to as long as half of the program. It also went live.

"If you're not live, you just miss the boat," says Williams, "and the ability to talk about things like what happened last night on Dancing With the Stars."

That's a big change from past hits, which avoided topicality to allow for airing summer reruns. Wendy produces as many as 260 new shows a year, compared with about 170 for most syndicated talkers.

"We try to take even less time off in the summer than in the past," says Perler. "When we do repeats, we try to repeat recent shows. For instance if we have repeats on Friday, we try to repeat an episode from earlier that week so the Hot Topics is still current."

The celeb-talk genre isn't dead, of course. Newcomer hosts eyed for fall 2016 include Harry Connick Jr. for NBCU and Suze Orman for Warner Bros. But neither is guaranteed; more panel shows and news-driven half-hours likely will take their place. Says McDaniel, "It's what is resonating today with our viewing habits and our social engagement patterns."