‘Political Speed Dating’: Hollywood Donors Opt for 2020 Meet-and-Greets Before Signing Checks

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Last month, surgeon Phil Mercado and Hollywood executive Todd Quinn invited over 100 of their richest friends to sip beer, drink wine, and try to fall in love. Not in a romantic sense, but with a presidential candidate.

This time it was with Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana. Previous guests at their Hollywood Hills home have included New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and California Sen. Kamala Harris. The couple also hope to host former Vice President Joe Biden (who has not announced his candidacy) and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke.

But no one wants to commit to anyone. “Most people want to keep their powder dry,” Mercado said.

Also Read: 2020 Presidential Contenders: Everyone Who’s Challenging Donald Trump So Far (Photos)

The potential donors have the same problem as lots of Hollywood daters: There are too many attractive options, and new ones seem to pop up every day. The only thing everyone in liberal Hollywood seems to agree on is that anyone would be better than the guy they’re stuck with now.

With more than two dozen candidates either running or expected to run in the 2020 presidential race, Hollywood’s top donors are holding off on their contributions and weighing their options before making any commitments.

In 2016, the entertainment industry spent more than $86 million in donations, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, mostly on Democrats, only to see Donald Trump win the general election.

So it’s no surprise many of them are now taking a more cautious approach, according to Jack Pitney, professor of government at California’s Claremont McKenna College.

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“It’s political speed dating,” Pitney told TheWrap. “They don’t want to spend money on a candidate who blows up or whose candidacy implodes.”

Many are trying to avoid anything serious right now, instead opting for high-powered meet-and-greets, like the one at Mercado and Quinn’s house, that don’t require anyone to sign a check to get in.

“In 2016 there was a clear frontrunner in Hillary Clinton,” Mercado said. “But this year it’s more analogous to what happened to the Republicans in the last cycle.”

For the candidates, the non-fundraising events are a chance to make their pitch to influential and wealthy supporters, while soaking up some of Hollywood’s glitz and glamour. They hope to make enough of an impression to score donations, time, or endorsements later on.

Media titan Haim Saban, a longtime Democratic Party funder and one of Hillary Clinton’s biggest donors in 2016, told TheWrap he’s “standing on the sidelines and waiting patiently to hear what everyone has to say.”

“With so many people saying so many things, it’s kind of difficult to hone in on any one person,” he said.

Saban and his wife Cheryl, a psychologist and author, donated more than $12.6 million to pro-Clinton efforts in 2016, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. But this year, he said, he may hold out until the general election before making any donations.

“I’m just going to sit back until somebody emerges who I feel shares my views of the world,” he added.

In 2016, attorney and longtime Democratic fundraiser Dana Perlman hosted “countless” events for Clinton and even canvassed for her in Iowa and Nevada. But this year, Perlman has decided to give his money directly to the the National Democratic Committee.

“I am all in with the DNC,” he told TheWrap. “Only one of them is going to  make it to the mountaintop and whoever that is I want to make sure that on Day 1 that person has the infrastructure available to her or him to immediately proceed into the general election and defeat Donald Trump.”

David Schneiderman, co-owner of Seismic Productions and longtime fundraiser, told TheWrap he too was thinking of giving his money to the party instead of the candidates.

“My allegiance changes every day,” Schneiderman said. “There are so many good candidates, it’s hard to decide.”

Schneiderman, who said he attended nine Clinton fundraisers last cycle, said he was leaning towards Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, or possibly O’Rourke. But he added that he was waiting to hear from Biden.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” he said. “I like a lot of people.”

Still, there are plenty of fundraisers in Hollywood these days. On Wednesday, director J.J. Abrams and his wife, producer Katie McGrath, hosted a fundraiser for Harris, an event co-chaired by some of Hollywood’s biggest names, including WME Entertainment’s Ari Emanuel, ICM’s Chris Silbermann, political consultant Jennifer Gonring, and producer Shonda Rhimes. According to an invite obtained by TheWrap, the evening reception is priced at $2,800 per person, with those who write and raise $10,000 listed as co-hosts.

Also on Wednesday, United Talent Agency’s Jay Sures hosted Sen. Klobuchar for fundraiser at his home.

No one can say how much money the 2020 candidates have raised so far. The Federal Election Commission requires candidates to file quarterly reports, and the first isn’t due until April.

Also Read: Democratic Party Nixes Fox News as Host of 2020 Presidential Primary Debates

But some of the candidates have released numbers for their first 24 hours following their announcements. So far, the person to beat is O’Rourke. The Texas Democrat announced Monday that his campaign hauled in an impressive $6.1 million in online donations in the 24 hours after his announcement. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said he raised $5.9 million from more than 223,000 donors in the first 24 hours, and Harris clocked $1.5 million in donations during her campaign’s first 24 hours.

“I think there is a lot of excitement,” Mercado said. “Kamala [Harris] is of interest to a lot of people and so is Amy [Klobuchar]. We’ll probably end up seeing a clearer picture of who the frontrunners are closer to the debates. More people will announce before then and we’ll start to see more people falling in line behind their favorites.”

Dr. Howie Mandel (not the comedian), a prominent Los Angeles-based Democratic fundraiser who has attended several meet-and -greets this cycle said he believes the wait-and-see approach is “a good thing, not bad.”

“I don’t want to give money yet,” he told TheWrap. “Besides,” he said, “Hillary Clinton had more money than God and she lost.”

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Son of Ex-Time’s Up CEO Hires Kevin Spacey’s Lawyer to Defend Sexual Assault Accusation

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

The son of former Time’s Up CEO Lisa Borders has enlisted an attorney for Kevin Spacey to defend him against the sexual assault accusations that led to Borders’ resignation from the anti-abuse group.

Borders resigned from Time’s Up this week because of the accusation against her son, Gary “Dijon” Bowden Jr. Time’s Up started in January 2018 in response to accusations of abuse by high-profile Hollywood men, including Spacey.

A rep for Time’s Up referred “all media inquiries to her Attorney Alan Jackson.” Jackson confirmed he represents Bowden. He has denied any inappropriate conduct by his client.

Also Read: Time’s Up CEO Lisa Borders Resigned After Son Accused of Sexual Assault

More than 30 men have accused Spacey of sexual of sexual misconduct, including actor Anthony Rapp, who said Spacey made a sexual advance on him when he was 14. Spacey said he did not remember such an encounter.

Spacey is facing a criminal charge of indecent assault and battery related to a July 2016 encounter between the Academy Award winner and a then-18-year-old employee of a Nantucket, Mass., restaurant. Jackson represented Spacey last month at a court appearance where the actor pleaded not guilty.

Borders abruptly resigned her post this week as Time’s Up first CEO, four months into her job, citing “family concerns that require my singular focus.” As TheWrap reported Thursday, those family concerns were the accusations against Bowden, a self-described healer.

Also Read: Time’s Up President Lisa Borders Resigns After Three Months

According to a person with knowledge of the situation, Borders’ responses in defending her son made her position untenable.

The individual told TheWrap: “Lisa wanted to take action to defend her son and in doing so was in conflict with her role leading an organization deeply rooted in supporting survivors.”

In a statement Thursday, Time’s Up told TheWrap that Borders had informed leaders of the organization about the accusations, and that the departure was amicable.

Also Read: Time’s Up Names WNBA’s Lisa Borders as First CEO and President

Bowden, 36, has a business that offers services ranging from photography and inspirational podcasting to sessions where he pleasures women.

Reiki instructor Celia Gellert, said in a private Facebook that women should stay away from Bowden, according to the L.A. Times. She told the newspaper that she felt “violated” when Bowden, “touched her genitalia, kissed her neck and brushed his erect but clothed penis against her body during the session.”

Also Read: TimesUp Fund Logs 3,000 Complaints Since Launch, Leaders Say at Power Women Breakfast DC (Video)

Gellert filed a police report, according to an individual with knowledge of the situation. She runs a women’s empowerment group in Santa Monica.

Borders was hired by Time’s Up with great fanfare in October from the WNBA, where she was president since 2016. Before that Borders has been a vice president at Coca-Cola and the vice mayor of Atlanta. She was chosen after a broad search for a leader for the organization and was hand-picked by founders Shonda Rhimes, Katie McGrath and Rebecca Goldman.

Also Read: Judith Light, #TimesUp Leaders, Mayors of Compton and Oakland to Headline Power Women Breakfasts

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LGBTQ Groups Fear Jussie Smollett Case Will Cast Doubt on Hate Crime Reports

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The greatest tragedy of the Jussie Smollett would be if it discourage anyone from coming forward to report a hate crime, according to leading LGBT anti-violence organizations.
The Matthew Shepard Foundation, which helped expand the federal hate crime l…

Time’s Up President Lisa Borders to Resign

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Time’s Up President Lisa Borders is resigning “to address family concerns,” she announced on Monday.

“As Time’s Up continues to grow, I am proud of the work I have done to shepherd its continued development,” Borders said in a statement. “Unfortunately, it is with deep regret that I must resign from Time’s Up to address family concerns that require my singular focus. I appreciate the opportunity to support this mission and I hope my efforts will continue to resonate.”

The organization’s COO Rebecca Goldman will serve as interim CEO, Time’s Up announced in a statement on Twitter.

Also Read: Time’s Up: Skydance’s John Lasseter Hire ‘Perpetuates a Broken System’

“With gratitude for her work, TIME’S UP accepts and supports Lisa Borders’ decision to resign as President and CEO,” reads the statement. “We know that it is the right decision for Lisa as well as the organization. Our COO, Rebecca Goldman, will serve as interim CEO while we conduct an executive search. We remain steadfast in our mission to create safe, fair, and dignified work for women of all kinds.”

Borders joined Time’s Up in October as the organization’s first ever CEO and president. Borders joined Time’s Up from the WNBA, where she’s been the president since 2016. The longtime executive has also been a vice president at Coca-Cola and was the vice mayor of Atlanta.

Also Read: Time’s Up Entertainment Unveils New Initiative to Promote Minorities in Hollywood

Launched last year behind some of the most high-profile names in Hollywood, Time’s Up has been calling out workplace misconduct in the wake of several accusations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and many other hitmakers.

TV producer Shonda Rhimes, actress Kerry Washington, actress Katie McGrath, National Women’s Law Center head Fatima Goss Graves and ad agency head Wendy Clark spearheaded the selection of Borders to lead the organization.

See the two statements below.

Statement from Lisa Borders and TIME’S UP pic.twitter.com/Uo7MlDb8Op

— TIME’S UP (@TIMESUPNOW) February 18, 2019

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#MeToo Starts 2019 With Milestones, From ‘Surviving R Kelly’ to Kevin Spacey’s Charges

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After suffering a few setbacks in 2018, the #MeToo movement is starting 2019 with a run of milestones, from the new attention paid to R Kelly to the criminal charges against Kevin Spacey.

This year has already seen Kevin Spacey going to court to face a criminal charge; CBS choosing veteran producer Susan Zirinsky to be first the woman to lead the its news division; prosecutors in Chicago and Atlanta investigating accusations raised in Lifetime’s “Surviving R Kelly” documentary, and new sexual harassment protection laws, inspired by #MeToo, taking effect in 11 states.

The victories provide new inspiration to activists who suffered through Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court in the fall, despite accusations of sexual misconduct. (He denied them.) Activists were also disappointed and angry after The New York Times reported that Asia Argento, one of #MeToo’s most prominent voices, paid $380,000 to a young man who accused her of sexually assaulting him when he was 17. (She also denied any wrongdoing.)

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“There have been moments that have not been helpful to the movement, and I have no doubt there will be more,” Alyssa Milano, who helped popularize #MeToo, told TheWrap. “There is not going to be a perfect movement. S— is going to get broke and I think there will some small moments that we see as setback.”

“Surviving R Kelly” detailed accusations of abuse and sexual misconduct against the singer starting in the ’90s. It also looked into the circumstances surrounding his acquittal on 2002 child pornography charges. Kelly’s attorney, Steve Greenberg, did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but denied the accusations in an interview with The Associated Press.

Some radio stations have stopped playing R Kelly’s music, and an Illinois concert was canceled.

“Lifetime took a risk that was brilliant and brave,” said #MeToo founder Tarana Burke, who was featured in the docuseries. “It was exactly what we need to bring this to the attention of the masses.”

The year began with a huge, systemic victory for the #MeToo movement, but also a sign that activists still  have differences to iron out.

Besides the new anti-harassment laws that took effect Jan. 1, California has passed a new law requiring women to be on corporate boards by the end of this year.

“What we’re seeing is a sisterhood forming all around the world,” actress Rosanna Arquette, who was one of the first to accuse Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct, told TheWrap. “We have #MeToo in India now.”

But some #MeToo activists were puzzled by a video released by TimesUp on New Year’s Day. Hollywood activists started TimesUp in part to respond to the issues raised by the #MeToo movement, which caught fire in 2017 after numerous women accused Weinstein of offenses ranging from harassment to rape. (He has denied any non-consensual sex.)

The TimesUp video raised eyebrows because it failed to include a single Weinstein accuser. A TimesUp statement said in a statement: “The cultural reckoning we’re experiencing today would not be possible without the brave survivors who came forward and told their stories through the #MeToo movement.”

Also Read: Lady Gaga Apologizes for Past R Kelly Collaboration, Pulls Song From iTunes

Some news has contained positive and negative elements for #MeToo. Last week, former Pixar boss John Lasseter, who was ousted over accusations of inappropriate touching and kissing, scored a high-profile job with Skydance Animation. (Lasseter admitted to “missteps” that made employees feeling “disrespected and uncomfortable”).

TimesUp said in a statement that the hiring “endorses and perpetuates a broken system that allows powerful men to act without consequence.”

Women in Animation president Marge Dean said on the group’s Facebook page: “The single biggest effect of the events last year is that we saw men experiencing consequences for their bad behavior. The Lasseter decision seems to have weakened that giant step forward, and I felt panic that our progress was being undermined.”

But Skydance’s handling of the situation indicated it was at least aware of the problems raised by Lassiter’s hiring. The company held town halls to address it, and Skydance CEO David Ellison released a statement that promised, in part, that Lassiter had “given his assurance that he will comport himself in a wholly professional manner.”

Spacey also attempted something of a comeback near the start of the New Year: On Christmas Eve, on the same day Massachusetts officials announced he would face a felony assault charge — he is accused of groping an 18-year-old’s genitals in a restaurant — Spacey released a video of himself as his “House of Cards” character, Frank Underwood.

He chided viewers not to believe he was guilty of anything, adding: “You want me back.”

But the video was widely condemned, and Spacey’s next public appearance was at a Massachusetts courthouse on Jan. 7. Spacey entered a plea of not guilty.

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When TimesUp released a star-studded sizzle reel commemorating its first year, one of the most striking things about it was who wasn’t included: any of the women who accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct.

The women who spoke up against Weinstein helped the #MeToo movement catch fire, which led to Hollywood’s creation of the reform-focused TimeUp. The group’s Jan. 1 video featured big names including America Ferrera, Kerry Washington, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Tracee Ellis Ross, Natalie Portman, Shonda Rhimes, Cate Blanchett and Meryl Streep.

“Wow. @TIMESUPNOW posted a video to celebrate its one year anniversary and none of the Harvey Weinstein survivors (the reason the organization was started) are featured in the video. I’m not surprised but I’m still stunned,” reporter Yashar Ali tweeted. “Where is @MiraSorvino, @RoArquette, @AnnabellSciorra, I can go on and on. Have they just been erased? They put so much on the line to speak out.”

Also Read: #TimesUp, Hollywood! 2 Diversity Studies Show Big Drop for Female Film Directors in 2018

“There has been some concern that @TIMESUPNOW is an elitist org controlled by some of the people who allowed Weinstein to thrive,” Ali went on to write. “This tone-deaf video adds to those concerns. How disappointing and shameful.”

Several Weinstein accusers responded.

“Not that I expected to be included but it’s nice to know some are following the narrative,” tweeted Annabella Sciorra, who told The New Yorker that Weinstein violently raped her in the early 1990s. Caitlin Dulany, who has accused Weinstein of sexual assault, threats, and false imprisonment in 1996, wrote: “It’s very disappointing. Incomprehensible, really.”

In a statement through his publicist, Weinstein has “unequivocally denied” any non-consensual sex.

Also Read: TimesUp Fund Logs 3,000 Complaints Since Launch, Leaders Say at Power Women Breakfast DC (Video)

Rosanna Arquette, who was one of the first to accuse Weinstein of sexual misconduct, said she was so hurt by the TimesUp video’s exclusion of #MeToo activists that she couldn’t watch it.

“A lot of big egos got in the way and shoved us to the side and did not include us in the conversations,” Arquette said. “It’s just like, wow. Really?”

Representatives for TimesUp declined to comment for this story.

While the video does include a quick still shot of Tarana Burke, the founder of the #MeToo movement, no Weinstein accuser is featured in the video.

Katherine Kendall, who accused Weinstein of taking off his clothes and asking for a massage in his apartment in 1993, said she, too, was taken aback by lack of inclusion. Kendall said that, for the most part, her fellow #MeToo activists have been “shut out” of TimesUp.

“There are a lot of celebrities waving the banner of #MeToo but they were not the first to risk speaking out,” she said. “TimesUp has made no effort to have a relationship with us.”

Also Read: Oscars: Faces of #MeToo, #TimesUp Herald a ‘New Path’ of Safety and Inclusion

Other Weinstein accusers said they offered to help TimesUp in any way they could, but their calls were never returned.

“As far as I can tell, their sole purpose is to promote the idea that Hollywood is ‘doing something’ about sexual harassment by wearing pins at awards shows,” said Lauren Sivan, who accused Weinstein of exposing himself and masturbating in front of her a decade ago.

“I hope I am wrong, but time will tell,” she told TheWrap.

TimesUp began as a legal defense fund in January 2018 to assist people who have experienced sexual assault and harassment.

According to its site, more than 3,400 women and men have been connected to legal resources through TimesUp. Two-thirds of those who contacted the fund identified themselves as low-wage workers. The fund has raised more than $23 million.

Also Read: Debra Messing: #TimesUp Everywhere, Not Just in Hollywood (Video)

The friction between #MeToo and TimesUp is not new.

In January, actress Rose McGowan blasted TimesUp for partnering with Creative Artists Agency, calling it a “company of pimps that sent so many into the monster’s lair.”

McGowan’s comments came shortly after The New York Times reported that at least eight CAA agents were aware that Weinstein had sexually harassed female clients, yet the agency continued to send actresses to meet with him. (The agency issued a public apology to anyone “the agency let down” following the report.)

“I think if a company with ties to Weinstein and who was complicit with his behavior is given a seat at the table, then victims of the abuse should be invited too,” Sarah Ann Masse, who accused Weinstein of hugging her in his underwear during a 2008 meeting, told TheWrap.

CAA did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday

Also Read: Hollywood Women Practice Trauma Training Before #MeToo Anniversary, Kavanaugh Confirmation

Masse said she was “100 percent” behind TimesUp’s efforts, “but unfortunately there has been an exclusion of the Weinstein silence breakers” from the organization.

“I’ve tweeted, I sent replies to some people who work with the organization saying I would like to be involved,” she said. “But I never heard back.”

Louise Godbold, who said Weinstein grabbed her hand and put it on his crotch at his office in the early ’90s, said TimesUp has not called her either.

“I don’t know whether they are deliberately not reaching out to us or if it’s a great oversight on their part,” she said. “But it is upsetting because they are doing important work without referencing the people who actually put something on the line for this to happen.”

Also Read: Miley Cyrus Updates ‘Santa Baby’ for the #MeToo Era (Video)

Godbold, who is a trauma specialist by training, has been working with other non-profits, such as Women in Film, to conduct regular trauma sessions for #MeToo survivors.

“It does feel like an omission and it does make the people who did put something on the line feel invisible,” she added.

Arquette, along with actresses and #MeToo activists Mira Sorvino and Chantal Cousineau, has worked with Equal Rights Advocates, a non-profit women’s rights organization, to push for reforms that protect women in the workplace. She said she sent a letter to TimesUp expressing her disappointment that the organization has not “amplified” these efforts, and that she has a meeting set with TimesUp later this month.

“We deserve to have our voices heard,” she said, “especially since they built this whole thing on the backs of our pain.”

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13 TV Winners and Losers of 2018: From Henry Winkler to ‘Heathers’

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

As they say every year, it has been one hell of a year — and that idiom even applies to the idiot box. Take “Roseanne” for example: In 2018 alone, ABC revived its old sitcom, made it the top show on TV, canceled it, ordered a spinoff, premiered that spinoff by killing off its former star AND went on hiatus with Dan Conner (John Goodman) already having a new love interest.

Mm-hmm, it’s been a looooooong 12 months.

Read below to see who we think had the best and worst year across the television industry.

Also Read: 18 Most-Watched TV Specials of 2018: Oscars, Emmys and Everyone Loves a Parade (Photos)

Winner: “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” came out of nowhere (OK, it was out of Amazon’s Prime Video) and has cleaned up at awards ceremonies since. In 2018, both the show and its star Rachel Brosnahan won top Golden Globe honors — both are renominated for 2019, plus Alex Borstein as supporting actress. “Maisel” also scored eight of the 12 Emmy chances it had, including trophies for the show, Brosnahan and Borstein.

So yeah, it’s been a good year.

Loser: Megyn Kelly
Never defend blackface. Never, ever, ever. Megyn Kelly learned that lesson the hard way in the lead-up to Halloween 2018.

Kelly’s NBC News morning show “Megyn Kelly Today” host was unceremoniously canceled in October after the former Fox News Channel primetime personality said she didn’t see the problem with wearing blackface on Halloween. We invite readers who don’t remember that snafu to just imagine how well it went over.

Also Read: 109 Cable Channels Ranked by 2018 Viewership, From Fox News to Comedy.TV

Winner: 21st Century Fox Shareholders
Twenty-First Century Fox shareholders better be giving Comcast CEO Brian Roberts a nice gift basket or two this holiday season. After all, his attempts to out-flank Disney in their eventual acquisition of Fox’s film and TV assets tacked on an additional $20 billion to the initial $54.8 billion price tag, which ended up north of $71 billion. Though Disney CEO Bob Iger probably had that much just laying in between his couch cushions.

Loser: Les Moonves
Oh, you haven’t heard? Perhaps no entertainment executive had a further fall from grace in 2018 than the (former) longtime chief of CBS. First, he was engaged in a nasty legal battle with Shari Redstone, before being the subject of a never-ending string of sexual misconduct allegations, which led to his resignation from CBS after 23 years.

Oh yeah, and on Monday he lost $120 million.

Yes, it was all bad. It was all really bad — but you definitely have heard about Moonves ad nauseam and could probably use another “Winner” right about now.

Also Read: 35 Top Cable News Shows of 2018: From ‘Hannity’ to ‘The Situation Room’

Winner: Ryan Murphy
If we needed to crown one person 2018’s overall TV winner, the list would begin and end with Ryan Murphy: the prolific producer who inked a reported $300 million deal with Netflix last February. (Yes, that’s bigger than Shonda Rhimes’ reported $150 million in 2017.)

While Murphy’s slate of streaming originals is still to come, he’s had his hands more than full with projects at his former home studio, 20th Century Fox TV, which he officially said farewell to in July.

In 2018, Murphy launched new dramas “9-1-1” on Fox and “Pose” on FX, along with the eighth installment of “American Horror Story” (which was renewed through Season 10 this summer) and “The Assassination of Gianni Versace,” the second chapter in his “American Crime Story” saga. “Versace” and “Pose” are both critical darlings that have kept Murphy on his toes — heading up to accept awards all season long, that is.

Oh, and he finally got his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame last month. Well-deserved.

Loser: Marvel Shows on Netflix
They all gone — with the exception of “Jessica Jones” and “The Punisher.” This year, Netflix axed “Iron Fist,” “Luke Cage” and “Daredevil” (and to a lesser extent, “The Defenders”). Thank goodness for upcoming SVOD service Disney+.

Marvel series aren’t exactly killing it on Disney’s ABC though: “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” is still on the air, but it’s now a summer show. That box office thing still seems to be working out though.

Also Read: 12 Worst Movies of 2018, From ‘Happytime Murders’ to ‘Ready Player One’ (Photos)

Winner: Live Sports
The year 2018 was a good one to be a sports league. The UFC signed a $1.5 billion deal with ESPN, WWE signed about a $1 billion deal to move “SmackDown Live” from USA Network to Fox broadcast channel.

The granddaddy of them all was Fox’s acquisition of “Thursday Night Football” — the network paid $3.3 billion for the privilege. So far so good, as NFL ratings are actually up this year season-to-date. That’s the exact opposite of non-live-sports viewing trends.

Loser: “The Walking Dead”
Not only did Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) leave “The Walking Dead” in 2018, so did a whole bunch of viewers.

The audience for AMC’s big hit series is down like 35 percent this year, per Nielsen. Fortunately, “The Walking Dead” was once big enough to absorb such a hit — but it can’t take many more losses.

Also Read: 10 Best Theater Productions of 2018, From ‘Ferryman’ to ‘Bernhardt/Hamlet’ (Photos)

Winner: Henry Winkler
Everyone loves Henry Winkler — it just took quite a while for the Television Academy to catch up. Winkler had been nominated for five Emmys before finally winning on his sixth chance. (Yes, those date back to his [Happy] days as “The Fonz.”)

Thank goodness for HBO’s “Barry.” Not only did it get the nicest man in Hollywood his due, it also introduced the world to NoHo Hank (Anthony Carrigan), who deserves all the awards.

Loser: “Heathers”
Where do we even begin? Paramount Network was set to debut its loose adaptation of the 1988 Wynona Rider-Christian Slater film in March, but the Viacom-owned cable channel delayed the series — which included scenes with guns in schools — until July following the tragic Parkland, Florida school-shooting. That re-slated premiere never happened either, and Paramount said it would shop the show instead.

Or maybe not. Because in October, Paramount Network reversed course again, saying that it would air the series after all — just not its “controversial” finale.

Or also maybe not. “Heathers” saw its episodes pulled (yes, again) after the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh. Some things are just not meant to be.

Also Read: ‘Game of Thrones’ Tops Comcast’s 2018 On-Demand Shows List – Even With No 2018 Episodes

Winner: NBC
NBC has clinched a No. 1 finish among adults 18-49 for the fifth calendar year in a row and sixth time in seven years. The network’s current +38 percent lead over its closest competitor is the biggest margin to this point in the year in Nielsen people-meter history. And yes, even excluding sports, NBC wins 2018 in ratings. The broadcaster is also going to win 2018 in total viewers for the first time in 16 years.

In 2018, NBC boasted the No. 1 show (“Sunday Night Football”), the No. 1 drama (“This Is Us”), the No. 1 new series (“Manifest”), the No. 1 alternative series (“America’s Got Talent”) and the No. 1 new alternative series (“Ellen’s Game of Games”).

Loser/Winner: Shows Saved After Cancellation
2018 was a banner year for TV series that got the ax at their home network and were quickly resuscitated by another platform. The most famous cases here are obviously Fox’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” which was rescued by NBC just over 24 hours after cancellation, and ABC’s “Last Man Standing,” which went to Fox a year after it was axed on ABC. Then there was “Lucifer” (another Fox casualty), which was revived by Netflix, a streamer that also picked up ABC’s “Designated Survivor.”

Broadcast networks weren’t the only ones to see their leftovers reheated, with Syfy’s “The Expanse” moving to Amazon after some serious fan outcry. Honorable mention goes to NBC’s “Timeless,” which did not get a save after being canceled for the second time, but was handed a 2-hour series finale as a conciliation for its cancellation. That airs Thursday.

Also Read: 22 Most Shocking TV Character Deaths of 2018, From ‘The Affair’ to ‘Westworld’ (Photos)

Winner/Loser: “Roseanne”
“Roseanne” somewhat fits the bill for our previous bullet-point, but the fate and state of the ABC hit sitcom’s universe is certainly worthy of its own breakout. “Roseanne” returned in Spring 2018 as No. 1 entertainment show on television. By late May, the series was canceled after some erratic behavior and offensive tweets by star Roseanne Barr.

Less than one month later, every Conner not named “Roseanne” had a job again, as ABC ordered spinoff “The Conners.” That version has done well, but nowhere near “Roseanne”-well. To be fair, nothing has.

Tim Baysinger and Jennifer Maas contributed to this story.

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From Ryan Murphy to Shonda Rhimes: How Streaming Raided Top TV Talent in 2018

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Jordan Peele’s “The Twilight Zone” is one of the most-anticipated shows of 2019: a bold take on a beloved classic, from an A-list risk-taker. CBS scored a coup by landing it — but CBS won’t air it.

Instead, it will debut on CBS’s streaming service, CBS All Access. Welcome to the Streaming Zone, a time and place in which streaming is so dominant that even the biggest TV network is going all in.

The irresistible allure of the Streaming Zone has pulled some of the most talented people in television to Netflix, Amazon and Apple. Peele joins Shonda Rhimes, Ryan Murphy, Oprah Winfrey and many others in a new reality where content seems to go on forever.

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Streaming companies spent much of 2018 building this new reality, one where creatives are no longer limited by timeslots or network censors.

“They hired mainstream talent, they took advantage of the fact that they’re no longer constrained by time,” said Alan Wolk, co-founder and lead analyst at media consulting firm TV[R]EV. “They can reach the upscale coastal audience, while also reaching the mainstream audience.”

CBS All Access will have 10 different originals in 2019.

“We know that CBS has been a big-tent brand for 90 years, but we’re in an environment where people have to pay specifically for our service,” Julie McNamara, executive vice president of original content for CBS All Access, told TheWrap. “We’re ramping up, and have been given the resources to ramp up meaningfully and quickly.”

Since 2014, the number of scripted shows to air on streaming services has exploded by 385 percent, totaling 160 this year, according to FX Research’s annual scripted original series count. For the first time, streaming accounted for the largest percentage of scripted series on any platform — 32 percent. Both broadcasters and basic cable TV scaled back in 2018.

Also Read: As the Streaming Wars Heat Up, Don’t Forget About CBS All Access

After luring Rhimes away from ABC Studios last year, Netflix begin 2018 by signing fellow uber-producer Murphy to an eye-popping $300 million deal, getting him to leave his own longtime home at 20th Century Fox. Netflix next enticed “Black-ish” creator Kenya Barris, after he cut short his deal with ABC Studios.

Amazon landed Peele with a first-look TV deal fresh off his Oscar win for “Get Out,” while Apple embarked on a spree that included Winfrey and “Fast and the Furious” director Justin Lin, who was lured away from Sony Pictures TV.

Also Read: Why Channing Dungey’s Leap to Netflix Is Making TV Folks ‘Queasy’

Though Netflix’s expensive deal to keep “Friends” on its service for at least another year proved the continuing value of existing content, streaming companies know they need to create their own hits.

Netflix will no longer receive any new programming from Disney beginning next year, because Disney is saving its content for its own upcoming streaming service, Disney+.

“There’s an anticipation, certainly from Netflix and I suspect other streamers, that over time, they are not going to have access to HBO or Marvel,” Todd Klein, a partner at investment firm Revolution Growth. “They’re going to have to begin to build their own content worlds and content brands. It’s creators and showrunners that really get to people… They might as well get started now.”

Netflix is willing to pay: It spent $13 billion on content in 2018 alone.

Also Read: How Will Disney Manage Hulu and Launch a Competing Streaming Service at the Same Time?

Streaming companies aren’t just going after prolific producers, but also top executives:  Jen Saalke left NBC to head up Amazon Studios, bringing along broadcast TV veterans Vernon Sanders and Albert Cheng to run the TV wing.

This week, Netflix hired former ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey to help run its original content team with Cindy Holland.

The network executives who remain at broadcast networks include Karey Burke at ABC and Paul Telegdy and George Cheeks at NBC.

Broadcasters — and everyone else — may want to keep prized talent close: WarnerMedia will launch its own streaming service by the end of next year.

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And then there’s Apple, perhaps the biggest mystery of in the Streaming Zone.

Apple’s 2018 included a barrage of eye-raising series announcements from the likes of J.J. Abrams, M. Night Shyamalan and even Sesame Workshop. But no one has seen anything, or even knows what kind of platform they will air on.

“I can’t imagine that the conversation between Oprah and Tim Cook went something like, ‘Oh, we’ll figure out the distribution’… I’m sure he had to tell her something,” Wolk said. “I’m sure they all didn’t just sign up on a wing and a prayer.”

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Former ABC Entertainment Chief Channing Dungey to Join Netflix’s Original Content Team

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Former ABC Entertainment Chief Channing Dungey to Join Netflix’s Original Content Team

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Just over a month after stepping down as ABC Entertainment president, Channing Dungey has landed a new job with Netflix.

The streamer announced on Monday that Dungey will join the company as its VP of original content, beginning in February. In the newly-created role, Dungey will work with Cindy Holland, also VP of original content, in setting strategic direction as well as overseeing a large and crucial portion of the slate, including the company’s overall deals with producers including Shonda Rhimes, Jenji Kohan, Kenya Barris, Steven DeKnight, Marti Noxon, and Higher Ground Productions, among others. 

“Channing is a creative force whose taste and talent have earned her the admiration of her peers across the industry. She’s a risk taker and ground-breaker and talent love working with her. I couldn’t be happier to welcome her to Netflix,” said Ted Sarandos, Netflix chief content officer.

Also Read: ABC’s Channing Dungey Says Kenya Barris Was ‘Frustrated’ by Limitations of Broadcast TV

Dungey already has experience working with some of them, namely Rhimes and Barris, from her time at ABC. She’ll assume half of Holland’s existing team, which was the company’s largest group of content executives, while also directly reporting to Holland.

“We’re delighted to be adding Channing’s expertise, leadership and deep experience to Netflix, and I look forward to partnering with her as we continue to grow and evolve our global network. I have been a fan of her character and approach from our early days as executives,” Holland said.

ABC announced last month that Dungey would be stepping down, despite efforts to keep her on board, with Freeform’s Karey Burke set to replace her. Taking over for Paul Lee in February 2016, Dungey oversaw the network’s shift from the heavily serialized dramas to more episodic dramas such as “The Good Doctor,” and family-friendly comedies like “Speechless” and the network’s recent “Roseanne” revival.

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Dungey first made a name for herself with a close working relationship with “Grey’s Anatomy” creator Shonda Rhimes, having overseen the development of both “Scandal” and “How to Get Away With Murder.” But toward the end of her tenure, the network lost both Rhimes and “Black-ish” creator Kenya Barris to Netflix, the latter of whom exited with three years left in what was to be a four-year overall deal with ABC Studios following a clash over a shelved episode of “Black-ish.”

Now, Dungey gets to work with the duo again. Dungey also becomes the latest executive to make the jump from the Disney network to Netflix, while the former prepares to merge its operations with the film and TV assets it’s getting from 21st Century Fox. Tendo Nagenda, executive vice president of production at Walt Disney Studios, left in August to be head of production at Netflix. Jamila Hunter, ABC’s head of comedy, left in October to join Barris’ Khalabo Ink Society production company.

“I’m drawn to the forward-thinking, risk-taking and creative culture at Netflix, and the deeply talented people there, especially Ted and Cindy, with whom I’m excited to partner on setting the strategy for original content,” Dungey said. “Given that ABC, the place I’ve called home for nearly 15 years, represents the gold standard of traditional broadcast, it feels like the perfect next step for me to join Netflix, the unparalleled leader in streaming. I’m invigorated by the challenges ahead and the opportunity to forge new relationships, and excited for the very welcome reunion with incredible talent.”

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Hollywood’s New Demand for Diversity Drains Disney’s Executive Ranks

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

In the last four months, The Walt Disney Company has seen the exits of four prominent African-American executives, signs of rising competition in Hollywood for diverse talent in an industry long criticized as too white.

Channing Dungey, the president of ABC Entertainment, told Disney this month she would not renew her contract in 2019. Tendo Nagenda, executive vice president of production at Walt Disney Studios, left in August to be head of production at Netflix. Nne Ebong, ABC’s head of drama, also left in August without a place to land, and the network’s head of comedy, Jamila Hunter, left in October to join Kenya Barris’ Khalabo Ink Society production company.

Any one of these exits of executive talent would be noticed at a global entertainment company that has made diversity a priority in its programming and in grooming new leadership. But combined with the high-profile losses of “Black-ish” creator Barris and “Scandal” hitmaker Shonda Rhimes in 2018 — both of whom left for lucrative production deals at Netflix — the feeling is even more acute. As one concerned insider pointed out, Disney now finds itself with very nearly no executives of color in its top ranks.

Also Read: Inside Disney’s Campaign to Keep Channing Dungey as ABC’s Head of Entertainment and Why It Failed

Said the insider, who has knowledge of the exits: “There is a war for talent, and in this case it has decimated the ranks of diverse executives at Disney.”

Channing Dungey

In a statement, Disney chose not to address the exits themselves, but stressed its efforts to recruit inclusive talent.

“We are proud of our efforts to recruit, develop and promote a diverse group of executives, and it’s no surprise that our executives are constantly sought after by other companies looking to lure them away,” a Disney spokesperson told TheWrap. “Inclusion is a critical part of telling the best stories and being relevant, which is why we continually seek to build teams that reflect the life experiences of the audiences we serve.”

TheWrap spoke to multiple executives and industry experts about the exits, and none chose to go on the record. Those who spoke on background said that the executives did not leave because of problems at Disney, but rather because of the intense competition for talent now that diversity has become a priority for many in the industry.

Also Read: ‘Black-ish’ Creator Kenya Barris: I Left Disney for Netflix Over Shelved Anti-Trump Episode

As TheWrap previously reported, Dungey had been up for a promotion before Disney’s acquisition of Fox. That massive deal led to that opportunity going away for her. Despite a campaign to convince Dungey to stay and grow under a new regime, “she wants to be a free agent, she wants to test the market,” said one of the insiders interviewed by TheWrap.

More than one expert noted that Netflix seems to have targeted Disney’s executive pool as it has aggressively ramped up its own production goals.

Reached by TheWrap, Netflix declined to address the question. But an individual close to the company said Netflix is “always looking for the best talent to reach its diverse member base.”

In November of last year, Netflix hired Disney/ABC’s head of business affairs Tony Brackett to be the company’s director of business and legal affairs for kids and family programming. Brackett brought former Disney colleagues with him. Said the  knowledgeable insider: “He took out all the people of color in the legal department.”

For Disney, the losses are keenly felt given the emphasis the company has placed on diversity, according to multiple insiders. Disney has been particularly proud of the inclusive hits on its ABC network, including “Black-ish” and “Fresh Off the Boat.” The global blockbuster success of “Black Panther,” the story of an African superhero, is another point of pride at the company.

The exits pose a challenge for a new regime that is arriving with Disney’s acquisition of Fox, Disney TV chairman and co-chair of Disney media networks Peter Rice and Disney TV studios and ABC Entertainment chairman Dana Walden. The insider said diversity “has not been dismantled on the air, but it has been dismantled in the executive ranks.”

Tendo Nagenda, who exited Disney to help lead production at Netflix

Also Read: WarnerMedia Makes Company-Wide Pledge to Improve Diversity On and Off Camera

On the movie side, Nagenda’s hire was a major coup for Netflix and a commensurate loss for Disney, where the executive had been a rising star in his eight years at Walt Disney Pictures. Nagenda had worked on movies including “Queen of Katwe” and Ava DuVernay’s “A Wrinkle in Time.” At the time of his exit he had also been working on tentpoles including upcoming live-action versions of “Dumbo” and “Mulan.”

Like Dungey, Nagenda was a personal mentee of Disney CEO Bob Iger in the company’s prestigious executive mentoring program, giving both of their departures a more personal sting. Nagenda and Dungey individually declined to comment to TheWrap. TheWrap was unable to reach Ebong and Hunter ahead of publication.

Hollywood has been widely criticized for the overwhelming dominance of white people — especially men — in its leadership ranks. The criticism led to the #OscarsSoWhite social media campaign two years ago that referenced a lack of diversity at the Academy Awards.

Since then, the motion picture academy has made a concerted effort to increase the percentage of women and people of color among its members. And the entertainment industry as a whole has publicly placed more emphasis on fostering diversity.

But according to UCLA’s 2018 Diversity in Hollywood report, the entertainment industry has been slow to “accept … that its success in providing today’s (and tomorrow’s) audiences with what they crave also hinges on the presence of diverse talent behind the camera — in the director’s chair, in the writer’s room and in executive suites.” The report was authored by professors Darnell Hunt, Ana-Christina Ramón, Michael Tran, Amberia Sargent and Debanjan Roychoudhury.

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The Women’s March And Time’s Up Help Send A Record Number Of Women To Congress

Read on: Deadline.

Hundreds of thousands of people crowded downtown Los Angeles streets on a sunny January morning to hear Hollywood stars like Constance Wu, Natalie Portman, Eva Longoria and Viola Davis issue a call to action: resist Trump.
Movements like the Women&#821…

‘American Son’ Theater Review: Kerry Washington Brings #BlackLivesMatter Debate to Broadway

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

In life, there are seldom black-and-white villains. And that’s true of the flawed but relatable characters in Christopher Demos-Brown’s ripped-from-the-headlines drama “American Son,” which opened Sunday in a polished and starry Broadway production.

Kerry Washington, who’s become a bigger star on “Scandal” since her Broadway debut in David Mamet’s “Race” nearly a decade ago, plays the mother of a just-turned-18-year-old boy who hasn’t returned home but whose car has turned up in the police system. By turns worried, frustrated and angry, this PhD-holding college professor confronts the rookie Miami cop (Jeremy Jordan) in the precinct waiting room.

Officer Larkin is the sort of young Southern white male who doesn’t know Charles Dickens from Emily Dickinson and seems as prone to microaggressions as he is to eating donuts. But he’s just an overnight-shift underling following “protocol,” waiting for a more senior officer to turn up for his early morning shift.

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Washington’s Kendra has cause for concern. Her son, Jamal, may be bound for West Point in the fall after attending good (mostly white) suburban schools, but he’s also a 6-foot-2 African American male with cornrows — who was apparently pulled over by the cops late at night driving the second-hand Lexus registered in his father’s name.

The issue of race — and the fate of young African American men like Philando Castile, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice at the hands of the police — is never far from Kendra’s mind. Nor apparently from young Officer Larkin’s, as he seems incredulous that Jamal isn’t in the system for some even minor offense and later complains that Kendra “went from zero to ghetto” in no time at all.

Unfortunately, the badge-wearing FBI agent to whom he confides this turns out to be Scott (Steven Pasquale), Kendra’s recently estranged husband and Jamal’s father. This escalates the tension — especially as dad learns more about his son’s recent troubles since Kendra and Scott split up (and Jamal’s decision to put a “Shoot cops with your phone whenever they make a bust” bumper sticker on the Lexus).

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Washington and Pasquale present a convincing portrait of squabbling exes — she even chides him on his use of “white trash” slang. Just when you begin to wonder whatever brought them together in the first place, they begin reminiscing about their shared affinity for hard work, respecting their elders, Thai food and Thelonious Monk. (Really, classic jazz?)

When an African American lieutenant (Eugene Lee, terrifically forceful) arrives to take charge of the situation, the drama kicks into overdrive. We also see new shades of black, and blue, in the issue of race and policing. Lee’s Lt. Stokes is a by-the-book, seen-at-all type whose advice to black men pulled over is “shut up and do what I say.” (He also recoils at the suggestion that he’s an Uncle Tom.)

In her first stage role in nearly a decade, Washington is a revelation. Dressed in a cardigan and jeans, she is the portrait of a woman who is one increasingly raw nerve ending, struggling to maintain her hard-won, much-prized composure as circumstances make that increasingly difficult.

Also Read: ‘The Lifespan of a Fact’ Broadway Review: Daniel Radcliffe Stands Up for the Truth

Director Kenny Leon keeps the action taut during the 90-minute running time, perhaps too taut. There isn’t much breathing room in the production — and the ending is so abrupt that it’s a wonder the curtain drop doesn’t give the actors whiplash. This is the rare show that would benefit from a longer running time, from more scenes exploring the characters in greater depth.

There are other issues, too. Despite the best efforts of his talented cast, too often the characters can seem like mouthpieces for different points of view in a plot jerry-rigged in ways that don’t always ring true. For instance, it’s hard to swallow that Pasquale’s FBI agent is the one who majorly loses his cool at the show’s climax — or that he hasn’t considered, let alone discussed, some of the issues of rearing a biracial son in modern America until this fateful night.

Still, it’s bracing to see a new American play grappling with serious, timely issues in a thoughtful way. It may take the star power of Kerry Washington (and producers like Shonda Rhimes, Jada Pinkett Smith, Dwayne Wade and Gabrielle Union-Wade), but even Broadway can get woke.

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Gay TV Hits: Here Are Nielsen’s Top 20 Shows Among Viewers With Same-Sex Partners

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Shonda Rhimes, Matt Reeves to Develop Blake Crouch’s New Book for Netflix Film, TV Universe

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Shonda Rhimes and Matt Reeves will develop a feature film as well as a TV universe for Netflix based on Blake Crouch’s book “Recursion,” Netflix announced Thursday.

“Recursion,” which will be published on June 11, 2019, follows a brilliant female scientist who invents a powerful technology that allows people to reinvent their visceral memories. It gives people the chance to rewrite their entire lives — but of course, with the technology comes certain dangers.

“Projects like this are why I came to Netflix,” said Rhimes in a statement. “The opportunity to explore a multi-genre universe in innovative ways is extremely exciting. Matt and Blake both have the tremendous ability to build compelling characters and imaginative landscapes and I am thrilled to work alongside them.”

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Reeves added, “Blake’s mind-bending novel presents an incredible opportunity to explore its expansive narrative simultaneously through both film and television. Netflix is uniquely suited for this ambitious undertaking and I can’t imagine a more exciting partner than the astonishingly talented Shonda Rhimes whose work I have admired for years.”

Crouch is a New York Times bestselling author, having written the book “Dark Matter,” for which he also wrote the script for Sony. He is best known for his “Wayward Pines” trilogy, which was also adapted in a 2015 television series of the same name.

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Last year, Rhimes brought her Shondaland production company (founded also by her producing partner Betsy Beers) to Netflix under a multi-year deal. Also earlier this year, it was announced Netflix would get an exclusive first-look at any feature films directed and/or produced by Reeves under his production company, 6th and Idaho.

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