Oprah Winfrey and Forest Whitaker in "The Butler." (Anne Marie Fox / Associated Press)
The Skinny: I missed the MTV Video Music Awards, but here's my token reaction: One Direction won for song of the summer over Robin Thicke and Daft Punk? How does that make sense? Today's headlines include "The Butler's" box-office win and a new deal between Lionsgate and Tandem Communications.
Daily Dose: Lionsgate has teamed up with the Munich, Germany-based company Tandem Communications to co-produce TV series internationally. The first effort in that venture will be the drama "Sex, Lies and Handwriting," about an artist and handwriting expert who solves crimes.
'The Butler' cleans up: "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones" was no match for Oprah Winfreyand Forest Whitaker, whose film got its second consecutive box-office win over the weekend. The teen fantasy film "Mortal Instruments" proved all too mortal, pulling in $14.1 million over five days. That, of course, won't necessarily stop the making of a sequel. Box-office roundups from The Los Angeles Times and Variety.
Cardinal rules: The University of Louisville Cardinals' midweek football games have become mainstays at ESPN, helping the network's ratings and exploding the profile of the Kentucky school in both sports and academics. That's the result of a close partnership between ESPN and the university. Naturally, the relationship has made some worry about higher learning's reliance on, to use the New York Times' phrase, an "institution of higher profits."
In case you missed it: Richard Nanula, the former chairman of Miramax and principal at the private equity firm Colony Capital, left his jobs in July after websites published photos of a man identified as him having sex with a porn actress. Daniel Miller has the full story of Nanula's spectacular rise and fall.
What liberals want: Kelefa Sanneh of the New Yorker takes a deep look at MSNBC's efforts to keep viewers' interest when there's not a presidential election going on. The 10-page piece traces the network's evolution from Ed Schultz and Keith Olbermann to Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes.
Charles Bradley performs on the first day of FYF Fest not far from downtown Los Angeles. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times /August 24, 2013)
Inside the Los Angeles Times: Dawn Chmielewski profiles Ted Sarandos, the man behind Netflix's push to take on Hollywood. Randall Roberts reviews this year's redundantly named FYF Fest.
'Saturday Night Live' writers protest NBCU's handling of union election.
Writers from more than 20 shows on the NBC and USA networks are leaning on Comcast/NBCU CEOStephen Burke to honor the results of a recent union election at NBCU-owned Peacock Productions.
Peacock produces nonfiction programming, including "Caught on Camera" and "Skywire Live With Nik Wallenda," for basic cable networks. Peacock employees have been working to join the union for more than a year and recently voted to do so.
NBCU is seeking to nullify the election results, contending that the workers are supervisors and not entitled to rights under the National Labor Relations Act, the Writers Guild of America said in a statement.
In protest, writers from NBC shows including "Saturday Night Live," "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon," "30 Rock," "Law & Order" and "Monk" have written a letter to Burke urging him to drop the appeal and allow the ballots to be counted. After a lengthy hearing, the NLRB regional director disagreed and directed a secret-ballot election, which took place in June. NBCU has successfully had those ballots impounded, pending an appeal.
"We disagree with the Company’s position that these freelancers are supervisory and not entitled to the right to collectively bargain,'' the writers wrote in their letter. "Their work has so much in common with our own. Their careers and livelihoods depend on many of the same things that ours do – health insurance, fair pay, pensions, residuals – things that the WGA has historically collectively bargained with you for."
The letter marks the latest effort in an ongoing campaign by the union, which has been organizing writer-producers in nonfiction television since 2009. Nonfiction television has boomed in recent years, producing low-cost and highly profitable programming that the union maintains relies on low wages and longer work schedules by freelance employees with no healthcare.
NBCU officials were not immediately available for comment.
Longtime entertainment lawyer Irwin Russell, whose clients included Michael Eisner and Jim Henson, died Aug. 23 of complications from leukemia. He was 87.
Russell, a New York native, is best known for working to get Eisner installed as chief executive of the Walt Disney Co. in 1984. The attorney also served on the entertainment company's board of directors.
“Irwin Russell was a brilliant lawyer, an insightful executive, an eloquent writer and, in all things, a true gentleman," Eisner, who headed Disney until 2005, said in a statement. Russell represented the executive for 40 years.
"He was able to write -- and get all parties to agree to -- a one-page deal, something unheard of in American business. Ethics, doing it right and being fair were embedded in his DNA. This is a deep loss for all of us,” Eisner said.
Russell received an undergraduate degree from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 1947, and graduated from Harvard Law School two years later. He served as an attorney for the National Wage Stabilization Board in the early 1950s.
The attorney moved to Los Angeles in 1971, when he became executive vice president of the Wolper Organization Inc., the company of film and television producer David Wolper.
Other Russell clients included Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss), "The Music Man" actor Robert Preston and Christina Crawford, the daughter of actress Joan Crawford.
In representing Henson, Russell stuck the deal that brought the puppeteer's Muppets characters to "Sesame Street."
"He was a good friend and I'm happy that we were able to keep in touch all these years," actress Carol Burnett said in a statement. "I'll miss him and our frequent conversations. He was a gentleman through and through."
Russell is survived by his wife, Suzanne.
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