Afternoon News Update for Monday, 2/3/14.


FremantleMedia To Adapt Fantasy Novel ‘American Gods’ As Drama Series
Acclaimed urban fantasy novel American Gods is headed to television. FremantleMedia North America has acquired the rights to the book by Neil Gaiman, creator of the popular Sandman comic. In American Gods, a war is brewing between old and new gods: the traditional gods of biblical and mythological roots from around the world steadily losing believers to an upstart pantheon of gods reflecting society’s modern love of money, technology, media, celebrity and drugs.

‘The Exes’ Renewed for 12 Episode Season 4 by TV Land
TV Land
has renewed comedy The Exes for a 12 episode fourth season.

TNT, TBS Partnering With The Black List to Scout Fresh TV Writers
The Black List will provide TNT and TBS with a short list of five finalists in each genre of TV writing based on criteria that the nets provide. TNT and TBS will then have the option of offering blind script deals, or sharing the finalists’ scripts with showrunners on the nets’ series.

(video) ‘The After’: First look at the upcoming apocalypse pilot from ‘The X-Files’ creator Chris Carter
Call it the Apopcalypse: Pop culture’s continuing fascination with the end of the world as we know it. The latest work of epic eschatology is The After, a new mid-apocalyptic pilot from Chris Carter. The show will debut as part of Amazon Studios’ second-ever pilot season—with an exact premiere date still TBA—and viewers will get to decide whether they want a full season.


‘Smash’ Alum Jack Davenport Cast in ABC Pilot ‘Sea of Fire’
Jack Davenport
has been cast in the ABC drama pilot “Sea of Fire.” Davenport will play the local sheriff, a small-town boy born and bred who is as easy-going as he is instantly likeable.

‘NCIS’ New Orleans Spinoff: Scott Bakula Nabs Lead Role
The two-part planted spinoff episode will air in the spring and hails from showrunner Gary Glasberg and star Mark Harmon.

Zoe McLellan Cast In CBS’ ‘NCIS’ Spinoff
Zoe McLellan
(Dirty Sexy Money) is set to co-star opposite Scott Bakula in CBS’ NCIS planted spinoff set in New Orleans.

Ashley Zukerman Tapped For ‘Manhattan’; Whitmer Thomas Boards ‘Crazy House’
Ashley Zukerman
has been cast as one of the leads in WGN America’s 13-episode scripted series Manhattan. Whitmer Thomas has been signed as co-lead opposite Nick Turner in Comedy Central‘s single-camera comedy pilot Crazy House.


David Goyer to Direct ‘The Breach’ for Lionsgate
Lorenzo di Bonaventura
is producing with Justin Rhodes writing the script for a sci-fi action thriller that is an adaptation of a 2009 novel by Patrick Lee. The story centers on a corrupt ex-cop who is trying to get his life back in order when he discovers a crashed plane in the Alaska wilderness. The first lady is among those dead in the wreckage. That sets off an adventure featuring a beautiful survivor, assassins, a secret organization, alien technology and an end-of-the-world scenario.


Nat Geo gets magical
National Geographic Channel is climbing aboard the trend for magic shows after signing a deal with Passion Distribution for two series. The US paynet has picked up The Happenings (4×60’), which features magicians Barry and Stuart convincing unsuspecting residents in towns across the UK and US that mysterious events are occurring. NGC will also broadcast the second season of Dynamo: Magician Impossible (4×60′).

Discovery Channel Greenlights ‘Game of Stones’ Series About Rare-Gem Hunter
The network has greenlighted a series titled Game of Stones about an "extreme gem hunter" named Don Kogen. Kogen, who is CEO of Gem Guys Inc., specializes in rare stones "from the most dangerous and lawless places on earth, racing the clock to be the first to each new find, always staying one step ahead of the competition." The show will debut Friday, Feb. 28.

HLN Cancels ‘Showbiz Tonight’
Show host A.J. Hammer will remain at the network to cover entertainment news.

‘Top Chef’ Producer Magical Elves Swallowed by U.K.’s Tinopolis
U.K.’s Tinopolis has beefed up its U.S. production portfolio with the acquisition of L.A.-based indie Magical Elves, which produces “Top Chef” for Bravo.


Sky Arts grabs Danish drama
UK satcaster Sky Arts has bolstered its drama offering with the acquisition of the latest show from the production outfit behind The Killing and Borgen. The Legacy (Arvingerne), produced by Copenhagen-based DR Fiktion, premiered recently on Danish net DR1. The 10-part series has been created by Maya Ilsoe and explores the death of a famous artist and the impact that her life has had on her four children.

ITV orders pilot based on Simon Cowell format
is piloting Keep it in the Family, a new gameshow format based on an idea from Simon Cowell.The format sees two families of four compete over various rounds for holidays and other prizes. The twist is the children from the competing families that take charge over the parents.

American Dream: Selling Formats into the U.S.
The U.S. is becoming increasingly open to adapting international formats, most recently with scripted and interactive programs. When it comes to scripted, having the wow factor is important, and so is getting the pacing right. “You definitely have to up the pace for U.S. television,” says Keshet’s Shahar. “Israeli dramas tend to be a bit slower, because we’re more about the characters and the story and the image than about the big payoff for the viewer at the end of the episode and the chase and the big CGI. For American television, it’s usually about figuring out how to cut to the chase quicker.”


Disney to Lay Off Hundreds of Employees in Interactive Unit
Further cuts are coming to Disney’s Interactive group, with several hundred people expected to be laid off as early as this week. The staff reductions are expected to come mostly from Disney’s Playdom, which produces games for social-media platforms.

Disney Channel Renews ‘Dog With a Blog’
The half-hour comedy series will return for a third season.

(podcast) Frozen with Jennifer Lee
John August
and guest host Aline Brosh McKenna discuss and dissect the award-winning, record-setting, paradigm-shifting Frozen. Jennifer Lee not only wrote Frozen, she co-directed it. She talks us through all the twists, turns, and happy surprises on the journey. We go scene-by-scene and song-by-song to look at how it works and how it changed during development.


Red Wagon Hires Nicki Cortese As VP Film And Television
Doug Wick
and Lucy Fisher’s Red Wagon Entertainment has hired former Weed Road Pictures exec Nicki Cortese as VP Film and Television.


(tech) No Gatekeeper: Google Opens Chromecast TV Device for Free to Any Developer
has released a set of free tools for developers to let their apps play video on the cheap Chromecast TV-connected device — a move that could quickly bring hundreds of new Internet video services to the TV, boosting Google’s strategy to get a foothold in the living room.

2014 Ad Bowl: a festival of “meh”
In the never-ending quest to create more buzz, many companies are now revealing their ads a whole week before the game. This year, I counted twenty of them. These advertisers have taken away what used to be one of the most fun things about watching the Super Bowl — finding surprises in every commercial break. It’s like reading spoilers before you see a movie.

PSA: Missed Call From A Mystery Number? Be Careful.
Scammers are apparently trying to exploit your “missed call” screen, now. The scam, simplified: They call you, but immediately hang up. You see a missed call. You call back. They charge you for the call, and for each minute they can keep you on the line. This so-called “One Ring” scam is on the rise.