Morning News Update for Thursday, 4/3/14.


(upfront) OWN Slate Features Toni Braxton in Network’s First Scripted Film, Octavia Spencer in Miniseries
Toni Braxton
is starring in OWN’s first scripted TV film, “My Name is Love: The Darlene Love Story,” and Oscar winner Octavia Spencer will star in a two-night miniseries about the largest race riot in U.S. history. The new season of “Oprah’s Master Class,” meanwhile, will premiere May 11 with Justin Timberlake. And the network also plans a seven-part series called “Belief” about humankind’s search for meaning and connection. The Tyler Perry series “The Haves and Have Nots” and the new series “Single Moms Club” (a working title) each received 20-episode orders.

(upfront) Animal Planet Roars About Its Upfront Slate Including Scripted ‘Revenge of the Whale’
This fall, Animal Planet also plunges into scripted territory, retelling the story that inspired the iconic novel, Moby Dick, in REVENGE OF THE WHALE (working title). Starring Emmy and Golden Globe Award winner Martin Sheen, this two-hour film tells a dramatic story of greed and inhumanity in an era when whales were mercilessly stalked and slain for their oil. Sheen portrays Old Thomas Nickerson who tells of his life as a cabin boy on the ill-fated voyage of the whaling ship, the Essex. REVENGE OF THE WHALE, a coproduction with the BBC, re-imagines what happened when the magnificent but most hunted sea creature finally turned on its killers… and fought back.

(mipTV) DirecTV Acquires Australian Thriller ‘The Code’ Starring Lucy Lawless
UK’s DCD Rights has sealed deals on six-part thriller The Code with DirecTV in the U.S. Produced by Australia’s Playmaker, the drama premieres Down Under on ABC1 later this year. Set in the Oz outback, The Code centers on two very different brothers — one a journalist, the other a hacker — who unearth information that those at the highest levels of political power will kill to keep secret. Lucy Lawless stars with Adam Garcia (Camp), David Wenham (Top Of The Lake) and Aden Young (I Frankenstein). It was created by Shelley Birse and written by Birse, Blake Ayshford and Justin Monjo. Shawn Seet directs.

(review) Variety: ‘Turn’
As a fan of period pieces in general, there’s little pleasure in saying AMC should perhaps steer clear of them for a while. Because in the wake of Western “Hell on Wheels” comes the new Revolutionary War-era drama “Turn,” which doesn’t turn fast enough, alas, to breathe life into its characters or setting during an extended 90-minute premiere. Dense, dank and atmospheric, the series certainly has all the trappings of a prestige cable drama, but lacks the vigor of a first-rate spy thriller.

Variety: ‘Mom’ Stands Out Among Heart-Heavy Crop of TV Comedies
It’s been a dismal season for freshman comedies on the networks, based on ratings. That’s the industry’s general perception, which is unfortunate, because it overshadows some notable efforts to break the sitcom mold. The most promising trend might be called the heart attack — shows that deftly add dollops of emotional depth, feel-good moments and real-world conflicts to their mix of one-liners and pratfalls.


Will Ferrell to Star in ‘Match Maker’
Will Ferrell
has attached himself to star in Match Maker, a sports comedy about the legendary conflict between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King. At the same time, Steven Conrad has come aboard to write the script for the project, which is being developed by Chernin Entertainment and Gary Sanchez Produciotns. Story is about the infamous rivalry between Riggs, a tennis champ past his prime who came out of retirement to challenge women’s tennis player King in a 1973 game that became known as The Battle of the Sexes.


(upfront) TLC Greenlights 3 New Family Series, 3 Specials Including ‘Quints by Surprise’ Reunion
The new family slate includes the special “Long Lost Family,” which follows people searching for family members they’ve never met or want to reunite with. Then, there’s new series “The Speegle Life” from Ryan Seacrest productions, which centers on a family that leaves their thriving church in Florida to assist its two daughters in establishing a church in Alabama. The new shows join previously announced series “The Leah Remini Project,” which focuses on the actress’ colorful home life with her family.

(upfront) Velocity To Create U.S. Version of “Wheeler Dealers” In 2015
Discovery Communications’ male-focused cabler Velocity said it would unveil seven new series with cars at the center of the proceedings – emblematic of its vehicle focus – as part of its programming slate for 2015.


(feature) Bloomberg: The Pow! Bang! Bam! Plan to Save Marvel, Starring B-List Heroes
The Winter Soldier
will be Marvel’s ninth movie in six years. They’ve all performed well, and some have done phenomenally. The Avengers sold $1.5 billion in tickets globally in 2012, making it the third-highest-grossing movie of all time. All told, Marvel has made consistent hits, which is supposedly impossible in a creative business. “It’s almost like we have a built-in GPS system for the storytelling,” Iger says.

How Tinker Bell Became Disney’s Stealthy $300 Million Franchise
The company is breaking records with straight-to-DVD fairy movies, managed by John Lasseter, that fueled the pre-tween girl frenzy for "Frozen."

Kelly Osbourne Leads Voice Cast of Disney’s ‘7D’ Animated Series
The summer show will be broadcast on three Disney networks, first premiering on Disney XD. The 7D is set in the contemporary and whimsical world of Jollywood and finds the 7D — Happy, Bashful, Sleepy, Sneezy, Dopey, Grumpy and Doc — hard at work helping the quirky Queen Delightful keep her kingdom in order.


Discovery Teams With Ron Howard And Brian Grazer To Create Digital Studio
Hard to say yet what might come from the venture, called New Form, that unites the Hollywood creative team — plus lawyer Craig Jacobson, TV exec Ed Wilson, agent Jim Wiatt, film exec Michael Rosenberg and CAA — with pay TV’s leading producer of non-fiction programming. Kathleen Grace will be chief creative officer of the LA-based operation. Her mission, the companies say, is to develop “high-quality, scripted and unscripted programming for today’s digital viewers” — and to create alliances with “key distribution partners and brands.”

Cineflix Taps Brandon Killion As EVP
Former Gurney Productions exec Brandon Killion has joined Cineflix Media as EVP Programming and Development, North America. Based in LA, he will report to Cineflix founders and co-CEOs Glen Salzman and Katherine Buck.

UK’s Channel 4 Hires Simon Maxwell To Spearhead International Drama Co-Pros
Former Red Arrow Entertainment Head of Drama & Comedy, Simon Maxwell, is joining Channel 4 in the newly created role of Head of International Drama.


Vulture: Which 2014 Network and Cable Shows Still Face Cancellation?
Earlier this year, Vulture offered up its annual scorecard of how nearly three dozen new and returning fall TV shows were performing this season, assessing them all via our patented Bubble Meter. But since then, both broadcast and cable networks have welcomed back a handful of familiar faves (e.g., Community, Suburgatory) and introduced us to some new programs (Sirens, Crisis, etc.) whose fates still hang in the balance. While there hasn’t been quite enough fresh meat to warrant putting another Bubble Meter on the barbie, it seems only fair that these 2014 debuts and returns have their own fortunes divined, just as we did with their fall peers. So divine we shall.

Slate: The Humor Code
The Laugh Factory, one of the biggest comedy clubs in L.A., has an in-house therapy program. Two nights a week, comics meet with psychologists in a private office upstairs, discussing their problems while lying on a therapy couch formerly owned by Groucho Marx. “Eighty percent of comedians come from a place of tragedy,” explains Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada. “They didn’t get enough love. They have to overcome their problems by making people laugh.”

Last year, 71 million people watched other people play video games
Watching other people play computer games—or eSports—is big business. More than 71 million people worldwide watched eSports last year, half in the United States, according to SuperData. And one in five American gamers either watches or participates in eSports.