Today in movies and television: The Coen Brothers are developing a grouchy private eye series for Fox, how canceling The Simpsons helps News Corp.'s bottom-line, and Lady Gaga is getting the Lifetime original movie treatment.
- The Coen Brothers are making their first foray into television with Harve Karbo, an hour-long single camera comedy series they created with Cedar Rapids writer Phil Johnson. As one would expect from a series that already has a script commitment from Fox, the concept is more Big Lebowski than Miller's Crossing. The main character is a grouchy private investigator who interacts with unsavory criminal types in El Segundo, which Coen enthusiasts will remember as the city Irma P. Hall mentioned many times in The Lady Killers. [Deadline]
- Fox is threatening to axe The Simpsons after this season if the show's voice actors don't accept a 45 percent pay cut. Financially, Fox's hardline stance makes sense, to the point where we wonder why the network has even continued to produce new episodes over the past decade, considering the windfall a new syndication package for the program is bound to generate. RBC Capital Markets analyst David Bank circulated a research brief yesterday estimating the network stands to make $750 million by selling syndication rights to the show when it finally does get cancelled. (Bank assumed each of the 506 episodes would go for $1.5 million.) "With a cash flow (EBIT) margin of 60%, and a tax rate of 35%" that would translate into 10 cents in earnings for each share of News Corp. stock. Which would be nice, since the current syndication deal for the show was negotiated in 1994, and sold the rights to 70 local Fox affiliate stations, effectively letting them corner the rerun market for 17 years. Buyers like TBS could certainly make a play for the series when the rights go back on the block, but Fox may still have plans for the four-fingered yellow family. Last month, News Corp. COO Chase Carey said the network was mulling over the possibility of creating an all-Simpsons cable channel. [Deadline]
- Lifetime is developing a TV movie about Lady Gaga. She's not being recruited to appear in it, and it seems unlikely the network could afford to license very many (if any) of her songs. In other words, it's a movie about a singer, who happens to be resemble Lady Gaga. [The Hollywood Reporter]
- Bridesmaids director Paul Feig has wisely dropped out as director of Bridget Jones' Diary 3. The movie is still scheduled to begin shooting in London in Januury, with Universal and Working Title already on the hunt for a new director, who for some reason they've now decided needs to be British. [Empire Online]