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Looks like the summer season kick off is here. As we roll up the carpet on favorite TV series and more, The A-List still keeps it hot and toasty with behind the scenes info on all the latest dealing making. Ladies and Gentlemen, Issue #69OVERSEEN & OVERHEARD
HEAD MISTRESS...Sometimes you just never know. Seems the large part of the African-American demo would rather see Mo'Nique try and tame a few out-of-control "Flavor of Love" rejects than check out Tony Parker float baskets in the NBA Playoffs. According to Nielsen ratings, the new VH-1 show "Charm School" jumped to first place in Black households--though the Playoffs were still a major player on the list, taking seven of the top ten slots in African-American viewership. BET's "College Hill" was number seven, leading the network's six shows on the top 25, making it the week's winning cable network. TNT followed with five shows, and ESPN with three. In all, 17.8 million Black households tuned in to shows during May sweeps.
DVD DEAL DETAILS...Speaking of BET, we just got word the network has finalized a deal to create its own home video division--with the help of another Viacom company, Paramount Home Entertainment. Under the partnership, Paramount will distribute original BET programming as well as made-for-DVD titles (including scripted comedy, drama and animation) and acquired content on a worldwide basis. First off the bench is "Celebration of Gospel: Taking You Higher," which originally aired in January and became the most-seen religious/gospel program in television history with an estimated 2.5 million viewers. Ten to twelve DVDs will be released each year, and among this year's offerings will be "College Hill" and the documentary series "American Gangster." Better late than never entering the home entertainment realm, but will titles like "College Hill," which is relatively unknown outside of the BET market, really sell worldwide? We'll keep track of the numbers and let you know.
WHAT'S UP DOC?...Is he or isn't he? In the season finale of "Grey's Anatomy" Isaiah Washington's character basically packed it in. And some media outlets jumped to the conclusion that Washington, who was criticized for an anti-gay slur he made against another cast mate and for punching yet another actor on the set, was fired. Then other media reported he's in the middle of tough negotiations with producers. In the meantime, Washington, according to word leaked from his publicist, will spend the summer during charity work in Sierra Leone (Washington's ancestral home) and film an indie film called The Least of These
. Talk about your real-life cliff hangers.
MAMA DOES HOLLYWOOD...As we were chewing the entertainment industry fat with a fellow media source we happened to get a bit of info that may be of interest to all you Chitlin' Circuit fans. According to Patty Jackson's 411, the Off-Broadway musical Mama I Want to Sing is being turned into a feature film after all these years. They have lined up Ciara, Patti LaBelle and Danny Glover for the project. No other details yet. But we'll clue you in as soon as we know.
MUCHO DINERO...Venezuela's president Hugo Chávez may have his own goal of overturning the West's "monolithic cinematic influence," which is distributed to the world, but in any case he is now putting his money where his mouth is. The Venezuelan government reported that Chavez has actually promised to give almost $18 million--free and clear--to actor Danny Glover for Glover and his production company, Louverture Films (http://www.blogger.com/www.louverturefilms.com) to make a film about Haitian revolutionary Toussaint Louverture and the slave uprising in Haiti. We're sure both Chavez and Glover are excited about the project, but count out dinner tix to any Bush farewell sendoffs. And, Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.) won't be inviting Glover to dinner anytime soon either. Mack recently issued a stern statement calling for Glover to reject Chavez's "tainted movie deal and [to] instead work with legitimate enterprises, investors and financiers who value freedom, treasure our nation and who won't climb into bed with renegade communist dictators." Well, wouldn't it be great for such support were forthcoming from mainstream Hollywood or U.S. investors. Maybe Mack has some leads.
GATEKEEPERS IN FULL EFFECT...You know we had to say something. Love the idea of FOX's "On the Lot," a show designed to give new filmmakers a break, but has anyone noticed there are almost no Black filmmakers out of 36 and why are none of the judges of color. Guess they weren't invited to the party. Surely with the pull of heavyweights like Spielberg and Burnett, a more wide-sweeping approach could have been implemented. Note to FOX: We can do more than just sing and dance a la "American Idol" and "Dancing with the Stars."
...As the hoopla and reporting of Cannes is in full blossom, we just had to take note of something significant. It seems not a single African film has been selected to compete for the top Cannes awards in a decade, and the African Filmmakers Producers Guild isn't happy. They want to now why and have issued a statement calling the "oversight" discriminatory. You'd think since French reminder: Given the former colonial days, it wouldn't hurt to look out a bit, right?
FOX HUNT...Forget the Imus mess, Jamie Foxx is hitting satellite radio via a new venture as he just launched on May 17th the 24/7 Foxxhole Channel exclusively on SIRIUS Satellite Radio. Foxx will executive produce and contribute live from around the world featuring comedy, music and entertainment channel. Insiders also tell us, Foxx is teaming up with ex-NBA player Kenny Smith for a return to sitcom TV. Foxx will co-executive produce a new basketball-themed TBS comedy. Cool to see any Oscar winner tackle all forms of media.
SO YOU GOT JOKES?...YouTube just announced its first ever sketch comedy competition, the YouTube Sketchies (www.youtube.com/sketchies). In this three-round elimination comedy battle, aspiring sketch comedians will put their digital shorts up against others to determine if they have what it takes. Over a nine-week period beginning May 24, YouTube users will upload the first of potentially three comedic shorts. Winners will receive new gear, a brand assignment and production budget from Sierra Mist Lemon Squeeze to create an original comedy short that will live online at SierraMist.com, a trip for two to meet The Lonely Island and attend a VIP screening of their movie Hot Rod, among other goodies." With such events and outlets growing, user-generated content might wind up inspiring more and more Hollywood deals. "Def Comedy Jam" this ain't, but let's see how the Urban comedy fairs as things progress.
DON'T CHANGE THAT DIAL...Over at Radio One sister company, TVOne there's even more news from the little channel that could. As if he doesn't get enough media coverage, Al Sharpton will return to the network with his half-hour show "Sharp Talk with Al Sharpton," where the Rev. talks issues, politics and culture from a Brooklyn barbershop. "Sharp Talk" is produced by Sweet Willie Films. Actor/comedian Bill Bellamy also returns, in September, for a second season of the network's highest-rated original series, "Bill Bellamy's Who's Got Jokes?" which is produced by Farcor Productions LLC. Exec producers of the one-hour series are show creator Ralph Farquhar, Dwayne Corbett and Bellamy. Specials on tap include: "Daddy's Girl" this summer which documents the professional female boxing match ever in the history of South Africa featuring Laila Ali. The documentary is a co-production between Undisputed Cinema and Strange Fruit Films, with Gina Prince-Bythewood, Nia Hill and D'Angela Steed producing. Executive producer, Reggie Bythewood directs, alongside South African filmmaker Norman Maake. And, TV One is again producing and will air in August a multi-part series of one-hour specials of Tavis Smiley's Eighth Annual State of the Black Union symposium. There's also the landmark mini-series' sequel "Roots: The Next Generation." Nice lineup, but The A-List would love to see some original programming that takes changes. We know budgets are limited, but maybe reach out to some young bloods for edgier programming.
EVENT UPDATE...You better hurry if you're planning to check out "Teddy 25–A Celebration Of Life, Hope, And Possibilities," a benefit show for the Teddy Pendergrass Alliance (TPA) featuring Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff, Bill Cosby, Patti LaBelle, Musiq, Stephanie Mills, and more. Happening June 10th at Verizon Hall At The Kimmel Center For The Performing Arts in Philadelphia, the tickets have gone on sale and we hear people are snapping them up. To get yours, visit www.kimmelcenter.org/ or call 215-893-1999. The TPA (www.teddypendergrassalliance.org) is a non-profit organization that aids people with Spinal Cord Injuries. At this event, the TPA will honor LaBelle, Whitney Houston, Arsenio Hall, Regis Philbin, Ashford & Simpson, Cathy Hughes (CEO/founder of TV One/Radio One), Mark P. Mays (CEO, Clear Channel), Donald Trump, Daniel Markus & Shep Gordon (managers), Bob Krasnow (CEO, Elektra/Asylum Records), Pendergrass' longtime publicist Lisa Barbaris, family, friends, and a number of medical personnel and others.
HIP HOP HOLLYWOOD
INTO THE FIRE...According to our friends at EUR, hypeman-turned-reality show-superstar Flavor Flav will be roasted by Comedy Central this summer. Joel Gallen from Tenth Planet Productions will exec produce the "The Comedy Central Roast of Flavor Flav." "We only roast the ones we love and the world is clearly crazy about this guy," Elizabeth Porter, senior vice president, specials and talent for Comedy Central told EUR. "This event will be full of surprises as Flavor Flav is going to experience a whole new kind of love in this Roast." No doubt soem guests from his many reality shows--"Surreal Life," "Strange Love," and "Flavor of Love" will be in the mix.
PROPERTY FIGHT...Jay-Z and Damon Dash may have been the minds behind the hot clothing company Rocawear, but now they have suit of another flavor to deal with. The ex-partners in music, fashion and film just got hit with a $15-million lawsuit by Antonne Jones, who claims that Roc-A-Fella lifted the concept of the hit movie State Property from his novel,The Family: A Philadelphia Mob Story. According to our freinds over at AllHipHop.com, Jones says he met with the two in 1998 and they wanted to pay him $500,000 for the rights to the movie. Jones turned it down, he says. But then, in 2002 State Property was released and he saw major similarities to his book, according to the suit. The film's distributor, Lionsgate, is named as a defendant in the lawsuit. When we reached out to the film company, a Lionsgate spokesman declined comment.
RADIO ONE BUYS AND SELLS
Black-owned radio giant Radio One has announces it will sell off 10 of its radio staions in Dayton and Louisville to Main Line Broadcasting, a portfolio company of Arlington Capital Partners. The transaction price is approximately $76 million which represents a purchase price multiple of approximately 12x based on 2006 station operating income for the stations being sold. The transaction is expected to close during the second half of 2007. The A-List predicted Radio One would start selling off some of its radio stations a few issues back.
The company, the nation's seventh largest radio broadcasting company, also confirmed the purchase of Urban talk radio station WDBZ-AM 1230 in Cincinnati. And, Radio One, which is publicly traded, fielded some sticky questions over its delay in filing its quarterly report with Nasdaq. Because of this, the company received a second Staff Determination Notice from Nasdaq on May 15. According to Radio One, it will not be able to file within the time period prescribed by the Securities and Exchange Commission because it has not completed the restatement of its financial statements. As previously announced, Radio One's audit committee has undertaken a voluntary review of Radio One's historical stock option granting practices. As a result of that review, Radio One expects to restate its historical financial statements to record additional stock-based compensation expense with respect to certain stock option grants over the vesting periods of the options. And Radio One previoulsy received a Staff Determination Notice from The Nasdaq Stock Market earlier this year when it did not file the correct report for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2006.
FACEBOOK ENTERS ONLINE VIDEO ARENA
Facebook Inc. has announced that it will open its Facebook f8 platform to outside developers and partners, allowing third parties to develop functions for Facebook, including video, advertising, and retail capabilities. According to industry trendtrackers, this move could push Facebook more towards becoming a commercial provider of social networking tools, rather than attempting to battle MySpace as a consumer play.
ABEGAIL DOMOND, BRAND DIRECTOR, MARTELL
Recently Discover Noblige, an exclusive traveling exhibition of the art, culture and style of the Martell brand, held an event in Los Angeles. Discover Noblige, a celebration of charitable giving, honored Nia Long, Hill Harper and Holly Robinson Peete for their demonstrated philanthropic nobility. Then on May 24th, Discover Noblige ventured to Miami, where they honored Harper again along with scholar and humanitarian Dr. Dushyantha T. Jayaweera, Miami's own Overtown Youth Center. With Martell making the rounds with Urban Hollywood we wanted to get the inside scoop. Here's a quick Q&A with Abegail Domond, Martell’s Brand Director. (pictured: Domond, Peete, Harper and Long)
The A-List: Why do these events make a great match for Martell to partner with? Abegail Domond: As opposed to partnering with an existing event, we at Martell found that Discover Noblige was actually powerful enough to be a program of its own; a channel by which we can highlight the brand's platform of "rising above" life's obstacles. By creating Discover Noblige, it gave us the opportunity to showcase the art, style and culture of the spirit while simultaneously recognizing celebrities who embody the brand's "style" in their philanthropic efforts.
AL: There seems to be many Urban events (especially Black Hollywood) that have been teaming up with spirits companies, why so? AD: Martell is fortunate enough to have a strong fan base in Hollywood, as well as in Urban communities across the U.S. Discover Noblige will [also] visit Atlanta, Detroit and Chicago. We attribute our overwhelming support to our longevity as the oldest of the major cognac houses.AL: How does doing such events help with your branding?
AD: By embracing the support of the tastemakers and celebrities who embody the Martell values, we can contribute to the upward mobility of our loyalists. We see events such as these as our opportunity to give back to our consumers and our communities. Martell feels that it is very important to not only acknowledge those who have risen above, but to recognize those who make it their mission to help those who are on their way, and to contribute to their noble causes.
Guerilla Black smoovin' with attendees at his mixtape release party on May 17 at the very cool Pearl Club in West Hollywood. Although many underground rappers had attended the gala, none performed live as they were scheduled too. It was a good positive night with some of the Hip Hop community here in L.A., now we just need Guerilla Black to drop a new CD. --words by Rafael Oquendo, photo by Anthony Davis
SHOUT OUT TO RAFAEL OQUENDO AND ANTHONY DAVIS--OUR MEN IN L.A.