#TBT: This Classic Dallas Promo Isn’t Great, but It Still Lured 83 Million Viewers

November 19, 2014  |  Media Week  |  No Comments

Holy cliffhanger! On March 21, 1980, Dallas fans were stunned as Larry Hagman's villainous J.R. Ewing was gunned down on the CBS drama's Season 3 finale. After eight agonizing months, and a masterful marketing campaign that turned "Who Shot J.R.?" into a worldwide phenomenon, the shooter's identity was finally revealed in Season 4's fourth episode, "Who Done It," which aired Nov. 21, 1980. More than 83 million people tuned in—a whopping 76 share, and an estimated 350 million worldwide—making it the U.S.'s second most-watched non-sports program of all time, after the MASH finale in 1983. Yet that impressive, ambitious publicity effort seemed to stall right before the finish line of the actual episode, which is the subject of this week's Throwback Thursday. Here's the underwhelming promo for "Who Done It," which ran after the previous week's show, "Nightmare," and makes the upcoming episode seem decidedly average:First off, the fact that the entire promo focuses on Sue Ellen (J.R.'s wife, played by Linda Gray) makes it clear she won't turn out to be the murderer—and could anyone who looks that sleepy have really pulled the trigger? Instead, the promos for the upcoming episodes of Alice and The Jeffersons look far more appealing, as both comedies must have received a CBS mandate to hit the road for November sweeps. Alice visited Las Vegas (it's all "fun and games with Robert Goulet" until Linda Lavin ends up in a goatee) while The Jeffersons traveled to Hawaii (there's nothing like a tantalizing John Milton/Paradise Lost reference in the promo to bring in those poetry-loving sweeps audiences). That wasn't the only curious promo before the big episode. Check out this stilted commercial for People magazine's "Who Shot J.R.?" cover, featuring a chemistry-free couple that seems to to be reading script lines right out of the magazine, while making it clear that the cover story won't spill any real dirt about the murderer's identity:As for the ravenously anticipated Nov. 21 episode itself, the actual reveal was disappointingly anticlimactic (it was J.R.'s sister-in-law and mistress, Kristin Shepard, played by Mary Crosby). It doesn't hold up 34 years later (why does everyone seem to be moving in slow motion?), except for that last juicy little twist, courtesy of one final bombshell from Kristin:And to see how it all began—the moment that turned the cliffhanger into an essential season finale staple for almost all subsequent TV dramas—watch J.R. take two slugs in the Season 3 finale:But let's really go out with a bang—dozens of them, in fact—and close with this lively blooper reel from Season 3, in which pretty much the entire cast, Hagman included, gets a chance to prove it shot J.R. (the fun starts at the 4:55 mark):While the "Who Shot J.R.?" clips might be showing their age, I still take my Stetson off to Dallas for attracting 83 million viewers to a single episode of television, a feat that is unlikely to ever be repeated by a program without the words "Super Bowl" in the title.

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How Bill Cosby Went From TV’s ‘Most Persuasive’ Pitchman to its Most Radioactive

November 19, 2014  |  Media Week  |  No Comments

Three years ago, as Bill Cosby prepared to be inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame as the first winner of the President's Award for Contributions to Advertising, he spoke with Adweek about the honor. When asked about his greatest asset as a hugely successful (and highly lucrative) pitchman of products like Jell-O, Coca-Cola and Crest, Cosby responded, "I think [it's] my believability as a storyteller." Three years later, that believability is in ruins. Past sexual assault allegations against the comedian have resurfaced and snowballed in recent weeks, with every day bringing a shocking, ugly new development. (Tuesday, former supermodel Janice Dickinson told Entertainment Tonight that Cosby drugged and raped her in 1982.) The controversy reached its tipping point late last night, when Netflix announced it was "postponing" the Nov. 28 debut of Cosby's comedy special, Cosby 77. Today, NBC followed suit, pulling the plug on the sitcom it had been developing with the comedian for next season. It's a stunning fall for Cosby. As The Cosby Show dominated the Nielsens in the '80s, the actor had the top Q Score of all entertainers, while New York research firm Video Storyboard Tests named him the most persuasive celebrity commercial pitchman for five consecutive years. Now he's the most radioactive, even to the very network that he helped rescue in the '80s. Putting the horrific allegations aside (disclosure: I worked at People when it published this damning 2006 account of the allegations from five of his accusers, one month after he settled with another accuser out of court. It's a story I'm still stunned never gained traction at the time), Cosby is in this predicament largely because he and his team demonstrated a surprising lack of media savvy for a performer who for decades has had audiences—and advertisers—in the palm of his hand. It started with the ill-conceived decision on Nov. 10 to launch a meme generator for his website, which quickly turned into one of the year's biggest social media debacles . As he granted interviews about loaning works from his art collection to the National Museum of African Art, he ignored questions about the allegations, first with the nonsensical response, "No. Look at the beauty of what we have here," and then with complete silence during an awkward NPR interview . Shortly after, his appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman—a safe haven if there ever was one given Letterman's own previous sex scandals — was canceled . It gets worse: On Sunday, in a statement

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Gravitas Buys Spike Lee’s Kickstarter-Funded ‘Da Sweet Blood of Jesus’ for U.S.

November 19, 2014  |  Variety  |  No Comments

Gravitas Ventures has acquired North American rights to Spike Lee’s horror-comedy “Da Sweet Blood of Jesus,” which was backed by a Kickstarter campaign last year. Starring Zaraah Abrahams and Stephen Tyrone Williams, “Da Sweet Blood of Jesus” is a reinterpretation of Bill Gunn’s 1973 “Ganja and Hess.” It debuted earlier this year at the American... Read more

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Warner Bros. Locks Down Multi-Year Deal to Distribute WWE Homevideo Titles (EXCLUSIVE)

November 19, 2014  |  Variety  |  No Comments

WWE has a new distribution partner to release its homevideos. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has signed a multiyear pact that will have the studio distribute WWE’s library of titles, pay-per-view events and documentaries in the U.S. on DVD, Blu-ray and digital formats starting Jan. 1. WBHE replaces Cinedigm, who itself, inherited the WWE distribution deal... Read more

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Emma Thompson to be Feted at British Independent Film Awards

November 19, 2014  |  Variety  |  No Comments

Emma Thompson is to receive the Richard Harris Award, which recognizes the outstanding contribution to British film by an actor, at the Moet British Independent Film Awards on Dec. 7 in London. The award, which was introduced in 2002, has previously gone to John Hurt, Daniel Day-Lewis, Ralph Fiennes and Michael Gambon, among others. Thompson,... Read more

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Off Broadway Review: ‘By the Water’

November 19, 2014  |  Variety  |  No Comments

“By the Water,” a play by Sharyn Rothstein with something original to say about unhappy families, was an excellent choice for the first production collaboration between MTC, a high-profile subscription house, and Ars Nova, an innovative developmental theater. Instead of drawing on the usual pretexts for gathering a fractious family together (Christmas, Thanksgiving, a funeral,... Read more

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Netflix Pulls Bill Cosby Special Amid Rape Allegations

November 19, 2014  |  Variety  |  No Comments

Netflix has decided to postpone its Bill Cosby special as the embattled comedian faces several accusations of sexual assault, the latest from former supermodel and TV host Janice Dickinson. “At this time we are postponing the launch of the new stand up comedy special ‘Bill Cosby 77′,” a Netflix spokesman said on Tuesday. The announcement came... Read more

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Morris Chestnut, Regina Hall Starring in Thriller ‘When the Bough Breaks’

November 19, 2014  |  Variety  |  No Comments

Morris Chestnut and Regina Hall will star in the thriller “When The Bough Breaks” for Screen Gems. Variety reported Oct. 29 that Jon Cassar would direct “Bough” with former New Line toppers Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne producing. Story follows a professional couple that is unable to conceive a child and decides to hire a... Read more

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AEG to Broadcast Coachella, Four Other Live Music Festivals, on AXS TV

November 18, 2014  |  Variety  |  No Comments

A.E.G. has become the latest concert promoter to make its lineup of live events a little more entertaining. The company, which owns and produces the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Stagecoach Country Music Festival, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Rock on the Range Music Festival, and Firefly Music Festival, will broadcast the events on... Read more

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President Obama Pitches White House Student Film Festival

November 18, 2014  |  Variety  |  No Comments

President Obama is pitching for submissions to the second annual White House Student Film Festival with a Jan. 20 deadline. In a video posted Tuesday, the White House and the American Film Institute announced that the event is open to K-12 student filmmakers with the theme of  “The Impact of Giving Back” – public service... Read more

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