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Sony Pictures Classics Soccer Team Wins LAFEST Industry Tournament

Sony Pictures Classics Soccer Team Wins LAFEST Industry Tournament

The Los Angeles Film and Entertainment Soccer Tournament teamed up with The Mia Hamm Foundation and Grassroots Soccer for its first celebrity soccer charity event.


Mia Hamm Dylan Leiner - H 2012

The Los Angeles Film and Entertainment Soccer Tournament (LAFEST), in partnership with The Mia Hamm Foundation and Grassroots Soccer, this weekend kicked off its first annual celebrity soccer charity event at the Home Depot Center, with the team from Sony Classics Pictures emerging as the winner of the industry portion of the tournament.

LAFEST co-founders and soccer enthusiasts Dylan Leiner and Jeffrey Saunders hosted the event alongside sports industry power couple Mia Hamm and Nomar Garciaparra and Grassroots Soccer founder Ethan Zohn to raise money for bone marrow and HIV awareness charities. served as media sponsor.

“What we did is sort of bring an entertainment component to it, and we put together an event that was a five-on-five entertainment soccer tournament where we had 40 different teams from the studios, the agencies, production companies, law firms, there was a youth showcase, a youth…tournament, and the whole day caps off with the big Mia and Nomar Challenge,” said Leiner.

The all-day event featured a youth and industry tournament that brought together such companies as William Morris Entertainment, Creative Artist’s Agency, IMDb, BAFTA Los Angeles and reality show celebrities from and .

Each team was guaranteed three games, and those who rose to the occasion moved on to single elimination playoff rounds. In the end, it was Sony Pictures Classics that took home the trophy along with bragging rights.

LAFEST concluded with Hamm and Garciaparra’s 4th Celebrity Soccer Challenge, which included such athletes and celebrities as Alex MorganAbby Wambach, Julie Foudy, Joy Fawcett, Chris HarrisonJimmy Conrad, Jay Fella, Indi Cowie,Lauren Cheney, Cobi Jones, Rebecca Soni, Clark Gregg, Anthony Lapaglia, Ben Lyons, Mike Medavoy, Demian Bichir and Eric Wynalda.

Even Miss USA Nana Meriwether and Miss Universe Olivia Culpa traded in their sashes and tiaras for cleats and shin guards. When asked Culpa about her background in soccer, she jokingly answered: “I’ve never played soccer before. I just so happen to be playing against Miss USA who’s playing on the Mia Hamm Foundation team and she’s an all American volleyball player, so moral of the story is… it will be a fun day.”

Hamm’s team, FC Mia, and Garciaparra’s team, Nomar United, displayed much hustle during the first half of the game, leaving fans at the edge of their seats. With shots deflecting off the goalpost and goalies diving on the rubber tiles for gut-wrenching saves, the teams ended the half tied at 6-6.

During halftime, Hamm and Garciaparra took center stage and reminded everyone about The Mia Hamm Foundation by sharing success stories and reuniting bone marrow donors and their recipients for the first time. “This is the most important part of the day," Hamm said. "So if one of you happens to be called to become a potential donor, say ‘yes.’ Please, say yes. And here today we throw around the word ‘heroes’ all the time but today you have true heroes, both on the giving and receiving end."

U.S. Soccer 2012 Female Athlete of the Year Morgan added: “Today I am here helping Mia Hamm and her foundation out and playing in this charity match, but really what it’s all about is the halftime show and seeing the bone marrow transplant donors and their recipients finding and meeting each other for the first time.”

After half-time, players entered for the final 30 minutes of competitive soccer. In the end, it was FC Mia that took home the trophy with a final score of 12-8.

Zohn concluded: “I think everyone out here today, you’re either a soccer player, or a movie star, or music person. They have recognition and they can use their ‘celebrity’ to go out there and create change in the world. I think that’s what it’s all about. They’re using the sport that they love to give back.”

‘Skyfall,’ Sam Mendes Win Empire Awards in U.K.


Skyfall

Jennifer Lawrence, Daniel Radcliffe, Martin Freeman and "Ted" were also honored at the 18th annual awards that are voted on by the public.

LONDON – Sam Mendes and his , starring Daniel Craig as James Bond, were big winners here at the 18th annual Jameson Empire Awards late Sunday.

PHOTOS: The Making of ‘Skyfall’: Bond is Back, Better Than Ever

Mendes scooped up three awards, including the Empire Inspiration prize, as well as the honors for best director and best movie of 2012.

STORY: ‘Skyfall’ Leads U.K.’s Empire Award Nominations With Six

Billing itself as "an antidote to more formal, industry-voted awards," such as the BAFTA Awards, the Empire Awards, organized by the movie magazine and sponsored by the beverage company, take place at the end of the annual awards season and before the Cannes Film Festival. They are voted for entirely by the movie-going public.

Joss Whedon’s and Peter Jackson’s followed ‘s six nominations with five each. In the best director category, Mendes edged out  Jackson and Whedon along with Christopher Nolan () and Quentin Tarantino (). The same five films also competed in the best picture category.

Seth MacFarlane‘s won the best comedy prize at the Sunday night awards ceremony.

STORY: Irish Comic Ed Byrne to Present Empire Film Awards

earned two nods – for best sci-fi/fantasy film and for Martin Freeman as best actor.
 
Jennifer Lawrence won the best actress honor for her role in . She thanked the audience from on-location work in Hawaii.

Meanwhile, Daniel Radcliffe earned the Empire Hero award. Director James Watkins, whose starring Radcliffe won the best horror award, handed the honor to the young actor. Past winners include the likes of Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley and Jude Law.
 
Helen Mirren received this year’s Empire Legend award, presented to her by Tom Hiddleston. Last year’s inaugural Legend winner was Tim Burton. And Danny Boyle picked up the Empire Outstanding Contribution award, which acknowledged his "stellar career so far."
 
Tom Holland was named best male newcomer for his role in , while fans picked Samantha Barks as the best female newcomer for her work in .
 
The best British film award went to Ben Wheatley-directed comedy about a man who wants to show his girlfriend his world during a caravan holiday that takes a wrong turn.

The awards ceremony took place at the Grosvenor House hotel in front of an industry crowd that also included the likes of Ian McKellan, Nick Park and host Ed Byrne.
 
An awards special will air on BSkyB’s Sky Movies this coming weekend.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai
 

Sony Pictures Classics Soccer Team Wins LAFEST Industry Tournament

Sony Pictures Classics Soccer Team Wins LAFEST Industry Tournament

The Los Angeles Film and Entertainment Soccer Tournament teamed up with The Mia Hamm Foundation and Grassroots Soccer for its first celebrity soccer charity event.


Mia Hamm Dylan Leiner - H 2012

The Los Angeles Film and Entertainment Soccer Tournament (LAFEST), in partnership with he Mia Hamm Foundation and Grassroots Soccer, this weekend kicked off its first annual celebrity soccer charity event at the Home Depot Center, with the team from Sony Classics Pictures emerging as the winner of the industry portion of the tournament.

LAFEST co-founders and soccer enthusiasts Dylan Leiner and Jeffrey Saunders hosted the event alongside sports industry power couple Mia Hamm and Nomar Garciaparra and Grassroots Soccer founder Ethan Zohn to raise money for bone marrow and HIV awareness charities. served as media sponsor.

“What we did is sort of bring an entertainment component to it, and we put together an event that was a five-on-five entertainment soccer tournament where we had 40 different teams from the studios, the agencies, production companies, law firms, there was a youth showcase, a youth…tournament, and the whole day caps off with the big Mia and Nomar Challenge,” said Leiner.

The all-day event featured a youth and industry tournament that brought together such companies as William Morris Entertainment, Creative Artist’s Agency, IMDb, BAFTA Los Angeles and reality show celebrities from and .

Each team was guaranteed three games, and those who rose to the occasion moved on to single elimination playoff rounds. In the end, it was Sony Pictures Classics that took home the trophy along with bragging rights.

LAFEST concluded with Hamm and Garciaparra’s 4th Celebrity Soccer Challenge, which included such athletes and celebrities as Alex MorganAbby Wambach, Julie Foudy, Joy Fawcett, Chris HarrisonJimmy Conrad, Jay Fella, Indi Cowie,Lauren Cheney, Cobi Jones, Rebecca Soni, Clark Gregg, Anthony Lapaglia, Ben Lyons, Mike Medavoy, Demian Bichir and Eric Wynalda.

Even Miss USA Nana Meriwether and Miss Universe Olivia Culpa traded in their sashes and tiaras for cleats and shin guards. When asked Culpa about her background in soccer, she jokingly answered: “I’ve never played soccer before. I just so happen to be playing against Miss USA who’s playing on the Mia Hamm Foundation team and she’s an all American volleyball player, so moral of the story is… it will be a fun day.”

Hamm’s team, FC Mia, and Garciaparra’s team, Nomar United, displayed much hustle during the first half of the game, leaving fans at the edge of their seats. With shots deflecting off the goalpost and goalies diving on the rubber tiles for gut-wrenching saves, the teams ended the half tied at 6-6.

During halftime, Hamm and Garciaparra took center stage and reminded everyone about The Mia Hamm Foundation by sharing success stories and reuniting bone marrow donors and their recipients for the first time. “This is the most important part of the day," Hamm said. "So if one of you happens to be called to become a potential donor, say ‘yes.’ Please, say yes. And here today we throw around the word ‘heroes’ all the time but today you have true heroes, both on the giving and receiving end."

U.S. Soccer 2012 Female Athlete of the Year Morgan added: “Today I am here helping Mia Hamm and her foundation out and playing in this charity match, but really what it’s all about is the halftime show and seeing the bone marrow transplant donors and their recipients finding and meeting each other for the first time.”

After half-time, players entered for the final 30 minutes of competitive soccer. In the end, it was FC Mia that took home the trophy with a final score of 12-8.

Zohn concluded: “I think everyone out here today, you’re either a soccer player, or a movie star, or music person. They have recognition and they can use their ‘celebrity’ to go out there and create change in the world. I think that’s what it’s all about. They’re using the sport that they love to give back.”

‘The Ring’ Director Hideo Nakata: ‘I’m Not Really Into Grotesque Stuff’ (Q&A)


Hideo Nakata 2013 P

At the second Okinawan International Movie Festival, he discusses getting famous for gore by accident, how the Asian horror wave has died down in the U.S., and why he’s hoping to work in Bollywood.

The director of Japanese horror-phile favorite, the  franchise (), Hideo Nakata arrived in Japan’s southern islands this week for the domestic debut of his latest chiller, "The Complex," at the Okinawan International Movie Festival. sat down with the veteran genre master to discuss the social undercurrents of his new film, how he never planned to make — nor particularly liked — scary movies, and why his next project might be taking him to Bollywood. 

The Hollywood Reporter: () is set in a public housing project, why did you choose that setting?

Hideo Nakata: I discussed it with the producers, and Dark Water also took place in a housing complex. We wanted to set the film in an old, somewhat broken-down, low-income housing project with lots of the same type of apartments all lined up together; where there are old people living next to young families, and a lot of the elderly residents are socially isolated.

Rotterdam Review: The Complex (Kuroyuri Danchi)

THR: The problem of old people dying alone has caused a lot of concern in Japan recently, what made you include that in the story?

Nakata: As I was developing the script, there were a lot of incidents in the news of elderly people dying alone and their bodies not being discovered for weeks. Japan is a rapidly aging society and it’s making headlines now, but there will be a time when it’s no longer considered newsworthy. There are cases where 60-year-old children are looking after 90-year-old parents, and so they don’t get much help from the authorities. Then the younger carer dies first, leaving the older person helpless. It’s not the theme of the film, but it became part of the story; it’s a reality of Japanese society.

THR: Your film Ringu was famously remade in Hollywood, do you expect to get remake offers for The Complex?

Nakata: There are no solid remake offers yet, but there are some people interested. The J-horror and Asian horror wave has kind of died down in America now. That’s the film business, it goes in cycles.

THR: You’ve said you never intended to be horror director.

Nakata: I wasn’t really a horror cinephile or anything. I kind of came to be a horror director by accident and I’d like to do more work in other genres. Wes Craven, who of course has made a lot of different kinds of films, once said that when you get the offer to do your second horror film in a row, you have to say no or you get labeled as a horror director. Of course, I watched films like , which was a huge hit in Japan, when I was in junior high school, but I wasn’t a big horror fan, and I never thought I’d end up making them. I never really liked the splatter films of the 80s either. I’m not really into grotesque stuff.

STORY: Can Okinawa Become an Entertainment Hub?

THR: And you have done some non-horror work.

Nakata: I made the documentary about the March 2011 disasters, Living in the Wake of 3/11, which I financed myself as an independent film. I spoke to Japanese television stations about cooperating on it, but there were some issues about some of the topics I wanted to include. The line taken by the media was that even after the disaster, Japan stayed completely orderly and there was no stealing or looting, but actually there was some. So I decided to fund the documentary myself and have complete freedom in what I included. It has been shown in arthouse cinemas in Japan, but hasn’t really been seen abroad. The attention of the world shifted away from the aftermath of the tsunami to the Fukushima nuclear accident anyway.

THR: What is next for you?

Nakata: I’m working on a Japanese action thriller that will be shooting in July and August, and should be finished by the end of the year. I can’t give any more details about it yet. I’m also talking to an Indian company about making a film in English. It will probably be a horror, but not one with singing and dancing [laughs]. That’s really interesting, how globalized the industry is getting, with Indian companies looking at making a film in English, not Hindi. I’d really like to do more work in genres outside horror though. I’m very grateful for horror, and I’m not against doing them, but I’d like to explore other kinds of filmmaking.

Twitter@GavinJBlair

William and the Windmill: SXSW Review

William and the Windmill - H 2013

The Bottom Line

Crowd-pleasing subject is viewed through a narrow lens.

Venue:

South By Southwest, Documentary Competition

Director:

Ben Nabors

The SXSW grand-jury doc prize went to Ben Nabors’s look at a teen inventor’s newfound celebrity.

AUSTIN — When the story of Malawi teenager William Kamkwamba – who responded to being too poor for school by teaching himself how to build an electricity-generating windmill for his family — hit the West, it was inevitable that the inspiring young man would attract the interest of people desperate to embrace signs of hope in Africa. Their generosity wasn’t an unmitigated blessing, as Ben Nabors finds in , a doc whose focus on the results of fame, however hopeful, may disappoint many who’d rather hear nothing but the happy side of the tale.

Spending little time setting the scene of Kamkwamba’s childhood and milking drama from a quest neighbors thought was crazy (, a memoir co-authored by Bryan Mealer, tells that tale), essentially starts with the young man’s exposure at a 2007 TED talk, where conference regular Tom Rielly decided to get involved in his life.

PHOTOS: The Scene at SXSW: James Franco, Olivia Wilde, Snoop Lion Take Austin by Storm

Aware that many global do-gooders use up their energy in a quick burst of enthusiasm, then move on and leave their impoverished beneficiaries floundering, Rielly promised to give Kamkwamba seven years. He became all but a surrogate parent — from dispensing life advice and fielding Hollywood story-rights offers to helping the young man move into his freshman dorm at Dartmouth.

If the movie sometimes seems too interested in Rielly, that’s at least partly because he’s a chatterbox compared to his protege, a modest youth who isn’t in a rush to say what’s on his mind. Though we witness the stress Kamkwamba faces — at the elite pan-African high school he’s dramatically underprepared to attend; on a U.S. book tour requiring non-stop gladhanding — Nabors isn’t as adept at probing his subject’s mixed emotions as a more experienced documentarian might have been. realizes it’s looking at something more than a happily-ever-after tale, but isn’t able to flesh out the more complicated narrative underneath.

Still, the film does augment an out-of-poverty story Americans may have felt could be put aside safely. It may have few answers to share, but at least it knows the West’s responsibility to those who might become world-changers doesn’t end with making them celebrities and leaving them to fend for themselves.

 

TPB AFK – The Pirate Bay Away From Keyboard: SXSW Review

TPB AFK – The Pirate Bay Away From Keyboard H

The Bottom Line

Doc about piracy trial offers intriguing character studies despite limited scope.

Venue:

South By Southwest, Special Events

Director:

Simon Klose

Simon Klose forgoes an overall history of the notorious piracy site in favor of a close-up on legal wrangling.

AUSTIN — As the world’s leading facilitators of online file-sharing, whose exploits have inspired fury in Hollywood and many other corners of the world, the Swedish hackers known as The Pirate Bay seem obvious choices for documentary coverage, be it from filmmakers on the side of copyright holders or those embracing internet anarchy. Though it’s counterintuitive that the first feature about them would focus on a brief (if significant) episode in their career instead of offering a biography, Simon Klose‘s benefits from an intimate POV and should offer some satisfaction to any viewer curious about the people behind the web site’s anonymous provocations. Already available on VOD from FilmBuff and online (both via paid downloads and in TPB-endorsed free torrents), its performance at fests and in theaters should speak to the old argument that widespread free availability doesn’t eliminate theatrical demand.

PHOTOS: The Scene at SXSW: James Franco, Olivia Wilde, Snoop Lion Take Austin by Storm

Beginning with the music and shooting style of a gritty policier, the film opens on a ragtag crew of young men moving computer servers around in the night, staying a step or two ahead of the authorities. As we hear one say later, mocking the threat of crackdowns on their database of illegal-download links, "they failed to shut us down — they’re welcome to come fail again."

And "they" — prosecutors working in concert with various rightsholders — try throughout the film. We follow the 2008 Swedish lawsuit that, after appeals, left four men sentenced to jail time and millions in fines — punishments we see will be hard to enforce.

A big part of the difficulty appears to be that The Pirate Bay is a much less organized enemy than record companies and movie studios believed: The three main participants we meet here — Peter Sunde, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, and Fredrik Neij — don’t even have an office, instead "meeting" via online chats. (The film’s unnecessarily cryptic title uses shorthand, "away from keyboard," indicating those instances when meetings happen in the flesh.) While Bond villains have secret island fortresses, TPB’s weaponry is highly portable: Klose takes us into a server room where we’re told a single box, a cube about 1.5 feet on each side, is responsible for about half the world’s BitTorrent traffic.

STORY: Pirate Bay Co-Founders Can’t Overturn Conviction on Free Speech Grounds

The group also doesn’t present an easily-attacked unified front. The three defendants are united by little but fascination with technology’s possibilities and contempt for those who object to their (often-disingenuous) arguments for internet freedom. However tongue-in-cheek their legal defense may be, the group finds more rigorous thinkers who share their stance: A professor testifying on their behalf (and bullied for it by the prosecution) notes that, as a part-time songwriter whose compositions bought him a house, he believes in copyright; he simply thinks there’s a way for copyright to protect the initiative to create without becoming a control mechanism over a network that needs to be unregulated.

Klose is less effective in conjuring drama from the chronology of court proceedings than he is in showing us the colorful, often deeply flawed personalities at its heart: Fredrik Neij, labeled an "alcoholic racist asshole" even by his partner, delivers a short anti-immigrant rant in a bar (then marries a woman from Laos, intending to hide out there until his prison sentence becomes unenforceable); Gottfrid Svartholm Warg appears, by the film’s end, to be swallowed up by drug abuse; only Sunde, the Pirate Bay spokesman who acts more like a Silicon Valley hustler than a hacker hermit, appears likely to emerge from this affair unscathed.

Klose spices up his fly-on-the-wall material with atmospheric shots of Stockholm and the occasional glimpse of secret worlds, like the subterranean data bunker, all glass and chiseled rock, that one of the men dismisses as Apple-style glitz. Viewers will likely wish for more of this material. If The Pirate Bay is as resilient as it seems to be, we may get it before long.

 

Ford Apologizes for Ad Featuring Bound and Gagged Kardashian Sisters, Paris Hilton


Ford Apology - H 2013

The cartoonish ads were meant to demonstrate the "extra-large" trunk space of the company’s Ford Figo.

Ford has apologized for an ad that depicted the Kardashian sisters gagged in the trunk of a car with Paris Hilton smiling and winking from the front seat.

The cartoonish ad — featuring the tagline "Leave your worries behind with Figo’s extra-large boot" — spurred protests after it was leaked online. It was actually one in a series of ads, with another featuring disgraced former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi driving with three scantily dressed women in the back, and a third showing Formula One driver Michael Schumacher behind the wheel of the car with rivals Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso in the trunk.

PHOTOS: Inside Kardashian Inc.

The tongue-in-cheek ads are said to have been created by Indian ad agency JWT India and have since been pulled from the website Ads of the World, where they were posted.

Ford and WPP Group, the ad agency’s parent group, have issued a formal apology.

"We deeply regret this incident and agree with our agency partners that it should have never happened," Ford told Business Insider. "The posters are contrary to the standards of professionalism and decency within Ford and our agency partners."

Added WPP: "We deeply regret the publishing of posters that were distasteful and contrary to the standards of professionalism and decency within WPP Group. These were never intended for paid publication and should never have been created, let alone uploaded to the Internet."

 

Ford Apologizes for Ad Featuring Bound and Gagged Kardashian Sisters, Paris Hilton


Ford Apology - H 2013

The cartoonish ads were meant to demonstrate the "extra-large" trunk space of the company’s Ford Figo.

Ford has apologized for an ad that depicted the Kardashian sisters gagged in the trunk of a car with Paris Hilton smiling and winking from the front seat.

The cartoonish ad — featuring the tagline "Leave your worries behind with Figo’s extra-large boot" — spurred protests after it was leaked online. It was actually one in a series of ads, with another featuring disgraced former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi driving with three scantily dressed women in the back, and a third showing Formula One driver Michael Schumacher behind the wheel of the car with rivals Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso in the trunk.

PHOTOS: Inside Kardashian Inc.

The tongue-in-cheek ads are said to have been created by Indian ad agency JWT India and have since been pulled from the website Ads of the World, where they were posted.

Ford and WPP Group, the ad agency’s parent group, have issued a formal apology.

"We deeply regret this incident and agree with our agency partners that it should have never happened," Ford told Business Insider. "The posters are contrary to the standards of professionalism and decency within Ford and our agency partners."

Added WPP: "We deeply regret the publishing of posters that were distasteful and contrary to the standards of professionalism and decency within WPP Group. These were never intended for paid publication and should never have been created, let alone uploaded to the Internet."

 

Nat Geo and Wild Build Original Slate, Order More Cesar Millan

Nat Geo and Wild Build Original Slate, Order More Cesar Millan

The sister networks detail a total six new series as part of the upfront lineup and an aggressive roster of specials, including previously announced "Killing Kennedy" and a new documentary on US Airways Flight 1549.


Mick Dodge Nat Geo

After a year of double-digit growth for both National Geographic Channel and Nat Geo Wild, the two networks revealed a lengthy roster of new and returning original series on Monday.

"We’re coming off a year that was really good for us," CEO David Lyle told The Hollywood Reporter ahead of the upfront release. "Whatever skepticism was there from the advertising community about [new types of programming] has been put to rest. Nat Geo was up 17 percent in 2012, and Wild was up 28 percent."

STORY: Nat Geo Wild Sends Billy Bush to Nepal for New Special (Exclusive)

Nat Geo, which recently moved into scripted programming with SEAL Team Six and Bill O’Reilly‘s Killing Lincoln, saw its unscripted fare move into a new direction with Brain Games, Doomsday Preppers and Wicked Tuna. All three of the renewed series inform the choices for new series order.

"Moving forward, Doomsday Preppers and Brain Games are even more important to our evolution," said NGC president Howard T. Owens.

Building Wild and Die Trying — both from 90 Miles Productions Inc. — are among the series orders (all working titles). Wild, a home improvement tutorial set in the wilderness, features Extreme Makeover: Home Edition‘s Paul DiMeo, while Die Trying chronicles men and women taking extreme challenges in the name of science. Also included in series orders are Shadow of the Unbeatables (GRB Entertainment), a docuseries that puts cutting-edge inventions to the test, and The Legend of Mick Dodge (Screaming Flea Productions Inc.), a fly-on-the-wall look at the titular survivalist who has lived in isolation in the Pacific Northwest for more than 30 years.

Previously announced Killing Lincoln follow-up Killing Kennedy (Scott Free Productions, Global) will also get a debut on the network, with casting and director search already underway. O’Reilly, the author and exec producer on both projects, is already prepping a third book, Killing Jesus, but Nat Geo has yet to make any formal decision on a third collaboration.

"We’re interested in everything Bill O’Reilly does, but our focus right now is Killing Kennedy," said Owens. "He’s our partner, and we’re knee deep in this latest project."

US Airways Flight 1549 exploration Miracle on the Hudson (Raw TV), National Geographic’s Most Amazing Photos (National Geographic Television) and Urban Jungle (National Geographic Television) round out the network’s plans for specials, joining the also-renewed Alaska State Troopers, Diggers, Night of Exploration and Ultimate Survival Alaska.

On Nat Geo Wild, former Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan is getting another series, from a yet-to-be-determined production company, and two new specials.

"He’s incredibly important to the brand," said network executive vp and general manager Geoff Daniels "He’s been a big part of the network since launch, and I think people have come to associate with us, so he’s going to continue to be a part of Wild. He’s evolved what he does here in the U.S., so we’re working closely with him for what those next steps are."

Meetings over what exactly the latest iteration of Milan on Wild might be will take place over the coming months.

Another new series for Wild is Jobs That Bite! (Half Yard Productions), an animal-centric spin on Dirty Jobs starring host Jeremy Brandt. It will join the renewed Incredible Dr. Pol and Fish Tank Kings on the roster.

The network is also starting production on Wild Nepal (working title), a special starring Billy Bush set to debut later in the year.

Inside the ‘Today’ Show Drama: 12 Revelations About the Matt Lauer-Ann Curry Debacle


Matt Lauer Ann Curry - P 2013

A New York magazine report reveals the extent of Curry’s tense relationship with her colleagues, Lauer’s role in her departure and the heated feud between executive producer Jim Bell and NBC News chief Steve Capus.

Since a tearful Ann Curry exited her role as Today co-host on the air in June, the drama has not ceased.

The show has fallen in the ratings, and Matt Lauer has become the person viewers blame for her ouster, with his popularity also dropping.

PHOTOS: The Most Talked-About TV News Faces

On Sunday, New York magazine posted a lengthy piece on the drama leading up to and after Curry’s exit, with several new revelations about the incident and her relationship with her colleagues. Here are 12:

1. Internal research showed that Lauer — not Curry — was losing favor with viewers. As ABC’s Good Morning America began gaining on Today, then-executive producer Jim Bell began blaming it on Curry, as did some of NBC’s affiliates, who began complaining in board meetings that Curry needed to go. But internal research conducted by SmithGeiger showed otherwise — that Lauer was perceived as less appealing than Curry. While onscreen, he looked "aloof, a little bit holier-than-thou and pompous,” says a former NBC executive who saw the reports. "He was becoming Bryant Gumbel."

2. Curry didn’t take kindly to jokes from colleagues. Former Today co-host Katie Couric used to tease Curry about her clothes, but Curry took those remarks "badly." And in 2011, Lauer and producers played a prank on the cast by sending them to a fake magazine photo shoot, where the photographer had a meltdown and began firing his staffers. But Curry became "infuriated with Lauer and retreated to her dressing room," New York magazine reports.

3. Lauer and Curry had no relationship off the air. In fact, they barely spoke. But Curry tried to form a relationship with him: When she was named co-host, she asked Lauer out to lunch to get some advice from him, but he "seemed to drag his feet scheduling it and Curry felt he didn’t offer much," New York magazine reports. He soon began "getting more involved in the daily story lineup, getting into fights with producers and tearing the show up in the early-morning hours." He also expressed how unhappy he was with Curry to a friend and spoke of cutting back on work.

STORY: NBC Execs Concerned About Matt Lauer’s ‘Connection’ to Audience (Report)

4. Lauer saw the writing on the wall on Curry’s final day, even as cameras were rolling. "I think we all knew it at that moment," he says. "And it just seemed like something — there was nothing we could do as it was happening, and we all felt bad about it." In fact, the show soon lost half a million viewers as well as its No. 1 ranking to ABC’s Good Morning America after 16 years,resulting in a loss of million of advertising dollars "overnight." And Lauer himself became perceived as the person responsible for Curry’s ouster, fairly or not. Just this month, Chelsea Handler joked to him: "You have a worse reputation than I do."

5. Lauer was first informed of Curry’s being let go in late February. NBC News president Steve Capus told Lauer that she was gone whether Lauer left or not. For his part, Lauer says he voiced concerns that it might hurt Today. But implicit in what Capus was saying was this: If he chose to stay, Curry would be gone. While her name never came up during contract negotiations, Lauer — with "maximum leverage" — "could easily have saved her" but didn’t. "To the contrary, in signing a new contract to remain at the show for at least two more years, he tacitly ratified the plan to remove her. Which doesn’t make him a horrible person — it makes him, for better or worse, a pro," New York magazine opines. (The week after he re-signed,The Hollywood Reporter’s cover story with Lauer hit newsstands with the headline "The Most Powerful Face in News." After seeing it, he is said to have told THR’s Marisa Guthrie, who wrote the story, "You just hung a huge target on my back.")

6. The rumors that Ryan Seacrest might replace Lauer were an insurance policy against Lauer leaving. NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke made it clear to Lauer that they didn’t want him to leave. In fact, the press leak about Seacrest angered Lauer, who found out about the leak while "being forced to stand outside the security gate at the White House Christmas party because Ann Curry had forgotten her driver’s license."

STORY: Why NBCUniversal’s Steve Burke Defended Matt Lauer

7. Before re-signing with Today, he’d been talking seriously to Jeff Zucker about an idea for ABC. The duo were working closely on a talk show that would reteam Lauer with Couric (Zucker exec produces Couric’s daytime talker). Lauer actually met with Disney CEO Bob Iger, who actively tried to recruit Lauer. Iger, Zucker and ABC News president Ben Sherwood, in fact, at one point all thought the deal was done based on a conversation with Lauer’s agent. After Lauer negotiated his new two-year, $25 million-a-year contract to stay on Today, he told ABC he was staying put, and both Iger and Zucker were "infuriated."

8. A power struggle erupted between Today EP Bell and NBC News chief Capus. Capus, concerned about Bell’s close relationship with Burke, began "sending mixed messages and sowing confusion, which made the trouble much harder to resolve," according to New York magazine. Bell wanted Curry gone by the London Olympics, which kicked off in July, but Capus began telling her that she wasn’t the problem as he became "increasingly paranoid about Bell’s power and designs." Capus, in fact, "fanned Curry’s hope that she could hang on longer and undermined Bell’s strategy of resetting the Today show cast during the Olympics."

9. Curry, without an agent, received advice from numerous people. Those includes former Today host Tom Brokaw. In the end, she got $12 million and her own production unit at NBC to leave the show. She was replaced by Savannah Guthrie.

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10. Curry’s exit was even more dramatic that it appeared. Curry, who became very emotional on the air, insisted she write her own copy, telling Capus she wanted to "speak from the heart." While some at NBC believe she "purposefully self-destructed to damage both Lauer and the show," Curry "cried the entire way" to the airport after her final show. And the situation remained awkward. When she asked if she could send a note of sympathy to Robin Roberts, who was taking a leave of absence from GMA to get treatment for MDS, NBC execs told her no, "afraid she was trying to aid the enemy." In late July, she refused to appear alongside Guthrie on the air as she believed that Bell might have been"trying to exploit the event for image repair."

11. Lauer has not spoken to Curry about clearing up the perception that he was to blame for her ouster. Why not? “Because I’m concentrating on doing the show — not concentrating on spinning the damage and trying to end the negativity on a daily basis," he says.

12. Lauer believes Today will regain its status atop the morning show pack. "I’m confident that the show we’re doing today is the one that will allow us to dig ourselves out of the hole," he says.

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