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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Davey Jones remembered. The Bieber turns 18. A Future in the Clouds? Oscar Stunt Works. Disney goes GCB. Ted Turner is smiling. Oprah leaving Chicago.

Original Productions Spike TV 1000 Ways to Die Teamsters
 Photo: Paula Kaatz (seated) with other picketers as they protest outside the production offices of Original Productions in Burbank on Monday. Two unions, the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees and the Teamsters Local 399, are staging a strike against "1000 Ways to Die," which is produced by Original Productions. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times.

1,000 Ways to Day ends production for the season. Production has been halted on the cable TV series "1000 Ways to Die" because of a labor dispute with crew members.

"Spike TV has confirmed that production of season four of '1000 Ways to Die' has concluded," according to a statement from the cable network. The shutdown comes less than a week after nearly 30 crew members went on strike, alleging their efforts to unionize the show were thwarted by their employer, Original Productions.

The company has questioned the right of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and Teamsters Local 399 to negotiate on behalf of the workers.

Original Productions had tried to hire replacement workers, but they were unsuccessful in resuming production of the show.

The unions picketed outside the Burbank offices of Original Productions this week in support of the workers, who are primarily seeking health and pension benefits.

"We were effective in halting them from shooting, but that's not the goal here,'' said Steve Dayan, business agent for Teamsters Local 399, which represents casting directors, location managers and drivers. "What we wanted was for them to sit down and bargain with us for a fair agreement for the crew members."
Photo: Davy Jones in 1997. Photo credit: Ann Johansson / For The Times
Monkeying Around and Smiling, a 60's icon is gone. Davy Jones, who died Wednesday of a heart attack at the age of 66, was, from 1965 and on and off for the rest of his life, a member of the Monkees, a pop group invented for a television show: "Davy, the little short English one," as bandmate Micky Dolenz described him in one episode of "The Monkees," which ran from 1966 to 1968 on NBC.

Designed to channel the energy of the Beatles film "A Hard Day's Night" into an American sitcom, it was at once a product of old-school show business and an emerging Hollywood counterculture, created by Bob Rafelson, who would direct "Five Easy Pieces," "The King of Marvin Gardens" (and the revisionist Monkees movie, "Head," co-written by Rafelson and Jack Nicholson) and Bert Schneider, who would produce those movies along with "Easy Rider" and "The Last Picture Show." A human cartoon whose main attraction was the self-aware naturalism of its leads, the show was of two worlds, and, to a remarkable extent, was successful in each.

Although their success was undoubtedly an influence, it is too much to class the Monkees with such subsequent whole-cloth pop creations as the Archies, the Banana Splits, Josie & the Pussycats, the Partridge Family and, some would say, the Spice Girls -- though it is clearly the model on which Nickelodeon's successful, and not bad at all, "Big Time Rush" is based. Pop has always had its industrial wing. The band was itself split between, as it were, the raw and the cooked. Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork were Sunset Strip cowboys who came to the project as musicians looking for a break; Jones and Dolenz were actors. Dolenz had already starred in his own TV series, "Circus Boy," and Jones had been in the business since the age of 11; he'd worked on British television before taking over the role of the Artful Dodger in the musical "Oliver!" on the London stage. He coincidentally appeared with its Broadway cast on "The Ed Sullivan Show" the night the Beatles made their American television debut there, in February 1964.

When "The Monkees" went into pre-production, Jones was already signed to Screen Gems, the TV arm of Columbia Pictures, which produced the series, and recording for its record label, Colpix, a multimedia strategy that was not uncommon then and is standard practice now, in the post-Miley Cyrus world of tween television. Still, in the world the Beatles remade, it had become newly important for musicians to write the songs they sang, and to play the instruments on their records, and to be the people they seemed to say they were.

The question of whether the Monkees were a "real" band is a question -- a false question, the history of pop repeatedly shows -- that dogged them from the beginning; indeed, it was an issue between the group and their bosses, and within the group itself. (They came to actual blows at times over their meaning and direction; but such disunity is something they share with every band that ever was.) It has been enough to some to keep them out of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and yet to the many more who watched their show, bought their records and, as late as last year, attended their concerts, it is entirely beside the point.

In Beatle terms, Jones was the Paul, the cute one, the one who sang the pretty melodies and let his music-hall roots show; he could dance, as well as sing. ("I Wanna Be Free," "Daydream Believer," "Valleri," "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You," and the Harry Nilsson-penned "Cuddly Toy" were among the songs on which he took the lead.) His Englishness, at a time when pop consciousness was dominated by the Fab Four -- many young American musicians who would have considered themselves authentic to the core strove to sound as if they were just off the boat from Britain -- gave the Monkees a kind of Limey cred.

That he was short -- at 5-foot-3, he had apprenticed as a jockey -- just made him a more comfortable fit for the daydreams of the little girls who bought Tiger Beat and 16 Magazine and pasted his picture on their walls or in their scrapbooks; he was a pre-teen idol, and the series' designated romantic lead. (If in Marx Brothers terms -- the other great influence on "The Monkees" -- this made him Zeppo, he also got his fair share of comedy to play.)

Still, becoming famous as a version of yourself is a hard legacy to escape. As a performer in subsequent years, Jones was often asked to play Jones: Once a Monkee, always a Monkee. Did this bother him? I don't know. But when there was Monkee business to do, he always showed up smiling.
Video and photos from the LA Times.

PHOTOS: Davy Jones | 1945-2012

Canadian singer and actor Justin Bieber gestures as he arrives to attend the annual NRJ Music Awards ceremony on January 28, 2012 in Cannes, French Riviera. How will the star celebrate his 18th birthday? 

Justin Bieber turns 18 today. He can vote, go to war, and gains control of his own money. More at Marketplace Money.

Kevin Tsujihara
 Photo: Kevin Tsujihara. Credit: Warner Bros.

Billions of DVD's headed or the Clouds. To get consumers excited about managing their movies online and steer them away from cheap rentals and piracy, Warner Bros. wants to lead the way in persuading people to convert billions of DVDs into digital files.

Warner Home Entertainment Group President Kevin Tsujihara discussed the studio's new initiative, called "disc-to-digital" at the Morgan Stanley technology, media and telecom conference in San Francisco on Wednesday. It will allow consumers to use a variety of methods to turn their DVDs into digital copies stored in a virtual "cloud" that they can watch on Internet-connected devices.

"'Disc-to-digital' is the solution to unlock the value of existing libraries," Tsujihara said. "We're leading industry efforts to launch services so consumers can convert libraries easily, safely and at reasonable prices."

The first phase of "disc-to-digital," Tsujihara said, will let DVD owners take their discs into stores that will handle the digital conversion. Later on, Internet retailers like will email customers to offer digital copies of DVDs they previously bought. Eventually, consumers will be able to put DVDs into PCs or certain Blu-ray players that will upload a copy, similar to the way people turn music CDs into MP3 files.

Tsujihara didn't say when digital conversions would start or how much they would cost. He did mention that people who own standard DVDs will have the option of getting a high-definition digital copy for an extra fee. The potential audience is huge, the Warner executive said, given that about 10 billion DVDs have been sold in the U.S. and another 10 billion overseas.

"Disc-to-digital" could help to promote UltraViolet, the multi-studio initiative that gives consumers digital copies of new movies they buy on DVD. As the chief executive of Warner Bros.' parent company Time Warner Inc., Jeff Bewkes, did Tuesday, Tsujihara defended the rocky start for UltraViolet last fall. However, he added, "The launch wasn't perfect, I'll be the first one to admit it."

Persuading consumers to keep buying movies and building collections in the digital age is crucial to the bottom line of Warner Bros. and Hollywood's other major studios, Tsujihara said. Sales are 20 to 30 times more profitable than low-cost rentals from Redbox or Netflix.


Sacha Baron Cohen follows Oscars stunt with new Paramount deal. Fresh off a publicity stunt at the Academy Awards promoting his upcoming film "The Dictator," Sacha Baron Cohen has signed a new deal to produce and star in more movies for Paramount Pictures -- even after he slipped away without actually attending the Oscarcast.

After ginning up huge press coverage about whether he would be allowed to attend the Oscars -- including a phone-in appearance on the "Today" show -- Cohen walked the red carpet in costume as his "Dictator" character Gen. Aladeen. After promising Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences officials not to disrupt the Oscars broadcast, Cohen was given sixth row tickets to watch the ceremony on the condition that he change out of his "Dictator" get-up and into formal attire, a person familiar with the matter but not authorized to speak publicly said.

But after walking the carpet and throwing what he claimed were the ashes of deceased North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il on Ryan Seacrest, Cohen never took his seat in the Hollywood & Highland theater. Rather, he was shown into a dressing room inside the theater, where he changed into a tuxedo and then went out a back door to a party off-site, the person confirmed. A spokesman for Cohen did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Oscars stunt provided a marketing boost to "The Dictator," which will be released by Paramount on May 11.

Under the new deal, Paramount will make Cohen's next film in which he stars as well. The agreement also gives the British star, who made his name on television with "Da Ali G Show," funds to develop new movie projects with his production company Four By Two Films. For the next three years, Paramount will have a first right of refusal on every movie developed by Four By Two.

How much is an Oscar worth? 15  Academy Awards have been sold off at action in recent years including the Best Screen Play "Citizen Kane", which earned over $500,000 at auction yesterday. But today's awards cannot be sold without being offered to the acadamy for just $1.

Ted Turner loves the ladies
 Photo: Ted Turner. Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images. 

The mouth roars again. Ted Turner, once known as the Mouth from the South, still has no internal censor. The founder of Turner Broadcasting (CNN, TNT, Cartoon Network) who saw much of his fortune and stature diminish after Time Warner's botched merger with America Online, sat with the Hollywood Reporter to gripe about the past. His beloved CNN is no longer he news giant he built. His wallet is thinner but he does have four girlfriends and a lot of homes so things can't be that bad.

Place your bets. James Murdoch's resignation from as executive chairman of News Corp.'s News International unit started off another round of the media's favorite game -- guessing who will succeed media mogul Rupert Murdoch. While James Murdoch is still deputy chief operating officer of News Corp. and the third highest-ranking executive at the global media giant, his status has been damaged by the ethics scandal at the company's British tabloids. Coverage from the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Reuters and Wall Street Journal.

Oprah to say Goodbye to Chicago: Chicago television station WFLD said Rosie O'Donnell, host of a talk show on Oprah Winfrey's OWN cable channel, is quietly shopping her house there. That means one of two things. Either O'Donnell's going to move her struggling talk show to New York (she's already overhauled it, fired most of the staff and got rid of the the studio audience, much to the chagrin of her bosses at OWN), or she's gearing up to throw in the towel completely.

Is it a TV show or a health drink? ABC's new series "GCB" is a soap set in Texas about a bunch of catty women who present one face to their neighbors at church every Sunday and another to each other. "GCB" used to be called "Good Christian ..." well, you can probably figure it out from there. Then ABC wanted to call it "Good Christian Belles" but that didn't work either, most likely because of the C word. Now they're stuck with "GCB," which can't be easy to market. The New York Times visits with the show's creator, Robert Harling, who used to write for the big screen but now can have more fun on television.

Playing ball with Redbox. While several studios are pushing for longer windows between when DVDs go on sale and when Redbox rents them, Comcast's Universal is apparently sticking with the 28-day approach. Details from Deadline Hollywood.

Fuggedaboutit. It's been five years since Tony Soprano ate some onion rings as the TV screen went dark, and people are still obsessed with HBO's mob series "The Sopranos." Vanity Fair revisits the cast to talk about the show's ups and downs and what they really thought of that ending. I loved "The Sopranos," but in my opinion "The Wire" was superior and stands up better over time.

Crazy for John Carter. As uncertainty continues to grow around Disney's new epic science fiction thriller "John Carter," the folks at Vulture present 25 burning questions about the film. The best one had to do with whether the film might appeal to women more if Carter was from Venus.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: An appreciation of The Monkees' Davy Jones. Robert Lloyd on NBC's new drama "Awake."

-- Joe Flint

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