Debra Kamin, Variety.com
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - According to reports in both Israeli and international media this week, the Islamic State has a 24-hour television channel in the works.
The station, which if launched will take ISIS' well-polished propaganda machine to an entirely new level, will feature round-the-clock news and commentary that supports its jihadist
The terror organization has waged a shockingly bloody campaign in recent months to seize large swaths of Iraq and Syria, and has utilized both Twitter and YouTube, as well as Iraqi radio bandwith, to spread its message and galvanize support among terrorist sympathizers. It has its own English-language magazine, Daqib, as well as a video series, on both YouTube and other content-sharing sites, dubbed "The Flames of War."
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - As "Parks and Recreation" begins its farewell season on NBC, it's not just the fans who have to come to terms with the show's end. It's also the cast.
Leave it to Jerry to sum it up best: "I think most of us have always been very very appreciative of this job, but even more so than ever now," says Jim O'Heir.
With the show coming to a close, Variety asked the stars of "Parks and Recreation's" final season what they'll miss most about their characters.
Brian Steinberg, Variety.com
Bill Maher returned to HBO’s schedule this week after what was supposed to be a peaceful holiday break. Instead, he launched a new season of his edgy talk show “Real Time” during a week in which two of the issues he holds close to his heart — religious extremism and free speech — took over the global stage.
Maher railed against the terrorists who this week killed staffers at Paris satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo whom he called “my heroes.” And he welcomed a guest to his panel who has direct knowledge of what it’s like to be persecuted for writing something that a certain group finds offensive: author Salman Rushdie, whose 1988 novel “The Satanic Verses” prompted Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeni of Iran to issue a fatwa calling for the author’s assassination.
“Who’s ready for a little free speech in America?” Maher asked as the show opened. “There are people in the world who don’t like you joking about them.”
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - TLC is facing growing criticism over the decision to air "My Husband's Not Gay," a one-hour special slated to air on Jan. 11, which follows a group of Mormon men who, according to the network's description, "are happily married and attracted to their wives, but they are also attracted to other men. They refer to it as Same Sex Attraction... not gay, SSA."
A Change.org petition protesting the special has amassed over 71,000 signatures urging TLC to cancel the broadcast. Josh Sanders, a gay Christian man, began the petition because he believes the show "promotes the false and dangerous idea that gay people can and should choose to be straight in order to be part of their faith communities... The men featured in this show deserve to be shown compassion and acceptance. Perhaps even more importantly, TV viewers need to know the horrific consequences of trying to change who you are. Instead, TLC is presenting victims' lives as entertainment, while sending the message that being gay is something that can and ought to be changed, or that you should reject your sexual orientation by marrying someone of the opposite sex. This message is harmful to both LGBT people and communities of faith, and I call upon TLC to stop spreading such dangerous misinformation by cancelling 'My Husband's Not Gay' immediately."
GLAAD has also condemned the special. "This show is downright irresponsible," said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis in a statement. "No one can change who they love, and, more importantly, no one should have to. By investing in this dangerous programming, TLC is putting countless young LGBT people in harm's way."
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - Just days before its season-four premiere, HBO has announced that "Girls" has been renewed for a fifth season.
The network's programming president, Michael Lombardo, unveiled the news Monday night at the New York City premiere and screening for the upcoming season, which debuts Jan. 11.
"Girls" is nominated for best comedy series at the 2015 Golden Globes, which fall on the same day that season four begins.
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - HBO and IMAX have struck a deal to make "Game of Thrones" the first TV series to grace the theatrical distributors' big screens.
An exclusive season 5 trailer, as well as the final two episodes of the fourth season, will get an unprecedented run Jan. 23-29 at 150 theaters in top markets across the U.S.
While the visual spectacle of the HBO hit makes it a natural for the big-screen treatment, "Thrones" will be digitally remastered to fit the IMAX format.
Brian LowryLOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - Marvel's synergistic efforts remain one of its assets, but transforming a supporting player in "Captain America," played by Hayley Atwell, into the star of a limited ABC series was inordinately opportunistic even by its standards, and as it turns out, a pretty smart bet. That's because the combination of the British actress and post-World War II setting make the Marvel-branded vehicle, "Agent Carter," considerable fun, and in some ways more promising than the series it's replacing, the uneven "Agents of SHIELD." While there's no assurance this spinoff will have legs, the opening salvo is worthy of a hearty "Hail, 'Carter.'"
Shrewdly using a clip from "Captain America" to intro the show (a cheap way, if you think about it, to get Chris Evans into your series), the program picks up in 1946, with Atwell's Peggy Carter working as a spy for a covert agency, albeit one in which the male-dominated hierarchy doesn't take her seriously.
"I didn't know our government had such good taste in secretaries," a suspect sneers, while her boss ("Boardwalk Empire's" Shea Whigham) tells Peggy to step outside so she won't have to sully her delicate eyes by seeing a colleague employ what might be euphemistically described as enhanced interrogation methods.
Brian LowryLOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - At this point, a new season of "Downton Abbey" is much like a visit from old friends. Sure, the stories are familiar -- perhaps even just variations on what you've heard before -- but it's more about sharing their company and the feelings they rekindle. So after some awkward aspects to season four, the new year returns exploring many of the same issues while adding wrinkles to old ones, as Julian Fellowes continues to masterfully juggle a vast assortment of players upstairs and downstairs. Modernity is the overarching theme, but that won't prevent admirers from dutifully returning to savor "Downton's" Old World charms.
In some respects, the latest episodic flight (all but the Christmas episode were made available) feels less like Season 5 than Season 4, Part B, what with so much unfinished business to transact. That's not a serious knock on the show, necessarily, although the latest storyline doesn't contain the sort of signature events that have dictated the course for past runs.
It's 1924, meaning roughly a dozen years have passed since the narrative officially began, with the devastation of World War I in the middle.