LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - Terence Winter has professed his love for "The Sopranos" finale, but the "Boardwalk Empire" creator certainly didn't choose to emulate his former show's cryptic conclusion in crafting a fifth season that steadfastly built toward its final, revelatory sequences. And that's to his and the program's credit, as the HBO drama methodically detailed the history of its central character, Nucky Thompson, while tying up loose ends (or most of them, anyway) with a ruthless efficiency that would have made Michael Corleone proud.
Sunday's closing hour (and SPOILER ALERT if you haven't watched) saw Nucky become the embodiment of fellow mobster Johnny Torrio's rueful admonition that there's little point to being the richest man in the graveyard. In that, he joined a rather lengthy roster of key players who had bitten the dust in this fast-moving final flight of episodes, to the point where in hindsight the truncated eight-episode season felt a trifle rushed.
With Michael Kenneth Williams' Chalky White and Michael Shannon's Nelson Van Alden having already met violent ends (hell, the gambler Arnold Rothstein, played byMichael Stuhlbarg, checked out in the prolonged lapse between seasons), the question lingered as to whether Nucky (Steve Buscemi) - having shrewdly cashed out, under pressure from the rising tandem of Lucky Luciano (Vincent Piazza) and Meyer Lansky (Anatol Yusef) - could somehow cheat the fates and get out alive.
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - "Saturday Night Live" has found a new cast member in its writing staff.
Leslie Jones, who has been a writer for the show since early this year, is joining the cast, a rep for the show confirmed on Monday. She'll begin in this role starting with this week's Jim Carrey-hosted episode.
The comedian was a contender in the search for a new cast member last fall. The spot went to Sasheer Zamata, but producers decided to bring Jones on as a writer.
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - Bethenny Frankel, the Bravo reality star-turned-media powerhouse, is returning to the show that catapulted her career, as the cabler has confirmed that she will be back on "The Real Housewives of New York City" for season seven.
The new season will follow Frankel and returning cast Carole Radziwill, Heather Thomson, Kristen Taekman, LuAnn de Lesseps, Ramona Singer and Sonja Morgan.
"Bethenny is one of the most popular Housewives in the history of the franchise, and I couldn't be more excited she is coming home to Bravo!," said Andy Cohen, host and executive producer of "Watch What Happens Live" and executive producer of the "Real Housewives" franchise.
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - On Thursday night, the New York branch of the Paley Center for Media hosted an unprecedented reunion in honor of HBO's "The Wire," routinely lauded as one of the greatest shows in TV history. Returning castmates included John Doman, Wendell Pierce, Sonja Sohn, Michael Kenneth Williams and Seth Gilliam, alongside co-creator and showrunner David Simon.
For nearly two hours the roster recounted tales from the set, as well as reflections on Simon's creative process -- giving each season a new foundation within the complex political and economic structure of Baltimore -- and the show's overall impact in retrospect.
One of the many interesting nuggets of trivia dispensed over the evening was this: "The Wire" was never renewed for a season ahead of time.
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - It's not TV. It's HBO Go-It-Alone.
That is what we'll call the standalone streaming service HBO CEO Richard Plepler finally confirmed Wednesday would be available in the U.S. next year. Tellingly and somewhat unexpectedly, Plepler did not refer to the standalone service as HBO Go, the existing digital extension of the core HBO offering that everyone has been waiting to break off. While that doesn't necessarily mean the new standalone product won't be called HBO Go, it's possible there will be an entirely new brand introduced.
Nevertheless, the fact remains that we know absolutely nothing about what HBO Go-It-Alone is actually going to be, and the possibilities are numerous. But let's question three presumptions right off the bat:
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - Kevin Hart and his fellow "Real Husbands of Hollywood" cast members kept the conversation real Tuesday evening at the Paley Center for Media while discussing the upcoming season of the BET show that has been dubbed "the fakest reality show."
The show, which premiered its third season on Tuesday, is a spoof of the current reality show format "Real Housewives." It was created by Hart and Chris Spencer, and all the cast members play parodies of themselves. Hart was joined on the panel by co-stars Boris Kodjoe, Duane Martin, Nelly and Cynthia Kaye McWilliams as well as showrunner Ralph Farquhar.
Hart, who has received a lot of exposure from his hit films like "Think Like A Man Too" and the upcoming film "The Wedding Ringer," said the show has always been a group effort.
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - In a bold surprise, HBO said it will launch a stand-alone over-the-top service in the U.S. next year, HBO chief Richard Plepler confirmed Wednesday.
"This will be transformative for our company," Plepler said during his presentation at Time Warner's Investor Day confab. Noting that there are now about 10 million households in the U.S. that are broadband-only, he declared: "It is time to remove all barriers to those who want HBO."
Plepler didn't offer many details and warned the crowd of Wall Street analysts that they wouldn't be able to answer too many questions because of proprietary concerns. He said the plan was to "work with current partners and explore models with new partners."
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - On the eve of the season five premiere of AMC's monster skein "The Walking Dead," the show's executive producer Greg Nicotero described the mood perfectly: "Tomorrow feels like Christmas."
The core cast, Nicotero, graphic novel creator and producer Robert Kirkman, executive producer Gale Anne Hurd and showrunner Scott Gimple kicked off PaleyFest New York Saturday with a panel with an aud filled to the brim with eagerly awaiting fans. Like a zombie herd, the fans were so rabid, some journalists weren't able to get to the red carpet.
"I decided if I do one thing wrong [tonight] I'm closing down my Twitter account because I know you all will let me have it," said NBC News' Tamron Hall, moderator of the Yahoo! live streamed event.