"There's nothing I believe more than this, that laughter adds time to one's life," Norman Lear told an audience gathered to honor him and other four other television comedy greats.
"I believe that as much as I believe my mother loved me," the writer-producer added. "She said she did. But I wasn't sure."
Like the 97-year-old Lear, who made his name — and TV history — with groundbreaking sitcoms like "All in the Family" and "The Jeffersons," the other honorees at Thursday's Paley Center for Media ceremony proved that talent is ageless. Carl Reiner, 97; Bob Newhart, 90; Carol Burnett, 86, and Lily Tomlin, 80, each won over the room with their humor and memories.
"Guess this is a hell of a time to tell you no, we're not coming to your Christmas party," Newhart teased Conan O'Brien after the late-night host introduced him as "one of my all-time comedy heroes."
"He pulls off the hardest kind of comedy — timeless, human, clean and subversive. And he makes it all look effortless," O'Brien said of Newhart.
The onetime accountant became an instant sensation in 1960 with his debut album, the Grammy-winning "The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart," scored sitcom hits with "The Bob Newhart Show" in the 1970s and "Newhart" in the '80s and won an Emmy as Professor Proton on "The Big Bang Theory."
The sentimental moments included Rob Reiner's introduction of his father, the writer-actor-producer whose TV career stretched from the 1950s variety series "Caesar's Hour" to creating "The Dick Van Dyke Show" to a recent role in "Angie Tribeca."
"This is the nicest thing, to be able to do this for my dad," said the younger Reiner, who gave him an arm for support as they walked onto the hotel ballroom stage at The Paley Honors: A Special Tribute to Television's Comedy Legends.
Carl Reiner, who credited a government-supported acting program with his childhood start in entertainment, charmed the audience by reciting lines from a Shakespeare soliloquy he learned as a kid and sharing an anecdote about another TV comedy force, Jack Benny. He called his children and grandchildren his greatest pride.
Carol Burnett was introduced by Kristin Chenoweth, who lauded the singer-actress-comedian as one of the few who can do it all and always "with such heart."
Burnett, who starred on Broadway, as well as TV, recalled what preceded the 1967 arrival of "The Carol Burnett Show."
"As a woman in this business, it wasn't always easy to do what the naysayers said couldn't be done," she said. When she sought to exercise a contract clause with CBS for an hour-long variety show, Burnett said executives told her, "and I quote, 'It's not for you gals.'"
She punctuated the story with a derisive "huh." Her long-running show won armloads of Emmy Awards on CBS.
Tomlin, whose parade of characters made her a hit on "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In" and who stars opposite Jane Fonda on "Grace and Frankie," was self-effacing, saying she couldn't match Newhart's "sterling one-liners." Instead, she delighted the audience by reciting some of her characters' catchphrases, including telephone operator Ernestine's "one ringy dingy."
"I'm so grateful for this great, great honor," Tomlin said.
Lear was introduced by "black-ish" star Anthony Anderson, who said Lear's work forced audiences to confront difficult issues while shedding light on common bonds, and by late-night host Jimmy Kimmel, who said the producer used laughter to challenge "us to make progress."
The night's last word went to Lear.
"Bless you all, thank you all. To be continued," he said, smiling.
Los Angeles, 30 Oct (AP/UNB) — HBO is green-lighting a new "Game of Thrones" prequel after reportedly canceling another that starred Naomi Watts.
The cable channel said Tuesday that it's given a 10-episode order to "House of the Dragon," set 300 years before the original series that ended its eight-season run in May.
The prequel is based on George R.R. Martin's "Fire & Blood," HBO said. The new drama was co-created by Martin and Ryan Condal, whose credits include "Colony."
It will focus on House Targaryen, made famous in "Game of Thrones" by Emilia Clarke's Daenerys and her fearsome dragons.
"House of the Dragon" was announced by HBO programming president Casey Bloys during a presentation for HBO Max, the streaming service launching in May 2020 . A spinoff of HBO megahit "Game of Thrones" would be a key attraction in the increasingly crowded streaming marketplace.
HBO declined comment on reports Tuesday that it had dropped another "Game of Thrones" prequel set thousands of years before the original. A pilot episode starring Watts had been filmed in Northern Ireland.
The straight-to-series order for "House of the Dragon," whether a sign of faith in the project or pressure to get it into production, avoids letting devotees of the fantasy saga down once more.
Casting and an air date were not announced.
San Francisco, Oct 26 (AP/UNB) — Actress Felicity Huffman was released Friday morning from a federal prison in California two days before the end of a two-week sentence for her role in the college admissions scandal, authorities said.
The "Desperate Housewives" star was released from the low-security prison for women because under prison policy, inmates scheduled for weekend release are let out on Friday, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons said.
Her husband, actor William H. Macy, dropped off Huffman — aka inmate No. 77806-112 — at the Federal Correctional Institution, Dublin in the San Francisco Bay Area on Oct. 15, with one day of credit already banked for the day she was originally arrested and jailed.
A federal judge in Boston last month sentenced Huffman, 56, to two weeks in prison, a $30,000 fine, 250 hours of community service and a year's probation after she pleaded guilty to fraud and conspiracy for paying an admissions consultant $15,000 to have a proctor correct her daughter's SAT answers.
The Emmy-award winning actress tearfully apologized at her sentencing, saying, "I was frightened. I was stupid, and I was so wrong."
A representative for Huffman did not immediately reply to a request for comment from the actress on Friday.
Huffman was the first parent sentenced in a scandal involving dozens of wealthy parents accused of bribing their children's way into elite universities or cheating on college entrance exams.
Other parents in the far-reaching scandal could face far stiffer sentences.
On Tuesday, a grand jury in Boston indicted "Full House" actress Lori Loughlin, her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannuli and nine other parents on new charges of trying to bribe officials at an organization that receives at least $10,000 in federal funding.
Loughlin and Giannulli have pleaded not guilty.
The charge of conspiracy to commit federal program bribery carries a maximum sentence of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
The scheme, the biggest college admissions case ever prosecuted by the Justice Department, has shown how far some will go to get their children into top universities like Stanford and Yale.
Huffman's prison has been described by media as "Club Fed," making its way onto a Forbes list in 2009 of "America's 10 Cushiest Prisons." It has housed well-known inmates in the past, including "Hollywood Madam" Heidi Fleiss.
Representatives for the actress said when she entered that she would share a room and open toilet with three other inmates and would be subject to five bed checks a day while having access to a gym, library and TV room.
Prison officials would not provide specific information on Huffman but said she would follow all the same rules and guidelines as other inmates.
Los Angeles, Oct 26 (AP/UNB) — "The Morning Show" started life as a behind-the-scenes peek at a slice of network TV as familiar and routine as a wake-up cup of coffee. Then shocking revelations of sexual misconduct engulfed NBC's "Today" and beyond, and the story changed.
The 10-part drama series, part of the first wave of shows launching the Apple TV Plus streaming service Nov. 1, expanded its original focus on women's role in media to include the repercussions of workplace bad behavior. It all plays out in the lucrative, hypercompetitive world of A.M. news-and-fluff programming.
"When the Me Too movement happened it was really hard to ignore, nor would we want to ignore it. We would be negligent," said Mimi Leder, an executive producer and director for "The Morning Show."
While Hollywood has paid glancing attention to the sexual abuse and harassment scandals that have roiled it and other industries, with accusations derailing the careers of actors, executives and journalists, "The Morning Show" is among the few major projects to delve more deeply.
Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon lead the cast that includes Steve Carell, Billy Crudup, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Mark Duplass, Nestor Carbonell and Desean Terry. Aniston plays Alex, the long-reigning queen of the now-slumping "Morning Show," and Witherspoon is Bradley, an outspoken TV reporter with a shaky job history who lands hard on Alex's turf.
But Alex's longtime co-anchor Mitch (Carell) has already wreaked havoc. The drama opens with him fired by network UBA for multiple instances of alleged misconduct, evoking Matt Lauer's dismissal from "Today." Mitch's banishment creates career and psychological upheaval for Alex and opportunity for those waiting in the wings for their shot at network glory.
Among them is Daniel (Terry), an African-American co-anchor who chafes at what he considers pressure to downplay his ethnicity and hopes the top anchor job will be his reward. There are impressive displays of ambition and plot twists galore in the three episodes Apple made available of the glossy, expensive-looking drama that's debuting three episodes on Nov. 1. Remaining episodes will be released consecutively on Fridays.
Apple TV Plus costs $4.99 a month after a seven-day free trial, and a subscription can be shared with up to six family members. The streaming service is free for a year to buyers of a new iPhone, iPad, Mac or Apple TV box.
Alex's somber on-air response to the scandal evokes memories of Samantha Guthrie and Hoda Kotb telling "Today" viewers about Lauer's November 2017 firing for what NBC called "inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace." The fallout has yet to subside: co-anchors Guthrie and Kotb returned to the subject of Lauer earlier this month after further allegations against him emerged in Ronan Farrow's new book, "Catch and Kill."
"Morning television is where the women in television were left to pick up the pieces," observed Mary Murphy, an associate professor at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
Series executive producer Michael Ellenberg began work on what became "The Morning Show" before #MeToo, saying he was intrigued by "what it means to be a woman in media" and specifically a woman with power in the morning network realm. He found the "authentic, precise" details he needed in journalist Brian Stelter's 2013 nonfiction book, "Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV."
Ellenberg optioned the book, Aniston and Witherspoon were attached and Kerry Ehrin ("Friday Night Lights," ''Bates Motel") was brought in as writer and showrunner (Stelter, a former reporter with The New York Times and now with CNN, is a consulting producer). Leder said the drama from a nearly all-female slate of executive producers — including Aniston and Reese — is at its core about the relationship between Alex and Bradley.
The two are "colliding at a certain point in their lives," Leder said, with Alex at "a plateau where ageism is starting to hit, and Bradley being this character who's trying to make her mark, and what can these two women give each other?"
From Aniston and Witherspoon's takeaway on what women in TV endure, they need all the friends they can find.
Women face more scrutiny on "how they're allowed to dress, what jewelry they can and cannot wear," Aniston said. "You never see a man being told you have to ... get that gray out of your hair. You also never really see a gray-haired female newscaster."
Added Witherspoon: "There's just great disparity, gender disparity for sure" among on-air talent.
While viewers may play a guessing game about the fictional duo's possible real-life counterparts, comparisons between Mitch and Lauer are inevitable. But Leder said the character and his actions were woven from many strands.
"We're not just telling one story. Our stories are inspired by every story we've heard about, read about, witnessed or experienced in our personal lives," said the veteran movie and TV director whose credits include "On the Basis of Sex" and "The Leftovers."
Carell said he found the script "very honest" and with a layered depiction of his character.
"I thought, that's what my approach is: That he was a guy who was at the top of his game, very popular, very liked, a narcissist, an egomaniac, but charming. And within his power, he had this enormous blind spot" to his failings, said Carell. In one notable scene with a friend (played by Martin Short) who's also accused of sexual wrongdoing, the men spout off about their anger and frustration — until Mitch gets an eye-opening lesson in culpability.
"We're so right in the middle of this process, in this moment of history, in the midst of this reckoning," Leder said. "I think it's exciting to explore all the gray and all the nuances of misconduct."
Los Angeles, Oct 10 (AP/UNB) — Aaron Paul's character in the popular series "Breaking Bad" was supposed to get killed off at the end of the first season. But producers had a change of heart after witnessing the strong chemistry between his Jesse Pinkman character and Bryan Cranston's Walter White in a pilot.
The decision to keep the story revolved around the duo for five seasons panned out for the series, which won several Golden Globe and Emmy awards. Paul won three supporting actor Emmys for his breakout portrayal of the overly emotional, loud-mouth and meth-taking Pinkman.
Now, Paul returns as Pinkman in the Netflix film "El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie," which premieres Friday on the streaming service. The movie has cameos from some of the show's best characters.
"The dynamic between Walter and Jesse changed the whole dynamic of the series and my life," said Paul, who has gone on to star in the TV series "The Path" as well as the films "Need for Speed" and "Central Intelligence."
"This was a role of a lifetime," Paul said. "I thought I said goodbye to this guy years ago. So, it's sort of nice to revisit in this state of mind and continue this journey with him. Then reconnecting with everyone from the show. It was like a family reunion."
"Breaking Bad" concluded its five-year run on AMC in 2013. The show primarily focused on White, a high school chemistry teacher struggling to financially support his family, including a son who has cerebral palsy and has been diagnosed with terminal cancer.
In desperation, White uses an old RV as a place to build a lucrative meth empire with the help of Pinkman, a former student, before their drug operation turns violent. The series ended with White dying from a gunshot wound after using a remote-controlled machine gun to kill an Aryan Brotherhood gang and free Pinkman, who had been held captive for six months.
"El Camino" picks up after a scar-faced, dusty Pinkman flees the bloody scene in a stolen El Camino vehicle. The story focuses on Pinkman as he tries to escape his former drug life to start anew while on the run from the police.
"He's a different person," Paul said of Pinkman. "Jesse has gone through torture and chaos. He's a combination of all those things that happened to him in the past. He's escaping from captivity. He's been there for half a year. He's been tortured and forced to cook a drug that has completely destroyed his life and destroyed the lives around him. He lost the love of his life. ... When we last saw him, he was screaming in sort of a relief and also agony. He's laughing and crying all at once."
Paul said the film answers the question he's heard almost every day since "Breaking Bad" ended: "What happened to Jesse?" The actor said venturing back into Pinkman's story was an "itch that needed to be scratched" by "Breaking Bad" creator Vince Gilligan, who also directed, produced and wrote the film.
"It felt like there was still more story to tell," Paul said. "They left the unknown in the series finale, which was beautiful. When I was asked about coming onto this project, I was onboard instantly. You know, I trust Vince so much. I thought the ending was perfect for this film. But I also know that Vince wouldn't just tell a story to just tell one. There's a reason behind it. I was excited to go on this journey with him."