Saturday, May 16, 2009

A Little Of The Old In And Out

In: Utah Governor Huntsman. Viewers of last week's McLaughlin Group will be a little taken aback watching, as the man that that show was touting as a strong potential Presidential challenger for 2012 was instead just chosen as United States Ambassador to China (a serious foreign policy position as envoy to our rising rival, the most populous nation). Just last week the President's former campaign manager said that the thought of a challenge from Governor Huntsman made him queasy. From The Los Angeles Times:

"President Barack Obama reached across the political divide today and named Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, a potential Republican presidential contender in 2012, to the sensitive diplomatic post of U.S. ambassador to China.

"Fluent in Mandarin Chinese from his days as a Mormon missionary in Taiwan, the 49-year-old Huntsman is a popular two-term governor who served in both Bush administrations and was national co-chairman of Arizona Sen. John McCain's campaign against Obama last year. Huntsman has made a name for himself advocating a moderate agenda in one of the nation's most conservative states.

"With Huntsman by his side, Obama said in brief remarks in the White House Diplomatic Room that he made the appointment 'mindful of its extraordinary significance. Given the breadth of issues at stake in our relationship with China, this ambassadorship is as important as any in the world because the United States will best be able to deal effectively with global challenges in the 21st century by working in concert with China.'"

What does this mean for Huntsman 2012? Perhaps this elevation of Governor Jon Huntsman is a case for keeping your "enemies" close, another instance of his enlarged "Team of Rivals."

(image via nytimes)

Out: Ben Silverman. Bill Carter of the Gray Lady leans in on NBC's Ben Silverman:

"WHEN NBC hired Ben Silverman in May 2007, he was the hottest executive in the television business, the man who had a hand in bringing reality shows and 'The Office' to America. He also happened to be taking a job he had dreamed about as a junior high schooler hooked on television: the top programmer position at NBC.

"'We need better shows,' says Jeff Zucker, the chief executive of NBC Universal.

"Two years in, his dream job is significantly different. So is Mr. Silverman.

"His assignment of reviving NBC’s long-troubled fortunes in prime time has proved heavier lifting than Mr. Silverman anticipated, thanks to a combination of external factors — like a writers’ strike and a battered economy — and internal factors, including some gossip-stoking incidents in his personal life and a few comments about others that he now acknowledges were ill-advised."

(sotto voce) Who's the D-Girl now, Ben?

In: The Lost Finale. How hott was that? How sadistic is the ending in which everything gets blown to bits and we have to wait until 2010 to see the final season? Sawyer an respected organzation man and not a rebel? Jack a gut-level actor? WTF?! Love it.

Out: Pakistan and Afghanistan. Confounding the spread of nuclear proliferation, stymieing the next generation of terrorists as well as maintaining America's military reputation all depend upon the outcome of the wars in "AfPak." And while we all hope for a decisive American victory -- one that eluded so many Empires previous -- we cannot fail to note that things are not going rather well (2 bombings in Peshawar today, Saturday, May 15). For one: both Zardari and Karzai are corrupt leaders who only control a fraction of their countries. Zaradari is known as "Mr. 10 Percent" for his infamous corruptions, but that number could just as easily describe the amount of land that has not been ceded to the Taliban in Pakistan. And another thing, from Time's Joe Klein:

"And yet, the rude truth of the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan was revealed at a lunch the Presidents of both countries attended with 27 U.S. Senators, an event that really did merit a few over-the-top encomiums like 'unprecedented' and 'brutal.' The climax came when Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee asked President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan what the purpose of the U.S. mission was in his country. Karzai filibustered, and Corker told him, in no uncertain terms, that his answer was incomprehensible. At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing a few days later, Corker confronted Holbrooke about the lack of credibility both Presidents shared. According to the Obama Administration, Corker said, the Karzai government 'is taking more of the illegal [poppy crop] moneys than the Taliban ...' In Pakistan, 'the leader was formerly called 'Mr. 10%,' referring to Asif Ali Zardari's alleged practice of taking kickbacks on contracts when his wife Benazir Bhutto was in charge.

"Indeed, neither President is exactly a paragon of statesmanship. The reality in Afghanistan and Pakistan is that both governments have been unable to provide the most basic services — security, education, justice — for their citizens, which is why the Taliban, which has some fairly strong ideas about law and order, has been able to intimidate its way back into control of some areas."

More Joe Klein on last week's visit by both Karzai and Zardari here.

In: Dollhouse. Fox's "Dollhouse," which is critically acclaimed but iffy on the ratings, is being given another chance. And we couldn't be happier. From Variety:

"As Fox preps for its upfront presentation on Monday, the net is said to have renewed Joss Whedon's frosh drama 'Dollhouse,' and it has added another laffer to its frosh slate for the 2009-10 season.

"'Dollhouse' secured a 13-episode order and is likely to stay in its Friday night berth.

"Word spread Friday ayem that 'Dollhouse' is looking good for a 13-episode sophomore renewal and is likely to stay in its Friday night berth. The 20th Century Fox TV fantasy drama starring Eliza Dushku has delivered modest but consistent ratings on a low-trafficked night, thanks to Whedon's built-in fan base."

Now, does anyone have any word on NBC's "Chuck"?

Out: Angels And Demons? Anything less than $49-$50 million weekend for "Angels & Demons" would be a disappointment, a loss of what the japanese call "face." With the A List star power, the monies and the ubiquity of Mssrs Howard and hanks in the media, this should, for all intents and purposes, be a slam dunk. But according to Nikki Finke, Friday's initial box office returns were not particularly inspiring, which could augur ominously for any further Howard-Hanks-Brown collabos concerning Medieval symbols and shadowy secret organizations. From DeadlineHollywoodDaily:

"Sources tell me that Friday's opening North American grosses for Imagine/Sony's Angels & Demons were at least $17 million Friday from 3,527 theaters. After less than expected matinees, 'it's been getting better as the night goes on -- so the number could even be a little bigger,' a Sony exec tells me. 'Everything points to a huge adult Saturday.' So the studio believes the weekend total can't be lower than $47M-$49M and still has a shot at the $50M Sony wanted. 'That, plus the great results we got today around the world, put us on target for the big worldwide opening we've hoped for.'

"But rival studios predicting a $55M-$60M domestic weekend called the result 'very disappointing'. ('Me thinks those reviews might be the final nail in the coffin,' one exec quipped.) Especially since this wasn't a cheap movie to make what with all the top dollar and/or gross players involved like Tom Hanks, Ron Howard, Brian Grazer. Screenwriter Akiva Goldsman received $4 million, a new high for a book adaptation. Another marquee scripter, David Koepp, rewrote the screenplay before shooting."

Considering the amount of A-list talent behind the project it would be hard to spin anything less than $50 million as anything other than a disappointment.

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