Plus: BitTorrent Inc. launches legit downloading service, Christopher Guest directing ABC comedy pilot, and more...
Paquin starring in HBO drama
Anna Paquin is taking her first role in a TV series as the star of Alan Ball’s HBO drama pilot True Blood. Ball, creator of HBO’s Six Feet Under, is set to direct and executive produce the new show, which has also cast Ryan Kwanten and Sam Trammell. The story, based on Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire book series, is about vampires who integrate into a small Louisiana town and a love story between a vampire and Sookie Stackhouse (Paquin), a waitress who can read people’s minds. (Hollywood Reporter)
BitTorrent Inc. launches legit download site
BitTorrent Inc. has launched BitTorrent Entertainment Network this week with movies from Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and Lionsgate, and episodes of TV shows such as 24 and Punk’d. TV episodes are $1.99 to download to own, and movies are available to rent for a 24-hour period for $3.99 for new titles and $2.99 for older films. The endeavor aims to attract people currently using BitTorrent technology to download and trade pirated material. (AP via CBS)
Christopher Guest to direct ABC comedy
Guest (For Your Consideration, Best in Show) has been tapped to direct the ABC comedy pilot In the Thick of It, a single-camera project based on a BBC series that revolves around workers in an office of a low-level congressman in Washington. Mitch Hurwitz wrote the show with Richard Day. (Hollywood Reporter)
Bruce Springsteen, Norah Jones top short list of 2008 Super Bowl performers
The NFL says Springsteen is at the top of its list to perform the Super Bowl halftime show next year and Jones is its first choice to sing the national anthem. Although performers are not paid to play the halftime set, following Prince’s much talked about 12-minute performance at this year’s Super Bowl, the artist saw his album sales more than double the following week to 31,000 and his digital downloads rise to 102,000 from 59,000. Likewise, the Rolling Stones’ halftime performance in 2006 led to a 34 percent jump in sales of their album A Bigger Bang. (Variety)
Freddie Prinze Jr., Charles S. Dutton tapped for pilots
Prinze Jr. will star in CBS’ comedy pilot Atlanta, about an ad executive (Prinze) who meets a woman at a funeral and finds that they can’t stay away from each other. Charles S. Dutton has been cast in the lead in ABC’s drama pilot Suspect, a procedural drama that slowly reveals a crime’s perpetrator by tracing suspects from a lineup. Dutton will play Detective Joe Sampson, an emotional cop concerned with his weight. (Hollywood Reporter)
Grey’s scores in February sweeps
Grey’s Anatomy‘s three-part February sweeps storyline earned the best ratings for a scripted program on any network this season with an average 11.6 rating/27 share in adults 18-49 and 27.39 million viewers overall, the show’s second-best numbers to date in most categories, behind its post-Super Bowl airing a year ago. (Variety)
Roth wins PEN/Faulkner award
Author Philip Roth won his third PEN/Faulkner award for Everyman, his short novel about illness and mortality. Roth is the first three-time winner in the 27-year history of the award, having also received it in 1994 for Operation Shylock and in 2001 for The Human Stain. (USA Today)
Showtime to air update of Inconvenient Truth
Showtime will follow its March 11 airing of Al Gore’s Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth with a special update addition, produced last year, in which Gore will further talk about how global warming has grown and offer some practical ways to confront the problem. (Hollywood Reporter)
TMZ show cleared in 80 percent of U.S. markets
Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution has cleared the upcoming TMZ newsmagazine in 80 percent of the U.S. for this fall’s launch in syndication after just five weeks in the marketplace. Warner TV Distribution president Ken Werner says almost all of deals are two-year agreements and that the show is now looking for a host, or hosts, for the program. (Hollywood Reporter)
Fox sets release date for Avatar
Fox announced that James Cameron’s sci fi epic will open on May 22, 2009. Shooting starts in April 2007. The cast includes Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, and Sigourney Weaver, (Variety)
Van Halen reunion tour delayed
The tour with original singer David Lee Roth has been put on hold indefinitely. Sources say that the delay is not due to personal strife between the band members and that the tour will happen eventually. (Billboard)
IN THE GOSSIPS
Page Six: Sources say 80-year-old Hugh Hefner will marry girlfriend Holly Madison by the end of the year.
Rush & Molloy: Brandon Davis’ lewd, drunken behavior at Paris Hilton’s 26th birthday party drove off guests Courtney Love and Paula Abdul.
NY Daily News: Britney Spears’ first husband (for 55 hours) reveals a laundry list of drugs he claims the singer has abused.