''The Last Airbender'' gets the ''Clash of the Titans'' treatment, and former ABC exec Jamie Tarses produces a new Matthew Perry sitcom

By EW Staff
May 21, 2010 at 04:00 AM EDT

What’s Behind M. Night Shyamalan’s 3-D Switch?
On April 22, when Paramount announced it would convert M. Night Shyamalan‘s epic fantasy The Last Airbender into 3-D for its July 2 release, you could almost hear a collective sigh from the vocal critics of Hollywood’s favorite new toy. Would this be a repeat of Clash of the Titans, where the Hollywood machine quickly added 3-D special effects in an attempt to get extra cash from consumers still high on the Avatar experience?

Paramount insists no, and says that conversations with Shyamalan regarding the conversion had been ongoing for months. (The director opted out of shooting in 3-D because his directing style didn’t match the cumbersome cameras.) Sources inside the production say the meticulous auteur finally gave the green light once he found a 3-D conversion company that was as good as the special effects that Industrial Light & Magic created for the film.

Airbender‘s upgrade to 3-D could be lucrative. Despite negative reviews, Clash (which starred Sam Worthington) has grossed over $160 million, a figure many believe was elevated by at least $30 million due to 3-D tickets. ”Clash was a good popcorn movie,” says Greg Dunn, president of Regal Cinemas. ”We didn’t have much pushback at all from customers [because of the last-minute 3-D effects].” Airbender may need the boost at the box office: It has the inauspicious task of going up against The Twilight Saga: Eclipse this July 4 holiday weekend.

Fallen Exec Makes a Comedy Comeback
ABC’s entertainment president from 1996 to 1999, Jamie Tarses saw her tenure seriously undermined by a scathing 1997 New York Times Magazine profile. But now she’s enjoying the last laugh as one of TV’s preeminent comedy producers. Though she’s an exec producer on the serious TNT drama HawthoRNe, Tarses capitalized on her success developing My Boys for TBS by selling three more laughers this development season — Mr. Sunshine with Matthew Perry and Happy Endings with Elisha Cuthbert, both for ABC, and the dramedy Franklin & Bash for TNT. (At press time, a fourth called Mad Love was still in contention at CBS.) More cautious than ever, Tarses doesn’t talk to reporters anymore. Fortunately, she has lots of new fans who are eager to speak on her behalf. ”She’s smart and tireless and, because of her executive background, she knows how both execs and creative types work and think,” says Franklin creator Kevin Falls. ”I call her the velvet hammer.” That’s a nice change from beleaguered ex-president.

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