Ang Lee will direct pilot for new TV drama series ‘Tyrant’

Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee will make his TV directorial debut with the pilot for FX’s new drama series “Tyrant.”

That’s quite a coup for FX, given that it’s Lee’s first project since “Life of Pi,” for which he won this year’s best director Oscar. In case you missed that point, the network used such words as “revered” to describe Lee, who also won an Academy Award for directing “Brokeback Mountain.”

Not coincidentally, “Life of Pi” was distributed by News Corp.’s Fox.

“Tyrant,” which is about an American family drawn into the workings of a turbulent Middle Eastern nation, was created by Gideon Raff (“Homeland”), whose Israeli series “Prisoners of War” was the source material for “Homeland.” Howard Gordon (“Homeland”) and Craig Wright (“Lost”) “developed” the new FX series.

Raff is an Emmy and Golden Globe winner; Gordon is an Emmy and Golden Globe winner; Wright is only Emmy-nominated.

Lee wins.

Which means Lee also gets to be an exec producer of “Tyrant”!

Lee’s not the first director to migrate from big screen to small shortly after winning an Oscar. Kathryn Bigelow won an Oscar for 2008’s “The Hurt Locker,” then signed on to direct the pilot for HBO’s “The Miraculous Year,” about a New York family as seen through the lens of a self-destructive Broadway composer. But Bigelow was not, like Lee, a TV-directing virgin, having previously directed episodes of “Homicide: Life on the Street” and “Karen Sisco.”

When FX ordered the “Tyrant” pilot, the show was described as a drama series about an Arab state dictator who dies, leaving his American son to head the country. On Thursday, FX described it far more vaguely: the story of an unassuming American family drawn into the workings of a turbulent Middle Eastern nation.

Chris Hayes to new slot

Ed Schultz’s show is out and Chris Hayes is in for weeknights in prime time on MSNBC.

The Schultz-hosted “The Ed Show” will be moved from its 8 o’clock weeknight berth to weekend evenings starting next month.

“I’m thrilled for Ed and happy to be expanding our weekend programming,” said MSNBC President Phil Griffin about the Schultz announcement. “It’s an exciting time for MSNBC, and I’m looking forward to having Ed’s powerful voice on our network for a long time.”

Hayes, who has hosted the weekend morning show “Up w/Chris Hayes,” is moving to the 8 p.m. slot — leading into “The Rachel Maddow Show,” starting April 1. (Hayes has regularly served as a guest host for “The Rachel Maddow Show” and “The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell.”)

“Chris has done an amazing job creating a franchise on weekend mornings,” said Griffin in the Hayes announcement. “He’s an extraordinary talent and has made a strong connection with our audience. This is an exciting time for MSNBC.”

Burnett meh on TV critics

Preaching to the choir, producer Mark Burnett will be seen on Sunday telling “CBS Sunday Morning” that TV critics don’t matter.

In an interview with Lee Cowan, Burnett will discuss the role of TV critics in the launch of his hit History channel miniseries “The Bible.”

Critics have never been big on Burnett’s TV projects: “Survivor,” “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” “The Apprentice” and “Celebrity Apprentice,” “The Contender,” “Shark Tank” and “Stars Earn Stripes,” to name several.

Most recently, some TV critics have said that “The Bible,” which attracted an average of 13 million viewers in its premiere, is more action flick than spiritual journey — like they meant it to sting.

TV critics also tend to give CBS shows a miss, not thinking highly of the networks’ heavy lineup of closed-ended procedural crime dramas and raunchy Chuck Lorre comedies (except “The Big Bang Theory,” which they embrace).

So, Burnett appearing on CBS and discussing TV critics is a match made in heaven.

CBS announced that Burnett will be seen saying in its Sunday show: “If the TV critics were so good, they’ve be making TV themselves, wouldn’t they?” Apparently, Burnett will add that he does not pay attention to TV critics.

This from the guy who, in August, put out a lavish spread for a boatload of media who cover TV at his swank digs in Malibu — to promote the first fall launch of “The Voice.”

Anyway, Burnett said during the pre-taped interview that making “The Bible” was a “spiritual,” rather than a commercial, calling and that, for him, it has been “such a growth, and maybe that’s the biggest blessing of all.”

It’s also been a great way to resurrect wife Roma Downey’s career, although CBS did not report him mentioning that.

Since starring in CBS’s “Touched by an Angel” (which ended about a decade ago), Downey has appeared in a few episodes of the Lifetime cop drama “The Division,” and has done a few Hallmark movies and some other projects, but nothing big.

In “The Bible,” however, Downey plays Mary. She said in the interview that the idea for the miniseries was “God’s idea placed in my heart.”

‘Mars’ hits $3 million

. . . and, as of 7:17 p.m. Thursday, the “Veronica MarsKickstarter campaign to raise $2 million in fan money hit $3 million. On Wednesday, the campaign launched by “Veronica Mars” creator Rob Thomas hit $1 million at 3:06 p.m. Eastern — just four hours after it went live, setting a Kickstarter record. It hit $2 million at 8:55 p.m. With the money, Warner Bros. is greenlighting a limited-release “Veronica Mars” movie.

To read previous columns by Lisa de Moraes, visit washingtonpost.com/
tvblog.

 
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