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In the entertainment industry news comes out fast and furious, and sometimes the importance and impact of some of those developments gets lost in the shuffle. Here's a look at three of the top pop culture stories from the past week that you might have missed and why they are worth a second look.
Universal green lights Ride Along sequel
Universal (a subsidiary of Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA ) ) scored a massive win in January when the Kevin Hart/Ice Cube comedy Ride Along topped the box office charts for three weeks in a row. The buddy cop comedy defied all expectations, and this week Universal made it official and green lit a sequel that could come out as early as next year. Both Hart and Ice Cube are expected to return along with director Tim Story and producer Will Packer. Hart and Packer also just worked with each other on the Valentine's Day hit About Last Night.
Impact on industry
Universal had a very good start to the year thanks in large part to Ride Along's $123 million (to date) haul. Naturally everyone expected a sequel to get the go-ahead sooner rather than later, so this move was fully expected. Ride Along didn't just have a big impact on the studio -- it also cemented Kevin Hart as a bankable leading man, reenergized the acting career of Ice Cube, helped continue Will Packer's fruitful producing career, and gave director Tim Story his fourth film franchise. The success of this film is far reaching and will have a ripple effect on the box office for some time to come.
CBS spins-off 'CSI' ... again
Stop me if you've heard this one before ... CBS (NYSE: CBS ) is looking to spin off its ultra-popular CSI franchise through an embedded pilot due to air this spring. This time, instead of targeting a city for the next installment of the series, producers are targeting a specific type of villainy: cyber-crime. Created by CSI head honcho Anthony Zuiker, longtime CSI showrunner Carol Mendelsohn, and former CSI: Miami showrunner Ann Donahue, the project will center on Avery Ryan, special agent in charge at Quantico's cyber crimes division of the FBI. Casting is expected to begin immediately with the hope that the series will become a strong contender for the network's fall slate.
Impact on industry
It's rare for a show to spin itself off twice ... but then to outlast BOTH of those spin-offs and then try to do it again is pretty remarkable. CBS is no stranger to successfully spinning off dramas and already has another NCIS spin-off in the works as well. While cyber-crime is a hot topic and Zuiker has more than shown he can create compelling series, the failure of NCIS: Red and Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior shows that even on a network like CBS, nothing is a lock. Still, the odds are strong this project will draw its share of supporters, so it's one to keep an eye on.
Emmys makes changes to 2014 awards
Earlier in the year it was reported the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences was heavily debating making a few changes to this year's races. Last week it decided to move ahead with those changes along with one or two additional surprises.
In addition to splitting the Made-for-TV Movie/Mini-Series category back into separate races, voters also introduced a 2% rule, which would effectively allow for a seventh nomination to the Outstanding Comedy/Drama series races should a show receive within 2% of total first round votes of the sixth place nominated series. The Academy also voted to split the "Outstanding Reality Series" (non-competition) into a "structured" (Antiques Roadshow) and "un-structured" (Duck Dynasty) category, split "Outstanding Voiceover" into "narrator" and "character voice-over" categories, as well as adding a sixth nomination to the Made-for-TV Movie/Mini-series acting, writing, and directing races.
Impact on industry
Every year the Emmy awards seem to draw the ire of the industry as they can't seem to get out of their own way when nominating what they feel is the year's best in television. The group is known for playing favorites, and at times that comes across as just being lazy. At least the Academy is realizing the times are changing and more qualified programs are being aired.
The decision to not only split the Made-for-TV movie and Mini-Series categories but also possibly expand the outstanding comedy/drama categories to seven nominees speaks volumes and will be whole-heartedly welcomed by the industry. It will not only keep things more competitive, but it will continue to keep audiences more engaged as more of their favorites get a shot at taking the top prize in TV.
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