The Morning Fix: Revenge of the writers! ‘Expendables’ not expendable yet. Last words on Comcast-NBC deal. ‘Modern Family’ co-creator Steve Levitan blasts Hulu.


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After the coffee. Before deciding if ‘Piranha’ will have any bite.

‘The Expendables’ not expendable yet. Looks like the over-the-hill gang will ride again this weekend at the box office. Although there are five new movies opening, ‘The Expendables’ is again expected to finish in first place. According to Los Angeles Times box office guru Ben Fritz, ‘Nanny McPhee Returns’ has a tiny chance to upset ‘The Expendables,’ while the rest of the newcomers -- ‘Lottery Ticket,’ ‘Vampires Suck’ ‘The Switch’ and ‘Piranha 3D’ will all open in the $7-million to $13-million range.


Getting the last word in. The Federal Communications Commission was busy collecting the final comments from those who want to have a say about cable company Comcast Corp.’s proposed takeover of NBC Universal. According to Multichannel News, satellite broadcaster DirecTV told the regulatory agency that the deal would ‘would lead to higher prices for content, pose no public benefit and allow the distribution and programming giant to migrate programming to the Internet.’ Meanwhile, Comcast found itself in a fight with Allbritton Communications, the parent company of the influential website Politico, which also wants to have a voice at the FCC about the deal. More on that inside-the-Beltway spat from the Los Angeles Times. For more reaction to the deal, see Variety’s roundup.

Man your battle stations. As the deadline for a new deal between Walt Disney Co. and Time Warner Cable nears, ESPN executives George Bodenheimer and Sean Bratches were told to trim their vacations and prepare for some late-night negotiations, according to the New York Post. Disney, parent of ABC, ESPN, Disney Channel and ABC Family, and Time Warner Cable have until Sept. 2 to agree on a new distribution deal. After that, the signals of Disney networks could be dropped from Time Warner Cable systems around the country, including New York and Los Angeles.

How about Jason Schwartzman as Larry Page? While Hollywood continues to struggle to figure out what its relationship should be with search engine giant Google, Deadline Hollywood reports that Groundswell Productions has acquired the rights to Ken Auletta’s book ‘Googled: The End of the World as We Know It.’ The book follows Google from its creation by founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page to its rise to the top of the digital world.

Tell us how you really feel. Steve Levitan, a co-creator of ABC’s sitcom ‘Modern Family’ took to Twitter this week to air gripes about Hulu, the video website co-owned by ABC parent Walt Disney Co. along with NBC Universal and News Corp. Using the news that Hulu was considering an initial public offering to raise money, Levitan griped that creators are being shut out of any potential revenue from Hulu while at the same time they risk seeing their television audiences decline as shows are made available on other platforms. Levitan, whose concerns are shared by many writers and producers, tweeted the question on the minds of many people when he wrote: ‘What is Hulu without content? An empty jukebox.” More on Levitan’s hate-hate relationship with Hulu from Forbes.

Reality bites. Endemol, the giant reality-show factory whose production credits include ‘Big Brother’ and ‘Deal or No Deal’ may be facing a harsh reality of its own. According to the Daily Beast’s Peter Lauria, Endemol, whose owners include Goldman Sachs, has a $3-billion debt load and is trying to restructure its finances. The company has been on a little buying spree as of late, which Lauria says has put a dent in its liquidity. It also hasn’t had any new big hits in a while.

I’m sorry Denis Leary, really! The Wall Street Journal on Friday looks the age-old practice by television writers and producers to sometimes take not-so-subtle revenge on folks who have annoyed them or bad-mouthed their show. Most recently, USA’s ‘Psych’ named a murderer after ‘Entertainment Weekly’ critic Ken Tucker. The old NBC show ‘Just Shoot Me’ once had a stalker character named Preston Beckman, which just happened to be the name of the man in charge of scheduling at the network at the time. Heck, yours truly has a judge named after him on ‘Law & Order.’ In my case, I will note that it was not a payback for some sin, although I do worry a little that if I ever really irritate that franchise’s creator, Dick Wolf, then Judge Joe Flint is going to be arrested on some pretty tawdry charges. I’ve heard that ‘Rescue Me’ co-creator Denis Leary has taken issue with some of my critiques (I do love the show, Denis, really) so if I end up being roasted in a fire in Harlem, now you know why.


Inside the Los Angeles Times: Kenneth Turan on ‘The Tillman Story.’

-- Joe Flint

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