Hit: Television shakeups
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Spring-summer Hollywood hits and misses

Hit: Television shakeups
“Two and a Half Men,” “Law & Order: SVU” and “CSI” will never be the same again. The series all witnessed the loss of major cast members in Charlie Sheen, Laurence Fishburne and Chris Meloni, pictured in the bottom row. But not to worry. CBS and NBC named replacements for the stars of their hit shows.

Ashton Kutcher replaced Sheen on “Two and a Half Men,” Ted Danson took over from Fishburne on “CSI” and Kelli Giddish and Danny Pino were added to the “Law & Order: SVU” cast.

Photos, clockwise from top left: Ashton Kutcher, Ted Danson, Kelli Giddish, Danny Pino, Chris Meloni, Laurence Fishburne and Charlie Sheen. Credits: Jemal Countess/Getty Images; Jennifer S. Altman / For the Times; Peter Kramer / AP; Gus Ruelas / AP; Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times; Joshua Roberts / For the Times; Greg Gayne / Warner Bros. ()
Hit: The hype surrounding NBC’s ‘The Playboy Club’
“The Playboy Club,” debuting later this month, has already stirred up a hornet’s nest of controversy, the kind that could easily be parlayed into a ratings bonanza. The provocative new series focuses on, as NBC puts it, “the seductive world of the Bunny, the epitome of beauty and service,” where the ladies will “rub shoulders with the decade’s biggest mobsters, politicos and entertainers.” Activist Gloria Steinem is calling for a boycott of the show. “I can’t imagine the show will be anything like the real Playboy clubs,” Steinem told The Times. “Hefner is always trying to make himself and the clubs seem glamorous instead of tacky.” The upcoming drama revolving around a Chicago branch of Hefner’s club will also not air on KSL-TV, the network’s Salt Lake City affiliate.  (Matt Dinerstein / NBC)
Hit: ‘Jersey Shore’ GTLs in Italy, gets record ratings
The “Jersey Shore” cast made its way to the homeland, taking up residence in a former bank building in Florence, Italy. Though the cast managed a few brawls, fender benders and bans from public places, Snooki, Pauly D, the Situation, JWOWW, Vinny, Deena, Sammi and Ron scored the largest audience ever for an MTV series season premiere.

Snooki, who also spoke at Rutgers University, JWOWW and Pauly D also scored themselves spin-offs to their juggernaut reality series. (Elisabetta Villa / Getty Images)
Miss: ‘Jackass’ daredevil Ryan Dunn dies
“Jackass” star Ryan Dunn was drunk, with a blood-alcohol level of more than twice the legal limit, when his car sped through a guardrail in June, crashed into a tree and went up in flames, killing him and his passenger, Zachary Hartwell, in Pennsylvania. News of his death sparked a war between “Jackass” costar Bam Margera, who downplayed his friend’s blood alcohol level as a cause of the crash, and noted film critic Roger Ebert. Ebert enraged many in the blogosphere with a tweet implying that Dunn was drinking and driving before official reports were released, and the backlash resulted in him issuing an apology for his words.  (Jorge Herrera / AP; Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Miss: Tracy Morgan’s anti-gay rant
Tracy Morgan apologized for a homophobic rant he launched into during a June 3 show at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium after organizations including GLAAD and the Human Rights Commission called for an apology or explanation.

“I want to apologize to my fans and the gay and lesbian community for my choice of words at my recent stand-up act in Nashville. I’m not a hateful person and don’t condone any kind of violence against others,” Morgan said in a statement. “While I am an equal opportunity jokester, and my friends know what is in my heart, even in a comedy club this clearly went too far and was not funny in any context.”

However, the damage was still done, and the “30 Rock” star continued to make apologies at public appearances to mend the severely damaged fences. (Paul Buck / EPA)
Hit: ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ conquers the box office
Prognosticators at summer’s beginning claimed this would be the summer of the superhero. But as summer draws to a close, many will no doubt call it the summer of the simian. “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” opened on Aug. 5 to little fanfare. It’s the second attempt to revive 20th Century Fox‘s long-dormant “Planet of the Apes” franchise, and few expected much creatively from it. But somehow it proceeded to become one of the biggest and best-reviewed hits of the blockbuster movie season. Here’s hoping for a follow-up with an even longer title. “Return of the Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” anyone?  (WETA / Twentieth Century Fox)
Hit: Spotify finally lands in America
A hit in Sweden long before arriving on U.S. shores, music-streaming service Spotfiy was tied up securing licensing agreements with American labels for more than a year. The ad-supported service, which allows users to listen to music for free (with commercials) or pay a $4.99 or $9.99 monthly fee to avoid those pesky ads, boasts access to millions of songs, giving consumers an easy way to legitimately hear a mighty swath of music past and present. Facebook integration makes it easy to share playlists, and the dream of having access to a massive chunk of the world’s music library with the click of a button has become a reality. (Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)
Miss: Kaskade and the Game catch the attention of the LAPD
A DJ set by Kaskade at the premiere of the Electric Daisy Carnival documentary, “Electric Daisy Carnival Experience,” went south on a July evening in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre when masses of fans spilled into Hollywood after the artist announced a live performance via Twitter. As the police attempted to disperse what turned into a huge gathering, crowds turned on the authorities, throwing objects, jumping on cars and littering the boulevard with trash.

As for rapper the Game, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials investigated the rapper and a tweet that they said sparked a “telephone flash mob” in early August. Authorities say the rapper sent out a tweet containing a number for the Compton police station, urging people to call it if they wanted an internship with him. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Miss: The tragic passing of Amy Winehouse
U.K. pop star Amy Winehouse was found dead in late July in her London home. Winehouse released her debut, “Frank,” in 2003, a collection of jazzy neo-soul tunes. Her 2006 album, “Back to Black,” saw Winehouse remade as a tough, no-nonsense R&B singer in a ‘60s-inspired vintage mode. Working with rising producer Mark Ronson and New York‘s acclaimed rhythm & blues crew the Dap Kings, “Back to Black” was heavy on noir imagery and recalled the early days of Motown, most notably in the hit singles “Rehab” and “You Know I’m No Good.”

She can be heard on Tony Bennett‘s “Duets II” in late September.  (Jennifer S. Altman / For the Times)
Hit: Jay-Z and Kanye West tell the world they’re rich
The superstar collaboration “Watch the Throne” saw Jay-Z and Kanye West offering a glimpse into the lifestyle of hip-hop’s rich and famous. The Times’ Randall Roberts was a fan. He wrote the pairing “is a cocksure, fiery, smart, if problematic, collaboration that showcases the pair’s distinct lyrical skills, their way around a metaphor and an ability to execute both a grand narrative and the details that turn it into truth.” (Matt Sayles / Associated Press)
Miss: The media hunt for Casey Anthony
After being found not guilty of the murder of her daughter Caylee Anthony, Casey Anthony stirred plenty of strong emotions, and she was booed as she walked out of a Florida jail. The media still haven’t moved on. TMZ, for instance, posted pictures of what the site said was Casey in Ohio, treating the woman as if she’s a celebrity rather than someone acquitted of a serious crime. In September, Dr. Phil will keep the story alive, as he recently sat down with Casey’s parents. Many were obsessed with the trial and unsatisfied with its answers, but the bigger question is why does this remain a story? (Red Huber / Associated Press)
Hit: Foster the People: Pumped up, indeed
Foster the People‘s mix of Euro-chic electronics, snappy choruses and soulful beats have helped the band become the breakout Los Angeles act of 2011. Driven by the hit single “Pumped Up Kicks,” the band’s debut, “Torches,” debuted in the Top 10 on the U.S. pop charts. That was back in late May. At the end of August, the band was still in the Top 20. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)
Hit: Tony Awards
The Tony Awards are supposed to be about the Broadway nominees, but Neil Patrick Harris, right, stole the show this year as the host with the most. He kicked off the festivities with the crowd-pleaser “It’s Not Just for Gays Anymore,” got into a sing-off with Hugh Jackman to the theme of “Anything You Can Host I Can Host Better” and wrapped up the evening with a recap rap of the show. Competing for the spotlight was the big winner, “Book of Mormon.” The comedy, about two mismatched missionaries in Africa, won nine Tonys, including best musical. At left is co-creator Trey Parker. (Jeff Christensen / Associated Press; Andrew H. Walker / Getty Images.)
Miss: ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides’
Captain Jack Sparrow swaggered back onto the big screen this summer for a fourth installment of “Pirates of the Caribbean.” Sans Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swan (Keira Knightley), Sparrow teams up with Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) “on stranger tides” to find the fountain of youth, but they run into a little trouble from Blackbeard (Ian McShane) and his daughter (Penelope Cruz) along the way. However, not even Depp’s charm and the all-star cast could save this stinker. The Times’ Betsy Sharkey didn’t think it was “seaworthy, nor Sparrow worthy” and slammed the 3-D saying, “The Ds in this instance stand for dark and dismal and disastrously claustrophobic.” Moviegoers didn’t seem to heed the warning though and the movie made more than $1 billion worldwide.  (Peter Mountain / Associated Press)
Hit: The rise of rap collective Odd Future and its leader, Tyler, the Creator
The local rap collective known as Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All has released an assortment of albums and mixtapes, but the biggest showcase so far has been from the controversial crew’s de facto leader, Tyler, the Creator. His XL debut, “Goblin,” grabbed the No. 1 spot on the R&B/hip-hop charts upon its release in May and has kept in the Top 40 since then. It’s also sold 108,000 copies, as well as 191,000 digital tracks. The group has found itself blasted for lyrics that test the lines between mordant provocation and plain old hate, but the controversy has served them well: At the Video Music Awards in August, Tyler, the Creator took home the best new artist statue, breathlessly telling the audience that he was on the verge of tears.  (Matt Sayles / Associated Press)
Hit: ‘Bridesmaids’
Moviegoers were treated to a new type of comedy this summer -- the raunchy chick flick. King of the R-rated romp, Judd Apatow, married crass humor and heart once again with “Bridesmaids.” The film, directed by Paul Feig (and produced by Apatow), follows “Saturday Night Live’s” Kristen Wiig as the well-intentioned but unbalanced maid of honor Annie as she struggles to help her friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) plan her wedding. Critics applauded the “‘Hangover’ for women,” including The Times’ Betsy Sharkey, who wrote, “For the Mars crowd, that means real people in real relationships, real raunchy, real funny. Thank you, Kristen Wiig for every single one of those old-school Rs.” And fans flocked to the theater, boosting box-office earnings and sending the film past the $200-million mark worldwide. (Suzanne Hanover / Universal Pictures)
Hit: ‘The Voice’
NBC scored ratings gold with the surprise hit of the spring, “The Voice.” The singing competition was a standout thanks to the chemistry of Christina Aguilera, Blake Shelton, Cee Lo Green and Adam Levine, who served as mentors and judges to top-notch contestants. The singers quickly gained fan followings of their own, thanks to the show’s social media push and iTunes presence. Times pop music critic Randall Roberts likened it to a “musical game show.” And the best part? The contenders, like winner Javier Colon, were originally chosen for their pipes alone, and judges couldn’t actually see them until after they were selected. The show, which reached a high of around 12.5 million viewers, is sure to get an even bigger boost next season when it returns in February, with all four judges, right after the Super Bowl on NBC. (Lewis Jacobs / NBC)
Miss: ‘Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark’
Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark” sounded like a good idea with Broadway veteran Julie Taymor (“Lion King”) overseeing the production and U2’s Bono and the Edge writing the music. But the over-budget musical was plagued with trouble from the get-go, suffering cast accidents, major delays and the loss of Taymor. And then there were the bad reviews. Adding insult to injury (literally), the show served as a Tonys punch line. Even the rockers got in on the skewering: “When I first saw the Tonys on our schedule, I just sort of assumed we had been nominated,” quipped Bono. “It appears we missed the deadline,” noted the Edge. (Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images)
Hit: Los Angeles, city of royals
When Prince William and his new wife Catherine Middleton announced that they’d stop off in Los Angeles a few months after their royal wedding, Angelenos welcomed them with open arms. The official visit followed a visit to Canada and included sightseeing, a job fair, a British Academy of Film and Television Arts event, a charity polo match and a trip to Inner-City Arts in Skid Row. David and Victoria Beckham, who have become close friends with the newly minted Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, welcomed the newest member of their brood that weekend: baby girl Harper Seven Beckham.  (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
R.I.P. Russell Armstrong
“The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ ” Russell Armstrong, a venture capitalist who was going through a divorce with wife Taylor, committed suicide. The couple’s problems were a focal point last season and the family asked Bravo to edit out Russell and any other related characters when the show returns in September. The network did announce it would do some re-editing(Jason Merritt / Getty Images)
Hit: Marines get high-profile dates
“Friends With Benefits” buddies Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake started a trend when they agreed to be the celebrity plus-ones to Marines at their annual ball thanks to YouTube. However, not all the celebs asked would agree. Keeping with Betty White‘s example, “Iron Man 2" actress Scarlett Johansson declined an invitation to the Marine Corps Ball in Albany, Ga., despite Sgt. Dustin L. Williams’ video that included various calisthenics and a picture of Johansson toasting with bubbly. Unlike her contemporaries, the actress did say she would send a case of champagne for the Marines to celebrate with in her absence.  (Patrik Stollarz / AFP / Getty Images)
Hit: ‘Midnight in Paris’
“Midnight in Paris” is Woody Allen‘s little movie that could. Though the time-traveling romantic comedy touts some big names -- Owen Wilson, Marion Cotillard, Kathy Bates -- it was still mainly known as an art house film. It grew to be a big success, becoming Allen’s highest-grossing film ever, and was nearing $50 million at the box office while still playing well amid the big-budgeted releases of the summer. (Roger Arpajou / Sony Pictures Classics)
Miss: ‘Lopez Tonight’ canceled, ‘Conan’ lives on
We like Conan O’Brien. Many people do. We also like George Lopez, who consented to move his already-established late-night show on TBS to make room for Conan’s new show -- all in an effort to help out the network that gave him a chance and to be a team player. We don’t like that Lopez has now been cut from the team. The last episode, which included Arsenio Hall, Eva Longoria and a couple of Lakers, was a great farewell, and was a reminder of how refreshing TV can be with different (i.e., ethnically diverse) voices adding to the chorus of late-night chatter. (Evan Agostini / Associated Press)
Hit: Darren Criss follows Daniel Radcliffe, again
“Glee” warbler Darren Criss will take on the role of J. Pierrepont Finch in the Broadway production of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” for three weeks, taking over for Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe. Criss parodied Radcliffe when he wrote and starred in the cult-hit YouTube serials “A Very Potter Musical” and “A Very Potter Sequel.” Criss was funny in those skits, and because he’s demonstrated his vocal chops, will probably do well on Broadway.  (Getty Images)
Miss: MySpace and Hulu sold
Website popularity comes and goes quickly, and the business of Web technology is a bytes-eat-bytes world. The sale of MySpace seemed inevitable -- most of us abandoned the site years ago as Facebook absorbed more and more of the social network. But Hulu, a scrappy video site that allowed hipsters and newbies who were boastfully happy to not have a TV (and the rest of us) and yet watch what they wanted, was still being discovered by many before it was snatched up by the monstrous Comcast. That “everything on the Web is free” belief seems less and less concrete. (Vizio / Getty Images)
Miss: Michele Bachmann vs. the Renaissance
Tea party queen and fringe Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann took a lot of heat in August for blaming the European Renaissance for dragging humans out of the god-fearing Dark Ages and allowing the populace to think they can play God. In the Aug. 15 issue of the New Yorker magazine, Bachmann said the artistic work of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo led humans to ask blasphemous questions about the universe, pose naked and believe that we are the center of time and space. The Times’ art critic Christopher Knight had his own things to say about that.  (Steve Pope / Getty Images)
Hit: ‘The Help’ garners Oscar buzz, explores race relations
Since it first landed in theaters in early August, “The Help,” directed by Tate Taylor, has struck a special chord of civil rights commentary with a feel-good finish. The film, starring Emma Stone, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, tells the story of a white female journalist who befriends two black maids in Mississippi during the 1960s after she sets out to write a book featuring the voices and experiences of domestic workers, often referred to as “the help.” Based on the novel by Kathryn Stockett, its emphasis on race relations and prejudice in the Civil Rights-era South offered a simple friendship story with bouts of heartbreaking, well-acted realism that has since earned Oscar buzz for Stone and Davis. The film opened at No. 2 at the box office and has so far grossed over $93 million. (Dale Robinette / Disney)
Hit: ‘Harry Potter’ beats ‘The Dark Knight’
The boy wizard beat out Batman at the box office. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" -- the final installment in the magical franchise -- enjoyed the biggest global opening weekend in film history. “Potter” raked in more than $169 million in North American ticket sales its opening weekend. The previous record, held by the sequel in Christopher Nolan’s Batman series, “The Dark Knight,” was $158.6 million. But the battle isn’t over. The final film in Nolan’s trilogy, “The Dark Knight Rises,” has a good shot at reclaiming the crown from Potter, and awarding Warner Bros. the top three slots. (Warner Bros.)
Hit: Super summer box office
In a victory for comic book geeks everywhere, this summer’s slate of action and superhero flicks dominated the big screen and the box office. Marvel’s “Thor” and Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” kicked off the genre trend in May, swiftly followed by “Super 8" and “X-Men: First Class,” both of which received glowing reviews from critics. Despite the loss of leading lady Megan Fox, “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” was No. 1 at the box office week after week, becoming the top-grossing film of the franchise. The trend continued through the summer with blockbuster hits such as “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,” “Cowboys & Aliens,” and “Captain America: The First Avenger.” For more genre movie coverage, check out Hero Complex. (Marvel Entertainment / Paramount Pictures)
Miss: Lady Gaga as Jo Calderone
Looking like a cherub-faced John Travolta a la “Grease,” Lady Gaga opened up the VMAs with a cigarette-puffing monologue filled with forced humor and curse words, all of it delivered with wannabe Broadway flair. Though we’re glad it wasn’t a meat dress or a cosmic egg, Gaga’s latest awards get-up, inspired by her music video “You and I,” felt like a wayward attempt at grabbing attention for her acting skills. And the way she persisted with it throughout the whole show is a scary sign that this character with the “Jersey Shore” accent just might become a regular component of the Gaga universe. Please, say it ain’t so. ()
Hit: Tim Burton exhibition
A massive Tim Burton retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art proved a hit with fans and museum-goers. The director of such films as “Beetlejuice,” “Edward Scissorhands,” “Ed Wood” and “Alice in Wonderland” displayed his macabre artwork and movie props in the exhibition, which drew tens of thousands of people, despite a separate ticket price on top of regular admission to LACMA and a savage review from The Times art critic, who called the show “a monotonous plod.” The show’s popularity wasn’t surprising; during its time at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where the exhibition debuted in 2009, it became one of the highest-attended shows in MoMA history. Plus, Burton’s special connection to Los Angeles (he spent his childhood in Burbank) was an extra draw for the local art crowd. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
Hit: ‘Les Miserables’ breaks box office record
The 25th anniversary tour at the Ahmanson Theatre between June 14 and July 31 saw an attendance total of 109,996, or 2,000 per performance, which was 97% of the Ahmanson’s capacity for the 55-show run. The show grossed $176,121 per performance, a house record. “Les Miz” worked because it is one of the top-grossing musicals of all time (its original Broadway run lasted 16 years, ending in 2003) and has a huge built-in fan base. Douglas Baker, producing director of Center Theatre Group, felt L.A. audiences were primed for the anniversary tour. Among the attractions were new production elements, including a set design adapted from paintings by Victor Hugo, author of the classic 19th century novel on which the musical is based. Helping to prime the pump: In March, PBS began airing the “Les Miserables 25th Anniversary Concert” taped at London’s O2 Arena.  (Deen van Meer / Associated Press)