Thursday, June 26, 2008

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NBC resolves lawsuit over 'To Catch a Predator' suicide

03:35 PM PT, Jun 24 2008

La_et_chris_hansen_st NEW YORK — NBC Universal has “amicably resolved” a $105-million lawsuit filed by a woman whose brother committed suicide during a taping of its controversial “Dateline NBC” series “To Catch a Predator,” both parties said today.

Bruce Baron, an attorney for Patricia Conradt, told The Times in an interview today that “the matter has been amicably resolved to the satisfaction of both parties.”

Conradt’s brother, Louis William Conradt Jr., a 56-year-old assistant county prosecutor in a Dallas suburb, shot himself in November 2006 when officers showed up at his house as part of a pedophilia sting arranged by “Dateline.”

Patricia Conradt sued NBC last July, claiming that the network interfered with police duties and then failed to protect her brother's safety.

When asked today about the status of the suit, NBC News spokeswoman Jenny Tartikoff echoed Baron, saying “the matter has been amicably resolved.”

Both sides declined to comment on when they came to agreement or the terms of the resolution. A sealed document regarding the suit was filed with the court June 3, but the case remains open, according a spokesman for the New York Southern District Court.

The resolution of the lawsuit caps a controversial chapter for “Dateline,” which drew both ratings bonanzas and sharp critiques for its “To Catch a Predator” investigations. In the segments, which NBC began airing in 2004, the newsmagazine worked with an Internet watchdog group called Perverted Justice to contact men online who were seeking to meet underage children for sex, then lure them to a house, where they were confronted on camera. Police waiting outside then arrested the men.

Media ethicists objected to the deception used in the investigation, as well as NBC’s close relationship with law enforcement agencies in the jurisdictions where it set up stings.

NBC News executives staunchly defended the “Predator” investigations but eventually concluded the series had become too highly charged to continue. “Dateline” quietly aired its 12th and final installment of “Predator” in late December.

Tartikoff said that “Dateline” is currently focused on investigative stories about national security and the economy, adding that if the newsmagazine pursues further “Predator” segments, “we want to make sure we are complementing past investigations, not just repeating them.”

Louis Conradt was one of two dozen men in the Dallas-Fort Worth area snared by the ninth “Predator” sting in the fall of 2006. He allegedly engaged in a sexually explicit online chat with a Perverted Justice member posing as a 13-year-old boy, and then an actor invited Conradt to meet him at a decoy house NBC set up in Murphy, Texas.

But Conradt did not show up at a camera-rigged house, where “Dateline” correspondent Chris Hansen and local police were waiting, outfitted with cameras provided by NBC, Hansen later told Dallas-Fort Worth television station WFAA-TV, which did its own investigation into the incident.

The next day, a "Dateline" crew and a team of officers went to find Conradt at his home in a nearby town. "Dateline" cameras taped the scene as a police tactical team forced its way into Conradt’s house. As the officers entered, Conradt shot himself with a small-caliber semi-automatic handgun. He died later at a nearby hospital.

The incident was featured in a “To Catch a Predator” segment that aired on “Dateline” in February 2007.

In her lawsuit, Patricia Conradt accused NBC of being “concerned more with its own profits than with pedophilia.”

She claimed a police officer at the scene of the shooting told a “Dateline” producer: “That’ll make good TV.”

The network said her suit was without merit.

But in February, U.S. District Judge Denny Chin ruled that the case could go forward on claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress and violation of civil rights.

Chin dismissed some causes of action but said in his ruling that the network “placed itself squarely in the middle of a police operation, pushing the police to engage in tactics that were unnecessary and unwise, solely to generate more dramatic footage for a television show.”

“A reasonable jury could find that by doing so, NBC created a substantial risk of suicide or other harm, and that it engaged in conduct so outrageous and extreme that no civilized society should tolerate it,” Chin wrote.

At the time, NBC said it planned to fight the claim, saying it had “acted responsibly and lawfully.”

“Dateline’s” Murphy sex sting failed to net any convictions. The Collin County district attorney’s office declined to pursue more than 20 cases related to the “Predator” operation, citing problems with the evidence gathered.

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Do Carlin's 'Seven Dirty Words' Still Shock?

You won't hear the seven dirty words come out of George Carlin's mouth again, and it's doubtful you'll ever hear them all on broadcast television, either.

Don't expect to hear all seven of George Carlin's "Dirty Words" on broadcast TV anytime soon.
(Getty/ABC News)
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Carlin, who died Sunday at age 71, cemented his reputation as one of comedy's most crass with his expletive-laced 1972 monologue, "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television" (or re-print here). Not only did Carlin's cavalier ode to curses shock and offend his critics, it also led to a landmark Supreme Court ruling about what could and could not be said on broadcast TV and radio.

Despite that 1978 ruling, the Federal Communications Commission doesn't have a list of words it considers profane. In its consumer fact sheet, the FCC defines profanity as "including language so grossly offensive to members of the public who actually hear it as to amount to a nuisance."

So, with no black and white rules, it's up to the networks to decide what words are appropriate for air. While conventions have changed since the 70s, -- s*** is fine on basic cable past 10 p.m., and anything goes on premium channels -- for the most part, any slur more vivid than "ass" or "b****" (neither of which Carlin included among his set of seven) is verboten on broadcast TV.

Joan Rivers thinks that's just dumb.

"It's so silly and so stupid," said the veteran comedian and fashion critic, who got kicked off British television last week for saying f*** and s*** on a show that she noted was named, of all things, "Loose Women." "I think this is such a rough, tough, fast world, and everyone in their house should make their own rules. But don't make me fit in with your lifestyle when I've never met you. You have a child up at 11p.m., and you're worried about what they'll hear on TV? Put your child to bed and then sit down and hear the word c***. [One of Carlin's 'Seven.']"

Paul Mooney, who wrote for Carlin's contemporary Richard Pryor, echoed Rivers' call to loosen standards, given an appropriate time (after 10 p.m.) and forum (comedic).

"You don't go to a topless club and say, 'Why doesn't she put a bra on?' We should be allowed to say what we want to say," Mooney said. "Too many people are trying to control us, period. That's the problem. This is insanity. It's double talk. And I don't want to hear any double talk, I want straight talk."

But it's unlikely the FCC will embrace comedians' call to let curses run rampant across the air. More than three decades after Carlin first uttered his monologue, television and culture critics still consider his words too shocking for mainstream TV, especially in an atmosphere made even more sensitive by Don Imus and Michael Richards' 2007 racially-charged rants.

"The short answer is we're a long way away before Carlin's routine can be on broadcast TV," said David Bianculli, who critiques TV for NPR's "Fresh Air" and "Cable's loosening up more and more, but broadcast seems to be tightening. There are examples of things that were OK in the 70s that aren't allowed now, like slurs in 'All in the Family' that just wouldn't get by today.

"You may just have to wait for a generational power shift at the networks," he continued. "Certainly, in the 50s, you couldn't even use the word 'pregnant' on 'I Love Lucy.' We've grown up a lot from there, but it's because a generation grew up."

The FCC has loosened up in recent years, suggesting that generational shift could be on the horizon. In 2003, U2's Bono gushed, "this is really, really f****** brilliant" while accepting a Golden Globe, which sent 234 complaints -- against TV stations that carried the awards show -- flooding into the FCC. But the FCC didn't levy sanctions. Instead, it decided the f-word is permissible on broadcast TV as long as it does "not describe sexual or excretory activities or functions."

That doesn't mean the f-word will become as ubiquitous as "b****" or "ass" on broadcast anytime soon. Certainly, there are more than 234 Americans ready to fight if the FCC embraces f*** in all its scatalogical, sexual glory. Kristen Fyfe is one of them.

"We are a less civil society now than we were 30 years ago, and a lot of that comes through language and how we speak to each other," said Fyfe, a senior writer for the Culture and Media Institute, which, on its Web site, says it aims to "preserve and help restore America's culture, character, traditional values, and morals against the assault of the liberal media elite."

"We may be in a place where culturally, people don't cover their ears when they hear [f***], but as a parent of two kids, I feel like I need to watch broadcast TV with a remote in my hand to keep some sort of boundaries in my home," Fyfe continued. "Maybe people wouldn't be shocked by the 'Seven Dirty Words' today, but I think they'd still find it tasteless."

So, for the foreseeable future, you'll have to tune to premium cable (HBO, Showtime) or select basic cable programs ("Secret Stash," a block of language-unedited hilarity that Comedy Central airs every Saturday and Sunday at 1 a.m.) to get a fix of filth. And for those who really want to be shocked, Rivers has a suggestion:

"Come and see me at the Cutting Room," she said, referring to her upcoming, raunch-filled show at the NYC nightclub. "There's still shock, believe there's plenty. I'm still shocking them."

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The Slip Download Map

We are hard at work preparing for the upcoming tour. Lots of new surprises in store, and a stage that makes my head hurt thinking about it (kind of in a good way... kind of).

Anyway, our computer wizards presented some data to us in an interesting way and we thought we'd share it with you. CLICK HERE to download a Google Earth KML file representing downloads of our latest record The Slip according to geographic region. We've had just over 1,400,000 people download The Slip from our site since its release May 5th (that number represents individual people, and excludes multiple downloads from the same order), and this map displays ONLY downloads that came directly from us.

To open the file, make sure you have the Google Earth software installed first. If the KML doesn't open automatically, find the downloaded file on your hard drive and double-click it. Once it's open, you'll want to turn off other layers for the best view. Slower computers might have some trouble running this file.
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Will Smith Says He Would Play Barack Obama On The Big Screen 'As Soon As He Writes The End Of The Story'

But actor isn't trying to be senator's running mate: 'Movie stars tend to have a little bit higher approval rating than politicians.'

Will Smith has played Muhammad Ali, a man in black keeping the world safe from alien invaders, the last person on Earth and, in his new movie "Hancock," a boozy superhero with image problems.
But is the king of the Fourth of July opening ready for the biggest role of his career: Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama? In a word, yes.

"It's right here," Smith said, holding up his legendarily prominent ears, which are not unlike Obama's lobes. "That's the key. That's the key. America loves ears, you know? Mickey Mouse started it; Goofy and Dumbo followed behind. And America just loves the ears."

All kidding aside, Smith said he's more than willing to sign on for a biographical retelling of the Obama life story, but, he said, not until the tale has a Hollywood-worthy third act. "As soon as he writes the end of the story," Smith said.

Unlike some of his fellow action brethren, though, such as California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Smith said he's content to keep his political aspirations confined to the screen. Reminded that Obama has yet to pick a running mate, Smith demurred, saying that's not his game. "Naw, I ... you know, I enjoy being in the movie-star position," he said. "Movie stars tend to have a little bit higher approval rating than politicians."

Back in November, during his MTV/MySpace Presidential Dialogue, Obama was asked who he would like to see play him in a biopic. After asking forum co-host and MTV VJ Sway if he'd be interested in the gig — who turned him down when Obama said he'd have to get a haircut — the senator said Smith would be the right choice, if only because "his ears match mine."

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Arrested Development Movie in 2009?


Will the Bluth family finally make it to the big screen? That’s a question that’s been the topic of discussion for Arrested Development fans for a while now. Jason Bateman has stated before that the wheels are in motion, and now we might actually have a tentative release date.

The Times Online has posted an interview with Jason Bateman, where they talk about Hancock, among other things, and at the very end of the article this little nugget of information appears.

A big-screen version of Arrested Development is planned for next year. “When it was on TV, if you missed one word the whole third act could be blown for you. And TV is a different experience. You come home and you’ve got to finish a call so you miss the first ten minutes or you get snacky and you go to the fridge and you miss another two minutes, so it’s a different experience to film.”

Arrested Development: The Movie in 2009 – Yes please! As for now though, you should file this under “just talk”. The full interview, which is a mini-retrospective on Bateman’s career, is definitely worth a read. Check it out here.

Exclusive: Wanted's Mark Millar Settles the Score for Fans

by Alex Billington
Wanted's Mark Millar

After seeing Wanted last week and being blown away by the film, I was angered to find that many fans aren't even giving the film a chance. Their reason: they're concerned that it's too much of a deviation from the source material and doesn't stick with the violent, villains-win storyline that Mark Millar and J.G. Jones so brilliantly put to paper in the comic. To prove to all of them that Wanted is the perfect adaptation of the comic, I exclusively went to Wanted's creator, Mark Millar himself, and asked him a few brief questions to settle any disputes. His answers were exactly what I thought he'd say - Millar has been involved from the start and made sure Wanted was the proper adaptation of the comic.

Below you'll find Millar's answers to my five quick question regarding the film. To put it simply, Timur Bekmambetov kicks ass. If it wasn't for the constant collaboration with Mark and Timur's creative mind, Wanted wouldn't have been as awesome as it was. Even Millar says below that he had lots of faith in Timur and thought that the film was really on-track once he came on-board. Hopefully this puts to rest any concerns you have about Wanted - because you definitely don't want to miss it this weekend.

How involved were you in the production and the script? Did you ever visit the set?

Mark Millar: Oh God, yes. JG and I were producers on the picture. It's not like the old days where the creators get ripped off. We comic guys own these properties now and we're involved at various stages throughout the entire production. I met with the producers very soon after we did the deal and we agreed on lots of things before moving forward. Then I met with the director to see what he had in mind. Then we had notes on various drafts of the scripts from the very large team of writers working on the movie. Then they flew me out in February to watch over a final cut and make some dialogue tweaks. Comics are very autonomous, but a movie is a huge collaboration.

Were you ever concerned that the story would deviate too far from your own comic and become something else entirely?

Millar: I was when I saw an early draft of the script, before Timur came on board. The super-powers were removed and the whole thing was a very straight crime story. The producers felt we could have legal problems with the super-villain stuff in the book as so much was analogous of Marvel and DC characters and history, but Timur came up with an interesting way of giving the killers powers again. Once he was onboard I knew the property was safe. He just absolutely got it and kept about 70% of the book. There's a lot of new stuff he came up with for the middle act, but the first hour and the last half hour is the same as the book for the most part. And the changes make it better.

How much communication did you have with Timur?

Millar: We swap emails and phone calls semi-regularly. I love him to bits. Being Russian, he has no idea what I'm saying half the time because I have a thick Scottish accent and being Scottish, English is like a second language to me, too. But we get on very well, despite all this.

Although the film ended up with all of the blood and violence that's featured in the comic, was there ever a consideration to tone it down or did the production team always plan for it to be as violent as the comic?

Millar: No way. I would have walked. This was always going to be R rated. The guys always completely got that and Universal assured me this wouldn't be a problem. They've been terrific on this thing from day one.

Have you seen the film? What did you think of the final result?

Millar: Fucking Hell. I loved it. I could not love it more. As the writer of the original material, it's weird passing your wee baby over to someone else, but this was like putting someone up for adoption and seeing him come back as Einstein. It's the best comic adaptation I think I've ever seen and hopefully heralds a whole new type of superhero material. Suddenly, the old characters seem pretty old. Timur really raised the bar here. Batman better be really, really good to top this.

Thanks to Mark and Top Cow for setting this up. It's truly great to hear that Millar's involvement was so integral and that they didn't deviate too far from the original story. Most will find that Wanted kicks a lot more ass than they might be expecting this weekend. It definitely surpassed all my expectations. I hope you enjoy it!

Special thanks is owed to Dave from my favorite geek site Geeks of Doom for actually setting this interview up. Thanks for the help putting this together my friend!

Wanted Poster

Original here


The Welsh actor opens up about being the Dark Knight, never having a plan B, and always swimming against the current.

-By Adam Higginbotham
-Photographs by Steven Klein

Our exclusive video of Bale's cover shoot with photographer Steven Klein

At the end of a warm spring day, as rays of amber sunlight flash off the ocean and the first early-evening drinkers begin to gather, Christian Bale arrives at a bar in Santa Monica. He's wearing a baggy blue shirt, untucked, khaki pants, and New Balance sneakers. A black baseball cap is pulled low over his eyes, and the beginnings of a beard bristle along his jaw. He attracts little attention.

Orginal here