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Former Ellen DeGeneres Show Producer Recalls “Culture of Fear” at Talk Show

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A former Ellen DeGeneres Show producer is speaking out and sharing her experience working on the daytime series.

In a new piece for The Wrap, Hedda Muskat recalled behind hired in 2003 when the show was still in development.

But within a year and a half of joining, Muskat says she was sidelined in favor of a younger male producer. According to Muskat, she slowly received less responsibility like writing her own segments and appearing on set to greet and prepare the guests she had booked.

“One day I get called into the office,” Muskat recalled. “[Producer] Ed [Glavin] says to me, ‘You know, Hedda, we’re really loving your segments. I don’t know how you do it. We’re going to need all your sources.’ I’ve worked 18 years to build those sources. Those sources are why you hired me.”

After she refused, Muskat said, “I felt a turn, that I was really on everybody’s s–t list.”

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The Ellen DeGeneres Show Producers Accused of Sexual Misconduct by Former Employees

Another incident Muskat remembers is a staff meeting where new employees were introduced. According to Muskat, Glavin openly screamed at a crew member in front of the entire room.

Randy Holmes/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

“He just went off on them,” she alleged. “His whole face turned red…We were stunned. You could just see everybody’s faces go stiff. We’re professionals; we’re adults. We don’t need a dog to get us to do our jobs.”

Muskat would later describe her days working on the show as a “culture of fear.” She was eventually let go in May 2004 just days before The Ellen DeGeneres Show won Outstanding Talk Show at the Daytime Emmy Awards.

E! News has reached out to Glavin for comment regarding Muskat’s claims and has not heard back.

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Just last month, Glavin along with executive producers Mary Connelly and Andy Lassner responded to claims made by former employees who spoke to BuzzFeed News anonymous about a “toxic work environment.”

“We are truly heartbroken and sorry to learn that even one person in our production family has had a negative experience. It’s not who we are and not who we strive to be, and not the mission Ellen has set for us. For the record, the day to day responsibility of the Ellen Show is completely on us,” the statement read in part. “We take all of this very seriously and we realize, as many in the world are learning, that we need to do better, are committed to do better, and we will do better.”

Two former employees, who spoke to E! News anonymously, offered differing perspectives of the work environment.

According to one source, “I did not see anything out of the norm. There were definitely inappropriate things said. I wasn’t ever offended. I never felt any malice. I don’t really have anything dramatic or outstanding in my time there.”

Another insider, however, provided a different perspective. “Behind the scenes, hours are long, employees are stressed and there’s nobody in power to go to for support…People are coming forward in hopes current employees are treated better.”

Michael Rozman/Warner Bros.

Last week, Ellen DeGeneres also wrote a letter to her staff promising changes were coming after Warner Bros. began conducting an internal investigation of workplace misconduct.

“On day one of our show, I told everyone in our first meeting that The Ellen DeGeneres Show would be a place of happiness–no one would ever raise their voice, and everyone would be treated with respect. Obviously, something changed, and I am disappointed to learn that this has not been the case,” Ellen wrote in part. “For that, I am sorry. Anyone who knows me knows it’s the opposite of what I believe and what I hoped for our show.”

“As we’ve grown exponentially, I’ve not been able to stay on top of everything and relied on others to do their jobs as they knew I’d want them done. Clearly some didn’t,” Ellen continued. “That will now change and I’m committed to ensuring this does not happen again.”

In a previous statement to E! News, Warner Bros. affirmed their commitment to addressing the accusations of workplace misconduct, which were being determined through interviews conducted with current and former staff members.

“It was important to both Warner Bros. and Ellen that as many people as possible attached to the program could be heard. The Ellen DeGeneres Show is, and has always strived to be, a place that brings positivity to the world,” the statement read in part. “And though not all of the allegations were corroborated, we are disappointed that the primary findings of the investigation indicated some deficiencies related to the show’s day-to-day management. We have identified several staffing changes, along with appropriate measures to address the issues that have been raised, and are taking the first steps to implement them.”

They concluded, “We are confident this course of action will lead us to the right way forward for the show.”

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Netflix is developing a live action ‘Assassin’s Creed’ show

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Netflix announced this morning that it’s partnering with Ubisoft to adapt the game publisher’s “Assassin’s Creed” franchise into a live action series.

The franchise jumps around in history, telling the story of a secret society of assassins with “genetic memory” and their centuries-long battle the knights templar. It has sold 155 million games worldwide and was also turned into a nearly incomprehensible 2016 film starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, which underperformed at the box office.

The companies say that they’re currently looking for a showrunner. Jason Altman and Danielle Kreinik of Ubisoft’s film and television division will serve as executive producers. (In addition to working on adaptations of Ubisoft’s intellectual property, the publisher is also involved in the Apple TV+ industry comedy “Mythic Quest.”)

“We’re excited to partner with Ubisoft and bring to life the rich, multilayered storytelling that Assassin’s Creed is beloved for,” said Netflix’s vice president of original series Peter Friedlander in a statement. “From its breathtaking historical worlds and massive global appeal as one of the best selling video game franchises of all time, we are committed to carefully crafting epic and thrilling entertainment based on this distinct IP and provide a deeper dive for fans and our members around the world to enjoy.”

It sounds like there could be follow-up shows as well, with the announcement saying that Netflix and Ubisoft will “tap into the iconic video game’s trove of dynamic stories with global mass appeal for adaptations of live action, animated, and anime series.”

Netflix recently placed an eight-episode order for “Resident Evil,” another video game franchise that was previously adapted for the big screen. And it also had a big hit with its adaptation of “The Witcher,” which is based on a fantasy book series that was popularized via video games.

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Original Content podcast: ‘Lovecraft Country’ is gloriously bonkers

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As we tried to recap the first season of HBO’s “Lovecraft Country,” one thing became clear: The show is pretty nuts.

The story begins by sending Atticus “Tic” Freeman (Jonathan Majors), his friend Leti Lewis (Jurnee Smolett) and his uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) on a road trip across mid-’50s America in search of Tic’s missing father. You might assume that the search will occupy the entire season, or take even longer than that; instead, the initial storyline is wrapped up quickly.

And while there’s a story running through the whole season, most of the episodes are relatively self-contained, offering their own versions on various horror and science fiction tropes. There’s a haunted house episode, an Indiana Jones episode, a time travel episode and more.

The show isn’t perfect — the writing can be clunky, the special effects cheesy and cheap-looking. But at its best, it does an impressive job of mixing increasingly outlandish plots, creepy monsters (with plentiful gore) and a healthy dose of politics.

After all, “Lovecraft Country” (adapted form a book by Matt Ruff) is named after notoriously racist horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, but it focuses almost entirely on Black characters, making the case that old genres can be reinvigorated with diverse casts and a rethinking of political assumptions.

In addition to reviewing the show, the latest episode of the Original Content podcast also includes a discussion of Netflix earnings, the new season of “The Bachelorette” and the end of Quibi.

You can listen in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also follow us on Twitter or send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

And if you’d like to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:
0:00 Intro
0:36 Netflix discussion
3:18 “The Bachelorette”
6:30 Quibi
14:35 “Lovecraft Country” review
31:32 “Lovecraft Country” spoiler discussion

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The short, strange life of Quibi

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“All that is left now is to offer a profound apology for disappointing you and, ultimately, for letting you down,” Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman wrote, closing out an open letter posted to Medium. “We cannot thank you enough for being there with us, and for us, every step of the way.”

With that, the founding executives confirmed the rumors and put Quibi to bed, a little more than six months after launching the service.

Starting a business is an impossibly difficult task under nearly any conditions, but even in a world that’s littered with high-profile failures, the streaming service’s swan song was remarkable for both its dramatically brief lifespan and the amount of money the company managed to raise (and spend) during that time.

A month ahead of its commercial launch, Quibi announced that it had raised another $750 million. That second round of funding brought the yet-to-launch streaming service’s funding up to $1.75 billion — roughly the same as the gross domestic product of Belize, give or take $100 million.

“We concluded a very successful second raise which will provide Quibi with a strong cash runway,” CFO Ambereen Toubassy told the press at the time. “This round of $750 million gives us tremendous flexibility and the financial wherewithal to build content and technology that consumers embrace.”

Quibi’s second funding round brought the yet-to-launch streaming service’s funding up to $1.75 billion — roughly the same as the gross domestic product of Belize, give or take $100 million.

From a financial perspective, Quibi had reason to be hopeful. Its fundraising ambitions were matched only by the aggressiveness with which it planned to spend that money. At the beginning of the year, Whitman touted the company’s plans to spend up to $100,000 per minute of programming — $6 million per hour. The executive proudly contrasted the jaw-dropping sum to the estimated $500 to $5,000 an hour spent by YouTube creators.

For Whitman and Katzenberg — best known for their respective reigns at HP and Disney — money was key to success in an already crowded marketplace. $1 billion was a drop in the bucket compared to the $17.3 billion Netflix was expected to spend on original content in 2020, but it was a start.

Following in the footsteps of Apple, who had also recently announced plans to spend $1 billion to launch its own fledgling streaming service, the company was enlisting A-List talent, from Steven Spielberg, Guillermo del Toro and Ridley Scott to Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Lopez and LeBron James. If your name carried any sort of clout in Hollywood boardrooms, Quibi would happily cut you a check, seemingly regardless of content specifics.

Quibi’s strategy primarily defined itself by itself by its constraints. In hopes of attracting younger millennial and Gen Z, the company’s content would be not just mobile-first, but mobile-only. There would be no smart TV app, no Chromecast or AirPlay compatibility. Pricing, while low compared to the competition, was similarly off-putting. After a 90-day free trial, $4.99 got you an ad-supported subscription. And boy howdy, were there ads. Ads upon ads. Ads all the way down. Paying another $3 a month would make them go away.

Technological constraints and Terms of Service fine print forbade screen shots — a fundamental understanding of how content goes viral in 2020 (though, to be fair, one shared with other competing streaming services). Amusingly, the inability to share content led to videos like this one of director Sam Raimi’s perplexingly earnest “The Golden Arm.”

It features a built-on laugh track from viewers as Emmy winner Rachel Brosnahan lies in a hospital bed after refusing to remove a golden prosthetic. It’s an allegory, surely, but not one intentionally played for laughs. Many of the videos that did ultimately make the rounds on social media were regarded as a curiosity — strange artifacts from a nascent streaming service that made little sense on paper.

Most notable of all, however, were the “quick bites” that gave the service its confusingly pronounced name. Each program would be served in 5-10 minute chunks. The list included films acquired by the service, sliced up into “chapters.” Notably, the service didn’t actually purchase the content outright; instead, rights were set to revert to their creators after seven years. Meanwhile, after two years, content partners were able to “reassemble” the chunks back into a movie for distribution.

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