Surprise in Store for Ellen's Design Challenge


Written by: BusinessWire Staff

The finale of Ellen’s Design Challenge, scheduled to air on HGTV,Monday, March 2, at 9 p.m. ET/PT,promises a surprise from television icon Ellen DeGeneres that viewers will have to see to believe. The stakes in the popular furniture design series are high as the last two competitors -- Tim McClellan of Durango, Colo. and Katie Stout of Brooklyn, N.Y. -- go head-to-head to win a $100,000 cash prize courtesy of and a feature in HGTV Magazine. However, neither finalist could ever imagine what’s to come in the last minutes of the competition.

“This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for and it includes some curveballs that will make the final episode unforgettable.”

“The pieces I’ve seen from the designers have been insanely creative, so of course the finale will be very exciting,” said Ellen. “This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for and it includes some curveballs that will make the final episode unforgettable.”

The six-episode series, Ellen’s first on cable television, features six competitors as they tackle ingenious challenges to sketch, design and build extraordinary furniture. Produced by Ellen’s production company, A Very Good Production, and A. Smith & Co. in association with Telepictures, Ellen’s Design Challenge requires contestants to create inventive furniture designs to avoid elimination. Television personality Jay Montepare serves as the series’ host, while Amanda Dameron, editor-in-chief of Dwell, and Christiane Lemieux, executive creative director of, participate as judges in the competition.

Executive producers for Ellen’s Design Challenge include Ellen, who first conceptualized the series, along with Jeff Kleeman of A Very Good Production, and Arthur Smith, Kent Weed and Tim Eagan of A. Smith & Co.

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Building "Ellen's Design Challenge"


Written by Kevin Ritchie

As talk about over-saturation pervades unscripted television circles, producers of reality competition formats have managed to discover an unexploited new niche: furniture design.

Airing on HGTV on Monday nights at 9 p.m., Ellen’s Design Challenge (six x one-hour, pictured) features comedian Ellen DeGeneres and tasks six contestants to sketch, design and build creative furniture pieces in a 48-hour time period.

Each week, one contestant is voted off by a judging panel of industry experts and the winner receives US$100,000 cash and a feature in HGTV Magazine.

The series is one of two reality competitions about furniture design that began airing in the U.S. this year. The other is Framework, which was hosted by the rapper Common and premiered on NBCUniversal-owned channel Spike on January 6.

Ellen’s Design Challenge does not attempt to reinvent the reality competition format. Instead, producers are hoping viewers will be drawn to a competition inspired by its namesake celebrity’s fun-loving brand values. So far, the strategy is working.

“Our viewers are watching the show not just because they want to watch the drama that it takes to win,” explains the Scripps Interactive-owned net’s president, Kathleen Finch. “Our viewers really care about the finished product.”

The idea for the series came from DeGeneres, best known as host of the ABC daytime talk show The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Producers from her shingle, A Very Good Production, reached out to Finch, who flew to Los Angeles to take a pitch meeting in DeGeneres’ office.

The concept came from the star’s hobby of buying, renovating, furnishing and flipping homes but in particular her interest in furniture, which has been documented in the tabloid press via photos of DeGeneres and wife Portia de Rossi out on shopping excursions.

Before the conversation began, Finch was already impressed by DeGeneres’ “beautifully designed” work space and dressing room.

“When she pitched me the idea, within two seconds all I could think of was when could we start shooting it,” says Finch. “Clearly she knew what she was talking about. She started rattling off names of judges that she wanted and which design schools we should pull contestants from.”

Moreover, HGTV’s in-house audience research highlighted crossover between the network’s audience of upscale, home-owning women and fans of DeGeneres’ daytime audience on ABC. The network has also partnered with The Ellen DeGeneres Show in the past.

In 2012, the comedian teamed up with HGTV personalities Anthony Carrino and John Colaneri of Kitchen Cousins to rebuild a home for a New Jersey couple whose home was destroyed in Hurricane Sandy. “That altruistic spirit and that sense of fun are two things that resonate with her audience and with our audience,” says Finch.

Indeed, the show has a focus on rewarding and celebrating the contestants’ skills. DeGeneres’ penchant for pulling pranks on (and with) celebrities is more bluntly felt in the show’s challenges. In the premiere episode, she appears via pre-recorded video to present the contestants with giant gift boxes, which turn out to be empty. Instead, the designers must use the materials that make up the boxes to create original pieces.

Since DeGeneres is not a regular presence on the show, her enthusiasm has to come across when she is absent. She appears in a few episodes via video and was on set for episode three and the finale. The show’s host, Jay Montepare, frequently points out that DeGeneres “hand-picked” the contestants and judges.

Producers insist her involvement in the casting and development process ensured that her values were felt on the air despite her physical absence from the set. “Her whole mantra is love what you’re doing, be good at what you’re doing and it will resonate with the audience,” says Finch.

“These are really complicated shows to do,” she adds. “Every project must look fabulous but the contestants also have to do them under really stressful, unnatural circumstances. In the real world, an artist is not given 48 hours to make a masterpiece but yet that’s what we do on this show and the end result has to be A-plus.”

To add the reality razzle dazzle and work out the logistics, A. Smith & Co. Productions (Hell’s Kitchen) partnered with DeGeneres and Jeff Kleeman of A Very Good Productions and Warner Bros. Television’s syndication arm Telepictures (which also produces The Ellen DeGeneres Show) to develop and produce the series.

Casting designers who could create beautiful furniture under stress was the most important step. The designers not only had to be of a certain standard but likeable and compelling as people and those traits also had to reflect in their approach to design.

The contestants include Brooklyn designer Katie Stout, cowboy hat-wearing self-taught designer Tim McClellan, North Carolina-based blacksmith Carley Eisenberg and Los Angeles interior designer Leslie Shapiro Joyal.

“We wanted to represent different types of designers. As the show goes on you are able to tell whose piece is whose because you are seeing their styles developing,” says Arthur Smith, founder of A. Smith & Co. “Especially today, viewers want competitions that are legitimate and fair. You have to really feel the person who is winning is worthy.”

“There were two strands that went into the development of the show,” he continues. “The logistics side and then there was the showmanship.”

In terms of showmanship, producers came up with a lazy Susan-type turntable that spins around to reveal the contestant’s final design. Additionally, the criteria for the carpenters that each designer is paired with were less rigorous than the designers: they had to be not only skilled, but good-looking enough to provide viewers with some eye candy.

Pre-production involved consulting with furniture designers, collectors and experts on the kinds of challenges that would best showcase a designer’s chops. They recruited judges Amanda Dameron, editor-in-chief of Dwell magazine; Christiane Lemieux, executive creative director at e-commerce site; and weekly guest judges to size up contestants’ creations based on use of the materials, practicality and the designer’s personal style.

As is needed with any competition format, there are a couple twists.

Since the judges give comments upon seeing the finished pieces, DeGeneres suggested cutting their private deliberations from the TV broadcast and posting that segment online as a deeper dive into the process for the online audience.

The finale also caused Finch a sleepless night. “A big surprise happened at the finale that had us all scrambling,” she said. “It’s not the kind of thing you wish will happen but nothing like it has happened on any competition show on HGTV so I am excited about that.”

The January 26 premiere attracted 3.9 million total viewers and garnered a .72 rating among viewers in the 25-54 demo. More than 7.9 million viewers have tuned in since the show began airing, according to the network. The show is also simultaneously airing on HGTV in Canada.

Finch says social engagement is “phenomenal” thanks in large part to DeGeneres’ online reach, which includes 40 million Twitter followers.

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Arthur Smith joins Real Screen West 2015 Advisory Board


By RealScreen Staff

In response to delegate feedback looking for more meeting and networking time, organizers have expanded the Realscreen West program to three days, June 1-3 in Santa Monica.

This marks the seventh year for the West Coast’s most important unscripted entertainment conference and market, which has sold out the last several years. For the first time, this year’s host venue, the Fairmont Miramar, has been secured exclusively for registered delegates.

With venue exclusivity, organizers say they expect to host over 1200 buyers, creators and distributors of unscripted programming. The event, presented by Realscreen, also hosts the annual Realscreen Awards ceremony (pictured), celebrating the best in global non-fiction and unscripted entertainment.

This year’s advisory board is co-chaired by Orly Anderson, president, ITV Studios America and Rob Sharenow, EVP & general manager, Lifetime. Board Members are Cris Abrego, Co-CEO and chairman, Endemol Shine North America; Jenny Daly, president, T Group Productions; Susanne Daniels, president of programming, MTV; David Eilenberg, SVP, unscripted development, TBS and TNT; Deirdre Gurney, co-founder and executive producer, Gurney Productions; Lance Klein, partner and co-head, non-scripted television department, WME; Bonnie Pan, EVP of programming, Maker Studios; Rich Ross, president, Discovery Channel; Arthur Smith, co-founder and CEO, A. Smith & Co. Productions and Bertram van Munster, executive producer, Profiles Television Productions.

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Hollywood Reporter

by Arlene Washington

NAACP Image Awards: The Winners

Selma took home top film honors, while ABC's Black-ish and How to Get Away With Murder won top television awards at The 46th annual NAACP Image Awards.

"We did this movie because we wanted to tell their story — our story," Selma producer Oprah Winfrey said accepting the honor for her film. She also presented the Entertainer of the Year award to No Good Deed's Taraji P. Henson.

From one music mogul to another, Russell Simmons presented Clive Davis with the Vanguard Award for his contributions to the music industry. Simmons told press backstage that Davis’ strong love for melody is blind to race, which has helped him to break barriers in music.

“His heart is so beautiful and I think that’s what it takes to understand melody the way he does,” said Simmons. “To cross genres, it doesn’t matter what culture. It didn’t matter to Clive because he was a melody man. Giving him the award meant a lot to me personally.”

Simmons also admitted he’s addicted to Fox's Empire which follows the ups and downs of music magnate Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) and his family. He applauded the increase of lead roles for African Americans on television, but said that when powerful groups in Hollywood such as the Academy are not diverse, they may not understand the need to improve diversity.

“The Academy shouldn’t be 95 percent white,” said Simmons. “There should be a shift in the infrastructure this time around as the shows are hot. I think Jerry Springer is probably a lot more integrated than Hollywood.”

Filmmaker Spike Lee gave a well-received speech upon receiving the Chairman’s Award from NAACP President Cornell William Brooks. He told press that the recent Oscar snubs show that up and coming filmmakers should not always look for validation.

“It gets dangerous when you start allowing people to validate your work,” said Lee. “It becomes dangerous when the outcome becomes not the art but to win a Grammy, Oscar or a Tony whatever it is and you pick the prize ahead of the art. That’s when artists get in trouble. Sometimes you get snubbed by other people so it’s always great to be recognized and validated by us.”


Host Anthony Anderson was grateful to finally receive an Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series and Outstanding Comedy Series for his role on ABC’s Black-ish. After long joking about how his nominations never turned into wins, Anderson admitted there was no better way for him to earn his awards than with his Black-ish cast.

“I almost feel vindicated,” joked Anderson. “It took me 10 nominations over the course of 20 years. I’m happy and humbled by this, but I’m most excited and happy at the fact that we won this as a family.”

The Image Awards aired live on TV One. The NAACP Image Awards honors the accomplishments of people of color in TV, music, literature and film as well as those who promote social justice through creative endeavors. Winners will be voted upon by NAACP members.

A full list of the winners and nominees follows.

Outstanding News/ Information (Series or Special)

“Unsung” (TV One) (Winner)

“America After Ferguson” (PBS)

“Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.” (PBS)

“Melissa Harris Perry” (MSNBC)

“Oprah’s Lifeclass” (OWN)


Outstanding Comedy Series

“Black-ish” (ABC) (Winner)

“Orange is the New Black” (Netflix)

“House of Lies” (Showtime)

“Key & Peele” (Comedy Central)

“Real Husbands of Hollywood” (BET)


Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series

Anthony Anderson – “‘black-ish” (ABC) (Winner)

Andre Braugher – “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (FOX)

Don Cheadle – “House of Lies” (Showtime)

Keegan-Michael Key – “Key & Peele” (Comedy Central)

Kevin Hart – “Real Husbands of Hollywood” (BET)


Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series

Tracee Ellis Ross – “black-ish” (ABC) (Winner)

Mindy Kaling – “The Mindy Project” (FOX)

Niecy Nash – “The Soul Man” (TV Land)

Uzo Aduba – “Orange is the New Black” (Netflix)

Wendy Raquel Robinson – “The Game” (BET)


Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

Laurence Fishburne – “black-ish” (ABC) (Winner)

Boris Kodjoe – “Real Husbands of Hollywood” (BET)

Glynn Turman – “House of Lies” (Showtime)

Marcus Scribner – “black-ish” (ABC)

Terry Crews – “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (FOX)


Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

Yara Shahidi – “black-ish” (ABC) (Winner)

Adrienne C. Moore – “Orange is the New Black” (Netflix)

Laverne Cox – “Orange is the New Black” (Netflix)

Lorraine Toussaint – “Orange is the New Black” (Netflix)

Sofia Vergara – “Modern Family” (ABC)


Outstanding Drama Series

“How to Get Away with Murder” (ABC) (Winner)

“Being Mary Jane” (BET)

“Grey’s Anatomy” (ABC)

“House of Cards” (Netflix)

“Scandal” (ABC)


Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series

Shemar Moore – “Criminal Minds” (CBS) (Winner)

LL Cool J – “NCIS: LA” (CBS)

Omar Epps – “Resurrection” (ABC)

Omari Hardwick – “Being Mary Jane” (BET)

Taye Diggs – “Murder in the First” (TNT)


Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series

Viola Davis – “How to Get Away with Murder” (ABC) (Winner)

Gabrielle Union – “Being Mary Jane” (BET)

Kerry Washington – “Scandal” (ABC)

Nicole Beharie – “Sleepy Hollow” (FOX)

Octavia Spencer – “Red Band Society” (FOX)


Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Joe Morton – “Scandal” (ABC) (Winner)

Alfred Enoch – “How to Get Away with Murder” (ABC)

Courtney B. Vance – “Masters of Sex” (Showtime)

Guillermo Diaz  – “Scandal” (ABC)

Jeffrey Wright – “Boardwalk Empire” (HBO)


Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Khandi Alexander – “Scandal” (ABC) (Winner)

Aja Naomi King – “How to Get Away with Murder” (ABC)

Alfre Woodard – “State of Affairs” (NBC)

Chandra Wilson – “Grey’s Anatomy” (ABC)

Jada Pinkett Smith – “Gotham” (FOX)


Outstanding Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special

“The Trip to Bountiful” (Lifetime Networks) (Winner)

“A Day Late and a Dollar Short” (Lifetime Networks)

“American Horror Story: Freak Show” (FX)

“Drumline: A New Beat” (VH1)

“The Gabby Douglas Story” (Lifetime Networks)


Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special

Blair Underwood – “The Trip to Bountiful” (Lifetime Networks) (Winner)

Charles S. Dutton – “Comeback Dad” (UP Entertainment)

Larenz Tate – “Gun Hill” (BET)

Mekhi Phifer – “A Day Late and a Dollar Short” (Lifetime Networks)

Ving Rhames – “A Day Late and a Dollar Short” (Lifetime Networks)


Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special

Cicely Tyson – “The Trip to Bountiful” (Lifetime Networks) (Winner)

Angela Bassett – “American Horror Story: Freak Show” (FX)

Keke Palmer – “The Trip to Bountiful” (Lifetime Networks)

Regina King – “The Gabby Douglas Story” (Lifetime Networks)

Vanessa Williams – “The Trip to Bountiful” (Lifetime Networks)


Outstanding Talk Series

“Steve Harvey” (Syndicated) (Winner)

“Oprah Prime” (OWN)

“The Queen Latifah Show” (Syndicated)

“The View” (ABC)

“The Wendy Williams Show” (Syndicated)


Outstanding Reality Series

“Iyanla: Fix My Life” (OWN) (Winner)

“Shark Tank” (ABC)

“Dancing with the Stars” (ABC)

“The Voice” (NBC)

“Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s” (OWN)


Outstanding Variety (Series or Special)

“Oprah’s Master Class” (OWN) (Winner)

“BET Awards” (BET)

“Family Feud” (Syndicated)

“On the Run: Beyoncé and Jay Z” (HBO)

“UNCF An Evening of Stars” (NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, The CW, BET, Centric)


Outstanding Children’s Program

“Doc McStuffins” (Disney Junior) (Winner)

“Anna Deavere Smith: A Youngarts Masterclass” (HBO)

“HALO Awards” (Nickelodeon)

“Dora and Friends: Into The City!” (Nickelodeon)

“Kid President: Declaration of Awesome” (HUB)


Outstanding Performance by a Youth in a Youth/Children’s Program (Series or Special)

Fatima Ptacek – “Dora and Friends: Into The City!” (Nickelodeon) (Winner)

Amber Montana – “Haunted Hathaways” (Nickelodeon)

China Anne McClain – “How to Build a Better Boy” (Disney Channel)

Curtis Harris – “Haunted Hathaways” (Nickelodeon)

Taliyah Whitaker – “Wallykazam!” (Nickelodeon)


Outstanding Host in a Talk, Reality, News/ Information or Variety

Steve Harvey – “Steve Harvey” (Syndicated) (Winner)

Queen Latifah – “The Queen Latifah Show” (Syndicated)

Chris Rock – “BET Awards” (BET)

Gwen Ifill – “America After Ferguson” (PBS)

Melissa Harris Perry – “Melissa Harris Perry” (MSNBC)


Outstanding New Artist

3 Winans Brothers (BMG) (Winner)

Aloe Blacc (XIX Recordings/Interscope Records)

Erica Campbell (My Block Inc./eOne Music)

Jhene Aiko (Def Jam Recordings)

Liv Warfield (Kobalt Label Services)


Outstanding Male Artist

Pharrell Williams (Columbia Records) (Winner)

John Legend (Columbia Records)

Kem (Motown – Capitol)

Kendrick Lamar (Interscope Records)

Michael Jackson (Epic Records)


Outstanding Female Artist

Beyoncé (Columbia Records) (Winner)

Alicia Keys (RCA Records)

Jennifer Hudson (RCA Records)

Ledisi (Verve Records)

Mary J Blige (Capitol)


Outstanding Duo, Group or Collaboration

“Stay with Me” – Sam Smith feat. Mary J Blige (Capitol) (Winner)

“Being With You” – Smokey Robinson feat. Mary J Blige (Verve)

“Brand New” – Pharrell Williams feat. Justin Timberlake (Columbia Records)

“Gust of Wind” – Pharrell Williams feat. Daft Punk (Columbia Records)

“Love, Marriage & Divorce” – Toni Braxton & Babyface (Def Jam Recordings)


Outstanding Jazz Album

“My Old Friend: Celebrating George Duke” – Al Jarreau (Concord) (Winner)

“Dave Koz and Friends: The 25th of December” – Dave Koz (Concord Records)

“Beautiful Life” – Dianne Reeves (Concord)

“Living My Dream” – Jonathan Butler (Rendezvous Music)

“Up” – Stanley Clarke (Mack Avenue Records)


Outstanding Gospel Album (Traditional or Contemporary)

“Where My Heart Belongs” – Gladys Knight (Shadow Mountain Records) (Winner)

“Duets” – Donnie McClurkin (RCA Inspiration)

“Help” – Erica Campbell (My Block Inc./eOne Music)

“I Will Trust” – Fred Hammond (RCA Inspiration)

“Journey To Freedom” – Michelle Williams (eOne Music)


Outstanding Music Video

“You & I (Nobody in the World)” – John Legend (Columbia Records) (Winner)

“Pretty Hurts” – Beyoncé (Columbia Records)

“It’s You” – KEM  (Motown – Capitol)

“i” – Kendrick Lamar (TDE/Interscope)

“Love Never Felt So Good” – Michael Jackson feat. Justin Timberlake (Epic Records)


Outstanding Song

“We Are Here” – Alicia Keys (RCA Records) (Winner)

“The Man” – Aloe Blacc (Interscope Records)

“Pretty Hurts” – Beyoncé (Columbia Records)

“i” – Kendrick Lamar (TDE/Interscope)

“Good Kisser” – Usher (RCA Records)


Outstanding Album

“Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics” – Aretha Franklin (RCA Records) (Winner)

“Beyoncé Platinum Edition” – Beyoncé (Columbia Records)

“JHUD” – Jennifer Hudson (RCA Records)

“G I R L” – Pharrell Williams (Columbia Records)

“Love, Marriage & Divorce” – Toni Braxton & Babyface (Def Jam Recordings)


Outstanding Literary Work – Fiction

“A Wanted Woman” – Eric Jerome Dickey (Penguin Random House) (Winner)

“An Untamed State” – Roxane Gay (Grove/Atlantic – Black Cat)

“Another Woman’s Man” – Shelly Ellis (Kensington Publishing Corp.)

“Momma: Gone” – Nina Foxx (Brown Girls Publishing)

“The Prodigal Son” – Kimberla Lawson Roby (Grand Central Publishing/Hachette Book Group)


Outstanding Literary Work – Non-Fiction

“Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” – Bryan Stevenson (Spiegel & Grau) (Winner)

“Bad Feminist” – Roxane Gay (Harper Perennial/HarperCollins)

“Place not Race: A New Vision of Opportunity in America” – Sheryll Cashin (Beacon Press)

“The Bill of the Century: The Epic Battle for the Civil Rights Act” – Clay Risen (Bloomsbury Press)

“Who We Be: The Colorization of America” – Jeff Chang (St. Martin’s Press)

Outstanding Literary Work – Debut Author

“Forty Acres” – Dwayne Alexander Smith (Atria Books) (Winner)

“Queen Sugar” – Natalie Baszile (Pamela Dorman Books/Penguin Random House)

“Remedy For A Broken Angel” – Toni Ann Johnson (Nortia Press)

“The 16th Minute of Fame: An Insider’s Guide for Maintaining Success Beyond 15 Minutes of Fame” – Darrell Miller (Dunham Books)

“Time of the Locust” – Morowa Yejide (Atria Books)


Outstanding Literary Work – Biography/ Auto Biography

“Breaking Ground: My Life in Medicine” – Louis Sullivan with David Chanoff (University of Georgia Press) (Winner)

“Handbook for an Unpredictable Life: How I Survived Sister Renata and My Crazy Mother, and Still Came Out Smiling (with Great Hair)” – Rosie Perez (Crown Archetype)

“Life In Motion” – Misty Copeland (Touchstone)

“Mayor for Life” – Marion Barry, Omar Tyree (Strebor Books)

“Stand Up Straight and Sing!” – Jessye Norman (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)


Outstanding Literary Work – Instructional

“Promises Kept: Raising Black Boys to Succeed in School and in Life” – Joe Brewster, Michele Stephenson, Hilary Beard (Spiegel & Grau) (Winner)

“101 Scholarship Applications: What It Takes to Obtain a Debt-Free College Education” – Gwen Richardson (Cushcity Communications)

“10-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse” – JJ Smith (Atria Books/Simon & Schuster)

“Afro-Vegan: Farm-Fresh African, Caribbean, and Southern Flavors Remixed” – Bryant Terry (Ten Speed Press)

“Justice While Black: Helping African-American Families Navigate and Survive the Criminal Justice System” – Robbin Shipp, Nick Chiles (Agate Bolden)

Outstanding Literary Work – Poetry

“Citizen: An American Lyric” – Claudia Rankine (Graywolf Press) (Winner)

“Digest” – Gregory Pardlo (Four Way Books)

“The New Testament” – Jericho Brown (Copper Canyon Press)

“The Poetry of Derek Walcott 1948-2013″ – Derek Walcott, Selected by Glyn Maxwell (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

“We Didn’t Know Any Gangsters” – Brian Gilmore (Cherry Castle Publishing, LLC)


Outstanding Literary Work – Children

“Dork Diaries 8: Tales From A Note-So-Happily Ever After” – Rachel Renee Russell with Nikki Russell and Erin Russell (Simon & Schuster) (Winner)

“Beautiful Moon” – Tonya Bolden (Author), Eric Velasquez (Illustrator) (Abrams/Abrams Books for Young Readers)

“Little Melba and Her Big Trombone” – Katheryn Russell-Brown (Author), Frank Morrison (Illustrator) (Lee & Low Books)

“Malcolm Little” – Ilyasah Shabazz (Author), AG Ford (Illustrator) (Simon & Schuster)

“Searching for Sarah Rector” – Tonya Bolden (Abrams/Abrams Books for Young Readers)


Outstanding Literary Work – Youth/Teens

“Brown Girl Dreaming” – Jacqueline Woodson (Nancy Paulsen Books) (Winner)

“Because They Marched: The People’s Campaign for Voting Rights That Changed America” – Russell Freedman (Holiday House)

“Revolution” – Deborah Wiles (Scholastic Press)

“The Freedom Summer Murders” – Don Mitchell (Scholastic Press)


Outstanding Motion Picture

“Selma” (Paramount Pictures) (Winner)

“Belle” (Fox Searchlight Pictures/ DJ Films)

“Beyond The Lights” (Relativity Media)

“Dear White People” (Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions)

“Get On Up” (Universal Pictures)


Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture

David Oyelowo – “Selma” (Paramount Pictures) (Winner)

Chadwick Boseman – “Get On Up” (Universal Pictures)

Denzel Washington – “The Equalizer” (Columbia Pictures)

Idris Elba – “No Good Deed” (Screen Gems)

Nate Parker – “Beyond The Lights” (Relativity Media)


Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture

Taraji P. Henson – “No Good Deed” (Screen Gems) (Winner)

Gugu Mbatha-Raw – “Belle” (Fox Searchlight Pictures/ DJ Films)

Quvenzhané Wallis – “Annie” (Columbia Pictures)

Tessa Thompson – “Dear White People” (Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions)

Viola Davis – “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby” (The Weinstein Company)


Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture

Common – “Selma” (Paramount Pictures) (Winner)

André Holland – “Selma” (Paramount Pictures)

Cedric the Entertainer – “Top Five” (Paramount Pictures)

Danny Glover – “Beyond The Lights” (Relativity Media)

Wendell Pierce – “Selma” (Paramount Pictures)


Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture

Carmen Ejogo – “Selma” (Paramount Pictures) (Winner)

Jill Scott – “Get On Up” (Universal Pictures)

Octavia Spencer – “Get On Up” (Universal Pictures)

Oprah Winfrey – “Selma” (Paramount Pictures)

Viola Davis – “Get On Up” (Universal Pictures)


Outstanding Independent Motion Picture

“Belle” (Fox Searchlight Pictures/ DJ Films) (Winner)

“Dear White People” (Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions)

“Half of a Yellow Sun” (monterey media inc.)

“Life of a King” (Animus Films/Serena Films)

“JIMI: All Is By My Side” (XLrator Media)


Outstanding Documentary (Theatrical)

“Documented” (Apo Anak Productions)

“Finding Fela” (Jigsaw Productions)

“I Am Ali” (Focus World/Fisheye Films)

“Keep On Keepin On” (RADiUS)

“Through A Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People” (Chimpanzee Productions, Inc.) (Winner)


Outstanding Documentary (Television)

“Bad Boys” (ESPN) (Winner)

“American Experience: Freedom Summer” (PBS)

“Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown” (HBO)

“Rand University” (ESPN)

“The War Comes Home: Soledad O’Brien Reports” (CNN)


Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series

Sara Hess – “Orange is the New Black” – It Was the Change (Netflix) (Winner)

Brigette Munoz-Liebowitz – “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” – Road Trip (FOX)

Aisha Muharrar – “Parks and Recreation” – Ann & Chris (NBC)

Regina Hicks – “Instant Mom” – A Kids’s Choice (Nickelodeon and Nick@Nite)

Mindy Kaling – “The Mindy Project” – Danny and Mindy (FOX) 


Outstanding Writing in a Dramatic Series

Erika Green Swafford – “How to Get Away with Murder” – Let’s Get To Scooping (ABC) (Winner)

Zahir McGhee – “Scandal” – Mama Said Knock You Out (ABC)

Mara Brock Akil – “Being Mary Jane” – Uber Love (BET)

Warren Leight, Julie Martin – “Law & Order: SVU” – American Disgrace (NBC)

Zoanne Clack – “Grey’s Anatomy” – You Be Illin’ (ABC)


Outstanding Writing in a Motion Picture (Television)

Shernold Edwards – “A Day Late and a Dollar Short” (Lifetime Networks) (Winner)

Karin Gist, Regina Hicks – “Drumline: A New Beat” (VH1)

Reggie Bythewood – “Gun Hill” (BET)

Sterling Anderson, Maria Nation – “The Gabby Douglas Story” (Lifetime Networks)

Sharon Brathwaite, Peres Owino – “Seasons of Love” (Lifetime Networks)


Outstanding Writing in a Motion Picture (Theatrical)

Misan Sagay – “Belle” (Fox Searchlight Pictures/ DJ Films) (Winner)

Chris Rock – “Top Five” (Paramount Pictures)

Richard Wenk – “The Equalizer” (Columbia Pictures)

Justin Simien – “Dear White People” (Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate)

Margaret Nagle – “The Good Lie” (Alcon Entertainment)


Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series

Ken Whittingham – “Parks and Recreation” – Prom (NBC) (Winner)

Ken Whittingham – “The Mindy Project” – Think Like a Peter (FOX)

Reginald Hudlin – “Bad Judge” – Knife to a Gunfight (NBC)

Linda Mendoza – “Bad Judge” – One Brave Waitress (NBC)

Stan Lathan – “Real Husbands of Hollywood” – No New Friends (BET)


Outstanding Directing in a Dramatic Series

Carl Franklin – “House of Cards” – Chapter 14 (Netflix) (Winner)

Anton Cropper – “Suits” – One-Two-Three Go… (USA)

Cary Joji Fukunaga – “True Detective” – Who Goes There (HBO)

Hanelle Culpepper – “Criminal Minds” – The Edge of Winter (CBS)

Millicent Shelton – “The Divide” – And the Little Ones Get Caught (WE tv)


Outstanding Directing in a Motion Picture (Television)

Reggie Bythewood – “Gun Hill” (BET) (Winner)

Bille Woodruff – “Drumline: A New Beat” (VH1)

Greg Champion – “The Gabby Douglas Story” (Lifetime Networks)

Michael Wilson – “The Trip to Bountiful” (Lifetime Networks)

Stephen Tolkin – “A Day Late and a Dollar Short” (Lifetime Networks)


Outstanding Directing in a Motion Picture (Theatrical)

Antoine Fuqua – “The Equalizer” (Columbia Pictures) (Winner)

Amma Asante – “Belle” (Fox Searchlight Pictures/ DJ Films)

Ava DuVernay – “Selma” (Paramount Pictures)

John Ridley – “JIMI: All Is By My Side” (XLrator Media)

Gina Prince-Bythewood – “Beyond The Lights” (Relativity Media)


Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance

Loretta Devine – “Doc McStuffins” (Disney Junior) (Winner)

Jamie Foxx – “Rio 2″ (20th Century Fox)

Morgan Freeman – “The Lego Movie” (Warner Bros. Pictures/Village Roadshow Pictures/Ratpac-Dune Entertainment/Lego System A/S/Vertigo Entertainment/Lin Pictures)

Tracy Morgan – “The Boxtrolls” (Focus Features)

Zoe Saldana – “The Book of Life” (20th Century Fox)

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Written By Sara Bibel

NEW YORK – February 3, 2015 – Syfy’s Wizard Wars set new series records during its Thursday, January 29 return, transfixing 1.68 million total viewers along with 714K Adults 18-49 and 782K Adults 25-54 based on L+3 data. Versus its series premiere on August 19, 2014,Wizard Wars increased 36 percent in total viewers, 13 percent among viewers 18-49 and 18 percent among viewers 25-54. 

Wizard Wars, which airs Thursdays at 10PM (ET/PT), ranked as a top 10 cable program in its 10-11PM time period among Adults 18-49, Adults 25-54 and total viewers.

The magic competition series challenges bright and innovative young magicians to impress judges Penn & Teller with mind-blowing, original magic using only a random assortment of everyday objects.  Wizard Wars continues with an all-new episode this Thursday, February 5 at 10PM (ET/PT).  The episode, “Silly Rabbits,” features two pre-existing teams of contestants hailing from Las Vegas, NV – Jarrett Parker and Raja Rahman against the husband and wife duo of Kyle and Mistie Knight. They must create original magic using everyday props including luggage, a cape and a white rabbit.  Will their years of chemistry be enough to hold against the might of the Wizards?

Syfy is a media destination for imagination-based entertainment. With year round acclaimed original series, events, blockbuster movies, classic science fiction and fantasy programming, a dynamic Web site (, and a portfolio of adjacent business (Syfy Ventures), Syfyis a passport to limitless possibilities. Originally launched in 1992 as SCI FI Channel, and currently in 96 million homes, Syfy is a network of NBCUniversal, one of the world's leading media and entertainment companies. NBCUniversal is a subsidiary of Comcast Corporation.(Syfy. Imagine Greater.)


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HGTV's ELLEN'S DESIGN CHALLENGE Premieres to Nearly 4 Million Viewers


by TV News Desk

Ellen's Design Challenge was the #1 rated program on HGTV on Monday, January 26 at 9p, garnering a .72 rating among viewers P25-54 -- a 50% improvement versus the prior 13 week time period average. More than 3.9 million total viewers tuned in to the premiere of the furniture competition series. The strong performance cemented HGTV's position as a top 10 rated cable network on Monday night.

Conceptualized by television icon and entertainment pioneer Ellen DeGeneres, the six-episode series, Ellen's first on cable television, features six competitors as they tackle ingenious challenges to sketch, design and build extraordinary furniture. Produced by Ellen's production company, A Very Good Production, and A. Smith & Co. in association with Telepictures, Ellen's Design Challenge series requires that contestants create inventive furniture designs to avoid elimination. The last competitor standing receives a $100,000 cash prize courtesy of and gets to see their work featured in HGTV Magazine.

America's leading home and lifestyle brand, HGTV features a top-rated cable network that is distributed to more than 96 million U.S. households and, the premier source for home-related inspiration, instruction and entertainment, attracts more than six million people each month. The brand also includes the HGTV HOME(TM) consumer products line which showcases exclusive collections of paint, flooring, lighting, furniture, plants, fabrics and other home-oriented products. For more information on HGTV HOME branded products and to find a retailer, go to In partnership with Hearst Magazines, the HGTV Magazine, a home and lifestyle publication, is currently available on newsstands. Viewers can become fans of HGTV and interact with other home improvement enthusiasts through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. Headquartered in Knoxville, Tenn., HGTV is owned by Scripps Networks Interactive, Inc. (SNI).

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HGTV to premiere “Ellen’s Design Challenge” in January


Written by Kevin Ritchie

Ellen’s Design Challenge will begin airing on the U.S. cable network on January 26 at 9 p.m. EST/PST. The six-episode show challenges six contestants to sketch, design and build creative furniture pieces. The winner receives US$100,000 and a feature in HGTV Magazine.

The series is a coproduction between Degeneres’s A Very Good Production and A. Smith & Co., in association with Telepictures. It was inspired by the comedian and talk show host’s expertise in furniture design, and love of buying and renovating homes.

In addition to Degeneres, the cast includes host Jay Montepare and Dwell editor-in-chief Amanda Dameron, along with executive creative director Christine Lemieux, who are on the judging panel. Each contestant is paired off with an expert carpenter to help them complete their designs and has access to a “build team” and workshop.

The network will also air a six-part companion series online during the show’s run.

Exec producers on Ellen’s Design Challenge are Degeneres and Jeff Kleeman of A Very Good Production, and Arthur Smith, Kent Weed and Tim Eagan of A. Smith & Co.

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‘Hell’s Kitchen’ Thrives on Gordon Ramsay’s Passion, Skill of Production Team

Variety 2014

By Carole Horst

The longevity of “Hell’s Kitchen” can’t be summed up in a word: There’s the passion of Gordon Ramsay molding the contestants into world-class chefs, the emotion of their backstories and the drama of the challenges designed to test their skills and the dinner service, which plays out like opening night on Broadway.

But there’s another reason: The show is different from any other food show on TV. “Fox runs a show, I run a restaurant,” says Ramsay. “I don’t cast. I want the best young chefs in America. I like the uneducated rough diamonds.”

And that’s another reason for the series’ success: authenticity.

“At 7 o’clock, when the first customer sits down, it’s a restaurant,” says Ramsay of the show’s production schedule. An exec producer had once asked him to wear an earpiece during taping in the first season. He got immediately frustrated and popped it out and stuck it on a hot plate. He hasn’t been asked to wear one again.

“We do have a pretty good recipe,” says Kent Weed, the longtime exec producer of the show along with Arthur Smith. “It started in 2004, when we were sent tape of this chef called Gordon Ramsay who was very well-established in the U.K.”

The show was “Hell’s Kitchen,” then a hit for ITV, although the concept was different. “We fell in love with Gordon right away and we also fell in love with the title.”

They also saw tape of Ramsay’s U.K. series “Kitchen Nightmares,” which showed more dimension to Ramsay’s personality.

They thought they had something. At that time, it was a huge risk. “There had never been a successful food show on network television — nothing, not even close,” says Smith, who was also exec producer on Ramsay’s “Kitchen Nightmares,” which ended its seven-year run this year.

The first season of “Hell’s Kitchen” did well. “Oh, it’s because of the novelty of it, people said, but then the second year was better, then the third year …,” says Weed, with Smith picking up the thread, “There were times when the show was No. 1 in the 18-49 demo. The show has been a great utility player for Fox.”

“It has aired on Monday,” says Weed.

“Tuesday,” says Smith.

“Wednesday,” says Weed.

“Thursday,” says Smith and “summer spring and fall,” says Weed.

“At 8 o’clock and 9 o’clock,” says Smith. “I don’t know any show that has been on this long with as many time periods as we have.”

For Orly Adelson, president of ITV Studios America, the success of “Hell’s Kitchen” is twofold.

“One is Gordon’s personality. No nonsense, passionate, charismatic. He ignites both the contestants and the viewers. How many people can do that?,” she says.

“You need that first ingredient to make a great show. The second ingredient is to cast it in a way that you can tell really interesting and compelling stories every week. It’s important that it’s a long story arc. You can take all these and add a really good ITV production team with the really good producing team of Arthur Smith and Kent Weed.”

Weed and Smith are just as passionate about making interesting TV as Gordon is passionate about food. Their enthusiasm for Ramsay and the series is palpable.

“One of the big differences between our show and the U.K. show is that we had real chefs,” says Smith, noting that at the time, most of the people on reality series were “pretty people.”

And they behaved outrageously. “The people who go on ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ are real chefs. They’re not trying to get a spinoff show,” Smith adds with emphasis.

“There is no script,” Ramsay says. “You can’t say, ‘James is going to struggle with the sea bass. Claire will have trouble with the scallops.’ ”

That spontaneous level of drama is inherent in the restaurant’s dinner service. While the chefs get intense training and come into the show with top skills, “Nothing can prepare you for that barrage of pressure in a restaurant,” says Ramsay.

Weed agrees, noting that the show’s technical level is designed to show everything but not be intrusive. “It is ‘The Truman Show.’ ”

The “Hell’s Kitchen” set is built specifically like a real restaurant, according to Smith, and while there are close to 90 cameras covering the action at dinner services and cooking challenges there are no cameras in the kitchen.

“The chefs never see a camera. There’s no cameramen or operators during dinner service,” says Weed.

“We are very careful to keep it organic. It is raw and real,” says Smith. The producers use strategically placed robotics and camera blinds. “If you see a mirror, chances are there’s a cameraman behind it. And there’s lots of mirrors in ‘Hell’s Kitchen,’ ” says Smith. “It is a technological marvel.”

“It looks like NASA,” says Weed.

But it’s still TV, so while the “Hell’s Kitchen” challenges can be theatrical, such as having the chefs dig through sand sculptures to find geoduck clams that look like large pink slugs, they are designed and programmed as teachable moments.

“If (the chefs are) disorganized the night before, I try to do a challenge testing that,” says Weed. “They had a poor time communicating during one service so we put the lists of ingredients for the dishes they had to cook on their backs so they were forced to communicate. We move the goal posts but it has to resonate with the (service) night before.”

The winner gets a job at one of Ramsay’s far-flung restaurants. “Hell’s Kitchen” might just be the hardest job interview on the planet.

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‘Hell’s Kitchen’ Executive Producers Remember the Craziest Moments

Variety 2014

By Carole Horst

Part of the fun of working on “Hell’s Kitchen” is some of the bizarre things that we have witnessed over the years. It is impossible to have a definitive list because the show has been action-packed since season 1 — but after much discussion, here are a few select moments that stand above the rest:

It’s relatively normal for chefs in “Hell’s Kitchen” to bungle a dish and start fresh. In season 3, one of the competing chefs, Jen, threw out a pasta dish that wasn’t right, which nobody really thought much of. However, later in the service, Jen realized she was short on her order, and gets caught in the act of pulling the pasta she trashed earlier out of the garbage bin.

In season 4, Gordon Ramsay — disguised with makeup and prosthetics — rode the bus with the contestants, without any of them realizing who this chef with long hair and glasses really was. The contestants finally discovered the ruse after arriving at Hell’s Kitchen, after each of them took turns doing impressions of Ramsay. The reaction of the chefs once Ramsay revealed himself — absolute madness and panic!

No chef came closer to fighting it out with Ramsay than season 6’s Joseph, who told Ramsay “he ain’t no bitch” and asked Ramsay to step outside. Production was definitely on edge as Ramsay and Joseph stood there, face to face, ready to go blow-for-blow. It was very intense, and when the dust settled, Joseph was dismissed.

We’ve seen some amazing stuff over the years, but one particular feat of courage always stands out. In season 6, a chef named Dave broke his wrist. Despite the pain, he wouldn’t quit. In spite of being a huge underdog and wearing a cast that made it difficult to cook, he won “Hell’s Kitchen.”

In the opening episode of season 11, the chefs were sent to Las Vegas for a bus and tram tour of the city. However, their tram drove right onto the stage of a Vegas theater packed with 3,000 fans, where Ramsay announced that for the first time, a signature dish will be done in front of a live audience. The expressions on the contestants’ faces were priceless.

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American Ninja Warrior Is Exactly What Sports Should Be

Vice Sports

Written By:

Josh Tucker

In 1997, the Tokyo Broadcasting System began airing Sasuke, a series of three-hour, 100-participant obstacle course specials. These self-contained specials were shot in Yokohama, Japan on a studio set dubbed Mount Midoriyama—a sadistic monument built of scaffolding, ropes, and foam pads. Contestants made their way through increasingly difficult stages of unyielding, surrealist obstacles in the hopes of achieving "Total Victory" over Mount Midoriyama.

Olympic athletes, MMA fighters, pro wrestlers, celebrities, entertainers, comedians, and hundreds of normal folks who are badass at climbing up cargo nets have all taken part in Sasuke. The U.S. version of the show, now known as American Ninja Warrior, has been airing since 2006. Regardless of continent, almost everyone who competes on the show fails. The show's appeal is rooted in this fact.

As is the case with Sasuke, American Ninja Warrior is an exaggeration of itself. The presentation is big. The course is big. The announcers are big. The music sounds like John Williams scored an episode of Nickelodeon's GUTS, and the whole thing borders on unabashedly cheesy. And, for the most part, it all works beautifully. Executive Producer Kent Weed explained "Whether it's through production value or lighting or staging we dress it up and make it look good, like a big event, because people like to watch big events and that's something that you feel like you don't want to miss as a viewer."

Still, despite the inevitable branding jargon, there's an earnestness about the show's athleticism. The course is incredibly difficult and unforgiving. Those that are adept at it are excellent athletes, many of whom put in countless hours practicing the variety of skills that running each specific obstacle course entails. Every run is a tense, physical spectacle. In six seasons, no one has achieved Total Victory.

"What we did is we concentrated on the sports aspect of it," says Weed. "And the human element of it, and, you know, creating basically sports entertainment."

The human element is unmistakable in the production. Given the obscure nature of the athletics—regardless of the hours we may have put in during recess, obstacle course culture is hardly drilled into us as children—the show focuses heavily on building characters and crafting narratives around them.

"We're true to sports at its core, but, you know, we create stories around humanity that people can identify with, and there are great success stories that make for heros and heroines out of it," says Weed.

The show's storytelling is over-the-top and routinely sappy, but it succeeds in providing a reason to care about each unique individual bounding off a mini-trampoline. Some of these characters will be with us through multiple episodes. Some of them will sadly depart somewhere after that mini-trampoline leap and before they get the chance to wedge themselves into something called the Jumping Spider. Despite the fact that everybody fails, despite the countless fingers seen slipping slowly off of military anti-ergonomic handholds and the countless bodies flailing into watery pits, the show maintains an overwhelmingly positive tone.

Co-host Jenn Brown does an admirable job handling a rugged interview beat. "In the cities, we have like 125 people; I interview every one of them." A good portion of her subjects are soaking wet and disappointed. "It's really hard to ask over and over, 'What went wrong? What would you do differently?'"

"I always try to give a positive spin at the end, to give them 'Hey, look, this is extremely difficult and you made it this far and look at the thousands of competitors who didn't make it this far. And you should be proud of that.'"

The entire atmosphere is more genial than cutthroat. "It is a really amazing camaraderie, and community, between the athletes," Brown says. "It really is something special and neat to be there down when we're taping and to just see other people giving advice and giving techniques. And after someone goes out, and they're done for the season, they still go back and they're like 'Hey, here's what I did wrong, and here's what I think you should do differently.'"

Brown comes from a gymnastics family. She played softball at the University of Florida, where she received an academic scholarship and graduated with honors. She's about as qualified as you could possibly be for a job hosting a TV program that is half sporting event, half reality show. "I look at it like it's another sport"," she says.

"Everybody has to submit a video to be on the show. I asked casting if I could have access to all the videos, of all the competitors that we were going to see run in that city, so that I was really was familiar with their storyline," says Brown. "You can get a good idea of what their story is, and their skill level, and all of that."

Those storylines are what made the sixth and most recent season of American Ninja Warrior its most compelling. Kacy Catanzaro played no small role.

In season five, Catanzaro had a good run. She handled the early obstacles, and beasted through a momentum disaster on the Floating Chains only to fail in jumping from a mini-trampoline to something called the Nunchuks. That performance, in addition to her gymnastics bona fides and her training with American Ninja Warrior star Brent Steffensen made her a known commodity, but no one could have predicted what would happen when she came back.

Before American Ninja Warrior season six, no woman had ever finished so much as a qualifying stage. Only stuntwoman Chie Nishimura had even finished a Sasuke stage.

Catanzaro crushed the Dallas qualifying course while the booth screamed in disbelief. "What you see is what you get there," Brown confirms. "It was bananas. That's the only way I can describe it." Catanzaro became the first woman to make it up the 14-foot Warped Wall—a feat visually comparable to Spud Webb's 1986 dunk contest masterpiece—and the first to complete a stage, qualifying for the City Finals. There was much rejoicing. "It was so amazing to be on the sidelines. And everybody's out of their chair, screaming."

Michelle Warnky followed suit in the St. Louis Qualifiers. Not to be outdone, rock climber Meagan Martin did the same in Denver. While Warnky and Martin would both be awarded wildcard spots to the National Finals, both fell short in their City Finals attempts.

Capping off a banner year for women on the show, Catanzaro was absolutely incredible in Dallas. After taking a post-cargo net moment to yell "I love you guys! Thank you!" to the cheering crowd, she wrecked shop.

On the Ring Toss, she missed a peg, and yoked herself back up by one arm, with no visible effort. She climbed the Warped Wall on her first attempt. When she cleared the Salmon Ladder, a sadistic exercise that requires the person climbing it to actually carry their own rung in a series of swinging pullup leaps, it was apparent that she was serious. She looked troubled on the Swinging Frames, but when she realized she couldn't reach across the gap between frames, she made what seemed like an impossible desperation leap. And then, my God, the Pole Grasper. She breezed through the Spider Climb, reached the top of the tower, and secured a spot in the National Finals by repeatedly mashing the kind of giant button that exists only on shows like this.

At the National Finals, Catanzaro made it through three obstacles before her limbs, or lack of longer ones, finally caught up with her. She hit the trampoline well and fully extended in the air, but her arms didn't didn't reach the sides of the Jumping Spider, and she tumbled into the pool. Her long run was over.

But Kacy Catanzaro brought us something that felt good. She reminded us that it's OK for sports to feel good—in fact, that's supposed to be the point. There is no way to quantify this, but she may be the the best thing that's happened in the world of obstacle course television since Wesley "Two Scoops" Berry ran his record-breaking Gauntlet on American Gladiators. People started paying attention.

Ellen Degeneres, whose show airs on a rival network, took such a liking to the series that she worked with American Ninja Warrior to have a course built in the parking lot of her studio so she could run celebrities through it. Allison Janney's run was obligatory television.

'We want to make it entertaining for a broad number of people to watch," says Weed. "Sports can be polarizing. But when you introduce the human element and you introduce people that the audience can relate to, then it broadens it out."

"The show's only going to get bigger. We had, last year, at the end of August, we had four thousand applicants apply for the show. At the end of the summer this year we had forty-thousand applicants. So, it's gone ten-fold from where it was a year ago. Everybody is interested in this. Everybody wants to do it."

That six seasons of competitors have failed won't stop the audience from watching another wave of hopefuls try for a seventh time. In fact, it may only stoke their hopes that a hero, a true American Ninja Warrior, will rise.

"Obviously it's sad to not have someone get Total Victory, but it makes me so excited for next season," Jenn Brown says, maybe without realizing that she's encapsulated the hook.

Weed closes the pitch like only a producer could. "We thought someone was going to do it this season, and it didn't happen. Every year we go in thinking it's going to happen. We're very hopeful. I think the audience is there, too. 'Someone's going to do it this year. Someone's going to do it.' I believe someone is going to do it, and I believe it's going to happen soon. I believe it's going to happen next season, I really do."

Whether you believe him or not is mostly beside the point. The show really isn't about winning, anyway. On Sasuke, only three contestants have achieved Total Victory over Mount Midoriyama. But Japan keeps watching anyway. So will we. 

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