Gold Derby nuggets: 'The Hobbit' hobbled by helmer's exit | Homer Simpson tops with EW | 'Curb' appeal
• The status of "The Hobbit," the long-in-the-making two-part prequel to the hit trilogy "The Lord of the Rings," just became much cloudier with the news that helmer Guillermo del Toro ("Pan's Labryinth") has walked. The first of the films -- produced by Peter Jackson, who picked up three Oscars for the final installment of "LOTR" -- was slated to arrive in theaters in December 2012 with the second out a year later. In a statement, Del Toro said, "In light of ongoing delays in the setting of a start date for filming 'The Hobbit,' I am faced with the hardest decision of my life. After nearly two years of living, breathing and designing a world as rich as [J.R.R.] Tolkien's Middle Earth, I must, with great regret, take leave from helming these wonderful pictures." The much-in-demand Del Toro has decided to move on but harbors no ill will to the project. "Both as a co-writer and as a director, I wish the production nothing but the very best of luck and I will be first in line to see the finished product. I remain an ally to it and its makers, present and future, and fully support a smooth transition to a new director." REUTERS
• Elizabeth Guider reports that HBO did great business selling foreign rights to the upcoming first season of "Boardwalk Empire" at the just-concluded LA screenings. This is the paycaster's marquee series for 2010 and could be a major awards player based on the pedigree of the behind-the-scenes talent alone. Oscar champ Martin Scorsese ("The Departed") is executive producing the series about bootleggers in 1920s Atlantic City and directed the first episode. Terence Winter -- who adapted Nelson Johnson's novel of the same name -- won two Emmys for scripting episodes of "The Sopranos" and another two when that HBO hit won best drama series in 2004 and 2007. THR
• The first rialto revival of "Fences" continues to break Broadway box-office records. Yet again, it topped the $1-million mark last week. This remounting of the 1987 Tony and Pulitzer Prize winner by August Wilson is up for 10 Tony Awards and is a front-runner in the best play revival race. The two stars -- two-time Oscar champ Denzel Washington ("Glory," "Training Day") and Oscar nominee Viola Davis ("Doubt") -- are strong contenders in their categories too. "Fences" is also nominated for best featured actor (Stephen McKinley Henderson), score (Brandford Marsalis), scenic design, costumes, sound design and lighting.
• Homer Simpson edged out Harry Potter to top the Entertainment Weekly roundup of the 100 most memorable characters of the last two decades. "Simpsons" creator Matt Groening told the magazine that people relate to the tubby hubby "because we're all secretly propelled by desires we can't admit to." "The Simpsons" has won 25 Emmys over its first two decades: 10 for top animated program under one hour, 13 for voice-over (including four for "Homer" himself, Dan Castellaneta) and two for top song. The title role of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" as played by the perpetually Emmy-snubbed Sarah Michelle Gellar came in third, and Tony Soprano ("The Sopranos") -- which won James Gandolfini three Emmys -- was fourth. Comic-book arch-villain the Joker -- so brilliantly reimagined by the late Heath Ledger in "The Dark Knight" -- was fifth. ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY
• As Greg Ellwood observes, "Last year, four of the best picture nominees were released in the summer: 'Up,' 'Inglourious Basterds,' 'District 9" and 'The Hurt Locker.' The 83rd Academy Awards probably won't match that total, but there are more summer players than usual for awards season overall. Just previewing the feature films, there are eight releases that should easily make some noise over the next three months." For Greg, among those upcoming releases that could make the top 10 at the Oscars are "Inception" and "The Kids Are All Right." HIT FIX
• Mike Ausiello chats with "House" leading man Hugh Laurie, who reveals he has no idea how long he will keep playing the curmudgeonly character that has netted him four Emmy nominations but no wins. Whether the upcoming Season 7 will be the last for Laurie remains a question mark. He told Mike, "I only hope we’ll know when the time is right [to close up shop]. When people blunder on for five years after [they should have called it quits] … it gets taken out of your hands. Someone will say, "That’s it." But for now, I’m immensely proud of the things we did this season." The show has lost the drama series race for the last four consecutive years. ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY
• Reruns of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" debut on the TV Guide network Tuesday, and though the basic-cable caster will edit the show for nudity and language, it is not cutting it for length. "Curb" ran 30 minutes or so on commercial-free HBO, so to round out the hour time slot, the net is programming "Curb: The Discussion." Hosted by "Curb" star Susie Essman and co-produced by the show's creator and star Larry David, the first panelists will be David's old pal Jerry Seinfeld, Emmy nominee Jon Hamm ("Mad Men") and Oscar nominee Taraji Henson ("The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"). The five-time Emmy contender for comedy series drew its best ratings for Season 7, which used a reunion of "Seinfeld" as a plot device for creator and star Larry David to repair his TV marriage. As for the future, David says, "Usually when a season ends, especially a season as successful as last season, it takes a while to recharge and come up with enough ideas so you know that you'll have a funny season. So it took some time, but I think we've got some good stuff coming up for Season 8." TV GUIDE
• Jerry Seinfeld is trying his hand at directing this month, helming Colin Quinn's one-man show, "Long Story Short." This showcase for the former "SNL" star begins a summer run off-Broadway on June 18. While "Curb Your Enthusiasm" has had lousy luck at the Emmys, winning just one of its 30 bids (best director for Robert B. Weide for the "Krazee-Eyez Killa" episode in 2003), "Seinfeld" snagged 10 laurels out of its 70 nominations, including best comedy series of 1993. PLAYBILL
Top photo: "The Hobbit" book cover. Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Middle photo: Entertainment Weekly cover. Credit: EW.
Bottom photo: "Curb Your Enthusiasm" logo. Credit: HBO