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WIRE Buzz: Paul Rudd to Escape from Virtual Island, Walking Dead teases midseason return, more

By Josh Weiss
Paul Rudd

Can't get enough of the upcoming Fantasy Island reboot? Well, Audible's got an intriguing getaway planned for you: It's ordered a scripted original comedy series called Escape from Virtual Island, the Amazon-owned platform announced today.

Hailing from SNL alums John Lutz and Lorne Michaels, the project will feature an all-star cast led by Paul Rudd, Jack McBrayer, Amber Ruffin, Paula Pell, Scott Adsit, Jane Krakowski, Seth Meyers, Jason Sudeikis, Kenan Thompson, Olivia Wilde, and Henry Winkler.

Written by Lutz, the Westworld-esque series takes place in the year 2038 and follows Derek Ambrose (Rudd), who runs an island resort "where the wealthy come to live out their wildest fantasies in virtual reality," reads the show's official synopsis. Things begin to go wrong when Derek and his team realize that the resort's computer has become self-aware and won't allow anyone to escape to the real world.

Paul Rudd

Ambrose will be aided by his assistant, Beasley (McBrayer), computer scientist Faith (Ruffin), and head of security Ramona (Pell).

“I enjoy creating characters and telling a story through them,” Lutz said in a statement. “This Audible format gave me the perfect opportunity to do so. Writing specifically for audio excited and challenged me to come up with unconventional ways to tell a story completely through dialogue and sound. I wrote this story with this cast specifically in mind, and they elevated everything I wrote because they are among the funniest performers alive.”

“This astonishing group of comedy all-stars took a hilarious script and turned it into a wildly imaginative and brilliant series,” added David Blum, editor-in-chief of Audible Originals. "When we kicked off our collaboration with Broadway Video in 2017, we did so with the vision of creating distinctive new Audible Originals with top talent in the business. We’ve been thrilled with the results and we can’t wait for our listeners to join these familiar voices on a wild comedy adventure series like no other."

Escape from Virtual Island premieres on Audible on April 2.

Ahead of The Walking Dead's midseason return on Feb. 23, AMC has released 19 freshly decaying production stills from the second half of Season 10.

From Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) chillin' with the Whisperers, to the Survivors spelunking in a cave full of hungry Walkers, to Ezekiel (Khary Payton) engrossed in a nighttime battle, these images have a little something for everyone.

Take a look in the gallery below...

"We’ve trapped a bunch of people in a cave full of walkers, so we have to tell that story. So, that’s definitely going to be a big part of when we pick back up," showrunner Angela Kang told Entertainment Weekly in back November. "There have been these acts of war and so things are now escalating very, very fast. And we kind of get to the big conflict between the Whisperers and our people."

The midseason return premiere (entitled "Squeeze") was written by Aquaman scribe David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick. A director for the episode has yet to be announced.

BBC One will pull the wool over our eyes in 2021 with a Shaun the Sheep Christmas special, the network announced this week. The two parties previously collaborated on the 2015 short of Shaun the Sheep: The Farmer's Llamas.

The Aardman-produced project is currently titled A Winter’s Tale From Shaun The Sheep (this could change, though) and "will follow Shaun as his seasonal excitement turns sour when a farmhouse raid to get bigger stockings for the flock leads to baby lamb Timmy going missing," per the official synopsis.

Shaun the Sheep Christmas special

"Aardman films have come to be synonymous with the festive period, which is a real honor. We're delighted to be continuing this tradition with a Shaun the Sheep seasonal special that will premiere on the BBC for Christmas 2021," said Sean Clarke, Managing Director of Aardman, in a statement.

A Winter’s Tale From Shaun The Sheep will kick off production later this year. Giles Pilbrow (Horrible Histories) penned the script from a story co-conceived with Shaun the Sheep Movie scribe Mark Burton. Steve Cox (an animator on Aardman films like Early Man) will direct, while Burton, Richard Beek, Sarah Cox, and Carla Shelley serve as producers.