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Miley Cyrus joins Woody Allen's Amazon show: Only the newest big name to make the jump to TV

Cyrus, Elaine May, and Allen will reportedly star in the TV show by the 'Irrational Man' director. TV has become the place to find acclaimed actors and behind-the-scenes talent.

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    Woody Allen is writing, directing, and starring in a TV series for Amazon.
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More actors have come on board director Woody Allen’s upcoming TV series for Amazon. 

Singer Miley Cyrus and Elaine May of “Small Time Crooks” will reportedly star in Allen’s six-part program. Allen himself is also set to star. 

The “Irrational Man” helmer is also set to write and direct the TV show. 

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Allen has followed a steady pattern of releasing a movie a year, with his recent projects including the 2014 movie “Magic in the Moonlight,” 2013’s “Blue Jasmine” (which earned actress Cate Blanchett a Best Actress Oscar), and 2011’s “Midnight in Paris,” which was nominated for Best Picture and won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. 

The director’s other films include “Annie Hall” and “Hannah and Her Sisters.”

Big names like these appearing at Amazon – and at cable networks or streaming services in general – are no longer a surprise. Amazon is now a big contender at awards shows, with its program “Transparent” in particular, which debuted in 2014, winning such prizes as the Emmy Award for best directing for a comedy series (Jill Soloway) and best actor in a comedy series (Jeffrey Tambor). 

One famous example of A-listers heading to TV was the first season of HBO’s “True Detective” in 2014. Both Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson signed on for the show and the program was critically acclaimed. 

Harrelson said he was attracted to do the project by the quality of programming that’s created by HBO. 

“There’s just no finer organization making amazing stuff out there than HBO,” he said in an interview with the website Collider.  “It’s a privilege to work with them.” 

Meanwhile, McConaughey said in the same interview of his decision to sign on for “Detective,” “As we all know, it’s a different time in television. There’s not that feeling of, if you’re having a successful film career and somebody brings up something on television, [then you wouldn’t even consider it]… I was just, at the time, looking for quality. So, it wasn’t something where I said, 'I’m in, but wait a minute, it’s TV.' That wasn’t a gauge. That transition is much more seamless, in reality and perception, more now than ever. It was, 'Television? Great! Let’s go to the right place to do it.' Some of the best drama going on has been on television, in comparison to some films.” 

Now actors who have won Oscars and starred in acclaimed films are showing up in every TV format. Broadcast TV has Viola Davis in ABC’s “How to Get Away with Murder” and Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard in Fox’s “Empire,” among others. On cable, Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams, and Vince Vaughn signed on for the second season of “Detective,” while Showtime’s “Homeland” stars Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin and the network’s program “Masters of Sex” stars Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan, while the Showtime program “The Affair” stars Ruth Wilson and Dominic West. The network’s new show “Billions” stars Paul Giamatti and Damien Lewis. 

The story is the same on streaming, where stars with current shows include Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright (“House of Cards” on Netflix), Sissy Spacek (Netflix’s “Bloodline”), Tambor (Amazon's "Transparent"), and Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin (Netflix’s “Grace and Frankie”). 

When the issue of the lack of diversity among Oscars acting nominees and the lack of women among directing nominees arose recently, Rodrigo Perez and Jessica Kiang of IndieWire wondered if this is partly happening because so much talent is working in TV. “Adult dramas have migrated to television,” they wrote. “And in turn, a creative brain drain is in effect, with established (white, male) filmmakers like Steven Soderbergh, David Fincher, Cameron Crowe, David Lynch and many more having already partly transitioned to prestige TV projects.”

They also noted how director Lee Daniels co-created “Empire,” writer John Ridley is working on ABC’s “American Crime,” and Ava DuVernay is working on a TV show for Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network. 

“In an environment in which prestige TV is already increasingly siphoning viewers away from movie theaters, the film industry can ill afford to lose even more ground to its small-screen rival by treating an increase in diversity output as though it were a gift it can choose to bestow… or not,” Perez and Kiang wrote. “The lack of non-white representation in high-profile, Oscar-friendly studio films is not the comfortable ‘tut-tut, that's a shame’ situation it might have been back when film still held the balance of power over television.”

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