Cable nets unspooling new programming at upfront

Mar 18, 2002  •  Post A Comment

The first flowers of this year’s cable upfront bloomed across midtown Manhattan last week, with Bravo, Hallmark, Nickelodeon and Showtime unveiling their new programming.
Bravo’s five new series are “Gay Weddings,” eight reality half-hours for August that look at four lesbian and four gay couples; “Art Crimes & Mysteries,” six hours for second-quarter 2003 about high-profile art thefts; “Cirque du Soleil: A Fly on the Wall” (working title), 13 half-hours for first-quarter 2003 that follow the months-long Cirque rehearsal process; “Second City Presents,” six hour-long interviews for this year’s third quarter, with Tracey Ullman, Jon Lovitz and others; and “Based on the Book,” 11 hours for this year’s fourth quarter, about the process of turning books into films. Subjects include “The Cider House Rules,” “Silence of the Lambs” and “Get Shorty.”
In addition to the new series, the network will air two high-profile off-network acquisitions, “The Larry Sanders Show” this fall and “The West Wing” in fall 2003.
When it comes to “Sanders,” Bravo intends to be judicious with cuts, so the ex-HBO series will be edited to “South Park” standards, with only a few “extreme” expletives deleted.
Hallmark Channel
Hallmark Channel is open to the “cautious” integration of advertisers’ messages into programs, said Lana Corbi, president and CEO of Crown Media U.S., which owns the channel. Hallmark is “pursuing deeper content relationships” with advertisers, including the possibility of advertisers taking a percentage ownership position in individual productions.
That pursuit presages a new contemporary focus in Hallmark movies and miniseries, said David Kenin, executive VP, programming. The nightly programming strategy for now will be to run one movie per night in prime time, beginning at 9 p.m. (ET). The channel intends to investigate acquiring additional off-network hours for lead-ins, Mr. Kenin said.
The channel also is looking to leverage its relationship with Hallmark’s vast retailing operation for promotional and marketing opportunities. Hallmark stores are being outfitted with video capability, which the channel will control, Ms. Corbi said.
In addition, Hallmark will roll out 24 original movies, one per month, over the next two years. Coming this December is “Hallmark Skating Championship,” the channel’s first sports special, which is likely to be the first televised competition between the Russian and Canadian figure-skating pairs since the recent Winter Olympics judging controversy.
Nickelodeon unveiled five new series in its presentation, dubbed “Upfront: The Musical,” an old-fashioned glitz-and-glitter music-and-dance showstopper-and the first big, splashy production of the 2002 upfront season.
The new Nick series are “Angelica and Susie’s School Daze,” a 13-episode order of the first spinoff from Nick’s signature “Rugrats” animated series; “The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius,” a 20-episode order of the TV series version of the Oscar-nominated big-screen animated picture that so far has grossed more than $80 million in theaters; “Danny Phantom,” a six-episode order of an animated series about a 14-year-old superhero and his family; “My Neighbor is a Teenage Robot,” a 13-episode order of an animated series about a teen girl robot; and “Max and Ruby,” a 13-episode order of an animated series that explores sibling relationships, aimed at Nick Jr. pre-schoolers.
The Nick on CBS block will include for the first time this fall Nickelodeon’s “Hey Arnold!” and “The Wild Thornberrys” as well as “As Told by Ginger” and “Pelswick,” while Nick’s own Saturday morning block will add “Jimmy Neutron” and “The Fairly Odd Parents.” Nick’s new Sunday SLAM action block will include a “kid-friendly adaptation” of “Robot Wars,” Nick’s entry into the homemade fighting robots genre.
Showtime reviewed already-announced series and movie projects. That left the working press to dig up its own tidbits, such as the movie in development about the real-life scandal at the Los Angeles Police Department’s Rampart Division-ex-cop and novelist Joseph Wambaugh (“The Onion Field”) is attached to the project-or to stumble upon interesting figures, such as Richard Stratton, one of the producers of the upcoming “Street Time” series, starring Rob Morrow as a convicted drug smuggler out on parole. The series is based on Mr. Stratton’s experiences as a convicted drug smuggler on parole.