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Critics catch up with the lowdown in Pasadena

Jul 15, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Cable networks took their turns last week at the semiannual Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, Calif., wielding the traditional weapons of celebrities and hors d’oeuvres to win the hearts, minds and particularly the column inches of the nation’s assembled TV critics. They also offered news items and upcoming projects such as these:
A&E: A&E will add zest to “Antony and Cleopatra,” one of the documentaries it has set for the new season, with narration by Kim Cattrall, the sharp-tongued bombshell on HBO’s “Sex and the City.”
Cartoon Network: Cartoon Network is once again giving the series green light to a pilot voted on by viewers choosing from a crop of nine animated pilots. This year’s pick is “Codename: Kids Next Door,” an action/comedy about a group of 10-year-olds doing battle with tyrannical adults. “Codename” debuts in December.
Comedy Central: Comedy Central has given a 12-episode order to “Chappelle’s Show,” a weekly half-hour comedy/variety series starring comedian Dave Chappelle (“Undercover Brother”). The show is set for January 2003. “Contest Searchlight,” a behind-the-scenes look at the development of a comedy series, has a 10-episode order from the network. The reality series, co-conceived by Denis Leary (“The Job”), debuts in August.
Comedy’s “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” will take its “Indecision 2002” political coverage to the nation’s capital for a week of shows set to air in late October. The series will be repurposed on CNN International beginning this September in a late-night weekend edition tailored to viewers outside the United States. “Trigger Happy TV,” a British hidden-camera series, will debut on Comedy Central this September.
Court TV: Court TV has finalized a production deal for its third original movie, “Political Asylum,” and has announced casting for its second, “The Interrogation of Michael Crowe,” which will star actress Ally Sheedy (“High Art”) as the mother of a teenage boy accused of murdering his sister. The picture, set for the fourth quarter, is based on a Court documentary of the same name. “Asylum” will be the fact-based story of a young Afghan woman who comes to the United States to escape the oppressive Taliban regime and has to contend with American bureaucracy and injustice.
Disney Channel: Disney Channel has set “Malcolm in the Middle’s” Frankie Muniz to appear in the middle of an episode of its popular “Lizzie McGuire” series. Mr. Muniz guest stars as himself in the episode, scheduled for Aug. 23 and titled “Lizzie in the Middle.” The channel also announced a production start date for “The Stevens Get Even,” its first original telefilm to be based on one of its own series. The comedy/adventure telefilm will follow the Stevens family to a tropical vacation island where a reality series is filming.
E! Entertainment: E! Entertainment clearly hopes Anna Nicole Smith, the former Playmate and model who inherited a fortune from her deceased spouse, will do for it what the Osbourne clan has done for MTV. Ms. Smith will be featured in a reality show in which cameras follow her day-to-day life.
Ms. Smith’s appearance at a TCA panel briefly sent the buzz machinery into hyperdrive. The question of the day was, of course, would her press mentions coming out of Pasadena be positive, and if not, would it matter at all to her reality show, which is expected to have a large curiosity tune-in factor?
Food Network: The Food Network serves up three new fall series, “Food Hunt,” a travel show in search of the homelands of various exotic tastes; “Top Five,” a countdown show for foodies; and “Paula’s Home Cooking,” hosted by restaurateur Paul Deen.
Game Show Network: The Game Show Network has ordered 40 episodes each of “Wintuition” and “Cram,” two new Q&A game shows. “Wintuition” pits three contestants against each other for college tuition money, while “Cram” features two teams of contestants who are given the answers first, then have to recall them after 24-hours of nonstop cramming, without any sleep.
Hallmark Channel: Hallmark Channel is bringing two “Beverly Hills 90210” veterans to separate Western-themed projects. Jennie Garth will star with Lance Henriksen in “The Last Cowboy,” about a present-day family’s attempt to keep a struggling Texas ranch going, while Luke Perry will join Tom Berenger and Burt Reynolds in “Johnson County War,” a four-hour movie about the battle between homesteaders and cattle barons in Old West Wyoming to air in August.
Lifetime Television: Lifetime is adding Patricia Richardson to the cast of “Strong Medicine,” its high-rated Sunday night drama about female physicians, which starts its third season later this month. Ms. Richardson, who will play a former Army doctor, will join the cast in the seventh episode, set for September. Lifetime also is adding star power to upcoming original movies, casting Mia Farrow and Julia Whelan in “The Secret Life of Zoey,” due in August; Jenna Elfman in “Obsessed” (a working title), due in September; and Megan Mullally in “The Pact,” due in the fall.
Oxygen: Oxygen Media will be adding “Absolutely Fabulous,” the British cult comedy hit, to its lineup this September. Oxygen also is featuring Bad Girls Week, mid-August programming that will include the films “Barbarella” and “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” as well as “Eavesdropping With Alan Cumming,” a special in which the actor spends a day with Gwyneth Paltrow.
The network’s Sept. 11 anniversary programming will include “The Women of Rockaway Beach” and “A Smile Gone, But Where?” two short documentaries produced by author/journalist Rosemary Breslin, the daughter of noted columnist and author Jimmy Breslin.
Rainbow Media: Rainbow Media’s Mag Rack video-on-demand service is adding six new video-magazine titles this fall. They are “Aviator’s World,” “Mag Rack Kids Club,” “Total Snowboard,” “Total Ski,” “Tennis Zone” and “Traveler’s Guide.” By the end of the year the service expects to be offering up to 40 individual titles.
Sci-Fi Channel: Sci-Fi Channel has gone to the vaults of parent company Universal for new programming based on existing Universal television and theatrical titles. Sci-Fi will develop a two-hour backdoor pilot based on “Quantum Leap,” the time-travel series that starred Scott Bakula, and has ordered a one-hour series for 2003 that will be based on “Tremors,” the 1990 monster movie that starred Kevin Bacon and spawned two sequels.
Sundance Channel: Sundance is launching Sundance Channel Home Entertainment, a home-video line that will be distributed by Showtime Entertainment, releasing approximately 12 titles per year, in most cases before their Sundance Channel windows.
TBS: TBS is getting an early start on the holidays with “Christmas Rush,” an original action thriller that will star Dean Cain, Eric Roberts and Erika Eleniak. The movie, about a heist at an upscale mall during the holiday rush, will run in December.
TNT: TNT has a slate of original dramatic movies to follow “Door to Door,” its Johnson & Johnson Spotlight presentation starring William Macy, due later this month. The movies include “The Big Time,” starring Molly Ringwald in a John Wells production about the early days of television, slated for October; “Monte Walsh,” starring Tom Selleck in a Western slated for January 2003; “Framed,” starring Rob Lowe, slated for April 2003; “Second Nature,” starring Alec Baldwin in a psychological thriller, slated for June 2003; “Prince Charming,” starring Christina Applegate and Martin Short in a Hallmark Entertainment rendition of the fairy tale, slated for July 2003; and “Second String,” starring Jon Voight and Gil Bellows in a pro-football-themed comedy/drama, slated for August 2003. In addition, Richard Harris, Christopher Walken and Chris Noth will topline the cast of “Julius Caesar,” a miniseries that has not yet been scheduled.
USA Network: USA Network is doing new big-budget miniseries remakes of “Spartacus” and “Papillon” as well as “Crusades,” a swords-and-sand
als adventure miniseries about the medieval wars between Christendom and Islam, and “King Tut,” an adventure miniseries about the discovery of King Tut’s tomb in the 1920s.