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TCA Notes

Jan 13, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Here are a few of the latest news items from the Television Critics Association press tour now under way in Los Angeles.
Say goodbye to HBO’s “Sex and the City.”
The much-lauded series, one of the pay cable network’s signatures, will begin production in March on a final 20-episode season that will play out in two arcs, the first consisting of 12 episodes that will air in the summer, and the final set of eight episodes set for early in 2004.
The announcement that “Sex,” like “The Sopranos,” was heading for its final season was made during HBO’s presentation at the press tour.
But HBO executives held out the hope that the creative forces behind both series could yet be convinced to return for additional episodes beyond their “final” seasons; namely, “Sex’s” sixth and “Soprano’s” fifth. New series in the HBO pipeline include “Deadwood,” David Milch’s Western, and “Marriage,” from Steven Bochco.
Hecht in charge of The New TNN
Albie Hecht, the Nickelodeon production executive responsible for bringing “SpongeBob SquarePants” and “Rugrats” to television, has been named president of Viacom’s The New TNN basic-cable network. His first order of business will be to sharpen the positioning of the already-male-skewing network so that it becomes “television’s first entertainment network for men,” which is how a network announcement characterized it.
Mr. Hecht, who replaces Diane Robina, the network’s general manager for the past two years, will report to Herb Scannell, president of Nickelodeon, TV Land and The New TNN. Mr. Hecht will continue to oversee Nickelodeon Movies.
A&E eyes Bette Davis
A&E Network has picked up 16 one-hour episodes of “MI5,” a co-production with the BBC that was known as “Spooks” in the United Kingdom. A summer debut for the spy series is expected.
The network also announced that it is developing a two-hour film about actress Bette Davis with a script by Alfred Uhry (“Driving Miss Daisy”). The biofilm is centered on her life in the 1950s, when she won an Oscar for her role in “All About Eve.”
The network also will debut “The Nazi Officer’s Wife” this spring. “Wife” is a two-hour special based on the true story of a young Jewish woman who led a secret life in Germany during World War II. The special will be narrated by actress Susan Sarandon.
Court, WE, Fine Living unveil projects
New documentaries from Court TV and WE: Women’s Entertainment and two new series from Fine Living, the newest Scripps lifestyle cable network were.
Court unveiled two new documentaries at TCA: “Al Roker Investigates: The Farmingville Incident,” which focuses on a hate crime on Long Island, N.Y., and “Psychic Detectives,” a one-hour special about real-life psychics who help solve real crimes. “Farmingville,” hosted by Mr. Roker, the “Today” show personality, will premiere Feb. 12, and “Detectives,” hosted by Andrea Thompson, will premiere Feb. 27.
The new WE documentary is “TV & the Single Girl,” scheduled for March. The one-hour special will look at TV’s famous singles, from “Rhoda” and “Julia” to “Laverne & Shirley” and the glamorous women of “Sex and the City.”
The new Fine Living shows featured at TCA are “Tricks of the Trade” and “Smart Travels with Rudy Maxa.”
“Tricks,” which premieres Jan. 27, offers inside information to consumers on how to pick among cellphone plans and plan vacations, among other topics. “Travels,” which debuts Jan. 30, is a showcase for Mr. Maxa, a prominent travel adviser.
In addition, Court announced the expected renewal of “Forensic Files,” its signature series, and two new one-hour editions of its “Safety Challenge” specials, which ABC News will produce for the cable network.
Walton documented while `Rome’ burns
Former basketball star Bill Walton, now an ESPN and ABC Sports NBA commentator, gets the reality-genre treatment from ESPN with “Bill Walton’s Long, Strange Trip.” The first of seven half-hours documenting his life on and off the court debuts Feb. 2.
In other news from ESPN, the network announced that sports talk-show host and commentator Jim Rome, who has headed a talk show on Fox Sports since 1997, will join ESPN as host of “Rome Is Burning,” a weekly one-hour live sports talk show, which is set to debut May 6.