TCA Cable Notes

Jan 17, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Logo Launch Pushed Back

MTV Networks has pushed back the launch date of its planned gay-themed network Logo, the network confirmed last week. The channel will debut in June rather than next month as originally planned, in order to secure greater distribution. The network already has carriage agreements in place with RNC, Atlantic Broadband and Time Warner in Manhattan.

More Reality for A&E

Coming off a year of ratings growth attributed to an increase in reality programming, A&E announced four new reality shows Friday at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour.

Kicking off the first panel of the final day of cable presentations, A&E Senior VP of Programming Bob DeBitetto said the network will launch six reality shows in 2005.

Among the new programs:

“Knievel’s Wild Ride,” following Robbie Knievel, son of the famous daredevil Evel Knievel; produced by Screaming Flea Productions and scheduled to premiere in April.

“Inked,” a reality show set in a Las Vegas tattoo parlor; produced by Fox TV Studios in association with Foglight Entertainment for A&E Network.

“Criss Angel,” in which magician Criss Angel shows viewers his illusions; produced by First Television and Angel Productions.

“Roller Girls” (working title), which follows a group of roller derby girls in Austin, Texas; produced by Go Go Luckey Productions.

The new shows hit a couple of modest TCA trends-Las Vegas reality shows (E! Network’s “The Entertainer” and ABC Family’s “Las Vegas Garden of Love” share the same setting) and magician shows (TLC’s “Mind Games”).

Lifetime Adds Unscripted

Lifetime announced its order of an unscripted comedy series, “You’re Not the Man I Married.” The network ordered 13 half-hour episodes of the series, which is described as a “relationship intervention” for unhappy wives. The series is executive produced by David Franzke (MTV’s “Punk’d”) and Optomen Productions and scheduled to debut in the second or third quarter of this year.

CNN Revamps Lineup

CNN announced a complete overhaul of its Headline News prime-time lineup, including the addition of an entertainment news show. Dubbed “Headline Prime,” the nightly slate breaks from the traditional Headline News format of cycling news stories and is anchored by three hour-long programs: “Showbiz Tonight,” with A.J. Hammer and Karyn Bryant reporting entertainment news, “Nancy Grace,” a legal analysis show hosted by CNN’s courtroom pundit, and “Prime News Tonight,” a wrap-up of the day’s headlines.

The new block will launch Feb. 21 at 7 p.m. (ET) and will re-air at 10 p.m. “Showbiz Tonight” and “Nancy Grace” will be live during their initial nightly runs.

CNN News Group President Jim Walton defended the new shows against accusations that the entertainment and courtroom shows represented a watering-down of the channel’s news content. Mr. Walton noted the main CNN network will counter-program the new programs with straight news.

The executives also fielded questions about the departure of conservative commentator Tucker Carlson in the wake of Jon Stewart’s blistering “Crossfire” appearance during which he argued that argument-based news shows were “hurting America.” CNN president Jonathan Klein confirmed that Mr. Stewart’s appearance was an influence in letting Mr. Carlson’s contract lapse.

“I saw the whole episode play out as a viewer and I saw myself agreeing with a lot of points that Jon was making,” Mr. Klein said. “Sure, major media companies can cover politics and important issues in a different way. … We’re not going to do the kind of head-butting debate that Tucker really wants to do, that MSNBC really wants to do and that Fox does.”

New Slate for Sci Fi

Sci Fi Channel announced a development slate that includes several reality efforts that continue to steer Sci Fi from space operas to more mainstream fare. Among the programming:

  • “Eureka,” a drama pilot about a town of geniuses and described as a cross between “Twin Peaks” and “The Twilight Zone.”
  • “The Triangle,” a six-hour Bermuda Triangle miniseries by producer Dean Devlin and director Bryan Singer.
  • “Master Blasters,” a reality show pitting teams of amateur rocket scientists against each other in a race to design, build and launch some bizarre objects into orbit. Produced by First Television, “Master Blasters” has been greenlighted for production.
  • “Gordian,” a half-hour weekly animated comedy series set in a futuristic world where humans and robots live side by side; produced by First Television.
  • “Mind Game,” a half-hour weekly reality competition series in which contestants count on their highest powers of observation, recall, judgment and intuition in a race to collect clues; produced by Hallock-Healey Entertainment.
  • “The Gauntlet,” another weekly reality competition series. This show requires contestants to navigate an elaborate, futuristic maze during a 24-hour game. It is produced by Reveille and Hoegl/Singer in association with Princess Productions.
  • “Painkiller Jane,” a superhero drama pilot based on the comic book of the same name.

    `The L Word’ Renewed

    Showtime picked up its lesbian-themed drama “The L Word” for a third season and announced two new drama series aimed at African American audiences.

    “It wouldn’t be a TCA if we didn’t pick up something early,” said Robert Greenblatt, Showtime’s president of entertainment in a reference to last July’s early renewal of “Huff.”

    Among the new programming is “The Cell,” a one-hour drama about an African American Muslim who infiltrates a terrorist network in Los Angeles; “Barbershop,” a single camera, ensemble half-hour comedy based on the film franchise; and “Brotherhood,” a one-hour drama about two Irish brothers in Rhode Island. Showtime has elected not to go to series on its pilot “Hate,” starring Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden. (TelevisionWeek profiled the making of the pilot in the Jan. 3 issue.) Showtime shot six pilots, from which it ordered the new shows. The “Hate” pilot is expected to air on Showtime this year.

    Mr. Greenblatt also confirmed that the upcoming fifth season of “Queer as Folk” would be the last. Showtime Chairman and CEO Matt Blank hinted the series would go to syndication. “You will see `Queer as Folk’ elsewhere. … Five years in our world is a very successful run,” Mr. Blank said, adding that the series has 85 episodes.

    During the question-and-answer session, critics grilled Mr. Blank and Mr. Greenblatt about Showtime’s ratings-“Huff” in particular-trying to pin down the premium network’s level of popularity and qualifications for canceling a program. Mr. Blank claimed a show’s critical popularity and the intensity of viewer response, rather than strict ratings, are key factors. “At the end of the day, the viewership information is just a part of the decision [to keep or cancel a show],” said Mr. Blank.

    G4 Drops `techTV’

    Video game network G4techTV will drop “techTV” from its name and become G4-Video Game Television beginning Feb. 15.

    The move is a reversal for the network, which was originally titled G4 but changed to “G4techTV” after parent company Comcast bought out rival TechTV last March. The network, which was launched in 2002, also announced plans to debut a nationwide marketing and branding campaign later this year.

    The session was G4’s first TCA appearance. Among its programming efforts, the network announced “Formula D,” a look at the rising sport of drift racing and “Girls Gone Wired,” a “digital beauty pageant” of popular video game vixens.

    BET: `It’s My Thing’

    BET has a new tag line. “It’s My Thing” will replace BET’s former slogan-“Black Star Power”-which the network has used since 1999. The change was announced by Debra Lee, the network’s president and chief operating officer. “It creates a feeling of ownership in BET programming,” Ms. Lee said.

    No Verdict on `Wire’

    HBO chairman and CEO Chris Albrecht said the future of “The Wire,” which finished its third season last year, is “under discussion.” Mr. Albrecht acknowledged both the passion of the
    show’s fans and the modesty of their numbers.

    “I’ve received a telegram from every viewer of `The Wire’-all 250 of them,” he said.

    Mr. Albrecht also tried to refute criticism that HBO has become too Hollywood-focused, with shows like “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Entourage” and a new scripted effort about reality television, “The Comeback.” “The showbiz part is completely coincidental,” he said.

    More `Soap Star’ on Tap

    SoapNet ordered a second season of its one-hour reality series “I Wanna Be a Soap Star,” a contest in which viewers compete for a slot on ABC’s “All My Children.”

    SoapNet General Manager Deborah Blackwell also announced a fourth season of “They Started On Soaps” and the acquisition of two short-lived broadcast series-the 2003 Fox drama “Skin” and the 1995 ABC drama “The Monroes.”

    `Nip/Tuck’ Renewed

    FX President of Entertainment John Landgraf announced he has picked up the surgical drama “Nip/Tuck” for two more seasons. The show will return for its third season in the late summer or early fall.

    ABC Family Orders `Looks’

    ABC Family has ordered six episodes of “Looks of Love,” a reality series about a Los Angeles hair salon.

    Bound to draw comparisons to Bravo’s Beverly Hills-based reality salon series “Blow Out,” “Looks of Love” offers a less snarky ensemble of stylists at the family-owned Looks of Love hair salon.

    The series will be executive produced by Scott Messick and co-executive produced by James Weit. Production begins in January and the show is slated to premiere in June.

    ESPN Slates Talk Show

    ESPN has greenlighted a talk show starring “SportsCenter” commentator Stephen Smith. The show, “Quite Frankly,” is described as a sports-driven cross between “The O’Reilly Factor” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and will debut in June on ESPN2.

    The sport networks also has tapped “Playmakers” creator John Eisendrath to shoot a pilot for a boxing series slated for late 2005 or early 2006. The title was not announced.

    Crafts for Style

    The Style Network has greenlighted a 13-episode original series described as a cross between “Iron Chef” and “Martha Stewart Living.” Titled “Craft Corner Death Match,” the series features amateur domestic divas competing to create homemade designs on a deadline. The series, which will debut March 9, is produced by Idiot Box Productions and E! Networks.