Bada-Bing! Even without naked strippers, the first episode of “The Sopranos” on A&E drew 4.27 million viewers on A&E last Wednesday night, making it the highest-rated premiere for an off-network show ever on cable television. A&E made a huge bet on “The Sopranos,” paying a record $2.5 million per episode for the HBO mob series. According to the first figures from Nielsen Media Research, the premiere episode attracted 1.94 million adults 25 to 54, in line what the network was guaranteeing its advertisers. The “Sopranos” debut came a day after A&E, which has focused on reality shows and acquired series in recent years, unveiled a drama development slate that features shows produced by Joel Silver, Steven Bochco and others. The network also announced during the Television Critics Association semi-annual press tour in Pasadena, Calif., that six of its reality shows have been renewed, a new one is in production and two pilots are being developed.
TLC Targets 30-somethings With New Pilots
As TLC continues to recover from its post-“Trading Spaces” ratings crash, the network has commissioned a new short-order series and a couple of pilots. “I’ve Got Nothing to Wear” is a six-episode series about a team that helps women in crisis by recycling and refashioning existing items in their closets. “You’re Driving Me Crazy” is a pilot in which a team stages an intervention for hapless drivers. Another pilot is “Kleinfeld’s Bridal,” a program going behind the scenes of the world-famous Kleinfeld Bridal shop in New York. The shows are part of TLC’s Executive VP and General Manager David Abraham’s ongoing effort to use unscripted series to target family-oriented 30-somethings. The channel was up 12 percent in total viewers last year, and up 20 percent in the fourth quarter. “We’re sleeping a few more hours each night nowadays,” Mr. Abraham told TelevisionWeek in an interview last week during the press tour in Pasadena.
Mark Burnett to Produce MTV Movie Awards
With their awards franchise drawing criticism in recent rounds for becoming too static, MTV has tapped reality producer Mark Burnett to executive-produce this year’s Movie Awards. MTV announced the plans at the press tour, where Mr. Burnett said he wanted to make the award franchise more interactive and spontaneous. “It’s become too well-produced in some ways. MTV is the antithesis of that,” Mr. Burnett said. “It’s very important to let the audience know it’s live.” Mr. Burnett said he approached MTV with an offer to produce the show because he’s a fan of the event. Mr. Burnett said his version of the awards show will include user-generated content in addition to retaining traditional elements such as movie parodies. -James Hibberd
`Bounty Hunter’ Finds WE
WE has ordered 10 hour-long episodes of a new reality series called “Wife, Mom, Bounty Hunter,” which follows the personal and professional exploits of former professional wrestler Sandra Scott. The women’s entertainment network owned by Cablevision also renewed its series “The Secret Life of Women” for 10 more episodes, WE executives said Friday at the press tour. -James Hibberd
Sci Fi and USA Network Announce New Series
Sci Fi Channel and USA Network announced several new projects at the Television Critics Association semi-annual press tour Friday, including a new “Flash Gordon” series. As is its TCA custom, Sci Fi announced an extensive slate. The “Flash Gordon” series, based on the classic comic strip, includes 22 one-hour episodes produced by Robert Halmi and Robert Halmi Jr. Sci Fi also has a new reality series, “Destination Truth,” which is an hour-long, six-episode series investigating unexplained mysteries. USA Network greenlighted 11 episodes of “In Plain Sight,” a new drama starring Mary McCormack (“The West Wing”) as a U.S. Federal Marshal working for the Witness Protection Program. David Maples (“Huff”) serves as showrunner, with “Dawson’s Creek” producer Paul Stupin executive-producing. Sci Fi’s development slate includes a miniseries called “Diamond Age,” based on a novel by Neal Stephenson about a futuristic society, executive-produced by George Clooney and Grant Heslov of Smokehouse Productions. Other projects include an untitled action series from Darren Star (“Sex and the City”) about convicts working for a secret government techno-crime agency. -James Hibberd