New York— Both A&E Network and The History Channel will significantly increase their ranks of original series and specials during the 2001-2002 season, according to executives from both networks.
Dramatic series, movies and original documentaries will serve as the cornerstones of A&E's new season. For its part, sister network The History Channel plans six new series and several specials.
In upfront presentations to advertisers last week, both A&E senior vice president of programming Allen Sabinson and History senior vice president of programming Charlie Maday said the programming slates were the most ambitious in the networks' respective histories. But neither channel would say how much it would spend on its originals.
Sabinson said A&E will debut at least nine films, including two from the science-fiction genre: an adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World
and The Lathe of Heaven, starring James Caan, Lukas Haas and Lisa Bonet.
"We're going into [genres] that we've never gone into before," Sabinson said.
The network will also premiere a new dramatic series from filmmaker Sidney Lumet, May It Please the Court,
which will bring the most important U.S. Supreme Court decisions to life.
A&E has also renewed Lumet's critically acclaimed series 100 Centre Street
for 18 new episodes. The network, which also runs sleuth skein Nero Wolfe, may debut a third original drama series in early 2002, said Sabinson, without offering further details.
Taking a different twist on the reality genre, Real PeopleTV
is an interactive series that will give individuals an opportunity to live out their lifelong goals, dreams or passions. Created by Who Wants to Be a Millionaire
executive producer Michael Davies, the show will combine television and the Internet, allowing viewers to participate in someone else's real adventure.
Also on tap: Minute-by-Minute, a first-person account of some of the more memorable events in recent history.
The channel also has plenty of documentaries to mine, notably Heroes of Iwo Jima, Darkside of Boxing, Under the Big Top, Gorillas, Married In America
and Barrymore on the Barrymores,
featuring actress Drew Barrymore, Sabinson said.
A&E also will continue its relationship with Cosmos Studios through The Lost Dinosaurs of Egypt
and a special based on Cosmos' Solar Sail launch.
For his part, Maday called History's programming efforts aggressive.
"It's ambitious because we're creating more new series and strengthening our current series," he said.
The network — now in more than 70 million homes — has six new series on tap: World Premiere Mondays; The XY Factor, which looks at the history of sex and civilization; History vs. Hollywood,
focusing on how movies have accurately depicted historical events; Dangerous Missions, Color of War
Planned miniseries and specials include Founding Brothers, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book; Blind Man's Bluff, from the best selling novel of the same name; Gold;
Mr. Dreyfuss Goes to Washington,
featuring actor Richard Dreyfuss; and My Father's Gun.
History's programming announcements come on the heels of a strong first quarter in the ratings. The network averaged a 0.9 during primetime in that span, up 17 percent from last year, according to Nielsen Media Research Data.
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R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.