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Hibernation ends

It's once again time for cable networks to squeeze in premieres before broadcast goes into February-sweeps mode. As usual, they cover the gamut of forms, but dramas dominate the debutantes.

On Jan. 15 at 9 p.m., A & E rolls out the long-awaited 100 Centre Street, the series created and directed by filmmaker Sidney Lumet, his first television project in 30 years. It's based on New York City's night court.

Also in the legal vein, Lifetime unleashed the girl-detective drama, The Division,
last night (Jan. 7) at 9 p.m. with two back-to-back episodes. In addition, Lifetime will roll out What Makes a Family, an original movie produced by Barbra Streisand and Whoopi Goldberg, and featuring Brooke Shields as a lesbian whose parents sue her for custody of her children. Family,
based on a true story, shows up Jan. 22 at 9 p.m.

On American Movie Classics, The Lot
launched as a series Jan. 7 at 10 p.m. Originally conceived as a four-part special, Lot
is a drama soap set on the back lot of a'40s-era Hollywood studio.

Sci Fi's new dramas started Jan. 5 at 8 p.m. with Black Scorpion, the female superhero series from B-Movie master Roger Corman. The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne
premiered that same night at 10. New episodes of Lexx
, Invisible Man
and First Wave
return tonight in Sci Fi Prime, with the debut of former porn princess Traci Lords as a new character on First Wave.
Three dramas returned to USA Network, including one that fans refuse to let go. USA got more than 25,000 e-mails in three months when it tried to yank La Femme Nikita
last summer. The first of the final eight episodes premiered Jan. 7 at 10 p.m., along with new installments of Cover Me
at 9 p.m. and The Huntress
at 8 p.m. All were moved from Wednesday night, which now becomes a movie night.

Movies will be the only thing new on the TNT. Among them, Crossfire Trail
, a Western starting Tom Selleck, premieres Jan. 21; and The Pretender
, Jan. 22 on TNT, both at 8 p.m. The network's only original drama, Bull, is being held back for summer out of concern over a potential talent strike as well as its sagging ratings. TBS will package movies in a new franchise, The Man-Made Movie, in which a group of handymen fix up a shack as a "haven for the regular guy" over the course of a season on Thursdays at 8:05 p.m.

Nickelodeon weighs in with its own drama on Jan. 14 at 7 p.m. with the premiere of Taina, about a teen-aged Latina trying to be the next Jennifer Lopez. For the preschool set, Nick rolls out Brit hit Bob the Builder
,at 10 a.m. on Jan. 15.

VH1 will conjoin drama and surreality in Strange Frequency
, an anthology movie marrying rock and roll with the Twilight Zone
, debuting Jan. 24 at 9 p.m. In that new "reality" (created by television) form, VH1 follows an aspiring artist into the music biz in Road to Fame
on Feb. 3 at 8 p.m.

Less contrived reality is the form of choice at three of the Discovery nets. Cops, street people, dancers and whoever else wanders the streets of Miami in the wee hours are the stars of After Midnight, the new 13-part Discovery Channel series that started Jan. 5 at 10:30 p.m. and airs on Fridays. Discovery turns a similar eye on Las Vegasites in Casino Diaries,
another new weekly series slotted before Midnight
at 10 p.m.

The staff of the Los Angeles Zoo get the everyday-folk star treatment in Total Zoo, a new Animal Planet series that started Jan. 2 at 9:30 p.m. (and repeats on Saturdays at 8 p.m.) In Total Zoo, Planet goes behind the scenes to see just what type of people make a living feeding large, dangerous carnivores. On Discovery's Travel Channel, the rich and famous come under the microscope in Manhattan on the Beach, a new series following New Yorkers to their summer haunts in the Hamptons. Beach
begins with three back-to-back, one-hour episodes on Feb. 3 at 8 p.m.

Fox Family's Scariest Places on Earth,
returns Jan. 19 at 8 p.m. with a 3-hour compilation of original episodes and best-ofs; and the rather frightful concept of Turn Ben Stein On
returns to Comedy Central on Jan. 25.

Court TV, which revived its reality-bogged ratings with entertainment, is premiering new episodes of Forensic Files
and Crime Stories, one featuringan interview with former Jets star Mark Gastineau from his temporary home on Rikers Island. Rikers Island: Tales From Jail
airs Jan. 10 at 10 p.m.

Perhaps taking a cue from Court, ESPN continues its efforts to emphasize the "E" with a new programming initiative-ESPN Original Entertainment. Out of it comes The Life,
a new bio series based on a franchise in the print publication, ESPN The Magazine. Life
starts peering into the lives of top athletes on Jan. 13 at 10 a.m.

Meanwhile at The Learning Channel, sport meets refuse in British import Junkyard Wars, which gets a regular Monday 8 p.m. time slot beginning Jan. 29. The British also invade Bravo with Cold Feet,
a UK version of Friends, starting tonight at 10 p.m.