Romance Classics was from Venus. Women's Entertainment is from Mars. The newly renamed Rainbow Media women's network won't be nurturing relationships anymore. WE television will be for women who don't have time for cutesy stuff.
That's Kate McEnroe's take on the new direction. "Martha Stewart will not be on this network," the president of AMC Networks declared in announcing the name change at last week's Western Show. "WE will not be making flower arrangements."
The biggest piece of WE's programming overhaul is a new original-movie franchise, which WE is kicking off with no less than Faye Dunaway's directorial debut on a Tennessee Williams tale called
The Yellow Bird. Given to Dunaway by the playwright,
is about a young Southern woman who throws off the oppression of her strict minister father. James Coburn and Brenda Blethyn star in the film, which features music by Diane Warren and Robert Palmer.
Dunaway called it "a little guerilla, try-to-stay-in-the-budget type of film." What that budget was, she and McEnroe declined to say, but the average for original films, excluding the monstrous miniseries, is about $5 million per picture. WE is partnering with sister company IFC films to make its movies, so it won't be shouldering all the costs.
Still, Rainbow Media is sinking some bucks into WE. According to figures from Kagan & Associates, Romance would have spent $37 million on programming this year. With Oxygen earmarking close to $100 million a year for programming and Lifetime breaking the $200 million mark, Rainbow had to open the purse strings or be left in the dust.
The rest of the new schedule is a mix of style, fashion, travel and profiles.
Supermodel Cindy Crawford will host
Fashion Flashback, a four-part look at fashion throughout history, to air Saturdays at 8 p.m. starting April 7. Former supermodel Rachel Hunter will host
Style World, a regular weekly series that has her hopping about the planet checking out everything design, from architecture to clogs. In
Journey Women off the Map, cameras document the true-life exploits of thirty-something women traveling alone into remote areas of the world.
premieres Tuesday, Feb. 22, at 8 p.m., but will appear thereafter in the same time slot on Thursday nights.
takes a look at female athletes in extreme sports. The one-hour special premieres Jan. 27 at 8 p.m.
Only two shows remain from the old days of Romance:
Great Romances, a sort of
of famous pairings, and
Everyday Elegance, with Colin Cowie, a mercenary lifestyle adviser who says forget fiddling with baby's breath and buy candles for the dinner table: The light hides wrinkles. Debbie Allen's
Cool Women, new enough to the network to be considered WE and not Romance, returns for a second season. Ditto for
Cinematherapy, the hosted, themed series of acquired movies. New titles for 2001 include
Peggy Sue Got Married,
An Officer and a Gentleman,
Desperately Seeking Susan
The renaming of Romance has been in the works for months but was kept close to the vest for the big Western Show announcement. However, the hat was tipped and spilled the day before the formal announcement, when a bunch of balloons bearing the WE: Women's Entertainment logo were released on the exhibit hall floor and it took union workers 36 hours to get them down.
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