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Sci Fi Eyes All Original Summer

New York-Sci Fi Channel, which is planning to add a second night of original programming, will premiere four new series during June and July as part of what it is calling its "All Original Summer," officials said last week.

Sci Fi's strategy this summer will be to showcase all-new episodes of its current original series without any repeats for three months, as well as debuting specials, several new shows and a six-hour original miniseries, Ultraviolet, according to executive vice president and general manager Bonnie Hammer.

"We wanted to see what would happen if we gave our audience an entire summer of new series," Hammer said. "Any original programming on our channel will have all-new episodes. We're going to give it our best shot."

In terms of new original series, Sci Fi has ordered 22 episodes of Matthew Blackheart: Monster Smasher from New Line Television. The hour-long action/comedy series, in the tradition of Men in Black, is being executive-produced by Lethal Weapon's Richard Donner, and it will star Robert Bogue of Home Box Office's Oz.

Monster Smasher will be added to Sci Fi's program lineup by the first quarter of next year, and it is meant to be the anchor of a second night of original programming on the network-a block that would launch by January, according to Hammer.

Sci Fi already airs a block of original primetime series on Friday nights, and it is considering Monday for its second primetime original block, she said.

Monster Smasher, which debuts July 31, is the story of a military "Frankenstein," Blackheart, who was created during World War II under the direction of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Blackheart's mission was to wipe out monsters created by mad scientist Dr. Mortas. Five decades after being cryogenically frozen, Blackheart has been revived and must battle the creatures Mortas created.

"We hope it will be a breakout hit," Hammer said.

The other original series Sci Fi has on tap for this summer are: Invisible Man, which debuts June 9 with a special two-hour episode; the stripped half-hour psychic-medium series Crossing Over with John Edward; and monthly series Sciography.

Sci Fi will premiere Crossing Over July 9, airing the show weeknights in late fringe at 11 p.m. and repeating it the next day at 4 p.m.

Sciography, debuting July 16, will take a behind-the-scenes look at classic science-fiction programming. The show will kick off as a once-a-month event, but Hammer wants to expand it to twice monthly by early next year.

Sci Fi has also acquired the rights to miniseries Ultraviolet from World Film Productions, and it will run over three consecutive nights kicking off July 31, according to Hammer. Ultraviolet, in which vampire hunters use state-of-the-art technology to hunt down the living dead, first appeared on the British Broadcasting Corp. in Great Britain as a series.

"We're trying to create bigger events for the channel," Hammer said, referring to Ultraviolet and miniseries Dune, which is slated to run later this year. The network is still working with Steven Spielberg on Taken, a 20-hour miniseries that it hopes to have ready for 2001, she added.

In June, Sci Fi also plans to rework its daytime schedule from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. by having themed days-or "SCI FI World." Each weekday will be a mini-marathon of one series, with each day dedicated to a science-fiction theme whose first letter spells out the channel's name: "Superheroland Mondays," "Creatureland Tuesdays," "Intergalacticland Wednesdays," "Fantasticland Thursdays" and "Inhumanland Fridays."

For example, the first Superhero Monday will be a mini-marathon of The Six Million Dollar Man. Other Mondays will include daylong blocks of shows such as The Incredible Hulk, Wonder Woman and Robocop: The Series.

Intergalactic Wednesdays will include marathons of series such as Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica and Lost in Space.

Sci Fi also has two special events in the works. The network plans to create its own "Sci Fi Awards," which it will televise in a two-hour presentation next year, Hammer said. In addition to looking at science fiction in films and television, Sci Fi will also look at categories such as video games, comics, books, music and fashion.

Hammer said the network plans to pick a panel of experts to choose the award-winners.

"We want to create exciting television with these awards," she added.

Sci Fi also plans to develop its own answer to wrestling-a sporting event that will pit cutting-edge robots against each other in battle. Robodeath-a one-hour special that will have a series of elimination matches and up to $20,000 in cash winnings-will most likely be ready for next year.

And in an unusual twist, Sci Fi and its sister service, USA Network, plan to simulcast New York's Greenwich Village Halloween parade live this year, according to Hammer. While both networks will air the parade, each will have its own, separate commentators and crew at the event, she said.