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Upfronts: More Scripted Fare for Nat Geo, Hallmark

National Geographic Channel will continue its move into scripted content this fall with the premiere of a two-hour movie event about the aftermath of a cyberattack on the United States. It’s part of an aggressive 2013-14 original programming slate, announced at the network’s upfront last week, that will feature four new series along with a mix of events and specials.

Hallmark Channel, meanwhile, renewed freshman daytime series Home & Family, announced two new original primetime series in development, acquired off -network rights to sitcom Home Improvement and said sister network Hallmark Movie Channel is producing its first original holiday movie, all at an upfront luncheon in New York.

Nat Geo’s movie special, American Blackout, chronicles in real time the first two weeks immediately following a catastrophic blackout, National Geographic Channel president Howard Owens said.

Specials include Killing Kennedy, a follow-up to the network’s hit Killing Lincoln; and Miracle on the Hudson, about US Airways Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger’s landing of a malfunctioning plane on the Hudson River.

Also new from Nat Geo is Building Wild, in which Extreme Makeover: Home Edition star Paul DiMeo helps families build unusual personal getaway houses; Die Trying, about pushing the limits of adventure and endurance; Showdown of the Unbeatables, which pits cuttingedge inventions in a battle for machinery supremacy; and The Legend of Mick Dodge, about a survivalist who lives in the Pacific Northwest cloud forest. Returning shows include Alaska State Troopers, Brain Games, Diggers, Doomsday Preppers and Wicked Tuna, Owens said.

Hallmark Channel, which will premiere its first homegrown original scripted series, Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove, on July 20, plans to have four new original scripted dramas on the schedule on Saturday nights by 2014.

“Adding original scripted series to our primetime lineup is the natural next step in Hallmark Channel’s evolution and one we feel will pay off in a big way for our viewers, distributors and advertisers,” Michelle Vicary, executive vice president of programming at the two Hallmark channels, said at the upfront.

The second series officially to be green-lit is When Calls the Heart, based on Janette Oke’s books about a teacher living in a Western frontier town. The movie pilot will premiere on Oct. 5, the Saturday after Cedar Cove’s first season ends. When Calls the Heart will resume in January 2014 with at least seven more episodes, officials said. Also likely for 2014: Dead Letters, from Touched By an Angel creator Martha Williamson, and My Gal Sunday, based on a book of short stories by Mary Higgins Clark.

Hallmark Movie Channel is producing its first original movie, Christmas With Tucker, starring James Brolin, to run under the channel’s new “Most Wonderful Movies of Christmas” tagline.

And the upfront beat goes on, on with FX presenting Thursday (March 28). Other networks that announced upfront dates last week include The Weather Channel (April 3), GSN (April 9), AMC (April 17) and NUVOtv (May 15).