Now for some original ideas

Cable is ready to unveil a slew of new scripted movies and series in the months ahead

Why This Matters

Shows in the pipeline

Shows in the pipeline

The upcoming cable slate boasts numerous series, original movies, documentaries and stunt specials. Here's a rundown of highlights of the top-rated cable entertainment networks' schedule:


Biography celebrates its 15th anniversary with four specials, the first airing March 4. The network's latest miniseries, Shackleton, airs in four parts in April.

Comedy Central

Crank Yankers, a new series from Man Show creators, arrives in the second quarter. The net's first original movie, Porn 'N Chicken, will premiere in the third.

Court TV

Original movie Guilt by Association arrives in March. Documentary series Memphis Homicide, a follow-up to last year's Brooklyn North Homicide, debuts April 17. Interactive I-Detective kicks off in the third quarter.

Discovery Channel

The latest Blue Planet, on the Earth's oceans, airs in two parts this month and in May. The Real Eve on April 21 traces human genealogy. Stunt special What Killed the Mega Beast airs in the third quarter.


The network's first original movie, Season on the Brink, the story of volatile basketball coach Bob Knight, debuts March 2.


The net's next original movie, Big Shot: Confessions of a College Bookie, plays in March or April. RFK, on the life of Robert F. Kennedy, should air in the third quarter.


There's a new movie per month, including We Were the Mulvaneys in April.

Sci Fi Channel

Original movie Jackie Chan Presents: Metal Mayhem debuts Feb. 23. Dan Aykroyd explores the paranormal in Out There With Dan Aykroyd, beginning in April.


Three original movies air between March and June: Dead in a Heartbeat March 3, Disappearance April 7 and Atomic Twister June 9. A new weekly reality-style series, Worst Case Scenarios, kicks off July 3.


Cable's summer season will be headlined by original movies King of Texas in June and Door to Door in July.


Monk, a two-hour detective special, premieres in June. An action-adventure pilot tentatively titled Red Skies could vie for a full series run this summer. Upcoming original movies include Hearts of Men and detective tale Case of Evil.

The reality bubble is deflating on cable networks. A few recently launched shows, notably USA's Combat Missions
and Bravo's It Factor, signal the last trickle. For spring and summer, the buzz is, broad-based entertainment networks are forging ahead on scripted drama series.

Land a hit, and the spoils could be appointment viewing and a valuable promotional platform. "You're always hoping for a grand slam," says USA Network President Doug Herzog. "If you hit it out of the park, it can have an impact on the ratings."

Lifetime's successful trio of Sunday-night dramas, among cable's highest-rated series, are the benchmark. TNT's sci-fi drama Witchblade
averaged a 2.3 Nielsen rating last summer, good enough for a second run coming in June.

Programming execs acknowledge that dramas are tough to pull off. "Drama is expensive and has a high mortality rate," says A&E Senior VP of Programming Allen Sabinson. A non-scripted show can cost $200,000 an episode; a well-done drama can be $500,000 to $1 million per episode, plus promotion and marketing costs.

Even so, the field will get more crowded. A&E, with modestly successful Nero Wolfe
and 100 Centre St., hopes to add a third original series in September. After scrapping Bull Run
and Breaking News last year, TNT is looking for another drama or two to back up its "We Know Drama" campaign.

USA is getting back in the drama game with Dead Zone, slated for June debut. "This is the first step in getting us back to a leadership position," Herzog said.

FX unveils its dark Los Angeles-based cop drama The Shield
in March. It's considering a pilot project Lucky
as a replacement for scrapped comedy series Bad News, Mr. Swanson
. FX President Peter Liguori says he wants ultimately three scripted originals on his channel.

Sci Fi debuts two-part miniseries Fire-starter: Rekindled, based on Stephen King's novel, March 10-11. If a success, says network Executive Vice President and GM Bonnie Hammer, it could spawn a full series.