Betting on Summer and Beyond

Lifetime preps shows intended to attract younger viewers

Lifetime is looking to get a jump on summer this year. The women's network will premiere Army Wives, the first of three scripted shows for the season, in early June.

The network is betting big on Wives (ABC TV Studio), along with Side Order of Life and State of Mind, in its effort to draw new and younger viewers. It is also developing high-quality fare for next year with a programming budget that Kagan Research puts at $353.8 million.

Wives, which follows the lives of five women on an Army base and co-stars Kim Delaney and Catherine Bell, premieres Sunday, June 3 at 10 p.m. ET, following And She Was, a new original movie starring Kirstie Alley.

On July 15, Side Order and State of Mind (both from Warner Horizon) will premiere, at 8 and 9 p.m., respectively, joining Wives in a three-hour Sunday block. Lifetime President/CEO Betty Cohen and Entertainment President Susanne Daniels tout the importance of such programming blocks in attracting—and keeping—viewers.

“What we've learned is the need for a critical mass if you're going to bring in a younger audience,” Cohen says. “People were coming to Lifetime and changing their perceptions, but we didn't have enough critical mass to say, 'Here, if you like this show, may we also recommend this other one?'”

Beyond the summer, projects that are in the script-development stage include hour-long dramas Mile High and Bailey Weggins and dramedy Hit and Miss.

Mile, from ABC Television Studio, is an adaptation of the BBC series of the same name. The show, which Daniels characterizes as a “sexy adult ensemble,” centers on staffers at a new airline whose high-flying work lives contrast with their stalled personal lives. Jill Condon (Friends, Grounded for Life) and novelist Juli Huss serve as writers/executive producers. Jane Hewland, executive producer of the BBC series, is a producer.

“They're trying to do what A&E has done, which is bring down the demo,” says ABC Television Studio chief Mark Pedowitz. “That's not easy, because they [don't want to] alienate the core audience.”

Pedowitz is aiming for the sort of femme fare like the studio's Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy, both of which Lifetime acquired. That includes casting appealing younger actors and “making the pacing work with a younger audience who grew up with MTV.”

Also in development from ABC TV Studio and TV/film musical producers Craig Zadan and Neal Meron (Chicago) is Hit and Miss, a dramedy based on the life of singer-songwriter Dianne Warren.

Bailey Weggins, from Lionsgate, is an adaptation of a book series by Cosmo editor Kate White. In the show, which Daniels describes as Sex and the City meets Monk, a divorced TV reporter solves weekly crime mysteries. Rick Copp (The Brady Bunch Movie) is writer/executive producer. Lawrence Bender (An Inconvenient Truth) and Kevin Brown (Roswell) executive-produce.

Fox TV Studios is working on a pilot of Judgment Day, a reality competition in which 10 contestants picked from an all-female audience submit to questions and challenges and the remaining audience members vote on who is the most interesting or popular. Lifetime greenlighted the hour pilot from Simon Andreae.

Says Daniels, “It's really about how people look at women and their instant reactions to people.”