Aims at A&E
A&E is jumping back into original scripted series with spy drama MI5. The thriller, co-produced with the BBC, tracks the elite counterterrorism unit of Britain's secret service over 16 hour-long episodes. Slated for this summer, MI5
is A&E's first new drama since Abbe Raven, former head of the History Channel, took over as general manager. "We are open to faster-paced and more contemporary shows like this," she said. A&E canned its two scripted dramas Nero Wolfe
and 100 Centre Street
last year due to low ratings.
A&E is adding theme nights, with mystery movies on Mondays and acquired dramas Crossing Jordan
and Third Watch
on Fridays. A&E's stalwart Biography
will move to Sunday nights, and Friday will feature documentaries.
BET Buys a Batch
BET has unveiled its anticipated first acquisitions, buying three Paramount Domestic Television shows: Showtime's drama Soul Food
and comedies Girlfriends
and The Parkers, which have both aired on UPN. Showtime, UPN and Paramount are owned by BET's parent, Viacom.
BET gets four seasons of Soul Food
and has an option for a fifth, if it's made. Soul Food
kicks off with a limited 12-episode run Jan. 21 and will join BET's regular prime time schedule in 2004, along with Girlfriends. The Parkers
will debut in September. BET CEO Debra Lee said the network may look to replay some Showtime original movies. She said Showtime makes about three or four black-themed movies a year.
BET's original animated series Hey Monie, co-produced with the Oxygen network, will debut on March 4.
HBO this spring will kick off production on its latest series, hour-long Western drama Deadwood, executive-produced by David Milch. This comes as HBO's two biggest shows are reaching their twilight years. Sex and the City
returns for its sixth and final season with 20 new episodes, 12 this summer and eight more in January 2004. The Sopranos
will have a fifth season, although it has yet to be scheduled. As for a sixth season, HBO has pitched creator David Chase, but the premium network said Chase hasn't decided if he'll extend the show beyond his intended five seasons.
Court TV's I, Witness
Court TV will add two new entertainment series this summer, I, Witness, a crime and justice game show where participants play eyewitness and solve crimes, and Who Lives Here?, in which detectives examine peoples' homes and try to piece together the identities of the occupants.
The network also renewed its popular Forensic Files
series for 30 new episodes, and Dominick Dunne's investigative series Power, Privilege and Justice
returns for six more episodes beginning Jan. 15.
Game Show Net To Press Your Luck
The Game Show Network will tackle a game- show scandal for its first documentary. Big Bucks: The Press Your Luck Scandal
profiles Press Your Luck
contestant Michael Larson, who cracked the game's code in 1984 and took home more than $100,000.
The two-hour special airs March 16 and includes Larson's original Press Your Luck
AMC Set To Unveil Wrong Coast
AMC will headline its new original-programming slate with claymation spoof The Wrong Coast, which features movie parodies with miscast actors, like, say, Woody Allen as Spider-Man
AMC (it's not called American Movie Classics anymore) has ordered 13 episodes, with the first to debut April 2.
The classic film channel wants to lure younger viewers with original fare and more contemporary movies. According to AMC programming chief Rob Sorcher, shows like The Wrong Coast
are "the perfect TV complement for a movie channel."
Other new programs include comedy series Welcome to Hollywood, a look at how celluloid stars are born, coming in June, and monthly specials called "The AMC Project." One special, Fame: The New Reality, premiering June 16, visits former reality-show stars after their series end.