Cablers fill gaps left by networks

While the broadcast networks have been mailing in summers for the last two years, cable networks have used the down time to premiere original programming in an effort to recruit new viewers bored with reruns.

But that does not mean cablers will turn their backs on viewers this fall. More and more cable networks are offering original programs for the new season as broadcast share continues to decline.

Premium channels HBO and Showtime continue to pump out original movies. Anticipated HBO projects include “The Late Shift,” about the battle between Jay Leno and David Letterman to succeed Johnny Carson, and “Truman,” starring Gary Sinise in the title role from an adaptation of David McCullough’s Pulitzer Prize-winning biography.

Showtime has dozens of movies in the works, with a Debra Winger project in the pipeline, as well as its weekly Showtime Original Pictures, including “The Man in the Attic” with Anne Archer, and “The Courtyard,” starring Andrew McCarthy and Madchen Amick.

On the basic front, mainstream cablers TNT and USA are moving further into original programming. TNT has a strong lineup of original movies for the fall including “The Heidi Chronicles” starring Jamie Lee Curtis, and “Riders of the Purple Sage” starring Ed Harris and Amy Madigan.

TNT, which still counts on biblical and historical drama for much of its fare, is also getting political. In January, it will premiere “Kissinger and Nixon,” starring Ron Silver and Beau Bridges in the film adaptation of the Walter Isaacson biography.

In January, USA will premiere its new comedy block, which includes “Campus Cops,” from director John Landis, and “Weekly World News,” a half-hour program from Brandon Tartikoff based on the supermarket tabloid of the same name.

In the dramatic series arena, USA will launch “San Diego Bike Patrol,” about four bicycle cops in an upscale beach community.

USA will also premiere the original movie “A Road to Galveston,” starring Cicely Tyson.

For the kids, Nickelodeon is premiering a slew of new shows, including “Maurice Sendak’s Little Bear” and “Rupert,” based on the British character Rupert the Bear.

The Family Channel is also becoming more active in original programming with a new executive team headed by Tony Thomopoulos. Key components for the channel will be a slew of original movies and kid’s programming.

MTV also will roll out an assortment of specials this fall, including two new “Sex in the ’90s” specials.

American Movie Classics adds “AMC’s Hollywood Report,” a monthly magazine that will cover movie news.

Comedy Central, which had a big success with “Absolutely Fabulous,” is having similar luck with the animated series “Dr. Katz.” It also has several new comedies in the works.

Lifetime is devoting more resources to original programming as well, especially in the movie genre. The cabler has said it will spend more than $100 million on original product in the coming years.

In the docu realm, TBS’ lineup includes “The Private Life of Plants,” “Jacques-Yves Cousteau: My First 85 Years” and “Network Earth: People Count,” about world population.

Bravo will try to bolster its moniker as “the film and arts network” with an eight-part focus on jazz as part of its continuing “Master of American Music” series. Included will be one-hour segments on such seminal artists as Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk.

The Discovery Channel is launching two new daytime shows, “The Popular Mechanics Show” and Lynette Jennings’ “Housemart,” about interior design.

The TV Food Network is expanding its reach to other genres with “Ready… Set… Cook,” a game show in which contestants spend $10 on food and two chefs have to cook something up with the ingredients provided.

Other TV Food shows include “Girls From the Grill,” hosted by Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feigner, owners of the Border Grill and other restaurants in Los Angeles.

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