MTV to feast on ‘Hunger’

In a unique example of some Viacom corporate synergy, MTV will air a same-day simulcast this weekend of the new Showtime dramatic anthology series from brothers Tony and Ridley Scott, “The Hunger.”

The plan calls for Showtime to kick off the series Sunday at 9 p.m. with a three-episode trilogy. Then at 11 the same night, MTV will run the first of the three installments, “Swords” (directed by Tony Scott).

It is the first such joint venture between the two.

MTV is also running a half-hour special Saturday night taking viewers behind the scenes of “The Hunger.”

“We came to them with the idea,” said Showtime programming prexy Jerry Offsay, “and they liked it.”

‘Naked City’ movies

Offsay, attending the cable end of the Television Critics Assn. tour in Pasadena over the weekend, also divulged that Showtime is developing a series of movies based on the gritty dramatic series “Naked City” that ran on ABC from 1958 to 1963, and is looking into the possibility of developing a series of Sergio Leone-style westerns.

Other announcements at the TCA press tour included:

  • Family Channel prexy and CEO Tony Thomopoulos said the channel, pending completion of its sale to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., will likely begin running Fox Kids programming between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. beginning fall ’98.

    Thomopoulos declined to predict whether he would remain a part of the channel once it is under new ownership, saying, “I’m standing here right now … today is today and we’ll find out about tomorrow tomorrow.” He later noted that it is his belief that MTM Entertainment’s operations will be folded into the newly restructured company.

  • The Nashville Network is looking into new opportunities for programming synergy with Westinghouse cousin CBS, working joint promotional efforts for NASCAR racing and country music shows. However, there is no discussion of any CBS ventures with the struggling new cable net CBS Eye On People, which has been stymied in its attempts to gain meaningful distribution and whose future is said to be imperiled.

  • ESPN executives are determined to land a contract to broadcast NBA basketball games when the pact comes up for renewal.

  • HBO has renewed the Tracey Ullman comedy series “Tracey Takes On …” for a third season of 10 episodes and locked up Whitney Houston for a live concert Oct. 5 from Washington, D.C. It will be the singer’s third HBO special. The network also gave a 10-week renewal to “Mr. Show with Bob and David,” with new segs arriving Sept. 12.

  • The Disney Channel, which recently passed the 30 million subscriber mark (25 million basic customers, 5 million pay), has acquired the offnet rights to the Buena Vista series “Dinosaurs” and “Brotherly Love” as well as to the long-running Warner Bros. comedy “Growing Pains.”

    The channel will also, on Sept. 21, launch a new overnight programming block from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. (9 p.m. to 6 a.m. on Sundays) that will include film, series and specials fare culled from the Disney archives including such shows as “Zorro,” “The Mickey Mouse Club” and “Davy Crockett,” and such films as “The Love Bug” and “The Parent Trap.”

  • Mike Myers, who hosted the “1997 MTV Movie Awards,” has signed with MTV to star in three specials for the network beginning later this year. MTV also announced a 13-episode commitment to the comedy series “Austin Stories,” which premieres Sept. 10.

  • Nick at Nite’s TV Land has locked up the exclusive rights to the 1970s comedy/variety hit “The Flip Wilson Show” and plans to roll it out Aug. 18 in a simulcast with sister nostalgia network Nick at Nite.

  • FX has acquired the cable rights to all 255 segs of “MASH” as well as the rights to the two-hour 1983 “MASH” series farewell and the 20th anniversary retrospective special hosted by Shelley Long. The show begins airing fall ’98.
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