‘Sanders’ signed for 6th season

“The Larry Sanders Show” will return to HBO for a sixth season in 1998, and Dennis Miller has signed what HBO describes as “an exclusive multiyear deal” to host a 26-episode season of his Emmy-winning “Dennis Miller Live” next year as well as headline a pair of stand-up specials and other programming.

The Time Warner premium cabler also cut a deal late last week with Rysher Entertainment for the new drama series “Oz,” from executive producer Tom Fontana (“Homicide: Life on the Street”). Focusing on life in an urban prison, it has a minimum eight-episode order and is expected to hit the HBO schedule by July.

HBO chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes made the announcements Saturday at the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Pasadena.

There had been some doubt that “Larry Sanders” would come back for another year in light of Garry Shandling’s theatrical film commitments. Its fifth season of originals airs through the end of February, with year six expected to kick off in early ’98.

Comedian Chris Rock’s new Friday latenight sketch comedy-talkshow “The Chris Rock Show” launches Feb. 7 at 12:30 a.m. on HBO, with guests the Artist Formerly Known as Prince and attorney Johnnie Cochran.

And production on the 13-part Apollo space program dramatic anthology “From the Earth to the Moon” from exec producer Tom Hanks is skedded to begin filming in Florida in mid-February.

The HBO session at TCA also featured Christopher Reeve, director of the HBO NYC one-hour film “In the Gloaming,” via satellite from a hospital room. Reeve was hospitalized Friday with what he termed “a small blood clot.” In other cable press tour news:

* As part of a strategy to pack more new programming onto the Movie Channel, Showtime Networks Inc. announced the channel will debut 20-25 original films in 1997.

* Two firstrun “Beavis & Butt-head” cartoons will air on MTV during halftime of Fox’s telecast of “Super Bowl XXXI.” Called “Butt-Bowl IV,” they will include a countdown clock so viewers will know when halftime ends.

* VH1 has acquired 80 episodes of the classic 1970s NBC music series “The Midnight Special” and will run them in 30- and 60-minute blocks each night beginning in April.

* Oprah Winfrey will show up in primetime Feb. 24 on Lifetime in the hour “Dinner With Oprah,” featuring writer Toni Morrison. Lifetime also has signed Susan Sarandon to host the “Lifetime Women’s Film Festival” airing March 9.

* Bravo announced it is producing 12 more episodes of “Inside the Actors Studio,” moving it to Sunday nights beginning in April.

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