Cabler to air reality-based women's stories

Women’s cable web Lifetime announced two new original primetime series Wednesday: “How Could It Happen” (working title) hosted by Melissa Etheridge, and “The Ruby Wax Show,” starring British talkshow host Ruby Wax.

The network also officially renewed two of three original primetime series it premiered last year. “Any Day Now” and “Oh Baby” will return to Lifetime’s lineup next season.

A third series, “Maggie,” was canceled.

Lifetime unveiled its 1999-2000 programming strategy at an upfront presentation to advertisers at Gotham’s Grand Hyatt.

Shot in Los Angeles, “How Could It Happen” (Daily Variety, March 26) is a primetime, hour-long, reality-based series that features stories about women who have experienced twists of fate that have changed their lives.

Celeb interviews

Produced by HBO Downtown Productions, “The Ruby Wax Show” is a weekly, half-hour series that will feature comedic interviews with such celebs as Tom Hanks, Goldie Hawn, Sandra Bullock and Pamela Anderson.

The network also revealed plans for new original movies including projects executive produced by Vanessa Williams, Dolly Parton, Bette Midler and Sally Field.

Williams will star in and exec produce “Quadroon Ball,” the true story of Henriette Delille, one of the first African-American Catholic nuns.

Parton will star in the project “Blue Valley Songbird” that she will exec produce for the channel. Pic follows the life of a young Tennessee woman who dreams of becoming a country-western singer.

“Hazel Walker,” the true story of the founder of the first all-women professional basketball team will be exec produced by Midler and Bonnie Bruckheimer.

Field will exec produce “Tricky Dick and the Pink Lady,” the story of the race for U.S. Senate between Richard Nixon and Helen Gahagan Douglas.

Based on Wendy Wasserstein’s Pulitzer-Prize winning play, “American Daughter” tells the story of a Republican senator and her nomination by the president for surgeon general.

Original movies

Other original movies include “Life of the Party: The Pamela Harriman Story,” “Invisible Child,” “Dangerous Evidence,” “Different,” “Jackie’s Back,” “Mademoiselle Chanel,” “Take My Advice: The Ann and Abby Story,” “The Ruth Handler Story,” and “The Private Life of Eleanor Roosevelt.”

Lifetime will present two original documentaries this year. The millennium minded “100 Years of Women,” which profiles 100-year-old women and “Beauty and Aging in America” hosted by Sela Ward.

Senior VP of advertising sales for Lifetime, Lynn Picard, hinted at further projects in development with Will Smith, Forest Whitaker and Natalie Merchant, who was on hand to serenade advertisers at Wednesday’s upfront presentation.

The network’s ongoing “Intimate Portrait” series will continue in the 1999-2000 TV season with installments profiling celebs such as Halle Berry, Mia Farrow, Fran Drescher, Iman, Oksana Bayul, Gloria Steinem, Andie MacDowell and Lea Thompson.

The network will add “Murphy Brown,” “Suddenly Susan” and “Caroline in the City” to its list of off-network series that includes “Chicago Hope,” “Ellen,” “Designing Women,” and “Golden Girls.”

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