Cabler adds two minority skeins

Showtime will help redress the well-publicized under-representation of blacks and Hispanics on television by greenlighting two hourlong series for the summer, “Resurrection Blvd.,” a drama about a Latino family in East L.A., and “Soul Food,” an adaptation of the successful movie about a Chicago-based black family. Both programs have picked up 22-episode commitments from Showtime.

Jerry Offsay, president of programming for Showtime Networks, said both series were in development before the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People last summer publicly excoriated the Big Four broadcast networks for failing to include minority-group characters in the new series slotted for the 1999-2000 primetime schedules.

“You’d have to be deaf, dumb or blind not to notice that African-American and Hispanic shows are not in evidence on the broadcast networks,” Offsay said. “It became an easy decision to greenlight ‘Resurrection’ and ‘Soul Food.’ “

The two new series join the renewed “Outer Limits” anthology series and “Stargate: SG-1,” both from MGM TV, as Showtime commitments for 2000. Still awaiting the go/no-go decision, Offsay said, are four current series: “Beggars and Choosers,” “Hoop Life,” “Rude Awakenings” and ‘Linc’s.” If Showtime fails to renew any of these four — a decision that the network will make within the next month — Offsay said he’ll greenlight new series to replace the nixed ones because he wants eight series on the network’s schedule.

Sisters do it for themselves

Showtime assigned its sister company Viacom Prods. to film the two-hour “Resurrection Blvd.” movie, which served as a backdoor pilot, Offsay said. As for “Soul Food,” he explained, Twentieth TV declined to take up Showtime’s offer to produce an hourlong version of “Soul Food,” which 20th Century Fox produced and distributed theatrically, so Showtime put it in development, assigning the series to another sister company, Paramount Network TV. Twentieth did try to develop a half-hour comedy based on “Soul Food” for the Fox network, which passed on the project, Offsay said.

Viacom will film “Resurrection” in Los Angeles for a cost of about $1.1 million an episode, according to Offsay. Dennis E. Leoni will write and exec produce; the director is Jesus Salvador Trevino. Cast includes Michael DeLorenzo, Nicholas Gonzalez, Ruth Livier, Mauricio Mendoza, Tony Plana and Elizabeth Pena. Boxing as a road out of poverty is one of the series’ main themes.

Paramount is still trying to decide where to shoot “Soul Food,” and the casting is still to be determined. The budget figures to be in the range of $1.2 million per episode. Edmonds Entertainment and State Street Pictures are the production entities for the series. Exec producers are Tracey Edmonds, Kenneth (Babyface) Edmonds, George Tillman Jr. and Robert Teitel. Also on board as exec producers are Felicia Henderson, who’ll write the opening episode, and Kevin Arkadie.

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