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USA reworks ‘Herc’ hour

Web preps for 'Jack,' 'Cleo' bows

With the hit syndie drama hour “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys” set to wrap its 5-1/2-year run in November, Studios USA and Renaissance Pictures are prepping for the January bow of two replacement half-hours, “Jack of All Trades” and “Cleopatra 2525.”

Renaissance, headed by Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert, will stick with the winning “Hercules” and “Xena” formula of fantasy, action and a healthy dose of humor.

“Jack” and “Cleopatra” will move into “Hercules’ ” syndie timeslots in January, promoted under the umbrella banner of “Back 2 Back Action.” The “Hercules” series finale is slated to air the week of Nov. 15.

“Renaissance will break new ground by producing the only half-hour action-adventure shows on TV,” said Steve Rosenberg, prexy of Studios USA Domestic TV. “The faster-paced stories and action will set them apart from the typical hour fare found on the networks.”

And for sure, the enduring appeal of syndie first-run hours like “Hercules” and “Xena” has been their ability to draw the younger, MTV-schooled viewers that don’t flock to the more cerebral primetime dramas like “Law & Order” or “The Practice.”

The swashbuckling “Jack of All Trades” focuses on the adventures of a Jack Styles, an aristocratic, James Bond-esque British Secret Service agent stationed on a Caribbean island in the early 18th century.

Stiles’ helpmate in monitoring the progress of the New World for the crown is Emilia, distant relative of a long-lost governor of the island. “Jack” was created by Eric Morris, whose TV scripting credits include “The Pretender,” “The Outer Limits” and “Sliders.”

“Cleopatra 2525,” created by Tapert and “Xena” co-exec producer R.J. Stewart, follows the futuristic trials of an actress/exotic dancer who is cryogenically frozen in the year 2001 and accidentally dethawed in 2525, where she wakes up in an underground world ruled by evil robots.

Cleo and the two femme warriors who found her band together to break out of the endless underground corridors and reclaim the wild surface of the planet.

There’s no word yet from Renaissance on casting for either series. Both skeins will be shot in New Zealand, where “Hercules” and “Xena” also are lensed.

“The ‘Back 2 Back Action’ hour will transport viewers to some very exciting times and places,” exec producer Tapert promises. “It will be every bit as dynamic and groundbreaking as ‘Hercules’ and ‘Xena,’ with the same broad action, strong drama, humor and sex appeal that has attracted both men and women to these shows.”

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