A&E start has Lumet

First original skein puts vet helmer as 'Centre'

NEW YORK — After a 40-year absence from the small screen, Sidney Lumet will return to television with an original drama series for A&E.

Lumet, who began his career as a leading director of live TV in the 1950s, will exec produce the one-hour “100 Centre Street,” A&E’s first original dramatic series. He’s also committed to write and direct the pilot and several episodes. A&E has ordered 13 episodes of the series, set in New York City’s night-court system.“Centre Street” is slated to begin production in New York in August. Lumet anticipates that 60% of the show will be shot on location, the rest on a local soundstage. “It will be extremely realistic,” he added.

Series will be produced in high-definition video. “We would not have dared to undertake such a production (especially in hi-def) were we not in the hands of one of the true princes of New York City and one of the great directors of our times,” said Allen Sabinson, senior VP of programming.

Lumet has wanted to tell the stories of the prosecutors, defense attorneys and accused criminals in night court since doing research for his 1981 feature “Prince of the City.” “It’s a place where lives are being decided,” Lumet explained.

Originally shopped to the broadcast networks, “Centre Street” was at one point set up at NBC, according to Lumet. But the director said he favored cable because it allows “great freedom with subject matter. When I had meetings at the networks, there were eight people in the room with a different opinion.”

Although A&E has produced original telefilms — such as “Dash and Lilly,” “Small Vices,” “The Golden Spiders” and “Murder in a Small Town” — “100 Centre Street” will be the net’s first original drama series and, as such, will be heavily promoted. “We like to think that what we can’t make up in financial resources, we make up in enthusiasm,” Sabinson said.

An Amjen Entertainment production in association with Jaffe-Braunstein Films and Pearson Television Intl., “100 Centre Street” will debut on the cabler in early 2001.

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