New incarnations of “Quantum Leap” and “Tremors” are among several original series and films based on Universal titles morphing their way to Sci Fi Channel, which is now part of Universal Television Group.
Cable net announced the projects during the Universal Television session at the Television Critics Assn. Tour in Pasadena, which kicked off Tuesday. The cable portion of the tour continues through the end of this week.
A two-hour “Quantum Leap” movie, which will serve as a back-door pilot for a reinvention of the former series, is being developed, with Don P. Bellisario exec producing. “Tremors,” based on the cult movie series, will debut as a one-hour action series in January. It comes to the small screen from the original creators of the movies — exec producers Nancy Roberts, Brent Maddock and S.S. Wilson — and exec producer David Israel.
Projects join two previously reported endeavors at Sci Fi based on Universal properties, upcoming series “Firestarter: Rekindled” and “Battlestar Galactica,” under way as a four-hour miniseries/backdoor pilot.
Sci Fi also announced it has ordered 65 episodes of “The Dream Team With Annabelle and Michael,” a nightly half-hour alternative reality series produced by Stone Stanley Entertainment. Production is slated to start this fall for a January start. Former co-host of TBS’ “Dinner & a Movie” Annabelle Gurwitch and psychotherapist Michael Lennox host the strip, which Sci Fi said “pulls up the subconscious shades” on auds by peeking at subliminal desires.
Universal TV chairman Michael Jackson introduced the sesh by acknowledging his company’s recent woes. “No television (show) could match the drama and bloodshed that Vivendi Universal has experienced in the past few weeks,” he said.
Also at the U sesh, USA Networks announced casting for its “Helen of Troy” mini and pic “Dominick Dunne Presents: Murder in Greenwich.”
Sienna Guillory (“The Time Machine”) has been deemed a face that could launch a thousand ships, landing the role of Helen. She’ll be joined by Rufus Sewell as Agamemnon, Stellan Skarsgard as Theseus and Matthew Marsden as Paris.
Christopher Meloni (“Law & Order: SVU”) will play LAPD detective Mark Fuhrman in the pic based on Fuhrman’s book “Murder in Greenwich.”
Net also trumpeted its record ratings for frosh series “Dead Zone,” reminded that skein “Monk” bows Friday as part of its branded night, “Crime Fridays,” and announced a development slate (Daily Variety, July 8).
- ESPN is looking to the mid-1950s tale of 35 boys who survived Bear Bryant’s harrowing Texas A&M pre-season college football training camp for its second original movie.
“The Junction Boys: How 10 Days in Hell With Bear Bryant Forged a Championship Team,” an ESPN Original Entertainment production based on the book by Jim Dent, is set to preem at 9 p.m. Dec. 14. Orly Adelson is exec producing, and Michael Robe is writing and directing.
ESPN also announced that four of the passengers who died Sept. 11 on United Airlines Flight 93 will receive the 10th annual Arthur Ashe Courage Award, to be handed out during tonight’s ESPY Awards. Dennis Franz will present the awards to the families of Todd Beamer, Mark Bingham, Tom Burnett and Jeremy Glick, who have been credited with saving untold lives by forcing the plane down in a Pennsylvania field.
- Struggling cable network Oxygen presented the first sesh of the day Tuesday, with topper Geraldine Laybourne attributing some of the net’s difficulty drawing viewership to the fact that viewers don’t know they have the network on their cable systems yet.
“Last year we probably had half the subscribers we will have by the end of this year,” she said. “The name of the game in the next few years will be figuring out how to get their attention.”
Laybourne said she is looking forward to establishing a comedy block with original, scripted laffers. The info-heavy bent to content in the first year was due to the fact “that’s what could be done” in the six months of prep before Oxygen launched in 1998.
- E! Networks, which sponsored the Tuesday luncheon, dedicated its sesh to a panel with the cast of debuting “The Anna Nicole Show,” starring Anna Nicole Smith. The comedic reality show’s first season of 13 half-hour episodes preems Aug. 4. E! has options on several seasons of the show.