MSNBC sets yakker block

Cabler shifts focus to 'analysis'

American news viewers are more informed than ever — and that’s why they’re ready for Monday’s transformation of MSNBC, according to network topper Erik Sorenson.

Starting next week, the news cabler will introduce a block of news talkshows — or “news analysis” shows, as Sorenson put it — hosted by Dan Abrams, Jerry Nachman, Phil Donahue, Chris Matthews and Ashleigh Banfield in primetime. The net will fill its afternoon sked with yakfests featuring the likes of Pat Buchanan and Bill Press.

All this gab has some critics wondering whether there’ll be any time left for actual news. Sorenson said MSNBC will still cover breaking events, but that analysis is more in demand than ever.

“We are the most hyperinformed society in the history of humankind,” Sorenson said after his network’s session at the semiannual Television Critics Assn. press tour. “At the same time, the world is more complicated and people are looking for ways to (make sense of it).”

For Donahue’s part, the talk vet acknowledged that cable at night is a far different world than his old daytime stomping grounds. Still, he’s hoping the kids who “were home while their mothers watched” his former talkers will tune in.

“It is true certainly true that MTV I am not,” said Donahue, who said he’s 66 and had his first show in 1967. “We’re going to find out if that matters.”

Gavel net goings-on

Elsewhere at TCA, Court TV announced that Ally Sheedy has signed on to star in the cable network’s second original movie, “The Interrogation of Michael Crowe,” which is set to preem in the fourth quarter of this year.

Sheedy will star as the mother of a boy accused of killing his sister in the pic based on Court TV’s documentary of the same name about the interrogation and coerced confession of a 14-year-old California boy.

In addition, Court TV is looking to tell the fact-based story of a young Afghan woman who comes to the U.S. for its third original pic, “Political Asylum.” Movie is targeted for 2003.

The net’s first original feature film, “Guilt by Association,” which starred Mercedes Ruehl, premiered March 13.

“The Interrogation of Michael Crowe” will be produced in association with JB Media and will be distributed by Hearst Entertainment. Andrea Baynes will serve as executive producer. Pic, written by Alan Hines, will be directed by Don McBrearty.

Among Court TV’s other TCA announcements were the following:

  • It has given a 13-episode series order to the recently piloted “Body of Evidence: From the Case Files of Dayle Hinman.” Skein will premiere during “Forensics Week” late this fall.

  • Cable net also will premiere a one-hour special, “Al Roker: Investigating Intolerance” (working title), in the first quarter of 2003. “Today’s” Roker will serve as host and executive producer of the docu spec, which examines bias crimes, how police investigate them and how communities respond to these crimes.

  • Court TV is teaming with the American Museum of Natural History in New York City on “Digging for Clues: The Story of Forensic Science,” a one-hour special that will examine how modern-day forensic techniques have evolved from the exploration of the natural sciences.

Spec will be produced by Medstar TV, producer of Court TV’s “Forensic Files.”

Mouse net matters

Disney Channel announced plans at TCA for a new live-action sitcom starring “The Cosby Show’s” Raven (formerly Raven-Symone) as well as an original movie for the network based on Disney Channel series “Even Stevens.”

“That’s So Raven” is centered on the travails of a teenage girl whose ability to glimpse flashes of the future often gets her into hot water, the network said.

Orlando Brown, Kyle Orlando Massey, Anneliese van der Pol, T’Keyah Crystal Keymah and Rondell Sheridan also star in the laffer produced by Brookwell McNamara Entertainment in association with Disney Channel. Susan Sherman and Michael Poryes created the show, and David Brookwell, Sean McNamara, Dennis Rinsler and Marc Warren are exec producing.

“The Stevens Get Even” marks the first time an original comedy series on Disney Channel has inspired an original movie on the web. Fellow Disney Channel comedy “Lizzie McGuire,” however, is in the process of being adapted for the big screen.

“Stevens” will be filmed in Los Angeles and Hawaii later this month for a 2003 preem, with Shia LaBeouf and Christy Carlson Romano leading the cast. Brookwell McNamara is producing in association with Disney Channel.

The web also firmed up details for two previously reported original pics, “The Scream Team” (formerly “The Soul Patrol”) and “You Wish!” (Daily Variety, April 16).

“Scream Team,” to debut in October, stars Tommy Davidson, Kathy Najimy, Eric Idle, Mark Rendall and Kat Dennings, among others.

“You Wish!,” based on the book “If I Had One Wish…” by Jackie French Koller, will preem early next year. Spencer Breslin, A.J. Trauth and Lalaine one word star.

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