Sundance net has designs on reality

NBC News' 'Williams' skedded for cable net Oct. 27

The Sundance Channel continues to ramp up its commitment to original reality series, greenlighting “Ozwald Boateng” and “The Hill,” and buying an Australian mockumentary called “The Nominees.”

In addition, NBC News has produced “In His Own Words: Brian Williams on Hurricane Katrina,” a half-hour docu that will show some harrowing footage of destruction that was too harsh for ad-supported broadcast or cable TV. Sundance, which has scheduled it for Oct. 27, has more freedom: It’s a pay TV service, and it doesn’t accept advertising.

Ozwald Boateng is the black British menswear designer who’s well-known in Europe but unknown in the U.S., where he plans to raise his profile over the next few months. Boateng will be followed by a camera crew under the aegis of Ben Silverman, CEO of Reveille (“The Office,” “30 Days”), who’ll deliver eight half-hours to Sundance for scheduling in the summer.

A Democratic congressman from Florida, Robert Wexler, has agreed to give Ivy Meeropol, the director of “The Hill,” “uninhibited access” to the day-to-day business of his office. Also covered will be the personal lives of the Capitol Hill staffers who run Wexler’s operation. Meeropol is co-exec producer with her partners Elizabeth Holder and Xan Parker. They’ll tape six half-hours for a 2006 start.

“The Nominees,” also six hours, is a sendup of “society’s obsessive search for heroes.” Written and created by Chris Lilley, “Nominees” profiles five people, three men and two women ranging in ages from 16 to 47, who have laid claim to the title “Australian of the Year.” The gimmick is that Lilley plays all of the characters, like an Australian Mike Myers. The exec producer of “Nominees” is Bruce Kane; the director is Matt Saville. Sundance will play it next fall.

The Brian Williams doc is exec produced by Sharon Scott, with Robert Buchanan as senior producer.

Laura Michalchyshyn, executive VP of programming and marketing for Sundance Channel, said these projects will help the net to “diversify its slate of original programs and prove that we’re much more than a network that shows films.”

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