Cabler goes for the bad guys

A&E is getting back into scripted series for the first time in more than five years, heralding a batch of projects centered on catching and prosecuting bad guys.

“Crime and punishment are the most powerful subjects for TV series, and A&E now has the platform to promote and schedule new shows,” said Bob DeBitetto, executive VP and general manager of A&E.

The platform DeBitetto is referring to is A&E’s successful reruns of “CSI: Miami” every weeknight at 8 and midnight, and the network’s Wednesday premiere of a double weekly run of “The Sopranos” repeats.

A&E won’t have its first original series ready to bow until 2008, he said, but the network will surround that show’s debut with the most exploitable episodes of “CSI: Miami” and “The Sopranos” to give the newcomer its best shot at getting sampled by viewers.

The six shows in development are:

  • “Dry River,” a crime drama focusing on a wealthy community on the Texas border that faces a conflict between the local sheriff and his son, a federal agent newly assigned to the town. Joel Silver is exec producer for Warner Horizon TV. Michael Frost Beckner (“Spy Game”) is the writer.

  • “The Hunt,” a cop show dealing with a former LAPD police officer caught up in the Rampart scandal who’s trying to clear his name. It’s from Jennifer Klein and her Apartment 3B Prods. Sheldon Turner (“The Longest Yard”) is the writer.

  • “Y3,” which follows the exploits of a former criminal who sees the light and, while temping at a local precinct, secretly dons an NYPD uniform to solve cases before the regular cops can. Dan Therriault is the writer and executive producer, and Gary Randall is also executive producing. The project is from Fox TV Studios.

  • “Johnny the Great,” a character study of an out-of-control defense attorney whose personal life is dysfunctional and most of whose clients are untrustworthy. Billy Finkelstein wrote the script.

  • “Untitled NYPD Anti-Terrorist Project,” which zeroes in on a secret unit based in New York that tracks down terrorist cells throughout the U.S. Bruce McKenna (“Band of Brothers”) is the writer and executive producer with Andrew Tennenbaum (“The Bourne Identity”) and Jason Hoffs (“Meet the Parents”) also executive-producing for Fox TV Studios.

  • “Untitled Steven Bochco Project,” a departure from the other projects in that it deals not with criminal law, but with a divorce-law practice run by a happily married couple. It’ll feature both drama and black comedy. Bochco is exec producer, and the writer is Jonathan Abrahams (“Wildfire”).

One common denominator of these projects, DeBitetto said, is that “all of the episodes will be self-contained, like ‘Law & Order’ and ‘CSI.’ We’re staying away from serialized, soap opera-type shows.”

There’s a good reason for this strategy: Serialized shows tend to do poorly in repeats.

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