USA, Sci-Fi show advertisers new skeds

Original movies, series in works for cabler

NEW YORK — Barry Diller is still some months away from putting his programming stamp on the USA Network and its sibling Sci-Fi Channel, based on the movies and series announced during the upfront presentation to advertisers here Tuesday evening.

The most notable original movie revealed by Rod Perth, president of USA Networks Entertainment, is “The Jacqueline Susann Story,” starring Michele Lee in the title role of the late celebrity author who wrote “Valley of the Dolls” and other bestsellers (Daily Variety, May 12). Also notable are a pair of four-hour miniseries: a fresh adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” by David Rintels and a Hallmark Entertainment miniseries based on the life of the World War I spy “Mata Hari.”

The other big announcement is a 13-episode interplanetary-adventure series from Hallmark Entertainment and the Jim Henson Co.’s Creature Shop in the U.K. for Sci-Fi called “Farscape.”

Hurled through space

Written and created by Rockne S. O’Bannon, “Farscape” is about a 20th-century astronaut on an experimental space mission who gets “hurled across a thousand galaxies to a completely alien world.” Sci-Fi Channel is touting “Farscape,” which has a target air date of January 1999, as its signature show. The executive producers are O’Bannon, Brian Henson and Robert Halmi Jr.

USA gave a vote of confidence to its three original Sunday primetime action hours — “La Femme Nikita,” “Silk Stalkings” and “Pacific Blue” — by renewing them all for another full 22-episode season.

Earlier in the year, USA said it would add two new hourlong series, Columbia TriStar TV Distribution’s “The Net,” based on the 1995 Sandra Bullock theatrical, and the Miami-based private-eye melodrama “Shades of Sin,” from Alliance Communications and Chesler-Perlmutter. Each gets a 13-episode commitment and a Saturday-night berth, beginning in August.

Perth disclosed a batch of additional firstrun movies to the advertisers:

  • “Sipes vs. McGhee,” a true story about “the unlikely friendship of a black woman and her next-door neighbor in an (otherwise) all-white neighborhood.” Linda Hamilton and Lynn Whitfield star, and Lee Rose is the producer-director.

  • “What Makes a Family,” another true story, about a lesbian whose companion dies and who has to “fight for custody of the couple’s adopted daughter.” Producers are Barbra Streisand, Cis Corman, Neil Meron and Craig Zadan.

  • A package of original movies based on three Mary Higgins Clark novels: “Pretend You Don’t See Her,” “All Around the Town” and “Loves Music, Loves to Dance.”

Earlier projects

Previously announced movie projects include a four-hour Hallmark Entertainment adaptation of Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn”; a sequel to USA’s highest-rated made-for ever, “The China Lake Murders”; and “The Carroll O’Connor Story,” about the actor’s retribution against the pusher who dealt the drugs that ended up killing O’Connor’s son.

USA also has a number of network premiere theatricals, which will play on USA right after their pay cable window. Titles include “Casino,” “The Usual Suspects,” “Copland,” “Private Parts,” “Red Corner” and “Seven Years in Tibet.”