Net in biz with ‘Miz’

Hallmark set to produce mini for Odyssey

NEW YORK — Hallmark Entertainment will produce a “Les Miserables” miniseries to premiere on cabler Odyssey next April.

Hallmark — led by Robert Halmi Sr. and Jr. — is in discussions with Gerard Depardieu and John Malkovich to star in the new version of the Victor Hugo classic.

The deal is yet to be inked, said Margaret Loesch, president and CEO of Odyssey. “They’re still weaving together an intricate international deal,” Loesch said.

In addition, Hallmark — which owns Odyssey with the Jim Henson Co., Liberty Media Group and National Interfaith Cable Coalition — will also produce a two-hour film to premiere on Odyssey called “Giants in the Earth.” Loesch said that this deal is also still in the negotiation process. Story concerns an immigrant family that comes to the U.S. in the 19th century and works the prairie Dakotas.

Loesch on Tuesday unveiled her first new fall season of programming as chief of Odyssey.

In addition to the original Hallmark pictures, Odyssey’s upcoming schedule will include Hallmark’s “The Odyssey,” which scored big ratings when it premiered on NBC in 1997.

The cabler has ordered new episodes of the Henson-produced relationship series “Donna’s Day,” which will air five nights a week beginning Oct. 4.

Odyssey also has ordered new episodes of “Quiet Triumphs,” which features Mary Alice Williams interviewing celebrities who have overcome personal tragedies.

Odyssey has also acquired syndicated fare such as “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Road to Avonlea,” “Snowy River: The McGregor Saga,” “Young Riders” and “Doogie Howser, M.D.” to fill out the fall sked, which launches Oct. 1.

Odyssey previously announced that Hallmark will produce “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” to bow on the cable web. That film, which sources said will cost $5 million, premieres Oct. 21.

Because many of the shows in development at Hallmark and Henson won’t be ready for Odyssey’s fall season, Loesch said the cabler’s lineup remains a work in progress.

“We went after programming that fit the network, so we can set the stage for us to next year plug in our original series,” said Loesch.

Henson has at least two series in development for Odyssey: “Great Brain,” scheduled for a midwinter premiere, and an unnamed “Muppet”-type show, said Loesch.

In addition, she said that Hallmark is producing a fantasy genre series for the cabler.