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CBS signs its Hallmark card

Woodard, Langella to star in 'Wide'

CBS has inked a new pact keeping the Hallmark Hall of Fame telepics on the net for three more years.

In addition, the Eye has greenlit production on “The Water Is Wide,” a new HHOF pic based on the Pat Conroy memoir that will likely air next season. Alfre Woodard, Frank Langella and Jeff Hephner are set to star.

Three-year deal with Hallmark Hall of Fame Prods. extends the Eye’s exclusive rights to the much-honored movie package through May 2008. Pics have been seen exclusively on CBS since 1995.

CBS Entertainment prexy Nina Tassler said she was glad to continue the net’s partnership with Hallmark, noting that the “rich tradition and quality of storytelling of their films has brought both critical acclaim and ratings success to CBS.”

Hallmark Hall of Fame Prods. prexy Brad Moore said the Eye has turned out to be the “ideal partner” for the franchise and that he’s confident the package’s strong ratings will continue.

As for “The Water Is Wide,” pic recounts Conroy’s experiences as an enthusiastic teacher who tries to bring literacy and self-respect to a group of poor students in South Carolina during the late 1960s.

Richard Welsh and Brent Shields are set to exec produce, with John Kent Harrison (“What the Deaf Man Heard”) helming a script from Jonathan Estrin.

First Hallmark Hall of Fame pic aired in 1951, putting the franchise in its 54th season. Over the years, package has earned 78 Emmys, 10 Peabodys and nine Golden Globes.

Before the Eye’s exclu deal kicked in, ABC, CBS and NBC used to share rights to the Hallmark pics.

The 2003 Hallmark presentation of “A Painted House” ranks as the most-watched two-hour telepic on any network since 2001. Eye aired the latest installment in the franchise, “Back When We Were Grownups,” Sunday night.

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