Discovery RX: ‘HOPE’

Health net cabler adds ex-CBS med drama

NEW YORK — Discovery Health Network, which reaches 54 million cable and satellite homes and focuses on information, reality and documentaries about health and medicine, has bought rerun rights to “Chicago Hope,” one of the kookiest scripted medical soap operas in network TV history.

Decision to air its first scripted program was not entered into lightly, said Eileen O’Neill, acting general manager of the 6-year-old network. “We discussed the matter for a whole year and did a lot of homework” before buying “Hope” for a three-year license term, she said.

“Chicago Hope” amassed 141 episodes during its six-year run on CBS’ primetime schedule (1994-2000). Discovery Health will kick it off Aug. 1 with an eight-hour marathon hosted by series star Hector Elizondo.

On Aug. 2, Discovery Health will start stripping “Hope” three times a day, at 7 p.m., 2 a.m. and noon.

Lifetime bought the reruns of “Hope” back in 1998 from Twentieth TV for a license fee of $475,000 an episode. “Hope” proved to be anything but what the doctor ordered for the femme cabler. The reruns never found an audience, and Lifetime removed them from the schedule in short order. That deal for “Hope” still has one year to go, so Discovery Health’s is non-exclusive for the first year.

Among the cast members who spent at least a year on the series were Mandy Patinkin, Adam Arkin, E.G. Marshall, Thomas Gibson, Peter Berg, Kim Greist, Diane Venora, Christine Lahti, Ron Silver, Mark Harmon, Eric Stoltz, Lauren Holly, Carla Gugino and Barbara Hershey.

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