Sci Fi’s original recipe

Cabler looks to other forms of science fiction, younger auds

NEW YORK — Furthering its evolution from niche cabler to broad-appeal outlet, the Sci Fi Channel has embarked on its most ambitious slate of original series, miniseries and made-fors.

Latest projects, announced at a luncheon Monday in New York, will be developed by production companies owned by Nicolas Cage, Ridley Scott, Joel Schumacher, Clive Barker and the team of Vin Diesel and David Twohy.

But the news that rabid sci-fi junkies will jump on is that the network has put its series “Farscape” — canceled two years ago to massive fan protest — back into production for a final four-hour wrap-up. The Jim Henson Co., Robert Halmi Jr. and Rockne O’Bannon will produce “Farscape: Peacekeeper War.”

Speaking of her programming development, Sci Fi Channel prexy Bonnie Hammer said: “We’re going well beyond standard space operas into many other forms of science fiction, and we’re also targeting a younger audience with some of our projects.”

Seven series are on Sci Fi’s drawing boards:

  • “Dresden Files” (working title), based on novels by Jim Butcher, from Cage’s Saturn Films and Lions Gate TV, which have pitched it as “The Rockford Files” meets “Harry Potter.” Eric Dresden, a detective, has the powers of a wizard, and his clients include strange people ranging from goblins to vampires.

  • Untitled Schumacher Project, which follows a team of alien soldiers and scientists assigned to study humans in preparation for a takeover of the Earth. One of the alien females falls in love with a male human. April Smith (“Chicago Hope”) is Schumacher’s co-executive producer.

  • “Witchhunter Robin,” a live-action version of the Japanese anime series about a group of cops assigned to stop witches who are abusing their powers. One of the female cops is a witch herself.

  • “Eureka,” billed as “Northern Exposure” meets “The Twilight Zone.” It’s about the sheriff of a small community made up mostly of geniuses whose government job is to “unleash scientific and technological creations still unknown to the outside world.”

  • “Motel Man,” a futuristic mystery thriller about a detective who discovers supernatural objects like a comb that can stop time and has to confront people who want to use them for malevolent purposes.

  • “Kyra,” a spinoff of the Universal theatrical movie “Pitch Black” and its forthcoming $120 million sequel “Chronicles of Riddick,” starring Diesel and written and directed by Twohy.

  • Untitled Ridley Scott Project, about a race of wolf-like creatures who can transform themselves into human beings. One of the female creatures falls in love with a news producer who stumbles onto their secret.

Although she’s confident they’ll join the slate, Hammer said Sci Fi still hasn’t signed the final contracts for the last two projects.

In addition to the “Farscape” finale, Sci Fi has signed Clive Barker to produce “History of the Devil,” a six-hour limited series whose premise is that Satan is bored with being the bad guy so he hires a kickass defense attorney “to litigate his way back into heaven.” Lions Gate TV will produce.

Three four-hour projects are also in the works:

  • “Blackwater,” a Southern gothic tale about a witch who marries into a wealthy family and starts destroying its enemies. Mandalay Entertainment, the Orphanage and Sony Pictures TV are producing.

  • “Ringworld,” from Larry Niven’s books about four explorers who crash into an artificial world and discover alien beings.

  • “Winney,” a political satire about a cartoon character who becomes so popular he may end up on the ballot for president of the U.S. Larry Wilson, who created “Beetlejuice,” is the writer and co-executive producer.

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