Spike hikes slate of news docs, specials

Network gets serious with original skeins

HOLLYWOOD — The Spike guys are adding news to the agenda.

Having made strides with entertainment series “MXC” and the hit reality parody “The Joe Schmo Show,” cabler is aggressively moving into the news arena, unveiling a first-ever slate of original docu series and specials for fourth-quarter this year.

Muhammad Ali will announce the projects Wednesday during MTV Networks’ upfront presentation.

Spike veep of news and docs Keith Brown is heading up the cabler’s more serious efforts. Previously a primetime producer at NBC News and CBS News, Brown joined the cabler in October.

“Everything we do will resonate with the male experience,” Brown said. “A lot of what is going on the air right now is sensational stories about the latest crime or murder investigation. The thing that we’ll do differently is speak directly to guys. We’ll get to know them and address their concerns, their needs, families and work. (Spike topper Albie Hecht) is really committed to doing news and documentaries.”

Joining sister nets MTV and VH1, both of which are armed with their own news divisions, Spike has greenlit several multipart series and specs exploring such areas as fatherhood and sports figures. Channel is also tossing around formats for talkshows among other projects, Brown said.

On tap for 2004:

  • “The Precinct” is a six-part look at the personal and professional lives of police officers working some of the country’s most dangerous areas. Short-term series is from Emmy-winning producer James Stolz.

  • From Fred Golding and Tollin/Robbins Prods. is a sequel to the 1994 doc “Hardwood Dreams.” Latest take catches up with the players of Los Angeles’ Morningside High School basketball team a decade later. Wesley Snipes narrates.

  • The two-hour special “Fatherhood in America” takes a look how fathers committed to their families balance friends and career. Spec will also explore the generation of children abandoned by their fathers. Paul and Holly Fine (“The Survivors”) will produce.

  • One-hour spesh “Glory Days” goes behind the scenes into the personal lives of some of America’s star athletes. Dan Klein (“A City on Fire”) produces.

  • “Viva Baseball” profiles some of Latin America’s all-stars including Roberto Clemente and Pedro Martinez. Lou Dibella and Dan Klores exec produce the 90-minute program.

Spike has also acquired the BBC-produced “Testosterone Boys,” featuring the lives of amateur bodybuilders.