E! Entertainment Television is giving Michael Jackson his own weekday half-hour show — sort of.
Cabler on Tuesday said it was partnering with Blighty’s BSkyB satcaster for a daily primetime series re-enacting and chronicling Jackson’s criminal trial on charges of child molestation. An actor will play the Gloved One.
“Viewers around the world are interested in this trial, and with no cameras in the court room, this series will be an excellent way to keep up with the day’s events and bring the trial to life,” said E! Networks prexy-CEO Ted Harbert, who announced the skein during the net’s portion of the winter Television Critics Assn. press tour in Universal City.
E!’s Jackson coverage recalls 1997, when it offered regular re-enactments of O.J. Simpson’s civil trial.
Separately, TNT execs expected to announce Wednesday they have made series commitments to cop dramas “The Closer,” from the Shephard/Robin Co. in association with Warner Bros., and “Rush,” from Jorge Zamacona (“Homicide”) and Spelling TV. Both series have been given 13-episode orders and are slated to premiere on the cabler in the summer.
“Closer” stars Kyra Sedgwick as a female detective who transfers from Atlanta to L.A. to head a unit of the LAPD that handles high-profile murder cases. “Rush” follows an elite team of crime fighters from various federal and local law enforcement agencies who form a covert, undercover strike force to help track down L.A.’s most-wanted fugitives. Gary Cole stars.
Meanwhile, Comcast-owned G4TechTV and BET announced brand makeovers, including new logos. G4TechTV has morphed into G4 Video Game Television, and BET has added the new tagline “It’s My Thing,” replacing the old “Black Star Power.” G4 is now billed as “the only 24/7 TV network dedicated to videogames” — reverting back to its original mission prior to having merged with Tech TV.
Back at E!, the Jackson series will use transcripts to dramatize highlights from the previous day’s proceedings with a panel of legal analysts provid-ing commentary. E! News and Sky News are producing the project, which will air on both channels, in addition to E! Intl. Network, available in more than 50 countries.
Harbert told the room of critics, who scoffed at the idea of dramatizing the court proceedings for the child abuse case, that “no one can deny the in-terest in this trial. We all know newspapers, magazines and TV shows from everywhere will have correspondents planted outside that courthouse relating every last thing that happened every day.”
He added that the tone of the broadcast, which is being produced by both networks’ news divisions, would be “deadly serious.”
“It is a serious matter and will be treated as such,” he said. “This won’t come close to crossing any line that hasn’t been jumped over by countless other outlets. It’ll be well within the parameters of responsible reporting.”
More than 1 million viewers tuned in to see VH1’s Jackson biopic “Man in the Mirror” last August.
No more ‘Live’ news
The news department at E! is already busy tweaking its flagship newsmag “E! News Live.” Last week, Harbert confirmed the half-hour would be losing the “live” element as part of a gradual makeover of the show (Daily Variety, Jan. 5). Changes, starting with new sets and anchor Giu-liana DePandi, will be implemented by the beginning of February.
E! has also greenlit “Hollywood Poker Night,” a celebrity casino game series set in the homes of the players, from exec producers Laura Prepon (“That ’70s Show”), Sarah Chazen, Joel Klein and Flutie Entertainment. Order signals the network’s intent to capitalize on the healthy ratings cablers including Bravo and GSN have enjoyed as a result of star-powered games of poker and blackjack. Just last week, Bravo ordered up “Celebrity Pool.”
Over at Style, Harbert has ordered 13 episodes of “Craft Corner Death Match,” an “Iron Chef”-style competition skein for aspiring domestic divas. Jo Honig and Dan Taberski (“The Daily Show With Jon Stewart”) exec produce for duo’s Idiot Box Prods. E!’s Jennifer Daly and Phil Eigner also exec produce. Skein premieres March 9.
New originals at G4 include “Formula D,” featuring the world of drift racing, and “Girls Gone Wired,” a digital beauty pageant featuring sexy 2D and 3D characters.
“Videogames offer us a distinctive voice that resonates with our target audience, and G4 delivers the highest concentration of males 12-34 of any other television network,” topper Charles Hirschhorn said.
As for BET’s new slogan, it “speaks directly to BET viewers in a relevant, connected tone that’s down to earth,” prexy-chief operating officer Debra Lee said.
In celebration of the net’s 25th anni, BET — still the top net among African-American viewers 18-34 and 18-49 — has greenlit a second season of re-ality series “College Hill” (Jan. 27), a five-part docuseries “The Cousin Jeff Chronicles” (March), the hourlong spec “Rip the Runway” (March 24), the mockumentary “Book of Love” (Feb. 14) and the “Celebration of Gospel” music spec (Jan. 22).
Elsewhere at TCA:
n Women’s network Oxygen announced the original movie “Nadine in Date Land,” starring Janeane Garofalo, Swoosie Kurtz, Brad Rowe and Ta-mala Jones. Story revolves around a thirtysomething matchmaker (Garofalo) who runs a struggling dating service and can’t seem to find her own Mr. Right. Anne Steir wrote and directed the project, which bows next spring.
n Oxygen will bow the Harlequin model competish “Mr. Romance” March 14, and the Jennifer Love Hewitt starrer “Confessions of a Sociopathic Social Climber” March 12 (Daily Variety, July 15).
n “ESPN Hollywood,” a half-hour magazine program focused on the crossover between athletes and the entertainment industry, will premiere at 6 p.m. ET May 9 on ESPN 2 as part of the channel’s new primetime schedule.
Taping in Los Angeles with two as-yet-unidentified anchors, the program will feature segments on sports movies, athletes’ participation in video-games, music, commercial shoots and Hollywood events.
The show is being produced by ESPN Original Entertainment and is being touted as an anchor program for ESPN2’s new lineup, which will also include a latenight talkshow.
(Willa Paskin in New York contributed to this report.)