The commercial networks, led by NBC, which announced its fall schedule Monday, aren't the only television operations getting ready for a new season.
Cable networks, too, have a bunch of new offerings for the coming months. And with TV writers throughout the country primed to cover the network's fall lineups, is it an accident that some cable operations have chosen now to reveal what the next year has in store?
Of course it isn't. Here's a sampling of what the cable folks want us to tell you about.
Big-budget adaptations of Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre," Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Ebb-Tide" and Henry Fielding's "Tom Jones" are among the offerings from A&E, which will increase its original programming by 20 percent for the 1997-1998 season.
If nonfiction is more to your liking, the network will follow the success of last year's four-part "Las Vegas" with seven new productions: "California," celebrating 150 years of statehood; "Empire of Their Own," the story of a handful of European Jewish immigrants who got Hollywood off the ground; plus "The Story of Magic," "Martial Arts," "The Story of Christianity," "The Story of Money" and "Havana: Paradise Lost."
In addition, a bunch of new people are slated to be featured in "Biography," including Charlie Chaplin, Julius Caesar, Joseph Kennedy Sr. and Cary Grant.
Also watch out for the concert special, "Judy Collins Christmas at the Biltmore," and Ekaterina Gordeeva in "The Art of Russian Skating."
TBS, celebrating its 20th anniversary this season, has announced six new documentaries, all set to be shown over the next two years as part of the station's "Destination Sunday" series.
"Mind Control" promises to delve into the covert world of mind control and attempt to answer three questions: "Who are these masters of manipulation and mind control?" "Who are their victims?" and "How do they conduct their bizarre experiments?" (sounds very "X-Files"). "America's Best Kept Secrets" will discuss people, places and government programs most folks didn't even know existed. And "CIA," the work of a Texas filmmaker who co-founded an organization of agents opposed to covert operations, will tell the story of seven former agents and what working for the CIA did to their lives.
Also, "Twins" will try to figure out just what makes these folks so special; "Zoo Tales" will celebrate the work of vets whose patients can weigh 1,000 pounds or more; and "Lifeguard Stories" will try to get at the truth behind "Baywatch."
USA is taking on the networks at their own game, scheduling a night of episodic television every Sunday from 8 to midnight.
Beginning June 22, Sundays will kick off with "Pacific Blue," sort of a "Baywatch" on bikes, with Rick Rossovich heading a unit of pedaling police officers. At 9 p.m., "Silk Stalkings" returns for a seventh season of some of the most attractive corpses on television, with Chris Potter and Janet Gunn as an ex-married couple working the homicide beat in Palm Beach, Fla.
At 10 p.m., Peta Wilson kicks some serious butt in "La Femme Nikita," USA's adaptation of the French film (which was later turned into an American film starring Bridget Fonda) about an accused murderer who's saved by a secret government organization that turns her into an assassin. Finally, "The Big Easy" (also based on a film) takes to the airwaves at 11 p.m., with Tony Crane and newcomer Leslie Bibb as detectives tackling crime while enjoying some fine Creole cooking in New Orleans.
One of the network's most promising offerings is a mini-series adaptation of "Moby Dick," to star Patrick Stewart and Gregory Peck (who played Ahab in John Huston's 1956 film version).
Award for excellence
"Prince George's County: A 300 Year Journey," a celebration of Gov. Parris Glendening's home county that aired on MPT in April 1996, has been cited for excellence by the American Association of University Women.
Too much disaster coverage
The folks who put together local TV news broadcasts haven't gotten any better when it comes to relying on crime and disaster coverage, according to the latest findings from Rocky Mountain Media watch. There's still way too much of it.
In September 1995, the Denver-based watchdog group monitored late-night news broadcasts on 100 different channels and found that, on average, a half-hour newscast included 39.8 percent news and 30.7 percent commercials. Of the news portion, 42 percent was devoted to "mayhem," which included crime and natural disasters.
In February 1997, the group repeated its study (although not using all the same channels) and found that little has changed. On average, a half-hour newscast included 43.1 percent news and 29.4 percent commercials. The "mayhem index" was 42.6 percent.
Among local stations, WMAR, Channel 2, had a 43.6 percent newshole, with 30.8 percent of each program devoted to commercials. Its "mayhem index," however, was extremely low, 5.9 percent. WBAL, Channel 11, had a 41.3 percent newshole, 28.6 percent ads, and a "mayhem index" of 46.7 percent.
Pub Date: 5/18/97