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USA, Sci Fi Commission New Series

1/08/2004 3:20 AM Eastern

Hollywood -- NBC’s impending purchase of Universal Television Group hasn't stopped Universal-owned networks Sci Fi Channel and USA Network from rolling out an ambitious slate of original series and movies.

Sci Fi will put a new spin on the reality-series genre with the March 4 premiere of Mad Mad House, in which 10 contestants will shack up in a house run by a surreal cast of "alternative-lifestyle" characters, including a vampire, a witch, a voodoo priestess, a naturalist and a modern primitive, president Bonnie Hammer said at the Television Critics Association tour here.

The 10-episode series will conclude with one contestant winning a $100,000 prize.

The series will anchor the network's new Thursday-night lineup along with sophomore reality series Scare Tactics and Tripping the Rift, the network's first animated series.

Also on the slate for Sci Fi is a four-hour miniseries dubbed Earthsea, which will bow in December. The supernatural series, produced by Hallmark Entertainment and Bender-Brown Productions, follows the life of a young wizard seeking to rule a magical kingdom.

For USA's part, the network will air an original-movie sequel, 36 Candles, a follow-up to 1984 teen flick Sixteen Candles, as well as a remake of classic gangster movie Scarface. The two movies join the previously announced remake of classic drama Spartacus, set to debut April 19.

In addition, USA will tap movie producer Francis Ford Coppola to produce 4,400, a limited original series in which 4,400 people reappear on Earth after being previously presumed dead or reported missing, USA president Doug Herzog said.

The network also announced that four-hour miniseries Traffic will air Jan. 26 and 27, while its new original skein, Touching Evil, will debut March 12.

And the network will air in April The American Museum of the Moving Image Salute to Richard Gere, the first time the annual high-profile event will be televised.

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