Abundant Menu for TCA’s First Course

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Los Angeles— With the pundits assembled, cable programming executives came out firing with a host of show news last Tuesday, the first day of the Television Critics Association winter press tour here.

Food Network will cook up 10 new series and 63 specials, part of what executives said will be more than 796 hours of original programming in 2005.

Among the new series touted last Tuesday were: Iron Chef America, set for Jan. 17 at 9 p.m., pitting American chefs against the likes of Mario Batali and Bobby Flay; and March’s Take It Off, with Juan Carlos Cruz (Calorie Commando) helping regular folks to deal with food issues.

FX announced a new two-year deal with Nip/Tuck creator and executive producer Ryan Murphy. The third season of the hit plastic surgeon series will premiere in late summer or early fall.

The network is planning to launch another dramatic series later this year, choosing between Thief, starring Andre Braugher, and the Stephen Bochco-produced Iraq War drama Over There.

It will delve into the comedy genre in 2005, launching a pair of 30-minute series from among four pilots.

ESPN Original Entertainment will develop two new sports entertainment series for ESPN2. In June, the network will unveil a daily show featuring outspoken National Basketball Association analyst Steven A. Smith. The month before, ESPN Hollywood, a nightly 30-minute show looking at sports through the pop-culture lens, will premiere.

As for telefilms, EOE plans to air four this year: Four Minutes, chronicling Roger Banister’s historic four-minute mile; The Long Count, based on the Jack Dempsey-Jim Tunney bout; Code Breakers, about the West Point cheating scandal; and a biopic on the first African-American heavyweight champion, Jack Johnson.

Black Entertainment Television will mark its 25th anniversary with a new logo and a November special.

In February, the network will bow original movie, Book Of Love: The Definitive Reason Why Men Are Dogs, a “mocumentary” chronicling the lives of three bachelors and their experiences with the fairer sex.

On the reality front, College Hill returns later this month for its sophomore season.

For its part, E! Entertainment Television will team with British Sky Broadcasting Group plc to develop a 30-minute primetime show re-enacting the upcoming Michael Jackson trial, based on court transcripts from the previous day.