A&E Network last week unveiled its first slate of
original movies, including a mystery starring Gene Wilder and biographies of P.T. Barnum
and Lillian Hellman, for the 1998 to 1999 season.
As part of its move into original films, A&E is kicking
off a four-picture slate of "Biography Movies" and domestic mystery films,
including a deal for Wilder to star in Murder in a Small Town, a co-production with
Granada Media. Wilder co-wrote the film with Gilbert Pearlman. It is about a big-time
Broadway director in the 1930s who takes his daughter to a small town in Connecticut after
his wife is murdered.
As part of its fall schedule, A&E also has two projects
with Robert Halmi Sr. and Hallmark Entertainment: a movie based on the life of Barnum, as
well as a mystery movie adapted from Edgar Allen Poe's classic, The Murders in the
Finally, Stan Margulies, who produced Roots and The
Thorn Birds, will do a film about the love affair between Hellman and Dashiell
Hammett, Dash and Lily. Developed by A&E, Dash and Lily is another
co-production with Granada.
"We've taken a 'strong but steady wins the
race' approach," said Brooke Bailey Johnson, executive vice president and
general manager of A&E, referring to the network's expansion into made-for-TV
movies. "We're in a stage in our evolution where we could take this on."
She declined to say how much A&E is spending on its
first four movies.
A&E's 1998 to 1999 schedule will have more than
900 hours of original programming. As part of it, A&E has two hour-long documentary
series planned for the new season. LA Detectives is a show about the nonromantic
side and perils of police work, while Inside Story visits an institution, like an
airport or hospital, and shows how it works, in detail.
A&E's award-winning "Literary
Collection" next season will include Thomas Hardy's Tess of the
D'Urbervilles, Hornblower, Vanity Fair and The Scarlett
A number of documentary specials are in the works,
including The Italians in America, Christianity: The First Thousand Years, Quest
for the Lost Tribes, Money! and The Vatican.
The network's mystery programming will include the
June premiere of the 10-hour Midsomer Murders, as well as new episodes of Silent
Witness and Dalziel and Pascoe and returning veterans such as Inspector
Morse, Poirot, Sherlock Holmes and Miss Marple.