A&E Revs Movie, Series Development

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Beverly Hills, Calif.— A&E Network is developing four telepics over the next two years as part of its commitment to increased original programming.

As part of its original movie lineup, the network in fourth quarter 2005 will bow Knights of the South Bronx, starring Ted Danson (Cheers). The movie depicts the true story about a teacher's struggle to better the lives of seven poor Bronx children by teaching them how to play chess.

A&E Network executive vice president and general manager Bob DeBitetto told pundits at the Television Critics Association tour on July 14 that A&E also was working on Back In Action, depicting the life of Iraq War veteran David Rozelle; Live From New York, about the genesis of the NBC late-night series Saturday Night Live; and Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, which will provide details about famed suspense writer and one of his classics. These films will bow over the next two years, according to DeBitetto.

Along with movies, the network also talked up two new reality series that bowed on July 20: Inked, focusing on the people who frequent the Hart & Huntington Tattoo Company in The Palm Casino Hotel in Las Vegas; and Criss Angel Mindfreak, featuring the exploits of the magician and illusionist.

Other “real-life” series in various stages of development include God or The Girl, focusing on five men's decision to become priests, Spying On Myself, in which people disguise themselves to find out what others say and think of them; Jackpot Diaries, following the lives of lottery winners; Dallas SWAT, chronicling the exploits of special law enforcement officers; Rollergirls, taking a behind-the-scenes look at the lives of several roller derby participants; and Random 1, about young idealists who set out to help people in need.

Elsewhere, sister service The History Channel is jumping on the ancient world programming bandwagon in September with its special Rome: Engineering An Empire, which examines the civilization's masterful engineering and use of labor to construct its cities and other notable architecture. History's efforts follow ABC miniseries Empire and HBO's upcoming series Rome.

The 88 million-subscriber network will also bow in August Weird U.S., a quirky weekly series in which show hosts Mark Sceurman and Mark Moran scour the country and put the spotlight on strange and bizarre history stories that have received little attention from the mainstream press.