Cable Nets Add Spin to Reality, Sitcoms

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Pasadena, Calif. -- From the creators of South Park, Comedy Central
will soon debut an anti-sitcom sitcom about President George W. Bush, and
abortion and executions will be the theme of some episodes.

Also this spring, USA Network will have a reality show, Eco-Challenge
Borneo
, where team members who fully cooperate with each other -- rather
than trying to stab each other in the back -- have the best shot of winning a
brutal 320-mile adventure-race competition. Eco-Challenge is the
antithesis of Survivor, yet the same man, producer Mark Burnett, created
it.

That was one of the threads running through the four-day cable portion of the
Television Critics Association winter tour here, where networks ranging from the
broad general-entertainment behemoths to services such as E! Entertainment
Television unveiled their ever-expanding plans for new original series and
telepics.

Unlike other years, only one Turner network, Turner Network Television, did a
presentation. Turner, sources said, has been evaluating to what extent it should
continue its participation in the TCA tour.

There were no blockbuster announcements at the event, and talk about the
threatened strike by writers and actors didn't dominate the way it did during
the broadcast networks' TCA sessions, although the issue did come up.

A representative of the Writers Guild of America did address the assembled TV
writers to talk about the looming strike and what the residuals and
'vertical-integration' issues are related to cable. And in fact, some
cable-network sources said they held back releasing any big news so they will
have some stockpiled projects to talk about at the TCA this summer, in case
there is a strike.

The most surprising moment was probably comedian Andy Dick's performance at
MTV: Music Television's session. Dick, who is doing a new cutting-edge comedy
series for MTV, popped out of a huge birthday cake and ran down the aisle clad
only in a thong. But his antics barely raised an eyebrow among the jaded TV
critics.

Some of those writers were talking about making a list of cable's new
anti-sitcom sitcoms. In addition to Comedy Central, MTV, VH1 and TNN: The
National Network all have unusual comedies with odd twists coming to their
lineups.

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