New York -- Lifetime Television is creating a Tuesday-night
block of original programming, built on one drama and two sitcoms, which will debut in
August, officials said last week at the network's upfront presentation.
This summer, Lifetime "will have virtually an entire
night of original programming" on Tuesdays during primetime, according to Dawn
Tarnofsky, the network's senior vice president of programming and production.
Lifetime is investing roughly $200 million in original programming for the 1998-99 season.
Earlier this year, the network announced that it would go
ahead with one drama and one comedy series this summer, after testing four pilots, with
two representing each genre. But the network liked the two comedy pilots so much that it
decided to go ahead with both of them as primetime series, and not just one.
"We had an embarrassment of riches from
programming," Lifetime president and CEO Douglas McCormick said.
The hour-long drama that will anchor and kick off
Lifetime's original Tuesday block is Any Day Now, starring Annie Potts and
Lorraine Toussaint. The network has ordered 13 episodes of the Spelling
Entertainment-produced show, which follows the relationship of a successful
African-American lawyer and her white homemaker friend in the South.
The two comedies that Lifetime will premiere in August are Maggie
Day and Oh Baby, and it has ordered 13 episodes of each. Maggie Day is a
half-hour sitcom starring Ann Cusack as a woman turning 40 who is having a midlife crisis,
questioning her marriage to a cardiologist and tempted to stray with the veterinarian who
she works with.
Oh Baby, featuring Cynthia Stevenson and Joanna
Gleason, is a half-hour comedy about a single career woman who decides to have a baby
through artificial insemination and chronicles her experience on video.
Lifetime has picked Tuesday to showcase its original series
because "that's a night when the broadcast networks have the most
vulnerability," McCormick said.
"Frasier is probably going to Thursday night on
NBC," he said, "and Dawson's Creek and Buffy the Vampire Slayer
skew younger. Our comedies can be an alternative to the heaviness of NYPD Blue.
Tactically, there's a great aperture for us there."
At this time, Lifetime plans to air Any Day Now from
9 p.m. to 10 p.m., followed by Maggie Day at 10 p.m. and Oh Baby at 10:30
p.m., McCormick said. Then, Lifetime has its original weeknight magazine show, New
Attitudes, at 11 p.m., meaning that the network will have two-and-a-half hours of
originals on Tuesdays. Lifetime just renewed New Attitudes for an additional
13-week cycle, or 65 more episodes.
Airing all of its original drama and sitcoms on one night
also makes the shows easier to promote, as USA Network has found with its "Sunday
Night Heat" block.
Jedd Palmer, senior vice president of programming at
MediaOne, said he wasn't familiar with the new Lifetime shows. But as for
Lifetime's programming efforts in general, Palmer said, "I happen to really like
the network, but they haven't taken much of a risk in their genre."
In the early 1990s, Lifetime scheduled some originals for
Tuesday primetime, including The Hidden Room. But back then, Lifetime was not
actively positioning itself as the network for women, and it didn't have the ratings
momentum that it has now.
"It just wasn't successful, and the programming
was more eclectic," McCormick said. "We were casting a wider net."
For daytime early next year, Lifetime also has a daily live
show on the news and current issues on the boards, and there are 14 original movies
planned, Tarnofsky said.
As part of its upfront, Lifetime officials also said they
have placed an accelerated order for 60 installments of Intimate Portraits. In the
third quarter, Lifetime plans to premiere an original one each Saturday night, Tarnofsky
said. Reruns are stripped during the week.
Lifetime also plans to kick off its fall season in August
by stripping its reruns of Ellen at 6 p.m., Party of Five at 7 p.m. and Chicago
Hope at 8 p.m.