New Shows Coming

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Comedy Central and Showtime last week promoted high-profile freshman original cable series to sophomore status.

Comedy Central next spring will launch a second season of police spoof Reno 911!, while Showtime will revive its quirky original series Dead Like Me, beginning next year, according to network representatives.

Comedy's Reno
has performed consistently during its 10 p.m. Wednesday time slot while attracting a significant number of the network's core audience of 18-to-49-year-olds. Through eight episodes, the faux reality show has averaged a 1.4 household rating and 1.65 million viewers. The show, which takes a comedic behind-the-scenes look at a fictitious police force, is also averaging a 1.2 rating among adults 18 to 49 — more than triple the network's year-to-date 0.4 rating for the demo.

Dead Like Me, of which Showtime has commissioned an additional 15 episodes, has also benefited from critic and viewer acclaim.

The show, which takes a fresh look at the afterlife and stars Mandy Patinkin (Chicago Hope), has posted ratings 60% better than programming that aired in the same 10 p.m. Friday night time slot from January 2003 to the show's launch in June.

In addition, the series performed 45% above the premium network's overall primetime average, according to network officials.

"This is an unqualified hit for us," Showtime president of entertainment Robert Greenblatt said. "This show portends great things for the future of Showtime, which we hope will become a home for truly original series."

While the network has green-lighted a second season of Dead, the fates of two freshman Showtime series —Penn & Teller: Bullshit
and Family Business
— remain undetermined.

Among the original series the network renewed: freshman effort Street Time
and Soul Food, which is entering its fifth season. The dramatic series based on an African-American family is one example of Showtime's commitment to providing its audience with diverse programming images, according to Showtime chairman and CEO Matt Blank.

Speaking last week at a CEO panel on embracing diversity at the NAMIC Conference here, Blank said the network is looking at other ethnically-targeted series, including a series pilot from Spike Lee and an original film directed by Latino actress Salma Hayek.

Blank said the network extended its now-defunct Hispanic-oriented drama Resurrection Blvd. for an additional year, despite the show's lower-than-expected performance.

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