Bucking basic cable's trend of launching new shows in
the summer, a number of family- and kids'-oriented services, including Odyssey, A
Hallmark & Henson Network, are rolling out their new programming slates this fall.
In addition to Odyssey, Fox Family Channel and WAM!
America's Kidz Network recently unveiled the new schedules they will kick off in
September and October.
Even Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network have new original
series -- two each -- that will premiere in October and November.
During the past few years, and particularly this year,
cable networks have been debuting their new shows during the summer, when the broadcast
networks are typically airing reruns.
In addition to having that edge on broadcasters, cable
programmers feel that there's more of a young audience during the summer, in part
because kids are out of school and available.
Yet last week, Odyssey outlined its new fall programming
lineup, which kicks off Oct. 1. The main highlight of the new schedule will be the
premiere of original movie The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. The telepic, a Hallmark
Entertainment production, will air Oct. 23.
Odyssey has also acquired a number of off-network series
for its new primetime family block.
In terms of additional original programming this fall,
Odyssey will air miniseries The Violent Earth and new interfaith series Religions
of the World,a 13-part acquisition hosted by Academy Award-winning actor Ben
As for Odyssey's contrarian timing in terms of
launching its new lineup in October, president Margaret Loesch said all of her
network's new original programming simply wasn't ready to go on the schedule
this summer -- or even by this fall, for that matter.
Hallmark and The Jim Henson Co. acquired stakes in Odyssey
in November, joining Liberty Media Group and the National Interfaith Cable Coalition, with
the plan of revamping and shifting the faith-and-values network to more entertainment and
So Odyssey's programming changes are being made
gradually. They started in April, to coincide with the upfront, and a second wave is
coming with the fall lineup.
"It's taking us a long time to get our totally
new shows produced, but we want to set the stage for the network with [off-network] series
that are compatible," Loesch said.
The service has acquired a raft of off-network series, with
most of them slated to air during its "primetime family block," from 5:30 p.m.
to 9 p.m.
Those shows include: The Road to Avonlea, which
originally aired on Disney Channel; Snowy River: The McGregor Saga, which
originallyran on The Family Channel (now Fox Family); Young Riders, Beauty
and the Beast and Doogie Howser M.D.,which all aired on broadcast; and The
Innovators,which ran on Home Box Office under the title Young Inventors,
Odyssey has 13 new original episodes of Snowy River that
have never been seen on television.
Loesch said Odyssey is using the off-network shows to set
the stage and create "a framework" for the original series that are now being
developed, which will eventually replace them.
For this fall, Odyssey has also revamped several veteran
series -- Donna's Day, Quiet Triumphs and News Odyssey -- as
well as ordering new episodes of those shows.
For example, with Quiet Triumphs, Loesch said,
Odyssey has "stepped up the level of celebrities" and added more film clips to
the show, making it more biographical.
She added that Jim Henson Television has taken over the
production for Donna's Day,which once aired on PBS. The show is now
taping at the Disney MGM Studio in Florida, and it has "a whole new look and
Odyssey's lineup is still a work in progress,
according to Loesch, who added that more original series are in the works, and they should
be on-air early next year. These programs include a spiritual magazine series and a
fantasy series from Hallmark.
In addition, Odyssey has in development for next year a Les
Miserables miniseries that Hallmark is discussing with Gerard Depardieu, as well as a
two-hour made-for-TV movie based on classic novel Giants of the Earth,about
Norwegian immigrants who come to America in the 1800s.
Fox Family, which relaunched a year ago by scrapping almost
its entire program lineup, has a slew of new daytime and primetime series launching this
On Saturday, Oct. 9, Fox Family will kick off a new daytime
schedule with Weird-Ohs, Kids from Room 402 and cutout-animation show
Angela Anaconda. Mega Babies will debut the next day.
Fox Family picked Oct. 5 through 8 to premiere several
primetime shows: Famous Families, Exploring the Unknown, World Gone Wild and
Random Acts of Comedy, the latter with David Alan Grier.
Fox Family debuts new shows all year round, according to
president Rich Cronin. It premiered three new kids' series in July and a primetime
show in August. The network doesn't debut shows in September, because that's
when the broadcasters do it, but it has found that October and December are great times to
launch shows, Cronin added.
"October and December have been two of our
highest-rated months, because that's when we do our Halloween and Christmas
programming stunts," he said. "We take advantage of that increased
WAM!, Encore Media Group LLC's commercial-free
children's network, added three new series to its lineup in September.
The Odyssey,a 39-episode series, debuted Sept.
1, and it is a family drama about the subconscious adventures of an 11-year-old in a coma.
Name Your Adventure debuted that same day, and its 39 episodes depict teens living
out their fantasies. Minty is a 13-part comedy-drama about two teen girls who swap
lives, and it began airing on WAM! Sept. 4.
In addition to those series, WAM! has 13 new episodes of Emily
of New Moon and 61 episodes of science series How 2.
WAM! vice president of programming Midge Pierce said her
network tries to freshen its lineup with at least two new series each quarter, and the
September additions are part of that continuing strategy.
In this case, too, WAM! is trying to capitalize on the fact
that "kids are back to school and are re-establishing themselves in their
routines," according to Pierce.
Two of the new series -- The Odyssey and Minty --air during the after-school "OH! Zone" block, while Name Your Adventure is
part of WAM!'s educational midday "Mind Zone" block.