Specials Shape History's Next Chapter


New York— Looking to maintain viewer momentum, The History Channel will populate its 2005-06 schedule with an ambitious slate of original series and specials.

The network, which matched its all-time best household rating with a 1.2 mark in April, will roll out eight new series and a slew of specials to complement its current lineup of signature shows such as Modern Marvels and Mail Call, president Dan Davids said.

Among the new series on tap: ManMoment Machine, which explores the intersection between a dynamic leader, a significant moment in time and important technology; Weird U.S., based on the best-selling book of the same name that takes an offbeat look at American history; and The American Revolution, which centers on personal/political stories of the major characters involved in this nation's birth.

Among the expansive array of specials are Rome: Engineering an Empire; The Crusades: The Crescent & the Cross; DaVinci and the Code He Lived By; Lincoln; The Plague; Ottoman Empire; Washington the Warrior; and the previously announced 10 Days That Changed America, a group of 10 films encapsulating those important times.

Sister service A&E Network told advertisers attending the joint upfront here on April 21 that it plans to become a top-five service for delivering adults 18 to 49 and 25 to 54 by the end of 2006.

This plan is being fueled by a strategy melding such acquired fare as The Sopranos, CSI: Miami and 24 with a bevy of original movies and series.

New series Inked, about an upscale tattoo parlor, and Criss Angel Mindfreak, tracking the life and performance of the illusionist, on July 20 will join such docu-soap skeins as Dog the BountyHunter, Airline and Growing Up Gotti, which have helped A&E lift its ratings in the aforementioned demos, and lower its median-age viewer to 49 in the process, according to executive vice president of programming Bob DeBitetto.

On the movie front, A&E — which has 25 to 30 telepics and miniseries in various stages of the development pipeline — is fast-tracking a movie about Johnny Cash, focusing on the late musician's relationship with June Cash Carter; a tribute to those who acted valiantly on Sept. 11, 2001, on Flight 93; Blackout, showing just how fragile and antiquated the power grid is; and Touch the Top of the World, based on Erik Weihenmayer's memoir in which he overcame degenerative blindness to become a world-class mountain climber.