Trio Set to Embark on a More Original Course

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Hoping to stand out in an increasingly crowded cable entertainment-network landscape, popular arts channel Trio plans to bow at least 20 new original specials and series over the course of 2002.

The ambitious, multimillion-dollar original-programming slate will feature shows from a number of entertainment genres, including Broadway, music and storytelling, said Trio CEO and president Bill Haber.

"In 2002, our original specials and series will continue to encompass all of the popular arts —music, festivals, theater, dance, comedy and documentaries," Haber said. "We are working with some of Hollywood and Broadway's most important names to bring an outstanding lineup of groundbreaking and provocative original programming not seen before on American television."

Trio, part of USA Cable's emerging networks group, has enticed Broadway and film star Matthew Broderick to host Broadway Legends, an original one-hour documentary series to feature interviews with more than 20 Broadway notables. Stars recounting their real life on and off the Broadway stage will include Lauren Bacall, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Julie Harris, Stephen Sondheim, Neil Simon and Nathan Lane.

Other original series scheduled to launch in 2002 include: The Score,
a skein that will provide an intimate look at the relationships between film directors and music composers; and Walkthrough, a one-hour, celebrity-hosted art series that gives viewers an unprecedented look at some of America's greatest and most eclectic collectors of items, ranging from classic cars to ageless art, said vice president of original programming Andrew Cohen.

Another original series, Pure Video, will showcase eclectic music videos that aren't screened on traditional video services like MTV: Music Television or Black Entertainment Television, according to Haber.

"The show will feature all types of music from artists that no other networks touch on," he noted.

Also on the docket: Writer's Block, a series of interviews and discussions with some of the world's most renowned authors; and The Moth, which will highlight both accomplished writers and everyday people sharing their true or fictional stories on stage.

"Our slate is one of the most ambitious of any of the digital services out there today," Haber said. "For a new digital service to be successful, it has to deliver quality programming to an audience that is underserved."

Continuing to mine the archives of classic and vintage specials and movies, Trio on Dec. 12 will present a Christmas special featuring Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, Haber said. It will be the first airing of the color version of the special, taped in 1957. Trio recently bowed an enhanced version of Arthur Miller's classic, Death of a Salesman. Trio repackaged the 1966 presentation — which originally aired on CBS and had not been seen in 20 years — with an interview with George Segal, who played Biff Loman.

Also on the acquisition front, the network has picked up 22 episodes of a popular Australian series, The Secret Life of Us, which traces the lives of eight 20-year-olds who share the same Melbourne apartment block. The series could make its Trio debut as early as next month.

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