USA Adds Third Night of Originals


As programming chief Stephen Chao continues to make his
mark on the service, USA Network last week unwrapped plans to launch a third night of
original programming and unveiled an original-movie slate for the coming season that
includes the miniseries Attila the Hun.

Starting in the first quarter of next year, USA will debut
a two-hour original block on Tuesdays, anchored by a drama from Shaun Cassidy and another
series that will be announced later, USA Networks Inc. president of programming Chao said
at the network's upfront in Los Angeles last week.

Cassidy, whose first dramatic series was American Gothic,
will develop and produce 13 episodes of a new one-hour drama for Studios USA and USA

The addition of the new two hours of originals will give
USA a total of six hours of original series in primetime each week, airing Tuesdays,
Saturdays and Sundays. Overall, USA will increase its original-programming spending by 50
percent in the year 2000.

In terms of other original series that weren't
previously announced, USA unwrapped its plans for: Hank & Nick at War,a
half-hour single-camera comedy; Road Hogs, a half-hour comedy featuring animatronic
puppets; and Thunder Roads,about five delinquent teens in a Texas town near
the Mexican border.

USA has five new movies in the works, which join three
previously announced projects. The biggest opus planned is the four-hour Attila the Hun
miniseries, which Robert Halmi Sr. will executive-produce for Hallmark Entertainment
and USA Pictures. It is slated to air in the third quarter of next year.

The other previously unannounced movies that will start
production in 1999-2000 are: Toys of Glass,with Ken Olin starring in the
story of a fertility-clinic accident that results in a child being born from the DNA of a
Bronze-Age man; Cabin by the Lake,a thriller about a writer of teen-age
horror movies who becomes a serial killer; Hefner: The True Story, an authorized
biography of Playboy's founder; and The Expendables,about
female convicts who are offered freedom in exchange for participating in a dangerous
covert operation.

USA also renewed La Femme Nikita for a fourth
season, ordering 22 new episodes for early 2000. Nikita will continue to air
all-new third-season episodes this summer, Sundays at 10 p.m.

USA's sister service, Sci-Fi Channel, also unveiled
its 1999-2000 season plans, which include two new series and two original movies joining
Steven Spielberg's 20-hour miniseries, Taken, on its lineup.

Sci-Fi gave the OK for a two-hour pilot for Invisible
.And the network is developing Stormfront,a half-hour series
from Steven de Sousa, the writer of 48 Hours and Die Hard.The show
is about cops in the Los Angeles of 2025.

The two original movies that Sci-Fi has in development are Frost
& Fire
,an adaptation of a Ray Bradbury classic about a distant planet
where the human life span is reduced to seven days; and Beyond Communion, a sequel
to the 1989 theatrical based on Whiney Strieber's bestseller about alien abduction.

Sci-Fi also acquired the rights to air the exclusive
television debut of Cube,a psychological thriller that won first prize at
the Toronto Film Festival. It stars Nicole deBoer of Star Trek: Deep Space 9, and
it will premiere in July.

In addition, the network acquired exclusive premieres of Laserhawk,starring Mark Hamill, and Escape Velocity,with Patrick Bergin.

Sci-Fi will add three off-network series to its schedule
Sept. 27: TheOuter Limits, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Sentinel.