Wisdom 'Booker' Martin Draws Talent

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Looking to ramp up its development pace, Wisdom Television is in pre-production mode on a host of series and specials.

The activity, led by senior vice president of content Sandra Martin, will initially yield a holiday special that will bow in December, as well as the first batch of episodes for six original series in 2003.

Wisdom, whose programming palette focuses on topics involving health, wellness, spirituality, self-discovery and career growth, is currently in 5.5 million
cable and satellite homes.

Martin is the owner of Paraview Inc., a literary agency, production company and publishing house, whose Paraview Pocket Books is now a Simon & Schuster imprint. She's trading on her contacts and acumen within the mind, body and spirit communities for celebrity inroads and programming ideas.

First up is Wisdom Holidays: Gift of Song. Martin said Wisdom has wrapped up shooting at Darkhorse Recording Studios in Franklin, Tenn., and is now editing the 90-minute special, which showcases such session musicians as Timothy Bays and Mike Rayburn.

"These musicians also are great motivational speakers with ideas about how to enhance our lives," said Martin, who noted that the show will bow on Dec. 8. Encore editions are slated for Dec. 22, 24 and 25.

Helen Hunt on deck

The show will be hosted by Robin Crowe and Lenedra Carroll, the mother of singer/songwriter Jewel and author of The Architecture of All Abundance.

Jewel — for whom Martin served as agent for the poetry collection A Night Without Armor
— will be the subject of an installment of A Woman's Way. Martin said actress Helen Hunt will serve as narrator (as well as a subject) of a show that will trace the lives of women from all walks of life "reflecting upon their memories and perceptions of being young girls, and over time how they became the women they are now."

Martin expects shooting on the first of six of these shows, with Tony Award winner Ann Reinking, to begin next spring. The episodes should air in fall 2003.

Filming on 13 episodes of House Call
— about detoxifying the chemicals, pollutants and germs found in the walls, rugs and other areas of peoples' homes — begins in December, with an eye toward a first-quarter debut.

On a similar schedule is Good Business. Co-hosted by actress turned financial planner Chellie Campbell and financial performance advisor Michael Banks, the program will use interviews with CEOs and other members of the financial community to show people "how to get their money working."

Yoga, Dogs, Books

Yoga Plus
will not only explore various yoga techniques, but alternative energy and breathing methods, while Paul Owens, author of The Dog Whisperer, will co-host Animal Connections, in which celebrities will share information and experiences about their dogs, cats and horses. Martin said the show might also take viewers into zoos.

Wisdom is currently "narrowing down host candidates" for Wisdom Book Club, which is scheduled to premiere in the first quarter. Some of the interview show's subjects would encompass genre themes and books turned into films, Martin said.

Asked if her hat was in the hosting ring, Martin said that while it would be a natural given her literary roots and a past role in front of the camera, she's not interested.

She has already lined up PBS-style sponsorship deals with four publishing companies for the program.

Deals like those bring Martin back to the mid-1980s and her time at WHRO, a PBS affiliate in Norfolk, Va., where she gained funding for a show she hosted in which she discussed meditation, dreams and rituals.

Martin said PBS-style funding and the ad deal Wisdom cut with Kingston Herbs to support Wisdom Holidays
are critical because the network is allocating a lot of its resources to building distribution.

Martin wouldn't disclose Wisdom's programming budget but said, "you can find creative ways to finance projects."

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