MINISERIES MAXIMIZE SCI FI SLATE

By Andrew Wallenstein

April 01, 2003 From the Hollywood Reporter: Taken with the ratings success of "Steven Spielberg Presents Taken," Sci Fi Channel is in discussions with DreamWorks to team on another big-budget miniseries.

Sci Fi president Bonnie Hammer revealed her intent to "outdo 'Taken' " with the original producers and writers at an upfront news conference Monday. In December, the $35 million 20-hour miniseries averaged an impressive 4.1 household rating over two weeks.

Although a concept for the new "maxi-miniseries" has yet to be decided, the cable network likely will schedule it differently than "Taken," which unfolded in 10 consecutive two-hour episodes. The new project may be presented as a trilogy that spreads 18 hours over three separate quarters, a move modeled on the quick succession of sequels from megamovie franchises like "Harry Potter." A "Taken" sequel, however, has been ruled out, Hammer said.

The project is one of many on a development slate that will see its funding double over the next three years, up from an estimated $132 million last year, according to Kagan World Media. Aiming to introduce fresh, original programming 52 weeks a year by 2004-05, Sci Fi is attempting to broaden the definition of what the genre has to offer.

"We're repositioning around the concept of the imagination," Hammer said. "Imagining 'what if' is shorthand for what Sci Fi is today."

Also on the miniseries front, Sci Fi is developing the six-hour "6 Days 'Til Sunday," which is scheduled to unfold over six consecutive nights early next year. From Lions Gate Films and executive producer David Kirschner ("Frailty"), "Sunday" focuses on a man who finds a briefcase containing information about his own murder. Another miniseries for 2004 is a four-hour remake of the monster classic "The Thing," from writer Gary L. Goldman ("Minority Report").

Sci Fi will also lean heavily on original dramas, pledging to double its series commitments by 2004-05. Series in development include DreamWorks and the Zanuck Co.'s "Dead Lawyers," which posits that when shady attorneys die, they return to Earth to defend those they wronged; Lions Gate's "The Divide," which marries psychic kooks with forensic science; a "Stargate" spinoff from MGM Worldwide Television; Seraphim's demon-narrated "Clive Barker's The Evil One"; "Total Eclipse," about a university teeming with paranormal activity; and "Legion," a chronicle of a man who sells his soul to the devil that is co-produced by Whoopi Goldberg's Whoop shingle.

Also being prepped for series consideration are comic book franchises "Suture Girl" (Fireworks Entertainment and Edmonds Entertainment) and "Painkiller Jane" (MGM).

Sci Fi is also developing "alternative reality" series like "Life on Mars," which relocates MTV's "The Real World" concept to a simulation of life at a colony on Mars, and 22 original action movies for its Saturday action block in 2003-04. 


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