CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- Lifetime, one of cable's most successful networks, will invest an unprecedented $800 million in programming over the next two years. That's just one of many announcements the network made in its 2003-04 season upfront presentation to advertisers. Two new scripted hours as well as three new reality series are in the works as Lifetime plans to expand its already winning Sunday night of originals into a second evening of original programming on Saturdays, beginning this summer. In total, the cable network plans to reach the highest number of original primetime hours ever in its 19-year history, with nearly 60% of the primetime lineup comprised of original programming.
Here's a rundown of the projects that were announced:
NEW ORIGINAL DRAMA SERIES
Joining "The Division" and "Strong Medicine," Lifetime will launch two new original drama series this August, selected from its four pilots in development:
1-800 MISSING -- starring Gloria Rueben as a female FBI agent and her unconventional partner, a young woman who has developed the psychic ability to find missing people
FOLLOW THE LEEDS (A.K.A. SUBURBAN SLEUTHS) -- starring Sharon Lawrence and Maria Pitillo as two suburban women who run a private investigation business with the help of their mother, played by four time Academy Award-nominee Marsha Mason
NICK AND SHELLY (A.K.A. SCREWBALL HOMICIDE) -- starring Julie Warner as a brilliant female detective who solves crimes with a very unusual partner -- her ex-husband, played by Adrian Pasdar, and joined by Robert Wagner ("Austin Powers," "Hart to Hart") as her ex-husband's father and Police Commissioner Sheldon Bennett Sr., who remains close to his daughter-in-law despite the break up
WILD CARD -- starring Joely Fisher as Zoe Busiek, a former Las Vegas blackjack dealer who assumes care of her sister's children and stumbles into a career as an insurance fraud investigator
The announcement of which series will get the greenlight to series is expected shortly.
NEW ORIGINAL ALTERNATIVE SERIES
Lifetime will also premiere new original reality series at 8:00/7:00 p.m. during the week:
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO? (premieres April 14) -- This new series offers real-life solutions for real-life problems.
SECRET LIVES (premiere date T.B.A.) -- A limited-run series hosted by "Days of Our Lives" star Kristian Alfonso which reveals the shocking true stories of people who lead double lives or have a secret past.
MAKE ME OVER (premiere date T.B.A.) -- Hosted by Tanika Ray and set to air on Saturday mornings, the series allows two women who know each other well to surrender control to the other for a whole new look and makeover.
MERGE (pilot) -- Hosted by Lisa Rinna, the series helps newly married couples combine their individual belongings into one household has been piloted as a possible fourth new reality series.
RETURNING ORIGINAL ALTERNATIVE SERIES
LIFETIME'S SPEAKING OF WOMEN'S HEALTH -- This season television personality Florence Henderson joins news anchor and correspondent Juju Chang and emergency medicine physician Dr. Winnie King as host of "Lifetime's Speaking of Women's Health," the returning weekly Saturday morning health focused magazine show with the mission.
INTIMATE PORTRAIT -- The popular "Intimate Portrait" series returns with over 40 new installments, including profiles of First Lady Laura Bush, country music star Faith Hill and actress Lucy Liu.
GOING FOR BROKE -- starring real-life husband and wife Delta Burke ("Dangerous Child," "Designing Women") and Gerald McRaney ("Mister Sterling," "Major Dad") in the true story of a wife and mother whose gambling addiction leads to embezzlement
DEFENDING OUR KIDS: THE JULIE POSEY STORY -- starring Annie Potts ("Any Day Now," "Designing Women") as a woman who goes underground on the Internet to save teenagers from online predators
BREAKING THROUGH -- executive produced by and starring Academy Award and Golden Globe-winning actress Diane Keaton ("Father of the Bride," "First Wives Club") as a mother who goes undercover for the FBI in a desperate attempt to save herself and her children from the dangerous world of drug dealing
SPECIALS AND EVENTS
The primetime line-up also features specials and documentaries such as a
"Designing Women" reunion produced by co-creator Harry Thomason featuring all
of the stars, Delta Burke, Dixie Carter, Annie Potts, Jean Smart, Mesach
Taylor and creators/producer Linda Bloodworth Thomason, sharing their favorite
and funniest moments, as well as a 90-minute Andrew Solt produced "Golden
Girls" retrospective that unveils the stories behind the laughs and celebrates
one of the greatest comedy series created. Also, on the roster are the fourth
annual "Women Rock!" concert for breast cancer awareness which this year will
celebrate the movies and "Weddings of a Lifetime" specials.
Also, as the centerpiece of the Lifetime's "Be Your Own Hero" campaign to raise
self-esteem among girls and young women, now in its fourth year, the Network
will premiere "Lifetime's Achievement Awards: Women Changing the World" to pay
tribute to ordinary women who have done extraordinary things in their lives.
Produced by Don Mischer, "Women Changing the World" premieres on May 22 from
New York's Hammerstein Ballroom and salutes women from all walks of life who
have made a positive impact on the lives of one or many around them -- in
their families, communities and the world.