CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- The Television Critics Association began its winter press tour this week in which the various broadcast and cable networks talk about their upcoming plans to the nation's top critics and entertainment reporters.
Here's a breakdown of the highlights of Sci Fi Channel's presentation (via press release):
SCI FI GREENLIGHTS "EARTHSEA" FOR PRODUCTION IN NEW ZEALAND
Channel Continues Aggressive Event Strategy With Best-Selling �Earthsea�
SCI FI Channel, the largest provider of original movies and miniseries on television, announces production start on Ursula K. Le Guin�s Earthsea. Produced by Hallmark Entertainment in association with Bender-Brown Productions, this four-hour miniseries epic will begin principle photography this spring in New Zealand. Adapted from award-winning novelist Ursula K. Le Guin�s "Earthsea" book series, Earthsea is written by Gavin Scott (The Mists of Avalon) with Robert Halmi, Sr. (Dreamkeeper, Merlin), Lawrence Bender (Kill Bill, Pulp Fiction) and Kevin Brown (Roswell) executive producing. Earthsea is slated to debut on SCI FI in December 2004.
Earthsea follows the tale of a reckless youth destined to become the greatest sorcerer that the mystical land of Earthsea has ever known. When the young wizard Ged discovers that he possesses infinite magical powers, he seeks to master the ancient arts. As he journeys to manhood, he will combat dragons, fall in love, cross death�s threshold, and ultimately wield the power to reunite a kingdom.
Earthsea is an adaptation of the first two of Le Guin�s famed Earthsea trilogy novels: A Wizard of Earthsea and The Tombs of Atuan. Frequently listed alongside Tolkien�s Middle Earth and C.S. Lewis's Narnia as one of fantasy�s greatest literary creations, the stories of Earthsea have been translated into 16 languages, with millions of copies in print. Popular with readers both within and outside the science-fiction arena, author Le Guin has won five Hugo awards and five Nebula awards. She has also earned a National Book Award, and been named a finalist for the American Book Award numerous times.
In recent months, the Channel has made a number of deals with some of SCI FI�s brightest luminaries for "big event" projects. Most recently, Scorcese joined the list, which includes fellow Hollywood heavyweights Bryan Singer, Dean Devlin and Gale Anne Hurd, to produce a number of the groundbreaking miniseries that have quickly become SCI FI�s signature. SCI FI will be re-teaming with Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks Television for a new miniseries project for 2005. From the Emmy Award-winning projects Steven Spielberg Presents TAKEN, Frank Herbert�s Dune and Frank Herbert�s Children of Dune, SCI FI has single-handedly revived the concept of "event television."
A VAMPIRE, A NATURIST, A VOODOO PRIESTESS, A WICCAN, AND A MODERN PRIMITIVE SET UP HOUSE ON SCI FI
Production Wraps on SCI FI�s Twisted New Reality Series �Mad Mad House�
Welcome to the Voodoo days and vampire nights of SCI FI�s newest reality series, Mad Mad House. This 10-episode weekly series chronicles the unhinging of 10 everyday people who move into a house run by a Vampire, a Wiccan, a Naturist, a Voodoo Priestess, and a Modern Primitive to compete for a $100,000 prize. Part reality, part variety, and part game, the one-hour series will debut as part of the Channel�s new SCI FI Thursday block of originals on Thursday, March 4 at 9pm ET/PT.
In this Survivor-meets-the Real World-meets-The Osbournes series, five genuine practitioners of "alternative lifestyles," referred to collectively as the ALTS, rule the roost. Their ten more "conventional" GUESTS strap in for the ride of their lives as they undergo a number of tolerance-testing activities.
The Guests are judged by the Alts to determine their openness to and tolerance of alternative lifestyles. From their participation in House activities, to their willingness to get to know the Alts, the Guests are subject to constant evaluation. The Alts determine which of their Guests will be banished in the weekly elimination ceremony�and which one will ultimately walk away with the six-figure prize.
Created by Arthur Smith and Kent Weed, Mad Mad House is produced by their A. Smith & Co. Productions. Smith and Weed executive produced Fox's hit summer series Paradise Hotel and the recently announced Forever Eden.
SCI FI: THE FLIP SIDE CHANNEL DELIVERS RADICAL 2nd NIGHT OF ORIGINALS
�SCI FI Thursday� Targets Young Adults in Spring 2004
SCI FI Channel remedies spring fever with an all-new night of edgy original series. Beginning March 4, 2004, SCI FI Thursday will delve headlong into the alternative side of sci-fi. Worlds apart from its dramatic scripted series, SCI FI�s two-hour (9pm�11pm ET/PT) Thursday block, aimed at young adults, will consist of the outrageous new reality series Mad Mad House, the comically risqu� animated show Tripping the Rift, and a brand new season of Scare Tactics, hosted by Shannen Doherty.
SCI FI THURSDAY LINE-UP (ET/PT)
9pm Mad Mad House � This 10-episode, one-hour weekly series chronicles the unhinging of 10 everyday people who move into a house run by five genuine practitioners of "alternative lifestyles," referred to collectively as the ALTS. Comprised of a Vampire, a Wiccan, a Naturist, a Voodoo Priestess, and a Modern Primitive, the ALTS determine which of their GUESTS will be banished in the weekly elimination ceremony�and which one will ultimately walk away with the $100,000 prize.
10pm Scare Tactics � Hosted by Shannen Doherty, this delightfully wicked half-hour series takes the hidden camera to all new heights. Set up by friends and loved ones, unwitting victims take center stage in elaborately staged "sci-fi" hoaxes, skillfully designed to tap into their wildest fears � from a mock alien encounter to babysitting in a haunted house.
10:30pm Tripping the Rift � SCI FI�s first animated series, this humorous and scandalously sexy show sends up all things sci-fi. The twisted half-hour follows the adventures of The Free Enterprise, a smuggling vessel led by a stumpy purple alien named "Chode" who, along with his colorful group of misfit shipmates, battles archenemies and new obstacles in space each week. The voice cast includes Stephen Root (News Radio, Office Space), Gina Gershon (Prey for Rock & Roll), "Stuttering" John Melendez (The Howard Stern Show) and Maurice LaMarche (the Brain from Pinky & the Brain).
SCI FI Thursday joins the already popular SCI FI Friday line-up, which includes the Channel�s highest-rated original, Stargate SG-1.