[04/05/04 - 12:00 AM]
Sci Fi Announces 2005-06 Plans, 'Farscape'S' Return
By The Futon Critic Staff (TFC)

CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- Sci Fi Channel doesn't plan on resting on its laurels any time soon as the network revealed an aggressive slate of original programming for the 2005-06 season today.

The projects, all announced at its upfront presentation to the advertising community, include a slew of new pilots, telefilms and mini-series as well as the long awaited return of "Farscape."

Here's the network's trio of press releases touting its new developments:

SCI FI's Aggressive Original Series Slate Expands to Hold Heavy-Hitters

SCI FI Channel, already a leader in original dramatic series on cable, announced today a number of new additions to its series development slate for '05-'06. Already hitting ratings gold with proven franchises like Stargate SG-1, and new additions like the animated series Tripping the Rift, the new SCI FI development slate broadens the reach of the Channel by incorporating the varied universes of book publishing, collaborations with celebrity producers and "A-list" writers. Highlights include an edgy new project from the creator of Hollywood hit Hellboy, and a new series from standout executive producer Joel Schumacher and writer April Smith.

Projects include:

Untitled Joel Schumacher/April Smith Project -- Sex and the City meets V in this edgy urban drama. An elite team of soldier/scientists from another planet is studying humans, preparing for an eventual invasion. Each must experience a different aspect of the human experience -- and many are seduced by the unfamiliar tastes and feelings of this new world. When a sexy alien female falls in love with a human male, a deadly tale of love, lust, and world domination unfolds. Joel Schumacher (Batman) and three-time Emmy nominee April Smith (Chicago Hope) will co- executive produce. Schumacher will direct and Smith will write.

Witchhunter Robin -- A live action adaptation of the popular Japanese anime series, Witchhunter Robin is a gritty urban tale of action and horror. A small, specialized team of cops set out to capture rogue "witches" who are abusing their powers. Robin is the newest member of the team -- but she is also a witch. A combination that makes her a great cop -- and a danger to everyone around her. Joe Menosky (Anonymous Rex) is on board as writer and executive producer of this clever and edgy series; Roy Lee (The Ring) and Doug Davison will also executive produce.

Eureka -- A newly hired sheriff reports for duty in the small, bucolic Pacific North-west town of Eureka and soon discovers that things are not what they seem. For years, the government has been relocating the world's geniuses (and their families) to Eureka, creating the ultimate think tank community. At times strange, amazing, and bizarre, the community's quirky inhabitants unleash scientific and technological creations still unknown by the outside world. Produced by USACE, Andy Cosby and Jamie Paglia will write.

Motel Man -- Joe Miller is a police detective who discovers a collection of seemingly mundane objects that have strange powers. Just for starters, a comb that can stop time, a pencil that creates 1961 pennies when tapped, and a bus ticket that can transport people to Ft. Wayne, Indiana. The most powerful object is a motel room key which grants access to the very room where the objects originated. Elusive and secretive groups collecting these prized objects for various agendas, soon target Joe. As the crews fight, and at times kill for the objects, no one's figured out why or how they got their powers...until Joe Miller. Determined to piece the mystery together, Joe is also being sought by the police for the disappearance of his wife and child, who entered the motel room and never re-emerged. Motel Man was created by Christopher Leone, Laura Harkcom, and Paul Workman. Leone and Harkcom will also write.

Alternative/Reality Series Projects:

Amazing Screw-On Head -- Adapted from the critically acclaimed, Eisner Award winning comic book by Mike Mignola (Hellboy), Amazing Screw-On Head is a half-hour animated comedy based on the exploits of one of history's unsung heroes. A secret agent who never made the history books, Screw-On Head is in the employ of the U.S. Government. A robot that screws his head onto a wide variety of bodies, Screw On Head battles those who threaten our civilization. Bryan Fuller (Dead Like Me, Wonderfalls, NBC's Carrie) and Jason Netter (Kickstart Productions) will executive produce. Fuller will be writing and Netter will oversee animation.

Monster Smash -- Giant mutant monsters step out of our nightmares and into the ring in Monster Smash. Taking WWE-style action to a whole new, ultra-gruesome level, Monster Smash uses state-of-the-art prosthetics and special effects to transform actors into grotesque fiends, and then throws them at one compelling backstage drama; Monster Smash follows the hideous combatants as another in a no-holds-barred showdown. Infused with entertaining in-depth back-stories and they battle to see who will be the last monster standing. SCI FI is in the process of developing Monster Smash with Academy award winning creature maker Stan Winston, with Phil Gurin of The Gurin Company executive producing.

Stranded -- What would The Amazing Race be like on an alien planet? In this action/adventure/ reality series set in some of the most severe environments on Earth, two teams are "crash-landed" on an alien planet and must fight their way through a series of extreme challenges. Using cutting-edge technology, the teams fight for survival-and a chance at the big cash prize.

SCI FI continues to find strength and success in its great franchises -- including an 8th season of Stargate SG-1; a new chapter in the Stargate universe -- Stargate Atlantis; and the spin-off series of last December's successful SCI FI miniseries, Battlestar Galactica starring Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell. Additionally, two pilot projects -- Dead Lawyers starring Sean Patrick Flanery and F. Murray Abraham and Anonymous Rex, starring Daniel Baldwin and Sam Trammell, are slated to be finished this summer for possible air in '05.

SCI FI Channel is a television network where "what if" is what's on. SCI FI fuels the imagination of viewers with original series and events, blockbuster movies and classic science fiction and fantasy programming, as well as a dynamic Web site (http://www.scifi.com) and magazine. Launched in 1992, and currently in 83 million homes, SCI FI Channel is a program service of Universal Television Networks, part of the Universal Television Group (http://www.universalstudios.com), a division of Vivendi Universal Entertainment (VUE), the U.S.-based film, television and recreation entity of Vivendi Universal, a global media and communications company.

SCI FI's 'Popcorn' Movies Explode on Small Screen

The Channel Announces New Slate of Original Action Movies for 2005

SCI FI Channel announces a new slate of high-octane original Saturday Action movies set to premiere in 2005-2006. The largest producer of movies or miniseries on television, SCI FI increases the appetite of its "popcorn" movies. With original fare from comic book legend Stan Lee to a new installment in the Species franchise, the new Saturday Action movies up the ante on adrenaline-pumping entertainment.

Consistently strong ratings performers, the Saturday Action movies have exceeded expectations and seen an increase in their Saturday night ratings. Thus far in 2004, the films have averaged a HH rating of 1.7, which is 31% higher than last year's average rating of 1.4. The movies also delivered 33% higher P25-54 ratings than non-originals for the time-slot.* SCI FI is currently slated to air 20 originals this year and will premiere approximately two per month.

Newly announced projects include:

SLIPSTREAM -- Stars Sean Astin, Ivana Milicevic and Vinnie Jones. Rogue scientist Stuart Conway (Astin) works for a secret government program. Worried that he might leak classified information, the FBI assigns a team of agents to tail him. However, Stuart has secretly invented a time-travel device that allows a person to leap back 10 minutes. While testing the device in a bank, Stuart and the agents get caught in an attempted bank robbery, which sets off a chain of events no one anticipated. (Completed/Brad Krevoy Productions.)

SPECIES III -- Stars Robert Knepper, Sunny Mabrey and Natasha Henstridge. All new specimen, same voracious appetite. SCI FI extends the hit movie franchise Species with a highly anticipated third installment. A vastly improved, sexier, deadlier alien (Mabrey) is loose in a small college town, and hunting for a way to continue its genetically superior species. Now, a professor (Knepper) must become the reluctant hero and destroy it to decode its DNA before it can mate and populate the world with a frightening alien race. (Completed/MGM.)

STAN LEE MOVIES -- As the creative genius behind Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, and X-Men, among many others classic comics, Stan Lee knows a thing or two about captivating characters and compelling storylines. This living legend is joining forces with SCI FI to produce three all new action movies. With Lee's incomparable mythmaking, and with the tremendous success of the recent Hollywood adaptations of Lee's Marvel Comics catalogue, these exclusive-to-SCI FI projects are sure to make a big splash.

THE MAN WITH THE SCREAMING BRAIN -- Written, directed by and starring Bruce Campbell, this film centers on an uptown banker (Campbell) who suffers an injury to part of his brain, which is replaced with part of the brain of a street hustler. Production begins in Spring '04 with Franklin Waterman.

ALIEN APOCALYPSE -- Also starring Bruce Campbell. A team of deep space explorers returns to Earth after decades of travel, only to find that Earth has been conquered and all of mankind have been enslaved. The cruel Bounty Hunters force them to harvest Earth's most precious resource-wood-for the aliens to feed on. As the astronauts piece together what happened, they try to rally the spirits of their fellow men, and mount a resistance to the alien invaders. Production begins in Spring '04 with Franklin Waterman.

WASTELAND -- Jute is just an average guy, fed up by the androids that are taking all the best jobs in town. His anger got the best of him in a barroom fight, and now he's been exiled to a desolate penal colony. DeeCee is an obedient android, but when he's assigned to transport Jute, he finds his notions of humans turned upside down. After mutants attack their ship, the unlikely pair finds itself lost in the wild, with only each other to depend on for survival. Production begins in Spring '04 with Brainstorm.

MANTICORE -- Lieutenant Tommy Baxter is on mop-up duty, chasing down looters in post- war Iraq -- and keeping an eye out for souvenirs of his own. When reports of unspeakable carnage in local villages reach his ears, he finds himself hunting down a relentless, millennium-old monster instead. Believed only to be legend, the manticore is frighteningly real, and only Lt. Baxter can come between it and the world's total annihilation. Production begins in Summer '04 with UFO Films.

CERBERUS -- The hounds of hell have been released -- and only the power of hell can stop them. Caught up in an international plot to steal the sword of Attila the Hun, and with it rule over the world, art historian Samantha Gaines finds herself face-to-face with the mythical three-headed dogs said to guard over the treasure. Now, the bloodthirsty beasts are loose, and no earthly power can contend with their wrath. Only the sword itself has the power to challenge them, but wielding that cursed weapon is the hardest thing that Samantha has ever had to do. Production begins in Summer '04, with Cinetel.

CAVED IN -- An extreme adventure tour group descends into an abandoned mine. They prepare for rockslides, black outs, cave-ins -- whatever might threaten their journey. What they're not prepared for is the gravest danger of all -- a silent, swift killer long hidden in the cavernous earth. Some of the "tourists" are actually scheming treasure hunters, and as their real motives for entering the mineral rich mine become apparent, the group finds itself lost, divided, and facing a predator they could never have imagined. Production begins in Summer '04 with Cinetel.

SCI FI Channel is a television network where "what if" is what's on. SCI FI fuels the imagination of viewers with original series and events, blockbuster movies and classic science fiction and fantasy programming, as well as a dynamic Web site (http://www.scifi.com) and magazine. Launched in 1992, and currently in 83 million homes, SCI FI Channel is a program service of Universal Television Networks, part of the Universal Television Group (http://www.universalstudios.com), a division of Vivendi Universal Entertainment (VUE), the U.S.-based film, television and recreation entity of Vivendi Universal, a global media and communications company.

SCI FI'S Upcoming Television Events Shatter the Boundaries of Imagination

SCI FI Channel, responsible for almost single-handedly reviving the miniseries format in the past few years, has established itself as the industry's leading producer of original movies and awe-inspiring television events. Continuing to attract Hollywood's hottest filmmakers, SCI FI has partnered with DreamWorks and Steven Spielberg for a second miniseries (the first was the Emmy Award-winning Steven Spielberg Presents TAKEN) entitled Nine Lives, and has signed deals in recent months with Martin Scorsese, Bryan Singer, Dean Devlin, Joel Silver and Gale Anne Hurd, among others. Oscar(R)-caliber actors such as Timothy Hutton, Randy Quaid and Isabella Rossellini lead the casts of SCI FI's upcoming 2004 miniseries, while other stars have signed on for future epics. Following is a list of projects that lead SCI FI's development slate, with a number of luminaries making the Channel their creative home:

Earthsea -- SCI FI announces today the signing of an extraordinary triumvirate of stars -- Shawn Ashmore (X-Men, X2, The Underclassmen), Danny Glover and Kristin Kreuk (Smallville) -- who join Isabella Rossellini in the year's most breath-taking television event. Premiering this December, this epic fantasy, based on Ursula K. Le Guin's award-winning "Earthsea" novels, follows the adventures of a Ged (Ashmore), a reckless youth destined to become the greatest sorcerer that the mystical land of Earthsea has ever known. When Ged discovers that he possesses infinite magical powers, he seeks to master the ancient arts with the help of the legendary wizard Ogion (Glover). As he battles unimaginable evils, Ged finds an ally in Tenar (Kreuk), the vibrant and devout pupil to High Priestess Thar (Rossellini). Produced by Hallmark Entertainment, in association with Bender-Brown Productions, Earthsea is written by Gavin Scott (The Mists of Avalon) and executive produced by Robert Halmi, Sr. (Dreamkeeper, Merlin), Lawrence Bender (Kill Bill, Pulp Fiction) and Kevin Brown (Roswell). Rob Lieberman (The Dead Zone, Strong Medicine) will direct.

Dresden Files (working title) -- Based on the best-selling "Dresden Files" novels by Jim Butcher, this 2-hour backdoor pilot film will be executive produced by Academy Award(R) winner Nicolas Cage and Norm Golightly of Saturn Films. Erik Dresden is a detective with extraordinary powers, the kind that could belong only to the descendant of a long line of wizards. Where others see the typical crimes of assault, kidnapping and serial killings, Erik sees otherworldly forces at work -- which only he knows how to combat. Whether consulting for the police on inexplicable crimes or following his own cases, Erik has a unique outlook on the world, and wields a wry sense of humor as one of his most potent weapons. The project is produced by Lions Gate Television and Cage's Saturn Films (The Life of David Gale, Shadow of the Vampire), with Morgan Gendel (Law & Order, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Next Generation) writing; Gendel and Anthony Peckham (Don't Say a Word, 5 Days to Midnight) are executive producers.

Farscape: Peacekeeper War -- Back by popular demand and premiering in fourth quarter 2004! This 4-hour miniseries picks up where the series' finale left off. The miniseries will bring resolution -- Farscape-style -- to many of the burning questions left unanswered, and reunites John Crichton (Ben Browder), Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black) and the rest of the Moya crew for one final adventure. Produced by The Jim Henson Company, in association with Hallmark Entertainment, the project is executive produced by Robert Halmi, Jr., and written by series creator Rockne O'Bannon and executive producer David Kemper. Brian Henson directs.

History of the Devil -- From Executive Producer Clive Barker and his Seraphim Films, this six-hour limited series deals with the Devil -- who's trying to litigate his way back into Heaven. Tired of hearing "the Devil made me do it," he hires a topnotch New York defense attorney to prove that he is the least of the world's problems. Also executive producing are Jeff Hayes and Greg Coote of Coote-Hayes Productions, and Joe Daley and Anthony DiBlasi. Produced by Lions Gate Television, executive producer Peter Filardi (The Craft, Salem's Lot) will write the adaptation, which is based on Barker's play, "The History of the Devil or Scenes from a Pretended Life."

Blackwater -- Based on Michael McDowell's (Beetlejuice, Nightmare Before Christmas) popular Blackwater novels, this 4-hour miniseries is a Southern gothic tale of the terrifying rise to power of a Water Witch. Secretly marrying into a wealthy and influential Southern family, she uses her powers to destroy her family's enemies. The multi-generational supernatural thriller will be produced by Mandalay Entertainment (Sleepy Hollow) and The Orphanage, in association with Sony Pictures Television.

Winney -- A satiric thriller from the creator of Beetlejuice, this 4-hour miniseries is a biting look at American culture. Beloved American cartoon character Winney has become so popular that it's possible it may be elected President. However, Steve, the puppeteer who gave Winney its movements for a popular talk show, discovers that the character's creator has made a pact with the Devil to bring Winney to life. Steve alone knows the truth and stands in the way of Winney's world domination. Based on the popular short film Winney: A Cute Candidate by Florence Deygas and Olivier Kuntzel. Larry Wilson (Beetlejuice), Deygas and Kuntzel will executive produce, with Wilson writing the script.

Ringworld -- Based on the classic Larry Niven books, this 4-hour miniseries follows four explorers who crashland on "Ringworld" -- an artificial world, mammoth in scope and built in the shape of a ring that rotates around a gravitational sun force. Exploring its harsh terrain, the team encounters alien beings, but they also come to realize that the Ring was once home to an incredibly advanced, technologically-sophisticated civilization which mysteriously vanished after building it...or have they? Executive produced by Bob Mandel and Micky Hyman.

SCI FI's December 2003 miniseries, Battlestar Galactica, was the most- watched cable miniseries of the year, and is currently being developed as a weekly series. The Channel's next major event, 5 Days to Midnight, starring Academy Award(R) winner Timothy Hutton and Randy Quaid, will premiere in June 2004. The fantasy adventure epic Earthsea will follow in December 2004.

SCI FI Channel is a television network where "what if" is what's on. SCI FI fuels the imagination of viewers with original series and events, blockbuster movies and classic science fiction and fantasy programming, as well as a dynamic Web site (http://www.scifi.com) and magazine. Launched in 1992, and currently in 83 million homes, SCI FI Channel is a program service of Universal Television Networks, part of the Universal Television Group (http://www.universalstudios.com), a division of Vivendi Universal Entertainment (VUE), the U.S.-based film, television and recreation entity of Vivendi Universal, a global media and communications company.

  [april 2004]  


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