- The Washington Times - Monday, June 4, 2007

A&E; renews Simmons

A&E; has said yes to a third season of “Gene Simmons: Family Jewels,” upping its order to 24 half-hour episodes from last season’s 20 installments.

According to Variety, the decision was an easy one: “Jewels” is A&E;’s second-highest-rated series ever in the 18-to-49 and 25-to-54 adult demographics, behind only “Dog the Bounty Hunter.” “Jewels” did even better in its second season than in its first, leaping by 15 percent in total viewers to a 1.5 million average and climbing by 11 percent in adults 18 to 49 and by 8 percent in adults 25 to 54.

A&E;’s relationship with Mr. Simmons started with a one-shot “Biography” hour of the rock legend and Kiss frontman. That “Biography” episode scored so well in the Nielsens that A&E; negotiated with Mr. Simmons and “Jewels’ ” executive producer Leslie Grief to create a 13-episode weekly half-hour series that would delve into the rock star’s life with his common-law partner, former Playboy Playmate Shannon Tweed, and their teenage son and daughter.

Unlike the stars of MTV’s “The Osbournes,” the model for reality shows built around a dysfunctional rock performer and his family, Mr. Simmons and his household “are highly functional, intelligent and witty,” says Rob Sharenow, senior vice president of nonfiction and alternative programming for A&E; and a co-executive producer of “Jewels.” “They’re in constant motion, and Gene is always working on dozens of projects. It’s more like a scripted series than a reality show,” Mr. Sharenow told Variety.

While reruns of “CSI Miami” and “The Sopranos” are harvesting lots of viewers for A&E;, “Jewels” is one of the weekly first-run series that have propelled A&E; into the ranks of the 10 highest-rated cable networks. The others are “Dog the Bounty Hunter,” “The First 48,” “Intervention” and “Criss Angel: Mindfreak.” During the first quarter, A&E; shot up by 54 percent in total viewers and more than 40 percent in the three key adult demos (18 to 49, 25 to 54 and 18 to 34), Variety said.

Family approved

The upcoming prime-time dramas “Chuck” and “The Bionic Woman” on NBC and “Life Is Wild” on the CW have earned the seal of approval from the Family Friendly Programming Forum, which is marking two milestones in the fall, Hollywood Reporter notes.

The 2007-08 season will mark the first time ever that the FFPF — a coalition of blue-chip advertisers that helps fund the development of family-oriented programming for the broadcast networks — has secured at least one family-friendly programming option in prime time each night of the week.

In addition, the upcoming season will feature more shows funded through the FFPF’s Script Development Fund than in any season since the coalition was founded in 1998. Eight FFPF-supported series will be on the broadcast networks’ schedules next season — three more than the previous high of five. They include five returning shows: ABC’s “Ugly Betty,” “Brothers & Sisters” and “Notes From the Underbelly”; NBC’s “Friday Night Lights” and the CW’s “Everybody Hates Chris.”

The FFPF’s mission is to support and promote the development and scheduling of family-friendly movies, dramas, comedies and informational programs that are aired during key prime-time hours when adults and children in a household are most likely to watch television together (8 to 10 p.m.). The organization defines family-friendly programming as shows that are appropriate in theme, content and language for adults and children and also have cross-generational appeal, depict real life and resolve issues responsibly.

‘Eight’ is enough for CW

The CW has picked up the comedy pilot “Eight Days a Week” to series with a 12-episode midseason order.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the ensemble single-camera comedy co-starring Christina Milian and Mario Lopez centers on four twentysomethings who work under the top movers and shakers in New York City.

CBS Paramount Network TV and Hazy Mills are producing the project, which is executive produced by Sean Hayes and Todd Milliner. Meredith Lavender and Marcie Ulin penned the pilot and will serve as producers.

“Eight Days” joins another new single-camera comedy, “Aliens in America,” which the CW picked up last month for a fall debut.

Rosie flap aids ‘View’

The presence of controversial co-host Rosie O’Donnell was felt during the May sweep on ABC’s daytime show “The View” — helped, in part, by her on-air verbal spat with Elisabeth Hasselbeck. The program had its best May sweep ever last month, delivering an average audience of 1 million women in the 18-to-49 demographic, Hollywood Reporter notes.

This marks the show’s highest delivery in that age group for May sweeps in the show’s 10-year history and also marks the first May sweeps ever for the chat fest to rank among the top five daytime shows. Among total viewers, “The View” averaged 3.8 million, its best May sweeps performance ever, up 27 percent compared with May 2006.

CC greenlights new fare

Comedy Central has ordered pilots for several new programs, TVWeek.com reports.

Working titles are:

• “Held Up,” a half-hour show in which a bank teller is held hostage by two teams of robbers and a comic version of the Stockholm syndrome ensues.

• “Larry the Cable Guy Animated Product” features the comic as a co-owner of a cable TV channel whose other owner would prefer to program classier fare.

• “Michael Ian Black Doesn’t Understand,” a sketch show hosted by the comic that focuses on one “hot-button” topic each week with field and studio pieces.

• “Night Writer,” a short-form comedy from former “Saturday Night Live” head writer T. Sean Shannon.

• “Root of All Evil,” a courtroom show in which comedians argue that their client is the root of all evil. The show would pit Paris Hilton against Dick Cheney, or chick flicks against video games. Lewis Black is the judge.

Comedy Central also announced a presentation deal on “The Watch List,” which features material from up-and-coming Middle Eastern-American comedians. The network also has presentation deals on shows from David Alan Grier and JoKoy.

MyNetwork’s new slate

Speaking of additions, telenovelas are out and reality is in on the new fall slate announced by freshman channel MyNetworkTV.

Overall, the network’s second year of programming will feature some changes, including four reality programs, a host of “Access Hollywood” specials and live sporting events.

Some shows, in fact, will begin midseason.

When the runs of “American Heiress” and “Saints & Sinners” end, Wednesday nights will feature relationship and reality programming with “Divorce Wars” and “Meet My Folks.” Tuesday is law enforcement night with the Fox Reality original “The Academy” and “Jail,” the new unscripted series from the producers of “Cops.”

“Access Hollywood” also will produce 10 new exposes that will be presented to coincide with the latest breaking celebrity news.

Meanwhile, “IFL Battleground” returns on Mondays with an encore presentation on Saturday night. Thursdays and Fridays will continue to be “My Movie” nights. Titles will include Sylvester Stallone’s “Rocky” franchise, beginning with the 1976 original and running through 1985’s “Rocky IV.”

The network also has partnered with Fox Reality to develop new episodes of “Paradise Hotel” to air in March 2008. Shot on location in Mexico, the program will follow a group of single people living in a luxurious resort and competing to see who can stay in the hotel the longest.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse and Kelly Jane Torrance from staff, Web and wire reports.

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