- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 26, 2005

Bravo streams ahead

Bravo is introducing some of its new programming both on the traditional television set and the home computer.

On Wednesday, visitors to www.bravotv.com will be able to download the first of eight “Sports Kids Moms & Dads” “Webisodes” on the same night as its official premiere at 10 p.m.

The hourlong show, narrated by former tennis ace Tracy Austin, follows the often rambunctious tales of moms, dads and the little leagues they haunt on their children’s behalf. The sports include football, cheerleading, figure skating, equestrian competitions and basketball.

The short Webisodes will give viewers a sneak peek at families you won’t see on the broadcast version of “Sports Kids.” A new Webisode will premiere each week.

“This is the first time we can deliver an entire, extra story line that plays out online, over the course of the series,” said Bravo President Lauren Zalaznick.

“Sports Kids” host Miss Austin was the youngest player ever to enter Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. These days, she’s a sports mom of three young athletes.

Women get served

The upcoming fall season promises to be an intriguing one for female viewers.

After finally realizing that women make up the majority of TV viewers, networks are loading their prime time schedules with shows designed to appeal to them, Reuters News Agency reports.

The biggest buzz surrounds Oscar-winner Geena Davis, who’s returning to TV in the starring role of president of the United States for a new ABC series. Likewise, former jailbird and lifestyle diva Martha Stewart — who’s staying on the straight and narrow by starring in NBC’s spinoff of “The Apprentice” — is also generating buzz. Over at CBS, we can expect a show about a new mother who fights crime on her suburban streets.

A wave of nearly a dozen female-focused shows emerged last week when broadcasters touted their upcoming fall lineups during their annual “upfront” presentations to advertisers and affiliates.

Shows featuring fat and harried middle-class fathers with beautiful but nagging wives were largely banished to the basement for the 2005-2006 season, with no new sitcoms chronicling their ambivalent relations to youngsters and matrimony.

“Programmers have realized that more women watch television than men,” Shari Anne Brill, director of programing at media buyer Carat USA, told Reuters. “It’s fish where the fish are.”

Women account for close to 60 percent of the prime-time television audience, according to media experts. While there have long been shows with strong female leads — from “Wonder Woman” to “Roseanne” and “Ally McBeal” — media buyers said their numbers have multiplied.

“It’s one of the subtleties of the new season, but there are an awful lot of shows that are female-character driven,” said Brad Adgate, research director at Horizon Media. “It reflects the whole dichotomy of what’s going on in the American home. [Cable channel] Lifetime is going to have some competition.”

ABC’s darkly comic soap “Desperate Housewives” set a benchmark for female-skewing shows with its debut this past season, becoming one of the most-watched programs on television. Notably, its female fans brought men to the audience, as well.

Heaton’s short holiday

Patricia Heaton, of the recently departed “Everybody Loves Raymond,” better enjoy her time off. She’s due back on the set before summer’s end.

The Emmy winner just signed on with TNT to star in “The Engagement Ring,” a made-for-cable “romantic comedy/drama in the vein of ‘Moonstruck,’ ” Reuters reports.

The story will follow an engagement ring lost 50 years ago, which led to a breakup between two childhood sweethearts. The pair remain resentful neighbors after inheriting neighboring wineries. Now, the woman’s daughter (Miss Heaton) and the man’s nephew meet over business and find that their growing attraction is hindered by the misunderstandings of the past.

Production will likely begin in August, with the movie set to air during the holidays as a Johnson & Johnson Spotlight Presentation.

Miss Heaton teamed with TNT to star opposite Jeff Daniels in the network’s remake of Neil Simon’s “The Goodbye Girl,” which aired last year. The actress has won two Emmys for her role on CBS’ “Raymond,” which aired its final episode on May 16.

Planet’s ‘Best’ effort

We’ve heard of “Best in Show.” Now Animal Planet wants to bring us “Best in Town.”

The cable channel is headed to small-town America, reports Reuters, to film a reality show described as part travelogue, part animal pageant, hoping to capture some of the comic energy found in Christopher Guest’s 2000 mockumentary “Best in Show.”

The new show will feature a “Best in Town” team organizing quirky pet competitions in various small towns. Its pilot episode, for example, serves up a “best dancing dog” contest in Solvang, Calif.

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