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Tuned In: Channel changes name for changes in audience

Tuesday, January 23, 2001

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

PASADENA, Calif. -- Romance Classics is out. WE is in. Women's Entertainment, that is. The former Romance Classics channel has begun to switch to a new name. The changeover will be complete by April 1.

But why?

"We've changed because women have changed," said Kate McEnroe, president of parent company AMC Networks. "The Millennium Woman, as we'd like to call her, is dealing with a complexity of roles, from being CEO of the household, being mother, community leader, boss, co-worker, sister, friend in a society that's moving on Internet time."

McEnroe, describing the name change as an evolution rather than a revolution, said women are seeking simplicity and don't want the Internet-based interactivity other women's channels like Oxygen offer. She said the name "Romance Classics" was too narrow.

"It's really about a busy woman and relating more to her," McEnroe said. "It wasn't that [Romance Classics] was skewing old; it wasn't talking in today's woman's voice. They don't really have a lot of time for romance is what we found out."

Whether or not that's true, the network's new name, WE, is kind of weak.

"LIVE" DIES: MTV programming president Brian Graden confirmed the network's first original drama series, "Live Through This," has been canceled.

"We didn't ever find a big audience with it," Graden said. "We have seven episodes we haven't aired yet. We'll probably air them at some point, but it's unlikely the show will come back."

This isn't much of a surprise since "Live," which premiered last summer, was never given much of a chance by MTV. Promotion was scant and when the network moved the show to a new time slot, MTV didn't bother to put out a press release about the change.

"MAMMOTH" CONTROVERSY: The Times of London reported earlier this month that the woolly mammoth encased in a block of ice that was trotted out as a scientific landmark last year by Discovery Channel hasn't yielded much. The Times reported a portion of the ice block has been melted, and little of the mastodon has been found, only soft tissue fragments, bones, tufts of hair and "lots of mud."

Discovery Channel general manager Mike Quattrone defended the ongoing Mammoth project and denied viewers were duped.

"I don't think you should feel anything like that," Quattrone said. "We're still excited about it, the scientists are still excited about it. The block itself is about 1 percent defrosted, so we still have a lot to learn."

The second special, "Land of the Mammoth," will air March 11 and explain the painstaking defrosting process that continues.

"What they've found so far is pretty incredible," Quattrone said. "Scientists have already conducted several DNA studies, carbon dating studies. We've sent some things to paleobotanists. It's a wealth of scientific material."

He said the programs aren't only about the mammoth, but also the history of the Taimyr peninsula in Russia where it was found. Quattrone said it's important not to rush the defrosting process because each centimeter of ice could yield valuable information.

"We took a step back and said, 'Go at your own pace, we'll cover it as straightforwardly as possible,' " Quattrone said. "We know every one of these things is always a risk. The scientists tell us they felt the risk was well worth taking."

COPY CAT: The Learning Channel will borrow a page from the Comedy Central playbook, unveiling "Robotica" on April 4. The show features people building robots that then battle one another in a ring, just like Comedy Central's "BattleBots," which was pretty much the same as England's "Robot Wars."

MORE BRIT HITS: BBC America will air "The Brit Awards," a British music awards program, March 2 at 9 p.m. Madonna and U2 are scheduled to perform. Nominees include Ricky Martin, Britney Spears, Eminem, Fat Boy Slim, Radiohead, Robbie Williams and Sisqo.

"INSIDE" GLIMPSE: Bravo's "Inside the Actors Studio" will celebrate its 100th episode Oct. 14. In the nearer future, host James Lipton sits down with Michael Douglas at 9 p.m. on Feb. 18, Gwyneth Paltrow on March 11, Gabriel Byrne on March 17, Helen Hunt on April 15 and Melanie Griffith on a date to be determined in June.

Lipton said "Inside the Actors Studio," created six years ago, began as a course for aspiring actors studying in the Actors Studio Drama School of New School University in New York. Lipton appeared at a Bravo press conference with Holly Hunter, one of the first actors to be profiled on the series. She recalled it as a positive experience.

"I went to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh from '76 to '80, and at that time we had one person come to the school who predominantly did commercials," Hunter said. "And we ate this guy. I mean, we followed him to lunch. He missed his plane because we begged him not to get on because everybody was starved for information about what it's really like in the outside world as an actor."

She said appearing on "Inside the Actors Studio" gave her a chance to give back to acting students of a new generation.

"They ask original questions, completely unexpected," she said. "It was very gratifying for me to have an exchange with them because it was as stimulating for me as I hope it was for them."

Lipton, who has been parodied by Will Ferrell on "Saturday Night Live" for his solemn approach to interviewing, said he appreciates the imitation and might invite Ferrell to stop by for a retrospective on the series' first 99 shows.

TCM DOCUMENTARIES: Turner Classic Movies will premiere three new documentaries this year on Hollywood women accompanied by films they starred in. The first, "Captured on Film: The True Story of Marion Davies," will air at 8 p.m. Feb. 14. Charlize Theron will narrate the documentary about the actress who was also William Randolph Hearst's lover.

In October, TCM will explore the life of Lana Turner through interviews with her daughter, Cheryl Crane, who killed Turner's lover, Johnny Stompanato.

In December, Marlene Dietrich's life will be chronicled by her grandson, J. David Riva, who directs and produces a documentary about her life and involvement in World War II.

TCM also will produce a 90-minute documentary titled "Added Attractions: The Hollywood Shorts Story" about short films and PSAs, including those starring Laurel and Hardy, The Three Stooges, Keystone Kops and Our Gang. Airing in June, the documentary will be paired with a festival of short films.

TNT PLANS FOR CHRISTMAS: Whoopi Goldberg will star in "Call Me Claus," a movie made for TNT that will be produced by singer/songwriter Garth Brooks. Goldberg will play a television producer who gets selected by Santa Claus to take over his duties. Nigel Hawthorne, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Victor Garber also star in the film, which will air late this year.

COURT TV: Celebrities had better behave. Court TV will begin airing a weekly series called "Hollywood at Large" (5 p.m. Fridays starting Feb. 16) about crime and justice in popular culture, including the latest celebrity lawsuits, contracts and clashes with the law.

Court TV also will introduce a new program, "Catherine Crier Live," covering legal news of the day. It will air 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays beginning Feb. 12.


Rob Owen can be reached at rowen@post-gazette.com. Post questions or comments about TV to www.post-gazette.com/tv under PG Online Talk.



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