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TV Note: 11/20/01

Tuesday, November 20, 2001

HBO's take on 'Band'

With the benefit of hindsight, Sept. 9 appears an inopportune time to premiere a $120 million war epic. Small wonder that Home Box Office is still sorting through results for its 10-hour miniseries "Band of Brothers," which recently concluded its run on Sunday nights, while deciding precisely how "Band" will play on.

Armed with a creative pedigree that included Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks as executive producers, the historical drama based on Stephen Ambrose's book about the heroic exploits of the men of Easy Company premiered to spectacular ratings by the pay channel's standards, amid a tidal wave of publicity and positive reviews.

The events of Sept. 11, however, somewhat muted the show's fanfare, causing HBO to pull its advertising campaign in the immediate aftermath. While HBO executives insist they view the project as a success, even they admit "Band" didn't generate the sort of noise it might have, had modern images of real-life war and carnage not suddenly invaded the collective consciousness.

"It was always going to be an emotional and difficult show to watch," said Chris Albrecht, HBO's president of original programming, adding that the terrorist attacks and subsequent military retaliation "just increased that feeling."

As a result, HBO finds itself weighing how best to exploit the project further. Albrecht said a second showing of "Band of Brothers" will probably begin in March or April -- a period timed not only to maximize exposure but also to keep the series fresh in the minds of Emmy Award voters, given that the deadline for prospective nominees comes at the end of May.

After premiering to 10 million viewers before Sept. 11, the audience for "Band of Brothers" dipped to an average 6.2 million viewers over the next eight weeks, ranking as the second-most-watched multi-part program (behind "The Sopranos") in HBO's history and the highest-rated cable program during its run.

(Brian Lowry, Los Angeles Times)

Showtime renewals

Premium cable network Showtime has renewed the original series "Soul Food" and "Resurrection Blvd." but canceled "Leap Years" and "Going to California."

"Soul Food" was renewed for 40 additional episodes (two seasons' worth), but lower-rated "Resurrection" got picked up for just 15 more episodes.

New series coming to Showtime next year include "Street Time," with Rob Morrow as a paroled narcotics smuggler, and "Jeremiah," a sci-fi series from "Babylon 5" creator J. Michael Straczynski starring Luke Perry.

(Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor)

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