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SCI FI Announces New Flash Gordon and Other Programming

SCI FI Channel announced at the Television Critic's Assoc. Tour that it has greenlit production on FLASH GORDON, based on the popular comic strip franchise. Production on the 22 one-hour episodes begins in Canada in early 2007. The series, produced by Reunion Pictures, is slated to debut on SCI FI this July, with a broadcast syndication window to follow.

Under an agreement with property owner King Features Syndicate, the new series is being produced by RHI's Robert Halmi Sr. and Robert Halmi Jr. (TIN MAN, LEGEND OF EARTHSEA, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS).

Ming, Dale Arden and Dr. Hans Zarkov are among the many beloved characters returning to television in this contemporary retelling of the intergalactic exploits of FLASH GORDON. "Stellar adventures and heroic battles" mark this inventive new take on the perennial science fiction classic. The FLASH GORDON comic strip was created in 1934 by legendary comic-strip artist Alex Raymond and is still distributed internationally today by King Features Syndicate.

Other SCI FI announcements made include SCI FI's 2007 original programming roster.

Miniseries Development

DIAMOND AGEBased on Neal Stephenson's best-selling novel THE DIAMOND AGE: OR A YOUNG LADY'S ILLUSTRATED PRIMER, this six-hour miniseries is exec produced by George Clooney and Grant Heslov of Smokehouse Prods. A prominent member of a conservative futuristic society grows concerned that the culture stifles creativity, and commissions a controversial interactive book for his daughter, which serves as her guide through a surreal alternate world. When the primer's provocative technology, which adapts to the reader's responses, falls into the hands of a young innocent, the girl's life is accidentally reprogrammed with dangerous results. Neal Stephenson will adapt his own novel for this project, the first time the Hugo and Nebula winning author has written for the small screen.

Scripted Development

* AVERY HOUSEWhen her husband is offered a job as Dean of a small college, Lee Avery and her family relocate to the quaint New England town of Brighton. Before long, they find the perfect home -- a large Victorian estate left vacant for years. Lee believes that with a little hard work, she can convert the house into a flourishing bed and breakfast. Lovely and bucolic as a Norman Rockwell painting, the Avery's new home seems picture perfect. But before long, Lee discovers that their house may not be as vacant as they had believed. In alternatively enlightening, humorous and often frightening fashion, both guests and family members are confronted by their innermost thoughts, fears and desires, which miraculously come to life in Avery House. But unbeknownst to Lee, the rejuvenation of the old house has sent shockwaves through the town, re-opening old wounds, unearthing long-buried secrets and slowly unraveling the very fabric of the seemingly idyllic hamlet. The two-hour pilot for this mysterious dramedy about wish fulfillment is being produced by Mark Burnett and Tagline Ent.'s Kelly Kulchak and Ron West; written by Dava Savel. NBC Universal Television Studio serves as the production company.

* UNTITLED DARREN STAR/ MIKE WERB PROJECTIn a world where techno-crime is a greater threat than terrorism, four unlikely convicts are given new identities -- and technologically enhanced bodies. Now working for a covert wing of the U.S. Government, their mission is to take on the FBI's other Top 10 list - emerging threats from science run amok. This sleek 90-minute actioner, where technological breakthroughs cut both ways, will be executive will be exec produced by Mike Werb (FACE/OFF) and Darren Star (SEX AND THE CITY) and written by Werb. Susie Fitzgerald will co-exec produce. Darren Star Prods. will produce the project in association with Sony Pictures Television.

* REVOLUTIONAlone in an outpost in the farthest reaches of the galaxy, the heroic pioneers of a U.S. space colony find themselves under siege, victims of ever mounting hostilities from their own homeland, Earth. Without being able to clearly distinguish friend from foe, these extraordinary citizens face daring challenges and must rely on their values of service and community to persevere. Ed Redlich (WITHOUT A TRACE, SHARK) and John Bellucci serve as creators, writers and exec producers of this thought-provoking series. Simon West (LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER) is also attached as exec producer and will direct the two-hour pilot. CBS Paramount Network Television is producing the series.

* MIDDLETOWNA unique small town in Middle America, filled with eccentric characters, becomes the last battlefield for planet Earth in this sly action adventure. When a nefarious -- if humorless -- race of aliens decide to make Middletown their Ellis Island, a group of homespun, unexpected heroes-in-the-making must band together to stop them. Coke Sams and Matt Lindahl serve as writers with Jerry Offsay exec producing this two-hour pilot for Fox TV Studios.

* JOHNNY MIDNIGHTWhen an aimless, shiftless and uninspired slacker discovers he possesses unique powers, which can keep the world safe from malevolent forces, our reluctant hero must make a hard choice to embrace or abandon his remarkable craft. Guess which way he's leaning? John Sullivan will write and Howard Deutch (THE REPLACEMENTS) will exec produce and direct the two-hour pilot for this quirky, human dramedy.

* STARCROSSEDIn the tradition of THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW, STARCROSSED, a high touch, high-tech comedy, obliterates the fourth wall with its behind-the-scenes antics. Throwing in a bitter dose of GALAXY QUEST cynicism for good measure, David Hewlett (STARGATE ATLANTIS) will draw on his own experiences to pen this quirky half-hour about life behind the camera at a long-running sci-fi space soap. Jane Loughman and John G. Lenic are serving as exec producers, with NBC Universal Television Studio on board as the production entity.

Unscripted, Alternative Reality

WITCH SCHOOLHarry Potter has nothing on this real-life Witch School! While resembling your typical classroom experience --note passing, over-achievers, students who forget their homework, field trips and the dreaded pop-quiz -- some elements of this education are less traditional. Perhaps last night's homework involved communicating with a deceased relative, a field trip could involve spending the night in a "haunted" forest and that pop-quiz might involve a literal plague of frogs. SCI FI Channel and Stick Figure Prods. (AMISH IN THE CITY, FAMILY BONDS) will team up to present this docusoap about Ed Hubbard and his Witch School.

In addition, a new branding campaign was launched: SCI FI Saturday: The Most Dangerous Night of Television. The Most Dangerous Night of Television enlivens SCI FI's popular 9:00 pm Saturday movies with an amusing take on the wild action and intensity that has become a staple of the Channel's date night thrillers. Thomas Vitale, svp of programming and original movies at SCI FI, has also added two movies to the 2007 production slate and greenlit another three films for development:

To Premiere in 2007:

* THE LOST COLONY: The age-old mystery surrounding the lost colony of Roanoke is revealed in this adventure soaked original starring Adrian Paul (Highlander) and produced with American World Pictures.

KING ARTHUR & THE ORDER OF THE DRAGON: Produced with Pliny Minor (WHO KILLED THE ELECTRIC CAR?) and written by Tim Cox and Brook Durham, the duo behind 2006's SCI FI Saturday standout, MAMMOTH, this tale ignites a battle befitting the legendary Knights of the Round Table: a quest for the Holy Grail! A pursuit for the ages, the Knights must battle a formidable spider-dragon on the treacherous path to the Grail.

Greenlit for Development:

* RIDDLE OF THE SPHINX: An astronomer and a cryptographer uncover a series of ancient tunnels, unwittingly unleashing a deadly Sphinx. In order to trap the Sphinx back in its tomb and stop impending destruction, our explorers must solve a series of complicated and possibly deadly riddles. Pliny Minor will produce.

* SHERLOCK HOLMES & THE BANSHEE: Sherlock Holmes investigates a wailing, soul-sucking ghost that turns out to be a banshee in this Pliny Minor produced film. Will Holmes be clever enough to find out the beasts secrets and stop its terrifying reign?

* ODYSSEUS & THE ISLE OF MISTS: In this mythical mêlée, Odysseus and his men battle Persephone and her deadly vampire beasts. As the premise for this Pliny Minor film goes, a vampire origin tale is the lost passage from Winslow Homer's writings.

Meanwhile, SCI FI Channel has cast Tony-award winner Alan Cumming (CABARET, ANNIVERSARY PARTY, X-MEN: THE LAST STAND) in its upcoming six-hour miniseries TIN MAN (working title) from RHI Ent. The wildly re-imagined sci-fi fantasy take on Frank Baum's classic book, THE WIZARD OF OZ is slated to begin production in Vancouver this spring for a December premiere.

Cumming will take on the role of Glitch, one of a motley assortment of colorful characters trapped in the Outer Zone (the O.Z.).

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 website ( and magazine. Launched in 1992, and currently in 86 million homes, SCI FI Channel is a network of NBC Universal, one of the world's leading media and entertainment companies.

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Bill Desowitz, former editor of VFXWorld, is currently the Crafts Editor of IndieWire.