Hallmark greeting: Hi again, Bob

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Bob Newhart will return to television in August as the star of "Herb's Murders," a two-hour original movie on the Hallmark Channel.

At Hallmark Channel's upfront presentation Tuesday in Manhattan, CEO Henry Schleiff said the network is the leader in the production of original movies with 30 this year, compared with 18 in 2007.

Schleiff also touted the power of the channel's core demographic — baby boomers and those over 40 — over the younger demos courted by most networks. The older age group has "assets, not allowances," he said.

In 2007, Hallmark Channel brought in $200 million in ad revenue for the first time. Ad sales chief Bill Abbott said it is likely to register 20% growth this year.

In "Murders," Newhart will play a Los Angeles detective who investigates a publisher's killing along with his daughter, also a police officer. The project is one of several announced Tuesday during Hallmark Channel's presentation at the Museum of Modern Art.

Of its 30 original telefilms slated to air in 2008, eight are in production in Los Angeles, Toronto or elsewhere.

Other projects announced Tuesday are "The Ride of Her Life," with former "7th Heaven" star Stephen Collins; "Thanksgiving Reunion," headlined by Jacqueline Bisset, which will air in November; and "Ladies of the House," about three women (Pam Grier, Florence Henderson and Donna Mills) who work on a home renovation project sponsored by their church.

Other TV movies include "Saving Grace," starring Mark Consuelos as a widower who falls in love; "Mail Order Bride," a period piece; and "Second Honeymoon," with Teri Polo, Jason Priestly and Cheech Marin. There also are new movies of "McBride," starring John Larroquette, and "Murder 101," starring Dick Van Dyke. Both will air in the summer.

Hallmark also announced that it would begin to air "The Golden Girls" in a nonexclusive deal with Disney-ABC Domestic Television beginning March 2009. It also has struck a deal with Disney-ABC Domestic Television for 99 family-friendly movies ranging from "Old Yeller" and "The Shaggy Dog" to "The Princess Diaries" and "The Santa Clause."

The channel also said that Hallmark HD will launch April 2 with an event in Peoria, Ill. n
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